Their favourite fairy tale is Hansel and Gretel, of course. (It's an exception, they don't generally like fairy tales because it isn't very easy to find the original versions, the ones not meant for children.)
They lie in her bed and hold the blanket up with their legs and Charles reads in torch light. They find the children horribly cruel, the whole world a frightening place, and it charms them. Sometimes they run to the woods after having done their homework, find the most impenetrable thicket. They emerge with long scrapes along their arms, tattered clothes, fingers tightly entangled. The maid admonishes them, and they look at her with solemn, grey eyes and she pretends it doesn't frighten her.
"Mother and father couldn't take care of us. They left us to fend for ourselves," Charles whispers.
"But we're not afraid," Camilla adds, eyes bright.
"We're never afraid."
"As long as we're together."
They hide under her blanket in the dark, squeeze each other's hands so hard that it hurts. They pretend there is no one else in the world but them, that it's just the dark woods and dark-eyed gods.
"I'll keep you safe," they promise, "forever."
They breathe the same air, and their promises are like blood oaths, made sacred by that already-shared blood in their veins.
They are six and Camilla insists her hair be cut short. When she's told no, she doesn't speak for a week, until their grandmother finally gives in. (Up until then, Charles and Camilla communicate wordlessly and barely notice the difference.)
Once her hair is short and bristly at the neck, they play mirror on opposite sides of an empty antique frame with chipping gold paint. Camilla runs to the cupboard and pulls out a pair of Charles's navy blue shorts.
She then faces her brother. Two faces with fine features, white shirts and dark shorts, heavy blonde hair, grey eyes, pink knees with no scratches, unlike most children their age. They move slowly, with grace. Delicate hands, solemn eyes. It feels like a dream.
They are nearly the same but not quite. There is some slight dissonance, certain features they don't share. It is lovely and sad at the same time, because sometimes it feels like they should have been born as one person, and even like this, it is clear that they aren't quite each other's reflection. It's more like they are one another's shadows, not quite the same but inevitably tied together anyhow.
(Charles thinks he likes her better than his reflection.)
When there's a storm, Camilla sneaks to Charles's bedside and wakes him up, though most of the time he opens his eyes when her hand is just about to touch his shoulder, and she shivers with surprise. It's not that she is scared, just the opposite. They make sure that no one else is awake, go through the empty house on bare feet, quiet and quick like wild animals.
Finally when they are certain, they go to the attic room and open the windows wide. They scramble to the roof, Camilla scrambling up Charles's back, then helping him up. (Sometimes the faint bruises from his tight hold linger on her white arm the next day.)
If the rain has already started, they have to be careful like tightrope walkers, for a fall from the fourth floor would surely be fatal. That makes it so much better. The low rumble of thunder grows deceitfully softly and they shiver when it cracks over their heads, like some furious god. The sky is split by lightening strikes and they quiver with fear and excitement in their soaked nightclothes. It is the most thrilling thing they know. (Much, much later when Julian says, 'Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.', Charles and Camilla think of thunderstorms and glance at each other briefly, a shared memory passing over like a rain-heavy cloud.)
Afterwards they hide the clothes and curl up as close to each other as they can, a tangle of cold limbs.
"Someone told me that the Sioux believe lovers are reincarnated as twins," Camilla says while paging through Sappho. Charles isn't certain if she's sincere or teasing him. He opts to say nothing, and instead blushes furiously behind his newspaper. This automatic reaction annoys him and he clenches his hands into fists, crumbling the paper in the process, blushing more. Camilla doesn't look up from her book, just pushes a heavy cascade of dark blonde hair behind her ear.
They are thirteen and she is a romantic and entering puberty (he'll follow slightly later) and it causes them both to be more on edge around each other. Everything is awkward and sharp and every word seems to ignite the world. It doesn't help that they are so used to being around each other constantly that even when one storms off in a fit of fury, so tired of this dance, it feels strange to be alone, hollow and incomplete and not at all satisfying like it should be for an angry teen who can banish the rest of the world away with one bang of the door.
So they end up sharing rooms and trying to ignore each others' presence as well as they can. But every room is too small and their long limbs are too awkward and they bump into each other and it's like everything is flammable, like everything is on the verge of exploding.
Charles watches his sister while she sleeps and thinks of those awkward boys who call her. He tells them weird things about her and knows everyone will think she is strange at school, but he doesn't really care -- it's not like they could understand her anyway. The way they look at her is all wrong, those children with nothing greater in their mind than the current pop sensation or hanging out at the mall.
Even though her skin no longer quite fits her, she is still his sister, his twin, and he knows her better than anyone, loves her better than anyone. He'll keep her safe. (The need for this is like a lump in his throat, like he's swallowed something sharp.)
(They kiss for the first time a few days before they turn fourteen. Camilla has insisted that grandmother let her go to a party at her classmate's house, not really because she wants to go but rather because she feels like the quiet house is suffocating her, the piles of books, wilting flowers in the vases, Charles practicing his verbs in a song-like murmur, grandmother's polite and sophisticated friends who seem to be intoxicated by their youth, another game of solitaire that she can't win. It's only an hour and a half later when she returns, sneaks in through the back door. Charles notices her only moments later. He hates the fact she went in the first place and wants to be mean, but quietens when he sees her burning cheeks and reddened eyes. "I hate them," she hisses through her teeth, "that whole--" He touches the side of her neck, "It's alright. We don't need them. We are not like them." And she's happy to be in this quiet house again, the heaviness of its air is a welcome burden on her chest. She kisses him, then, and never goes back to that other world where people don't speak dead tongues or allow ancient gods to make them into wild animals. Neither one is surprised; it was only a matter of time.)
It's the last summer of high school and they take a trip to the summer house. (By train and then they intend to walk, until a kind neighbour offers them a lift, despite their protests.) It's not long before school starts and they pretend they'll get some studying done, even bring their books. Instead they read books they're not even expected to have heard of on high school level, and spend slow days wandering around the echoey house and surrounding fields, mixing drinks every now and then to maintain a perpetual state of drunkenness, English and Greek mingling into a pidgin language. (It rains most of the time, and during that hot summer at Francis's aunt's house, Camilla remembers the misty cool air, but nothing more.)
One night they lie sprawled on the floor, sharing a cigarette.
"Maybe we should die together," he murmurs, reaching his hands towards the high ceiling.
"Maybe we should," Camilla agrees. It sounds appropriate; being born together and dying together. She's drunk and has read too many tragedies, but even so, it's the logical answer. The word 'symmetry' is derived from Greek, after all.
"So we'll stay together," Charles says, and he sounds melancholic. He rolls onto his stomach, watches her take a long drag.
"Yes," Camilla whispers and breathes smoke into his mouth.
When they receive their acceptance letters, Camilla asks what kind of an appartment Charles would like. There is no question of living separately. They cite reasons of convenience, and of course that's not quite it.
(He almost carries her over the threshold, but thinks it would be too corny and trite.)
Camilla reads about Bublis and a slow smile curls her lips. Her brother is no Caunus. She traces a hand over his collarbone, and his arm curls tighter around her waist in his sleep. She drops the book by the bed, in a pile of Greek notes, coffee-stained cups, cigarettes, a half-drunk bottle of Scotch, a thin silver ring and tealights on a china plate. She falls back to sleep quickly and the breeze from the open window plays with strands of dark blonde hair.
Sometimes she leaves, back straight, head held up high. He wants to be her shadow and it gets too heavy and she starts to forget that they aren't the same person. She tries to leave in the cold faint light of early morning while he's still sleeping, because she can't stand it when he sees her leave. She is usually able to maintain her posture while he's there, but breaks down in the cab and can't stop thinking about him for the whole day, he follows into her feverish dreams.
He follows her out to the yard and she's swallowing tears.
"You've got to come back."
"Charles, don't be an idiot."
"You've got to. Please, Camilla, I'll do any--"
"I will, I will." Her trembling hands are deep in her pockets, and she won't look at him.
When she's away, he's a ghost, he drinks too much and tries to call her at small hours of the night, but she never answers because she knows it's him. So he wanders through the empty rooms, and pretends someone has stolen her away, and she's fighting to get back to him. He reads until he forgets he is not a mythological character, or even a boy in a fairy tale, and falls asleep in her bed, clutching a book with notes in her clear handwriting.
Charles draws Camilla to him. He is quite drunk and in one of those unbearable moods when everything seems to wound him, high-strung and horribly sensitive.
"Let's play mirror."
Her girlhands are so tiny and delicate against his, even if his, too, are quite long-fingered and slender.
"We don't look the same," he says, almost defeated.
"Similar enough," she says and turns her head slightly, the sharpness of her bones isn't like that of other girls', and that makes him happy.
"It makes no difference that we're twins," he says softly, his breath against her temple. He sounds sad and gentle and she knows he may be doing this just in order to get a desired reaction out of her, but even so, she can't resist.
"It does, Charles. No one knows you like I do," it's the next thing that's harder for her to say, maybe because it's true. "No one knows me like you do."
He smiles, "That's right. No one. We're all alone in the world. All alone in the dark woods."
It kind of feels like drowning. She buries her head against his collarbone and wants to cry, but isn't sure why. Maybe it's because she can't stop scattering those white pebbles for him to follow, no matter how she tries. Or maybe it's because once they floated together in their mother's womb, all alone in the world, and they were supposed to either be two different people or the same person, not something in between.
But it's getting dark now, and it's scary to be alone in the dark. Charles kisses her closed eyelids, and his love is heavy and poisonous and soothing.