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Pushing the Limits(2)

By:Brooke Cumberland

We laughed all through breakfast. Mom was going on and on about how she  couldn't believe how grown up her baby girls were getting and how old  that made her feel. Aaron was three years older than we were, but  apparently, he was born out of wedlock and didn't count in her aging  process.         



After we had finished eating, Mom handed us each a card and watched as  we ripped them open. We both squealed when we saw the hundred-dollar  bill tucked inside.

As we wrapped our arms around her, she lectured us. "Don't spend it all  in one place, girls!" We then begged her to take us to the mall so we  could, of course, spend it on clothes and makeup.

"You'll have to wait until your father gets back," she said, piling the  dishes into the sink. We ran upstairs and got dressed, setting our money  down on the dresser and running back outside. It was warm for April,  just a slight breeze in the air.

It was perfect.

I smile at the memory of our birthday traditions. It was something we've always shared. Should have shared forever.

She'd always tease me about how she was older, granted it was only by three minutes, but now the day would be pointless.

A painful reminder of what had happened.

Of what I lost.



Even after six years, I can still hear her voice in my head. Her  giggles. Her silly jokes. The way she'd snort after hearing something  funny.

I hear it all.

It used to keep me up at night. I'd wake up in cold sweats, heaving and  panting as I painfully relived our childhood memories. I don't mind the  dreams as much anymore-anything to see or hear her again-but I could do  without the anxiety attacks that come with them. They come without  warning and wreak havoc in my entire life.

Losing my twin sister feels like a part of me of missing-as if my soul isn't complete without her.

Feeling the overwhelming guilt and wishing you had been the one to die  that day instead will not only get you an unhealthy dose of  post-traumatic stress, but also more therapy than you can imagine. After  standard therapy proved useless, the counselors then decided to go an  unconventional route. But not just any therapy.

Art therapy.

When you refuse to talk about your feelings to your therapist for eight  months, you get placed into something that doesn't require any talking  at all. This was fine by me and actually ended up being a blessing in  disguise. It helped me find my passion for art and pointed me in the  direction of finding a career in art history.

I think about Ari every day, more so when I'm in my studio, but she's  always on my mind no matter what. We were identical twins, but sometimes  I think about what she'd look like now. We could still be a perfect  match, but maybe she would've dyed her hair or shaved half of her head  and streaked it purple. Maybe she would've needed glasses and braces, or  perhaps she'd taken after my mom's rebellious side and gotten a tattoo  on our eighteen birthday.

Whatever she would've looked like, I know she would've been beautiful.  Not just on the outside, but the inside, as well. Her soul was the most  beautiful one I'd ever met.

"Are you going to order, ma'am?" A snippy voice in front of me  interrupts my thoughts as I come to the realization I'd dazed out again.  Kendall elbows me in the side, clearing my attention back to where I am  now.

"Yes, sorry. I'll take an Iced Caramel Latte, please. Grande." She  presses the buttons on her screen and tells me my total. I scan my phone  and pay through my app.

"Your order will be ready at the handoff in a few moments," she says to me in a robotic tone as she hands me my receipt.


Kendall follows me down as I wait for my drink on the other end. She's  playing with her phone now, and I look out the window and gaze at the  cars driving by. Berkeley is a chilly sixty-two degrees today, which is  normal for this time of year. Being only a forty-five-minute train ride  to San Francisco is only one of the many perks of living here. Ari  would've loved exploring the city and walking down Chinatown. She was  always so adventurous.

I start to remember part of the dream I had about her last night, but  it's hard to know for certain due to the sleeping pills I sometimes take  before bed.

They knock me out until morning, but sometimes I can recall the dreams  later on. When I can, I replay them in my mind, scene by scene. Mostly,  they're a movie reel of our lives-memories of things we did, places we  went-but other times they turn dark. The motions aren't usually steady,  though. We're usually in some kind of slow motion hell. I'm never able  to run fast enough or reach her quick enough before I wake up or my mind  goes black. Sometimes, I remember the conversations or events that take  place in picture perfect clarity, but other times, I worry it's my mind  playing tricks on me.

The barista calls out my order, and I'm quick to retrieve it. I thank  her again before Kendall and I head out the door, and I begin sucking it  down. We're meeting up with Zoe for breakfast just down the road.  Kendall and Zoe are roommates who live down the hall from me.         



I first met them last summer when I moved into the building. I had lived  on campus for two years before finally getting my own place. I've grown  closer to Kendall since we both attend the same school. It's just a  ten-minute walk from the university, but we carpool together often when  our class schedules match up.

My phone rings as I open the door to my new used car-a green Kia Soul. My new baby.

It's my mother.

I sigh and bite my cheek before accepting the call. "Hello, Mom."

"Hello, Darling. How are you?" Her voice is tainted with fake  politeness, always so smooth and sweet sounding. It's too early for  this.

"I'm just fine." I hop in the driver's seat and start the engine. "How about yourself? How's Dad?"

"We're both fine, thank you. Did I catch you at a bad time?"

"No, just getting into my car with Kendall. What's going on?"

"I just wanted to confirm your arrangements on coming home to visit during spring break."

I frown, not wanting to have this conversation with my mother right now.  Or ever. "Uh … that's like three months away." Spring break isn't until  April and classes are just starting tomorrow.

"I know, Darling. But since you're always so busy … " I can hear the  annoyance in her condescending tone. "I figured I'd need to get on top  of this beforehand. Set it in stone."

I exhale, rolling my eyes at her dramatics. "Sure, Mom. I'll do my best."

"Now, listen, Aspen … " Her tone firm and deep, as if I was a child and  she was sending me to my room or something. "We agreed to let you go all  the way out to art school in California with the agreement you'd come  home once in awhile. Even Aaron is driving in for a few days. He's  bringing his new girlfriend, Dana. It'd be nice if we could all be  together."

I grit my teeth. Still not far enough, I think.

"I know." I agreed to nothing, but I let her think it anyway. I'm not  going to let her guilt trip me into coming back. The last place on Earth  I want to be is back home with two parents who resent me. I left to  escape the memories, to escape the looks of sympathy on everyone's  faces, and to escape the constant reminder of how I ruined their lives. I  could've moved to Mars and it still wouldn't feel far enough.

Her tone changes, but is no less condescending. "Good. We'll plan for it."

"Great," I reply flatly. We say our goodbyes and hang up.

‘Everything okay?" Kendall asks, not taking her eyes off her phone, her brown hair falling over her shoulders.

"Yeah. Just my mother crushing my caffeine high." I furrow my brows in mock annoyance, taking a long pull of my drink.

"You have a serious addiction," Kendall states as she watches me with wide eyes.

"Your point?" I counter.

"Waffle House serves coffee, you know?"

"Yes, but not good coffee." I smile, taking another sip.

"Ugh," she mumbles after a moment.

"What?" I face her, seeing the wrinkles crease in her forehead. "What is it?"

She groans. "Kellan."

"I thought things were going great?"

"They are!" she insists. "But when we went out last night, he got drunker than usual, and I thought maybe just maybe … "

She doesn't need to finish her sentence to tell me what's going on.  Apparently, drunken Kellan isn't much better than sober Kellan.

"Still nothing below the belt?"

"Not even close. I thought maybe with a few drinks in him, he'd loosen  up a bit, help ease his nerves. But he was all ‘I just wanna make out  with you. Your lips taste so good' … blahblahblah."

"Maybe he had whiskey dick."

She bursts out in laughter, whining, "Gah! Why won't he just have sex  with me? I'm a good lay!" Her outburst makes me snort out in laughter,  the iced drink spewing right out of my nose.

"Jesus, Kendall." I wipe my mouth and laugh. "Maybe you're going at it all wrong."