Maybe that's why things turned out the way they did. I wanted life too badly. I refused to let go. I didn't completely fade away.
My motor controls vanished, yes, but I remained, trapped in our head. Watching, listening, but paralyzed.
Nobody but Addie and I knew, and Addie wasn't about to tell. By this time, we knew what awaited kids who never settled, who became hybrids. Our head was filled with images of the institutions where they were squirreled awaynever to return.
Eventually, the doctors gave us a clean bill of health. The guidance counselor bid us good-bye with a pleased little smile. Our parents were ecstatic. They packed everything up and moved us four hours away to a new state, a new neighborhood. One where no one knew who we were. Where we could be more than That Family With The Strange Little Girl.
I remember seeing our new home for the first time, looking over our little brother's head and through his car window at the tiny, off-white house with the dark-shingled roof. Lyle cried at the sight of it, so old and shabby, the garden rampant with weeds. In the frenzy of our parents calming him down and unloading the moving truck and lugging in suitcases, Addie and I had been left alone for a momentgiven a minute to just stand in the winter cold and breathe in the sharp air.
After so many years, things were finally the way they were supposed to be. Our parents could look other people in the eye again. Lyle could be around Addie in public again. We joined a seventh-grade class that didn't know about all the years we'd spent huddled at our desk, wishing we could disappear.
They could be a normal family, with normal worries. They could be happy.
They didn't realize it wasn't they at all. It was still us.
I was still there.
"Addie and Eva, Eva and Addie," Mom used to sing when we were little, picking us up and swinging us through the air. "My little girls."
Now when we helped make dinner, Dad only asked, "Addie, what would you like tonight?"
No one used my name anymore. It wasn't Addie and Eva,Eva and Addie. It was just Addie, Addie, Addie.
One little girl, not two.
Excerpted from What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang. Copyright © 2012 by Kat Zhang. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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