Maddi Weathers tapped her foot on the floor, trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach. When it was finally her turn, she displayed her name tag, and the Council President handed her an envelope. As Maddi walked away, she traced her fingers over the letters on the front: “Maddie Weathers”. By now, she was used to the extra “e”. Pursing her lips, she opened the envelope and unfolded the enclosed paper. “Jayden Turner” was written at the top. Maddi furrowed her brows. She didn’t know anyone with the last name “Turner” in Zone 5 ... Jayden must be a Transfer. Keeping that thought in the back of her mind, she started preparing for the rest of Match Week.
Maddy was excited that she and Jayden had both chosen to do musical activities on Day Two. She rushed to the music room, clutching her music sheet binder. A tall, lanky boy with a guitar was leaning against the wall, scrolling through his phone.
The boy pocketed his phone and smiled. “Just call me Turner. You must be Miss Weathers?”
“Yes, I’m Maddy. Sorry I’m late!”
“No worries,” Jayden said as he opened the door.
Once Maddy stepped into the room, she made a beeline for the piano. After smoothing her skirt, she sat down in front of the black and white keys.
“Did you bring any music?” Maddy asked.
“I brought the songs I wrote, but I’m good with whatever you want.”
Swooning internally, Maddy grinned and propped up the music sheet for Jar of Hearts. She looked over her shoulder to Jayden, who gave her a thumbs up and a wink. Maddy blushed and slid her fingers over the keys as she started singing along. The day passed by quickly as they sang and played their instruments together. When it was time to go, Jayden gave Maddy a notebook with blank sheet music.
“For you to write down the melodies that float around in your head,” he whispered.
Maddy squealed. “Thanks Jayden!”
Once her alarm blared, Maddi turned it off and rolled out of bed, excited for Day Three. She spent five minutes on her ponytail because she had to redo it twice to hide loose hairs. After putting on her favorite athletic gear and grabbing her basketball and a bag of Cheez-Its, Maddi jogged down the street, feeling accomplished because she was five minutes ahead of schedule. Upon reaching the basketball court, she was surprised to see Jayden already there, his tall frame making the net look small.
“No fair, you already started warming up,” she teased.
Jayden laughed. “It takes me 10 minutes, so I figured I’d come early to maximize our time.”
“Wow, thanks Jayden!” Maddi gushed. Despite her nervousness, she liked Jayden’s deep, calming voice.
Jayden turned out to be more of a point guard than a center. Maddi was impressed by how he carried his lanky form seamlessly across the court. Maddi also appreciated how Jayden would step back to give her decent opportunities to shoot, but still gave her pressure when she was dribbling. The guys she had played with would let her dribble but would laugh as they blocked her shots, saying that “girls can never play basketball with boys”. Jayden was different; he respected her and kept things fair.
A few rounds later, they resorted to just shooting and chatting. Maddi learned that Jayden grew up playing basketball with his sibling. After discussing their shared love for team sports, Maddi mustered up the courage to ask the question lingering in her mind: “Have you always been here? I feel like I would remember you if I’ve seen you before.”
Jayden paused in the middle of a shot. “No, I’m a Transfer,” he said quietly.
Recognizing that Jayden wasn’t very comfortable, Maddi nodded and jogged back to the bench. “Want some Cheez-Its?”
Jayden’s face lightened up, and he jogged over. “Sure!”
They were quiet after that, just munching on Cheez-Its and smiling at each other. As the sun set, Jayden stood and held out his hand for a high-five. “Great playing,” he said.
Maddi jumped up to slap his hand. “You too. That was fun!”
When Maddi stepped into her house that night, she saw her sister waiting on the couch.
“How did it go? Was he nice to you?”
Maddi sighed and rolled her eyes. “Let me take a shower first.”
An hour later, they were lounging on the couch, one of them reading a book and the other humming and writing in a music sheet notepad. They kept stealing glances at each other, until Maddi couldn’t stand it anymore and put her book aside.
“You go first.”
“Ugh, okay fine... I really like Jayden,” Maddi said. “He’s nice and understanding, and I feel like I’ve known him for a long time already. Also, I could stare into his blue eyes forever!”
“I like Jayden too! He seems so nice and cool. He also likes singing and playing music!”
Maddi nodded and bit her lip, a question fighting to crawl out of her mouth. The couch squeaked as she shifted her legs.
“Do you think you want to complete the match?” Maddi asked softly.
Maddy replied, “I think so! I’ve never felt this way about someone before.”
“Well, it’s our fifth Match Week anyway. People usually take three Match Weeks.”
“Yeah, but I couldn’t really see myself spending the rest of my life with those other assignments. I know you didn’t either since you always found something about them to complain about.”
“That’s true.” Maddi chuckled, but her smile quickly faltered. “Maddy?” she whispered.
“Hmm?” Maddy said as she put her pencil down and looked at Maddi, who was curled up under the couch blanket.
“What if I want to complete the match too?” Maddi whispered.
A flash of irritation crossed Maddy’s face, followed by a flash of anger across Maddi’s.
Trying to ignore the rising jealousy, Maddi took a deep breath and asked, “Should we tell him the secret?”
Maddy swiveled her head to see if anyone else had heard, but there was only a photo of their late parents hanging on the wall.
Annoyed by Maddy’s silence, Maddi impatiently said, “I’m going to tell him how I feel tomorrow.”
Maddy immediately sat up on the couch and glared at Maddi. “That’s not fair! You always get what you want!”
“But I said I liked him first!”
“That’s not how it works! Also, it’s technically my turn tomorrow.”
“That’s not fair either! You were the one who told me to pick up the assignment Day One.”
Maddy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “Okay fine. Do you have a better idea?”
Maddi whispered, “Did you know that Jayden’s actually a Transfer?”
Maddy scooted closer to Maddi. “How do you know?”
“When I first met him, I suspected that he wasn’t from our zone because I’m pretty sure I would remember him. So I asked him, and he said he’s a Transfer. It didn’t seem like he wanted to talk about it, so I didn’t push him. He also has a sibling, but that’s all I know.”
“That’s interesting. People become Transfers when they’ve gone through five Match Weeks and still haven’t completed a match, but Jayden doesn’t seem like that type.”
Maddi agreed. “What about I meet him tomorrow and ask him about it?”
“But what are we going to do about the last day of Match Week?”
Maddi stared at the photo of their parents. “Let’s not worry about that right now. Remember when we were younger and argued a lot, our parents told us to treasure each other and be grateful that we have each other?”
“And then we became best friends and promised to take care of each other and protect our secret?”
“Yeah. I still can’t believe the Council made the half-half rule restricting families to one male and one female child.”
“They just care about getting the numbers right, whatever that means. Anyway, I have a genius idea.”
Maddy rolled her eyes. “You always say that. But tell me.”
“Honestly, I like Jayden. BUT I don’t think I would feel okay with completing the match with him, knowing that you also like him. You’re my best friend, but I’m tired of having to pretend we’re the same person. Sometimes I dream of being transferred so I can be my own person. I think I’ll be okay with not completing the match with Jayden if I could have my own identity.”
She waited for Maddy to say something, but Maddy just looked at her with an unreadable expression, so she continued. “How about I meet with Jayden tomorrow, ask him about being a Transfer, tell him our secret, and mention that I want to be transferred? And then you can complete the match on Day Five?”
Maddy closed her eyes. “So you’re saying I can complete the match with Jayden, and you’re going to transfer?”
“Basically. But I need to talk to Jayden first. Would you be okay with that?”
“I guess that’s the best option we have right now.”
That night, Maddi kept tossing and turning in her bed. She was at peace with her decision to tell Jayden their secret and try to get transferred, but she was scared that the Council would find out that their parents secretly raised twins and that they had been sharing an identity for the past 22 years. She was hesitant to leave Maddy, but having her own identity was her dream. With the hope of gaining her own identity lingering in her mind, Maddi fell asleep.
Meanwhile, Jayden was lying in his bed, thinking about Maddie. He treasured her appreciation of his interest in songwriting, and sometimes she even reminded him of his brother. Jayden was glad he transferred to Zone 5. He was tired of the girls in Zone 1 making fun of his songwriting. Jayden knew that Maddie was the right match for him, and he hoped to tell her his feelings the next day.
The next morning, Maddi stepped out of the house into the cold air. The gray clouds shrouded the sky, allowing only a sliver of sunlight. Maddi took a deep breath, and walked towards Room 8, where she was to meet Jayden for Day Four Quality Time. When Maddi entered Room 8, Jayden had just finished hanging up his coat.
“Good morning, Jayden!”
“Morning,” Jayden replied back.
Wanting to get the whole thing off her chest, Maddi skipped the small talk. “Can I ask you something?”
Jayden sat down at one end of the couch and nodded.
Maddi settled down on the other end, and bringing her feet up to her chest, asked softly, “Why did you become a Transfer?”
Jayden took a deep breath. “Remember how we sang and played music, and you listened to the songs I wrote?”
Maddi thought to herself, you must mean my sister, but she nodded and said, “Of course! I like your songs.”
Jayden smiled. “Back in Zone 1, we also started doing Match Week. But every girl I was matched with would make fun of my songs and say that I’ll never be able to make it as a songwriter. I can’t be with someone who doesn’t respect my passion for songwriting. I was tired of those girls not supporting my dream, so I decided to try other zones.”
“Wait, you can just transfer to another zone?”
“The Council has to interview you and approve the transfer, but generally, they’re okay with people transferring since we also have transfers from other zones.”
“That’s interesting,” Maddi said. “Here, you can only get transferred if you’ve participated in five Match Weeks and still don’t complete a match.”
“Really? Wow, there are so many rules in Zone 5.”
Maddi immediately grasped the opportunity to mention the twin situation. “Speaking of rules, can I tell you something?”
“Of course!” he said.
“You promise you won’t tell anyone else?”
Jayden chuckled and said, “You can trust me, Maddie.”
Maddi took a deep breath and said, “You know how there are lots of rules in Zone 5?”
“One of the rules is that families have to have one son and one daughter. The Council President believes that’s the best way to ensure a healthy population.”
“So twins aren’t allowed?” Jayden interrupted.
“Good thing I’m the only one that transferred here then,” Jayden said.
Now Maddi was confused. “What do you mean?”
Jayden leaned in and whispered, “I have a twin brother who’s also unmatched. He’s the one I grew up playing basketball with. His name is Jaiden, spelled with an ‘i’ instead of a ‘y’.”
“Oh!” Maddi did not expect that, but it made it easier for her to reveal her identity.
“Is that all you were going to tell me?” Jayden asked.
“I'm also a twin.” Maddi blurted out.
Jayden’s eyes widened.
“I'm Maddi, spelled with an ‘i’. I have a twin sister named Maddy, spelled with a ‘y’. We go by Maddie, spelled with ‘ie’.” Maddi paused, waiting for that to sink in.
Jayden was silent for a moment before scooting back to the other end of the couch.
“You’re not mad, are you?” Maddi asked.
“I don’t know.” Jayden sighed. “Were you the one who played music with me?”
Maddi pursed her lips. “That was my sister.”
Jayden closed his eyes, nodding.
“But what you said earlier helped me realize that what I’m planning to do is the right thing to do.”
“What do you mean?” Jayden asked.
“For my whole life, I’ve been unable to live as myself because I’ve had to pretend I’m Maddie with an ‘e’. I can’t stand not being able to be my own person.”
“That’s what my brother says sometimes.”
Maddi smiled and continued, “I like you, and if I didn’t have to share an identity with someone, I would complete this match. But my sister adores you, and from what you said about finding someone who respects your passion for songwriting, I think you should complete the match with my sister.” Maddi paused to take a breath.
“But what would happen to you?”
“That’s the thing. I wanted to ask you about transferring, because I want to get transferred so I can have my own identity.”
“Oh, I see now. But the only way you can get transferred in Zone 5 is to participate in five Match Weeks without completing a match?”
“Yep. And this is my fifth Match Week, so this is my chance to get transferred. But I also hope you complete the match with my sister.”
Jayden nodded, and they spent the rest of Quality Time coming up with a plan. When Maddi returned home, she told Maddy, “We have a plan. You just need to hide in the gym’s bathroom until I come find you.”
Day Five of Match Week, also known as Completion Day, started with all the participants taking their seats at desks set up in the school gym. The Council passed out a form to everyone. It was almost like it was final exam day.
After everyone settled down, the Council President spoke. “Match Week participants, you are very privileged to be in Zone 5, the first zone to conduct Match Week. Our half-half rule has made our zone stable. Families are essential to healthy zones, and they are perfect when the parents are perfect matches for each other. Each of you should have brought your assignment envelope. If you’re completing your match, please return the assignment envelope and head to the auditorium for the Match Ceremony. If you’re not completing your match, please fill out the form so we can better match you next time. And if this is your fifth Match Week and you’re not completing the match, circle “Transfer” on the form and bring it to the Council. This year, Transfers will be sent to Zone 1.”
Maddi’s ears perked up. Zone 1 was where Jayden was from! Putting that thought aside, she placed Jayden’s file in the envelope and sealed it. In her pocket was the form with “Transfer” circled. She just hoped that their plan would work.
Meanwhile, Maddy had successfully sneaked into the gym’s bathroom. Not long after, she heard a soft voice.
Maddy emerged from the shower stall and ran to hug her sister. “I understand why you want to get transferred, but I’ll miss you so much.”
Maddi squeezed Maddy tighter, and a tear dropped from her eye. “I know. Thanks for being my best friend here.”
Maddy whispered back, “Thanks for everything.”
They broke apart, and Maddi handed Maddy the envelope. “Go complete your match. I’ll go out soon and turn in my Transfer form.”
Maddy squeezed Maddi’s hand and went back to the gym.
Two minutes later, Maddi left the bathroom with the Transfer form in her hand. As she scanned the desks, her eyes found Jayden’s. Jayden smiled and nodded at her. Maddi nodded back, and gave her form to the Council, who escorted her to the Zone 1 shuttle.
An hour later, Maddi stepped off the shuttle into Zone 1. Taking in her surroundings, she felt a sense of peace and freedom. Here, she would finally be able to live as herself. Her thoughts were soon uninterrupted by a deep voice.
“Hello, welcome to Zone 1!”
Maddi turned around to see a tall, lanky boy smiling at her. She breathed a sigh of relief. No wonder that voice sounded so familiar! This boy had Jayden’s blue eyes and kind smile. Only his hairstyle was different.
“Thanks! I’m Maddi Weathers.”
“I’m Jaiden Turner, your welcome buddy.”
Maddi smiled, happy to end Match Week with her own identity and a certain blue-eyed friend.
She took the folder Jaiden handed out to her and traced her fingers over the letters at the top: “Maddi Weathers.”