The moon is full the night they set the fire. The twins slink through alleys between crumbled brick buildings at the edge of town, chattering in their secret language though there is nobody in the silence to hear them.
“Risky,” says Jules, meaning the moon. Her face vibrates in the glow of danger. “A bad omen.” This is what Jules says, but Jessica knows her sister doesn’t believe it, not truly. They can’t believe something the other does not. They’ve both tried.
Jules was the first with everything. She’d been the first to swipe a candy bar from the convenience store. She took the first puff of the joint the two flame-haired American boys lit in the abandoned warehouse, the first to feel the heavy tingle in her chest. She was the first to kiss, the first to fuck. She’d beaten her sister at everything, even existence, thrust into the world ten minutes earlier with her twin trailing behind.
But the fire had been Jessica’s idea, born from an ember of grief after the two American boys departed for home, leaving a note in the warehouse. The boys were the only people the girls spoke to other than each other. It wasn’t the absence of the soft-lipped boys whose mouths stung with whiskey and who undressed the girls like tearing the wrapping off a gift that caused sorrow. It was that they’d left only one note for the twins to read together.
The streets are empty and sparkling with frost. There are no joggers, no walkers, no other teenagers disobeying curfew. Winter crunches under their sneakers, crackling like bubbles in a soft drink.
Jules is the shadow, for once, and Jessica half expects her sister to shrink and grow under the light of the street lamps. In each hand, Jules grips a canister of petrol. The liquid sloshes like a faraway ocean. Jessica carries the hammer, swinging it forward and back, liking the heft of it even when it knocks against her thigh on accident and sends a shock through her bones. The hammer is heavy with the weight of holding her sister so close to her soul. With her other hand, Jessica pats the matchbook nestled in her pocket. She worries it will disappear if she doesn’t keep tracing its shape through the fabric.
When they arrive at the farm supply store at the end of the street, Jessica launches herself at the window and smashes the hammer against the glass which cracks but doesn’t shatter.
“Let me,” Jules says excitedly, her curls bouncing. She grabs for the hammer, and Jessica is tempted to relinquish it. But she retracts her arm and snatches it away. It’s too easy to let herself be possessed by her other half.
On the second hit, the window breaks away in huge chunks like ice floes that crash to the floor. Jessica leaps into the store. Musty, dry-smelling grain bags line the aisles, and glinting metal equipment dangles from wall hooks. The sisters split the canisters and zig zag the petrol through the building. They make a conscious effort to go separate directions. When they don’t pay attention, they make the same movements as if they’re two parts of one organism.
Last summer, just after the American boys came, Jules tried to drown her twin in the river. The summer sun blazed, and the twins rolled up their jean legs and left their socks balled in their shoes on the bank while they waded through the shallow part that wound through the woods behind the recycling plant. When Jules put her hands on her shoulders, Jessica knew. She’d had the identical desire.
Jules kicked Jessica’s feet out from under her and pushed her down.
“Go on,” she said. “Go on.”
Jessica held her breath and let Jules pin her under the surface. Her knees prickled, cut by the rocky river bottom. She opened her eyes and looked at the wavy blur of Jules’s face, round and white like a moon reflected in water.
Jessica threw off Jules’s hands and rose to her feet. When she slapped her sister, the sting seemed to spread across her own face. That night they lay side by side in Jules’s bed, their bodies pressed so tightly together their pulses beat in unison.
The twins like the smell of petrol, but the fumes dizzy their heads. The blade of cold air outside feels good in their lungs.
It takes a couple tries to make the match catch, but Jessica succeeds. The flare is tiny but startling in its brilliance and heat, and it sears the tip of Jessica’s finger before she flicks it in the window. At first, nothing happens, and then the store is bright instead of dim, orange instead of black. The heat hits their skin, and the twins are warmed by their destruction, by how their anger has finally been translated into the physical world.
They clasp hands and squeeze a pattern into each other’s palms like Morse code but not quite. They communicate without meaning to. Both wonder if they can exist outside of the other, two half moons inseparable from the whole.
Jessica dreams about the day her sister will die. They’ve talked about it in limited secret words. Together, they will never be alone. Together, they will always be an unbreakable set.
As Jessica clutches Jules’s body, so much like her own, she stares into the growing fire until her eyes ache and she has to close them. She can still see the glow through her eyelids like daylight behind a window curtain.
Jessica’s muscles twitch. She knows she will not do it, but she imagines snatching her sister’s arms, swinging her around, and flinging her into the fire. Jules clamps the bones in Jessica’s hand so tight it hurts. Jessica knows her sister is imagining the same thing only opposite, a fantasy in a mirror. She is comforted knowing they are so much alike.