Part One: Illusen
"Illusen, this is rich." Jhudora snorts and flings her copy of the Neopian Times at me. "They're calling it 'The Faeries' Ruin.' Ha!" I make a show of gesturing at my face when I say, "This will never be ruined." She pauses, looking me up and down. "You can speak for yourself though...."
I grimace at her with disdain, throwing the newspaper back at her.
"I mean honestly, I can't believe you and I are twins!" Jhudora doesn't notice my reaction to this jab; she is preoccupied with stroking the ends of her hair. "Do you think being petrified dried out my hair?"
I roll my eyes—I reserve all my petulance for my sister alone—and mutter "Shut up, will you" as I retreat into the kitchen. I hear Jhudora's muffled cackling as I rush in.
I stop abruptly once I reach the kitchen and see my sisters, Marina the healing faerie and Sarah the library faerie, gaping out the window.
"This is amazing!" Sarah is exclaiming, scribbling notes into a sparkly lavender notebook. "You can still see purple and orange in the sky where Faerieland used to be." She notices me watching, and adds that "It is, of course, just the remnants of all our magic still fading away," as though I've prompted her for this information.
My family and I spent last week as statues, oblivious to the fact that all the while, our home was rapidly descending and turning to ash. As a result, I am currently sharing my home with Fyora, my mom, and Marina, Sarah, Jhudora, Naia the fountain faerie, Mira the space faerie and Aethia the battle faerie.
I sigh, wishing my family had just moved in with Taelia or Kari instead. But no, it was "too cold on Terror Mountain," "too far" so Mom and all my sisters who lived in Faerieland have come here while they wait for their homes to be repaired. For the morning, Mom and Mira are in Faerieland to oversee the clearing of all the rubble. The others have so graciously decided to stay home to ensure that I will get absolutely none of my work done today. They're all so fascinated by the countryside, constantly running about my home to see something or another, or to ask me something.
It is Jhudora, though, who I truly can't stand living with. She's so spiteful all the time and I can't take it—it's like she thinks we're still kids and her immature power plays are still okay.
And that's the real reason why I was so eager to move out to Meridell once I finished my training all those years ago. I was sick of the fighting that started as we got older. But it's like there's no escaping from my twin, because here she is again, and nothing's changed. I sigh again; my family brings out all my worst qualities.
I slip out the back door of the kitchen while Sarah and Marina continue gawking at Faerieland—or rather, what was Faerieland.
Once I am outside, I feel as though I can breathe again; as though the very presence of my sisters constricts my sternum. Lily, my Doglefox, is yipping and running around behind the house. I crumple onto my rocking chair on the back porch so I can watch the angry sunset dim into smooth twilight.
My "backyard" is the slope of a hill, which then spills out to become a vast emerald field. My land is bound only by the stream that lies miles to the north; I do not own the land beyond the stream. I let my petpets roam free on my land, should they choose to—I wouldn't dream of caging them all up at home when I know there are some things they're meant to do without my help. And somehow they always find their own ways back here.
I smile a little at this thought; I wonder if this is how it was for Mom when we all grew up and were so eager to get away from her.
The kitchen door flies open behind me, and I gasp a little, out of shock. My breathing steadies itself again when I realize it's just Jhudora, up to her usual callow antics.
"Can you go get us some food or something? There's nothing to eat in the kitchen."
My mouth opens in indignation.
Jhudora reaches for my chin and closes my mouth. "You'll catch flies, sweetie. I'll be waiting in the living room whenever dinner's ready." She begins to enter the house again.
I stand up abruptly, nearly toppling my rocking chair, and shakily I bark, "Stop!" Jhudora actually does, to my surprise. "Just—stop! It's not all about you anymore, Jhudora." Suddenly I'm saying all these words without even thinking. It's like I've been taken over by some terrible monster and the person that I want to be is shrunken inside me, helpless to stop this cruelty.
"You're so full of yourself, you know that? You're too good to do anything for yourself. You've always been too good to care about anything. And you were always nothing but a troublemaker and a nuisance."
For a moment I think I've done it, and I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed. I could swear Jhudora's eyes are filling with tears. Her face slackens. But then she sashays back into my kitchen.
She has given me no choice but to follow her, because now she's made me feel like the bad guy. She always does this.
I follow her through the kitchen and into the living room. Without missing a beat, she reaches for the Day of Giving picture I have framed on my coffee table. We are laughing in the picture; I remember that Mom said something funny just before she photographed this, but now I don't know what it was. It is my prized possession. It reminds me of what we were before.
My eyes widen in horror as Jhudora lifts up the picture, sneering, "That's okay." She pauses for just a millisecond, as if rethinking what she's about to do. Then she hisses, "I hope you're happy without your twin," and smashes the picture onto the unforgiving floor.
Part Two: Jhudora
I am dragging my bags along the ground as I leave Illusen's house. The night is cold and still, illuminated only by the fiery mist of Faerieland in the distance; the carcass of my beloved home. I know Illusen is only pretending that this isn't hurting her just as much as it's hurting the rest of us.
I know that I'm only pretending, too.
We all had eons of memories together in Faerieland; my fondest memories and my happiest years were those spent in Fyora's castle when we didn't care about anything. When our vast differences, present then despite how young we were, failed to divide us. I remember how much younger my mother acted then.
And then my sisters and I were adolescents, and we thought we knew who we were and what we wanted to become. We thought that freedom lay outside the boundaries of the castle and all our memories together. As though we had become too good for our own family, when we should've realized we were completely equal in power and worth.
I wish I hadn't been so petty. I know that being far, far away from me was what made Illusen happy, and I hate that I acted like it didn't kill me to have to hurt her by moving in.
I know I hurt her just by being there.
In my reverie, I have inadvertently begun walking north. At this point I am walking parallel to the east fence of Meri Acres Farm. If I continue my walk, I will end up on Terror Mountain.
Where Taelia lives.
She is the only one of my sisters who is younger than I, and for that reason she has always been one of my favorites. While the rest of us were bickering incessantly about our dolls and our clothes, while we were being so petty, she kept to herself and only spoke if she had something worth saying. She never provoked anyone.
It's ironic to think, but our youngest sister has always been wiser than any of the rest of us.
Meaning that she is the only one who would be able to understand. I involuntarily stop in my tracks, and my boots sink into the moist soil a bit as I consider whether Taelia would actually be happy to see me.
"Eh, nothing to lose," I decide aloud, and with a flourish of my wrist I have transported myself to the summit of Terror Mountain.
"Jhudora!" exclaims Taelia, jumping a little with shock. She leans against the counter behind her for support. "You're—you're in my house?" she half exclaims, half asks me this.
I nod fervently. Then a silence fills the room as I try to figure out what to tell her. I'm not really that good at talking about my feelings.
Then, just to break the awkwardness of the moment, I blurt, "Illusen!" Taelia's eyes widen at me like I'm crazy—she was always a very expressive person. Then I repeat, "Illusen. She kicked me out." Taelia still looks completely lost. "No no, I mean—Faerieland kind of crashed, a little bit. Which I'm sure you already know."
Taelia nods, the confusion clearing from her face. "Yes, I've watched the crash in its entirety. I can see everything from here."
I go on. "So all of us decided to move in with Illusen while our houses were being rebuilt. But—but I'm so mean. I'm such a bully. And I don't blame her for kicking me out today. I... ugh, I did something... something really mean, even for me. And you've always been the calm, mature one out of all of us. That's why I decided you're the only one who I can trust not to judge me." Taelia looks pretty shocked to hear this. "You—you know that, right? You were always the good kid. And we were the ones who could never shut up; we were always yelling at each other about something dumb."
My sister and I hold each others' gazes for a while; I've always felt that there was a silent trust between us. Or rather, I trusted her, but she was always too scared of me to trust me with anything.
"I'm terrible. I don't know how you guys ever managed to put up with me. I don't know what to do, Taelia. But I know you're smarter than me; I know you can help me, and that's why I'm here."
Taelia frowns, processing the situation. Then she looks up at me with a new brightness in her eyes.
"You know she doesn't hate you."
I smile a little, without mirth, as I shake my head.
"She doesn't," repeats Taelia. "You guys are two halves of a whole; you two aren't going to go on not speaking to each other anymore. "So... just apologize. It's that easy."
"How?" I ask helplessly. "She won't forgive me. She shouldn't. It's all my fault."
Taelia shakes her head. "It just as much her fault for this as it is yours. Yes, you may have started a lot of it, but this mess is because of how she chose to react. It takes two to ruin a relationship, especially when it comes to family."
I have nothing else to say when I hear these words. I walk to the window and brush the curtains aside to look at Faerieland. Our beloved home has been reduced to ashes and purple fire framed by a rich blue field of stars.
And it is beautiful in the most terrible way.
I remember the window in Illusen's kitchen where you could see the ashes and ruined edifices, and I wonder if she is standing at her window right now. Trying to remember how good things used to be before we got older and I—we—ruined it all.
Or maybe she is trying to forget the fact that though she has tried to run from her family, we are all looking out at the same Faerieland in the end.
And remembering the same moments.
Part Three: Illusen
I am standing at the window in the kitchen, looking at Faerieland. Now my beloved home is but a heap of ashes and purple fire in a rich blue field of stars.
And it is beautiful in the most terrible way.
I am deep in my own mind, and it takes me a few seconds to register the sound of knocking at my door. I groan in a childish way.
"Who in the world wants to come here at one in the morning?" I mutter. But I go to the door anyway.
And standing on my front porch is Jhudora.
I should be furious. But instead I feel balanced. I feel as though being without my twin, and knowing what I had done to hurt her, made it impossible for me to truly be at peace. But it's okay now.
It is easier to simply forget some things and move on.
And somehow those words are enough for both of us to be okay again.