Her pain sits there on her shoulders. Like a putrescent, bloated thing. Weighing her down, making it difficult to lift her head. I can see it. Her work area is sparse and uncluttered and neat. Her work is frantic and chaotic but it works. It always works.
I can see the top of her brunette head from over here in my cubicle. She is so still. You wouldn’t know that anything was going on in her soul, just by looking at her. Her mind a whirlwind of screaming and despair and thoughts like razors.
How do I know this? She is my twin. But she does not look like me. At all. She is tall and thin and pale and delicate. I am small and muscled and tanned and blonde. She never smiles. I am known for my sunny disposition. Are we related? No. Our ancestors are not even from the same continent. She is my twin because she has the other half of my soul, and I have half of hers. Silly, yes. But I can think of no other explanation. I know her so well, as if I was inside her head. I can hear her thinking sometimes. If she lifted her eyes up at any point in a conversation with me, she would know me as well. But she never does. She looks at your shoulder, your hands, the floor in front of her feet, or, if she is feeling daring, your lips.
Long ago, when she was young, she did something very bad. This guilt covers her like ash. Makes her grey inside. Later she did something so good for someone else, that she is now always in pain. But she doesn’t think that this pain makes up for the bad thing she did. I keep trying to speak to her, to get her to look into my eyes. I want her to know that she’s not a bad person, she is just human. Show me one person who has nothing to regret in their life? Their entire life? Can you be sure?
Sometimes when it’s raining outside, we sit here in our cubicles at lunch time. Sometimes she works. Mostly, she just sits there at her desk, staring at something so far away I can’t even imagine what it is.
Today, she is staring. It is dark and wet and wild outside. A real winters day.
Today I am going to speak with her. The rain makes me brave.
My heart is thumping as I stand up, coffee cup in my hand, and try to stroll over nonchalantly. I get to the opening of her cubicle and pause, pretending to look in my coffeecup at something. Her head lifts slightly and she turns it a little to look at my shoes. She is very pale today.
“Join me for a cuppa, Bailey?” I squeak. Clear my throat.
She winces when I say her name. I can see she is about to shake her head. But today, something is different. She seems to be holding her breath as she nods slowly. Her hand shaking, she grabs her big yellow mug with the rediculous smiley face on it. She pushes back her chair and stands slowly. Like a piece of origami unfolding. She stands straight and towers over me.
I can see Green and Beatman out of the corner of my eye. Their mouths are agape.
Bailey slowly raises her eyes and looks at my lips.
“Shall we?” I ask and turn towards the staff kitchen. She doesn’t look me in the eyes, but that’s alright, because I can see something else.
Bailey is smiling.