Pushing the Limits

By: Brooke Cumberland



After we finished eating, we’d rip our presents open from our parents and later on exchange the ones we made for each other. For the last few years, we’d talk Mom into letting us skip school for the day. She wouldn’t even bother arguing with us, knowing she’d eventually cave anyway. So when we woke up on our birthday five days ago, we’d done everything exactly the same.

We laughed all through breakfast. Mom was going on and on about how she couldn’t believe how grown up her baby girls were getting and how old that made her feel. Aaron was three years older than we were, but apparently, he was born out of wedlock and didn’t count in her aging process.

After we had finished eating, Mom handed us each a card and watched as we ripped them open. We both squealed when we saw the hundred-dollar bill tucked inside.

As we wrapped our arms around her, she lectured us. “Don’t spend it all in one place, girls!” We then begged her to take us to the mall so we could, of course, spend it on clothes and makeup.

“You’ll have to wait until your father gets back,” she said, piling the dishes into the sink. We ran upstairs and got dressed, setting our money down on the dresser and running back outside. It was warm for April, just a slight breeze in the air.

It was perfect.

I smile at the memory of our birthday traditions. It was something we’ve always shared. Should have shared forever.

She’d always tease me about how she was older, granted it was only by three minutes, but now the day would be pointless.

A painful reminder of what had happened.

Of what I lost.





CHAPTER ONE

ASPEN



Even after six years, I can still hear her voice in my head. Her giggles. Her silly jokes. The way she’d snort after hearing something funny.

I hear it all.

It used to keep me up at night. I’d wake up in cold sweats, heaving and panting as I painfully relived our childhood memories. I don’t mind the dreams as much anymore—anything to see or hear her again—but I could do without the anxiety attacks that come with them. They come without warning and wreak havoc in my entire life.

Losing my twin sister feels like a part of me of missing—as if my soul isn’t complete without her.

Feeling the overwhelming guilt and wishing you had been the one to die that day instead will not only get you an unhealthy dose of post-traumatic stress, but also more therapy than you can imagine. After standard therapy proved useless, the counselors then decided to go an unconventional route. But not just any therapy.

Art therapy.

When you refuse to talk about your feelings to your therapist for eight months, you get placed into something that doesn’t require any talking at all. This was fine by me and actually ended up being a blessing in disguise. It helped me find my passion for art and pointed me in the direction of finding a career in art history.

I think about Ari every day, more so when I’m in my studio, but she’s always on my mind no matter what. We were identical twins, but sometimes I think about what she’d look like now. We could still be a perfect match, but maybe she would’ve dyed her hair or shaved half of her head and streaked it purple. Maybe she would’ve needed glasses and braces, or perhaps she’d taken after my mom’s rebellious side and gotten a tattoo on our eighteen birthday.

Whatever she would’ve looked like, I know she would’ve been beautiful. Not just on the outside, but the inside, as well. Her soul was the most beautiful one I’d ever met.

“Are you going to order, ma’am?” A snippy voice in front of me interrupts my thoughts as I come to the realization I’d dazed out again. Kendall elbows me in the side, clearing my attention back to where I am now.

“Yes, sorry. I’ll take an Iced Caramel Latte, please. Grande.” She presses the buttons on her screen and tells me my total. I scan my phone and pay through my app.

“Your order will be ready at the handoff in a few moments,” she says to me in a robotic tone as she hands me my receipt.

“Thanks.”

Kendall follows me down as I wait for my drink on the other end. She’s playing with her phone now, and I look out the window and gaze at the cars driving by. Berkeley is a chilly sixty-two degrees today, which is normal for this time of year. Being only a forty-five-minute train ride to San Francisco is only one of the many perks of living here. Ari would’ve loved exploring the city and walking down Chinatown. She was always so adventurous.

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