They say everyone has a double, a doppelganger, someone who’s their mirror image. What if you just met your double? What if you were a thirteen-year-old kid who’s gay and you just met your double?
When I looked down I saw that I hadn’t been holding Scott’s hand. He’d been holding mine. I tried to pull my hand away, slowly and carefully. I didn’t want to wake him. He grasped my hand even tighter. I looked at his face, and he started to wake up. His eyes slowly opened. I grinned, looked down at our hands, then back at his face. His eyes opened real big as he realized he’d been holding my hand. He started to pull his hand away, but I grasped his hand, squeezed it, then let go.
“It’s okay,” I whispered.
“I’m sorry,” he mouthed, “I’m sorry.” He looked like he might start crying.
“Not a problem,” I whispered. “It felt nice.”
That seemed to make him feel better because he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He grinned, then whispered, “Thanks, Tony.”
My clock radio started playing Passenger’s ‘Let Her Go’ which was my current favorite song. That startled Scott and woke Todd.
“Shud’it off!” Todd mumbled.
“Shhh! This is my favorite song,” I said.
“Mine, too,” Scott said.
“Alright,” Todd grumbled. He stretched and yawned then let out a big sigh. “I was having such a nice dream.”
We waited until ‘Let Her Go’ finished playing and restarted.
“How do I shut this off?” Todd asked.
“Tap the button on the top,” I said.
“How did you make it keep playing the same song? And disturbing my dream?”
“I copy the MP3 files I want to play and wake me up to a flash drive, and plug it in at the bottom of the alarm. There are two USB connections, one for each alarm. If there’s one song, like ‘Let Her Go’ on my second alarm, that’s what it plays, over and over. If there’s more than one, like on my first alarm, it’ll play them all in the order they’re on the flash drive, over and over. It’s a very cool way to wake up.”
“That’s your opinion,” Todd growled.
“What, you don’t like this song?” Scott asked.
“No, I love it. But I don’t like to have something wake me up when I’m having a nice dream.”
“Now we’re curious. Tell us about the dream,” Scott said.
“I don’t remember it now. I never remember my dreams, not even right after I wake up.”
“I’m the same way,” I said. “I guess it would have to be that way since we’re almost twins.”
“You’re actually double first cousins,” Scott said. “I looked it up on my cell. If both sets of parents are twins it’s probable that their kids, the cousins, won’t look alike at all. Still, there’s a fairly high possibility that the cousins look like twins. In either case they are called double first cousins, and they share twenty-five percent of their genes. You should look it up yourselves.”
“Why did you look it up?” Todd asked.
“Sometimes my dad tells us stories about twins at dinner. You’re the first identical looking twins, I’ve ever met in person. When you told me about yourselves I was curious and decided to look it up. I never said anything to you guys because that’s something that my dad does, not me. Anyway, I decided it would be okay to tell you about the double first cousin thing. I think it’s cool that it’s the two of you who are the first double first cousins I’ve ever met.”
“How come your dad never talked about me and Todd being double first cousins?”
“He’s very cautious about applying labels to anything. I think he’s going to wait until he has proof your mothers are related.”
“Does it make any difference it they’re twins or not?”
“Not as far as you two being double first cousins. That’s why I’m telling you about it. There might be another name when it’s twins who are married to twins, but I’m not really sure. I’ve never seen another name.”
“So maybe we can say that we’re identical double first cousins,” I suggested, “IDFC’s for short.”
Todd grinned. “That’s great. But I like the long name better than the initials.”
“Didn’t your high school in Chicago have any twins?” I asked.
“Sure, but none of them were identical twins, none of them looked exactly alike the way you two do.”
I nodded. “Okay, now I understand. So not only are we the first identical twins you’ve ever seen we’re the first double first cousins and the first identical double first cousins you’ve ever seen.”
Scott bit his lower lip for a second. “You know, you’re not identical twins and you shouldn’t say you’re ‘identical double first cousins.’ The definition of identical twins is two babies that come from one egg that is fertilized by one sperm and splits and they have one mother who gives birth. That’s not the exact technical definition, but it’s close enough.” He guessed what I planned to ask and continued, “Fraternal twins come from two separate eggs that are each fertilized by a separate sperm and have one mother who gives birth. You guys each have a different father and mother, so you aren’t identical anythings.”
“Is the plural sperm or sperms? Todd asked, changing the subject. “Sperms sounds, I don’t know, sorta weird.”
“You can use either. Dad always says sperm for singular and plural. I agree with you that for some reason ‘sperms’ sounds weird, and I suppose he does too.”
“You want to go into the same kind of work as your dad? What do you want to take when you go to college?” I asked.
“No fertility clinics for me. I want to go into sports medicine.”
“That sounds heavy duty. Where do you want to go to college?”
“University of California San Francisco. That’s the UC medical school.”
“Sounds like you need to get straight-A’s in high school to get into that kind of major,” Todd said.
“Yeah, that’s for sure. But I’m a straight-A student so far, since I started school in the first grade.”
“High school’s different,” I suggested. “You’ll have all kinds of distractions like girls and basketball and girls and parties and girls.” I shook my head and laughed.
“Nah, no problem,” he responded. He looked at me, then at Todd. “Can I trust you guys to keep something I tell you to yourselves? I don’t want what I’m going to tell you spread around school. I think you’ll understand.”
“You’re gay,” Todd said, “and we’ll never tell anyone. Right, Tony?”
“Absolutely. We’ll never tell anyone.”
Scott’s mouth sort of hung open. I’ve read about that in stories, but I’d never seen it happen before. It looked so funny I couldn’t keep from laughing.
“How did you know?” Scott asked.
“Just the way you asked the question,” Todd replied. “Does the thing about you trusting us go the other way too?”
“What? Oh my god! You’re gay? Both of you?”
“Yes,” I replied. “And….” I held out my hands and raised my eyebrows, sort of like saying, ‘Well?’ then asked, “What do you think about that?”
“I think it’s too cool! It’s amazing.” He was grinning, and so were Todd and I.
“Do your folks know?”
“Of course not!” Todd said. “And they’re not gonna learn it from us.”
“Since we’re cousins Todd and I will have to be extra careful,” I said.
Scott raised his eyebrows. “Oh!”
‘Uh oh!’ I thought. ‘Could he have taken that to mean that Todd and I are messing around? Too late now, but I don’t think I should have said it that way.’
Just then I heard someone knock on my bedroom door.
“Come on in,” I said.
My mom walked in. “We decided to go to that new hamburger place for dinner. Scott, your mom and your brother will meet us there. So you guys get ready to go, and be sure to wash your hands. We’ll leave in about ten minutes.”
“Okay. Thanks, Mom.”
“What new hamburger place?” Scott asked.
“I can’t remember the name. Can you, Todd?” I asked.
“It’s a short word, four characters long. Like Rust or Rush or Nest or something. Anyway, it’s in Lafayette so it’ll take us maybe ten or fifteen minutes to get there.”
We went to Roam, that’s the name of the new hamburger place. It had a weird name and the burgers were pricy, but everything on the menu sounded good. They pulled two tables together outside on their patio for the ten of us. The adults sat at one end and the four of us sat at the other.
We met Scott’s brother Josh; he’s a junior at Wilson. Scott said they don’t get along, but it didn’t seem to be that way. They kept kidding each other and telling stupid jokes and embarrassing stories about each other. Maybe Josh decided to be on good behavior because he’d just met us and his parents were there. But when he started talking about Scott playing basketball in the eighth grade I could see how proud he was of his younger brother’s accomplishments. I also saw how Scott blushed when he got compliments. But he smiled, too.
Josh kept sneaking glances at me and Todd. Finally I looked at him and started laughing.
He blushed and said, “What?”
“We’re not twins, you know,” I said.
“Yeah, I know. Scott told me about you two.”
“We’re cousins. Our dads are twins, and we caught their genes.”
That made Josh laugh, and so did Scott.
Dr. Sanderson overheard what I said. “It’s not a disease,” he retorted.
“We know, but it sounds funny,” Todd said.
“I suppose so, but it gives someone who doesn’t know how genetics works the wrong idea about you two.”
“Like they might catch it from us?” I asked.
“Now you’re just being silly,” Mom said.
“I think sometimes silly is good,” I replied. “I mean, think about it. Here we are, Todd and I look like twins and our dads are twins. And maybe there’s more to it, too. We’ll know after our gene testing comes back.”
Josh looked at his dad. “What’s the ‘more to it’ part, Dad?”
“We’re testing to see how close Tony and Todd are genetically.”
“How do we get tested?” I asked Dr. Sanderson. “Do they take a swab inside our mouth like they show on CSI?”
“No, that’s too simplistic. You’ll to go to the Galahad lab in Shadelands and they’d take blood samples.”
“How much blood will they take?” I asked.
“They’ll draw a very small sample from a vein in your left antecubital. The antecubital is the inside of your arm opposite your elbow. The common term is the crook of your arm.”
“When do you want these blood samples taken?” Mom asked.
“Could you and Mrs. Anderson bring the boys to the lab after school on Tuesday? That way we can take all the samples at the same time.”
“Do either of you boys have anything after school on Tuesday?” Aunt Nora asked.
“Not at school,” I said, “but Todd and I are going to stay over at our house tonight since this is Tuesday.”
“Oh, right. I forgot about that,” Aunt Nora said. “Then if it’s okay with you, Trish, since I live close to Wilson High I’ll pick up the boys at three fifteen. Then I’ll pick you up and drive to the lab. We should be there between three thirty and three forty-five. Is that alright, Brian?”
“Yes,” Dr. Sanderson replied. “I’ll send a service order form for each of you to the lab. Here’s a card with the address of the lab.”
“How long will this take?” I asked.
“Less than five minutes for each of you.”
“Does it hurt?” Todd asked.
“It’s like a pin prick.”
“That’s okay, then.”
The adults started talking about blood tests and stuff we weren’t interested in.
“After we’ve been tested Todd and I are going to use the results to write the report we have to do in Biology. It’s a major part of our grade for this semester.”
“Who’s your Biology teacher?” Josh asked.
“Oh! I had her for Biology when I was a freshman.”
“Uh… excuse me, how did you have Biology with Mrs. Weil?” I asked. “You just moved here from Chicago.”
Josh grinned. “She taught at Loyola High in Chicago when I was a freshman. The next year she wasn’t there. A couple kids said she got tired of living with all the snow we got in the winter. I didn’t know where she’d moved until I saw her in the hall at Wilson on my first day of school. I walked up to her and said ‘Hi’ and she looked at me and said, ‘I move halfway across the country to escape Josh Sanderson and here he is going to the same school in California where I’m teaching.’ So I said, ‘I am so glad that I don’t have to take Biology again!’ and then we just stood there laughing and talking until the first bell rang. She was one of my favorite teachers.”
“I’d say she had a pretty rocky start with us last week,” Todd said. “She was on our most hated teacher list the first few days of class. I think everybody in her class would agree with that.”
“She comes across as all mean and nasty the first few days of a class, but she really isn’t,” Josh replied.
“Why would she do that?” Scott asked. “I have Mr. Bristol and he’s real friendly. All the kids in his class like him.”
“I think she wants the class to pay attention and that’s her way of doing it, coming off as a hard case at the beginning, then easing up. Did she do the bit about talking to the whiteboard with you guys?” Josh asked.
“Yes!” I replied. “One of our friends, Heather, planned to shout ‘We can’t hear you!’ the next time she faced the board. But then Mrs. Weil stopped doing that. It’s like she could read Heather’s mind or something.”
“Yeah, that sounds like her. Have you guys memorized all the bones yet?”
“Sure,” Todd said. Then he sing-songed, “The head bone is connected to the neck bone, the neck bone is connected to the hip bone, the hip bone is connected to the elbow bone….”
The three of us shouted, “Stop!” and we started laughing, including Todd. I heard Mom say, “Sometimes I think teenage boys are just a bit addled.” That made the adults laugh and comment that they agreed with her.
“What’s ‘addled’ mean?” Todd whispered to us.
“One step from ending up in a home for the bewildered,” Josh replied.
“A home for the bewildered. I love that,” Todd said. “I’m gonna have to remember that one.”
“Hey, I’ve got a million of ‘em,” Josh responded. “Just stick around long enough and you’ll hear ’em all.”
Scott put his hands over his face and shook his head. Then he looked up and grinned.
I decided that I liked Josh. That made me wonder why Scott said they didn’t get along. I wondered if Josh suspected that Scott is gay. That might be something that might cause them to not get along. But that couldn’t be it. I remembered that Scott said his family didn’t know that he was gay. I figured it had to be sibling rivalry. Then I remembered that Scott said they shared a bedroom.
The Sandersons said goodbye after we finished eating and Todd and I bumped fists with Scott and Josh, then Dad drove us to our house.
When we walked in I tapped Todd on his shoulder. “Let’s go upstairs for a while,” I suggested.
I told mom that we wanted to get back to our video game.
“Alright. We’re having strawberry shortcake for dessert. I’ll call you when it’s ready.”
“Okay. Thanks, Mom.”
“That sounds great. Thanks, Aunt Trish,” Todd added.
When we got to my room and I’d closed the door, Todd turned and grinned.
“I think Josh knows that Scott’s gay,” he said.
“I don’t think so. Remember, Scott told us he didn’t want his family to know.”
“No, he said he didn’t want his folks to know. That leaves Josh out, so either Josh already knows or Scott doesn’t care if he finds out. I think it’s that he knows.”
I thought back to when the three of us outed ourselves. “You know, you’re right. It wasn’t his family, just his folks.”
“Yeah. I remembered because I thought it seemed funny that he left Josh out. The more I thought about it the more I thought he was left out because he already knows. Maybe that’s what makes them argue the way Scott said.”
“I think it’s because they have to share a bedroom,” I said. “Neither of them would have any privacy.”
“Okay, enough about Josh and Scott. What do you want to do now?” Todd asked.
“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. It’s your house, you choose.”
“Okay.” I thought for a few seconds. “Let’s go outside and toss a football back and forth. We can do that until it gets dark. That’ll let me get ready for my first practice with the team on Thursday.”
“Okay, let’s do it. So you can practice for your practice.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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