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Lifting You Up

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They’re twelve.

“I heard Tony Stonem hit puberty,” Katie’s babbling, taking multiple throw pillows off her bed in order to settle in. It’d never occurred to Emily to ask why she had so many pillows to begin with that she never eventually slept with. “He’s gotten all tall and his voice does this gravelly thing when he laughs.” 

“Who’s Tony?” Emily asks, tucking herself in for the night and turning off the lamp on her side of the room. She doesn’t particularly care, and Katie’ll probably talk about another new boy tomorrow night, too.

Katie lounges on her bed in shock, almost like a model. Katie’s got a natural beauty like that, really. “Ems,” she says in that air of disapproval, “He’s only the hottest boy ever.” 

“Have you ever met him?” 

She frowns. “No. But once he gets a load of these,” she shakes her growing breasts, “He’ll be the Beckham to my Posh.”

Emily looks away. Ever since Katie’d hit puberty, breasts and overdramatic declarations of womanhood and menstrual pain and labour of carrying the woman’s curse was all she could talk about.

and boys.

Emily rubbed her stomach absently. With patience, she thought, her time would come, too.

“Don’t worry, Ems,” Katie smiles, turning off her lamp and snuggling into bed, “I’m sure he’s got like, a twin brother or something who’s into weirdos.”

People always use the word weirdo, Emily thought to herself. They used it to describe her, and that girl Naomi at school.

“I’m not a weirdo,” Emily says stubbornly, turning onto her back and grimacing at the ceiling.

“You still play in the grass and pick flowers, Emily,” Katie rolls her eyes, “No boy’s ever going to want to do that with you, let alone Tony Stonem or his twin brother.”

“Maybe I can be friends with his sister,” Emily says absently, remembering someone mentioning a Stonem in their year.

Katie snorts. “You’re always thinking too much, Emily; trying to get to Tony through his sister. You could just wear nicer clothes and boys would start noticing you’re a girl, too. Then you wouldn’t have to talk to his sister.”

“What if I want to talk to his sister?”

Katie huffs angrily. “Whatever, Emily,” she says in that frustrated tone conveying she’s ready for bed and had it up to here with trivial talk.

Emily frowns again, trying to ignore the sudden difficulty to swallow. It’s always like this. Katie has so much trouble just...listening. She feels a tear trickle out of her right eye and slide down her head, curling and curving along her ear. She slides her head to the side and lets it squish against the pillow, eliminating its presence altogether.

“I’m not a weirdo,” she repeats to herself quietly.

“Shut up,” Katie mumbles half-asleep.

Emily shifts on her side and faces the wall to sleep.

I'm not a weirdo, she repeats to herself. And neither is Naomi.

 

-##-

 

They’re fourteen.

“What’s the matter with you?” Katie asks, changing out of her clothes, stripping off her flimsy top that even rips as it goes over her head.

“Nothing,” Emily mumbles, pulling her bra out from under her shirt, her head still low. Stripping’s never really been something she was comfortable with, at school during gym (especially then) or even at home with Katie. She gets into bed and pulls the covers over her legs, unbuttoning her pants. “Why did we leave so early?”

“I told you; the party was lame,” Katie huffs, shrugging a warm long sleeve for bed. It’s nearing the end of August and the nights are getting surprisingly cold.

“I didn’t think it was lame,” Emily mumbles again, taking her time with her pants.

“You hate parties, Em.”

“I liked this one.”

A pillow hits Emily right in the face, and she squeaks as it falls to the floor.

“You got laid!” Katie yells at her in half-excitement and shock, her mouth agape and twisting into an amused smile. Emily tries to shush her, a horrified and curiously disgusting look on her own face as Katie jumps onto her bed and bounces. “Tell me everything, Emszy, tell me everything!”

“Katie, shut up!” Emily whispers fiercely, checking the already closed door, “It’s not like that.”

Katie rolls her eyes. Always the romantic. “You made love,” she says, flashing jazz hands for good measure, “Whatever. Details, girl, details.”

“It’s not like that,” Emily whispers again, picking up the pillow and hugging it close. “It was just a kiss.” A moment passes as Katie watches Emily’s smile grow slowly and she can no longer hold in her giggles.

“You fucking bitch, tell me!” Katie laughs, throwing her last pillow which Emily blocks with her own.

“It was in the kitchen,” Emily finally breaks.

Katie’s face falls slightly. “But I didn’t really see any blokes go in or out of the kitchen tonight, Ems.” Emily’s smile falters and the curiosity takes a turn somewhere curious indeed as Emily’s fingers start tightening up on the pillow. “Don’t be such a mop, Emily, just tell me.”

Emily mumbles something unintelligible behind the pillow, shifting her eyes away now.

Katie struggles to keep her temper in check. Something was wrong. “Say that again,” she says sternly.

Emily mumbles into the pillow again and it’s all so fucking juvenile no wonder everyone always talks about how fucking pathetic her sister is. (They were wrong, for the record, Emily was fucking badass. She just cared too much about what people thought.) She reaches over and rips the pillow away from Emily. “Say that again!” she realizes she’s shouting.

“It was a girl,” Emily says quietly at the floor, closing her eyes in something Katie can’t see when the pillow falls against her feet.

“What,” Katie musters out, meaning it to be a question, but there was no denying what Emily had said.

“It was with-”

“Don’t-don’t tell me who it fucking was,” Katie shouts, getting up from her bed, shielding her eyes with one hand and making a stop motion to Emily with the other. She turns her head away, as though it’s playing out in front of her. Some random, half-crazed, unshaven, bike-riding tramp telling a romantic Emily a first kiss should be experimental and wrong and consequently shoving her tongue down her throat. What the fuck. Who the fuck. Who the fuck, messing about with her sister, who probably just went into the kitchen in the first place to get a drink of water or something.

“It wasn’t-”

Katie flashes back around. “Who was it?” She’ll kill her.

“Katie-”

“Tell me who it was.”

“It happened really fast.”

“Yeah, I bet it did, that bitch.”

“Katie, pl-”

“Tell me who it was.”

 

-

 

She had absolutely no clue who this Naomi was, but the next morning, as Emily extended a shaky finger at the blonde from across the lawn, Katie’s eyes narrowed and she vowed in that moment to hate her forever.

She grabs a random girl walking by with both hands, clenching at her backpack.

“You see that girl reading by the tree over there?” she edged at the blonde with her eyebrows with a devious smile.

 

 

-##-

 

They’re sixteen.

“-now fuck off and die.” She’s just switched her webcam off and is busy uploading the video when Emily walks in, towel around her waist, and she’s drying her hair with another towel that clashes strongly with the orange one around her waist.

“What was that?” she asks, shutting the door with her foot.

“Breaking it off with Danny,” she says with a happy sigh, taking the laptop onto her legs to start typing out the correct address.

Emily scrunches her face up but ignores the rest, turning around to strap on a bra and blouse.

“Em,” Katie says slowly, trying to keep her eyesight on the laptop. It had been bothering her, nagging her a bit, if only for a bit. And she had to know.

“Hm?” She gets into a skirt, the one Katie’d told her not to buy.

“Panda's party.”

“Yeah.”

She hesitates slightly, watching Emily pick up some clean laundry off the floor and placing them into proper drawers. “We were all high off our arses, right?” Katie starts, pretending to enter this casually as she aimlessly surfed on the internet.

“No thanks to you,” Emily mumbles, and an air of frustration still lingers in it, Katie thinks maybe, just maybe it meant something concrete, then.

“Did you end up doing anything stupid?”

Emily halts in her actions and it only takes a moment for Katie to realize her typing and clicking have halted as well. She holds her breath, and tries to will the fuzzy image of a bouncing Emily and Naomi out of her mind.

“Not really,” Emily finally responds, shielding her face from Katie’s sight. No, she can only think, still remembering it.

No.

No sharing that yet.

That’s private.

That’s still special. 

“I thought I saw-” Emily turns around at this, some sort of unreadable fair and anxiousness in her eyes. She bites her lower lip almost painfully, wringing her hands and looking at Katie like she’s just this...fucking judge or something, about to pass a law or send her to the dogs. Katie hesitates. “Em, you’re not...”

Emily bites her lip harder. Maybe it’s easier if Katie says it. Maybe it makes it okay if Katie discovers it on her own. 

But Katie’s face hardens slightly. She tries another tactic. “There’s still something off about Campbell.”

Emily’s insides collapse.

“She’s a fucking uppity bitch, and I don’t like you spending time with her.”

Emily can only stare.

“She’s a bad influence,” Katie says almost desperately, looking around the room like someone will appear out of thin air to agree with her. She takes the laptop off her legs and places it on her bed. She stands. “And I still don’t believe her.”

Emily hates it when she cries, especially in front of Katie. She bites the inside of her mouth but still can’t help her throat seizing up. It shouldn’t be this hard. She could imagine it maybe with mum and dad. But not with Katie, not with a twin. It wasn’t fair. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Katie misinterprets Emily’s eyes: concern and vulnerability and...fear. Campbell had completely taken advantage of her, as always the manipulative bitch. Emily was always in need of guidance. Not told what to do. But guidance. There was a fucking difference. You tell idiots what to do. Emily wasn't an idiot. She never was and never would be.

Katie swallows. “Promise me you’re not like her.”

Emily’s mouth opens slightly. “What?” she whispers hoarsely.

“Promise me.”

It touches Emily; that Katie thinks a promise, a simple promise identical to those children and their mothers make by the sandbox, can make a difference. As though promising it isn’t real makes it true.

Nonetheless Katie’s staring, steely-eyed, and Emily sees it: The concern, and vulnerability, and...fear.

“I promise,” Emily says emptily.

 

 -#-#-

 

They’re eighteen.

“Wanted to see if you were-” Emily stops dead in her tracks, a plate of freshly-baked brownies still in her hand in mid-air.

Katie turns to see her bedroom’s intruder. Smiles and hops over giddily as she grabs a brownie off the plate. “Just settling in for the night.”

“I can see that,” Emily responds with a smile, closing the door and setting the plate down.

The guest bedroom, in a little under half an hour, has been entirely transformed, Katie having managed to tack her favourite posters and pictures up on the walls, unnecessary carpet and an extra leopard print throw pillow atop four other pink ones.

“When’re you two getting up tomorrow?” Katie asks, jumping onto her bed and lounging.

“Seven thirty,” Emily says slowly as she walks around the room, smiling and remembering these posters from Bristol. Some are new.

“Fucking hell,” Katie rolls her eyes, “You couldn’t bring your moped over to London, then, could you?”

“It’s not exactly suitable for transport on a train,” Emily replies demurely. She stops and smiles warmly at a picture of them, so long ago, when they were twelve and about to head out to their unaccompanied party, holding tightly onto one another. She caresses it slowly. How far they’ve all come, really.

Katie swallows, looking around the empty room. Only room for one bed, really. She looks back at Emily, across the room, so out of reach. “You should get some sleep,” she says awkwardly.

Emily turns around with a smile. “Yeah,” she says quietly. Then: “Goodnight, Katie.”

Katie looks away, kicking her throw pillow off onto the ground and snuggling under her covers. “Night, Em.”

Emily smiles wider, turning the light off and leaving the room.

Katie listens to the footsteps leave. She shuts her eyes tightly, successfully swallowing down this annoying clump of something in her throat. Outside, she hears Emily take some slow steps away from their-her room, only to stop altogether.

“Hey,” she hears Naomi say softly at the other end of the corridor. (as softly as the giant can say something softly.)

She hears Emily walk again, down the hallway, even further. Even further.

A kiss.

“I’ve never not loved you, you know.” Emily says.

Pause.

Another kiss. Longer.

“Yeah,” Naomi replies, “I know.”

Footsteps disappearing into the master bedroom. A door closing slowly with a soft click.

 

 

‘I’ve never not loved you’ Katie repeats to herself with a scoff.

What a stupidly brilliant mind Emily had sometimes. People'd never really given her enough credit.

She feels a tear trickle out of her right eye and slide down her head, curling and curving along her ear.

She slides her head to the side and lets it squish against the pillow, eliminating its presence altogether.