You run your fingers along the soft silk sleeve of Maria's wedding dress. It would be so easy, you think, to put this on, to marry Josh and be happy forever. It would be so easy to become Maria.
You have been Maria before. When you were children it was your special game, a fun way to confuse your parents or sometimes to help each other pass school exams. It stopped in your teens. Maria never wanted to be you. Why would she? Maria is everything you aren't. Everybody loves her. She's sociable, charming, funny, pretty. How can there be a pretty twin when we both look the same? But somehow she is. Maria is the perfect twin, and you live in her shadow.
She's also a lying, cheating bitch. Not now. You try not to think about it. Not on her wedding day. After all she is your sister and she deserves to be happy, doesn't she?
She doesn't deserve him.
Your phone buzzes, her name flashing on the screen.
“Help me sis, they won't let me out! Are we going to have to cancel the wedding? Josh will be furious!”
“Don't worry,” you say. “I'll sort it. We'll get you out of there, I promise. Nothing's going to spoil your special day.”
As you cancel the sound of your sister's weeping, you can't stop your mind from playing out your own blissful fantasy.
It would be so easy.
You put on the white dress and meet Josh at the altar. Everybody watches you and wonders at your beauty. You look up into his warm brown eyes and say “I do.” You wake up every morning to hear him say “I love you.” Together you have the perfect love, the perfect life.
There was just one time since you were children that you were Maria. Just the one night, when you felt his kiss and knew for sure that he was the one. The most wonderful night of your life; when he told you he had never been so much in love. That was the night before the day that he proposed to her.
It's me he loves, not her. He'd told you just days earlier that he wasn't sure. That Maria was great but there was something missing. They didn't connect in the same way any more, the spark was gone.
Because she's seeing someone else. You sigh resentfully. How unfair that Maria should have two boyfriends and you've never even had one. Typical of selfish Maria. Perfect Maria; who all the men obsess over without giving you a second glance.
She was with him the night that you were her. Nick, the 'bit of fun on the side.' She had been desperate to see him. Josh was getting boring, she said.
You would never have said Josh was boring. You would never have hurt him like that.
So you'd agreed to switch, just for once, so that Maria could go out and have her fun. She'd had no idea. She thought you and Josh were set for a boring night watching TV. She didn't know about your secret dream. She didn't know that she was giving you the night you had always wanted.
You have loved Josh since you were six years old. You keep a box of his things. Just odd bits and pieces he's left around; movie ticket stubs, an old ripped up t-shirt he threw in the bin, fallen hairs from the bathroom. Things that were his.
You once took a photo of him and Maria, cut her out of it and replaced her with yourself. It looked almost the same, of course, except it was right. The way that things should be. The way things would be if life was fair and you were with the man you dreamed of.
Josh calls you 'sis.' He tells you when he and Maria argue, and punches you on the arm when he jokes. It isn't fair. You love him more than she ever could, but he doesn't see you. To him you are nothing. Plain, dull, boring, invisible.
Every night since you were six years old you have imagined being married to Josh and dreamed of the happiness you wished you could have.
I could, it would be easy, I could just slip on that dress...
When you were six you played in the sandpit with Josh and Maria. She sat at the side, watching and giggling whilst you and Josh competed to see who could make the biggest sandcastle. When you won, he told you that you'd won a secret, and whispered into your ear that he loved Maria and that one day he would marry her. You held back the tears as he chased her and tried to kiss her on the cheek. Why her? You secretly wept. You and she were the same. It wasn't fair.
For years you have watched them together, wishing it was you. The first date, the first kiss, weekends away and that romantic trip to Spain. Maria told you everything and, with each day that passed you have grown more jealous and resentful. Each day you have had to see her living out your dream and you cannot stand it.
Why Josh? Out of everyone? So many men adore Maria, and yet she has to choose the one that I love.
She doesn't even love him. Not really. If she did she wouldn't need Nick. You hate her for being so cruel. You would never do that to Josh. And yet, you can't help but love Nick, for without him you would never have been Maria for that one wonderful night.
The phone buzzes again.
“What's happening?” She asks, “Can you get me out of here?”
“I'm just calling Dad now. He'll be able to pay the fine, it won't be long. I promise.”
You imagine what it would be like to be Maria forever. To no longer be the quiet, clumsy, shadow twin; but to be charming and outgoing, pretty, clever and liked. To get arrested at a party on the night before your wedding day; and to get away with it with nothing more than a stern look from Dad. To have the dream husband and the perfect life. To be free from the prison that is your own self.
Your fingers scroll down your contacts list. D for Dad. He'll roll his eyes and pay the fine, and all will be well. He doesn't know about Nick of course, that's a secret between you and her. You consider telling him, or perhaps telling Josh, but you couldn't bear to be responsible for Josh's pain.
Maria is the favourite daughter. She can charm her way out of anything. You are the dull one. The awkward, boring one; who finds it difficult to make real conversation and who does not have friends. Who stays in every night on her own, fantasising about a man that she could never have.
You are the unsuccessful daughter, unable to get a good job because you stumble through the interviews forgetting your words, and struggle to make eye contact. Maria effortlessly breezes from promotion to promotion where you are a failure, stacking shelves in the shadow of your beautiful twin.
It's not fair. We're supposed to be the same.
The night that you were Maria you felt so different. You were confident and attractive. Josh told you that you seemed happier and more relaxed. He felt like you were pleased to be with him; and you told him that of course you were pleased to be with him, that you loved him. He said he sometimes doubted that; and you told him he should never doubt it, that he had no idea of the depth of your feelings. Josh kissed you, it was your first ever kiss. You felt a passion you had never known before and it was the best, most blissful moment of your life.
That could be my life forever.
The phone rings. Dad doesn't answer. You press the redial button.
You remember how it felt to have Josh's strong arms wrapped around you. You remember the wonderful feeling of being his. The only time that you have ever truly felt happy.
The next day, Josh had told you that something was different. He had realised that he loved Maria more than ever and was going to ask her to marry him.
That was me. It changed because she was me.
The phone keeps ringing. You glance back at the white dress.
But I couldn't. Not really.
You are never Maria any more, you only switched for that one time.
It would be so easy though.
“No Dad, it's Maria. Amy's been arrested and they won't let her out, she says you have to go there and pay them some money....but Dad...there's something really wrong with her. I'm worried, you know how she's always been kind of jealous of me? Well, she's been saying that she is me, pretending to be me. She told me that she is Maria.
“She has a new boyfriend named Nick and he's been getting her into trouble. They've been going out to parties, drinking and taking drugs. But I found out that he doesn't know she's Amy at all, he thinks that she's me, he thinks her name is Maria. I don't know what to do Dad, I'm so worried about her. Maybe she needs some professional help? And all I want is for you and her to be here so that I can get married to Josh and have a nice wedding. ”
“Don't worry sweetheart, I'll take care of it. You keep on getting ready and I'll be there as soon as I can.” Your concerned Father hangs up the phone and you gasp, surprised at your own behaviour.
It really was that easy.
You put on the white dress and matching shoes. Your name is Maria and today you are getting married to the love of your life.
Two hours later your Father arrives to collect you.
“I'm so sorry Amy won't be here” He says remorsefully, “She's been taken to the hospital. They say that she's deluded. She's insisting that she's you and that she's supposed to be getting married. I hope this isn't going to spoil your day too much. We still have time to change it if you want.”
You fake a sympathetic look.
“Its okay,” you say, “I can't let Josh down now. I always knew she had...problems. It was just a matter of time until something happened.” You pause and pretend to look sad and thoughtful.
“ I should have said something before” you continue, “She has a creepy box in her room with weird things that Josh left lying around, and these horrible diaries about me...when the doctors see them, perhaps they'll understand. I just hope she gets the help she needs.”
Inwardly you smile. They will find the box with Josh's old t-shirt and fallen hairs, and the photo with yourself pasted in her place. They will read years of jealous diaries obsessing over her perfection, and the unfairness of it all; the daily fantasies of being Maria and having her life. And, best of all, they will find no trace of that one night when you switched; for those pages are far too precious. Those pages you always keep with you.
Finally, everything is going to be perfect.
The organ begins to play and you slowly start to walk down the church aisle towards the man you have loved since you were a child. Step by step, you walk towards your happiness, towards your blissful new life. Your life as Maria.