Spinel was 6 and Pink was 10. She couldn’t remember if the twin Pearl sisters were 8 or 9, but she knew they were closer to Pink’s age than hers.
Her childhood existed vividly in her memory, but always a touch too blurry for comfort. The clarity fades sooner with every second she pretends she never knew Pink. But like a disease she keeps haunting her mind with memories of what could have been.
“Do you remember Rose and her gang of troublemakers? They went everywhere together.”
“They used to be so close as children.”
Spinel squeezes her eyes tightly shut in her seat, as if that would help block out all the noise. The eulogies, lead by none other than Pearl, spares her no such mercy.
“They named you both Pearl? That’s so funny!” Peony barked with laughter, nearly doubling over from the tree bark she was perching on. Spinel remembers swinging her legs absentmindedly somewhere nearby, laughing along.
“Actually my name is spelled Perle, with no A and an extra E.” The twin with the hair buns spoke up cheerfully, unlike her sister who hid under her sweater. “Apparently they didn’t prepare more than one name.”
“It’s gonna be so difficult to tell you two apart though? Imagine yelling out Pearl!” Peony asks. Perle gestures at her hair in response.
“The hair helps.”
Spinel remembers jumping up at this point, maybe comedically waving her limbs around. “Oh! Oh! Let’s make up nicknames! It can be our secret agent code names!”
The small gang of children all cheered at this idea and set out to work. At that age, feeling like someone important meant so much to them back then. They decided that they should go by their favourite colour, but to everyone’s dismay, they all loved pink. Ah, to be a female child growing up in a society.
In a moment of surprising generosity, Spinel decided she likes her name as-is.
“I should be Pink ‘cause I’m the leader, and Perle can be Pink Pearl! Pearl can be Pink Pearl 2 if she wants!” Peony half-shouted, trying to be loud enough to be heard over the squabble.
“I-Isn’t the point of the nickname… to be, uh… Unique?” Pearl piped up. “I don’t- I don’t want to be Pearl 2.”
“What does ‘unique’ mean?” Spinel was six years old.
“Um… Like, uh. Like you are special, I think.” Somehow Pearl sounded even more unsure than Spinel.
“I don’t mind being Pink Pearl... It’s longer to say but no one would mistake us for each other anymore, Pearl.” Perle grinned sheepishly and said the sentence that Spinel is sure she regretted until this day for how much teasing it unleashed. “Plus it’ll be PP, which kinda sounds like Pee-Pee.”
“ PEE-PEE??? ” The group was in an uproar.
After an hour of screaming pee-pee at each other, the group disbanded for the day with the agreement that Peony and Perle is sharing the Pink nickname--until Peony thinks of a better name. Spinel knows that Peony-- Pink is indecisive, she takes ages to choose an ice-cream flavour in the supermarket, so the day where they actually swap nicknames might never come.
Yet Spinel finds herself sitting in the funeral of Rose Quartz-Universe, born Peony Diamond, who left the world too soon, survived by her husband and son, oh poor Rose , years down the line. People can scream blasphemy at her all they want, but the fact Pink actually decided on something was more jarring than her death. It was like Spinel never knew her at all. The fact she’s sitting through this service full of strangers is a testament to her patience.
Spinel feels someone elbow her on her side, which makes her audibly yelp. She gets a few offended glances, but Spinel’s attention is solely on the culprit.
Pink Pearl stares down at her sternly and mouths ‘be serious’. Betraying her colourful nickname, her auburn hair has been dyed platinum, and the depressing suit sure doesn’t help.
Spinel can’t help but scoff, slouching further down on the bench in her hoodie and slacks. It’s full of strangers, alright.
Spinel was in whatever grade in elementary school when Pink Pearl moved away. She was way too young to wrap her head around it anyway, much less why only one twin was leaving town while one stayed. She remembers that she liked Pink Pearl, especially how she was a goofball who always pocketed a few Snickers mini bars for Spinel and helped her set up her pranks. She was a bit more cheerful than her twin, although they were both textbook nerds. And now she left and Spinel couldn’t understand why.
Pink and Pearl spent the lunch period that day in complete silence. Any attempt at humour from Spinel was met with a polite glance from Pearl and a poker face from Pink. It didn’t feel right. This was all wrong.
The last thing she remembered was gripping her lunch tray tightly until she had to bring herself back to reality. The funeral was over.
Spinel and the Pearls find themselves in a Chipotle after the funeral. Poor half-delirious-from-sobbing Pearl insisted they sit down at a restaurant and catch up like the old times. It just so happens that there’s nothing but sleazy fast-food spots anywhere in this middle of nowhere place. So they squeezed in Pink Pearl’s Corolla since Pearl is incapacitated from tears and drove there.
It’s not perfect, but it’ll do.
“Oh Perle, you shou-should have v-visited.” Pearl said in what sounded like a pained wheeze, still bawling her face out. “Father wouldn’t admit it but he missed you so-sos-so much.”
“Uh… Mom’s been treating me well.” Pink Pearl pulls a few more tissues from the holder, nearly emptying it, and hands them Pearl’s way. “Don’t worry.”
Spinel is stuck in the seat opposing them, her headache now coming back in full force with the noise. She motions to grab some fries, accidentally grabbing Pearl’s attention in the progress.
“And you! You! I thought you left town! You just st-stopped going to school and we thought-- Ahh it’s so nice to see you again, Spinel.”
Spinel grits her teeth, and suddenly she’s so angry. She’s full of spite towards this stranger whom she hasn’t seen in years.
“If you or Pink really cared, you would have found out if I actually left or not, huh?” Spinel twirls the fry back and forth in between her fingers. “But no sorry, still the same old Spinel in the same old place. Just a useless sack of shit living in the middle of nowhere.”
“Spinel, I’m…” Pearl seems taken aback by this, barely being able to keep herself together anymore. But Spinel isn’t satisfied.
“Gee, I’m surprised you wanted me at the funeral the first place! All that best friends forever shit really wore off after eight grade, y’know?”
“Spinel.” Pink Pearl stared back at her, her expression polite but fuming from anger. “You’re going too f-”
“And that’s not to say I’ve forgotten you, PP! My God, what happened to you? Thank God you left so early on too, Pink certainly wouldn’t let you live this shit down if you wanted to.”
Pink Pearl stands up from where she sat in the booth, rattling the table in the progress. Spinel just stares up at her dumbly, not expecting the Pearls to be moving anytime soon.
“Grow up, Spinel.” Tugging on her sobbing twin’s arm, the Pearls quickly left the shithole restaurant.
Growing up is a pill best taken bitterly, Perle always thought. Nothing really prepares you for the pains of adulthood than disapproving parents and just, being forced to grow up way too fucking fast. The day she had to move away from her twin with her mom, it was like something died inside of her. To this day it’s still festering in there and she can’t bury it if she wanted to.
And all of a sudden, Perle was twelve again.
“I just think that Diamond kid is a bad influence on you. I mean, look at what she’s done to your eye.” Her dad cups her cheek sadly. She knows he’s just worried like any good, overbearing parents would be, but-
“It wasn’t her fault! I promise. We were just being silly, and I hurt myself. Please don’t be mad at Pink…” Perle sobbed.
He shook his head sadly. Her pleas had gone to deaf ears.
She knew her parents were splitting up and dividing up their furniture. She didn’t know at the time but later realised that the accident sped the process up quicker than it would have dragged out to be. All in an attempt to get her out of town as quickly as possible.
She was upset of course but learned to tolerate it for the day that she can move out and meet her old friends again. She tolerated it for so long, so long that she forgot what she was like, until the day the reason she’s enduring it for was no more.
“Here, sis. You take some Aspirin and try to take a nap.” Perle gently motions Pearl into the shitty bed in the motel room she’s booked for the funeral.
“Perlie…” Pearl whines, not wanting to let go of the koala bear grasp she has on her sister’s arm. “Am I really that heartless? I tried to do what’s right by so many people… I tried so hard ....”
“Well, I think you’re just gonna hurt yourself even more if you try to think in this state. Come on.” After a bit of wrangling, she finally manages to get her sister into bed.
The last thing Perle heard before stepping out of the room was Pearl’s soft cries. “Maybe if I was a better person, you would have kept in touch. Maybe, Rose--”
It took all the fibres in her being not to fucking cry on the spot, but Perle was an adult. And adults don’t make a fuss anymore. Nor do they make everything to be about them. None of what happened was her sister’s fault so Perle wishes she would just-
“Good night, Pearl.”
Perle steps outside for a late-night caffeine run, resolving to keep everything overwhelming bottled up until she can process it all.
“What did you expect Spins, you are both in the middle of nowhere so, of course , you’re gonna bump into your estranged friend who you lashed out at.” Spinel mumbled to herself nearby, but somehow it’s still loud enough for everyone in a 10-meter radius to hear. Her indoors voice has never been in the right volume much to everyone’s dismay.
“Do you want something, Spinel?” Struggling to stay neutral, Perle’s tone betrays her anyway. Spinel’s head snaps back up at her, almost as if she didn’t expect to be heard, and after a few moments of silence she hisses back.
“...I don’t know Peeface, some kind of food would be nice? If I have enough change maybe I’ll go grab a slushie down the street.”
“Don’t call me that.” Perle taps her foot, waiting for her latte to be finished so she can leave.
“Oh miss Pinky suddenly too grown up to play along? Not when the whole thing was your bright idea all along?” Suddenly Spinel closes the distance between them way too fucking fast, and now she’s all up in Perle’s space. The taller girl knows Spinel knows she doesn’t like it, but she supposes dirty tricks are allowed now that they are older.
It’s probably in vain but Perle side-steps away from Spinel anyway. “I don’t remember any of that so stop fucking around.”
“What’s so funny?”
“Hahahaha-- No I just, pfft. It’s sooo funny.” She buries her face in her left hand, pulling at her own skin in a desperate manner. “I just thought you out of all people wouldn’t change, that you wouldn’t be a piece of shit too, that oh, maybe you would care ?”
Spinel slams the side of her fist into the cafe’s glass display, which is showing a sad selection of dry sandwiches and donuts. The frame wobbled, but thankfully held its place. Perle feels sick to her stomach.
At that moment too, her latte is finished and Perle snatches that thing right from the poor cafe employee’s hand. She’s leaving this place and going back to her motel room. Spinel once again stares at her dumbly, as if the fact she’s driving her away isn’t clicking in her brain.
“Wait, wait, wait! PP, Pink- ugh-- Peeps , whatever! Don’t go!” Spinel desperately tries to match Perle’s speed as she speed-walks out of the door, back to the parking lot.
“ Perle !”
At the sound of her actual name, Perle turns around to face Spinel, half-expecting to be mugged in the parking lot. Yet, all she sees are tears running down her childhood friend’s face, and suddenly Spinel looks so, so small in the dark parking space. Or maybe she just grew too tall? After all that display of anger, Perle never expected any visible vulnerability from someone who she used to call a friend.
They stand staring at each other, not sure of what to say next. Spinel hesitates, then dashes past her, running away from the mess she’s created.
Perle hesitates too, but ultimately decides to put her latte down on the hood of her car, and runs off after her.
Why are they both idiots?
Pearl wakes up from her sleeping daze more miserable than she ever was. The Aspirin she took definitely did not do its job correctly. Her stomach churns and she’s reminded she’s been surviving on adrenaline instead of any real sustenance. Her friends would have to remind her to eat sometimes, or else she’d just be running on nothing but steam. Pearl doesn’t mind it, though, it’s proof that people cared.
Groaning, she turns to her side. The slightly drawn curtains barely hid the moonlight, making the room glow. Poking at her phone, she notices that it was already midnight and she has five missed calls and one unread text--
Scrambling to get into an upright position, Pearl puts on her reading glasses to read the screen. First from Amethyst, followed by a text from Garnet, another from Greg at a later timestamp. The rest are from Perle, and they were recent.
So Pearl does what she does best, and maybe the only thing she ever learned how to do, she assesses them based on the order of importance and calls Perle back.
“Hello? Pearl?” The receiver speaks.
“Wh-What is this I’m hearing about, Rose?” Pearl choked out.
“It means I’m getting married! I already requested the paperwork for a name change, ‘Quartz-Universe’ has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?” Her voice was airy and soft and without a single care in the world.
Pearl tapped the rim of her phone case nervously, trying to distract herself from everything. “I know Greg is a good man, but-- but--” What about her? “But isn’t this way too soon?”
“You’ve known me since we were kids, Pearl. When have I ever done anything I don’t put a hundred percent in?”
“Of course I wouldn’t doubt you... I’m just worried.” And Pearl knew she didn't want to be the one who had to pick up the pieces again when this relationship fails. Rose always flew so high that she often shattered on the way down.
Rose snorted. “I know you are. I can hear you nervously tapping away at your phone again." Embarrassed, Pearl quickly retracted her hands like a child who got caught.
"If you're worried about what happened before, I came out just fine. I feel like you seem to be… more concerned about what happened than me. Just... find some peace of mind, Pearl." And then again, with certainty, "We can talk about this later." And then she hung up.
Pearl sat there, legs pulled up against her chest, staring at her phone's home screen for a long time. The picture of her and Rose together had remained on the screen, unchanged for years, despite countless nights of her finger hovering over the 'Set home screen picture' option. She sighs, turning the phone off.
It was just the home screen background anyway, no one was going to see it.
She thought that Rose would shatter, but here she was, crumpled in a heap on the floor while her world moved on. Pearl wondered if the pieces that she has to pick up were hers all along. Even now, ever since they were children...
...Oh how Rose floated above it all.
"So you chased her down a cliff until you caught her, and proceeded to wrap her in this foil blanket you just happen to have in your purse?"
Pearl sighs, rubbing her temple. Maybe the Aspirin did its job after all, now that she's being stretched even thinner.
"Um… yes. The blanket is for camping trips, actually." Perle shifts awkwardly on her feet, readjusting the way she is holding the blanket burrito on her shoulder. Spinel doesn't bother to put up a fight anymore, and resigned to quietly sniffling away but not quite crying. If anyone were to walk by right at this moment, they surely would get the wrong idea.
"Get in the car." Pearl groans.
Perle shuffles to put Spinel into the backseat when the latter starts to whine.
"God-- what is it?"
"I don' wanna put on the seat belt… And your car smells weird." Spinel mumbles, clearly trying to pick a fight despite being in the same state as a stray animal who just got picked up from the highway.
"You know what? Fine. Do what you want." Perle drops her hold on the smaller girl, letting her plop onto the seat with an oof. Her patience has officially ran out. "Pearl, can you get into an accident or something? Run over a trash can? And it does have a smell."
"W-What?! It’s just the Eucalyptus air freshener.” Pearl fumes, red faced. If she was a nun, she would be clutching her rosary in shock horror now. “And I'll have you know I've never gotten in trouble with the law in my entire life! Why, I have never even run a yellow light!"
"But since you brought it up, you've thought about it!" Spinel yells back from the backseat.
Perle puts her hand on her mouth, trying to hold back a smile. The atmosphere that seemed so tense before faded in an instant.
It is so easy to settle back into a comfortable groove with the other two as if they hadn't just spent a lifetime apart. Perle and Spinel eggs each other on, Pearl gets huffy and doubles down. These are roles they are comfortable to play in. It was as if they were just kids again, but this time without Pink--
The car ride back wasn't as awkward as it could have been, but after the initial bickering, no one had much to say anymore. Pearl is a skilled driver after all, and they pull up into the motel parking lot without much trouble. Spinel gets jostled a little from where she laid in the backseat, very seatbelt-less, when the car pulled to a stop, and that was it.
"End of the line." Pearl quietly said, taking time to rub her eyes that have gotten a bit teary. "Spinel, do you have a place to stay or how are you getting back?"
"Took the bus here." Spinel mumbles, hiding her face under the surprisingly comfortable space blanket.
"Bus…? Do they even run this late? Do you know the schedule?" Perle fishes her phone out of her purse. The screen shines back 1:53 AM, way too late for any human woman to wander around.
"I'unno. Kinda winged it."
“You’re a mess.” Spinel makes a noise in agreement, not bothering to defend herself at all. The twins take a second to look at each other and come to an understanding.
“Come on, we’ll walk you to the bus stop.”
It takes a bit of time and some rolling, but Spinel hops out of the blanket in an over-dramatic display and tumbles out of the car door. “You know I could have gotten out of that flimsy little sheet anytime I wanted, right?” Pearl rolls her eyes and presses to lock the car.
Despite her small frame, Spinel outpaces them both, leaving them trailing behind her. The road is flimsily lit with scattered fluorescent street lamps and the occasional truck that passes by. It would be creepy if they hadn’t known for a fact that no one really bothers to live in this area anymore.
“Good grief, it’s a horror movie out here.” Pearl has a vice grip on her twin’s arm once again, taking cautious steps forward.
“I can’t believe Pink called for a test of courage and ran off first!” Spinel puffed her cheeks and crossed her arms, trying to exaggerate her frustration. “Even though I told her I’ll go together with her if she’s scared.”
“Maybe she’s just busy… she’s been absent a lot, right?” Pearl poked her head out from behind her twin’s shoulder. “Something with the dentist.”
“I dunno about you, but I still wanna go inside!” Pink Pearl marched forward, with her twin still clinging onto her back and put her hands on Spinel’s shoulders. “And then we can call Pink a chicken as much as we want.”
Spinel’s face brightened almost at the exact same time Pearl’s went grim. “The last one out is a wet sock!” Spinel took off into the haunted house, pulling the twins along with her as if they’re a freight train.
Perle blinks, focusing back on reality once again.
It’s been years since that happened, she surprised herself remembering it in the first place. She thought that she forgot most of her childhood already. But looking at Spinel’s back in front of her, it feels familiar, yet a chance like this wouldn’t happen again. Aside from Pink, nothing else is left to tie them together anymore. Not even Pearl or Spinel.
So she lets herself go with her stupid impulses for once, just this one time, and links her free arm around Spinel’s. Spinel, of course, shudders in an over-dramatic, knee-jerk fashion.
But she doesn’t pull away.
“I hate you both, you know that right?” Spinel says, her face still turned away, looking at the road in front of them.
“Maybe.” Perle sighs. “But it doesn’t mean I hate you.”
Spinel doesn’t respond.
Perhaps it’s to no one’s surprise that the bus is late. The bus is always late.
Spinel sits swinging her legs on the bench while the other two stands nearby. Pearl has her eyes glued to her phone, texting intently away using only one finger, using her full focus. Then she looks up, with a pleased look on her face.
“Spinel, if you’re free next fortnight, my friend Garnet is hosting a get together at my house after… all of this .” Pearl rubs the nape of her neck, getting a bit emotional. “You’re welcome to join if you want. You too, Perle.” She barely finished her sentence when Spinel moves to stand in front of her, as if aggression is the only way she knows how to respond anymore.
“Why… why are you being so nice to me? Ahh… What the hell happened to me? Why are you both so… so… prim and proper?”Frustrated, Spinel flips the hoodie back over her head. Though the thin fabric is barely able to hide the tears that come streaming down her face.
“Prim and pr… now that’s a f-funny thought.” And Pearl’s crying too now, her voice shaking with every word. “Without her, I don’t… I don’t know what I have left anymore.”
“Why are you crying??” Spinel chokes out. Her eyes dart to where Perle’s standing, only to find the taller girl getting teary-eyed as well. “Why are you crying too??”
Perle clutches at her mouth, trying not to make a sound. The tears that she held back at the funeral service now flowing effortlessly. She wishes she knew why either.
The three of them sat there for a while, just sobbing away under the flickering street lamp.
For the first time in a world without Pink, they realised how much the colour pink clouded their every waking moment. They all loved, liked, and hated it. And now it’s gone, replaced the dull hue of whatever was left behind.