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My eyes fly open as I remember that today is my birthday- our
birthday. Or more precisely, our 11th birthday.
I lie in bed, wondering what Julia and I would get, or more importantly, would mum and dad be buying us matching presents again?
I mean, Julia had made it perfectly clear that she hated dressing in matching outfits and didn't like doing twins-y stuff anymore.
I was always the one who liked doing corresponding outfits and hair and just general twin stuff. Julia thought it was 'stupid'.
I hear Julia wake in the bed next to me.
"Happy birthday, Tess," Julia says.
"Happy birthday, Jules."
"Present time!" She squeals and runs out the door, her reddy-brown hair streaming out behind her.
At least our birthday ritual hadn't changed.
Mum and Dad were already up. I slide into my seat and tuck into my blueberry pancakes.
"Can we have our presents now?" Julia says and tugs at the bottom of mum's shirt.
"Not yet, darling," Mum says and hands her a plate of pancakes, "Eat your breakfast first."
Julia and I gulp down our pancakes and before long, we're bugging our parents for our presents.
Next thing I know, I have a medium sized box in my hands wrapped in shimmery gold paper but something is wrong.
Something is very wrong: Julia isn't holding anything at all.
"Why doesn't Julia have anything?" I say, I already have a sinking feeling in my stomach.
"Open your present," Julia squeals excitedly. Tentatively, I peel away at the sticky tape. The familiar bubble of excitement swells to mask the slight fear. My present turns out to be a Wii.
"Thanks Mum. Thanks Dad," I say, even though I didn't really want a Wii, it was just Julia, "Now where's Julia's present."
Mum and Dad exchanged glances that made my tummy turn to sludge.
"It's this way," Dad says and leads us up the staircase and flings open the study door.
I expect to see another gold sparkly package but the room is bare. I mean, literally, bare. The desk and computer hare disappeared, and boxes of random junk have left a dusty print on the floor boards. The ugly painting of a chicken that was a present from Aunt Helen has disappeared.
Julia squeals, again, and claps her hands. She leaps into the naked room and dances around. Mum and Dad are beaming like all their wishes have come true. They step into the room, leaving me standing alone and confused at the door.
"I don't get it. Where's Julia present?" I ask, backing slightly away from the door. I suddenly have a feeling that I know what her present is but I don't want to accept it.
"This is her present!" Dad exclaims and throws his arms into the air.
"A room..." I trail off, my brain rejecting completely what was happening.
'Not just any room!" Julia yells, "My own bedroom!" She flings her arms around me and pulls me in for a hug but I feel like I am suffocating.
I shoved her away and ignore the confused look on her face.
"What?" I say, my voice completely flat and devoid or any emotion. Mum sends Dad a glance with meaning.
I ran out of the room before they can say anything.
I blinked the sleep from my eyes and sat up just as Rose came out of the bathroom. Her eyes were red and her face was all puffy.
Wait a second-why was she in the Ravenclaw rooms?
Oh, I remember: she'd slept over last night.
"You ok?" I asked softly. She shook her head. "You want to talk about it?" She shook her head and walked out of the room.
Her hunched shoulders and blotched face is such as shock to me. Where had strong confident Rose gone? Where had I-don't-give-a-shit-about-anything Rose gone?
I changed quickly and left the dorms to find her and make sure she was ok.
I was climbing out the portrait when James grabbed my arm.
"Hey," he said and grinned.
"Um, James, this really isn't a good time," I babbled, "Can we talk later? I have to find Rose." I tugged my arm out of his grip without even waiting for an answer.
As I briskly walked down the halls, I realised that I didn't even know where to start with finding Rose.
The Great Hall for breakfast?
The library to study?
The boys Hufflepuff rooms for an early morning snog?
I racked my brains until I eventually decided to check the library. As I stepped in, an old greying librarian gave me a glare that said it all. I flashed her one of most angelic smiles and continued on my quest.
I found Rose sitting at a desk with a thick book in front of her but she was staring out the window.
"Hey," I said tentatively.
"Hey," she said and gave me a shaky smile.
"Skipping breakfast, are we?" I said and took plopped into the seat next to her.
"Not hungry," she said and turned to look out the window again.
"What's wrong?" I asked gently. Rose continued gazing out the window. Below, students milled around in the early morning air.
"You wouldn't understand," she mumbled.
I watch Caroline's fake grin slowly fade as I tell her my story. I hate myself for speaking to her but what can a girl do? In my defence, she was good.
I finish and stare her in the eyes, continuing with my I-don't-give-a-fuck demeanour.
"Is that all?" She asks politely although I can tell she's desperately trying to cover up horror and whatever other emotions she's really feeling.
I shrug in response and then she lets out her breath that she's been holding.
"Well, it certainly seems that you've been through a lot," she says, her voice swiftly changing back into business mode.
Suddenly, I feel the prickle of tears behind my eye lids. Oh Merlin, not now. Please not now.
I bite the inside of my cheek until I feel the metallic taste of blood. Horrified, I unclench my jaw and try to get rid of the taste.
"Sure," I say when I finally feel like I'm not liable to breaking down and crying.
Abruptly, Caroline puts down her notepad, takes of her glasses and leans forward in her seat. She rubs her forehead and sighs loudly.
"I know how you feel," she says and I inwardly sigh. How many times had I heard that line? Caroline absolutely did not know how I felt.
"Or at least I have a fair idea," she says and I get ready to zone out, "I must have hundreds of girls come to me and they act strong like they don't need help and they have the whole blas? attitude but sometimes they really want to be here and want to be happy and carefree again. These girls who want to be here are the ones who usually are successful in changing."
"Are you telling me that there's no point of me being here?" I ask and raise my eyebrow, "Don't say I didn't warn you."
"I'm not saying that all, Tessa," she says and puts her glasses back on, "I'm trying to say that if you want things to change then you have to put in the effort. It's not going to be easy by any measure and there are going to be days when you just want to give up but with your time and effort, things can get better."
I look out the window and pretend to be disinterested by what she's saying but, honestly, I'm somewhat interested.
"Basically, Tessa, I'm trying to say that you've got to want to change and there's nothing I can do if you don't."
Her last sentence hits me like a punch the stomach.
She thinks that I want
to be like this?
She thinks that I have a choice
She thinks that I don't
want everything to go back to the way it was before?
The truth was that things couldn't ever be ok again. Julia and my father couldn't come back from the dead and it would always be my fault.
I would never be able to ever show my face in school again and I would never be able to look my mother in the eyes again without her look desperate and upset.
Nothing could take away the fact that I let everyone down including myself and that I basically killed everything that meant anything to me.
"So sometimes I just can't stop worrying and it keeps me up and I worry about everything. Like, am I going to past that exam tomorrow or does Luke still like me or when is James finally going to grow up?" Rose said, tears streaming down her face, "Nobody else worries about things like that and nobody ever lost countless hours of sleep over it."
"Oh, Rose," I said and gave her a hug. We're silent for a while but there are literally hundreds of questions flying around in my head.
"Mum and Dad just shake it off and I can't bear telling anyone," she says and stars crying again, "Please don't tell anyone."
"I won't," I whisper.
I hated seeing her like that. I'd come to think of her as my best friend and I just wanted to take away all her pain and suffering because I know what it's like to feel so upset and angry that you almost can't function properly without feeling like you were going to pass out.
Rose eventually stopped crying and stared out the window again. I knew she's avoiding to look at me because she was scared about what I thought about her.
"I know it's stupid..." Rose said.
"No!" I exclaimed, "It's not stupid at all. Quite the opposite in fact."
"It's part of the reason that I'm always dead tired," she said and closed her eyes.
"How are you and Luke going?" I asked. It had been 2 weeks since ninja-ing with James. Rose's face lit up.
"It's great," she said and you almost hear her heart smiling, "I just wish James, Louis and Fred would back off."
"I could have a word with them?" I suggested.
"Sorry, Tessa, but I don't think you'll have much effect on them," she smiled apologetically.
"I could always try," I offered, slightly hurt that she thought they wouldn't listen to me.
"I guess, if you want to," Rose shrugged, "Now how about breakfast?"
"How's my favourite ninja?" James said as he, Louis and Fred joined me under a tree. It was a beautiful day and it was unseasonably warm so I had decided that I would do my homework outside for once.
"Not, bad," I said as I finished the paragraph of my Potions essay, "How about you boys?"
"Today, is a good day," Fred announced as the boys plonked themselves next to me.
"And why is that, Freddie?" I asked as I started to write the next paragraph.
"It's the Quidditch tryouts!" He announced triumphantly.
"Oh...uh, good for you," I said, not sure if he was waiting for a bunch of flowers and celebratory champagne or what.
"You don't sound very enthusiastic," Louis said and ran his hand through his hair.
"I'm not that in to Quidditch," I shrugged.
"Not that it to Quidditch?!" James feigned horror, "NOT THAT IN TO QUIDDITCH?!"
"Did I just commit a criminal offense or something?" I said, getting slightly annoyed at the boys for interrupting my homework session.
"Yes," James said in all seriousness. I sighed again. The boys started discussing Quidditch plays that sounded like complete gobbledegook.
Eventually, their conversation died down and then completely stopped. I was enjoying the sun and oddly, their presence wasn't annoying or distracting. It felt comfortable.