Flashback: Thick as Blood
"I can't sto-o-o-op!"
Sylvina careened into the railing of the roller rink with a shriek of laughter.
"Oh, no fair! I swear you did that on purpose, Josh Stewart - you wanted
to watch me fall on my ass!"
"Well, you didn't, so I'll have to try again." Josh cast her a playful
wink, slipping a hand into hers and speeding off across the roller rink
once more. "What do you think, reckon you can keep on your feet if I spin
you and let you fly?"
"You dare." Sylvina grabbed hold of his wrist, giggling wildly. "I have
a singing competition on Monday night and I am so not showing up to it in
a neck brace and plaster."
"Spoilsport." Josh was not noticeably crushed. Instead he grabbed her other
arm, taking her off guard and pulling her close to him, kissing her on the
"You know, your sister really knows how to make an exhibition of herself,
From across the rink, Anna glanced up from where she was re-lacing her
boot, casting her companion a wry smile.
"Sylvie likes to perform, Layna. You know that." She said with a shrug.
"I guess she got my share of the show off gene as well as her own, though.
I'd never do half the things she does."
"You sound like you wish you did." Layna got to her feet. "Annie, I like
your sister. I think it's a given that the whole school does. But sometimes
I don't know if she's five or fifteen. And she's so going to wind up failing
Math if there isn't a miracle between now and the final exam."
"I won't let her fail." Anna said firmly. "It's not an option."
"What do you mean?" Layna looked suspicious.
"I mean that I'll coach her again, if need be." Anna shrugged, getting
to her feet. "I'm not going to be a grade ahead of my twin. They already
tried that - you know they wanted to push me up last year. I'm not having
it. Sylvie and I were born together, and we'll graduate together. It's just
one of those things."
"You'd run rings around the Junior classes, you know." Layna said thoughtfully.
"But I'm glad you didn't move up a grade. It means we still get to sit together
in homeroom, and I'd miss you if you weren't in my classes any more."
"Me too." Anna giggled. "Who'd I fall over in gym class?"
"Well, it's probably the one subject Sylvie has over on you." Layna grinned.
"Since she got into all that JV cheerleading stuff."
"That's another reason I won't let her fail." Anna agreed. "She really
loves cheering. Honestly, I don't know why...but if it appeals to her, I
don't want her not to be able to do it. She's not stupid, Layna. And she
does try - I've seen her work hard for exams and stuff."
"Have you, you know, ever been tempted to take her exams for her, just
to make sure?" Layna looked curious. Anna went red, and Layna's eyes opened
"Oh Annie, you didn't!"
"Once...in Freshman year." Anna owned. "But Sylvie was sick, that's the
only reason I did. I wouldn't as a rule, though she has asked me once or twice.
You won't tell on me, will you?"
"No, of course not. Best friends don't tell." Layna shook her head. "But
wow. I had no idea. I guess when you play at being each other, noone can
tell you apart!"
"Mom can, but noone else." A wry smile touched Anna's lips. "That's proved
useful to Sylvie before, when she's been grounded and I haven't had plans.
Dad hasn't a clue. Come on, let's get onto the rink, or Sylvie will be having
all the fun with her latest flame, and we'll be wall flowers."
"We didn't come with Sylvie to crash her date. We just happened to come
here at the same time she was." Layna shot her friend a cryptic look. "Or
is it not so accidental, Annie? Why did we come skating today, anyhow?"
"I don't like this Josh guy." Anna admitted. "I know he smokes, he's two
years older than my sister and the way he's tossing her about, he's gonna
get her hurt. I guess I just want to keep an eye on her, from a distance."
"Does she know you feel that way?"
"No...but she won't care if I'm here." Anna shrugged. "And I'd rather she
didn't know, so..."
"Okay." She agreed, adjusting her glasses and holding her hand out to her
friend. "So let's skate."
At the far side of the rink, Sylvina had paused to catch her breath, fanning
herself with her jacket.
"Are you trying to kill me?" She demanded playfully of her date, as he
skated smoothly around her. "I thought I was in shape, but maybe not as
good as I thought. This is manic!"
"Well, there's no point in skating in the slow lane." Josh shrugged lazily.
"Are you coming for another spin?"
"In a minute. Let me catch my breath." Sylvina shook her head. "You go...and
I'll catch up with you on the return leg - okay?"
"Okay, if you like." Josh nodded, shooting off into the crowd.
As Layna and Anna skated out slowly into the centre of the rink, Anna let
out a shriek, grabbing for Layna's arm.
"Watch out!" She exclaimed, as Josh came bombing towards them. "Layna,
Layna squealed, desperately trying to skate out of Josh's path, but the
boy was too fast for her and they collided, sending Layna skidding across
the rink. Her glasses tumbled to the floor, and Josh wheeled to a stop, scooping
them up. He cast Layna a disdainful look.
"Here, four eyes, can't you see where you're going?" he demanded.
"I'd be fine, smart ass, if you could find the brakes." Layna shot back.
"Give me my glasses!"
"Yeah, right." Josh pulled a face. "Come catch me first, if you're such
a wisecracker. Come get them from me. Come on."
"Josh, give them back." Anna came to her friend's side at that moment.
"It's not fair."
"Oh look who it is." Josh sneered, dropping the glasses onto the rink floor
with a clatter, and reaching out a hand to grab Anna around the wrist. "Sylvie's
sad little shadow. I feel bad for your sister, kid. It must be a pain in
the ass to have a little puppy yapping morality and studies at her heels
all the time."
His grip tightened.
"You were saying?"
"Let me go!" Anna struggled against his grip, but Josh shook his head.
"No way." He replied. "I know your game, Anniekins. I know the way you
look at me across the lunch hall, like I'm not good enough for your sister.
Well, if you had a life you'd keep out of hers and let her hang with me
without playing the secret chaperone. Why don't you get a makeover and a
date and leave Sylvie to herself, huh? She doesn't need your help."
He released his grip, pushing Anna back so she tumbled to the floor.
"Go home, little girl, and take four eyes here with you. This place is
for the grown ups...and you don't make the pace."
"Get your hands off my sister!"
Before any of the trio realised what was happening, Sylvina had appeared
on the scene, her blue eyes full of indignant anger. "Josh, what are you
playing at? Leave Annie alone - what did she do to you?"
"She trailed us here, and you ask me what she did to me?" Josh demanded.
"She's following you round like a puppy dog hoping for scraps. Don't you
ever get sick of it?"
"No." Sylvina's eyes narrowed, and she gave him a shove away from her,
almost causing him to overbalance. "I get sick of jerks who think they can
mess with my sister. Get the picture?"
"You're not joined at the hip, you know!"
"Of course not, moron." Sylvina rolled her eyes expressively. "But you
take on her, you take on me. And I don't date people who rip on Anna."
"Maybe you're both little girls, then." Josh's lip curled into a sneer.
"Well, we'll see, won't we." Sylvina balled her fists, and before Josh
knew what was going on she had punched him square on the nose, sending him
over backwards. He let out an exclamation, grabbing at his already bleeding
nose as Layna began to laugh. Anna's hand flew to her mouth.
"Well, look who did end up on their butt after all." Sylvina put her hands
on her hips. "And you know what? It's not such a great view. Come on Anna.
Layna, you too. Let's leave Mr Nosebleed to himself. He obviously prefers
playing on his own anyway."
With that she linked one arm in her sister's and one in Layna's, speeding
off across to the side of the rink.
"I can't believe you hit him!" Anna's eyes were big.
"I can." Layna looked appreciative. "Nice right hook, Sylvie."
"Well, I meant what I said." Sylvina said darkly. "Noone rips on Anna and
She cast her sister a glance.
"Did you really trail me here?"
"Not exactly." Anna blushed. "But I did think Josh was bad news. I wasn't
going to interfere or anything, Sylvie. He just came right at us and knocked
"Cracked my glasses, too." Layna grimaced. Sylvina rolled her eyes.
"Well, he can kiss his own backside from now on." She said decidedly. "I'm
sorry he was such a total jerk to you."
"I can't wait to see what the kids at school say when they find out you
hit a Senior and made his nose bleed." Layna said gleefully. "Oh, he's gonna
look such a sight on Monday morning and we are so not going to let him tell
people it was thugs trying to steal his bag, okay?"
Anna looked troubled.
"Dad will freak." She said quietly.
"Dad doesn't have to know." Sylvina said firmly. "Now come on. Since I'm
down half a date and you guys are down a skating session, how about we grab
some ice cream and forget about guys for a while, huh?"