“Carlyle.” my father blurts out to the lady at the reception desk, clenching his shaking fists to his side as I hobble up beside him. “We’re here to see S-Sylvia Car-Carlyle.” His voice is lower and thicker than usual. “In the Intensive Care Unit.” It breaks on the last word and so does he.
A hospital attendant stand awkwardly by as my stepmother helps him to his feet and dabs at his eyes with a yellowed handkerchief.
‘Gordon’, the nurse-in-training who waits next to me, keeps looking me up and down as though questioning my relation to the elephantine couple. His eyes linger on my stump and useless leg for a moment before returning to my face, where they trace the scars cutting across my cheeks.
Indeed I look nothing like them. My short, slightly wavy blond hair (which I inherited from my mother) does not match my father’s tufty black and grey spots nor my stepmother’s carrot top (or might I say “mop”?). Both of them have deep set, almond-shaped brown eyes while mine are round and grey.
Not to mention I am lanky and underweight for my age.
My sister, who lies motionless in the hospital bed, attached to countless loud, bulky machines, had inherited most of her looks from our father. The only difference is that she, too, is rail thin (though our father used to be healthy and fit before he married Beth and the couch).
It’s my turn to be alone with her now. I can still hear my father’s loud sobs as Beth nudges him down the hall to drown his sorrows in cheap hospital soup.
I swear Sylvia has grown paler since yesterday. The bright fluorescent lights only heighten the deep shadows on her face, making her features appear ever more gaunt.
I take her left hand in my right, carefully avoiding the IV drip, and try to warm the frigid, clammy flesh. Her fingers are light as air between mine.
It’s frightening, really, to feel your other half waste away in your hands. It leaves a hole in your chest, one that seems to deepen every time you see her. Nothing can fill the hole; it just continues to consume you until you are nothing more than an empty husk.
I have reached the husk stage– have lived in it for a while now. I have no tears left to shed, no pain left to feel, and yet the hole still grows.
What more can it take from me?
With a sigh I open her Bible to one of the dog-eared pages and begin reading, looking up every couple of sentences to search her face for any reaction.
If she could hear me, she never showed it. Her eyelids never fluttered. He cold fingers never twitched. She remained still as a porcelain doll.
The nurse gives me a five minute warning as the sun sets on the horizon. I close the Bible as he closes the door.
Sylvia’s breath fogs the mask strapped to her face. I watch her red lips disappear then reappear, longing to see them smile beneath the scar that cuts them in half. My gaze moves upwards toward the short black strands of hair that had begun to grow back beneath the bandages.
The doctors had warned us that the cerebral hemorrhaging might be so severe she would never wake up. But they’d also told us her hair might not grow back after the burns her scalp sustained.
They were wrong about that, so they’d be wrong about this too, right?
She’ll wake up, right?
I ask her but she doesn’t respond.
As I get up to leave, I take her hand one last time. I wait for her icy fingers to wrap around mine.
They don’t; of course they don’t.
I lean down to kiss her forehand. like our mother used to kiss ours every night when she was still alive.
Her voice, loud and clear and scared and desperate, explodes in the middle of my mind, pushing away all other thoughts.
I pull back immediately and the voice is gone. Her face is as motionless as ever yet I feel fear coming from somewhere deep inside her. It paints every visible inch of her skin and escapes through her breaths.
“Sylvia?” My own voice comes out as a mere whisper, barely audible over the incessant hum of the machines. Seconds beep away on her heart monitor before I try again, “Sylvia?”
Still no response.
I was about to dismiss it as a combination of fatigue and my imagination when my hand brushed hers and I felt a connection. It stretched between us like the thin veins of a spider’s web, linking us by a thread.
There was no sound, no voice, no movement; just a connection.
People are always claiming twins are special; that they share the same consciousness of some bunch of baloney like that. I had never believe that, not even remotely, until that moment.
I take her hand, giving it a small squeeze, hoping to hear something or see into her mind.
The thread is growing thinner, disintegrating between us. I can’t let it disappear.
In a panic, I lean towards her face until my forehead is pressed against hers and the tips of our noses are only centimeters away, separated mostly by her oxygen mask.
“Save me Ethan!” Her voice is loud and clear in the center of my mind. “Please! Help me! I’m lost and scared and I need y-”
She is cut off by the sound of the door creaking open behind me. The squeal of the rusty hinges sever our thread.
The connection is gone. She is as cold and emotionless as the abyss in my chest.