Big Girls Know the Difference Between Fantasy and Reality
My sister is at a sleepover, so Mom makes me banana pancakes with real maple syrup as a treat. The syrup tastes like it poured right out of a tree spout and onto my pancakes. Mom starts speculating about when Kait will call for a ride home and whether she’ll be back in time for lunch. I see Kait and her friends in unicorn pajamas eating chocolate chip pancakes and chasing each other around pine trees. Through a full mouth, I say, “She won’t be back for hours.”
The air stills as Mom’s face swings toward me. No outside noises make it through the open window in the kitchen. It’s like right before a storm. I scramble to discover what’s wrong.
“Stop it,” Mom demands.
I stop chewing and statuefy, mirroring her. “Stop what?”
“You know what,” Mom says. “You don’t know that’s going to happen.”
“Yes, I do.”
“No, you don’t,” Mom says. “You have no evidence. Do you know what evidence is?” I shake my head. “Evidence is also called proof. It means a reason to believe what you think.”
I swallow the pancake chunks stalled in my mouth. “I saw a picture in my head.”
Mom plants her palms on the counter as if she’s trying to collapse it into the floor. “That’s not evidence, Lizzy. That’s a picture in your head. Don’t you see those when I read you fairytales?”
Grammy always says to be gentle with her. That she can’t fly as fast as I can and there are times where I have to let her be right, even when she’s not. “I guess.”
“Dragons aren’t real. Girls can’t let down their hair for someone to climb. No fairy godmother is coming to save you. It’s important to know the difference between fantasy and reality. I know you’re still little, but you need to know the difference. How else can I trust you? How can anyone else?” She pushes hair away from my eyes to burrow further inside.
Her need overloads my senses. Her voice is all I can hear, her eyes all I can focus on. And I know that what she really needs is for me to lie to her. To pretend that the reality she sees is all there is.
“Can I trust you?” Mom asks softly.
The tickle inside becomes a tear, ripping me in half. Standing next to me is an identical but smiling version of myself. She seems lighter, untroubled, ready to say and do what’s necessary for her to make everyone else happy and ensure her survival.
“Who are you? What’s going on?” I ask. But no sound comes out. I clutch my throat. It feels the same. I speak, I scream, I sing but nothing comes out. An eternity passes as I become marginally smaller under Mom’s watchful eye.
My happy twin elbows me out of the way and takes my seat. To answer Mom, she chirps, “Yes.”
Mom gives her a tearful smile and goes downstairs. With her out of hearing, my twin sews herself back into me with electricity. The residual zap jingles my fingers and toes. My appetite is gone.