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Twin Cousins

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Hi. My name's Andie. I...I'm sure some of you have twin cousins out there. You know, those lovable and irritating twits? Sometimes you want to hug and kiss them and squeeze them, sometimes you just want to bash their heads in.

Well, don't.

You'll miss them.

You'll feel like your heart had been stabbed out and your guts were rolled up in a ball and shoved down your throat.

I had a twin cousin once...Rai.

She and I knew each other since we were six years old. The first thing I noticed about Rai were her eyes--her dark brown eyes that were scattered with flecks of gold. Rai and I loved each other. Like, real love. Since Rai lived in the Philippines, I visited her every summer and she visited me. It was perfect. She and I were heart-cousins.

Something happened to Rai when we were twelve.

See, my little brother, Trev, lost his balloon and it floated into the forest. Rai went after it--it was around ten, nine in the morning.

Hours later, Rai returned and held the balloon proudly in hand. Our parents, like most parents would've been, were worried sick and smothered her.

But I saw it.

I saw faint red stains on the base of her favorite black sweater and on her hands. Her eyes...her eyes turned black.

Rai caught me looking, turned to me, and smiled, her mouth curling with a tiny smirk. That night she and I slept in the same room. We stayed up late and talked. Since her ed system was different, Rai would be attending first year high school after her visit, while I'd be in seventh grade. She told me about stuck-up girls and flirty boys and how she'd stay quiet about her intelligence in class...

I drifted off to sleep soon. A few minutes later, though, Rai started screaming. I shot up in bed and rushed to her side, shaking her until she woke up with tear-filled eyes. Our parents rushed over and asked what had been going on.

It was silent for a while. Only Rai's panting could be heard.Then she pointed at me. "Monst..." she stammered, "Monster."

I looked at her and furrowed my brows. "Hey, what's wrong with--"

"MONSTER, MONSTER! MONSTER! 'NAY, 'TAY, HELP! HELP ME!"

I froze in shock and backed away, heading for my own bed and watching as our parents attempted to push her down. They gave her a few pills and she was knocked out.

I couldn't sleep that night. I listened to Rai's sobbing from across the room, my heart drilling a hole in my chest.

Monster?

What the hell was that supposed to mean?

After that, Rai left for home earlier than she usually did without telling us. I called her, sent her text messages, letters, gifts--heck, she even missed our thirteenth birthday.

I didn't want to accept it.

I told myself that she had school in July, that she couldn't make it because she was busy, no matter how much I knew that she avoided me on purpose.

I didn't do anything wrong. She finally came over on Christmas, looking very anxious to even be in the same house I was in. Every time I tried to talk to her, she'd reply with soft, awkward words and turned away.

She left my present by my bedroom.

She didn't come down to sing with me.

She avoided me like the fucking plague.

Something was wrong with Rai and I knew it. While she and her parents went out shopping, I snuck into the guest room and searched for the tiny black sling bag she wore. I reached under the pillow. "Bingo," I whispered, sitting on the bed.

Rai's diary was a small, brown notebook with a garter. I opened it and found several pages torn out, smeared in ink. What few pages were left were filled with drawings.

One was a vivid drawing of Rai and I. Our arms were linked, but I looked like I was hiding a knife behind my back.

The other one was of me, slowly cutting open her throat. The page was filled with red ink, too. And the last...the last was the doorway of the guestroom, where she hung from a noose and a camera took a picture of her.

I shuddered and put the diary back. I didn't sleep that night, either. I stayed up and worried over her. We were twin cousins! I'd known her for--what, six, seven years? When we fought, it was a big one and never again, and I didn't do anything to piss her off except for a few pranks now and then. I knew she didn't mind.

What did I do to her?

Rai approached me while I was out in the woods, drawing figures in the snow. Her black hair stood out against the snow. For a while she just stood there, watching me draw, looking at me with sad eyes.

"Hey."

I jumped. "Hi."

Rai slid into the spot beside me and rubbed her arms. "Andie...Andie, I love you."

I blinked. "Alright. Where's this going?"

She shook her head and stayed silent for a while. "I love you guys so much. Aunt and Uncle, you. You've been there for me all this time, you know?" She paused. "I don't want anything to happen to you. Andie. Promise me one thing." I nodded slowly and hugged my knees to my chest."You won't question anything I'll ever do or say. You won't cry, you won't miss me." Rai turned to me with a fierce glare. "Promise!" I held up my hands and sighed.

"Okay, okay. I promise." Where was she going with this?

Rai hugged me. She gripped me tight, nuzzling into my chest like it was the last time I'd be seeing her. "Promise you will never forget me. Promise me sampaguita." I nodded again.

Rai didn't visit again after that--not in a long while. I had texts from her now and again--nothing as deep or twin-cousinly. Just normal conversations.

When I turned seventeen, I fell in love with this great girl. Her name was Saira. See, when we were kids, Rai and I promised each other that we'd never have a girlfriend or boyfriend without telling the other first. I promised, so I called her a dozen times. When she picked up, her voice was cheery and excited.

"Andie! Hi,"

"Hey, Rai."

"Well...how's it been? I'm so sorry--four years, I know."

"It's nothing. Don't worry about it. Listen, there's this girl I like. Saria,

"Rai was silent for a while. "And?"

"I asked her out." I said cheerily, "And I thought since you'd be having summer there, maybe you could come over and see her? Go out and have some girl time?"

"I don't do girl time. Andie, I can't."

I laughed. I was a bit surprised. I was sure she'd tease me to death, but this? Wow. I wasn't expecting it.

"What do you mean, Rai? I know you don't "do" girl time, but--"

"I can't. Ands, I'd love to. She must be amazing and I trust you to take good care of her. But...As much as I want to, I can't. Not ever."

Not ever? What?

"Not...not ever? Rai? What's up with you?"

"Andie," she said sadly, "you wouldn't understand."

Okay. I had it.

"I'd understand anything, Rai, anything. I've known you since we were tiny, and what's this all about? What was that monster thing all about, Rai?! We're twins, and we're supposed to talk to each other! Rai! Rai? Rai?!"

She ended the call.

I spent many sleepless nights and had constant arguments with Saria. In the end, I graduated without Rai and she did the same without me. I called her. I knew I hit her breaking point somewhere, I knew it. But why. And How?

I was surprised when I got a call from Rai.

"Rai? Hey. Hey! About the other day, I'm sorry--"

"Get out of your house, Andie."

I paused. "Okay. Um...why?"

"Do it."

I stuffed the phone in my pocket and went outside. "I'm out."

Rai sighed and whispered, "head to the Police Office, Andie, and wait. I'll call you once you're there."

"R-rai...?"

"Do it. Now!"

It was only a few minutes before she called again.

"Tell them to go up to your bathroom and check the shower," she told me slowly. "And...and I love you, Andie. I love you. Heart-cousins."

I did as I was told. The cops only lifted their brows and asked where I lived, then they took me home. Telling me to stay in the car, they kicked open my door and soon returned with a heavily bleeding guy. A cop called for an ambulance while another dumped a few large bags, a cloth, stuff in a bottle, a gun, and a rope on the ground, crossing his arms.

I stared, wide-eyed. The man had been trying to rob me.

I went over to Saria's house and spent the night there. She asked me about everything and I replied honestly, until she asked about Rai. And for some reason, I told her everything...Her smile, her tough attitude, her tomboyish stride and smartass mouth. Saria listened carefully. I couldn't take it anymore at this point. I took Saria with me and flew over to the Philippines. Rai lived in the mountains, so I visited her house and knocked. It was a few moments before a small boy stepped out. He had the same deep hazel eyes. When he saw me, his eyes widened and he called out to his mother, before muttering "halimaw." and running upstairs. Saria and I were confused, but soon Rai's mother came over. "Hello," she said in a thick accent.

"Hi," I said awkwardly, rubbing the back of my neck. "Um, it's me,"

"I know," she said slowly. "Ay. Please, come in."

I helped Saria inside and Rai's mother---I'll call her Aunt, sat me down at the table and served us some leftovers while she headed upstairs. She returned with a white envelope and a package, then sat down on the opposite end.

"How do I...say this..." she began. "Andie, we..we try to contact you for a very long time. You not answer, you not come to the country when Rai needs you."

I froze and listened. "She became..she want to kill herself. She scream every night, like monster. Calling for you. She say she see you in dreams, Andie. You know why this is?"

I didn't know if she was asking me if I knew about it or if she was clarifying about the nightmares, so I shrugged.

"You know mangkukulam, Andie? Rai is mangkukulam. She is born with gift but she is not strong enough to take it. So the engkantos put curse on her and you. You, to be mangkukulam as well. How is this in Amerikano. Witch and Warlock, yes?"

Aunt sighed and rubbed her temples. "Rai have gift since she is six. She want to see you, but when she does see you, she think, 'His not to strong.' And she takes your part of curse."

I gulped down my tears. "I'm sorry, I don't think I understand."

"Rai could not take both curse. So she end it quick, yes? But her spirit irritated, and she roamed around. She knew you were going to die. She knew you would try save her, but she did not want to see you die. So she let herself die instead. She went to states and stayed there for a few days with pamilya. then she waited for magnanakaw. Robber. And she kill him. No-not kill. not kill, warn, warn heavy. Yes, she saved you." Aunt smiled at me.

"Then she come home and tell me to give you gifts. She was such a good girl. She study how to get her spirit to do things for her. Spirit call you, tell you she love you. Then Rai could not take. She die.:"

I froze. "What?"

"Rai dead, Andie. Rai's dead."

My heart lurched and kicked against my chest. I opened the envelope and found a letter for me:

Andie, I love you.

I really do. I'll take every hit for you, alright?

Andie, don't cry. That's so wimpy. Don't smile, either, because that's rude. Instead...live.

Don't throw yourself out of the window or something. You still have a long life. Don't forget me, either. I'm still here, you nutjob.

"I'm still here," a voice whispered in my head.The package was full of pictures of Rai and I. Full of memories. Bittersweet memories.

Twin cousins are to be cherished, held close, not killed or abused.

I loved mine.

Do you love yours?

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