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Words by Keith A. Raymond
“Okay Cassie, give us a kiss. Time for bed!” her mother yelled as she walked upstairs carrying Cassandra’s nightly (doll sized) cup of hot cocoa.
Cassie was staring up through her frosted window at the two stars so close together that they sometimes appeared as one when she crossed her eyes. The six year old had been upset all day, it had been overcast and snowing. She was afraid she’d miss the annual conjunction. Her heart thrilled when the sky cleared at sunset.
Cassandra sat in her darkened bedroom saving her night vision. She did not demand a night light or the hall light, as usual. The twin stars were comforting. “Tell me the story again, Mommy!”
Misunderstanding, Cassandra pressed her lips to the window, gazing up toward the binary stars. When she tried to step back her lips were stuck. She squealed through sealed lips. Her Mom seeing her distress took her cocoa and dribbled it on the window above her. As the hot drops touched her upper lip, Cassie was able to break free.
A line of frozen chocolate divided the stars, she reached up to wipe it away, then remembered her lips and hesitated. She scampered into bed and pulled the covers over herself, “Okay, I’m ready, now tell me, please!”
“Very well, little one. Carla and Cassandra were...”
“That’s who I’m named after, right?!”
“Yes dear, now listen. Carla and Cassandra were great warriors, Amazons of long ago, and the twin daughters of Diana. They fought many great battles in the name of the Gods. One day, they defied them refusing to fight against the animal kingdom. Zeus, in his fury, severed their twinship, allowing them to remember each other only once every year. The rest of the time, they were forced to fight on their own, suffering great wounds in combat, but never dying.”
“Then what happened?”
“On their remembrance day, Carla and Cassandra, in conjunction, agreed to give up the world of men and live and love only women. They retreated to the heavens to share themselves with others, but chose to meet once every year to share their stories of passion, as they wandered the universe. In this way, they broke Zeus’ curse, loving rather than fighting for the rest of eternity.”
“And they remembered each other from that day on. Don’t forget that part.”
“Yes Cassie, now go to sleep,” and with that, her mother kissed her on the forehead and went downstairs where her other mother waited.
Far above, super-heated plasma flashed between the binary stars. Gravity waves vibrating and harmonizing, veritably singing to each other in their stellar proximity. Solar flares crossed the great void and curled around each other, the warm handshakes of twin stars. If there was a sharing of consciousness, this is how it would be done on the cosmic level.
For the rest of the year, these stars traveled separate galactic arms. Traveling nearly at the speed at which their light would take to reach other planets. Their additive energies supplementing old stars or taking from young ones to power energy grids on those planets. Planets where life thrived beneath sparkling atmospheres.
Each inhabited planet believed they were alone in the universe. Yet there were those that believed that with the plethora of stars, there must be other worlds that supported life. That one day, they would visit or be visited by them. Fearing the fight, or favoring the friendship, they all shared the folklore of the twin stars that would guide them in their wisdom. They would show how to proceed on that first close encounter.
Meanwhile, Cassie dreamed of children on other planets dreaming of her. They played together, while above, they heard their parents argue over things that were frivolous (at least to them). If not for the women of those worlds, only war would remain to resolve conflicts. In that way, like Carla and Cassandra, Cassie vowed to love women exclusively rather than fight in the name of men or Gods.
“Mommy, Mommy come quick!”
Both mothers groaned, waking from sleep in their warm bed, “Your turn...”
“Alright,” she answered, sliding out of bed and into her slippers to pad next door.
“Mommy, why don’t I have a twin?”
As her mother sat on the bed looking down on Cassandra, her eyes filled with tears. “You did, little one. I guess it’s time you knew.
“Cassie, when you were born, your twin sister was so much smaller than you, but stronger. She gave you her blood so that you would live. You were so large and swollen but weak. She loved you so much she sacrificed herself for you.”
In shock, Cassandra, for once, was silent.
Finally she said, “So that’s why I’m always lonely. No matter how many friends I have. I miss Carla so much, even if she is inside me!”
Her mother hugged her, the tears running down her cheeks, “So do I.”
The moment stretched between them. Finally, Cassie turned to her mother, wanting to comfort her as much as be comforted, “Will you stay with me tonight?”
Candy looked toward her own bedroom, wanting the solace of a lover more than a daughter. Instinct took over, “Sure.” She climbed in and spooned with Cassie. The snuggle was food for their hungry souls.
In the other bedroom, Tilly was drifting back to sleep, the murmuring of wife and daughter a lullaby of home. Just as sleep took her, Tilly’s head jerked. That muscle rustle before sleep or waking. Intuition choking her into full consciousness.
Something was wrong, multiple layers of emotion washed over her coming from Cassie’s room. Then she knew, a secret shared, too long shrouded, too soon born. Her first thought was not for them but for her own twin.
The sting was no less painful. Tara had rejected Tilly when Tilly came out to her when they were teenagers. Her twin ripped away. Never to know Tara’s husband or children. Never to feel her binary’s embrace. Tilly didn’t know which was worse, to be denied a twin in death or disdain.
Rising from their bed, feeling the cold isolation, she wandered into Cassie’s bedroom. “Is there room for three?”
Cassie and Candy looked up drowsily, smiled, but it was Cassie that lifted the cover for Tilly.
In the morning, they entered their routines, caught in their usual orbits, isolated but in the same solar system. The cuddles from the night before still on their skin but penetrating no deeper. It was snowing again. Each were absorbing their losses anew, raging against the pain; anger and despair, their zenith and nadir.
A conjunction developed around the breakfast nook. The TV was on. Cassie was eating poly-chromic ‘O’s in milk. Candy was biting a bagel with the right hand while pushing news stories on her tablet with the left. Tilly approached cautiously, sipping a mug of hot coffee.
“What would Diana tell her daughter if her sister died?” Tilly asked.
“Is this a quiz, Mommy?” Cassie asked.
“No,” Candy answered, looking up. “A conundrum.”
“A cannon drum, never heard of that.”
Tilly ignored her and asked, “Would she tell Carla to rise up, take revenge?”
“No!” Cassie and Candy said simultaneously.
“No, of course not,” Tilly posited, “for that is what men would do. Would she advise Carla to crumble in on her self and grow bitter?”
Cassie and Candy looked back and forth at each other because that is exactly what they were all doing.
“No,” Tilly answered for them, “the greatest warrior that ever lived would...”
“Go out and get tattoos!” Cassie cried out.
Candy and Tilly smiled for the first time that day, embarrassed by their own teenage folly. A butterfly over a pubis, a leaping dolphin on a butt cheek.
“No, little one,” Tilly answered gently. “She would advise a middle path, show compassion to her enemies and kindness toward herself. Grieve, but with pride. Aspire, due to her twin sister’s sacrifice. Live boldly, for in so doing, Carla would become a beacon, honoring her loved one’s life.”
Candy nodded to her wife. Cassie grinned.
In that moment, they all felt better, stronger. Allowing the stars to carry them onward. Orbits, to inspire all other bodies with whom they would come in contact that day. Carla and Tara’s shadow casting light instead of darkness.