The moment I saw baby Hikawas I dropped everything to write uh. This thing. Idk
Her hair looked like Hina’s.
Sayo slammed the photo frame face down before she could think. Wood cracked against wood like the strike of a cane. She flinched, eyes wide, just like in the photo, except there was no regret in the eyes of her younger self.
Quickly she lifted the frame to check for damage (not to look at the picture again, just to check). There was none.
Her eyes slid over the smooth glass. (Not to look at the picture—there might be a telltale crack she’d missed. Though she could easily blame such an accident on Hina if she wanted. It had been Hina who’d so carelessly left the photo here, she was sure.)
Two little girls, identical but for the parting of their hair and a slight downward turn in the eyes of one. And in that slight difference was everything.
Matching earmuffs, matching gloves. Matching smiles, one bigger than the other. Matching capes, one brighter.
Even though Sayo had picked hers out first.
Inconsequential, you would think, being just a little duller, slower, less remarkable. Always almost, never there, a shadow of greatness.
By the time they were in primary school Sayo’s hair hung past her shoulders. She started braiding it to keep it out of her face on windy days. Braiding was methodical work, and Sayo did it with skill and care and pride.
Then Hina tried it. Fat, messy braids that sprang up with life. Smaller ones, and smaller, and still smaller, her face lit with delight as if the challenge didn’t faze her at all, until there were colourful ribbons all over her head and the adults marvelled at the dexterity of her tiny chubby fingers.
The years sharpened their differences. Sayo grew taller and her hair grew to her waist. She’d stopped braiding it long ago. Hina kept her braids, just two little ones behind her ears, keeping each other company, as identical as she could make them.
“Ah, Onee-chan! I found that the other day! Why did you put it away?”
She’d been lost in her thoughts for too long. “It’s none of your concern! Leave me alone.”
That Christmas she forgot. The next Christmas she remembers.
“Onee-chan, what’s that you’ve got there?”
Sayo jumps, bells jangling and tinsel rustling as she knocks into PVC branches. “Nothing.”
Hina breezily plucks the wooden frame from the pile of decorations, turning it over with interest. “Ohh!”
“It’s this picture of us! My favourite one! Look at you, all fluffy and bouncy …”
Hina beams fondly at their fluffy, bouncy younger counterparts and Sayo sighs.
“I was planning to put it on the shelf here, but I suppose that’s not happening now.”