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Joined at the Heart

by Walter Giersbach

Brittany and Brianna were the hottest kids this side of heaven last year. Topped the music charts for five weeks with their single, “Those Aren’t Stars (They’re My Tears).”

I don’t follow music, but my editor at Fame told me to get an interview with a different angle. Death of art, he called it. Like, “If the new culture is merchandising pop, then the audience must be customers and we’re all glorifying business.” You know the arch, cynical way the mass media approaches something they don’t understand. 

Brittany Breen was the wild one. She was first to have an affair, first to try booze, first to be caught by Access Hollywood doing weird things. Brianna was reticent, sweet, patient. I got this from the magazine’s morgue. Also their stats. Born identical twins 18 years ago.  Both turned into all-American beach babes. Both inseparable. “Peas in a pod,” my editor said, which is why I’m a writer and he’s more what they call a producer.

I got my first interview while they were hanging out in Laguna Beach. My story ran fifteen hundred words and got a cover. Insight. Humor. Pathos. That’s what I deliver. A glimpse into America’s soul. I headlined the piece, “Let No One Tear Asunder,” giving it a nice spin with that marriage jingle about “What God hath joined together....” Of course, my editor spiked the head.  Don’t think he wanted to look up asunder.

What everyone failed to understand is that these twins were so closely joined that they might have been kids you see on the six o’clock news, joined at the head and living in a banana republic. Brittany and Brianna were joined at the heart.   

Until the murder. The homicide detective told me, “Hard to tell who did it. We got no DNA or fingerprints or witnesses or....” Words failed him. All he had was the body of their manager, Eddie Costa, getting rigor mortis in the Malibu pool house. 

One of the girls had sprayed him to death with a can of roach killer. The can was clean of prints. Brittany swore she was out on the deck working on her tan. Brianna was occupied in the bedroom with her pedicure. I personally think the prosecutor flipped a coin to decide which twin was going down. Brianna or Brittany? A coin with two sides — one black and the other white. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Brittany got five years for manslaughter and would be out in three for good behavior. She was the black side of the coin. I think. I was never sure which twin I was talking to.

Of course, Brianna tried to take the rap when she confessed to getting rid of the biggest cockroach in Hollywood, but the prosecutor turned a blind eye. He’d made up his mind it was Brittany.

Prison marked the first time the twins had ever been separated. I mean it. When the door slammed behind Brittany, Brianna collapsed and was taken to the hospital where she stayed in a dark room for a week. She allowed me to visit for five minutes since there was no Eddie to get in Brianna’s way now. As we chatted, his ashes were being dusted over Waikiki as he wished.

 “I did it, doncha see,” she told me. “It was, like, Eddie was hitting on Brittany so I did him with the first thing I saw — that can of oven cleaner.”

“Roach spray,” I said.

“Right. Whatever.” Her body was wracked with sobs and she clutched her pink teddy bear. “I can’t live without my sister,” she wailed.

I still think of that teddy bear when I look over my notes. Great symbology there for a kid terrified of living apart from her twin. 

That night Brianna may have visited the dark side. Next morning nurses found a terminal patient from the cancer ward out cold. Literally. Her ancient body was in the freezer where they store liquid nitrogen. Her head was a block of ice with earrings. A porter tried mouth-to-mouth, but it was too late — for the porter, whose lips immediately became stuck to the corpse.

Had Brianna invited the geezer into cold storage? Enter the same prosecutor running up a murder charge for Brianna. Enter the same judge who asked what our young people are coming to before gaveling her down to — you guessed it — five years in prison. The twins would be rejoined.  The soul mates were now cell mates. Had the black and the white both turned black? I wanted a quote from one of those philosophers when I drafted the story, but I think they’re all dead.

What makes me wonder about the irony in life is that they kicked Brittany out of the slammer a week after Brianna’s trial. Eddie, the rock star manager, had a very complex life. Seems his ex-wife had come to Malibu looking for her alimony. While Brittany was laying on the SPF 30 and Brianna was playing This Little Piggy with the nail polish, the former Vegas dancer offed him with the bug spray. She had been bragging it up at Caesars Palace, how you can solve marital problems with common items found in any kitchen cupboard. Meanwhile, Brianna’s on the inside and the duo’s career is on hold till she’s released.

Just goes to show you, people may look the same, but they’re really, really different. Like Brittany-Brianna doing a Jekyll-Hyde.

I guess it shows there may be a certain amount of performance art in the pop music business, which is better than no art at all. It shows you the depths of mutual compassion twin sisters can have. It shows you that a Beast may lurk behind every Beauty, and vice versa.

Well, you get the idea. I’m running a deadline and my editor wants to end this with a Big Picture. They’re holding the presses, but damned if I can figure it out.

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