Our Secret Moments: Chapter 9


“WHAT ARE you doing for your birthday, Connie boy?” Wes asks.

I glare at him across the gym. He’s lunging from one end of the room to the other with weights in each hand, effortlessly trying to have a conversation with me even though he knows I prefer to work out in silence. I’ve tried to put on my noise cancelling headphones more than once and he still makes sure I can hear him. I can’t tell if I just have an old shitty pair of headphones, or if he’s really just that loud.

“It’s in three weeks,” I say, sucking in a breath as I continue my crunches. He walks past me, shaking his head as if this is the worst news he’s heard in his life. “Plus, Nora is probably going to want to plan it. I really don’t care.”

He starts to lunge back in my direction, not breaking a sweat. “You’re turning twenty on the second greatest night of the year and you’re letting your little sister pick what to do?” He sounds so angry and serious, it’s ridiculous.

I groan, throwing my head back and stopping my reps because now I’ve lost count. “Second greatest night of the year?” I repeat, looking at him curiously as he finally collapses on a bench in front of me.

“After my birthday, obviously,” he says easily.

“Right, obviously. And Nora is technically older than me by eleven minutes, so I really don’t mind if she picks a theme. I don’t care about my birthday, you know that,” I say with a huff.

As for my birthday being on the greatest night of the year as Wes says, he means that it’s on October 31st, Halloween, and in three weeks from now. It’s a lucky birthday for someone who enjoys partying.

Every year we always spend spooky season watching old horror films and Halloween episodes of our favourite sit-coms and then we end the month off with a birthday party and Halloween party in one. Growing up, it was the lead up to my birthday that was the most exciting part of the year.

As for parties, I don’t care much for them. I never have and I probably never will. Even though I’m dragged to one nearly every weekend and I have a good-ish time. I stick to playing games that are apparently more fun when you’re drunk, or I spend most of the time talking Wes out of doing something stupid. Or, he does that stupid thing and I have to bring him home. Coach puts enough trust in me to keep the team in line on and off the pitch, so I’m one of the only people who takes things seriously.

If I’m going to play in the NFL, I have to show good leadership skills and be a good example by taking my health seriously. I know a lot of my teammates can handle both, but I’d rather not take the risk, especially after hearing about the countless injuries that can happen while intoxicated.

Once, I spent the whole night riddled with anxiety, searching for the worst injuries you could get as a football player and how easily they could happen if you’re not careful with your body and how easily accidents can happen when you’re not fully sober. It scared me so much that I swore off drinking and making sure that me and everyone else around me is safe.

As for my birthday… I’ve hated it for as long as I can remember. Not because I’m a twin, — I always knew that would be hard — but because of who I am and who Nora is. As proud as I am of my sister for being so fucking talented at everything she touches, I also envy her ability to be able to answer and ask so many questions that often fills the silence of any room we’re in.

She never has to worry about running out of things to say and she can come up with anything on the spot. She always has something to talk about, something to show and something for people to be interested in. I, however, am only good at one thing.

Everybody plays football. It’s the most popular sport in the US, so it’s not extraordinary that I am the QB for my college. I’m a conversation filler, a quick two-minute question and answer. Nobody asks how much time I spend training, or how I got to the level I’m at today. Nobody cares to ask for routines or rituals that I do with the boys. So, it’s hard to feel different and appreciated when you shared a womb with somebody so extraordinary.

Nora knows how to work a room that nobody notices I’m in.

So, yeah, it sucks to share a birthday with somebody who manages to make everything about her on the one day that is supposed to celebrate both of us. I can’t blame her though. It’s what she’s good at and it’s just not one of my strengths. I’m trying to get better at talking to people, but this whole thing with Cat and the newspaper is making me extra fucking nervous. There’s no way I’d be able to make it to the NFL without a few interviews here and there. I need to suck it up and do better.

“Fine,” Wes grumbles. “If you want to be a grump about it, I’ll drop it. But just so you know, when you get married, I’m throwing you the best bachelor party ever.”

“I’m literally shaking with anticipation,” I reply, bored.

“Alright, Connie boy,” he says, rolling his eyes as he gets to his feet. “Last rep before we hit the showers, or we’re going to be late.”

One thing I love about having a campus college is that everything is close together. After hitting the gym this morning with Wes, we made it back to our dorm, showered and were out of the door in less than an hour and we made it to class on time.

Unlike most of the team who chose the easy way out to minor in some sort of sports science, Wes and I decided to minor in Literature. I’ve always liked studying books in high school and my parents have always been huge readers. I guess having teachers as parents really rubs off on you. Most guys in my classes growing up hated it, but I loved it.

I loved the feeling of feeling so incredibly immersed into a book that you forget that you’re reading. When reality seems like the worst possible place to be, there’s always some kind of universe to lose yourself in. Studying them now at a degree level is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but that doesn’t mean I like it any less. I enjoy the challenge, the way it makes my brain work twice as hard.

Wes, on the other hand, has been staring at the extract from Shakespeare’s Othello for the last twenty minutes, asking me more and more ridiculous questions. We’ve been studying this text for months, going over the same key scenes and picking out the authorial methods and the psychological context behind the antagonist’s intentions.

“I don’t get it. Why is he jealous?” Wes asks, pushing the sheet away from him as he crosses his arms against his chest, his face painted in serious concern. “Like, I get some of his motives, but did he really have to do all that just to stay silent in the end?”

“That’s the whole point. He’s a sadist, or a ‘motiveless malignity,’” I say, flicking through the text. Wes’s face crumbles in confusion. “He doesn’t need a reason to do what he does. It’s something deeper, more psychological. He’s just manipulative and he gets drunk on power.”

“The more you speak, the less I understand,” he mumbles, picking up a pen to write what I just quoted from one of the critics of the text. I shake my head at him with a laugh, about to do the same before I look out of the window.

All classrooms on the ground floor in the humanities building form a square around a courtyard that holds a flower bed and a statue of the first headmaster of Drayton. It’s a beautiful and distracting sight during the summer as the sun shines directly onto the grey stone and it reflects through the large windows of the classroom.

It’s especially distracting now as I watch Catherine walk from one side of the building and across the window. It’s like she’s walking in slow motion. Since the day at the party — l’ll be honest, it was way before that, but still — I can’t help but notice her everywhere I go.

She is a picture of academic perfection. Her hair is tied back into a bun, wild curls falling loose in her face as she clutches her binder to her chest. She has a backpack instead of a tote as she doesn’t even look in my direction, only seeing her destination.

She’s always had this unwavering sense of confidence even when we were kids, and she would boss us around. She looks so sure of herself until she’s caught off guard and her stance slightly falters.

Recently, it’s been me who has been making more and more of a fool of myself while she gets to say things like ‘It’s called edging’ while I try and find the right words. For once, I want to regain that control that I had in the closet, or at least some of it.

There’s only so much that I can get out of Nora about what Cat thinks of me without arousing suspicion. We’ve all had our little friend group from when we were kids, but everything feels different now that we’re at college. If Cat actually took one look at me without dying to take a jab at me, she would see that I’ve been at her feet for years waiting for the day she’ll give some of herself to me.

“Whatever,” I say to Wes, remembering that we were just having a conversation. I don’t know how long I was staring at her for, but the quirk in his eyebrow makes me believe that it was longer than need be. “I’m going to fill my water at the fountain. Talking some sense into you is making my mouth dry.”

“Right. It isn’t because you just saw Cat walk into the building, is it?” he asks.

“It just so happens that she is also going to class in the same building as us,” I say calmly. He doesn’t give up the strange look he’s giving me, so I add, “Don’t read into it.”

He finally drops his gaze from mine, giving me the second to breathe as he continues writing while he murmurs, “Oh, I’m not the one reading into it, Connie.”


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