Deadly Design - Emarsan


was five years old when I found out that my older brother wasn’t just my brother.

It was right after my preschool graduation. Chairs were set up for parents and grandparents in the lobby of the school. A wooden box and a microphone sat across from the chairs. We were each expected to stand up on the box, lean over a microphone, and tell the audience what we wanted to be when we grew up. One little girl said she wanted to be a mermaid. That made everyone laugh. The boy in front of me played it safe. He said that when he grew up, he wanted to be a grown-up. Then it was my turn. I was going to say that I wanted to be a fireman.

Not original, I know, but Mom had just bought me this awesome fire truck at a garage sale, so . . .

I went to stand up on the box, and I noticed a photograph hanging on the wall behind me.

There were a lot of photographs, each filled with groups of graduating preschoolers, all of them wearing nice shirts or dresses and all with the same dorky grins. But there was 1

Copyright © 2015 by Debra Dockter.


something in that photo, someone, that almost knocked me off the box. It was me.

I looked at the kids lined up on either side of me. These were my classmates, the kids I’d learned my letters and colors with. The kids I’d chased around the small playground. But they weren’t the same kids in the photograph with me. We hadn’t lined up yet to take the official graduation picture. But there I was on the wall.

“Kyle,” Mrs. Parks, our teacher, said as she gently took my shoulders and turned me toward the audience. “Tell everyone what you want to be when you grow up.”

My mind was a complete blank, at least as far as deciding at five what path my life should take.

I didn’t say anything. I stepped down from the box as a few people inhaled sharply like it was bad luck not to say what I wanted to be in the future. Like not saying something meant I wouldn’t have a future.

My family didn’t stick around for the punch and cookies.

Instead, Dad dropped Mom and my brother, Connor, off at the house, then he took me out for ice cream—just me because I wouldn’t stop asking why my picture was already on the wall and why I was wearing a green button-down shirt in the picture, when I don’t have a green button-down shirt.

Dad and I got ice cream, then we walked down the block to the park and sat on a bench. That’s when he told me that Connor wasn’t just my brother; he was my twin brother, my identical twin brother. The picture was of him, not me. When 2

Copyright © 2015 by Debra Dockter.


Connor graduated from preschool, he was five, just like I was, so we looked exactly alike.

I felt stupid. If Connor and I were twins, identical twins, I should have noticed. Twins are supposed to be the same age.

That’s part of being twins, being born at the same time. But we weren’t.

Dad explained everything at the park. Well, he probably didn’t explain all of it, not the part about him and Mom being carriers for a fatal disease called spinal muscular atrophy.

Not the part about Mom having had six miscarriages. He did tell me that Chase, my other brother, whose picture sits on my parents’ dresser, died when he was six months old from a very bad illness that they wanted to make certain their next baby wouldn’t have.

That spring day in the park when I was five and ice cream was melting faster than I could eat it because I didn’t have much of an appetite, Dad told me that Connor and I were designed in a special lab. They had a very smart doctor, and he created a baby for them who was very healthy. But then the baby split into two babies—me and Connor.

Because they wanted us so much, they decided to separate us. Mom gave birth to Connor first, while I was kept at the lab.

That threw me. Connor was at home with our parents, and I was still in some creepy lab? Then Dad explained that I was frozen the whole time, so I wasn’t lonely or anything. That threw me even more.