Part 1: The Attic

            “She was so young,” they would say.
            That’s all anyone would say. Alice was so young. She was taken too soon. She had so much life ahead of her, so much potential. Only a truly unfair world would take someone so young. She was so young.
            That had to be the last thing Violet wanted to hear. That’s why when the relatives and friends of the Worthing family flocked to the main level of the gloomy Victorian mansion, Violet hid at the very top floor in the dusty attic. As she tiptoed through broken boards and cobwebs with swift, familiar, dancer’s steps, the dust danced like the first snow of the year in what daylight could show through the grimy window in the shape of a crescent moon.
            Violet was lost in thought as she passed piles of her mother’s things.
            Trunks filled with dresses, and old-fashioned portraits of her mother covered in brown paper lined the sunken walls. Silken sheets and tall white candle sticks were left in the corner to be forgotten. Porcelain dolls were wrapped carefully in gauzy white fabric. Records of hers collected dust in a stack by an old wooden record player. One lonely guitar was the only item in the attic that didn’t belong to Violet’s mother. It belonged to her father, but it simply had far too many memories attached to it.
            Alice will belong here soon,” she knew.
            Alice’s entire life would be stacked in piles in the attic the same way her mother’s was. Anything that reminded her father of Alice would be banished. Would Violet then be banished too? Violet would try to tell herself that it was her father’s way of coping with loss, but the voice in her head regretfully reminded her that coping and forgetting was not always the same thing. Anyway, it wasn’t her place to judge her father. He was a good man after all, when he was around at least.
            Violet knew her father wouldn’t dare climb the spiral stairs to her mother’s museum to look for her and no one but Alice would ever think to look here. Alice, of course, would not be looking. Alice would sleep soundly in her quiet little coffin lined with sky blue silk looking like one of Mother’s porcelain dolls. Violet was sure her father thought this high little attic room lost behind doors and book shelves would remain a secret, but her father didn’t know the girls’ sense of adventure.
            This used to be a safe place where Violet and Alice would hide. This is where they would play as children. They would try on their mother’s dresses and dance, tripping over the long fabric as they spun as fast as their short limbs would take them. Carefully, oh so carefully, the children would touch the porcelain faces and feel that their mother played just as they did in this very house long ago.
            Now, Violet felt she must run from it, run far from the real grave she still stood in awe of today. This wouldn’t be just her mother’s grave anymore. Soon it would be Alice’s. Soon it would be her twin sister’s.

Part 2: Xander       

She fled to the short wooden door and turned the old brass handle as if she were in a dream, a nightmare - a very slow, painful nightmare. She took the little old fashioned brass key from the keyhole and placed it back behind the loose board on the floor, just where her father left it and where she was sure he thought it would stay.
            Violet ran through the short hallway, down the spiral stairs, into an empty room with no windows. One bare light bulb hung from the mildewed ceiling. She pushed on the far wall as hard as she could as she had a hundred times before. After the initial “budge” the false wall flew open. Violet stepped out of the secret passage and closed the wall behind her with quiet steps. She tip-toed out of the last of the empty rooms, like a criminal, into the safety of the hall.
            Violet wanted nothing more than to run from the house, run forever, but she didn’t. She walked to the open door at the end of the hall as if something had summoned her that way. Before she could tell her feet to stop, she was in the doorway of the last place in the world Violet wanted to be. Her bed room. Alice’s bedroom.
            You see, Alice and Violet had shared a room since they were born, and inheriting the large Victorian mansion from their grandfather couldn’t change that. The hundreds of beautiful and timeworn rooms couldn’t change the fact that neither sister had ever slept in a room without the other, until now.
            But it wasn’t the room itself that was the most painful, it was the person in it, sitting on Alice’s bed, crying.
            “Xander?” Violet asked gently.
            He was holding Alice’s picture, the one of her with Mother. At least, the girls thought it was Alice. She was so young in the picture; it was hard to tell which of the sisters it really was. They were eight at the time, Violet remembered, Mother passed three days after it was taken.
            Alexander Danforth brushed the swelling tears away from his large dark eyes before turning to face Violet. It was too late, she had already noticed them, but she refused to take away his pride as well by acknowledging his tears.
            “Xander?” she asked again.
            He faced her in a whirl of embarrassment and placed the photo on the white wooden desk where he found it. He continued to stand up and attempt to run away with his eyes on the ground.
            “I’m so sorry. I can leave. I’ll just leave,” he says quickly and tries to make his way to the door.
            “No. You’re fine. Stay,” Violet said, and surprised herself by saying so.
            She didn’t want visitors. She definitely didn’t want the crowd of people that were drinking lemonade in her foyer as if all of this was just some kind of especially somber house party. But Xander was different. Xander genuinely loved Alice.
            “No, I can leave,” he says apologetically.
            Violet would have to be firmer than usual, “Xander, please stay.”
            She didn’t have to twist his arm. He stayed. This is where he wanted to be. This was Xander’s closure, his goodbye. He stood for a moment, unsure of what to do, and wandered around the room.
            He came to their closet.
            “This one,” He says and pulls out a white summer dress with tiny blue flowers, “she wore this one on our first date.”
            Violet sat down on her bed and tried not to count how many items in this room would constantly remind her of her twin sister. How many dresses had they shared? How many pictures would she find of them as kids dressed alike? What about the empty bed in the room? And how many pale blue bows would she find before she lost it all together?
            “She loved that dress. She thought it was good luck,” Violet told him, holding back tears but managed a smile, “I think she was right.”
            He stared out the window above the white-painted desk, “Part of me wants this to be another of her pranks. That she went on vacation without telling anyone. That she’ll come back next week and we were all lost over nothing.”
            Xander let out a weak laugh, and Violet, a weak smile. The whole house was pretty weak that day.
            “And I’m just awful aren’t I?” he asks and falls down on Alice’s bed, “You’re her sister. Her twin. Her DNA. And here I am, crying to you about how much I miss her. I’m sorry. I really am.”
            Violet couldn’t argue with him, but she didn’t want to agree with him either. They were identical twins. They had every bond you could possibly have. They had the same pale skin, and raven black hair. Their eyes were the same icy blue color. They had the same losses and pains. The same nightmares. What would happen to Violet if half of her own identity was missing?
            The pause lasted forever. Violet was stuck in silence, begging for something to say that wouldn’t betray her shaky voice, her quivering lip, and the fiery tears that refused to fade into nothing.
            “Why aren’t you down there?” Xander asked finally.
            He was looking at Violet’s short black dress tied with her own pale purple ribbon. She could feel him questioning her motives for refusing her twin sister’s funeral dinner. She hadn’t wondered how it would look to him, or Alice’s friends. She was focused only on staying as far away from the pitying eyes as possible.
            “I’d rather not hear more stories marveling what could have been,” Violet told Xander honestly.
            “Oh,” he said, “I’m sorry.”
            “It’s not like most of them ever even knew her. They didn’t know her, not really,” Violet breathed, “not even Dad. Especially not Dad. And they think they can talk about her like they knew her. They think they can predict what would have happened. They can’t.”
            Xander was silent for a moment, suddenly aware of Violet’s inner anger and pain.
            “I like to think I knew her,” he said quietly like a school-boy unsure of his answer.
            She was feeling smaller by the second, dropping purple tears on the quilted comforter. She was shedding her pain in front of her sister’s boyfriend. She was equal parts embarrassed and comforted by his presence.
            “You did. You really did,” Violet told him and their eyes met for the first time since she entered the room, “I’m sorry for ranting to you.”
            Xander walked over to Violet’s bed and sat down beside her. She took both hands in his so she could feel his warm hands against her cold ones.
            He understood, “I like listening to you. It’s almost like listening to her. Almost.”
            Violet was crying purple tears into Xander’s black shirt with her head on his strong shoulders. He was stiff but he tried his best to hold her, to help her. It was the least he could do. Violet was Alice’s sister. Alice, who he loved more than anyone in the world, loved Violet more than anyone in the world. Sometimes, before they lost her, Xander used to be jealous that he couldn’t read Alice’s mind the same why Violet could.
            “Violet, I’m sorry,” he said once more.
            “Please quit being sorry,” she said without a second of delay.

Part 3: Jack           

            If he would have been looking, Xander would have seen another boy, no more than a year older than him lean against the door post at the entrance to Violet’s room. If Violet would have been looking, she would have seen the boy staring at her with every attention he could give. But it wasn’t the fact that he was staring that was strange—Violet had become awfully used to staring as of late—it was the WAY he stared at her. It was like she was a flame, fascinating and beautiful.
            But Violet, with her cheek to Xander’s shoulder and both eyes closed, didn’t see the boy staring. She wouldn’t notice anything about the boy until it was much, much too late and his silvery eyes would be no longer fixed on anything but the floor.
            “Jack!” came Xander as he opened his eyes and pulled away from Violet.
            “I thought you were coming right back,” Jack said firmly.
            Jack would always be…firm. He was the big brother. He was protective. He had the same dark hair and tanned skin as Xander, but Jack would always be bigger, stronger, and infinitely more introverted. Jack would always have the legendary silver eyes.
            “I thought I was too,” Xander admitted and squeezed Violet’s hand one more time before letting go.
            “We should be going,” Jack told the floor, “Mom called. She thinks you should be back at home.”
            Xander stood up and took a step toward the door, but he couldn’t help looking back at Violet. He didn’t want to leave her if she needed him. And she obviously didn’t think anyone else understood. If she wanted to talk longer or cry harder Xander was fully prepared to stay. But Violet was stronger than that. He knew that. Everyone knew that.
            “Go,” she said, “I’m fine.”
            “Are you sure?” he asked, reading her face that swore quite the opposite despite her efforts to remain expressionless.
            “I’m fine.”
            “I can stay if you want me to,” he offered one more time.
            Violet shook her head, “Take care of yourself, Xander. I’ll see you around.”

Part 4: The Martyr
            Xander and Jack found their way around the long, thin, hallways and skinny staircases of the old mansion until they were finally led away from the endless maze of offices and bedrooms, bathrooms and libraries, smoking rooms and parlors.
          From the top of the grand staircase the boys could see the parade of family members, family friends, classmates, and close friends of Alice. Xander could tell instantly who was attending to pay their condolences, from those who came because it was becoming the social event of the season. Some people had no decency.
          Alice would be a martyr to them for the next month or so. Her picture would hang in lockers. Girls who never spoke to her would claim they were best friends. Boys who thought themselves too good for her would suddenly confess their unending love for Alice, the girl tangled in tragedy.
Xander couldn’t help but find it ridiculous what desperate people would do for a little attention. It was Xander that loved her, no other boys. And as far as he was concerned, Alice would be the only girl he ever loved.
            Jack took the first step down the grand staircase with his younger brother in tow and counted up all the ways he could have said hello to Violet, but didn’t. There was the simple “hello,” the “hello, how are you feeling?” if he wanted to be sensitive, or the “hey, how are ya?” if he wanted to be casual. Jack could have said “hi” or “hey,” or even “sup?” if he wanted to play it cool. Violet took French as a language! He should have said “hello” in French! He shook his head and reprimanded himself. Anything would have been better than ignoring her. 
It was then that he saw a glimpse, just a glimpse, of a crisp white rose, a shadow that seemed as black as the rose was white, and a flash of electric blue in the corridor to his right. In the time it took him to double-take, whoever or whatever was waiting in that corridor was gone, and took the white rose with it.

Part 5: The Closet 
Violet sunk down into the very back of her closet, Alice’s white picture frame in hand. She crawled backwards like a monster that hid from the first beam of morning light. Behind the dresses and coats Violet thought more clearly.
“Xander will be fine someday,” she told herself, “Xander will tire of mourning and find another nice girl who will help him forget. Soon my sister will just be Alice, his first love. Not Alice, his tragic true love.”
The beauty in this monologue was that it existed only within Violet’s thoughts. Should she say them out loud, she would risk sounding heartless or worse- niieve. True love? That’s for fairy tales like Snow White.  Violet shook her head. If only it was that easy. If Xander thought true love’s kiss could wake Alice, Violet wouldn’t be hiding in the back of a closet right then and Alice would already be smiling her usual smile with Violet and Xander by her sides. But this was not a fairy tale, Alice was not under a spell, and Xander was certainly no Prince.
It was then that, through the clothes, Violet saw a shadow on the floor. It was dark as night and as she saw the person’s shoes stop by her bed for a moment, Violet held her breath. As she leaned forward for a better look, Violet tried not to make a sound. But just like that, the shadow and the shoes were gone with quiet steps.
            Violet waited for a moment in the closet, and counted to ten, should anyone be lingering in her room. A person, or shadow as it was, could find it slightly odd that Violet was hiding in the closet. She certainly didn’t need anymore stares today. When she was sure that the shadow had gone, Violet emerged like she was playing a game of hide and seek – head first to make sure the coast was clear, and then the rest of her could come out into the open.
            Violet glanced first at the open door, and then the bed she saw shadow’s shoes stop at. On the bed laid one perfect white rose. The stem was green and fresh, the leaves and thorns were still attached. It was beautiful, but Violet couldn’t help remembering that white roses were Alice’s favorite. 

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