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spaces in your togetherness

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Six.

The world did not exist, and neither did Odette Rowel.

Everything, including her body and soul, was in a state of dreamlike horror, a state she was intrinsically familiar with. She never did remember any of her dreams but the nightmares, and those played out so normally except for the little twists in the world around her, little details that made the last vestiges of her personality cringe. The photographs that sat in their frames around the parlor were ones that she or Ethan never would have picked, for one; the two of them in tutus as they danced through part of Swan Lake as children, Ethan fake smiling during a family vacation as their father’s hand clutched his shoulder too tightly, and that horrible picture of their first day of college… the very picture that convinced Ethan to shave his long hair off. He never let it grow back. It looked better short, anyway.

Around her, people mumbled condolences. Odette decided not to respond. No, decided was wrong. She couldn’t have responded if she wanted to. She only had one sentence anymore, it seemed, and that sentence had been silenced by the only person she thought would understand.


Four.

“He’s not dead! I am going to find him. Don’t act like he’s dead!”

Oliver Rowel ignored her, continuing his phone conversation. “Roses. Twenty dozen of them. Black.”

“Father! He’s not dead!”

“Yes. I understand.” Odette momentarily softened until she realized this was to the person on the other end of the line. Her eyes, usually focused and steady, seemed to dart around. She was looking for… for Ethan. She could always count on Ethan to mock their father behind his back, until Odette had to try not to laugh, until she felt better.

But he wasn’t here.


Two.

“It’s not here,” Ethan laughed as he watched Odette overturn every little corner of his little apartment. “What do I need with a comb?”

“If this is one of your tricks, I swear to Grimen…” she said, half-snapping at him.

“Have you asked Mallory?”

“What would she do with it? She has combs of her own. I think, and her hair is so different than mine that it wouldn’t do her any good.”

Ethan adjusted, sitting cross-legged on his bed. Odette recognized it as his “sibling talk” position, honed between them after years of secret sharing in their shared bedrooms and dormitories. “Maybe it’s a girlfriend thing.”

“Or maybe you took it because you want to do your eyebrows.”

“With a comb?”

Odette shrugged. “I don’t know how you manage to keep them so perfect.”

“Actor vanity.”

“My comb.”

“Tweezers.”

Odette had to laugh at that, just a little. “Fine. I suppose I’ll believe you.” The grudging tone of her voice was her own little act… she never would choose theatre for a living, but she always had been able to give convincing performances anyway. “Well, then, I have business to attend to. I’ll be off.”

“Yeah, yeah. Love you too, Odie,” Ethan said with an eye roll and a smile.

She didn’t say it back. It would ruin the moment.

It would, later, break her heart.


Three.

“Breaking news, another disappearance in a streak that police and media alike are calling the Aberration Spree Killings. Twenty year old theatre student Ethan Rowel, son of the Dean of Students at…”

Quieter.

Her Gift responded to her will, and the newscaster seemed to fade away. It was wrong. This wasn’t something to keep quiet. Everyone should know this. Everyone should feel how awful she felt. Like a switch, the realization made the volume reduction reverse, until the voice was normal volume, then loud, then terrible, then ear shattering, then-

the television exploded. As glass flew towards her, Odette sat, unflinching. The crescendo was always her favorite part of her gift.

Ethan had been the opposite. He had always preferred the softer decrescendos, when the volume was low and the world and the heavens were just the two of them.


Seven.

Odette fell onto her childhood bed feeling worse than she had at the reception, the viewing, the not-funeral. Whatever her father had chosen to brand it as when he decided Ethan was never coming home.

The room was pleasant like a room in a dollhouse, or a picture book. A child might dream of living in it, with its candy floss pink walls and curled iron bed frames. The carpet was plush and white, stains masked by Gifted housekeepers over the years. They must have never stopped cleaning the nursery, as there was no expected layer of dust. Odette’s three story dollhouse in one corner was pristine. Ethan’s little wooden stage with the tiny red velvet curtains looked as though it had been recently waxed. It felt as though any moment, two tiny and tired identical twins would enter, throwing their ballet duffle bags on the floor (they’d be yelled at for it the next morning) and collapsing to the beds. If only. Odette would scoop little Ethan up and never let him go.

She looked up. In the center of the room, as though straddling the invisible line that divided Odette’s half from Ethan’s half, was a plaque with a quote.

“You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore but let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

Their mother had picked it out before she died. Ethan and Odette had always liked that quote. They liked the dancing imagery, when they took ballet together as children, and the rest when they got older and learned what the quote really talked about.

Had they ever known? A space in their togetherness, once upon a time, had meant going on study abroad trips in different semesters. Not this. Not this.

Don’t dance through the heavens yet. You aren’t dead.


Five.

“Listen to me, Father, he’s not dead.”

Oliver Rowel never listened.


One.

Ethan picked his name with the gusto of a five year old. He played with Danger, with Rowan, and with the names of a hundred stars. He toyed with Siegfried and Benno and even Tchaikovsky, to match Odette’s name.

It took a while before he had the final idea. “Ethan Oliver.”

“Ethan Oliver?”

Ethan grinned. “Yeah, it’s Dad’s name, but flipped. Oliver Ethan Rowel… Ethan Oliver Rowel.”

“I never would guess you would want to be connected to Father.”

“Well…” Ethan shrugged. “We don’t always get along, sure.” An understatement if Odette had ever heard one. “But he’s still my dad. Maybe this will make him happy.”

“But does it make you happy?”

“Yeah, I think so. Ethan’s a good name. I think it fits me.”

Odette looked at her brother, a once-identical face, now so different than hers, like she was looking into a what might have been. She looked at his piercings, his clear eyes that were stuck between contacts instead of glasses, and his ever present smirk.

She thought about her initials, OER, Odette Elizabeth Rowel. They were once his initials too. Ethan Oliver Rowel, EOR, was close, but not the same. It was a space between them, two separate people who remained linked.

“I think it fits too,” she said.



Eight.

Ethan kept clothes at Oliver Rowel’s house, same as Odette did. Oliver, however, never liked Ethan’s clothes. Ethan’s wardrobe was thirty three percent leather jackets and metal band shirts, thirty three percent athletic wear for his active classes, and thirty three percent hoodies and comfy jeans. Casual, not befitting someone of their social standing, so Oliver liked to say. So while Odette had a dresser in their childhood bedroom, full of nice blouses and skirts for emergency stayovers, Ethan hid his clothes in the attic, among their mother’s things.

The cardboard box labeled Tonya Rowel smelled like attic musk and lavender and leather. It sat opened… Ethan stopped taping it back up when he realized Oliver never looked up there. Odette rarely did either, barely enough for it to be familiar to her.

Inside was a mixture of photographs of their mother, a lovely woman who seemed to bring her own light to wherever she was, and soft hoodies. They smelled like Ethan’s detergent. Odette tried, and failed, to blink back tears. For a moment, she crouched on the attic floor, her nose buried in her brother’s clothing, her heart recognizing him even as her mind knew he wasn’t there.

It was so confusing, something had to give.

And give it did. Dazed, dreaming, dissociating, she put on his hoodie and went to see Mallory.


Nine.

“Don’t worry. I’m not really crying. It’s just sort of happening right now.”

Whatever was left of Odette Rowel tried to make Mallory feel better. Hard when her own cheeks were streaked with tears that poured down her face, when her glasses were salt-stained and dirty. Mallory, still, looked more distraught than Odette felt. Odette had to comfort her girlfriend. That’s what girlfriends did, and anyway…

Mallory is all you have left.

Mallory, beautiful Mallory, brilliant Mallory, bold Mallory… she looked at a loss. A part of Odette wanted to laugh, but it came out a choke. 

For once, she’s not together. She doesn’t know what to do. Isn’t that funny?

Her green eyes seemed to flash, and there it was. Mallory the wonderful was back, and somehow, Odette resented it down in the bare vestiges of personality she held. “Do you want to talk about him?” she asked, as if talking about him would bring him back.

“Let’s not… Mallory, let’s just go home for today, okay?”

She stared, then nodded.

When they got home, Odette locked herself in the bathroom with a pair of scissors. She didn’t come out until her hair was short. It was messy. Any other day, she would hate it, but Ethan would have loved it. She looked in the mirror and smiled.


Ten.

“You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore but let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

“This is a space in our togetherness.”

“Ethan Rowel is not dead.”

“I will find him.”

“I will do anything to find him.”

“I will do anything to find him, even if it costs me everything.”

“I will do anything to find him, and I have nothing else to lose.”


Eleven.

As she slumped into Raccoon’s arms, bleeding, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in Raccoon’s goggles. Short hair, a hoodie on, a genuine smile on her face for once. She looked like Ethan, as much as she could while still being herself. They always… they said twins… were like this… even as different as we are… we’re identical, Ethan, aren’t we?

“Bluejay! Blue…jay…?”

She laughed. “Looks like I overdid it a little bit…”

It was with the strength of an actor that she pulled herself up. She patted Raccoon, idly said some things (she wasn’t sure what. Focus hadn’t gotten easier, and dissociation was her normal), and walked away.

Ethan, I look like you. I don’t act like you, but I look like you. Would you be proud? No, I know the answer. Just trust your older sister, okay? This is a space in our togetherness.

Together we shall be forevermore.