Mabel bounced her legs against the park bench where she sat, crunching snow beneath her winter boots as she waited anxiously. She shook slightly at a cold gust of wind and tucked herself deeper into her sweater.
She was waiting on a bench outside a study hall on the University of Oregon campus, holding a manilla folder tightly to her chest. Again she opened the folder and reread the description for the twentieth time in the last hour, even though she had memorized the entire thing: five-ten, brown hair, birthmark on forehead, and a few other details.
Soon a group of a dozen students began emptying out of the classroom hall. Some walked off to their own devices and some chatted in groups as they got out, but none matched the description so far. Suddenly she spotted a man walking out with his hands tucked into his sweater and steamy breath billowing through his scarf. He had a blue backpack on and was walking tall with his shoulders back. She stood up from the bench and approached him.
“Hi there.” She said, trying to hold back her hopeful excitement. He stopped and looked down at her. “Are you Frederick Ottinger?”
He paused for a moment, quickly looking her up and down. He pulled his scarf down and spoke. “Yes, that’s me.” He said casually. Mabel squealed in delight, hopping up and down before lunging forward and wrapping him in a tight hug. He didn’t hug her back, instead he tensed up and held his arms out awkwardly to his sides. “I’m sorry, but do I know you?” He asked.
Mabel let go and backed away, suddenly feeling bashful. “No, no you wouldn’t remember me.” She said, much quieter. She perked up as she remembered the folder in her hands. “I’m your twin sister, Mabel!” She said enthusiastically.
He didn’t say anything at first, frowning in confusion. “What?” He asked after a moment of pause. “How can that be?”
Mabel held out her arms, presenting him the manilla folder. He looked down at the folder, then back to her eyes, then back to the folder before tentatively taking it from her hands and opening it. His facial expression changed every few seconds as he read through its contents. “When we were born, a nurse immediately took you away and sold you to human traffickers. They told our parents that you had suffocated to death.” She said as he continued reading. “When law enforcement found out what happened and the nurse was arrested several months ago, we hired a personal investigator to track you down.”
He was silent for a while. He was still reading, only now he seemed completely shocked. His Adam’s apple bobbed and he didn’t seem to be breathing. “Th-this is crazy!” He said with a shaky voice. He looked at his watch and back to Mabel. “Look, I’ve really got to be somewhere soon, but I really want to talk about this.” He said genuinely. “Maybe over dinner?”
Mabel smiled. “I would like that.”
“I can’t believe this.” Fred said distantly as he reread the folder. Mabel sat across the table from him in the small booth of the restaurant they decided on. It was a small hole-in-the-wall pizza place that seemed comfy enough. They sat down and ordered food before she gave the folder to Fred, allowing him to read it again.
Mabel took another bite of her cheese pizza as he placed the folder on the table and rubbed his temples. He let out a stressed sigh and looked up at Mabel. This was clearly a life changing discovery for him, and even though he was clearly stressed, he was also trying to keep calm and figure the situation out.
“So… what’s your story?” Mabel asked tentatively.
“My story?” Fred asked.
“Yeah, catch me up to speed.” Mabel was hesitant to ask. Even the best case scenario after being sold into human trafficking couldn’t have been too good.
He waited for a moment, deep in thought. “Well,” He began slowly. “I don’t remember the people who originally took me from…” He paused. “Our parents.” He said, gesturing between himself and Mabel. “My earliest memories were probably around three years old, when I was growing up in an orphanage in Oregon.” He looked down at the table glumly. “Rough times in there.” He paused for a moment, and Mabel felt a ping of regret for asking. He seemed so pained by it, and judging by her first impressions of him, he seem good at containing his more intense emotions.
He realized how long he had been silent when he looked up and made eye contact with her. He quickly sat up straight and wiped the look from his face. “Anyway, I was adopted by a family when I was seven. I was confused at first when you said my last name was Ottinger, ‘cause that’s what it was originally before I was adopted, when it became ‘Corduroy.’”
“Corduroy? Wait, your last name is Corduroy?” Mabel interrupted, and Fred seemed surprised by her reaction.
Fred nodded cautiously. “Yeah, is there something wrong with that?”
Mabel shook her head. “No, not at all. But did you happen to have a sister named Wendy? She was a redhead. She had a bunch of brothers. Always wore flannel.”
He frowned. “Yeah, I did. How did you know that?”
“I hung out with her all the time! This is so cool! How did I never see you before?”
“Hold on, you’ve been to Gravity Falls?”
“You bet I have! I went there every summer since I was twelve! I stayed with my great uncle Stan. Oh my gosh, it was the coolest place on earth, with all the weird junk that went on there.”
He seemed taken aback by this new fact. “Wow. Yeah I usually went to work with my uncle Steve at his logging camp in upstate Oregon over the summer. I do know Stan. The ‘Man of Mystery.’ Seemed pretty neat. Kinda weird to think I’m related to him. My sister worked at his shop.”
Mabel was amazed. “Woah, what a small wor— wait a minute. Your dad made you work at a logging camp over the summer?” She interrupted herself.
Fred shrugged. “Eh, I think he did it to toughen me up. I was a pretty wimpy kid by Corduroy standards. It was all in love, though.” He pulled out his wallet that contained a family picture of he and his siblings. His brothers and sister were all smiling together, one next to the other while he stuck out due to his differing hair color and noticeable size difference. He handed the wallet to Mabel, who looked at it with adoration.
“Aww, that’s so cute!” She exclaimed. She looked up and down from the picture of the small, skinny boy to the grown, filled out man in front of her.
“Yep! Never enough children for the Corduroy family.” Said Fred.
“How cool is all of this? Our entire lives we’ve been almost crossing paths and never knew it?” She shook her head in amazement and handed his wallet back. “So how did you end up here in Eugene?”
He snapped out of a similar daze to Mabel. “Right, well once I graduated high school I joined the navy for two years and served as an engineer on a destroyer. I got out a year ago. Now here I am, going to college.”
“Wow! This is soo cool!” Mabel whispered in amazement. “Frederick Corduroy…”
“Please, call me Dipper.” He said, pulling up his hair to reveal a constellation shaped birthmark.
Laughing as they walked out the restaurant, Dipper held out his arm that Mabel linked with hers before they strolled down the street, talking as they enjoyed each other’s warmth. “So where to now?” Asked Mabel.
“Well, there’s a movie theater nearby, a park. Uh, hmm let me think.” Dipper stroked his chin as he pondered. “Well there’s also a mini-golf course down the street. Hmm, but it’s probably too cold for that.”
“Are you kidding me?” Mabel yelled in excitement. “I’m totes down for some mini-golf! Let’s boogie!” She shouted while tugging him along. “Prepare to get schooled, chum!”
“Mabel Pines lines up her shot. This old timer from Piedmont, California is infamous for her skill in mini-golf. She is a champion of golfing competitions all around California, and from the looks of it, this windmill doesn’t stand a chance.” Mabel narrated herself. “She lines up what looks to be a solid fourteen footer,” She brought back the putter and tapped the ball. “She takes the shot, she scores!” She shouted as the ball maneuvered around the obstacle and dropped into the hole, before making a fake cheering sound as she waved her arms through the air.
“Impressive!” Dipper admitted. “You seem to really know your way around a putter.”
“You bet your bottom drawer, buster! I’ve been doing this since I could make a fist with my ravioli-sized hand, and from tonight’s performance, you better pick up the pace if you ever wanna come close to beating me.” Mabel bantered.
“I think I can get there one day.” He said before tapping the ball on the same windmill, only for it to hit one of the barrier walls and roll back towards him until it was five feet behind the starting position. He looked up at Mabel and shrugged. “Maybe.” He said flatly before they both burst into laughter.
They moved onto the next obstacle, which Mabel surpassed with ease. “Man, you must have done this with your friends all the time growing up.” Dipper commented with amazement at how nothing could truly stand in her way.
Mabel’s shoulder slumped slightly at his words. “Mmm, not really.” She said deflated. “I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. Most people just wrote me off as ‘weird.’” She said bitterly. She forced herself to look down. She didn’t know why she just said that. She got too comfortable around Dipper. She got too comfortable and now he knows one of her deepest, most personal insecurities. He can put two and two together to realize from her previous behavior from the moment she first hugged him that she was just a spazzy social outcast.
She saw Dipper glance at her out of the corner of her eye, but he didn’t say anything. She knew he was reading her, examining her body language. She suddenly felt very exposed. A churning feeling in her stomach grew as she froze and felt her cheeks heat, despite the cold. She didn’t want to show any signs of weakness or emotional distress. The last thing she needed was his pity.
She didn’t realize she hadn’t moved until Dipper intruded on her thoughts. “Hey Mabel,” He said gently. Mabel pried her eyes away from the golf ball on the ground and forced herself to meet his eyes. She expected to find him looking at her with pity, what she saw instead shocked her. He was looking at her with an expression of total understanding. Empathy. “I get it, Mabel.” He said in a way that, paired with the look he gave her, made her insides twist in an entirely different way. It wasn’t what she was feeling a minute ago, instead more similar to that of butterflies. It helped to calm her, and in that split second she realized just how caring her brother turned out to be.
“I’m sorry.” She said in almost a whisper.
“It’s alright, Mabel. You didn’t do anything wrong.” He assured her. They stood there for a moment, the silence of the night penetrated only by a passing gust of chilling wind and the distant talk of other golfers. She surprised even herself with a sad sniffle. One that she isn’t unfamiliar with, and Dipper came to her in an instant. Wrapping her in a hug so warm and safe in contrast to the air around them that she pulled him closer, tighter. He gently stroked her hair and let her cry into his shoulder.
“I-I’m just s-so glad I’ve finally found you.” She sobbed. “It’s been so l-lonely, growing up by m-myself.”
“I know, Mabel. I know.” He whispered. Mabel was so happy to hold him, to finally have someone in her life who would stick up for her and stand by her side for support.
“I always wondered what it would have been like if you had survived. How different our lives would have been if we’d grown up together.”
Dipper chuckled slightly at that. “Heh, we probably would have been close.” Mabel tightened her lip in a smile as more tears streamed down her face. She squeezed Dipper a little harder.
Once Mabel had stopped crying, they pulled away and found comfort in each other’s smile. “I think we’ve had enough mini golf for tonight.” Said Dipper. “You ready to go?” Mabel nodded.
They arrived at the counter of the quartermaster and returned the equipment to the young woman stationed there. As she was checking in the putters, she kept stealing glances at the two of them, but said nothing. It was when she handed them the receipt that she said, “You two make a very cute couple.” She said it kindly, but Mabel immediately felt herself blush and get even redder than from the cold.
“Oh, we’re not—”
“Oh, we’re not—” They interrupted each other.
“Together.” They both finished, laughing heartily at their tandem speaking. The young woman nodded bashfully and stowed the equipment. The twins walked off, arm in arm as they strode down the street, chatting away about anything and everything. All the years they missed, all the moments they never shared. Hours seemed to pass in an instant when they arrived at Mabel’s apartment. Dipper walked her to the door.
“Tonight was nice. I had a lot of fun.” Dipper said with a lopsided smile.
“Me too.” Mabel returned the smile.
There was a beat of silence between the two of them.
“Could I see you again sometime?” Dipper asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh, right!” Mabel said after she realized she had been silently staring at his chestnut eyes. “Yeah, that would be awesome! I’d love to hang out again.”
Dipper smiled before bringing her in close for a hug.
“Take care, Mabel.” Dipper said as he walked back to the sidewalk.
“You too, Dipper.” She replied. They waved goodbye and Dipper started to walk down the sidewalk. Mabel watched him for as long as possible until he disappeared down the street. She made her way to her room and suddenly found herself in her bed wearing her pajamas. She had a lot on her mind. Time seemed to flash by. She laid her head on her pillow, feeling calm and subdued.
For a few minutes she didn’t want to sleep. She just wanted to bask in the happiness of today. The fact that her twin brother is alive. The fact that he is so kind and sweet. The fact that they get along so well they are already finishing each other’s sentences. She giggled a bit at that last thought. She thought about how much she wished she could date a man like Dipper; he was sweet, handsome, and completely adorkable. But that was another thought for another day. She picked up her phone from the nightstand next to her bed and dialed a familiar number. She waited excitedly as it rang a few times until an answer came from the other end.
“Hey mom. I found him!”
Eventually they decided it was time for Dipper to meet their parents. They made the trip to Piedmont one day, arriving outside the house as he nervously prepared himself and Mabel reassured him. It was a whole new flood of emotions upon meeting his parents for the first time. More so for their parents. Dipper didn’t remember them at all and had no real emotional connection to them, but he understood the magnitude of the moment and was still delighted to meet his biological parents.
They met up several more times after the visit to their parents. Anytime they had no classes or other obligations. They did anything from a trip to the bowling alley or mini-golf, to Dipper leading a game of DD&MD. Dipper told Mabel all about his interactions with the supernatural and taught her how to make coded messages, while Mabel told Dipper more about their parents and family and taught him how to knit and make sweaters.
They had a lot to catch up on after two decades of not knowing each other. Their lives had played out so differently in so many ways. But Mabel could tell they’re interactions were different from how she had known other siblings to act. In a way it was a lot closer in their own unique way. She didn’t think much of it; she loved to see him and after all this time, rightfully so. She loved just about everything about him. The feeling of his warmth when they hugged, holding his hand and running her thumb across his wide knuckles, looking into his eyes and admiring just how handsome he was.
There were a few times that she had to pry her eyes away from him after she realized she had been staring too long, and realizing where she had been staring. His eyes were a sight to beheld. They were a mirror of her own, but there was something so intense in them. Everytime he looked at her there was some sort of spark in them that made her heart flutter in an odd way she couldn’t quite put words to. Weird, huh?
Tonight they decided to watch a movie together at Dipper’s small apartment off campus. It wasn’t the first time they decided to. They usually went back to his apartment after a night out to watch a movie or cook dinner, only to fall asleep on the couch together. They were laying down, snuggled closely together with Mabel resting her head on Dipper’s chest with her arms wrapped around his body and he rested his arms on her back as they watched the movie.
“Come on you apes! Do you wanna live forever?” Shouted the soldier on screen as he and other soldiers ran out into a hallway and onto smaller spaceships. As they zoomed off towards the surface of a nearby planet, text came up on the screen that read:
They’ll keep fighting
And they’ll win!
The credits rolled soon after that, and Mabel cheered. “Yeah! Go humans! Get those stinky bugs!”
Dipper blew a raspberry and rolled his eyes. “Man, this movie always gets on my nerves.” He said annoyed. “The director didn’t even read the book! And yet he wants to make a satirical movie of it?” He shook his head dramatically. “Heinlein must be rolling in his grave.”
“Yeah whatever, mister party pooper.” Said Mabel as she playfully jabbed him in the chest, before cuddling up closer to him. “If you’re so smart, why don’t you make a better one?” She asked rhetorically.
He frowned as if in deep thought for a few seconds before puffing up his chest exaggeratedly. “Maybe I will…” He said with a sly grin.
Mabel giggled at his enthusiasm. “You’re so silly.”
“What? You don’t think I will?” He asked with faux offense. “I’ll show you. I’ll show everyone!” He jabbed her in the sides, causing her to flinch. He continued to tickle her and she giggled in response. She tried to counter him—grabbing at his hands, jabbing at his sides, tickling his stomach and chest. She started to gain the advantage and Dipper was on the defensive. He howled as she began to overwhelm him. They fell to the floor, Dipper on top of her, both in a fit of laughter as pressed their foreheads together.
A nonverbal ceasefire was declared as they caught their breathe, heaving air to slow their rapidly beating hearts. Mabel looked him in the eyes again. There was something different about them. A spark, that wasn’t new, but had been growing every time he looked at her. It was there from the very beginning, but now it was so warm and inviting. They slowly moved closer to one another, and she could feel his warm breath on her. Their lips brushed against each other, until they came together for a kiss.
They melted into each other. Exploring each other’s mouths as their hands roamed each other’s bodies and combed through each other’s hair. One of Dipper’s hands found itself under her t-shirt, gently kneading her soft breast. She felt such ecstasy from his warmth. She could feel his excitement through his shorts as he pressed into her hips while she wrapped her legs around his waist. They soon broke apart, gasping for air as they gazed into each other’s eyes. Everything about this moment made butterflies flutter in her stomach. She wanted more.
At that thought, she bolted upright as an alarm sounded in her head. She started to quickly scoot away from Dipper as he stood up on his knees and reached his arms out, saying something Mabel couldn’t process in an attempt to get her to keep calm. Her eyes were open wide with terror, staring at him from only a few feet away. Every time she scooted scooted away, he scooted forward in trying to close the space between them. Voices chided her as she tried to figure out what was happening.
‘Uh Mabes, this is your brother. Y’know, like blood related! Like, long lost twin bro, who you shouldn’t be macking faces with!’ She didn’t realize she was hyperventilating until Dipper snapped her out of her shock.
“Mabel… don’t freak out here, alright?” He said cautiously.
“Wha-whadya mea- what?” Mabel stuttered. “What do you mean ‘don’t freak out’, do you realize what just happened? What we just did?”
“Mabel please, just listen to be before you jump to conclusions.”
“Jump to conclusions? What does that even mean? This is pretty straightforward!” Mabel couldn't control her voice from rising. He scooted a knee forward and reached out for her hands. “No, don’t come any closer!” She shouted, and he flinched and drew back like he had been burned. He sat down on his knees, looking at the floor. Mabel felt guilt growing in her stomach. She didn’t want to hurt him, she was just afraid. “I’m sorry, Dip. I don’t mean to be cruel, I’m just not sure what this means.” She brought her knees to her chest. “And I’m scared.” She mumbled into her pajama pants.
Dipper was scratching the back of his neck anxiously. He looked up and made eye contact with her for a split second before darting his gaze to the floor. “Can I just… talk?” He asked nervously.
Mabel gave him a frightened and uncertain look, afraid of what he might say, but she willed herself to nod-- she at least wanted to let him say what he has to say before she has another outburst. He took a deep breath before sitting down flat on the floor and crossing his legs as he leaned his back on the couch.
“When I was younger, I really looked up to my siblings. Especially Wendy.” He emphasised. “In more ways than I should’ve…” The way he said that made her look up at him to see his expression, only to find him looking back at her with a look of sorrow. “I was…” He gulped. “Not so platonically attracted to her.” Mabel felt her grip tighten on her pajamas.
“She was just so… wonderful. I truly felt something great for her. Maybe even loved her…” He paused for a moment and shook away the faraway look in his eyes. “My family eventually found out and my mother gave me a talk.” He looked down at the floor again. “I was heartbroken when I had to come to terms with the fact that I had to give up what I felt for her. I realized just how truly impossible it was. But you Mabel, I’ve never felt so connected with anyone than I have with you. And I don’t want to throw that all away out of fear of what others will think.”
Mabel couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She certainly felt conflicted, but all the little voices of logic in her mind were screaming at her that the answer was obvious. “Dip, I really want to agree with you right now, but I just can’t— can’t…” She didn’t want to finish that sentence. “I mean, what would our parents think? What would your family think?”
Dipper scowled in contemplation. It was clearly something he hadn’t quite thought of. “Our families will want what we think is best for us.” He said firmly after a moment of thinking. Mabel didn’t respond. It was almost a minute before he spoke again. “But I think the better question would be whether or not it’s what you want.”
Mabel hesitated. “I dunno, Dip.” She said nervously. She could feel her throat tightening as she spoke. “This is a lot to take in and— I mean I really just met you and I really don’t want to mess up what we have because I like— really care about you and— and…” She dropped her head into her hands and choked on her words. She felt Dipper’s hand rest on her shoulder.
“I get it, Mabes. I feel the same thing.” He said as he scooted closer to her. “I don’t want to lose what we have, but at the same time I feel like there’s more to us than just… this.” He gestured between them.
He moved his palm to cup her cheek. Mabel steadied herself and nuzzled into the comfort of his hand. She looked up to see him looking at her with that spark in his eyes. It amazed her, even now.
“I’m not entirely sure what the future holds. I don’t have all the answers, but I know that what I feel for you is genuine. And our families would want what we feel is best for us, and we should want what’s best for us.”
He moved his hand from her cheek and wrapped his arm around her back. He pulled her close to his side and kissed her on her forehead. She felt the butterflies fluttering in her stomach finally conquer the twisting in her gut.
“Okay.” She said with a bit more confidence. “I trust you.”
As she leaned up to kiss him, she knew she was making the right choice.