Their names were Ai and Fujiko, and most people thought they were sisters. They did look alike, and they spent most of their time together, smiling at the world as if it were all thier private joke.
The first time she saw her she shivered in the back of her throat. It was like looking into a mirror. She'd always hated mirrors. She'd avoided their gaze, ashamed to look at herself, fearful for her sanity. She'd told herself it was silly, it was stupid, that the way she felt was unimportant, that she had no right to be unhappy. The last year of junior high she had forced herself to look in the mirror every night and practice a perfect smile, and she'd learned to put on her makeup with her eyes closed.
Glamour queen, barbie-doll, elegant lady. She knew what her future would be. She would, she told herself, be well fed and clothed and taken care of. People all over the world would trade places with her. Still, something inside her tugged at her, wished she could take a trade like that, be anyone else but who she was fated to be.
The first time she smiled back it made her sick.
Their names were Ai and Fujiko, and nobody knew more than that. They were like butterflies, brightening the day of anyone nearby, but following a pattern belonging to them alone. It was a complicated dance.
The first time she smiled it made her sick. She had been watching her for days, and knew that she was being watched back. The princess and the pauper, it felt like. She wasn't poor, but she had never had the knack of making friends.
Still, there was something so horribly brittle in that gaze, and so the next time she walked up and said hello and invited her to lunch. It surprised her that her invitation was accepted, but not very much; it surpirsed her not at all when the various taggers-on were casually dismissed so they could have some privacy.
It was like looking in a mirror and seeing her own nightmares reflected. Be careful what you wish for; you might get it. She was as understanding and kindly and honest as she knew how, and it hurt to be, but something told her she had to, just this once. So she was honest, and by the end of lunch, she knew they fit, even if the princess hadn't seen it yet. The lunch date was made permanent.
Their names were Ai and Fujiko, and that was as much difference as most people saw between them. That was silly. If they had been the same they would never have fit together so well. Puzzle pieces were never the same shape. Their bodies were the same shape, and they didn't quite fit together, but pressed against each other at night they knew their dreams did, and that was enough.
She gave her honest caring, and got back courage. She taught her how to put on lipstick and was taught how to throw a frisbee. Soon there were two queens, but no longer any glamour-queens; they ruled by force of personality, and there was a certain vibrancy to both of them that had been lacking. One was charismatic, one was strong; one was expansive and one practical, but it was no longer clear which was which.
She wondered how they'd ever managed, apart, and she realized they hadn't. One had hidden in her books and the other in her mindless admirirers, one had practiced her perfect smile and the other her disinterested sulk, one had learned to put on makeup without looking and the other how to wear her hair in front of her eyes.
They got identical haircuts, and they put on the same shade of lipstick, and this time their smiles were identical because there was the same kind of happiness in each.
Their names were Ai and Fujiko, and they were the perfect society ladies, although it was never quite clear what society. They seemed to have everything they wanted, and were more than happy to share.
They had been together almost a year when they realized that they'd never kissed, and they tried it. It felt good, but not necessary, not in the same way that it felt necessary to wind their fingers together when they were walking. Sex felt good too they found, but a little alien. Whatever they had, they decided it wasn't love. If there was a category stronger than firendship but weaker than love, they didn't know the name for it.
They brought out the best in each other.
They decided, then, that they would never let any man tear them apart. They swore that any man they looked at had to like them both, or they wouldn't look twice. They went out with a few, but each time the man dumped whichever of them had snared him when they insisted they could never break dates with each other for the sake of dates with him. They began to despair of finding husbands, but tht was alright, they thought. They didn't need husbands. Wasn't it better to be single and have each other than to have husbands and have to be apart?
Their names were Ai and Fujiko, and they were as happy as they felt it was possible to be. It shone from their faces, and people found themselves smiling back.
The people who saw them at graduation - grinning identical grins, arm-in-arm, trying out every kind of cake - would never have recognized the painted doll and the grim-faced child of three years ago.
They didn't have any plans for the future, but that was alright. They found an apartment together, using her parent's slightly begrudging money, and found jobs at a department store, working odd hours, and spent their days downtown, soaking up the sunshine and the company and everything that life could give them. They bought the best clothes, ate at the best restaurants, turned the heads of eligible young men. And they bided their time. Time they had plenty of.
The world was theirs, after all. Between the two of them, they could do anything.
Their names were Ai and Fujiko, and the first time Shigetoshi saw them, he couldn't decide which one he thought was more beautiful. He went up to them and said so, and asked if either of them had a boyfriend already.
They looked at each other, and laughed as if at a private joke. No, they told him. Neither of us. Why don't you take us both to lunch and we'll see?