a short story
They were twins.
Marie and Rosie.
They wore the same dresses and travelled the same sea.
Abandoned at birth.
Their creators believed them a curse in a world where people could barely be fed. They relied on each other. Each one the same as the other. Their beauty translucent in the eyes of the beholder.
They stole from the same bread crumbs. Their cheeks sinking with equal dept. But there was a difference in the sisters. A difference only visible to those who could see their hearts.
Marie was brave and persistent. She kept them alive.
Rosie was a dreamer and a poet. She made them feel alive.
On a fateful day, a storm brought in a ship in pieces. The pieces scattered along the beach where the sisters usually went to play. Washing their naked bodies in the cold water of a raging dead sea. It was the only access they had for privacy with their own nature. Because you see, Rosie and Marie were not a curse. A curse would turn your guts inwards as you dine and make you eat them by desert. A curse would darken your skin like the deepness of space in a matter of hours. Many died this way in those days. A curse would make your life just as dark not matter the light of day. With blood pouring out of the pores of your skin as if escaping whatever creature lived inside you.
Rosie and Marie were like the light. They found normality in their daily crumbs. They learned not to eat the poisonous clamps. They learned that if you waited, just long enough, by the rocks at bay, you could catch a rogue fish. They learned to season and dry seaweed. They learned to use the sand to wash their teeth, detesting the thought of a rotting mouth. They’ve seen many. They learned to hide this treasures from the most desperate ones. The ones dying from curses throughout the land. No one dared approach the dead sea, for them, it had no life, for Rosie and Marie, it was life.
The ship was no different. The land was covered in curses. The sea might as well be. The ship was dragged just too close. Too close for the sudden storm to drag it in.
It was Rosie who saw him first. His coat was heavy and cold over his warm sun-kissed skin. She did not call for her sister. There was only one of him after all. How do you share a human being? He was beautiful. Rosie took out his coat to allow the sun to warm his body. She washed his face with the sea and attempted to find a heartbeat.
Ah… there it was.
Marie soon found her after finding a beautiful treasure as well. She ran to Rosie, smiling with pearls around her neck. Rosie, in an instinct which she will come to regret as ‘the day she realized she and her sister were not the same’, shielded the man from her sister’s gaze. They always shared.
“Look at all the wonderful treasures I’ve found! We could sell them and build a house!” Marie showed Rosie her pearls. “Oh, you also found something I see. Is he alive?”
Rosie, reluctant and regretful, turned to the man who now began to move. Echoes of distress escaping his throat. Rosie did not answer. Marie did not care. She knelt beside him just like her sister.
“He is alive!” she shouted.
Rosie begged her for silence and returned to the heartbeat inspection.
It was the most beautiful sound she ever heard.
He coughed as water came out in spurts. Rosie and Marie backed away, startled.
“He is,” Rosie whispered with a smile. He slowly opened his eyes. “Hello,” Rosie said in a calm voice.
He could not speak. Not yet.
So the sisters took him to their hidden cave. The cave soon filled up with shipwrecks and treasures Marie kept bringing. They had enough to make it a home. The man, he slept and shivered. He was warm and he was cold. Rosie only left his side to find food when it was her turn.
Before the ship arrived, Rosie and Marie were never on their own. They never learned how to be. So it was proving quite the challenge when one had to stay to watch over him and the other one had to leave. Food was essential. Essentially important to keep him alive as well. What Rosie did not know is that Marie, attracted always by beautiful things, found him, indeed, also beautiful. They were the same after all. She expected no less from her sister.
Soon he recovered. They learned his name. John. Simple and elegant. Both sisters loved the sound of his voice and the way he pronounced their names with a foreign accent. Making them sound like royalty. He told them stories of his home country. A country dark in colour but with colourful personalities. They travelled far to trade. And though he still needed to figure out how to get home, when he does, they will come with him.
Oh, they were delighted! Rosie dreamed of endless gardens while Marie dreamed of all the beautiful dresses she would wear.
It seemed, after all, the twins were not really cursed.
For they did sail away. Away to a land far away. Far away from their cursed town and their cursed people.
Rosie and Marie loved their new palace. They were treated like Princesses, though he never asked for either hand. Nor did he married. As expected, rumours soon began. They were not with the lack of attempts. For Rosie wrote him poetry after learning to write and read and took him on long walks in the gardens. Marie always received beautiful shoes as gifts and also gifted him with sweets she would buy at the market.
The twins were young, John said. Too young for him to take advantage of. And this was true, as only a year after their arrival, the twins turned 16. In order to evade a tainted name, John sent them to study abroad.
Rosie would learn painting and Marie would become a lady cult in the art of seduction. They will both become powerful in their own right. Fate was indeed on their side. There was no curse. Not even a sign.
Soon they heard that their country was rising from the ashes. The merchants were arriving safely and the economy was recovering. At the same time, John was sent to fight a pointless war. All of this, as they indulge in the richness of life.
The twins ran back home, not their old home, but John’s. They waited patiently for his return. Upon facing each other on their return, each saw on the other the mirror of the person they did not want to become. Though they missed each other dearly, they were no longer one. Twins once, you could now tell them apart.
Certainly, he will see me now. He will see my talents and love them, Rosie thought.
I am now more beautiful than my sister. He will love me now. I know how to win his heart like I’ve won many others, thought Marie instead.
In their wait, the roses withered. The world became increasingly grey. Thunders sounded daily in the distance. Safe in their own lonesome palace, the sisters grew thinner again. They tried to go to the river and learn their old ways to survive. But they forgot. They did not know how to survive anymore.
“Maybe it was always us…” Rosie said.
“Nonsense… it was always them. They who do not value the beauties of life,” Marie answered in a moment of wisdom.
“You’ve grown sister, I did not expect such speeches from you.”
“So have you.”
“Do you think he is alive?”
“I do not, half the world is dead.”
“But we still live,” Rosie’s eyes watered. Maybe we are the curse after all.
“And we shall keep living. Do you love him, sister?”
The question took Rosie by surprise. “I love the poetry I write him, the garden walks, the way he says my name. Do you?”
“I love the beauty he gifts me.”
“Then we are still the same.”
Neither sister dared speak their true desires.
Every day they thought about their dear John. Both kept silent about what their hearts kept in stone. After many springs and many winters, just at the peak of the summer glaze, there he was, a man and a cane.
Both sisters ran to his aid. The thunders stopped a while ago and soon they had fruits growing on their orchids. Upon laying eyes on their brave man, they understood, indeed and once and for all, they were never cursed. He returned after all.
Their secrets remained to each other.
Their man loved another. But he loved them as well, in a way they did not take kindly.
But Rosie still grew her roses and wrote him poems. Marie still loved her dresses, perhaps a bit more than him.
Their new mistress loves neither.
The twins did not believe in it.
And in their secret, they withered.