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Chasing the Moon

by Allison Kurth

As I look at the young man sitting down across from me, I realize in a different time, a different place, I would have thought of him as attractive. He's not much older than myself I guess, probably about twenty-four or twenty-five. Cropped dark hair, blue eyes, narrow nose, strong jaw. Yes, I would definitely have found him cute, hot even. Instead, I frown at the white lab coat, yellowed at the collar, with a brown coffee stain on the right lapel. He clicks his pen nervously against the metal table as he glances at my chart, flipping through the pages, acting as if all the information is new to him. I know it's not. I know he's read and reread their contents hundreds of times. The nurses tell me the story is better than any novel they've ever read. Sure, I have to admit, it has the workings of a great story. Too bad it really happened. And that's what he's here for, to learn what “really” happened.

“So, Ms. Cross, I guess you know why you're here, and I can skip the formalities,” the young doctor says, clearing his throat and straightening his wire glasses on the bridge of his nose. His shiny little name tag says Dr. Thompson. How generic. He looks too young to be a doctor. Then again, all my father does is complain about how young these so-called mental health professionals are. Maybe he's still a resident. I glance down at my newly manicured fingernails. The nail specialist just visited me last night. Some of the polish had chipped off already. We really need to fire her.

The doctor continues to talk to me, but I already know what he's going to say. He wants me to tell him if I remember anything more. Anything more of everything that happened. I smile and bat my eyelashes, and the poor man blushes. He clears his throat again. “Ms. Cross, I would appreciate it if you would take me seriously for five minutes, please, and listen to me. Now, please, go over what you remember about the incidents leading up to and following your sister's death.” He avoids eye contact with me as he pulls a small black tape recorder out of the inside pocket of his dirty lab coat and places it on the table.

“Well, Dr. Thompson, I'll tell you again, so it can again be added to that ever-thickening file you have on me,” I say, reaching out and tapping the notebook, gently brushing the doctor's long fingers in the process. His hand jumps back as if scalded by hot water, and I smile faintly.

He presses the record button on the small recorder. “Patient number 2784. Second session. Recording one,” he speaks mechanically into the recorder. “Now, Ms.Cross, could you please tell me why you think you're here?”

***

Luna brushes her long blond hair while trying to ignore her twin sister's cutting stare in the mirror. Diane doesn't understand why her sister goes out with all the popular boys, and she's stuck with the chess club. They dress the same. They look exactly the same. The same long, silky, blond hair. The same midnight blue eyes. The same perfect little nose and pouty mouth. They have the same knock-out figure. Diane spends her nights reading books while Luna is out at the bonfires drinking beer and getting laid. Diane would die to have that. Diane would die to have a boy look at her the way they look at Luna. Sometimes she wonders if Luna sucked all the charisma out of her when they were in the womb. Most of the time she wishes she just never had a sister.

***

“Diane, dear, I told you that you could come with me tonight, so would you stop glaring?!” Luna whines. She knows Diane hates it when she talks to her like that. Especially when she calls her Diane, dear. Luna turns around in her pink chair to face Diane. “Darling, we're in college now! You need to get out more! You need to make friends.” Diane scrunches her nose at her sister and looks back down at the textbook on her lap. Biology. Diane constantly has her face in some stupid textbook. Luna just doesn't understand how her sister can be like that. She doesn't even have a social life. She never drinks, she never parties, period. Instead of going out and finding a boyfriend, Diane sits at home and watches some stupid educational show. Luna doesn't understand how two sisters can be so different. She's so tired of dealing with Diane.

***

“Fine, Luna, you know what, I'll go. Just to make my darling sister happy.” Diane throws the textbook to the end of the bed and stomps off to her room to get changed. Diane just doesn't understand how she can study all the time and still skim by with B's. One of these days, she'll catch Luna cheating. But then what will I do? I can't let her get kicked out of school, Diane thinks as she pulls on her jeans. She picks out a shirt, puts some make up on, barely looking in the mirror. In fifteen minutes, she's done, looking just as good as her sister who took an hour. Both had picked out a pair of tight jeans and black sweaters. This always happens. Diane didn't mean it to, but it always seemed to. She never could figure out who bought the clothes first. Diane tries to ignore the stare of her sister as she slips her socked feet into her pair of white Adidas.

***

Luna hears Diane fumbling with the lock trying not to let Luna know how mad she is. Luna smirks and chuckles to herself. She can still make Diane boil after all these years. She's not losing her touch

***

The cool early spring air blows the girls' hair around their faces as they approach the sleek black 1972 Corvette. It was a high school graduation present to Diane from their father. Luna didn't want an old car, so instead her dad bought her a Honda S2000. It only lasted two weeks before Luna ran it into a guardrail. Diane blamed it on the upstate New York ice, but her father knew better. He refused to buy another car for Luna and forbade Diane to ever let her drive hers. But Diane let her use it when she absolutely had to go someplace, but there were rules: Never leave the tank on empty, take it easy on the clutch, and always put the T-Tops back on. Diane noticed Luna had left the T-Tops off again but didn't bother to mention it because she knew she would get the same speech she got every other time. Luna can't snap them back on; her nails would be ruined.

Luna jumps in the car first and flips through Diane's cds as Diane backs out of the parking space and shifts into first. “You really need to stop listening to all this emo crap. Dashboard Confessional? Pah-lease,” Luna nags and shoves her Sublime CD into the player. “Really, Diane, what the hell is the matter with you? I mean, if we didn't look exactly alike, I wouldn't even know we were related,” Luna grumbles. “I mean, seriously, Diane dear, did Dad drop you or something? I don't know why he even made me go to college with you. It's like living with our nanny. You're always looking over my shoulder. I just can't deal with it. Always ready to tell Daddy what I did wrong.”

***

Diane backs out of the driveway and starts down the road. She tries to focus on her breath and ignore the nasty things Luna says to her. As she passes through an intersection, Diane buckles her seat belt and focuses on the steady hum of the engine as she shifts past second and into third. She ignores Luna's insults for almost fifteen minutes until finally she feels her face getting hot and her eyes tearing up. “I don't know why you always have to be so horrible, Luna! I'm going to the party tonight because you wanted a ride back. I cover for you all the time. I even break up with guys for you because you find out their families don't make enough money! You know what, Luna, just because I see more to life than just parties, guys and trying to find a rich husband doesn't mean I'm worse off than you,” Diane finally exclaims, pushing the car into fourth, shooting down the hill and around the corner. “You're one of the most empty people in the world! You think all this will get you anywhere? Seriously?”

***

“Hey, Diane, how about you slow down a bit?” Luna says, glancing at the speedometer passing fifty, sixty, seventy miles an hour. “I mean, God, I have some X on me here. And I just got my hair done. But, hell, crash your car into the guardrail. Maybe that way Daddy will finally see that you're not so wonderful, and I can get rid of you.” She watches the accelerator go to seventy-five and feels the tires start to slide from under the car as they hit another corner. Diane fights to gain control and breathes a sigh of relief when she wrestles the wheel back under control. “Good job, Speed Racer.”

***

“This is exactly what I mean, Luna. You're such a waste of life,” Diane whispers, pushing the accelerator closer to the floor. The black Corvette jumps to the challenge, thick tires gripping the turns as the trees whip overhead the open T-Tops, the speedometer reaching eighty, then eighty-five. “When Grandpa was dying, you didn't visit him in the hospital once. I used to have to tell him I was you so he wouldn't feel bad. And after I did all that, what did you do to pay me back? You told Jack you were me so he would sleep with you after we had been dating for over a year!” Diane quickly swallows the lump in her throat. “And when Mom had to go get chemo?! You didn't even offer to bring her to the hospital because you were afraid she would puke in your car! And still, who got the Gucci bag and who got the flowers when we turned twenty-one? No matter how much you screw up, Mom always favors you.”

***

“Oh, please! And you're such a shining example of what to do in life! Seducing little nerdy boys, sucking up to Daddy to get a car and money. You were always Daddy's favorite! He let you work at the office, he's paying for your school, paying for your stupid yoga-tai chi-karate-if you try to touch me I'll kill you-judo class, or whatever the hell it is. He gives you everything you want. And what does he give me? A measly apartment with you.” Luna lights a menthol cigarette and blows her smoke up out of the T-Tops. Luna didn't even want to be here! She wanted to go to school in California, but no. Their dad made them go to school together, for “moral support.” He needed someone to spy on Luna is what he really meant. Diane always tries to make it sound as though she had it so hard. Luna was the black sheep of her family. No one cared what she did. Diane was the good, quiet one and that's all that mattered to anyone. All Luna ever heard was how great Diane was.

***

“Maybe if you didn't try to sleep with every one of his patients he would let you work in the office too, Luna! You try to make it sound so hard, but what about Mom? You're her little golden girl. You can never do anything wrong. Hell, you're just like her, you've both been around the block,” Diane yells over the music, passing a tractor trailer, the car's tires squealing as she goes around another corner. Diane knew she was a Daddy's girl, but she also knew her mother hated her very existence. She embodied everything her mother hated about women. Diane was smart, independent, and a feminist. Her mother believed a woman was supposed to marry rich and run a family. That's all. “Why can't you just disappear, Luna?” Diane says, slowing down for the passing deer shimmering in her headlights.

***

“If you hate me so much, how come you try to be just like me all the time, huh, Diane? Why don't you find your own friends, and your own parties, and your own boys? You call me a waste of life? At least I know how to live! At least I know how to have a good time! Why don't you get a life rather than trying to live through me? I'm tired of being made feel that I'm the bad one. I want Dad to love me and stop spying on me! I want you to leave me the hell alone! You want me to disappear?! Me too, babydoll. I wish I could get the hell away from you!” Luna cries as her CD starts skipping.

They both look down at the CD player and look up again to see the large oak tree looming in their headlights.

***

The doctor pulls nervously on the left sleeve of his lab coat. He takes his glasses off and places them on the table. He looks down at the glossy black and white police photos of my dead sister attached to my file. The only sound in the room is the soft murmur of the air conditioning; I smile at the doctor. “Can I see those photos?” I ask, reaching for the photos before he can resist. I start flipping through the pictures of mangled metal and gore. I flip them over and see Case #39639 Diane/Luna Cross scrawled in chicken scratch across the back of each photo. “You see, Dr. Thompson, one of us didn't survive that accident. My darling sister just ran head long into that tree. The police never actually found any pieces of her, the explosion was that powerful. Me, well, some nice trucker found me walking down the road, hysterical, covered in blood, and the nice man rushed me to the hospital. And, well, due to this little bump on my head,” I run my fingers absently over the scar starting at my right temple all the way to the back of my neck, “I just can't possibly remember who I am. Other than that, I only have minor burns on my arms, some bruising from the seat on my chest. No biggie…” My buzzed hair feels soft under my palm. “Dr. Roberts, the head psychologist who I'm sure you've heard of, says I may never regain that memory. That it's just too traumatic. And the swelling of the brain that occurred may have damaged … Well, I don't have to tell you all that, you're a doctor,” I smile again at young Dr. Thompson and again realize, yes this boy is quite good looking. I yawn, tapping my fingers on the metal table. Maybe once I grow my hair back, I'll give him a try. “A sad story don't you think, Doctor?”