"Tammy and Sammy", far more than "Thin Red Lines", is the short story that I've written and of which I am most proud. I'm going to write up "Tammy and Sammy" in two parts, one posted today (I switched over my clocks for daylight-savings time already, so to me it's Sunday) and the other posted Monday, though part I is a lot longer than part II. Unlike "Thin Red Lines" which drew heavily from true events, the only "truth" behind this story is that the friendship between the two sisters is based off of mine with my sister. Beyond that, entirely fiction! Enjoy part I of the story I wrote at the beginning of this school year:
"Tammy and Sammy"
She clutches onto the rail of the overpass, letting her legs swing lazily above the few cars below. The sun is rising out over the river; she didn't sleep at all last night. That new, bright, orange, morning sun burns her eyes and she knows the early morning traffic would pick up shortly. Her place of peace will soon be disturbed. She needs a place to think, to straighten everything out in her never-resting, always running mind.
Her phone buzzes: four missed calls, all from her mom. Hm, she must have not heard her phone on vibrate in her backpack. The voicemail on her phone is probably from her mom, and she knows she shouldn't ignore it.
"Tammy, it's your mom," her mom says. "Please, honey, you know I don't mind if you decide to sleep over at a friend's house after school, but at least text me so I know where you are. This isn't like you darling, and I don't want you by yourself at this hour, no matter how mature you think you are! Honey, please, don't...don't do this to me, don't shut me out. We'll talk when you get home. At least get back before school starts, I don't want you going to school with no lunch. I love you."
She doesn't want to go home, at least not right now. Tammy hasn't slept well in six months; it has become a job. Lying in bed, she would focus on every muscle in her body and relax them, one by one. But her brain, her irritating brain, never relaxes for a night. It keeps thinking, asking her questions, demanding answers that she did not have. Thus sleep is a burden.
At the end of the overpass is a bike trail that is almost always deserted. The gravel of the trail crunches so nicely under her Converse shoes, complementing the silence that the trees offer from the noisy highway. Looking at her watch, Tammy knows she should be heading home in about an hour or so to talk to her mom. She hates what she is doing to her, what this is doing to her, but she can’t help that she isn’t as talkative as before and doesn’t believe in therapy. This will be dealt with in her own way on her own time, not on the time of a shrink or school councilor.
Their bench is up ahead and Tammy feels her heart beat a bit faster. Its cool wood comforts her in a strange way, one she cannot place, but Sammy would have understood. Tammy sits on the bench, the morning condensation slightly dampening her thin sweatpants. She is so tired and her eyelids beg her to give up and close. But she can’t.
“Maybe that’s why I cannot sleep,” Tammy thinks. “The inside of my eyelids are too dark, too empty, too…nothing.”
Sammy hated the dark, Tammy remembers, probably more than the average fifteen year old should. Most children at some point fear those unknown shadows that bounce off their lamps in the most menacing ways, that unnamed monster that most definitely lives under their beds and is in cahoots with the other one in their closets. Yet a teenage girl should not still be climbing into her older sister’s bed at two in the morning. Tammy hadn’t mind most of the time, since she has a queen size bed, nor would she ever admit to herself that she was an enabler.
Tammy and Sammy were only two years apart and, for much of their young life, they looked like twins and endured their mom’s obsession with matching rainbow sweaters and paisley dresses. Their dad said that Tammy was protective of Sammy from the moment she came home from the hospital. She would interpret Sammy’s baby gibberish to their parents. They played “house” for hours, Tammy being the mother and Sammy being the daughter, or girl and dog respectively if they were reenacting scenes from the musical, Annie. Tea parties were frequent on their grandparent’s back patio when they visited.
As they grew older, pretend shopping turned into real trips to the mall, painting each other’s nails—even if Tammy’s hands were a bit shaky—and slumber parties with friends usually were combined. People thought they were strange, Tammy and Sammy, but being best friends was far more important to them than worrying that they didn’t fit into that standard, “sibling rivalry” model.
Being in different schools once Tammy got to high school was difficult, so Sammy’s freshman year was a great source of joy for the two sisters. Tammy was an upperclassman by then and wasn’t too concerned about potential taunting her sister could endure in high school. Sammy—as sweet and as caring as anyone could be—was naïve to a fault and far too trusting of others. Everyone has an awkward phase, but Sammy’s confidence overshadowed it and she was blessed with many friends in middle school.
Sammy, who wanted to be just like her big sister, went to the public school and not the private school where all her friends chose to go. Knowing her sister was such a great person, Tammy worried little about her sister’s survival in high school and decided to give Sammy the space she needed to conquer the world on her own. Things were great the first couple months of her freshman year and the two sisters, while still best friends, learned to grow separately.
Tammy thought this day would never come; her sister had always been clingy, obnoxiously at times. She was relieved in a way, but couldn’t help feeling bad for wanting her own space. Being seventeen and trying to figure out who she was was difficult enough; she had no time to help Sammy figure out her identity.
Shifting slightly, Tammy remembers how their trips here declined in high school. She pulls the straps of her hooded sweatshirt tighter to block the cool October breeze that scatters the fallen leaves. The action is out of habit rather than need; Tammy has felt little in the past twenty-four hours. The only thing she feels is this sensation that coats her arms, legs, chest, and brain in powerful warmth that is unexplainable. It’s intoxicating, and the only thing fueling her body right now. She knows she feels something, but cannot place the emotion or perhaps refuses to search for its location.
Breathing slowly through her nose, Tammy stares at the carving on the tree near her that reads T+S=BFFF—Tammy plus Sammy equal best friends forever—and neither smiles nor frowns, just looks. It doesn’t change or move and the tree doesn’t start talking like in the Disney movie, Pocahontas, but it gives her something to do that doesn’t involve going home just yet or having to close her eyes.
Sammy really only had one friend, another transfer freshman named Victoria, but their close bond was satisfying enough for the young girl. They were inseparable, that is, until the beginning of second semester.
Sammy had a huge crush on a guy who sat in front of her in her and Victoria’s American Lit. class who, coincidentally, had gone to the same private middle school as Victoria; sometimes, she would rush to Tammy’s table during lunch just to say he smiled at her, to which Tammy smiled knowingly. Also being a private-to-public-school kid gave them something talk about and soon, he asked her out to the movies. Victoria had dated this boy in middle school and he had dumped her, but Sammy had no knowledge of the situation. So when the boy finally got the hints that Sammy was dropping and asked her out, Victoria was less than pleased.
Never being good at reading people or social situations, Sammy remained oblivious to Victoria’s obsessive behavior. Sammy would have to call Victoria at all hours of the day and, frequently, Victoria would become jealous if Sammy was talking to other classmates than her. The two sisters would discuss the situation, but Tammy, enjoying her new-found freedom from being her sister’s constant babysitter, assured Sammy that many freshmen acted this way and it would pass. Sure, Tammy only half-believed what she was saying to her sister, but young teens bickered constantly, right?
The date of the movie with the boy came and went; he never showed. Sammy was obviously devastated, never letting herself consider the fact that it may have been Victoria that scared him off. That following Monday in school marked the beginning of the worst three months of young Sammy’s life. Everywhere she went, Victoria ensured her life was made a living hell. She was well liked by her classmates and Sammy, who had instantly clung on to Victoria at the beginning of the year, was exiled from her entire grade.
Tammy had no knowledge of the gravity of situation, but knew something was up when her sister started to leave her door only ajar at night; Sammy enjoyed the light in the hallway that penetrated the blackness of her room. She would knock at her best friend’s door, and ask her sister if she was alright. Ever-grinning and smiley Sammy refused to let it show what was going on during school. Her sister was blossoming and was heavily involved with theater by the end of her junior year; Sammy took it upon herself never to be a burden to her sister in high school.
Tammy knows she should, but can she? Can she feel guilty for what has happened? Her foot brushes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, across the wet leaves under the bench. She ponders her lack of remorse and why she isn’t feeling how a normal person should in a situation like this. Pondering normality makes Tammy smile; Sammy always assured her of her sanity, even when it was lacking. If the two ever did something weird or stupid, Sammy would say,
“It’s okay, we’re sisters!”
She knows she should feel uncomfortable right now, uneasy, but she can’t bring herself to feel it. But should she, and more importantly, can she? The wind is a bit colder than before, biting forcefully at her cheeks.
There you go! Look for part II some time Monday!