Authors: Julia DeVillers
I bet Emma was sorry I'd saved her a seat. The combination of my stink from the water and the usual stink of the late bus seemed to be overpowering her.
She was leaning as far away from me as she could and still remain on the same bus seat. And she looked kind of sick.
“I'll take a shower as soon as I get home,” I told Emma.
“Don't worry about it. I'm almost used to it,” Emma said.
“You look like you're going to puke,” I told her. “But don't. I don't think we could handle the smell of puke added to this situation.”
“I'm not going to puke.” Emma sighed. “I'm just feeling nauseated about my mathletes session.”
Emma told me about what happened in mathletes. Ouch.
The bus pulled away from the school. I watched the trees and houses whiz by. Emma didn't say anything for a while.
Neither did I. And then Emma's cell phone rang. She looked surprised. Most of Emma's calls came from me.
“Hello?” Emma said stiffly. “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Certainly. Good-bye.” She clicked off.
“Who was that?” I asked her. “Someone trying to sell you something?”
“That was Quinn,” Emma said, opening her backpack and pulling out her school planner.
“Quinn?” I asked. “You talked to her like that?”
“Like what?” Emma asked, writing something in her planner.
“I don't know, like a robot,” I said. “Hello. This. Is. Emma. Your. Robot. Friend. It didn't sound like you were talking to someone you even knew.”
My twin looked at me. Her face was turning pink. She started chewing on her hair. Oops. I had upset her.
“Quinn asked me to go over to her house sometime soon to see her new laptop,” Emma said. “I said yes.”
“Actually you said âcertainly,'” I said.
“Were my social skills lacking?” Emma asked me quietly.
“Um, kind of,” I said. I felt a little bad for Emma. Quinn was her first real friend who seemed to like her for something other than being a brainiac. Or who wasn't trying to get Emma to help with homework. Emma and Quinn had bonded during our twin switch, and afterward Quinn had stopped hanging out with Sydney and Cashmere so much. Quinn seemed nice. I'd hate for Emma to screw it up so fast.
“Give me your phone,” I said to Emma.
“What? Use your own,” Emma said.
“No,” I said, and grabbed Emma's phone. “This call needs to be from your number.”
I ignored Emma's protests as I turned her phone on and pressed “Quinn.” I heard Quinn's phone ring.
“Hey, it's Emma,” I said.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my twin's mouth drop open and her face went all like,
What are you doing?
I put my finger over my lips.
“Hey, Emma,” Quinn said to me.
“Before, when you called?” I said. “I couldn't really talk. Sorry for being soâ”
“Abrupt,” Emma said, leaning in close to me and finishing my sentence.
I'd been planning to say “lame,” but “abrupt” was more Emmaish.
“Abrupt,” I repeated. “I can't wait to see your new laptop.”
“Cool!” Quinn said. “I have to show you these YouTube videos. They're hilarious.”
“Cool!” I said. “Okay, see you.”
Quinn said bye and I hung up the phone.
“Payton, you just pretended to be me,” Emma said. “Without my permission.”
“I was just helping,” I said. “You sounded like you were trying to blow her off, so I fixed it. It's no big deal. You just
need a little more coaching so you don't destroy your social life.”
“Okay, okay,” Emma said. “But we're not supposed to pretend to be each other. Especially over something minor.”
The bus slowed and pulled over to our stop. My twin sister and I stood up and moved into the aisle.
“Well, I may have to cancel Quinn, anyway,” Emma turned to tell me, before stepping down and off the bus. I got off right behind her. “We're grounded.”
“Oh, ugh,” I said. “I forgot about the grounding. We need to convince Mom and Dad it's time to unground.”
And as we walked down our street and up our driveway, we talked fast. By the time we reached our house, we had a plan.
Emma and I were on our best behavior when we got home. We did our homework. I didn't throw my book bag on the floor. That makes my mom crazy. Emma didn't reorganize the mail, which drove my mom crazy.
We even set the table without my mother asking.
“Yum, this chicken is delicious!” I said to my mom.
“You roasted it to perfection,” Emma said. “Although if you set the heat a few degrees higher it might help the texture a bit.”
I shot her a look.
“But it's delicious!” Emma added.
“Girls, how was school?” my mother asked.
Emma and I looked at each other.
“You didn't switch places again, I hope,” my father said, looking at each of us sternly.
“No!” I said.
“Of course not!” Emma said.
We didn'tâcouldn'tâlook at each other. We weren't lying to my father. Technically. After school, we'd hung out in our room formulating our plan for “ungrounding.” And we decided that we had kept our promise to not switch places.
When Emma took my newspaper photo, I stayed Payton. Therefore, we did not “switch.” Emma just substituted. Later, when I called Quinn as “Emma,” Emma was still Emma. Again, no switch.
We all ate our chicken and potatoes and peas. Mom worked at home as a writer and researcher and was very serious about her family-eats-dinner-together time. She said it helped a happy family stay together or something.
“School was actually great,” I said. “Emma helped me when my locker was stuck!”
“And Payton saved a seat for me on the bus!” Emma added.
“And I think I'm going to do well on my next math test. Thanks to Emma's helping me study after school,” I said.
“It was my pleasure,” Emma said. “And Payton was very helpful to me after school, too. With . . .”
Come on, Emma. Remember your line.
“With my homework!” Emma finished.
What? There was no way I helped her with her homework! We'd rehearsed this! How can Emma remember long
math problems but not her line? My parents looked at us suspiciously.
“Payton helped you with your homework?” my mother asked.
“Uh, well . . .,” Emma said, trying to recover. But it was hopeless.
“So, spit it out. Where are you going with this happy-sister act?” Dad asked.
“Well, there's an educational activity I would like to go to,” Emma admitted. “It would give me new technology skills and enhance my social networking opportunities.”
“But Emma can't go,” I said. “We're grounded.”
“Right,” Emma said. “So I guess that means I can't go.”
Emma sneaked a look at my parents. They continued eating.
“So,” I repeated. “I guess that means Emma can't go.”
obvious,” my dad said. “Emma, just ask.”
“Okay. May I please go over to Quinn's house?” Emma asked.
“What is the educational aspect you were talking about?” my mother asked.
“She wants to show me some computer technology,” Emma said. “Oh, okay. That's just YouTube videos. She just wants me to come for a social visit.”
“But really there's an educational part about it,” I said. “Emma needs to learn how to have friends.”
“I am glad you're making new friends, Emma,” my mom said. “But we take grounding very seriously.”
“We do too,” I told my mother. “But Emma is already enough of a social freak. She needs to hang out with someone who actually invited her to their house!”
“Isn't that a little harsh?” Emma sputtered.
“Well,” my dad said. “I can't remember the last time Emma was invited to someone's house. Wait, does this girl want to copy your homework, Em? You need to be cautious.”
“Okay! Forget I asked!” Emma said. “Just because I have valued my academics over social activities in the pastâand continue to do soâdoes not mean the word âfreak' should be involved.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn't mean freak. What's the word I was looking for? Weirdo? Oddball? Loser?” None of them sounded right. . . .
Emma put her head in her hands.
“Enough about poor Emma,” my mom said. “I think it's a good idea. Plus, we got an e-mail from Counselor Case today that you both are doing splendidly on your school service jobs.”
She looked at my father. He nodded.
“I think we can consider a break from the grounding,” my mom said. “But to be really fair, Payton should probably be allowed to go somewhere, too.”
“Friday night is teen night at the skating rink,” I suggested.
“I was thinking more along the lines of a study session with a friend at the library,” my mother said.
“Or, I could call Tess and we could work on our English paper at the library,” I said quickly.
My parents both smiled.
“If you continue to do well, we can discuss ending the punishment period altogether,” my mom said.
Yes! Emma and I high-fived across the table.
“I believe you girls are learning your lesson,” my father said. “And working as a team.”
“We are!” I said. “Identical twins together! Team Emma and Payton! Pemma! Emton! Go, twins!”
Everyone was looking at me. I was getting carried away, wasn't I? I shut up and sat back down.
“Go, Geckos,” Emma whispered to me. We cracked up.
AT THE LOCKERS
Last class of the day. Formal academics was done, and now I could use my time more wisely with some choice reading of the classics and more advanced math practice on my own.
I walked down the hall and saw Payton with her head in her locker. I walked up behind her and positioned myself at the perfect angle for my reflection to be in her fuzzy pink locker mirror.
“Ahhhh!” Payton screamed. She whipped her head around. “Emma! You know you freak me out when you do that. It's like I see two me's.”
“I know,” I said. “I'm working on my freaking-out-other-people skills. I am determined to never be in the situation I found myself in at mathletes yesterday.”
“Could you please practice your freaking out on people who deserve it?” Payton asked me. “Now that you actually
brush your hair, your reflection and mine are too much alike.”
“We do look more alike than ever,” I mused. “I have to say I was great as you getting your picture taken. Seriously, you should have seen the look on Sydney's face when she saw meâI mean,
âwalk in perfectly dry and composed.”
“Keep it down.” Payton looked around. Although the hall was pretty empty, you could never be too careful.
“Then, when the photographer went to take my headshot and I suggested tilting my head at a twenty-three degree angle instead of a thirty-degree so the light would reflect off my shiny hairâ” I continued. “It was brilliant.”
?” Payton pulled her head out of her locker. “Yeesh, Emma. Couldn't you just smile?”
“Well,” I huffed. “Talk about ungrateful. You'll thank me when your headshot comes back highlighted perfectly.”
Payton sighed and pulled out some lip gloss, but then looked at it in disgust.
“Oh, why bother,” she groaned. “I'm just going to Drama where I'll be stuck in the basement anyway. I'll probably get some more muddy water dumped on my head.”
“Besides, that color is last season,” I informed her. “Now that we're heading toward winter, a darker rose is in.”
Payton looked at me.
What? Just because I wasn't with Sydney clones didn't mean I shouldn't keep up with the fashion magazines. For sociological-research purposes, that is.
“Drama Club is so depressing,” Payton said. “I had to
listen to everyone all happy practicing their lines for the tryouts.”
“When are tryouts?” I asked her. “Maybe you'll be done with your school service by then.”
“They're today,” Payton said sadly. “Today.”
“Oh,” I said. “Well, perhaps I could pretend to be you once again. One Payton could be cleaning the basement. And the other Payton could be auditioning.”
“Yeah, except Mrs. Burkle knows I'm supposed to be in the basement and not auditioning,” I said. “Duh.”
“I know,” I said. “Too bad there wasn't a parallel universe. Then you could be performing your school service and trying out at the same time.”
“You're in your EinsteinEmma zone,” Payton said. “Which means I have no idea what you're talking about.”
“On the other hand,” I continued, “I wish there were no Emmas in my parallel universe this afternoon. Then I could be skipping
I had my first real tutoring session with the boys today after school.
“What?” I asked her.
“It's so funny how Jason answered the question for you in mathletes.” Payton grinned. “And how Mason said ânumber two.' Hah!”
should not have told her that story.
“Your concept of humor is disturbing,” I said. “And also
disturbing is that today I'm tutoring twin horrors who apparently have no shame about humiliating me.”
“They're little kids,” Payton said. “Not monsters.”
“Speaking of monsters, did I tell you about the green tail?” I asked her.
“Um, no,” Payton said.
“I swear I saw a green tail come out of one of their shirtsleeves.” I shuddered. I had a nightmare last night about twin giant green monsters attacking me with their tails.