"Sorry, but can you say that again?" My brain was refusing to process that last bit of information.
"Tutto and I are fraternal twins" Leona repeated.
"You mean, like, you two are related. Like, you were born together." I was saying this more to myself than to anyone else.
Leona seemed to understand that I needed some time to digest this new piece of information. She nodded slightly, and began to play with Tutto’s fingers, all the time not saying a word.
For the enth time that day, my head felt like it was going to burst. All the questions which I had finally found the answers to were now replaced with even more questions. It was already about two in the morning, and fatigue was slowly taking over my body. Nevertheless, I had to get the questions in my head answered, or there would be no way I could get to sleep.
"Okay," I began, "I'm about to throw a millions questions at you, and I really need them answered."
Leona chuckled a bit, clearly amused by my confusion.
"Why did you never tell me this?" My first question came out like water gushing out of a collapsed dam.
"I never told anybody." Leona said matter-of-factly.
"Well, why?" I blurted, a little embarrassed by the obvious tone of disappointment in my voice.
"I ran away from home." Leona was still fiddling with Tutto’s fingers. She let out a long sigh and sat up straight. I could foresee the beginning of another long, complicated story.
"I was born before Tutto. I was the perfect infant. Crying, beautiful, healthy. In the first few minutes after my birth, I was the pride of my parents. I was the first child of the family, and I brought hope, hope that the second infant waiting to come out would be just as beautiful and healthy as I was. The first few minutes of my life were the most glorious ones I would ever experience.
"Tutto was born a few minutes later. He was just as perfect as I was, and didn't seem to have any health issues until we were both sent for a quick body checkup and they heard a murmur in his chest. I still remember that moment, when I was left alone on the exam table, wailing for someone to hold me, but the adults were too concerned about Tutto’s heart to notice me.
"I grew up hating my twin brother. He was always at the centre of attention. He was the kid who laughs despite what adversities life brings to him. But for me, he was just my normal, healthy brother who steals all the attention from me because there was a tiny problem with his heart."
Leona peered over to look at Tutto’s sleeping face. I noticed a sparkle in her eyes, and only then did I realize she was holding back tears.
"So you just ran away?" I asked quietly, a little guilty that I was making her share her innermost thoughts while knowing how she likes her privacy.
"I ran away when our mother killed herself." Leona answered. "After Tutto had his first attack, my jealousy didn't disappear. Instead, it grew stronger, for my father was devoting every second to my brother, and my mom’s depression, which I selfishly read as jealousy as well, fed my horrible thoughts."
Leona clutched Tutto’s hand tightly. "I wanted my brother to just die." She no longer bothered to hold in her tears, and two shimmering streaks flowed down her pale cheeks.
I hesitantly put a hand gently on her shoulder. It was all I could do to comfort her, knowing how she doesn’t appreciate intimacy. To my surprise, however, she slowly leaned over towards me and rested her forehead against my chest. She started sobbing quietly. I held her small shoulders.
“When Tutto had his second heart attack, Father asked me to go find Mother.” Leona, shoulders trembling slightly, face still hidden in my embrace, continued the story. “I was secretly hoping that this attack would be the end of my brother, until I found my mother on the balcony, her neck twisted at an odd angle, her face purple, her expression horror. It was then that I realized what an evil person I had become. This was death, and I didn’t want this for my brother, no matter how miserable he had made me.”
Leona’s sobbing escalated into an uncontrollable weep. I held her tighter, and she dug deeper into my embrace. Memories of our first encounter with each other on that misty day came crawling back. I realized that I missed her; I missed her a lot. I rested my chin on the crown of her head and drew her even closer. I felt like a jerk, but I knew I wanted her back.
After a long moment, Leona finally picked herself up and dried her tears. Gulping back a choke, she started speaking again.
“I was so ashamed I packed a small bag, hopped on the Greyhound, and ended up at my aunt’s place three hours later. I told her everything, and she listened intently without once interrupting. When I had finished, she told me that it would be alright for me to stay with her for a while until things start settling down. She called my father and explained things for me, saying that she’ll be taking me in for a while. A while became three years, for I never had the courage to go back. The image of my mother’s hanging corpse haunts me even today, and I felt that if I moved back, I would be intruding into the strong bond between Tutto and my father. My aunt was very understanding and told me I could stay as long as I needed. She and my mother had been very close, and having me around was a sort of comfort to her. I took her last name, which is also my mother’s maiden name, and lived on as her daughter, as if my father and Tutto were never part of my life.
“This was until last year, when I entered college and moved out from my aunt’s, and found out that Tutto was going to the same college as I was. Fortunately, with our last names being different and us having nothing in common, nobody suspected that we were related, let alone twins. I tried my best to ignore him like everyone else, but I also felt the responsibility to watch out for him, since no one else would know of his heart condition.
“He seemed relatively healthy, compared to when I had last seen him, which was at the time of his second attack. I thought there was no need to worry about him anymore. But then, only a few months into college, I got a phone call from my aunt telling me that our father had died in an accident.
“I thought that my heart was torn to pieces with regret. I cried so hard I couldn’t cry anymore. I was just sitting there, wishing for more tears to wash away my guilt, but in vain.” Leona paused, studying the shape of Tutto’s body beneath the blankets. After a while, she turned to me, and said, “And then you offered me that pack of tissue paper.”
A long breath of realization escaped my mouth. So that was why she had been crying on that foggy day. Leona slowly moved her hands over to mine and cupped them in her palms. “I had never felt kindness from anyone else other than my aunt; therefore, you showing up like that meant a lot to me.” Leona studied my hands. “I wanted to stay with you longer then. I wanted to stay in your embrace forever. But there was someone who needed me more than I needed you.” She let go of my hands. “So I ran away from you, and ended up at my old house, the house in which I had left all the horrible memories.
“I stood at the doorway for what seemed like hours, trying but failing to bring myself to open the door. Finally, I pressed the doorbell. A social worker opened the door and let me in. I explained to her that I was Tutto’s sister and that our aunt was on her way down to take care of everything for my father. I asked her if it was alright for her to leave and give us some privacy. The social worker recognized me in one of the family portraits hanging on the walls. She saw that I was grieving and decided it was best if she left.
“I walked into the living room and found Tutto sitting on a chair, his face hidden behind his hair. I didn’t know exactly how to approach him, so I picked up a chair and sat next to him. He turned his head over to stare at me. His expression wasn’t of grief, but rather confusion, and also a little bit of hope. I guess he was hoping maybe I could bring his father back for him. We just sat there, the two of us, not saying anything, looking at each other, trying to read each other’s minds.
“My aunt arrived later that day and took care of my father’s funeral as well as all the paperwork. Unfortunately, due to work, she could not stay long, and so I took on the responsibility of taking care of Tutto. I finally moved back into my old house, the house which I hadn’t stepped into for three years.”
Leona stopped when she saw the frown on my face.
“But, I never realized you were living with Tutto.” I pointed out, feeling a bit deceived.
“I kept the apartment I was living in before.” Leona explained. “I moved back, but I would still use the apartment when I needed some time away from Tutto.”
I nodded, gesturing for her to continue.
Leona began to play with Tutto’s hand again; the gentleness in both her motion and her eyes, I suddenly noticed, was almost mother-like. “I guess being twins, there was a bond after all. He would never talk to me, but he did pay attention to the things I say and would respond. My most important job was to make sure he was taking his medication. His health did seem to have improved during the years of my absence. He had grown stronger, taller, and he had much more energy than I ever remembered.”
Leona let go of Tutto’s hand suddenly. “And then I found out that he would talk to you.” Leona closed her eyes. “I was glad at first. My brother would actually open up to someone else, and that person was my boyfriend. But the more I observed the two of you on that roof, the more overwhelming the jealous side of me became.” Leona folded her hands into fists. “You’re always so honest when you’re with him. It felt like you two could talk about anything. I wanted you to be like that in front of me too.
“I hated myself for becoming jealous of Tutto again, but I couldn’t stop myself.” Leona hung her head. “When I saw you during Halloween, I knew you were there so that you could help Tutto, so I tried to make you leave with me. When you refused, I went back to my apartment, and I stayed there. I have been staying there for almost a month. I didn’t go back to the house to check on Tutto. I didn’t make sure he was taking his medication. I wanted him to wither away and just leave my life.
“My plan worked, apparently. Tutto hasn’t been taking his medication, nor has he been eating properly. He doesn’t know how to take care of himself. I could see that his health was falling apart fast, and I also noticed that he wasn’t talking to you anymore. Instead of worrying like a normal sister would for her brother, I was glad.
“Until I got that phone call from the hospital this evening. That was when I came to the realization that I was killing my own twin brother.” Leona pounded at her thighs with her fists. “Tutto’s dying, and it’s all my fault.” She had started sobbing again.
I looked at Tutto’s sleeping figure, the fact that he was really dying was finally hitting home for me.
I blinked, and felt the warm tears running slowly down my cheeks.
-羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo