TRIGGER WARNING FOR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE AND MURDER
I wasn't supposed to be on that ship...
I’m Adaline, but everyone calls me Addy. Well, they call me Addy Two, because my twin sister, Adelaide, is Addy One. I’m sure my parents thought it was cute to have two kids with the same nickname, but we thought it was a Pain. In. The. Ass.
I wasn’t supposed to be on the ship of colonists. I’d never told that to anyone but Mena, my best friend. Adelaide was supposed to go. She was the young genius who was finishing her Master’s degree in hydroponics and exobiology at the ripe old age of eighteen. She’d won something called the ‘International Young Scientist Competition’ for designing hydroponic gardens that would use half the space of existing designs.
Because of that, she was invited to help design the systems on the Hope II, the ship making the trip to the new world of Allos 2. The Hope I had left five years ago, and would be arriving at the new planet any day. By the time Addy and the Hope II arrived, there should be a well-established colony on the uninhabited world.
Me? I'd just finished high school, and wrote steamy romance ebooks on the side. I’d published a dozen and they brought in some steady income, so I had a nice nest egg saved up. But there wasn’t a lot of need for that on a new planet, and they didn’t want me. Adelaide had almost decided to stay home because I couldn’t go, but this was an incredible chance. I pushed her hard to grab it, even if it meant never seeing her again.
I’m making it sound too easy. Though we’d been assured of frequent communication between the ship and Earth, there were weeks of tears and endless whispered conversations before she agreed to go. Eventually I began hiding my grief so she wouldn’t change her mind. I wanted her to find her dreams.
Mom had died years ago. My dad was a mean SOB. He didn’t hit us anymore, but he didn’t lose any opportunity to belittle our dreams and ridicule our successes. He had no idea that Adelaide had been selected for the journey to Allos 2. If he’d known, he would have interfered somehow.
Since the only person in the world I cared about was leaving home, I was leaving, too. I’d been accepted into a young writer’s program on the other side of the country. The selection committee had remarked that I had a lot of potential to be a great writer, but cautioned I’d have to stop writing romance if I wanted them to take me seriously.
I had no intention of cutting off my only source of income, so I’d already started a new and very secret pen name. The program might be prestigious, but the professors were first-class snobs.
Anyway, I’d hidden away enough money that I’d already booked a ticket on a levtrain that wasn’t stopping until it was a thousand miles away from here. I was going to leave the same day Adelaide left for the ship.
But an hour ago a tersely worded message had come through that the ship would be leaving in thirty-six hours due to some dire situation that wasn’t specified. Since the threats from a rogue terrorist group had spiraled up rapidly in the last month, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint a reason. The Hope II was a tempting target.
Addy was frantically throwing things in a bag, and I was trying not to cry at losing her so soon. She paused and put her hands on her hips.
“Addy, you have got to go pack. I will not leave you here alone when I go! ”
“I know.” I tried to hold back the tears that threatened to spill out and drown my breaking heart. “I just…”
She dropped down on the bed beside me and put her arm around me. “If we don’t leave together, I’m not going.”
I stared at her, horrified. “You have to go!”
“And leave you here by yourself? Do you really think I would do that? The only way I’ll agree to go to Allos is if I know you're safe and happy somewhere else.”
I stared at my hands. I might be safe if I left here, but I doubted I’d ever be happy again without her. But I couldn’t tell her that. I looked up and faked a smile. “Okay. It won’t take me long. There’s not much I want to take with me.”
She hugged me tight and I tried not to think that this might be one of the last times I ever hugged her.
As I slipped into my room I heard her go down the stairs. “Just gonna grab some snacks for the road! I mean, for the sky!”
I smiled as I hauled out a duffle bag from my closet. My smile faded as I heard another voice in the kitchen, and I ran to the top of the stairs. No! Dad wasn’t supposed to be home for hours!
“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere, Dad. Just getting something to eat.”
“Don’t you lie to me! I can always tell when you’re lying!”
“Ow! Let go of my arm!”
I made my way down the stairs, a really bad feeling swirling inside my stomach. I was about to join her in the kitchen and support her in her lie, but then she did the worst thing she could have ever done, and I didn’t blame her a bit.
She told him the truth.
“I’m leaving, Dad. I was accepted to be a colonist on board the Hope II.”
“Liar! You’re too stupid for that! It’s not leaving for another month, anyway!”
“It’s leaving the day after tomorrow. I just got orders. Now let me go, because I’m in a hurry.”
“You ungrateful whore! How dare you! You are not leaving!”
“Is that what you said to mom before you pushed her down the stairs?”
“The bitch had it coming!”
I had just rounded the corner to the kitchen. Dad stood with his back to me, and I saw him shove her hard. She stumbled backwards and fell, and there was a sickening crack as her head hit the corner of the counter.
Time slowed as she fell the rest of the way to the floor. She lay still, her eyes wide open and unmoving, a pool of blood seeping out from under her head.
I was frozen in place, unable to comprehend what had just happened. Dad knelt down and shook her, and called her name, and got angry when her sightless eyes didn’t acknowledge him. Then he did the kind of thing he always did after he exploded in rage—he pulled her into his arms and began to cry, saying over and over that he was sorry.
Just like that, Addy—my identical twin, my other half, and the only person in the world that I loved—was dead.
I don’t know how I got back upstairs without making any noise. I could still hear him in the kitchen, oblivious to my presence. I started to shake but forced myself to focus, because this wasn’t the time to fall apart. I grabbed my tablet and a picture of my mother, then ran back into Addy’s room. Her packed bag sat on her bed. I tossed my tablet and the picture in, grabbed it, and slipped out of her window onto the roof.
I narrowly avoided the hole that had never been repaired that let water drip down the kitchen wall every time it rained, and carefully made my way to the huge tree at the edge. A strange part of my brain wondered if Allos 2 had trees? I hoped so.
I think that was the first moment I thought about where I was going from here.
I dropped the bag onto the ground, and it was no hard task to swing onto a large branch. From there, I jumped to the grass. I waited for him to come charging out the back door at me, but the silence was broken only by the neighbor’s barking dog. I crept towards the back fence, pushed open the broken boards, and came out in the alley. The levtrain station was less than a mile away.
I didn’t let myself think about my sister, still on the kitchen floor. Even if I’d stayed, there wouldn’t be any ambulance called, and there wouldn’t be any attempt to save her life. It would have been a futile attempt anyway. A piece of my soul had been abruptly snuffed out, like a candle. She was gone.
No one would be calling the police, because too many people owed Dad favors and money. The few occasions we’d tried, no one came. The first time was when mom died after a ‘slip’ down the icy porch stairs. The last time was when I was thirteen and Dad hit me hard enough to break my arm.
Nor would there be any somber funeral where Dad and I cry as we comfort each other. Her body would just disappear, and I’d get a painful lesson from Dad on how to respond to questions from nosy neighbors.
And there would never be a college scholarship. After Addy’s ‘betrayal’, I’d be lucky to ever leave the house again.
As I walked, it started to rain, and the cold drops hit my cheeks and mingled with the warmth of my tears.
A day later I was at the spaceport, staring up at the gleaming shuttle that was taking colonists up to the the Hope II. By then the news had gotten out that the terrorists were pointing nuclear weapons at us. Life on Earth seemed suddenly tenuous.
Inside the building, chaos reigned, as people begged, shouted, and pleaded to get on the ship. Hours later I finally arrived at the front of the line, sick with dread about the retinal and fingerprint checks I knew I wouldn’t pass. The exhausted agent glanced at the documents on my screen, flicked his gaze to ‘my’ picture, and waved me through. A few minutes later I was walking down a long hall towards the shuttle.
I’d done it. I was going to leave this cursed place! I wanted to both dance for joy, and weep for the chance my sister would never get. And then another thought washed over me:
Adelaide was an expert in hydroponics and exobiology. That meant I was supposed to be an expert.
Everything caught up to me. I backed up until I hit a wall, and my knees gave out. I slid down to the floor, oblivious to the crowds streaming by, and put my head in my shaking hands.
I don’t know how long I sat there as people swerved around and tripped over me, muttering annoyance. And then I felt someone drop down next to me, and an arm went around my shoulders.
“Family back there?” a soft voice asked.
I nodded, then shook my head. “Sort of. Not really. It’s complicated.”
“It usually is. You look like you need a friend.”
I looked up at a smiling face, the first one I’d seen in a long time. I attempted to smile back as I wiped tears from my face.
“I’m Mena. Let’s go find a seat.” She stood up and held out her hand.
I hesitated, then grabbed it and pulled myself up. “I'm Adelaide.” Her hand was a lifeline, and I didn’t feel so alone anymore.