My sister’s specter visits every night. Sometimes twice. It is her way. She cannot help it, you see, drawn as she is by the familial pull of memory. Recollecting those blessed nights we used to share—with heels cradled in our arms like babes amidst cascades of silk, giggling as we tiptoed down the boarding house stairs to meet the welcome wink of streetlamps. Off we’d go to dance and giggle and drink till dawn, finding men who could love us well if not long. Later, alone again in our shared room, we’d revisit the kisses we shared with men we’d never see again, comparing their lips—tongues—tastes. Ann always found better kissers than I ever did or maybe she was merely boasting. It did not matter. We were happy, you see. The happiest we would ever be.
How my sister aches to reclaim what we had then. Such nights always looked so beautiful to our gin-fuzzed eyes—soft and warm and fluid like hot blood winding through a vein. Once—on a hot, sticky, stifling night at the Chateau Moderne—we met a man who told us we were too pretty to be sisters, let alone twins. We were accustomed by then to the curious glances, revelers stopping to wonder if they’d had too much to drink and were seeing double. But this man spoke so decisively, with such ease. Ann became curious and asked him why he would make this claim. He replied that witnessing us was like witnessing twin moons in the midnight sky: dazzling, brilliant—but misplaced. ‘There is no room for two moons up there’ he winked, nodding towards the ceiling. I laughed, thinking him mighty clever, but Ann…she frowned—so hurt was she by the sharp, toothy truth of his inebriated musings.
For he was right, was he not? There was never room—would never be room. As the glamour of our world expanded so did our own desires for importance—resilience on our newfound stage. But a girl cannot be original, singular, one of a kind! when someone else can carry around a perfect replica of her face. My sister and I were a party trick—good time girls with matching smiles and mirrored bodies. Singular in our in-singularity. Perhaps this is why Ann prefers to look upon those early nights—the ones we enjoyed before ambition burrowed its way between us. When we were young and beautiful and dazzling as twin moons.
Or maybe it is I who draws her to the memory of better days—the last ones we were to ever share, though we’d never known anything different since the morning Mother gave birth to girls instead of a boy. Two disappointments for the price of one. Is it any wonder that we came to loathe ourselves as we did and, in time, transfer that loathing onto one another? Were we hoping the share the burden? Lessen the weight? Or rid ourselves of it for good—no matter the cost, knowing the cost and being more than willing to pay it?
That is what we did, in the end. It would be a lie to say I would not have tried to achieve the same had Ann not beat me to it. So easy—simple—effortless was the act itself. A swirl of champagne and laughter and fussing as we ventured to hail a cab and then a bump—her hip hitting mine so incidentally it very well could have been an accident. Only, it wasn’t.
Me in my heels, slipping off the curb—a street car screeching to a halt just seconds too late. The screams. The cries. The colossal chaos which followed in its wake.
She buried me with orchids, knowing they’d been Mother’s favorite flowers, not mine. Buried me and set her sights for the stage. A star, my Ann wanted to become, never realizing that there are thousands of stars in the night sky and not one burns half as bright as our twin moons might have, had we known how to shine.
And now? My sister’s specter searches ceaselessly—reaching into the ether for a hand which might resemble her own. No longer does she dance and titter and look to be loved well if not long. No. These days, all Ann craves is me. The brilliance of her solitary moon dimmed by too much mist and too much time.
But perhaps I am the cruel one. Often, I can feel her presence as keenly as I feel the absence of myself, though I never let her know it. I bask in her warmth, her closeness, offering nothing in return. Because I have nothing to give. She made sure of that, she did, the minute she chose a future she might one day achieve over the sister she’d once thought to the cherish.
Well, therein lies the rub, as they say. She never did find the success—the fame—the immortality we’d sought. Now she is old and gray and lonely: lonelier than she could have ever predicted. Mother is dead. Her lovers are dead. Friends all gone. She has no one to turn to in life and so she seeks me in death. Calls out into the great beyond, or whatever it is that mortals do in pursuit of the dead. Always reaching out so much further than they need to in order to find us, never realizing we are closer than they can imagine.
Ann is not the woman she was before. But she is still a woman. She has that. And I? I am the spirit she does haunt without reprieve. Every night. Sometimes twice. But I will not answer her pleas. I cannot. The dead do not haunt, not as the living do. I’ve nothing left to give my Ann, but that won’t keep her pawing at the veil. Aching for what cannot be. Looking for me every night. Sometimes twice. It is all she knows.
Emily Ruth Verona is a Pinch Literary Award winner and a Bram Stoker Awards nominee with work featured in Under Her Skin, Lamplight Magazine, Mystery Tribune, The Ghastling, Coffin Bell, The Jewish Book of Horror, and Nightmare Magazine. Her debut thriller, Midnight on Beacon Street, is expected from Harper Perennial in 2024. She lives in New Jersey with a small dog. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @emilyverona, and find more info at https://www.emilyruthverona.com.