"Your secret is safe with me, " Damien reluctantly told his sister, reaching across the scarred wooden table of their favorite booth in Crandall's Pub. Her pale blue eyes, mirror images of his own, welled with tears as she smiled her gratitude.
"What would I do without you?" she asked.
Hopefully, you'll never have to know, he thought to himself. His thoughts wandered over all the times during their lives she had placed him in this position, entrusting him with some information about her life that must be kept secret. Perhaps it was all part and parcel of being a twin, sharing every aspect your siblings existence, knowing their personality inside and out. At times, the weight of all this knowledge weighed heavily on Damien's heart, making him feel too full, as if he had indulged in excessive amounts of rich food.
And yet, Damien thought, picking up the check for the beers they had downed during the telling of this latest tale, Denise knew so little about his life. He smiled ruefully to himself. He did have a secret or two of his own, after all. This first year of college life had provided several opportunities for some interesting personal encounters.
"Damien, are you listening?" Denise asked, as she shrugged her shoulders into the black leather jacket she had started wearing when he outgrew it during his senior year of high school. "I asked if you were going home for Christmas vacation this year."
"Most likely," he answered. "Aren't you?"
She just stared at him, her face clearly expressing disbelief that he would ask such a question. "After what I've just told you," she said, "how could you expect me to spend 10 days there? I was hoping you'd stay here with me," she continued. "I really don't want to be alone - especially now."
"Right," he replied absently. "I suppose I could stay," he went on, although even as he said it, he found himself wondering how to explain this to their mother, who looked forward to the Christmas holiday with childish anticipation.
"Good," she said, tucking her arm through his as they pushed through the pub door and into the frosty winter night. "You'll square it away with Mom then, won't you?"
Damien knew Denise took his acquiesence for granted, as she did his willingness to safeguard her confidences. His sister was one of those girls who managed to find trouble around every corner and set both feet squarely in it every time. From the moment they emerged from the womb, he had borne the burden of her neediness, hiding the evidence of her mistakes, taking the blame for her wrongdoing to protect her from their father's wrath.
Damien glanced at his sister, walking briskly beside him, a pleased smile playing across her lips.
As ususal, after unburdening herself of whatever secret was troubling her, she became relaxed and carefree. While Damien continued to stockpile these secrets of hers, allowing them to fester away inside him, unable to share them with anyone.
His eyes narrowed as he trudged along the dark pathway toward their dorm. Denise began whistling "Jingle Bells," her breath marking the rhythm in the frosty air. Perhaps, Damien thought, it was time to make some changes in their relationship.
"Guess what, twin sister," he thought, "I just might have a secret to share with you, too."