"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.
.... There is more of this story ...