I got to punch things at the gym. I liked going now, even if Dad was still Dad and Lyanna didn’t wanna come.
“But I wanna play with Mr. Landon,” she said when I asked.
The groundskeeper was always making angry faces and asked if we thought he was “some manner of nursemaid,” whatever that was, and never had anything nice to say to anybody, but for some reason it didn’t bother Lyanna. Maybe because flowers were her favorite, and Mr. Landon took really good care of them because he liked flowers better than people.
“He’s old,” I argued. “You can’t play with old people. Unless they’re Dad,” I added. “But that’s just because he’s just a giant kid in a grown-up’s body.”
“That’s okay,” she said. “I always have fun anyways.”
“But he calls you a ‘flaxen-furred runty weasel,’” I argued.
But she just smiled. “Mom says that’s another word for gold,” she said. “And weasels are cute.”
At least getting better at punching would help me protect her in the future, even if we couldn’t be together right now. But why would Lyanna choose a mean old man over her own twin? Did she like flowers even better than me? She was my favorite, so I was supposed to be her favorite too.
What if she went off with the butterfly man just because he had lots of flowers at his butterfly palace?
Punch. Punch. Punch.
Dad says he has to stay in shape in case he has to do shirtless photoshoots, which Mom says is “never gonna happen, Byron” and for “general manliness reasons.” So we punch these bags that were made for punching together, even though they don’t really look like bags, but at least they’re fun to punch and I won’t get called to the principal’s office for doing it.
I wish Lyanna liked punching too. I wish we had more stuff in common, even if we’re already twins. I try to like the same stuff she does, but some of it’s so dumb and girly. I think she’d really like punching if she tried.
But she doesn’t try…
“Having fun, champ?” Dad asked.
“Yeah,” I said, even as I imagined punching something other than a bag that didn’t look like a bag.
And then my wish came true.
But when I looked up at him–really meanly, like Mr. Landon does–he looked away like I wasn’t even there.
So I punched him like he deserved.
But it was like my fist went straight through him…
“That’s my little fang-buster,” Dad said. “You show that punching bag how manly you are.” Maybe he didn’t see anything weird at all, except Dad never noticed anything that everybody else did, like when he stepped in dog poop and his flip-flops smelled up the whole house wherever he walked but he didn’t smell anything at all.
Mom said Lyanna was the one with the “vivid imagination,” so why did I see a punching bag turn into a butterfly man and not her? I thought about asking Lyanna after we got home but I didn’t. I wasn’t mad at her, because she’s my twin, but she didn’t have to choose Mr. Landon over me. She could’ve watched me punch, even if she didn’t want to punch anything herself. And then I could’ve asked if she saw what I saw…
I didn’t wanna go to sleep that night. But I did, because I was tired.
I was in a dark, scary forest, except I wasn’t scared, because I wasn’t scared of anything except losing my twin. And I knew it was just a dream.
I kept walking. If I was dreaming about a dark, scary forest, that meant Lyanna could be too. And Lyanna would be scared and maybe even cry. But it wasn’t Lyanna’s voice I heard whispering through the dark branches that looked like they wanted to grab a lost princess.
I’m drowning. I can’t hear the wind.
I ran up to a gross green pool of water and yanked the drowning person out without thinking. And then I dropped him, because butterfly men are gross.
Water dripped off his wings when they fluttered. I knew who it was, even if I didn’t know why I rescued him. Maybe because it’s what Lyanna would’ve wanted me to do. She probably liked him better than me too.
“You saved me,” he said, following me as I walked away. His voice wasn’t a whisper this time.
“Don’t you have a mom?” I mumbled. “She should’ve taught you how to swim.” Mom had taught me and Lyanna to swim almost right after we learned to walk. Since we lived on an island, it was really important.
“No.” It was weird, hearing him talk, after seeing his punchable face in so many dreams without him ever saying anything. His voice wasn’t what I expected. It was quieter, sadder. But I still wanted to punch him, especially when he smiled at me.
Mom says if you don’t have anything nice to say, maybe you shouldn’t say it, even if it’s true. I wanted to say that some people didn’t deserve moms, but I didn’t.
“That’s too bad, I guess,” I said, “but I have a mom and a sister, and please don’t kidnap my sister, okay?” I couldn’t decide if I should threaten to punch him or not.
“I won’t kidnap anyone ever again,” he said, his voice all quiet.
I stared at him. “…You kidnapped somebody before?”
“I didn’t mean to.”
That didn’t really make me feel any better. Lyanna didn’t mean to trip over rocks, but sometimes she did it anyway, and it really hurt. And how do you kidnap somebody on accident? That was like Dad saying he didn’t mean to eat the last of the plasma fruit-banana cones, even if he was the only one shoving them between his fangs…
“Do you hate me?” the butterfly man asked.
“The most,” I answered right away.
He looked away, but not at anything I could see. “I’m sorry. I never meant for you to hate me.”
“Then you never should’ve snuck into our dreams,” I said, digging my bare toes in the dirt and staring at the ground. “You should’ve stayed really really far away.”
And then he fell like I punched him, even though I didn’t.
His wings disappeared.
And then he screamed like I’d punched him, even though I didn’t. And he stopped moving at all…
And then he was gone, and I was alone in the dream.
When I woke up, I felt sad and didn’t know why.
But I was happy when the whole summer went by and I didn’t dream of the butterfly man. He was gone, and he’d never bother me or Lyanna again.