I remember as a kid the way his hand slid into mine, squeezing it hard and never letting go. Suddenly I’d feel safe, like just him being there made me a bigger person, when really I was still just as shy inside. Walking upon that stage I no longer felt frightened at the sight of a school hall full of parents, you sitting upon them all. Instead, I felt bold.
Slipping his hand out of my grip I made my way onto the stage just like you said I would, no matter what happened. I caught your glimmering eye and you stood up amongst the crowd, waving from afar. I should have been embarrassed really; I should have shied away, but you were there and I was grateful. If anything, I’m more grateful now.
Shay wasn’t the only one I loved so much because I loved you too, but he was the only one who could just give me his hand and I’d be a completely different girl. Maybe you never understood how much he meant to me when you pulled us apart, but I want you to know now.
Shay - he was the best friend I never had. When my ‘friends’ ditched me or you were too busy working, I knew I could rely on my twin brother to make me feel better. Not only was he so similar to me he didn’t judge me like the rest, he didn’t care that I preferred playing football to netball, or that I’d rather play on the ps3 with him than go shopping at the mall. Sometimes I think you tried too hard to please me. I wasn’t trying to disappoint you when I said no; I just wasn’t like that. Mum, you meant everything to me, but so did Shay. Why did you have to split us up to make me be someone I’m not?
It was a Saturday morning when I woke up to see an empty bed beside me. You always found it peculiar that amidst the millions of rooms in our house we picked a room together, but then again, you never really knew us.
That morning, I just thought of it as nothing. Although Shay’s always the last to get up, I thought that maybe for once you’d dragged him out to do something, or he’d been poorly and had been moved to one of the many spare bedrooms so I wouldn’t catch the cold. I honestly thought that you wouldn’t do what you did. You were my Mum and I never cared that you weren’t my real one – so much that it never slipped my mind. But since that day, it did.
Maybe you were like all of the rest rich parents in our housing estate, although I never admitted it for the first 10 years living with you. I wanted you to be the Mother I never had and to be able to talk about things with me, relate to me. When I thought you were only being nice, like asking me if I wanted to go shopping, you seemed like the best Mum I could have. Knowing you only did that to change me, punctures me flatter than a tyre.
The day I saw Shay last, broke my heart. I walked into our bedroom to see him shoving belongings into a suitcase, clearly agitated. I don’t see why moving him to your Father’s did anything – Shay didn’t want to start again, plus he liked it here. If anyone, it should have been me.
“Let me go!” I remember pleading. Shay didn’t deserve this, but maybe I did.
You wouldn’t let me go against whatever you had to say. It was goodbye. Nothing was going to get in the way. So off he went and here I stood. Shay’s arms wrapped around me so tightly I almost couldn’t breathe, but not as bad as when he actually left; then, I felt like fainting. In fact, when you disappeared out the door with him to say goodbye, I ran to the toilets and puked. I didn’t stay inside because I didn’t care; I stayed inside because I cared so much I didn’t want to see him walk away. When you returned, there was no point in explaining. You didn’t want my explanation or my reasoning for him to stay; all you wanted was a girl – a pink girly-girl. Shame. Such a shame you got me instead.
Life was hell until I could finally leave home. Sorry, but it’s true. Now I live in a cottage in a tiny village. I know you wanted me to grow up in the city and become a model or work in beauty and make-up, but the truth is I’m happy here coaching kids to play football. Somehow, I managed to get here even though you forbid me to play the sport when I lived with you.
I’m not really here to complain – you looked after me like a Mum should so I don’t hate you for it. Maybe you were harsh on changing me but I know you cared; why else would you have kept me for such a long time? So although you were the one to split Shay and I apart, I want you to know the real ending of this. As twins we reunited a year ago and here’s the story that fixed my broken heart:
It was a day like no other – the sun shining down on the fields that lay sprawled across the open land. The perfect day for training, I always said to the kids. I’d only just gotten up when I heard a knocking on the door. I shuffled over in my slippers to see a young boy standing there, smile wide. It was Max. Max was the most enthusiastic boy I trained football to and I loved him to pieces, but just as much as the others.
“There’s going to be a surprise!” He wailed, jumping up and down. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. “Mary said we have another trainer joining us together!”
“Another trainer?” I gave him a confused look. It was always me who did the training to the kids and Mary, being the manager, just overlooked.
“Yes! He’s here to see you!” He screamed in delight, and I was slightly overwhelmed. No one came to see me, unless it was these young budding footballers. Not even you, but that’s beside the point.
“I’ll be out at the pitch soon – I need to get dressed first.” I managed to say, waving goodbye. He hurried down the lane and disappeared behind the bush. I wondered what all this fuss was about – surely something important.
Once I had changed and got myself ready, I was out at the pitch in no time. All the kids were lined up, footballs standing beneath the foot of each one. Ah, they looked so professional. I was so proud to have them to teach.
“Where’s this new trainer then, huh?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. By that point I’d worked out that it must be a professional trainer, willing to raise my job or something. But it was something better - something I wouldn’t have ever imagined.
So as the kids screamed ‘behind you’ I turned around to see him appear from the changing rooms. Ruffled dark hair covered just the top of his head, shaved at the sides, and his lips slipped into a smile. But it was those dark brown eyes that drew me in, that made me realise.
“Shay.” I remember whispering, drawing a breath. I was stunned. Breathless. Speechless.
He began to walk over, a confident stride, but I could see through those eyes just like he could see through mine. He wanted to be brave, but inside he was falling. In no time his arms were round me like a Mother on a sick child. It seemed like forever since I was wrapped in his protection, his welcoming arms. But he was stronger, tougher. My Shay - he’d grown into a man.
“Ivy , oh I have missed you so much,” He whispered, face buried in the mess of my hair.
“Me too,” I attempted to say, but my voice was cracking on the edges.
Finally breaking apart, I saw the tears stained down his cheeks, the same that lay on mine also. Wiping them away I could then bring the smile to my face, the joy that came because he was finally there; finally meeting me for the first time in years.
“Oh goodness,” I rubbed my face in my hands and scrunched my eyes tight before opening them again, “I can’t believe you’re here. How are you here?”
In that moment, it felt just like us. No one seemed to be there around us watching and it was just like a book, cliché to say it, but it was. This was something beyond my dreams and so unexpected I often pinched myself wondering when it was going to end.
Shay looked aside, to the small children staring up at us in awe. Maybe they didn’t truly understand what happened between us, but they knew enough to know it mattered hugely. He looked back at me and I felt another smile approaching.
“I’m a trainer too,” he said, steadying his voice, “I work with smaller children just like my coach did with me when we were younger. Remember him?”
“How could I not?” Big, tall guy. Ambition as far as the moon.
“Well, I ran into him the other day and he asked how you were.” He hesitates, choking back the tears, “I couldn’t think about you since, how we never spoke anymore. We were so close, and in a flash we were in two different worlds. It still didn’t seem real to me.”
“Me neither.” I whispered.
“I knew it had to be time. Mum had left us apart for long enough and I just haven’t been the same without you, Ivy. There was once a time where you would be the goalkeeper as I smashed in the goals. Now, I have two posts and an empty goal.”
I didn’t know what to say. I was so dazed he’d come to find me that I couldn’t even choke out a thank you. But I know he saw it in me, saw the gratitude.
“I phoned Mum up and pleaded for your address. She wouldn’t give it to me at first – it took some effort – but she knew that she couldn’t keep me from you any longer. She knew she no longer had control.”
“So here you are.” A smile broadened my face as tears slid down my crimson cheeks. He was there. He was talking to me, his twin; his sister he hadn’t seen in years. All I could do was take a step towards him and hug him tighter than I had that day I’d seen him off.
“I’m not ever letting you go,” I remember murmuring into his shoulder.
“What if you’re forced to?” I knew he was kidding. This was Shay and I knew him more than I knew anyone.
But I didn’t take a risk.
“Not ever.” I whispered, pulling apart to look him straight in the eye. “I regretted letting you go, Shay. I could never do it again.”
Looking away, I saw the vast amount of kids watching our display, anxiety kicking into my stomach. They knew me now – my life was cut out and left raw in front of them. Frightened I wanted to back away, just like I would when I was younger in the school hall, about to make an entrance on the stage. That was when Shay slid his hand into mine, squeezing it hard. The memories flooded through me immediately and it was like I was behind those curtains at school again, the crowd just a step away. So when Shay let go and I felt like I was stepping out in front of the crowd once more, in front of the young footballers opposite me, I expected you to be there. I searched for that glimmering eye and your hand waving high in the air.
But I saw neither.
In that moment, as I retreated back to Shay, I longed for something I never thought I would. I no longer felt bold under Shay’s touch, because something else was missing. Someone else was missing for this perfect moment.
And that was when I realised that all this time, besides Shay, I needed you. I need you, Mum. I need you to realise that you and Shay make my life perfect.
You both make me whole.