"We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows."
~ Robert Frost
"What are you doing?" I sat down on the steps, the wide wooden stairs of our back porch.
"Hey Kris. I'm just sitting," my brother replied with a shrug.
The sun had turned red behind the not very old maple tree in our backyard. It wasn't much of a view, since we lived in the middle of suburbia. A thousand identical houses all lined up nice and neat. It was easy to get lost and if you weren't careful you could walk into a stranger's house by mistake.
I'd done that before, being seventeen and a little drunk after a party. My boyfriend had missed my street by two blocks and I'd snuck in through the open back door. Halfway up the stairs I'd realized the pictures on the wall weren't of my mom and dad. That had freaked me out a little, but it was a good story and I liked to tell it. Nobody ever believes me though, except the people who grew up in my neighborhood. They just nod, knowing how that could really happen.
My brother Steve and I are twins, but not identical since I was and still am a girl. He's a boy, obviously, so we look somewhat different. Being twins is nice though. I mean, I always had a friend growing up, because Steve was always that. Maybe even more than my brother, Steve was my best friend, which sounds dumb. Like you can't have a best friend for a brother for some reason; they're mutually exclusive. It's like those people, those guys who say their best friends are their wives. It's a nice sentiment and people want to believe it, but no one really does. Not in their hearts because they've never felt it.
But I did. We did, Steve and me, and it was very nice.
"Nancy?" I put my elbow on my knee and propped my head on my hand, looking at him sideways.
"Yeah." He frowned. "She didn't say anything."
"What did you say?"
"I just asked her why she wanted to break up." Steve looked down, between his feet.
"No reason?" I asked, knowing it was because my brother was leaving her, but what did he expect?
"Nope," he snorted.
We were both eighteen then, and getting ready to go to different colleges. He wanted to be an architect, so he was going to some fancy school in Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology. I just wanted a degree in basket weaving or something, seriously, I didn't care. I was going to college probably just to meet a guy I could fall in love with. Not that I had my heart set on it, but I'm saying that's the reality. Carefree and without ambition, I just wanted to have fun.
We envied that in each other, I think, my brother and me. He'd always been too serious, getting his straight A's in school, knowing exactly what he wanted to be, making his plans for the future. And I just laughed and flirted, joined all the fun clubs and cheerleading and all that stuff. I even ran for class president in my senior year, just so I could tease my brother when I won, but I didn't. Steve did.
That's okay though, I voted for him. He told me later that he'd voted for me, and we'd laughed about it, laying together on his bed.
We spent a lot of time together in bed, his or mine, it didn't matter. We just talked. I'm not saying we fooled around. He was my brother, so that would've felt a little weird. I know because he kissed me once. Just one time, when we were arguing about something silly, like what was Captain Kirk's middle name or something.
And like all of our arguments, whatever they were about, this one escalated into tickling and sometimes I won those, and sometimes he did. On that particular day, when we were sixteen years old, Steve was winning. Sitting on my tummy, my bare tummy as we were wearing bathing suits and mine was a bikini, a modest one, but still a bikini. And he tickled my exposed ribs, making me admit that I was wrong. I gasped happily when he finally stopped, red faced and smiling and hot, and my soft blue eyes were looking up into his, and then...
He kissed me. On the lips. Like a boyfriend kisses his girlfriend, my brother kissed me and I think we both blinked at that. I know I blushed and then Steve pushed himself off of me, apologizing. But I found nothing to forgive. I mean, I'd been expecting it, seriously. I'd felt the moment between a boy and girl, our relationship slipping away from both of us and we were just kids for a second, not brother and sister at all.
If he hadn't kissed me right then, I would have kissed him, or so I told myself. And I told Steve that too, just so he wouldn't spend his whole life feeling guilty over nothing. Later we laughed about it, on those rare times we happened to both be thinking about it at the same time. We never talked about it though, we just looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking. We did that sometimes, like we had esp or something.
I thought about that kiss a lot after that, but only secretly, when I was alone and especially after we left for our colleges. When I missed my brother, eventually I'd miss that one kiss too. It was inevitable. I'd start out missing his handsome face, then his laugh. Then I'd miss the way he always knew how to cheer me up. And by the end of the day, laying in my dorm at night trying to fall asleep ... I'd miss that kiss. It would be my last thought before I finally closed my eyes.
"Well, it wasn't like you were gonna marry her," I said, talking about Nancy on the back steps.
"I know." Steve nodded. "But she could have said something."
"Girls are like that," I said with a grin. "It's different than boys."
"I mean, we want to talk all the time, except when we're mad." I leaned over, pressing my shoulder against his. "Guys don't wanna talk until something's going wrong."
"Well..." My brother smiled at that.
"Then we can't shut you guys up!" I giggled. "You know it's true, come on."
"Maybe." Steve leaned into me. "When is your plane leaving?"
"Ten in the morning," I sighed. "I gotta be at the airport like three days early cause of the security."
That made him laugh and I pinched his hip just because. I'd be flying to University of Nevada-Las Vegas. They'd offered me the same scholarships as everyplace else, which is to say none, so I'd picked them for the campus fun factor. I mean, it's Vegas! It had to be fun!
My parents weren't totally thrilled, but they'd been to Las Vegas more than a few times, and it was more family oriented now, I guess. At least that's what my dad said, a little grudgingly, although he'd never brought me or my brother along. I think he was secretly glad because now he'd have an excuse to go to Vegas once in awhile. He liked blackjack a lot and always complained about the local casinos, the ones on the reservations. He was a good player. Mom just liked Tom Jones.
Steve would be flying out to Chicago a couple days after I left and it was hard, really hard. Neither one of us had been away from home before, not for more than a couple days at the most. And our parents ... Well, we were the only two kids they had. Mom likes to say that having so much good luck the first time around made her a little nervous. She didn't want to push it, but that's just her way of teasing us, telling us she felt proud without really saying it.
Our mom's one of those women who are sort of distant, you know? Not that she wasn't loving or a good mom, she was righteous, just that she couldn't always express it out loud. But I saw it in her eyes every time she looked at us. We got our eyes from her. And her black hair, which was thick and soft. I kept mine long and wavy, and Steve's would have been, except he liked it short and he looked good that way.
We were both attractive like Mom, very attractive, and we'd gotten our dad's outgoing personality and good humor to boot. I was 5'8" tall, Steve just an inch taller, maybe, but you wouldn't know unless we stood back to back barefoot. The same full lips, high cheekbones and pointy chins. I had a mole, a little beauty mark on my upper lip. Steve had a little white scar above his left eye, but it just made him look better when you were close enough to notice.
He'd grown up to be an athletic sort of guy too, not muscle bound buff or anything, but solid, very comfortably solid in his build. And confident? God, Steve just gave you that feeling like whatever he wanted to do, he would have to be good at it. I loved being with him just for that. I was more soft, with nice hips and a narrow waist. Breasts that grew firm and upright and suited my height. I got a lot of attention and a lot of dates, but I'd never done much more than some heavy petting with my boyfriends.
Steve had gone all the way with Nancy, I knew that, and yeah, it made me a little jealous when he'd told me. We didn't have any secrets anyway, and he sure wasn't going to keep that one! He'd been seventeen and walking on air, smiling like he'd just won the lottery. One look at him and I knew, and I'd made him tell me everything.
We'd lain on his bed and played fifty questions with it. Steve wouldn't just come out and tell me, he had to make me ask, you know. And I'd closed my eyes, asking him how and where, and most especially why. What had made that one girl so special, I'd asked him. What did he like about her, how had she made him feel? Was it a word, or a touch? I wanted to know everything because I wanted to understand why he did it with her of all people.
And I closed my eyes, like I said, maybe wondering what it might have been like to be Nancy for those ten or fifteen minutes, because Steve had been honest. It hadn't lasted very long, he'd confessed with a blush. Just a few strokes, in and out and it was over and that had made me giggle. I'd always imagined that sex took like hours and hours. But he swore to me it didn't and he'd been scared, which surprised me. Not only that he'd admit it, but that it could even be true. Steve wasn't ever scared, but he had been that first time with his girlfriend.
Steve told me that when I did it with a boy, when I made love for the first time, I'd understand. I'd smiled at that, thinking he was probably right, and then I'd promised to tell him about it. Wherever it happened, whenever it happened, I'd tell him right after. Even on my honeymoon, I swore, making both of us laugh. I'd call him in the middle of the night if I had to, just because I loved him that much. He'd shared his first time with me, so I'd do the same with him.
And now I was leaving in the morning, and the sun was going down, and I was already missing him.
"Going to see Chuck tonight?" Steve asked me, referring to my boyfriend.
"Nope." I smacked my lips softly.
"Why not?" Steve sat back on the steps, leaning on his arms and I took the opportunity to lean all the way over, putting my head in his lap.
"I already said goodbye." I rubbed his thigh, just above his right knee. "Last night. He wanted to do it."
He snorted derisively and my brother had never been a big fan of any of my boyfriends.
"Yeah!" I giggled. "That's what I said. I like him, but it isn't love."
"Love just hurts anyway." Steve shifted a little, balancing on his left arm so he could pull a strand of black hair from my face.
"You're gonna meet another girl," I said, smiling up at him. "Nancy isn't the end of the world."
"I wasn't thinking of..."
"There you two are!" Mom stuck her head out the back door. "I've been calling you for five minutes."
"Sorry Mom," Steve and I said in unison, having had eighteen years to perfect it. Then we laughed as Mom rolled her eyes and went back inside the house.
"Five whole minutes ... Gee whiz." Steve smiled at me.
I sighed, sitting up again. "I was just getting comfy too."
We shared kind of a somber dinner that night. I remember it distinctly because usually they weren't. But this was my last one for awhile, the last time we'd all be together until Christmas or whenever, and so it was a little too serious for my tastes. My brother and I could fix that though.
"Have you been thinking about a major?" Dad asked me.
"Nope." I smiled at him.
"She's gonna major in boys," Steve said with a grin and I kicked him under the table. "Ouch!"
"Hmph." Dad grunted. "I figured that out already."
"Oh stop." Mom frowned.
"I'm just going to check it out first, that's all," I said, shrugging like it didn't matter.
"Not too late to go to school here," Dad pointed out. "You could save a lot of money and live right upstairs."
"It is kinda too late," Steve told him.
"Yeah. I'm sort of committed now, Dad," I said. "They already have a room waiting for me and everything."
"Did you get all packed, Kristy?" Mom asked me.
"That's a coed dorm, right?" Dad shook his head. "Do they have coed showers too?"
"Yeah, Mom. Mostly." I nodded.
"Don't worry, Dad. There's shower curtains." Steve grinned at me and I kicked at him again, but I missed. "Heh!"
"I'm not going to get pregnant, Daddy." I stabbed at a potato.
"I didn't say that." He looked at me, all handsome and innocent, and then he looked around the table. "Did I say that?"
"It sounded like it," I said, looking across the table at my brother and he nodded in agreement.
"Well, you just take your pills..." Mom was talking to herself, I thought.
"You worry too much." Steve laughed at him.
"I'm not on the pill, Mom," I sighed.
"The pill?" Dad stared at me. "Why do you need the pill?"
Steve just smiled at me and his eyes were twinkling happily. Birth control came up every now and again, but not like it did in other families, I'm sure. I mean, it didn't get talked about in the privacy of my bedroom with a mother and daughter heart to heart. It got talked about over roast beef and dill pickles. There was something wrong with our parents.
"I don't, Daddy." I smiled at him. "I'm not going to need it either. I'm going to college, not..."
"Not to an orgy." Steve couldn't resist and I bit my bottom lip, staring at him hard.
"Orgy?" Mom looked at Steve. "Why would you say that?"
"It was a joke, Mom." Steve swallowed hard. "Sorry."
"Not a very funny one." Dad looked at him too and it was my turn to laugh, but only a little.
"You should invite Nancy over for dinner before you leave," I said, smiling sweetly at Steve and pretending like I'd changed the subject.
"Oh, what a wonderful idea!" Mom smiled at me and then looked at my brother. "I haven't seen her in weeks."
"Yeah." Steve nodded his head, frowning at me and I wished I hadn't said it then. He was sort of hurting and I'd just rubbed it in.
"Nancy's a nice girl." Dad nodded. "Where's she going to college at?"
We spent five minutes talking about Nancy, just because my parents both liked her and didn't know she'd dumped Steve. So I actually felt pretty low by the time dinner ended. Sometimes our teasing did get a little out of hand, but...
"You started it!" I said, pursing my lips as Steve sat on my bed staring at me.
"I was just joking, you know that." He pushed a pile of neatly folded clothes away from him so he could scoot back and lean against the wall.
I really hadn't packed hardly at all, but the last thing I wanted was Mom's help. So I'd told her a little white lie. I had time anyway, since I wasn't going out and I wouldn't be able to sleep. I always waited until the last minute for stuff like that, it was as much in my nature as it wasn't in Steve's. For being twins, we sure were opposites in a lot of ways, but mostly in ways that sort of complimented each other.
"Yeah, me too," I said, rolling my eyes with a giggle. "I just can't believe you said orgy. I'll be getting phone calls from Daddy every day."
"Heh!" Steve smiled at me. "What are you doing?"
My big suitcase sat on the floor in the middle of my room. I'd pulled the top drawer of my dresser out completely and I just dumped everything that was in it into the open suitcase. It was all panties and socks, a couple half-slips, maybe an old pair of tights and some nylons I never wore. Junk like that.
"Packing." I grinned at him. "Why? How do you do it?"
"Not like that!" Steve laughed. "You're pretty hopeless, here..."
I stood there in my cutoff shorts and a Metallica t-shirt that I'd swiped from Chuck and never given back, watching as he slid off the bed and onto the floor.
"Fine." I made a little face, because folding panties and socks had never made a lot of sense to me anyway.
So we sat down together and started digging through my underwear, sorting it out.