From the outside, it seemed Kady and Cody Harker never got along.
Out on the curb in front of the house, Kady kicked at the mailbox. Cody picked grass.
“He never takes this long.” Kady kicked again.
Cody sniffed. “He always takes this long.”
“Probably drinking again.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Don’t defend him,” she snapped, crossing her arms. “He’s a drunk. I don’t even know how he managed to get the visitation he has.”
“Sounds like you don’t want to go.”
“It’s a fucking fair. What are we, toddlers?”
Cody shrugged, dusted his jeans, and stood. “Attitude and age don’t always correlate.”
“Which is why I’m the far wiser twin,” Kady said.
When their eyes met, both were smiling.
It’d started as a game to annoy their parents during long car trips. No simple “I’m not touching you” repetition was enough for the Harker twins. They’d argue about the color of passing cars, the numbers of trees they passed. As they grew older, the arguments grew more convoluted, unnecessary, and conniving. They’d argue about their adoptive father’s weakening sight, about their mother’s height, about who cleaned toilets best, about which holidays warranted deletion from the public record.
Their parents, their adoptive siblings, their teachers, their friends — no one liked hanging out with one twin if the other was in the room. They would conquer the conversation with some inside joke or overly enthusiastic debate about jelly beans.
“Why’s he just bringing us?” Kady complained, back to her kicking.
“Because we’re his favorites.”
A snort escaped Kady that scared a blue butterfly from the top of the mailbox. “If they had the option to send us back,” she joked, “they would have a long time ago.”
Cody grinned, swiping his hair from his eyes. “I wish they would’ve.”
Kady glanced over, brows high.
He faced forward, chin high. “Then I wouldn’t have to deal with you anymore.”
Both twins shared a mirrored laugh, knocking closed fists.
When the turquoise SUV finally rounded into the cul-de-sac, the twins had taken to lying in the front yard like dead animals. From the car, their father called, “Sorry. Late start.”
Cody lifted his head. “It’s already two.”
“Like I said,” Harold Harker replied, “late.”
The twins rolled their eyes and climbed into the car, debating about who deserved the shotgun seat and then, while pulling out of the neighborhood – Cody in front and Kady stuck in the back – arguing whether Harold didn’t set an alarm or didn’t want to go on the trip in the first place.
Unexpectedly, Harold wasn’t snapping at his children and didn’t smell of the usual morning screwdriver. Cody pointed it out first.
Kady pointed out the backwards route they were taking up north. Trees filled either side of the winding road, dimming the sunlight. “Isn’t the fair down in Greerson County?”
“He never said what fair we were going to,” Cody said.
She kicked the back of his chair before addressing her father. “Dad?”
Harold continued driving, silent.
“Is this one of those,” Cody put up air quotes, “‘surprise’ things?”
Kady slumped back with a groan. “I hate surprises.”
Cody turned with a rebuttal already leaving his lips.
But the car jerked to the left into oncoming traffic, hood catching the back of a truck, spinning the wrong direction. The twins slammed into their windows when the SUV finally tilted into the opposite tree-covered bank. They never wore seatbelts, another debate they always had with their parents.
Kady lay unconscious beneath the blood smeared back window.
Cody managed to hang on to sight, only to see his black-eyed father draw and raise a machete in his direction.