They shared the same mother and father, and were loved by their many sisters and brothers. They wore matching clothes and tiny pink shoes with purple laces. The elder loved Hello Kitty, the younger was terrified of cats, even big-eyed cartoon cats.
The younger cried the first time their mother stuffed her foot in the shoe. Her sister kissed her and said it would make her happy to wear it, since they must match. The younger sniffed and nodded and stopped trying to kick off the shoe.
As they grew older they no longer shared the same thoughts and wishes. The elder loved the sun and wind and rain. The younger squinted at the sun, cried when it rained and tugged at her sister to go back inside when the wind blew.
By the time they were five they hardly spoke to each other. Their mother still dressed them in matching outfits, fed them the same foods, and tied their matching shoes before sending them out to play. At night, they fought over the blankets and the stuffed animals that crowded their double crib.
The only thing that calmed the younger was when their mother sang a soft lullaby about a child who climbed the stars to touch the moon.
A few weeks short of their sixth birthday, the younger began to vomit up her meals. The following month, they took the girls to the doctor so he could see how one had shrunk away to practically nothing while the other grew each day.
After the examination, the doctor drew a deep breath before telling them that the younger was dying. “Failure to thrive,” he said happened often in such cases. He recommended separating the two in hope the elder would survive.
“But they have only two feet between them!” the mother cried.
“And only two arms!” the father added.
“But there are two hearts and two of all the other organs. You must separate them now. There is no other choice.”
The mother returned to the exam room and ran the back of her hand along the younger child’s cheek as she lay sleeping, her head lolled to one side.
The elder sighed and reached across their bodies and pulled her sister’s head back to rest on their common shoulder. “It hurts when she pulls away, mama.”
“Yes baby, I know,” the mother told the elder and knew she must lose the one to save the other.