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Mirror Girls

Kira Bell

My sister and I have a single magic trick: when we face each other from opposite sides of a window, it becomes a mirror. We lift our hands, wink, pull our lips in strange directions. We imitate dinosaurs and gyrate our hips in particularly bad dance moves. Our parents laugh at us. Our lovers shake their heads and pour each other drinks. Our pets stare, faces tilted and ears perked. They do not get the joke.


We are the same in all but fingerprints. In first grade, we told everyone we would die on the same day. In high school, we got into the same universities. In college, we shared rooms and then apartments. Once, drunkenly, we found our way to the same lover. Our hair, our baggy shirts, our pink boots, our love of pit bulls, our favorite movies; we are truly identical.

“Even your hearts,” Mom says sometimes.

This is why we are confused one Wednesday afternoon when the doctor declares I have gained a pound and my sister has lost one.

“Probably stress,” he says, and leaves before questions fully blossom in our minds.

I turn to her, stare at her figure, and look down at my stomach. I text her that night and confess I skipped dinner.

Me too, she replies. I couldn’t keep anything down.

When we were ten we both got food poisoning, even though we ordered different things on the menu (for once). When we were fifteen, her boyfriend wanted to go on a date alone and I called her because my head started throbbing out of nowhere—she’d been in a car crash.

My stomach doesn’t ache. If anything, it grumbles, stubbornly. It needs food. I shouldn’t have skipped dinner. My lover made spinach ravioli and strawberry shortcake for dessert. I tried to eat it. I could smell the garlic marinara sauce. I knew how the whipped cream would burst like tiny clouds in my mouth. But despite my hunger, despite all that yearning, I couldn’t muster a single bite. I wanted to be a better twin.


Some weeks later, when it becomes clear that our respective shrinking and growing will not stop on its own, the doctor puts us on special diets. My sister eats to gain weight. Her list of recommended foods is full of protein shakes, bananas, cheeses, and breads. Snacks throughout the day.

Meanwhile, I am told to cut out fatty foods, bread, pasta, dairy. I swear off sugar. The doctors are very invested in my weight loss. They bring in nutritionists and do blood tests. They find us interesting insomuch as we are twins, but I am the one they mutter about, concerned, like my body is a problem to fix, a mystery to crack. I hold my protruding stomach in the waiting room and hope they solve it.


I begin to run in the mornings. I am not a runner. My lungs burn and my knees ache. Some people look like they fly through the air when they run. Lithe muscles bursting with strength. I imagine I look like the geriatric gazelle at the back of the pack, about to be eaten by strong, graceful predators.

Geriatric as I feel, I still have to try. I put a garbage bag over my body, avoid water, run around the park until my feet won’t carry me even one step further.

I can’t help but weigh myself when I get home; I have gained three pounds since morning.


At our next weigh-in, the doctors realize my sister is not just losing weight. She is losing height. Almost an inch, to be exact.

“Your arms are shorter,” one doctor says. He frowns at a clipboard and measures the rest of her. It’s all shrinking. He refers us to an orthopedist after taking our new height and weight.

I am taller. They measure my arms, my legs, my neck. They measure the circumference of my skull and the length of my feet. Each measurement exceeds my sister’s.


My sister sings songs. Her voice is a hazy cloud in the car, at choir concerts throughout high school, above the pews at church on Sunday mornings. She’s a talker, too. Uses her voice however she can. Our teachers used to ask her to shout announcements to the rest of the class because her voice carries so well.