She sings to me at night, her siren song. Don’t you remember?
Oh, Estelle, Estelle. How could I forget? My identical womb-mate. I recall how I twisted my body to wrap the umbilical cord twice around your little neck. Our mother gave birth to one screaming baby and one little corpse. I don’t like sharing.
They christened us together, though only one set of cries echoed through the hospital chapel. They called me Esta. Now Mother spends her life in a dressing gown, living off her brother’s charity. On good days, she sings to me and strokes my hair, sighing at how much I must miss you.
Estelle, the little shadow who followed me all through childhood. If I’d let you be born, I feel sure you’d have always been telling me: don’t go into the woods, don’t let him put his hand up your dress, put the knife down. Ruining it.
I like to blow smoke into your eyes. I like showing you my whiskey bottles, courtesy of our uncle’s wallet. Sometimes I hear you crying. It always makes me smile.
Uncle throws me out after I set fire to his garage. If he hadn’t come home early from work, the whole house could have gone. Spoilsport. The wrong baby died, he yells, veins bulging in his ugly neck. Mother stands on the lawn in her slippers, saying it was an accident. She didn’t mean -. Then she catches the look in my eyes. She lets me leave.
You’ve followed me to the city, Estelle. I thought I could leave you there with Mother. I was wrong. My little shadow sister. Did you think I’d need you?
I find a job that uses my body and leaves my mind free. I model for a sculptor who likes to close his eyes and run his hands over my skin. I move into his studio and he fills it with likenesses of me. Well, I thought it was me. Something about the eyes is never quite right. Too soft. Estelle, I shout at the big stone bodies. I’m sure I hear laughter.
She sings to me at night. Don’t you remember? She sounds like me, though sweeter. Oh we could have had such fun. I bury my head into the pillow, pulling the edges up around my ears.
I’ll always be with you, Estelle sings. And I know she’s right. You remember me, don’t you? I pretend not to hear her, never letting on how much she’s under my skin. It’s my only defense.
I leave the sculptor and his studio that is filled with my sister. But it’s futile to think I can ever leave her. Her saccharine voice follows me wherever I go. I do everything to quiet her. Whiskey, meth, music turned up until the sound warps, random companions I drag home from bars. Hoping for just one night where I’m oblivious to her calls.
In the dark I yell at her to leave me be. But I carry her with me as surely as if we’d been joined at the head. It could have been so different.
And if I could do it all again? Would I wrap that life-giving cord around her parasitic neck? Of course I would. If only there were some way to hack her from me once and for all. But there’s no knife long enough or sharp enough for that. Oh, Estelle. Not in this life nor the next.