As part of our Creative Writing Month at Who Said She Said, we’re sharing this short story submitted by guest contributor Hannah Vile.
Olivia squinted at her twin’s face and fiddled with the front of her hair so it fell more across her face, covering her pink cheeks. Hannah flapped her hand away and they went back to reading. It was their first day at a new secondary school and the twins were filling the time until bell rang for form.
A shadow fell over them and the twins’ heads flicked up. A boy wearing a duffel bag stood in front of them. “Do you… er, know where E6 is?” He asked.
Olivia wrinkled her nose. “Are you new?”
“Uh…I started at the beginning of January, but I’m still getting a bit lost.”
Hannah smiled, “We started today.”
“Why didn’t you start at the beginning of term?”
The girls blinked at him.
The boy pulled up his trousers, “Er…so, I guess you don’t know where E6 is?”
“No, sorry,” the twins replied.
The boy studied the girls’ faces. “Are you two twins?”
Hannah and Olivia looked at each other. “No.”
He frowned. “Is that a joke?”
“Do you always say stuff at the same time?”
“No,” they repeated for the last time, bored.
The boy scowled at the girls and walked off.
Hannah turned to her sister. “Do you think we should try and make friends this time?” She asked. Olivia gazed after the boy and then at the group of girls opposite now crowding around a tiny touchscreen phone, declaring their peace signs and pouting.
“I think that would be a terrible idea,” she answered.
Olivia leant against Hannah’s shoulder and the twins began to read.
That evening Hannah sat at the kitchen table and coloured as their mum, Amy, chopped vegetables. Amy gazed at her daughter bent over her book, nose nearly on the page, colouring a person crimson. She took a deep breath.
“How was school?” Amy asked.
“Good,” Hannah answered and after studying her drawing, picked up a black.
“Make any friends?”
“Yep, loads.” Hannah pushed her black further into the paper.
Amy rolled her eyes. Hannah and Olivia weren’t even teenagers yet they were already only communicating with her through monosyllabic words.
“I was wondering if Olivia would like to get her hair cut,” Amy announced and turned to busy herself collecting plates.
A crayon rolled off the table.
“I am not getting my haircut,” Hannah hissed, right beside her mother.
“Agh!” Amy shouted and a plate skidded across the floor. “Hannah!” she scolded. “What have I said about you creeping up on me?”
Hannah returned the plate to her mum, “Sorry.”
“Anyway, I wasn’t asking you. I know how precious you are about your hair. I was wondering about Olivia, I think it would be nice if she did something different.”
Hannah clenched her hands into fists and stood staring at her mother, “Why?”
Her mum began to collect cutlery, “I’m not trying to be mean but you two don’t look the most approachable of people when all you do is drift around with the grumpiest of expressions and Amish hair covering your faces.”
Hannah stomped back to the table.
Amy threw up her hands, “Well? Do you think your sister would like to get a haircut?”
“She doesn’t like that?” Hannah muttered.
Her mother peered at her daughter, “Pardon?”
“She wouldn’t like that,” Hannah cried and stalked out of the room, leaving her mother staring after her exasperatedly.
Hannah and Olivia’s first week of school passed without incident. They claimed the bench by the Music Block and spent breaks there, reading and studying the students that walked by. No one paid them any attention and the boy with the duffle bag never made a re-appearance. However, Saturday soon arrived and their mother marched them into the hairdressers at the earliest time possible. Olivia plonked herself down in a chair and Hannah settled on a sofa nearby. Amy stood by Olivia to watch. A young man whipped a cloak around Olivia’s neck and brushed her hair. As the hairbrush was raked through, strands of hair drifted to the floor. Hannah’s fingernails sank deeper in to the arm of the sofa. The hairdresser picked up a pair of scissors and tapped Olivia’s arm with them, two inches below her shoulder.
“You want it here?” The man grunted at Amy.
Hannah’s heart stuttered. “I thought Olivia wasn’t having that much off?” She asked, her voice climbing in pitch.
Olivia grabbed Amy’s arm and dug her nails into her flesh, “I thought so too,” she hissed.
Amy wrenched her arm out of Olivia’s grasp and gave her a sharp tap on the shoulder.
“No. I’m paying for it; you’ll get cut as much as I say.”
“Wait,” Olivia grabbed the scissors out of the man’s hand and ran their closed blades across the bottom of her neck. “I want it here then.”
Amy rolled her eyes and sighed.
Olivia looked at her reflection and spread her lips into a sly smile, “I want it short.”
The hairdresser looked at Amy for confirmation and she waved her hand for the go-ahead.
“Right,” the man grumbled. He tied Olivia’s hair in a ponytail so it would come away all at once and began to snip. Hannah stuck two fingers in her ears and pressed hard; the noise was like cutting through bone. Amy waved a hand at Hannah to stop jigging her legs. The sawing became louder and the slices quickened until the noise abruptly disappeared and the hairdresser held up Olivia’s ponytail.
“All gone!” he exclaimed and waved it in Olivia’s face so she could have a closer look. Olivia flinched away, twisting her fingers through her hair and staring at her reflection instead. The hairdresser gave it to Hannah. She ran her fingers down the ponytail and over its stump. Goose bumps bristled at the nape of her neck as if touched by a sudden draft of air. She was surprised at how sharp the cut ends of hair were.
“Lovely,” Amy said and hugged Olivia before taking out her phone to snap photos of her. That was the final straw. In a flash, Hannah leapt off the sofa, grabbed a spare pair of scissors off a tray and ran at her mother.
“Woah!” her mum cried and caught Hannah’s wrists, pulling her in for a hug. “You can have your hair cut as well. There’s no need to be jealous silly.” Hannah’s hand was mashed against her mother’s thigh and the scissors slipped from her grip. Amy patted Hannah’s back, pushed her into a chair beside Olivia and ushered another hairdresser over. Before Hannah could protest, the hairdresser put Hannah in a similar chokehold with another cloak and after a brief exchange with her mother, began to jab at her hair with scissors and a comb. Together, Hannah and Olivia sat and waited as their hair was snipped away and their new faces were created.
Forty-five minutes later they were finished. Once free, Olivia and Hannah slid down from their chairs and stood opposite each other to analyse each other’s appearance. Their pale skin was unchanged, their eyes were still grey and their lips still set in their usual hard line, except they looked completely different. Olivia’s hair now fell an inch short of her shoulders and Hannah’s now ended just below her ribcage, only slightly shorter than it was previously.
Hannah gaped at her sister. “Do you actually like yours?” She hissed. Not only had their mum managed to make them both get their hair cut, but now their hair was totally unalike. They were no longer identical.
“Do you like it?” Amy asked, grinning at her daughters.
Olivia stepped next to Hannah, “I think mine’s really nice, I love it,” she lied and pinched Hannah’s arm.
“Same,” Hannah muttered.
As they were leaving Hannah grabbed her sister’s hand, “I don’t like that we look so different,” she whispered.
Olivia nodded. “Me too, but we won’t have to put up with it for long.”
A cunning smile returned to Olivia’s face. “No.”
The following Monday in Maths class, Hannah and Olivia as usual doodled in their textbooks and ignored their teacher, Ms Barrett. They didn’t worry about being called on as their teacher couldn’t tell them apart, and to save herself embarrassment, left the girls alone and never attempted to call them their names.
“Hannah do you have the answer to question 3?”
Bent over their textbooks, the girls froze. Their different appearances had apparently inspired new confidence.
Olivia lifted her head, “Is it-”
“Hannah’s the one with longer hair,” Someone interjected from across the room. Everyone whipped round to see who dared to name the twins. A girl stared back at her classmates. Her long blonde hair was smoothed back with a headband so her face was exposed; she was someone who wanted to be seen. Hannah’s stomach dropped. On their first day of school the girl, Jessica, had introduced herself to the twins whilst they waited outside their form room. She had been answered with a repulsed silence and never spoke to them again. Olivia and Hannah looked at each other, wide-eyed. Somehow the girl clearly knew their names.
The teacher turned her gaze to Hannah, “I see. Do you know the answer?” Hannah looked up from Olivia’s panicked eyes. Everyone was now gaping at her. Her classmates were seizing the opportunity to stare at Hannah without inviting the usual glare.
“The diameter is 5?” Hannah blurted out.
The teacher smirked, “Not quite.”
The class dropped their eyes and turned away. Olivia pinched Hannah on her leg under the table and glowered at her as if she was too embarrassed to even be near Hannah. She then turned away to begin copying out the maths problems from the board. Tears welled up in Hannah’s eyes. Olivia had never looked at her like that before.
The last bell for lunch rang across the school. Hannah brushed away a bead of sweat from her forehead and scuffled down the empty bench to the end. Apparently Olivia wasn’t spending lunch with her today. Hannah went to pick up her lunchbox that was sat beside her but it slipped from her fingertips. She leant down to retrieve it when a hand shot out in front of her, grabbed the lunchbox and shoved it in Hannah’s face.
“There you go.” It was Jessica from Maths class, the girl who had known the twins’ names and made everyone look at her.
“Thanks,” Hannah murmured, taking it back.
“Do you mind if I sit with you?” Jessica asked. “My friends are at hockey practice.”
Hannah opened her lunchbox, tossed the lid on her bag and stared at Jessica who nibbled her lip. She was clearly not used to having no friends around to hang out with. White peeked through the skin on her knuckles on the hand that held her bag. Or maybe she was scared of who sat in front of her. Hannah hoped it was the latter. “Of course not,” she said and gestured to the bench beside her.
Jessica sat down beside Hannah.
“Sorry about what I said in class today by the way, you looked a bit annoyed.”
Hannah shrugged and began to peel her Cheesestring into strips. “That’s okay, I think I was just surprised someone knew our names, as in could tell us apart. How did you know by the way?”
“After I spoke to you on your first day, when we were outside form, I saw you calling each other your names. So I just remembered: Olivia’s the one with the pink bag, Hannah with purple. It’s so weird when you guys are together, you guys look so similar,” Jessica said and began to giggle.
After a second’s hesitation, Hannah copied the squeal coming out of Jessica’s mouth. “We can look pretty intimidating,” she admitted.
“I was speaking to my friends about it, you guys do look a bit creepy,” Jessica said laughing. “Is that why you cut your hair?”
Hannah fell silent and tore the cheese string apart into the final piece. “It was our mum’s idea actually. I mean, I like having the same hair as Olivia, but mum thought it might help people tell us apart…,” Hannah said and trailed off. She frowned at the ground.
“Huh. Yeah, I guess that’s a good point. Why don’t you guys ever spend time apart?” Jessica asked.
Hannah scowled at her as she emptied her packet of Lunchables.
Jessica wrapped an arm around Hannah and gave her a quick squeeze before dropping it back to her side. “Well feel free to come and hang out with me whenever Olivia’s busy.”
Hannah patted Jessica on the arm, “Sure.”
Jessica grinned at Hannah, “Good- wait, hang on. Is that me?” She asked, peering at Hannah’s lap. On the film lid laid out on Hannah’s knee, was Jessica, erected out of two fat slices of ham for the head and body, strands of Cheesestring for Jessica’s long blonde hair and smaller pieces torn up for eyes and a big mouth.
“Yep,” Hannah said and rolled up her cheese ham person, stabbed her thumb through the body so she could mash it together into a smaller ball and stuffed it in her mouth. Jessica stared at Hannah. Hannah opened her mouth and gnashed her teeth together so Jessica could see the hair and skin being split and ripped apart. Hannah swallowed, lifted her chin and smiled at Jessica.
Jessica opened her mouth to speak and then shut it.
Hannah scowled at Jessica’s horrified expression. She stuffed her rubbish in her bag and stood up. “I’ve got to go.”
“Wait!” Jessica exclaimed, prompting a pause. “Uh…”
Hannah walked away.
After school, the twins met at their usual spot.
“Thanks for ditching me at lunch,” Hannah said.
“I was speaking to someone in referral; I got caught sneaking around the art rooms.”
Hannah’s eyes widened in realisation, “Did you get the scissors?”
Hannah hesitated before asking her next question. “Why do you think mum made us get our hair cut?”
“Because she’s evil.”
“Jessica said we looked creepy and intimidating before we got it cut.”
Olivia’s eyes narrowed. “Let’s go and speak to mum.”
They took hold of each other’s hand and went to find Amy.
“Did you have a nice day at school?” Amy asked. Olivia and Hannah were sat on either side of the car backseat, chins cupped in their hands, elbows propped on the door handles. Hannah peeked at Olivia who was making no movement to answer their mother.
She lifted her head and dropped her hand to her lap, “I made a friend today.”
The twins saw Amy’s eyes widen in the rear view mirror. “Really?” She asked. “That’s nice. What’s he or she like?”
Hannah shrugged. “She’s called Jessica. We had lunch together, it was nice. Olivia left me at lunch so I would have spent the whole break alone if it wasn’t for Jessica.”
Amy’s eyes lit up. “Oh right? What did you do at lunch Olivia?”
“I spent lunch with someone as well,” Olivia grumbled into her palm. “But,” and she turned to Hannah, her glower transforming into beam, “I really missed Hannah.”
The twins grinned at each other.
“Love you Han.”
“Love you Liv.”
“Wait,” Amy interjected. “Maybe that’s good to make your own friends. I think you guys would like some independency.”
The twin’s eyes flicked towards their mother and silence spread throughout the car. So Amy was pushing for them to make their own friends; she was trying to push them apart.
“Never mind,” Amy muttered.
Olivia turned to Hannah. “Do you wanna play when we get home?”
The twins smirked at each other.
“Supper!” Amy called. She listened for the thunder of feet on the stairs. There was no answer. She called again from the bottom of the stairs, “Hannah! Olivia! Supper!” They had clearly gone deaf. Amy sighed, she would have to go and get them herself. She marched up the stairs, past all the closed bedroom doors, to the very top room of the house. Olivia and Hannah were sat on the floor with their backs turned, playing with dolls. Amy gasped at the sight of them. “What have you done?” She cried.
The twins turned around and held up their Barbie heads proudly, “Makeovers!” they chorused. The twins had decapitated their dolls, drawn makeup on their faces with coloured pens and cut their hair into bobs.
But Amy wasn’t looking at the dolls, she was staring at Olivia. “What have you done to your sister?” She whispered. Hannah’s hair was gone. Her hair had been cut so it was now identical to Olivia’s. Hannah put her hand to her head and stroked the ragged ends where it had been hacked away.
“I cut her hair,” Olivia said.
“Did you not like it before?” Amy breathed.
The smiles dropped from the twins faces.
Olivia dropped her Barbie head which bounced on the floor and rolled into its body. She stood up and opened her arms for a hug. Amy pulled her mouth into a smile, robotically knelt on the floor and opened her arms, “Come here Olivia. You too Hannah.” She muttered. Hannah and Olivia knelt on the floor in front of their mum, wrapped their arms around her neck and squeezed tight.
“How could you tell us apart? I thought you wouldn’t know when we looked the same,” Olivia mumbled.
“You two are my children, of course I will always be able to tell you apart,” Amy whispered. She was careful not to touch what had truly given it away. From the back, they almost were identical, except for the bloody marks Olivia had cut into the back of Hannah’s neck as she chopped off her hair.
The twins’ eyes met and they squeezed tighter.
Read more from Hannah at https://uniquelyhannah.wordpress.com/.
This is a guest post. Click here for more information on submitting content to the blog.