Pretty and Polly

il y a
2 min
For over eight decades, Polly had ruled, determining which games she and Pretty could play, which boys merited stepping out with, which sorority to pledge at the college where both majored in math...

People always expressed surprise upon learning they were twins. They didn't much resemble each other. Pretty was smaller, softer. She seemed younger from the way she let Polly call the shots.

Pretty was mama’s pet.

Polly got married, moved out.

Then, when her husband died, she moved back in, taking over Mama’s four-poster bed, and behaving as if Pretty should have no say over dinner, the television, or which neighbors deserved more than a passing nod.

Occasionally, Pretty tried to assert herself, but a few stern words from Polly and she backed right down.

For twenty years this continued.

Then Polly got sick.

Her mind remained as sharp as a kestrel’s beak, consumed with numbers and Pretty’s increasing absent-mindedness. She fought like a general to retain command, propped against monogrammed pillows, raging at all the ways Pretty had failed her.

The disheveled young woman who lived next door could hear the bickering from her bedroom window.

Although they had little done more than nod in passing in the two years since she'd moved in, Loris was fond of Polly and Pretty, with their old fashioned names and their tidy, old fashioned clothes. She assumed their kinship was romantic.

What a shock to learn, upon escorting a confused Pretty home from the corner where had lost her bearings mid-stroll, that they were not lovers, but sisters. Not just sisters, but twins!

After tht, Loris visited daily, atoning for the callow way she'd behaved when her own mother was sick and dying halfway across the country.

Polly called her a godsend, pressed crisp $50 bills into her hand for quarts of milk, dried prunes, bars of Ivory soap.

Pretty could no longer be trusted with such errands.

Loris kept scrupulous track, returning every penny of change, spending her own money on treats - lemon squares, brownies, Valentine cookies - purchased in pairs. “For dessert,” she smiled, placing them on separate saucers for Pretty to serve later.

Pretty, more raven than kestrel, spirited these treasures off to cupboards and drawers in rooms her twin could no longer reach.

Then she forgot them, along with all her higher math, her phone number, her new friend Loris' name, and almost everything that had transpired since and Polly were eight or nine.

"Pretty!" Polly screamed from the four-poster bed. The house was in Pretty's name. There were bills requiring her signature. Polly would not forge it, preferring to put the pen in Pretty's hand, gloating when Pretty looked at it as if she had forgotten what pens were for, which indeed, she had.

"Pretty!" Polly screamed, every fiber of her dying body quivering that this should be her twin's impractical, celluloid Kewpie doll of a name. That this was who she, a teacher of higher math and beyond reproach member of the community should be reduced to depending on. Mama's silly favorite, who flitted about with this boy and that, until it was too late, and it was just her and Mama in the big house until Polly moved back home to make things right.

"Pretty!" Where was she?

In the room where she'd gone to escape that voice, looking through the cupboard drawers, for things forgotten, the change purse and keys Polly had taken away along with other things whose name Pretty couldn't recall. She never found them, but there were still prizes to be had, like the sweet if slightly stale treats she stumbled upon, always in pairs, devouring both, the extra helping proof that Mama loved her best.

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