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People say that everyone has a twin, someone somewhere in this world that looks just like you, living a life of their own. Well, if that’s what people say, then people are only half right. Maybe we do all have look-alikes. But I know one thing’s for sure, they’re not from this world.
My backpack dragged on my shoulders, trying to force me to the ground. A weekend’s worth of Physics, Chemistry, and History homework pounded against my back as I hurtled down the school steps, trying not to get trampled by the mob of students around me.
Outside the sky was dark, a ceiling of thick, gray clouds. The wind had picked up, flinging strands of mousy hair into my eyes. In front of me, people were stampeding into the parking lot, jumping into their cars while the younger students climbed onto buses. Someone behind me shouted a loud whoop in my ear. I rolled my eyes.
“Tess!” I heard my name called from somewhere in the chaos. I strained on my tiptoes, looking for the voice. There he was, his head bobbing above the surface of the crowd, jumping up and down like an idiot, waving his arms. “Charlie!” I shouted back.
Weaving through the sea of backpacks and bodies, I made my way in his direction. I had to dodge a few elbows but finally I found him. We pulled away from the swarm, making for the parking lot, pinkies linked, an old habit from growing up together. With a nervous grin, he looked down at me. I looked back. The squinty, brown eyes behind black framed glasses, the awkward smile, the unjustifiably silky, blond hair that most girls would kill for and he could care less about—they were all pieces to the puzzle that was the face of my best friend. “I’ve got a job interview in twenty minutes,” he said.
“Oh, that’s right!” I said, remembering that he had applied at a local pizza place ten minutes down the road. “You want me to tag along for morale support?”
With a flip of his hair, his face took on a mockingly overdramatic look. “No, Tess,” he said, theatrically. “My morale is way too heavy for you to lift.” He grinned, reaching over and squeezing my noticeably puny arm. “Look at you. You’d snap like a twig!”
With a gasp of feigned offense, I elbowed him in the ribs. He doubled over, a combination of a laugh and a groan escaping his lips. At least my bony elbows had some good use.
"Nah," he said. "I'd say you could come along but I have to pick my little sister up from a dance lesson. She's having a sleepover," Charlie shuddered. "Full caravan."
"Be strong, Charles," I said. He gave me a little shove. He hated it when I called him that.
We came to a stop at Charlie’s car. He leaned against its frame and looked around, confused. “Where’s your car?” he asked.
I shrugged, fingers knotted in the straps of my backpack. “I walked.”
“Are you crazy?” he said. “It’s supposed to rain. Like, downpour.”
“What, are you afraid I’m going to melt? Real nice, Charlie,” I replied, jokingly.
He didn’t laugh. “Let me give you a ride home.”
“You’ll be late for your interview,” I said. “I’ll be fine.”
“At least take the bus,” he said. He had that annoying I-know-best look on his face that he got when he thought I was doing something stupid.
My nose crinkled automatically. “I’d rather face a monsoon.”
I should have taken the bus.
I hugged my sweatshirt closer to my body for the millionth time. Rain pelted against my already soaked hood and trickled down my shoulders. The sidewalk in front of me was a blurry smear, lost in the downpour. I could feel the beginnings of a sneeze tickling the back of my nose. If this turned into a cold, I’d never live it down. I could just hear Charlie in my mind now. “This is why they invented the weather channel, Tess.”
I was thinking up a clever comeback for imaginary Charlie when the sound of tires slowing on wet pavement distracted me. I peeled my hood out of the way to look. A little, black Jetta had pulled up next to me. My heart skipped a beat instinctively, my mind robotically preparing to deal with some sort of creep.
For a moment I caught my reflection in the tinted passenger window. I looked ridiculous, my clothes clinging to my body, my hair plastered to my face.
The window slid down. I was met with the face of a girl, maybe a year or two older than me, probably in college. She was gorgeous with delicate, Asian features and jet black hair, pulled back in a long, glossy ponytail that fell over her shoulder. Her eyes were full of concern as she blinked out at me through the rain. “Hey,” she said in a musical sort of tone. “Do you need a ride?”
I shuffled closer, wiping at my nose which was dripping with water. “Uh,” I said, dumbly. “I don’t know.” I looked down the road. It wasn’t much further now. My apartment building was down the next street over.
The girl seemed to read my mind. “Where do you live?” she asked, politely.
For reasons I couldn’t explain, I suddenly felt uneasy. Something inside me was screaming at me to get away. “You know what,” I said. “I’m all set. I’m just going to walk.”
“It’s really no big deal,” the girl said with a smile. “I insist.”
“I’m fine. Really.” I started to back away when something clamped onto my arm, sending a jolt of pain all the way up to my shoulder. I looked down at the girl’s hand, clinging onto me. She had moved so fast, I hadn’t even seen it. “Get in the car,” she hissed.
“Let go!” I shouted, trying to pull away. The sound of the driver’s side door opening sent my heart hammering. I hadn’t even thought of the driver! A guy in his early twenties stepped out. He was tall, built like a tree, with dark, hooded eyes. I pulled furiously against the girl’s grip, using my free hand to push against the car door but she only latched onto that one too. “Get off of me!” I screamed.
I looked around in panic, for someone, anyone, but there was nobody around. A knot was forming in my stomach. This couldn’t be happening! I gathered my strength and struggled one last time. The girl loosened her grip and I twisted away from her, shocked and relieved. Too late, with a sudden sense of dread, I realized why.
The driver came up behind me, his arms caging me in. “No!” My lungs were on fire, adrenaline ripping through my body, as I tried to break free. Water ran down my face, stinging my eyes. I couldn’t tell if it was tears or rain. I knew I couldn’t win. I was already too tired. He was pulling me toward the back of the car. The Asian girl had gotten out. She stood next to the open trunk, waiting, her long ponytail caught in the wind.
There was an ear shattering bang. I screamed and suddenly I was falling. I hit the ground, caught in a tangle of heavy, limp arms. There was a hot pain in my ankle but I ignored it as I squirmed free, rolling away. The driver was sprawled out on the ground next to me, unmoving, eyes closed.
I looked up to see the Asian girl coming my way. She was dressed as if she had just walked out of an old 1930’s gangster film, with black trousers, vest, and white button-down shirt, now glued to her skin. Her hair was already dripping as she moved forward through the rain, hunched low, a gun cradled in her hands.
I started backing away, my hands scraping against the sidewalk, looking around for anything to help me. I thought about my phone sitting in the bottom of my backpack. With a jolt of despair, I saw it. My bag lay uselessly on the ground by the passenger door. It must have fallen off at some point.
Suddenly the girl stopped short a few feet away from me. She looked around, eyes darting as if she was waiting for something.
A dark blur leapt out of nowhere, hurtling toward her. She cried out as she hit the ground, her gun going off. I had seen guns fired before and I knew right away that this was not a normal gun. A bolt of light shot up into the sky, fizzling out like electricity. My eyes drifted back down in a daze. The girl was held down by a boy in military-style clothes. He looked my age with dirty blond hair that was matted against his head, water running from it in rivulets. I blinked my eyes in confusion. Where had he come from?
A hand rested on my shoulder, making me jump. There was a girl next to me in similar military wear. The first thing I saw was her hair, such a bright shade of red that it had to have been dyed. I tried to pull away from her but she held on tight to my drenched sweatshirt.
“Relax,” she said, irritably. “We’re helping you, you idiot.”
“Get away from me,” I said, struggling to my feet. I just wanted to go home.
Searing pain shot up my leg and I tumbled back down with a cry. I couldn’t stand.
“Get her out of here,” the boy called out to the redhead. He was pinned against the concrete wall, holding back his attacker.
“Dang it, Max,” she replied, “Girls are your area of expertise.”
“If you haven’t already noticed,” the boy she called Max replied. “I’m already busy with ‘my area of expertise’—” He broke off as he ducked under a right hook, slipping past the girl, away from the wall.
An SUV pulled up next to the sidewalk and, for a moment, I thought I was saved. That was until the redhead looked up, as if she had been expecting it. “Finally,” she said.
Max lashed out with his foot, connecting with his adversary’s head. Without a sound, she went plummeting to the concrete. She didn’t get up. In her limp hand lay a flat piece of plastic. It pulsed steadily with a blue glow.
Max swore. “A tracer,” he said. “Joss, get her in the car. We’re going to have company pretty quick.” He knocked the device out of her hand and crushed it with the heel of his boot, putting out the light.
Numbly, I let Joss pull me up and help me to the car. She slid into the backseat next to me while Max climbed in on my other side. He looked me up and down, a grin spreading across his face. “Now, that’s just freaky,” he said.
“Tell me about it,” said Joss. “I guess Kevin was right about that whole twin thing. For once."
Max was chuckling, “Kate, you’ve got to see this.”
That’s when I noticed the girl in the driver’s seat. She turned around and suddenly I forgot how to breath. It was like looking into some twisted mirror. The girl in front of me had the same face: same blue eyes, same nose, same mouth, same stupid freckles. The only difference was the hair. Where mine was dull and brown; hers was a brilliant gold. It was like something out of a nightmare.
The sound of an approaching vehicle grew closer.
A smile pulled at the corners of the girl's mouth—my mouth. My stomach started turning. “Hold on tight, kiddo,” she said. And she slammed on the accelerator.