(October 2022’s short story of the month. SOOOOOOOO LATE!)
The doctors had never seen anything like it. She was a perfectly healthy little girl who just happened to have two hearts. The only explanation they could offer was that at some point the embryo had started to transition to a twin, but then reverted back.
After all, having extra body parts wasn’t completely unheard of. Polydactyls had extra parts. But the medical and biological complication of having an extra heart wasn’t as problematic as the emotional aspect of being known as the girl with two hearts.
Her mother became an internet sensation. She enlisted her daughter to become the face of several major charitable foundations. The first foundation was called “Twice as Much Heart.” They funneled money into many other charities, including research for cardiac diseases.
Amara hated that her whole life was one long blip of content making for various social media sites. She couldn’t even go to the mall and hang with her friends because it would turn into a frenzy of people trying to take selfies with her.
At only thirteen, she didn’t really have any friends, not true friends anyway. There were people that her mom would let hang out with her, but they were all kids who’s parents were friends with her mom. She wouldn’t have hung out with a single one of them if her mother hadn’t made her.
Her teenage years were going to be lonely and annoying, so Amara made a wish. She couldn’t sleep one night and was sitting alone in her room listening to music via headphones.
She squeezed her eyes shut as hard as she could and wished and hoped and prayed to any one or being that was listening.
She wanted a friend. Someone who couldn’t be corrupted by the influence of her mother and who wouldn’t care about the drama of her life. She wanted a true friend. Someone to share her secrets with. Someone who didn’t want to be around her for status. Just someone to be real with.
She wished so hard that every thought she had over the next few weeks was about finding a friend. She couldn’t stop wishing.
On a night, much like every night of her life, she was alone in her room. She was laying on her bed, facing the wall. She sighed.
“Have you ever tried telling your mother you don’t want to do it anymore?” a voice asked from behind Amara.
She was alone in her room, or at least she thought she was. She was too scared to move.
“Are you going to talk to me, or am I just going to sit her all night waiting for you?” the voice asked.
Amara still couldn’t move. Then someone, probably the person connected to the voice, spun in her squeaky computer chair. Amara huddled into the fetal position.
“Are you scared of me?” the voice asked. “Of course you are, we’ve never met. Turn around and look at me. I won’t hurt you, Amara.”
Amara still couldn’t move. Maybe she was dreaming. She didn’t hear the door open. Besides, her mother wouldn’t let a complete stranger into her room.
Amara rolled over slowly but didn’t open her eyes right away. She took a deep breath and then swallowed. She slowly opened one eye just so she could peek out.
She saw a girl—a girl that looked just like her but was see-through. She was looking at a ghost. But how could that be? The ghost looked like her. She wasn’t dead. Maybe she was dreaming.
She closed her eyes again and pinched her upper arm as hard as she could stand.
“Ouch,” she whispered. She opened her eyes slowly again.
The girl was waving at her. “You going to sit up and talk to me, or what?” the girl asked.
Amara couldn’t believe what she was seeing. This girl looked like her, but she didn’t sound like her. Her voice was louder, more confident. She didn’t seem shy and withdrawn.
Amara sat up without looking away. She couldn’t take her eyes off what was before her. She was afraid if she blinked or looked away, she would disappear.
“Wha… what? What are you?” Amara finally managed to stutter out.
“A friend,” the girl and/or ghost version of herself said. “You can call me Cara.” She stuck her hand towards Amara. “Put ‘er there.” She smiled, grinning from ear to ear.
“Cara?” Amara paused because she didn’t want to offend the apparition. “What are you?”
“Like I said, I’m a friend. Do you want me to go?” Cara leaned back in the chair.
From where Amara was sitting, she could see the outline of the chair through Cara’s form. There was a faint green glow surrounding Cara. “A friend? Do you mean the friend I wished for?”
Cara nodded and then spun in the chair. “Yeppers,” she said.
Amara shook her head. She had to be imagining this. “Then how?” she started to ask. “But why?” She stopped again. She couldn’t seem to form a coherent question. “What are you exactly? Like a ghost or something?”
“Not a ghost.”
“But are you real?” asked Amara. “I mean, are you alive?”
“Yes, and no.” Cara kept spinning in the chair, faster and faster.
“So, what are you?” Amara asked.
“I’m a friend, that’s what matters most.” She stopped abruptly. “Let’s talk about why you’re sitting up here alone when you could be outside or downstairs, or anywhere but here staring at a wall.” Cara crossed her arms over her chest and started tapping her foot.
They talked for hours. Amara told Cara things she’d never told anyone else. They discussed her mother, the constant chaos of her life, and how lonely it was being her.
At some point as they were talking and giggling, Amara lay back down and closed her eyes, but they still talked for many more minutes.
Amara woke up the next morning, but there was no sign of Cara. As she splashed water on her face, she couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe she’d imagined the whole thing.