Emma looked at me, and her expression made my heart ache; the sympathy in her face was raw, untainted by faux sincerity or that trenchant bite that I'd come to expect.
I froze, back against the wall, staring at Emma as Madison's dark-haired head poked into the bathroom; she stared at the two of us, her gaze flicking between Emma and I in surprise, then blooming into epicaric delight.
"E...mma. I was just going to..." She hesitated. "What are you doing?"
Emma looked at me for a moment...and gave me a conspiratorial wink that was so familiar it hurt.
It's not- she's not-
And then she turned to Madison, still hovering there in the half-open doorway.
"Oh, just catching up on a few things with our little lamb here." She looked back at me, her bright smile fading as she took in my expression. "You know, the whole 'nobody's going to believe you if you say it was us, everyone knows you did it for the attention.'
Even through my shock, I could feel my cheeks warm at her words.
Madison snickered. "Niiiiice," she drawled, reaching into her bag and pulling out her phone. "Hey, I wanted to get some more pictures, now that she's up-"
"Not right now, Maddy." Emma didn't look back at Madison as she spoke. "I'm busy, and you're going to lose your chance to sit next to Kevin Henderson and make cow eyes at him if you don't scat for class."
Madison looked at her phone and scowled. "Aw, fine," she said with a petulant sniff, stuffing her phone back in her bag as she backed out of the doorway, calling out "You two have fun, okay?"
Emma and I stood there, watching each other until the bathroom door closed behind the other girl. She opened her mouth. Closed it, a slight frown on her face.
"So... I don't know how to explain this-" She cut herself off, glancing back at the door, then leaning in towards me.
"I- you- I think we're a cape, because I'm you, even though I look like Emma."
I stared at her. "Emma..."
She smiled a little, hesitant, awkward, unsure, and the numb shock that had filled my mind began to knit and warm into a flare of anger.
"What the fuck." The venom in my voice surprised, and part of me was so glad when her eyes widened in shock. "Trying to- to- what, convince me, gaslight me into thinking I'm a cape?"
I shouldn't be doing this. I shouldn't let her bait me like this.
She started to say something, but the words kept spilling out of me. "I don't even know what your game is- are you going to verbally abuse me in, into, thinking I can fly?"
She looked hurt, and the anger and the numbness coalesced into a sort of sick ache inside me.
"Just... just..." I looked down at her feet so I wouldn't have to see her face. "Just... fuck it. Fuck you."
I brushed past her, heading for the bathroom door, heading for escape as I heard her footsteps behind me.
Emma intercepted me before I could get out of the bathroom, grabbing my shoulder and shoving me against the closed door as she leaned in.
"Listen," she said quietly, her voice harsh and tight; I struggled, and she tightened her grip, trembling fingers pressing into my arm. "God, just- I- you had chicken casserole for dinner last night. I ran out of paprika and didn't have a good substitute; dad didn't notice and I-you still wish he had."
I froze, and she kept talking.
"I-you... we? We're reading The Beekeeper's Apprentice, and we- we got to the part where Mary gets introduced to Inspector Lestrade before we went to bed."
I twisted in her grip, looking back at her, and she stared at me, her eyes sober and anxious, her mouth pinched in as she bit at her lip in a way that was familiar to me because I'd watched myself do it so many times in the mirror.
Something must have changed in my eyes, because Em- Tay- the other Taylor, the other me, smiled hesitantly.
"You have to believe me," she said. "Because we need to figure out what we're going to do."