Conjoined - A Short Story

Most people already know about my sister and me. The two "poor girls" in the newspaper, born at Sherman's on a chilly spring day at 1:22 AM. The mother was so happy… Then she realized why the two were wrapped up together. We were conjoined at the wrist, without enough space to separate us safely. If the doctors tried, there was a large chance we were both going to die. So Momma decided to wait until we were old enough for it to be safe. The price wasn't a problem. Her family was old money.

Then, finances slowly drained away. By the time w were old enough for the surgery, we didn't have enough. Mr. Frank (our father wouldn't let me call him daddy) sucked every penny he could out of Momma before he left her. He made it clear it was her fault that we were stuck like this. He blamed her, but he hated me. The hand we shared was meant to be Jenny's before I grew there. It's obvious in how it looks natural on her and like an abnormal growth where my wrist joins. My arm is stuck twisted at a painful angle, while she carries on as normal as possible. He noticed this, and so decided that I was the parasite that wasn't meant to be there. I've started to think the same.

I take after Momma the most, while Jen is more like Mr. Frank. She calls him Daddy, even though I can't. She's his 'baby girl.' I can't blame him though. She is such a perfect angel. He showers her with love and gives her everything she wants. He only takes care of me because Momma makes him. She's threatened to sue him if he treats me different from her or only pays child support for Jen. He told her he hated me and he could cut me off himself.

They don't know I know though. I heard them talking on the phone one night while Jen was asleep. Mr. Frank yells into the phone, loud enough for me to hear him through the wall. I've heard what he's said, how Momma cries at night, how she prays for us. She especially prays for Jen, that she won't be like Mr. Frank, but she prays for me too. I don't like to listen to those prayers. They scare me.

Jenny is already so much like Mr. Frank. He talks to her/us when he gets us for weekends. He tells us many things, things that aren't right. Things like never being kind or people will walk all over us, that we can't have anything unless we're willing to take it from others, that it's our mother's fault we're stuck together. Jen believes him, especially that this is Momma's fault. She told me before when she was angry. She screamed at me, "if that – woman could just have normal - kids, I wouldn't be – stuck with you!" I tried making her see that Momma didn't choose this, but she yelled at me and said everyone hated me. I thought I already knew that, but I didn't say anything afterwards. I didn't want to make her angrier. She hurt me when she was angry.

A few years passed and we grew up. High school was rough. We only went for half of our freshman year. Jen loved it, or would have if not for me. She had all the friends and was popular and treated me like a stranger, even though it was impossible to deny me as her sister. I gave in to her on everything. I had a few friends, but I hardly ever got to talk to them. Jen always drug me away to talk to her friends. I didn't argue with her though. She would shame me and make me seem like the selfish one.

We were pulled out and homeschooled during the winter semester. I was very bitter that year. I never hated her, but I hated myself. I wanted to die. I never told her though. Of course I never told her. Why would I hurt that sweet angel, that perfect gift from heaven? Why would I taint that sweet mind, that innocent soul that hated me so? Why was I even attached to her when everyone loved her and hated me? Why was I even alive?

I learned the answer to that question in November a year later. A very cold day, the 14th if I remember correctly. Jen wanted to go to a friend's house for a slumber party and I just agreed because I wanted to feel at least halfway wanted. We were there for some time when one of the other girls got hungry and we (they) decided for all of us to go to a drive-through for a bite to eat. I was put in the middle of the backseat with Jen next to the window. The roads were icy and the girl driving wanted to show off. We went around a curve too fast and slammed into a tree. We were wearing our seatbelts, so there was nothing life threatening.

Doesn't mean there was nothing life changing. Jen had her right arm hanging out the window when we hit on that side. Her arm was crushed beyond repair. We were sent to the hospital and underwent intensive surgery to try and save her arm. Our mother arrived and, when we were stabilized, asked the staff to separate us. They gave Jen the arm and hand we shared (she had made it clear she would get it if we were ever finally separated) and they made me as comfortable as possible. She ended up losing her arm. She was in much pain from internal injuries, nothing serious, and they kept her sedated for most of the day. It was while she slept that I talked to Mom and the staff about a decision I had made.

I remember a mental journal I kept from when those days in the hospital. I spent hours dressing even just one sentence up with the most elaborate words I could think of at the time. (I was never very good in school, even though Jen got all A's.) I remember specific sentences I repeated to myself often. I even have some that linger in my mind and whisper shadows of hate into my heart. They twist the words I'd thought so long ago into past tense, present, future.

The next time Jen woke up, she had two arms all to herself. She didn't quite realize the miracle of this though, until she saw that her hand on her right arm was backwards. The pinky and thumb were on the wrong sides, with the rest of the fingers following the trend. She was angry, claiming the doctors had fitted her with a prosthetic arm wrong and that she was now a freak. She saw me then and began screaming at me that it was my fault, that I had made her ugly. She was angry because I was fine and she had lost her arm (even though she gained the other to herself). She said it wasn't fair and that she hated me. I wanted to run out of the room crying. Instead, that was when I finally snapped.

I had dealt with a lifetime of hate from my sister and the father that tried to cut off my arm (We were fishing and he 'accidently' cut my shoulder. It was very deep, but he wrapped it all up and said I'd be fine.). The only one who had even cared about me was my mother, everyone else just dealt with me out of pity. Now, with Jen taking out her misfortune on me, when I had given up more for her than she realized, I finally reached my breaking point. I began screaming back at her, nothing I had ever done before. I remember very little of what I said, but some words stay with me.

"Why do you hate me? I just want you to be my sister, but you hate me! You're just like Dad! Why do you hate me?! I'm your sister! I gave up everything for you! You're not the only one who had to be stuck with me! I can't help that I'm not perfect! Why can't you understand? I hate my life! You killed me, Jen, you killed me!"

I don't have any of what happened next in my mind. All I remember is screaming at her, and then suddenly being at peace. There was the sky and the clouds and the sun and I felt calm. Then I turned, my jacket falling off to reveal the two stumps where my arms used to be, and saw the parking lot. It was ugly, like a scar on the perfect earth. I wanted it gone, and I wanted to be gone, and I wanted everything gone. I wanted it to just be the sky again, that perfect blue that I could reach out and touch and have anything be possible. But all I had now was the ugly concrete rushing up at me.

I hit hard, but the fall wasn't enough to kill me. I was rushed inside and, once more, put into surgery. I wasn't awake much those next days. I lost my left leg, having landed on it too severely for it to be repaired (what the doctors think saved me), and was left with three stumps and a useless left leg. When I was conscious, I asked them to cut it off. I just wanted to be cut into pieces and be done with, seeing all that had already happened. It seemed logical for me to just be a useless torso. They sedated me and made sure I had no way to try again with my failed attempt.

Jen never came to see me. Mom did once, to tell me that Jen got better and left. She never spoke of me again. I was sent to a mental institution until they figure out what had happened to me. There's no real explanation for what changed me except a human mind being pushed to the end of its limits and left with no other apparent choice. All I know is that at that moment, when I felt I had to escape from everything, I hated my life.

I still think I hate my life some days, but I know I don't really. I know there are many things I would change if I had the chance. I know I would stand up to my sister if given a do-over, and refuse to let Mr. Frank see us. Maybe if I had done these things, everything could've been different. Maybe Jen would see me as her sister. Maybe I wouldn't have become the person I am today, taking to a shrink as they record my life. There's no moral to this story, but I still want it to be known. This is my history, my journey. This is the tale of life.

Hope you learn from my mistakes and that you've enjoyed my tale. My name is Maxi Clariece Jordan. I am a patient at Sherman's Hospital in the mental ward, and will be for an indeterminable length of time. Hopefully not too much longer. I want to be in the sky again.

Dr. Huller

I worry for Max; she still seems to have dark tendencies. She also doesn't recognize me. I won't tell her that I'm her father. I fear it will cause trauma to her mind. She still can't separate real life from the one she's created in her mind. She is actually the only child between her mother and me, and lost her limbs to a severe infection, caused from open wounds obtained in an accident when she fell from two stories up. I do not know where she got the name Jen from and I don't know what brought on this condition. We can only hope for her to recover one day. She'll stay with you until she does. I probably won't visit very often after this, but I wanted to see my little girl one last time. Please take care of her.

Sincerely, Mr. Frank Jordan

P.S. I think there is some premonition to her story. My wife has recently found out she is pregnant. The tests revealed that she's carrying twins. We're going in for more testing today. Mrs. Jordan also said she liked the name Jenny. This frightened me considerably. You see, I haven't told her about Maxi's Jenny…