What did you say?
I could see my mother’s eyes salsa as she tells me about our upcoming trip to Pennsylvania. I should be happy for her. Shouldn\'t I? My parents had planned a visit to my maternal grandparents’ place and my two weeks of school holiday has provided a great opportunity for it. They are absolutely hyped up about it and the weird thing is I don’t even know why.
I never heard much about my grandparents. Believe it or not, I have no idea who they are. I used to ask my mom about them when I was younger but gave up after one too many ‘They are not around’ excuses. I assumed they must have died long ago, buried under dusty tombstones. The curiosity burned inside me but no one bothered to give me an answer. And now, it feel like the dead has jumped back to life. I’m unbelievably mad at my so-called grandparents for ditching me. They left no hint of their existence the whole time, thoughout my childhood. And now they suddenly feel like they could just come bouncing into my life when they had never been a part of it? No way!
My fraternal grandparents passed away in a car accident when I was 2. I had a childhood where awkward pauses are compulsory when someone asks: “How much did your grandparents gave you for Raya?”
I had no grandparents. But that was yesterday.
When I found out that my maternal grandparents are still alive and walking on this planet this very minute, I spun out. I couldn’t understand my mom’s reaction. She seemed glad enough to accept them with open arms. But of course, I didn’t know exactly what happened initially and for it to cause the distance that formed between the both of them. Like why did my grandparents lived across the oceans from us? Is there a made-for-TV story behind it?
I guess soon everything will be revealed…
“Alliya, honey, are you okay?” my mother glanced at me from the front seat of our rental car. I nod, and continue to sprawl lazily with my MP3. It’s always a bit weird when parents pay attention to you more than usual. I look out of the window and watch scrawny trees with their pale barks, gloomily glued to the ground pass by. There was something dreary about it all. The pale blue sky, the worn-out wooden fences and the old brick houses located a distance from each other. I’ve only seen these things in the movies. Thrillers mostly, and right about now some crazed zombie was supposed to make an attack and suck the living souls from our battered bodies. I definitely watched way too many movies. One thing for sure, there wasn’t a place like this in good old green Malaysia.
“Alliya? Can we ask you a favour, darling?” my dad asks, looking at me from the front mirror. I sit up straight, amused by his odd question.
I shrug, “Sure. What is it?”
“This is your first visit to your grandparents’ so please, try not to be too overwhelmed by what you see, alright?” he says, the hopeful tone is tangible in his voice .
Okay… definitely weird. Is that a trick question?
Sensing my reluctance, he continues, “Just try not to show too much of your surprise, will you?”
“Why? Is there something I should be surprised about?”
My mom squirms uncomfortably in her seat. “Honey, sometimes, people’s looks can be deceiving. Just don’t jump into any conclusion alright?”, she says.
I was intrigued by her desperate plea. What’s with all these mysterious requests? Am I a granddaughter of some faraway King and Queen or something? Fascinating! Seriously, why can’t they just go straight to the point?
“Okay. I’ll… uhh do what I can.”
My parents exchange nervous glances at each other and bring their attention back to the road.
I lean back and listen to Taylor Swift’s White Horse on my MP3.
“Alliya, honey, we’re here.”
I feel my mom caressing my shoulder. After blinking a few times, dizziness invades me. I prop myself up on one arm. Ugh, must have fallen asleep. My head feels like it weighs a ton. I adjust my head veil and cease all the dents. After feeling quite presentable, I step out of the car.
In front of me, lies a gigantic mansion, probably 5 stories high. It stood majestically on the ground. The four white pillars were solid and shining ivory. The walls are peach, and a wide staircase narrowing as we reach to the front doors. I carried my sling bag, too tired to get my luggage out just yet.
Seriously. These guys must be billionaires or something.
“Wow.” I said, trailing behind my parents as they lead the way.
The sky is sunny, bushes of flowers decorated around the manicured lawn and a beautiful fountain sat in the middle. I suddenly feel like Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
My parents flash a nervous smile at me and my dad reaches out and pushes the door bell.
A few seconds later, the large doors open. I inhale a deep breath and brace myself for whatever’s coming. A gentle-looking man, maybe in his late 50-s, with a wrinkled smile plastered on his face appeared at the door.
“Amelia!” he exclaimed, embracing my mom. She takes a hesitant step forward and hugs him back. My dad salam him. After a moment, my parents parted to let me come to his view like I was this guy’s Christmas present or something.
“Ah, my darling granddaughter,” he say, arms open wide.
I smiled wearily at him. Hell will fall over before I’m going to hug this guy.
“What an uncanny resemblance!” he exclaims again. Wow, okay, he kind of reminds me of Aro from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga movie.
Wait. Resemblance? What’s he talking about? My brows furrowed in confusion.
I glance at my parents for explanations. A panic look flash across my mom’s face. My dad becomes tense all of a sudden, but tried to maintain a calm composure. A failed attempt anyhow.
“Umm… resemblance?” I asked.
“Amber dear!” the old guy called over his shoulder. From behind him, a girl appeared.
I stood frozen for what seemed like decades. This can’t be happening.
She’s an exact reflection of myself. It was like standing in front of the mirror but the person in it was wearing a different outfit. She tilted her head and smiled warmly at me.
It’s like my doppelganger, my twin. Holy scarecrows.
“Mom, what is this?” I stepped back, feeling guarded, like this world had turned its back on me, breaking its promise to stay logic and realistic. “What’s going on? Who is she?” the questions were zooming around uncontrollably in my head and out of my mouth before I could rein them in.
“Honey, please, don’t hyperventilate. Let us explain, please”, my mom pleads, reaching out for my hand.
“I know this is confusing, darling. Please listen.” My dad smiled encouragingly.
He’s smiling? My dad’s smiling? What in God’s name?
I suddenly feel a longing for my home, my bed, my best friend, away from this madness.
Suddenly a figure appeared behind them. He was slightly taller than me, but that one thing that made my stomach flip inside out was that his face was also a resemblance to mine. Triplet. I had a triplet?
“What’s all the commotion?” the boy asked. His gaze fell on me and a smile appeared on his face. “Oh hey there.” He holds his hand out for a hand shake.
My heart was going to stop at the sight of him, I am freaking out and he was offering me a handshake?
“Unbelievable,” I say before darkness engulfs me in.
I stirred at the first hint of light. The voices were still going on.
“I thought we were going to break it down to her slowly!” someone snapped, I think it’s mom.
“Well, I’m sorry, Amelia. I thought she would have been told years ago.”
“Mom, Grandpa, calm down, you’ll wake her up”, a girl’s voice chimed in.
“Whoa, we could be the three musketeers now!” a boy exclaimed.
“Oh shut up, Adrian,” the girl replied.
“Poor dear, we must have scared the daylights out of her.”
Then I drifted away again.
I woke up fully after some time. My head felt awful. Feels like an elephant just trampled all over it. I sat up. My hair was chaotic, tumbling down my shoulders and knotted insanely. I’m pretty sure I looked like Medusa. I looked around, trying to take in where I was.
This room was gorgeous. It was bigger than our living room back home. The ceiling was undeniably high. Everything was peach and grand and pretty. The doors were twice my height. The bed post was of solid wood and beneath me was the fluffiest mattress I’ve ever landed my butt on.
I slide my legs down the bed and my feet got a moment of shock from the coolness of the marble floor. Above me was a chandelier made of crystals, so huge that the whole thing looks like a frozen hanging mermaid.
Okay, I have to calm down. Let’s clear something’s up.
Fact One: My mother’s parents aka my grandparents are still alive and well and apparently live on another continent, keeping their bloody existence a bloody secret for years.
Fact Two: They must be drug dealers or something. I mean can you look at the size of this place?
Fact Three: I just met a boy and a girl who looks absolutely identical to me and I have no clue about my relationship with them whatsoever.
Fact Four: My parents never told me crap about this.
Fact Five: I need Roti Canai or I will seriously combust.
This is a dream. It has to be. For the sake of everything good and holy, why is my life suddenly feels like someone else’s?
Suddenly a knock raps on the door. I stare at the it for a second before standing up and walking over to open the door.
I was expecting Mom or Dad or the dude who claimed to be my grandfather, but the door revealed the guy. Yes, The Guy. He’s standing exactly in front of me and I’m seeing him full on. Curious, I scrutinize his every feature. His face is like a masculine version of mine and I can feel shivers running up and down my spine like a marathon. How could this be?
“Hey,” the boy says, a secretive smile plays over corner of his lips. “Come on, follow me.”
“You’re kidding me right?” I ask, my legs refusing to oblige anyone’s orders except their owner’s.
The guy rolls his eyes in annoyance and grabs my arm. I jerk my hand back. “Touch me, and I will sucker punch your face.”
An amused look appears on his face. “Nice. And we thought you were a goody-two-shoes I-pray-five-times-a-day kinda girl.\\\"
I stare at him, still not letting my guard down.
“Hey, relax, I’m your brother.”
“Say what?” I sort of had the idea when I first met him but now that the fact has been confirmed, it feels surreal all of the sudden.
“Our family has a bunch of skeletons in the cupboards. Get the proverb,” he crosses his arms and leans against the wall.
“Wait, you’re not Muslim?”
“Nope,\\\" he says nonchalantly.
I draw in a deep breath but my words got stuck in my throat like they were suddenly the size of a Lamborghini.
“You need a second?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, I do,” my hand holds on to the wall for a second and I spell the word ‘Mississippi’ in slow motion.
After regaining my sanity, I turn towards him. “Aren’t you shaken by all this?”
“Aren’t you sad? My mom… Our mom hasn’t been with you since... so long. Don’t you feel… abandoned?”
“Look, Alliya,” he says, running his fingers through his dark hair. It feels weird to hear my name from his lips. “I’m not going to go all deep and meaningful about this. Sure, I was pissed off at first but that’s the past. You got to learn to let it go.”
“My past has been a lie all this time. So consider I don’t really have a past to let go of.”
He shrugs. “Fair enough. So you coming or what?”
“Where are we going?”
“To meet the others.”
Suddenly it feels like the ground disappeared and took my stomach with it.
He just smiled that secretive smile of his. “You might think that you just found your lost brother, but actually we’re the ones who found our lost sister.”
I feel a nausea slowly sinking in the pit of my stomach. Images of cats with huge litters of kittens whirl in my mind.
“You know, I think I need a Panadol.”
He shakes his head and chuckles softly. Our eyes met and I suddenly feel a connection with him. There was an odd feeling inside me and I still couldn\'t register all thi in. Is he really my brother? But before I could answer myself, he takes my hand in his like it was the most natural thing to do. And he leads me into the house, deeper into a secret that I never knew existed…