The twins were born minutes aside, the female at 12:03, the male at 12:12. Their father hadn’t been able to make the event, being on duty in the Philippines at the time. No one from the immense horde of relatives had come from their scattered homes to the Denver event, so the mother had no one to prevent her from indulging her whims. When the nurse asked her what she wanted to name the children, Mrs. Smith-Riley replied, “Guinevere and Arthur.” They were doomed for life.
Both of them took after their mother in appearance, with clear, almost translucent skin, flaming hair and deep green eyes. Those ethereal good looks were to be very useful to Art, who discovered at age ten that his lifelong passion was to be the theater, his dream to be a Shakespearean actor in London. He and his sister would hide in their cluttered attic, and he would declaim monologues while she brandished a fireplace poker as a makeshift sword. Luckily for her, she quickly grew bored with the theater, and lucky for the theater as well, since she had all the dramatic talent of a block of wood. Gwen channeled her passion into living, living dangerously, and Art became the shy, silent type, only coming alive on stage. Then they went to school.
Not much changed there; they just became more themselves, somehow. Freed from the restrictions and tempers of her rather arbitrary mother (their father had died ingloriously in a barroom brawl years before), Gwen went to school and raged. She’d chosen the University of Chicago, rather an odd choice; but it turned out to be a college well-suited to her brilliant mind and headstrong methods. Not a place that had many rules about its students’ social lives…nor really cared if they had them at all… It left Gwen, when she wasn’t excelling in her Psychology classes, free to spend her time in lewd and lascivious pursuits.
Stories were told about her on campus, legends almost. They said that she had taken on all of Alpha Delt and lived to tell the tale, that she had seduced every TA she had…to the point where they fought to get her assigned to their section, and that she considered it a personal slight against her honor to become friends with a virgin and let him, or her, remain so.
Art lived a very different life at Northwestern. He was silent in his required classes, never speaking unless pushed, never volunteering anything. Like his sister, he had no trouble with exams, and wrote complex, witty papers on the correct way to tie up your hose in the Renaissance, and the symbolism of color in Ibsen. But he had few friends, and no lovers. In North-western’s vibrant theater life, he was a presence only on stage, and all attempts the female drama students made to befriend him were met only with bewilderment and flight on his part. He became more and more technically skilled, more and more passionate on stage…and far lonelier elsewhere. He told none of this to his sister, who found little time in her busy social life to visit him. So things remained until the end of their senior year.
It was June 9, 1994, their mutual day of celebration. Twenty-one today, and classes were over and graduation was imminent. Their mother would be flying into Chicago in the morning. At 8 pm the twins had only a precious few hours left to themselves. They’d wound up back at Gwen’s apartment after a raucous tour of her favorite campus hot-spots, such as they were. Art rarely drank, but tonight was a special occasion…birthday, coming of age, and graduation all at once. The champagne was flowing freely and he was well past the tipsy stage. At that moment, he was standing on her bed, muddy shoes and all, reciting the monologue he hoped to play in London that summer: “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…” It was almost painfully appropriate.
“I think you should shut up,” Gwen bellowed, over the rising chant “and get laid! You’d be a lot happier.”
Art’s voice suddenly cut off, and he peered at his sister from behind thin glasses and strands of hair. “And what makes you think I haven’t, oh sister mine? Just because I don’t trumpet my conquests to the world doesn’t mean I don’t have a nice piece of ass stashed away somewhere.”
Gwen laughed. “Dear brother, you wouldn’t know a nice piece of ass if it came up and bit you.” She walked towards him, waggling a forefinger at him to emphasize her point as she said, “You…are… a…virgin. Just admit it and then we can do something about it. I have some nice friends I could introduce you to…open-minded girls with a taste for redheads. And I promise they’re good in bed.”
Art blushed scarlet, and suddenly lost his balance, plopping down on the bed. He quickly regained his composure, and reached for his champagne glass, downing its contents before remarking, “Well, maybe I am. A virgin.” He blinked owlishly at his rapidly advancing sister, whose forefinger was now pushing his chest, so that he fell backwards on the bed.
Gwen crowed in triumph! “I knew it! Little brother, you have no secrets from me. Now what would you like? A slim brunette, a curvy blond? A virgin would be hard to find, but I can guarantee you disease-free.” She sat on the bed next to him, counting women on her fingertips.
“Ah, big sister, how could any maiden compare to you?” Art proclaimed hastily. “I remain chaste only because I have not yet met the woman who could compare with you. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thy eyes are nothing like the sun’s! Hark! The fair Ophelia! To be or not to…oof!” Art’s words dissolved into laughter as his sister furiously attempted to pummel him into silence.
Gwen tickled his stomach, his armpits; she pulled off his muddy shoes to tickle his feet…and that was suddenly too much. Art grabbed her wrists and pushed her backwards across the wide bed. He fell forward against her, pinning her body beneath his own, using his weight to full benefit against the suddenly scratching, wriggling mass beneath him.
Gwen slid her wrists up, still firmly grasped in his, until she had her fingers around his throat. Her knees pressed his arms against his body, so he couldn’t use them to full effect. Her fingers began to tighten. “Give it up, little brother” she panted. “You know I always won our wrestling matches.”
Art couldn’t quite speak, but he could still move. Suddenly he rolled heavily sideways, landing on his back with Gwen above him. In the confusion, he managed to twist away from her constraining arms, and pull her fingers away from his throat. He held her arms crucified away from her body. His long legs wrapped around hers, pinning her dangerous knees. Then he said, “The last time we wrestled was five years ago, big sister. I believe you are now in check.” Art laughed up at his sister’s helplessness. “What are you going to do?”
Gwen suddenly smiled an oddly wistful smile. “Mate?” she asked. With that, she tilted her head down an inch…and kissed him. ‘Predictable,’ was Art’s one startled wondered, before he lost himself in the joy of kissing those well-kissed lips. He still held her arms straight out from her body. Gwen’s breasts weighed heavily against his chest through the thin fabric of her t-shirt, and her hair fell uncontrolled against his face.
If there was one thing Art had learned, it was kissing, after hours of stage kisses with cold women under hot lights. Before he had only met the semblance of passion — now passion was hitting him full force, a desert storm. The room was burning in Gwen’s kisses. He was drowning in the sand.
She was writhing against him, and finally he let her hands go, uncertain what else to do. Gwen seized the opportunity, and quickly reached down to her waist, lifting herself up as she pulled off the shirt. She wasn’t wearing a bra, and her soft breasts hung free in the glaring light. Art reached out suddenly and turned off the bedside lamp. It was too much, somehow. Having his beloved, and gorgeous, sister staring him in the face, with breasts he hadn’t seen since they shared a bed in grammar college. Asking him to do this in bright light was too much.
Before he could begin thinking whether it was too much even in darkness, Gwen was pulling off his shirt as well. She muttered curses at him when he moved too slowly to help her, and was soon skinning off both their jeans. Long before he could have finished “Tomorrow and tomorrow” she had them both naked as the day they were born. Minutes aside.
“What are we doing?” Art asked her softly. Gwen didn’t answer, just lowering her sweet body to his willing one. Their skin burned at the touch, yet Arthur shivered under the assault. He took her silence as his cue, and from them on silence reigned, broken only by her softly moaned encouragement, and his startled sighs.
Gwen gently directed Art whenever he seemed lost, and he took her direction flawlessly. Obviously Gwen’s talent in bed was a shared family trait. Familiar hands caressed skin, sweaty bodies entwined on the mud-stained bed. They separated only briefly enough for Gwen to reach out and grab a condom from her nightstand. She wondered briefly that she was quite positive she didn’t want any children from this union. Then the wondered was buried in long-suppressed desire. She, at least, had wanted this for a long, long time. It had just taken her a while to admit it, and a little longer to maneuver it into existence.
Much later, Art lay there humming, his sister’s head cradled in his shoulder. Gwen said to him, “You sound happy, little brother. What are you humming?” Art shook his head and laughed softly. “You don’t want to know” he replied. Gwen twisted her head to look up at his face. “Don’t try to tell me what I want,” she said. “Would you have predicted tonight?”
Art kept his memory of that first startled wondered to himself, and gallantly answered, “No, though I might have dreamed of it occasionally.” Gwen continued staring up at him, obviously waiting for her answer. Art laughed and gave in.
“It’s from Camelot. It’s the song where Arthur wins Guinevere by telling her about Camelot’s scenic beauty.” Gwen punched his side indignantly. “We pledged that we would never, ever see that show.” Art tried to fend her off, “Enough, big sister! I was auditioning for it, what could I do?” Gwen didn’t seem particularly calmed by this explanation. Art continued, “If it’s any consolation, I was auditioning for Arthur, and I didn’t get the part.”
That won a startled laugh from Guinevere. Arthur took the opportunity to lift himself up on an elbow and start to sing to her in a low tenor, “And there is simply not, a more congenial spot, for happy-ever-after-ing than here…”
Art paused suddenly, his eyes locked on her smiling face. “We can’t ever do this again, you know” he said. His eyes were suddenly wistful. “I know,” she replied, as she put up a hand to caress his face. “Thank you for the lesson, big sister” he said softly. Gwen suddenly laughed again, rolling around so she was seated on his stomach. “We’ve got at least five hours till mom gets here. I think you need a little more tutoring before I let you go.”
With that, Gwen leaned down to kiss him, and Art gave up the last of his worries and kissed her back. He started humming softly… until she bit him. Then it was silence once again.