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Andrea had a successful life for all who looked at her.
She had always been at the top of her class, leaping into studying like it was nothing. And her brother was a bit more problematic for her parents. He did whatever he wanted.
Not Anne; she had always been their spark of pure joy and had always made them proud.
Whenever her brother made them weep, she would find ways to make them smile again.
But a spark of joy was not how she saw herself. When she looked in the mirror at her sleek black hair, petite body, and almond-stretched eyes that saw no end, she didn’t like what she was seeing. She was the product of other people’s expectations and wants. She didn’t know Andrea anymore, other than her complete desire to help and support others. To see the smile in their eyes.
She had always told herself that she would break free from the golden chains of giving that held her, yet work that she excelled at, academics which were as easy as taking a sip from a bottle, and her loving family tied her in place—giving her the pleasure of being the best.
All of that changed when she met Jeah.
Jeah had always been there, reduced from the emotional beatings she had experienced all of her life. She slept in Andrea’s soul like coals that had stopped blazing hours ago, warm and kept alive with the occasional passing wind of liberty.
She was a warrior without a sword; a dragon too bruised to lift itself from the ground, much less fly.
And whenever Andrea gave something she didn’t want to share, Jeah shuddered.
“It’s not theirs to take!” she shouted from the depths of Anne’s soul, only to find her own echo coming back to her.
She had been alone for so long, craving to be beside Anne once again, like when they were little girls, but Andrea forgot her, pushed her to the back of her mind every time someone wanted something.
Slowly and steadily, Jeah planned to confront her.
It had been weeks since Andrea started feeling emotionally sick. She thought all the time, her head blazing from extensive use. Something was wrong.
In a night with no sleep, alcohol in her blood, and an ache in her chest, she decided she had to go away.
She went traveling. Alone, as she has never done before.
She learned a lot in her travels; she loved to learn as a way of life. People told her about emotions and needs, about setting boundaries and receiving. Such words were another language to her. She started exploring her emotional landscape but couldn’t quite put her finger on the problem just yet.
When she came back from her travels, she felt anew. She was a refreshed Andrea and she would be herself no matter what.
Well, that was the plan, until she spent a few days with her family.
It was the same all over again, with them expecting and her desire to please. But now she noticed.
And her headache had only gotten worse at that.
Jeah had just finished setting up another emotional fire inside Anne's mind. She would not be unnoticed anymore. After a brief sequence when Andrea was listening, and she was getting better at that, Jeah was pushed to the back of Andrea’s mind again as if nothing happened. Andrea would have to accept her, or let her go. No matter what, she wouldn’t stay in this prison anymore. That. Was. Enough. Enough that Anne didn’t want her help, even though she needed it. Enough of being unrecognized.
Jeah was strong; Jeah was proud; and Jeah would break free.
Her relationship with her new boyfriend, Matías, diminished with time. Andrea felt like he didn’t really need her to care for him and she couldn’t give him anything.
Who was she if she was not giving? It made her fall into turmoil.
She found a close connection to her grandmother who she suddenly could approach. Her abuela accepted the new Anne, somehow, somewhat.
But with Matías and her parents, she felt herself going mad between a block of stone with an inability to feel and a swarm of wasps stinging her with their expectations.
Then she started a new job, and her emotional turmoil intensified. It was a cage of gold, this job, appearing to be what every person in the western world would want, but caging her nonetheless in its expectations.
One day when she worked from home, it became too much.
Her dad made it clear they were expecting her to come to the family dinner over the weekend, which she was in no state to participate in. Her job demanded she complete a piece of code by the day afterward. She knew she would not be able to finish by then, even working over the weekend.
When she wanted to put her mind to ease with caring for another, Matías was as numb as ever.
How could she move in with this guy? She hung up the phone with him and gathered her things. She took the car and drove.
When Anne arrived at the beach, it was as stormy as her mind. She stood in front of the crashing waves and tore her clothes off as if peeling away the restraints that have been holding her down. Then she yelled. She yelled at the world. She yelled at herself. At her parents and Matías. Even at her grandmother. She had almost found herself! Why couldn’t she stay on her journey?
Staring with a dead grin at the horizon, she walked into the angry ocean, just to feel the water and be out, but before she knew it, the waves crashed into her. She crumpled into the sand and salt, swallowing her fill of water and cursing herself in her mind.
She breathed in the searing water and the sand scratched her like glass from head to toe.
Then, when all hope was as dry as the water in her lungs, someone caught her.
That was it. Jeah had seen her plan to perfection and, finally, she was out. First, she had to save Andrea: it wasn’t her fault and Jeah more than cared. She was more concerned with her conscience berating her afterwards than about Anne’s life, but she cared nonetheless.
When they arrived ashore, Andrea was shivering between bursts of crying and coughing out water.
“What were you thinking?!” Jeah looked at Andrea’s pitiful face and could not stop her anger. “All those years! All those fucking years! You are weak. And stupid. You think you could achieve everything with thinking? You think you can solve every bad in the world, help every poor?! All those years, you kept me inside and did not realize I was the one you needed. And I was right there! But you wouldn’t listen! Tell people no! Matías doesn’t need us? Dump him! Your parents want another thing from you? Hell no! And your work? Damn, you won’t work in your free time just to finish your code! Oh my god, I’ve had to say these things for so long! I’m FREE at last!”
Jeah laughed and ran around the beach, naked and happy, experiencing everything around her. Such a beautiful world, all to herself.
Andrea collected herself bit by bit. Someone saved her and yelled something at her. She wasn’t conscious enough to actually hear the girl, but somehow she felt relieved. When she opened her dry eyes and looked around, she saw someone running and dancing around naked—laughing, shouting, and making weird noises. It looked like this someone was having the time of her life. Andrea groaned to her and Jeah ran up to her.
“That’s it? You’re back? Finally, weak as you are, I thought you’d be dead by now. How long was it? Half an hour since you passed out?”
Andrea saw a face smiling and looking at her from above: it was her own face. Startled, she looked at her hands. They were still the hands Anne knew, with her long thin fingers. She touched her face, to find the broad face she had come to know all her life.
“Who…are you?” she said with a cracked voice.
“I’m you—well, a part of you, a part you’ve long forgotten: I’m Jeah.”
“What do you mean a part of me? What happened? Am I dead?” Andrea could not believe what she was seeing with her dry eyes.
“No, I saved us,” she said proudly pointing to herself, “and now that I’m free, I don't have to go where you go. I can finally do whatever we want!”
It was all coming too fast for Andrea and she felt like she would pass out again from the dryness in her throat. She raised herself to her feet and stumbled back to her car, where she picked up a water bottle and chugged it down. She stopped drinking to cough from time to time. When she had finished, she looked at the girl who was rummaging through the car, throwing out stuff.
“What are you doing?” she said with a weak voice.
“Trashing stuff we don’t need. Stuff you have here for others. We’re going on a road trip!”
Jeah picked up a doll that Andrea’s parents gave her. It was the ‘Am I doing enough?’ doll and it was supposed to remind her to do something extra every time she looked at it. Jeah tossed into the sand without a second thought.
“Wait, you’re ruining nature. Stop! At least put those things in the trash can!” Andrea saw how badly Jeah wanted to throw those things away and all she wanted was to give her this pleasure, but not at the cost of trashing the beach.
“Look at you finally saying no,” Jeah told her back. “Fuck it, Anne. Fuck the beach and fuck you, bitch. I’ve been trapped for too long! You won’t keep me from doing what I want anymore! What we want.”
“Keeping you? I’m sorry, I...didn’t know.” She didn’t want to do anything wrong to this Jeah, and she didn’t understand what she had done.
“Urgh, I just can’t with you!” Jeah snarled, pulling at her hair in frustration. “Stop being sorry to everyone! Come, I’m driving.”
Andrea got into the passenger seat and Jeah started driving.
“Okay,” Jeah said while driving way above the speed limit, “we’re going to fix our lives! Pick up your phone and do as I say.”
“Okay,” Andrea replied and did as Jeah told her.
“Call Matías. Tell him that he can shove the keys he offered you up his ass and find someone else that he does need.”
“But I don’t want to hurt his feelings. At least we could do it in person—”
“Are you not listening to me, Anne?” Jeah interrupted. “Stop giving to others already. Give to yourself. And it’s been too long that we wanted to dump his ass anyway. He doesn’t need us so what would it matter if it would be on the phone or in-person? Just do it. Also, it’s easier this way. More time for ourselves.” Jeah felt again so happy to be free and pressed harder on the gas.
“I don’t want to take his time and he’s supposed to be working now—”
“Andrea, if you won’t do as I say, I will hit you.” Jeah started getting angry again, and she wouldn’t cower away from hurting the person who jailed her for so long.
Anne called Matías. “Hey Matías, I hope I’m not interrupting,” she said with a weak voice. “I think we should break up. I’m not good enough for you—”
“Urgh,” Jeah snarled again, “you need to forget everything you were taught and learn anew. Put it on speaker. Matías,” she yelled while crossing some car to the right and hearing the sweet sound of its horn. “You can shove the keys you offered me up your ass. Goodbye.”
“Andrea?” came a voice from the phone but Andrea had already hung up.
“Oh my god, it feels…good!” Andrea couldn’t stop smiling.
Jeah was proud of Andrea. At least she felt good doing what she wanted at last. Jeah had started to think she was already a lost cause. “Told you, now we’re going to take our things from home and head out, just you and me. But before that, call your workplace and tell them you are taking three days off and won’t be able to complete the code by the time they asked you to.”
“But,” Andrea sounded uncertain again.
“No buts. Do it. And now I’m not helping but I got your back.” Strange: Jeah suddenly felt good supporting Andrea.
Andrea did as she was told and, to her surprise, her boss accepted it with no questions asked. He even told her he thought they had put too much on her plate as it was.
Jeah and Andrea arrived at the house of their parents and Jeah stopped the car.
“Now, you will tell them this, ‘I’m done dancing to your tune; I’m going to do whatever I want from now on, and fuck you. I hate how you’ve treated me all these years, and I hate how you don’t see who I am and what I need. I want to be free from you and you are the worst parents ever.’ Yes. This is what you should tell them.” She was outraged.
Andrea didn’t want to tell her parents those things. They wouldn’t help but she found a power within herself she didn’t know before. She took Jeah’s rage and made it soft. “No,” she told her.
Jeah’s eyes widened but she encouraged her to keep going.
“No,” Andrea repeated, “I will not tell them those things, but what about this?” She smiled and touched Jeah’s elbow. “Remember when we learned on our travels this new way of conversation? I think ‘nonviolent communication’ was what it was called.” Her voice was sweet.
“Yes, I remember the guy that told us about that. He was cute.”
“He was,” Andrea smiled again. “Let’s tell them together that when they expect us to do things, we feel stressed and disconnected from ourselves. We need to celebrate our lives and be ourselves. We need freedom and independence. That we want to do things our way and not theirs. That we’re old enough. Then, we can go.”
“I’d be down with that,” Jeah told her, and got out of the car.
Walking side by side down the path to a house the same as all the others in the neighborhood, Andrea and Jeah felt full.
“Hey, I love you, Anne. Sorry for yelling at you.”
“I love you too, Jeah. I won’t imprison you anymore.”
Together, they knocked at the door.
Her mother, Keyla, opened the door. There, she saw her little girl covered with sand, her hair a mess. She looked… proud.
*Proofreader & Editor: Nicole Wait