Mirror Mirror: Chapter 1

By JD Rockel

Chapter One

 

August 2026

The bus ride to school was short but bumpy. Rochelle sat quietly next to her twin sister, Rosalinda, trying not to fall off the edge of her seat. She noticed the boys traveling with them. Their commotion added to her anxiety. The vehicle stopped and the passengers formed a line to disembark. Once outside, Rochelle and her sister moved as one, the pressing horde pushing them forward. Stepping inside the building, Rochelle’s heart beat faster. A subtle pungency from them filled her nostrils. There was such a variety compared to her last school. All shapes, sizes, and colors. Her palms grew damp. The possibilities intrigued her. They all looked like men, not boys. Welcome to public high school.

“Rosa, what do you see all around us?”

“You mean the mass of humanity?”

“No, silly. All the boys. Imagine the possibilities.”

“Right, like getting distracted. But that’s not what you mean, is it?”

“Of course not. I’m talking about meaningful relationships. You should be thinking the same. We didn’t have a chance to interact much with boys at our last school. Everything was too proper in the Christian school. Now the prospects are endless. What should we do first?”

“We should check in first.” Rosa pointed to a row of white, eight-foot folding tables ahead of them. “We need to go over there.”

The students had been directed down a short hall into the cafeteria. Most of the lunch tables were folded up and pushed to the kitchen end. It was a tangled mess of humanity. Students from all grades were pressed together in the room.

This was a big change from previous years when students received their information by mail.  There was space at each end of the row of tables for students to pass by.

“I want our first day to go smoothly, Rochelle.” Rosalinda took a hold of her sister’s shoulders and guided her into a line. In front of their row of students was a table with a sign that read “A – H”.

“Well, I doubt it will go smoothly. Finding our lockers, classrooms, new teachers, meeting guys. And I’m going by a new name. Rochelle is too formal. I want something with a little edge. What about Rockie or Rocco?”

“I think they both sound like boy’s names. If you want to meet men, try again.”

“Well smarty-pants, what do you suggest?”

“How about Shelly or Ella?”

“Shelly is too girly, and Ella is what Mom calls me all the time.”

“Rosie?”

“What’s not girly about Rosie?”

“How ‘bout Rosh or Rosha?”

“Better… I’ve got to think about that.”

“That will keep you occupied while we wait, sis.”

“Come on, come on!” Rochelle said, talking to no one in particular.

“Ella, take a deep breath, OK?” Rosa’s face was scrunched, and she sounded annoyed. She resorted to the name commonly used at home. “Don’t you remember the Bible verses we learned about patience?”

Several years ago, the youth group at church spent a month talking about patience.  Rochelle did not like being reminded about right living. Life was too short.

“Oh, please. Hmm, I think you’re right. I should stick with Ella. Probably not too many Ellas here. Thanks, sis.”

“Whatever works. That makes it easy for me.” Rosa seemed pleased as her frown disappeared.

Ella’s mind wandered. Hmm, this line is moving at a snail’s pace. I wonder if Rosa’s heard this joke?

“Hey Rosa, did you hear the one about the snail that was climbing the apple tree?”

“No. What happened?”

“Well, an ant was on his way down the tree and asked, ‘What are you doing climbing this apple tree?’ The snail said, ‘I’m going up to get an apple.’” Ella used a deep cartoon voice for the snail. In a higher voice, Ella continued, “The ant said, ‘There aren’t any apples up in this tree yet, it’s only June.’ The snail replied, ‘There’ll be apples by the time I get there.’”

Rosa laughed and so did the girl in front of them.

“That’s good.” The girl turned towards them. She had the most wonderful, joy-filled smile on her face. Unmistakable dimples formed on her cheeks. “My name is Jocelyn; you can call me Joss.”

“Hi, I’m Ella and this is my sister Rosa.”

“I’m guessin’ you two are twins. Right?” Jocelyn asked.

“How could you tell?” Ella asked with a smirk on her smile.

“Well either I’m seeing double or you two are identical twins.” Joss had a contagious laugh that got Ella and Rosa giggling.

Ella and Rosa had identical physical features. Ella made sure their dark brown hair was styled identically with loose beachy waves. Their diamond-shaped faces with slightly pronounced chins let them be visually expressive. None of their facial expressions appeared exaggerated, except when Ella was really mad.  

Today they chose to dress alike also wearing red tank tops and sleeveless denim vests. Their matching denim shorts were of modest length with the fading matching the vests precisely. Neither one was much for makeup or jewelry but they wore simple gold huggie hoop earrings.

“Yup, we were born four minutes apart,” Ella offered. “I was born first.” Ella had this thing about being born first. She used being the oldest of the two as an argument for getting her way. The four minutes were her way of reminding Rosa that Ella considered herself the more significant sister. Ella knew Rosa didn’t buy it. It had been a point of contention for many years.

“So, is it true that twins have a psychic connection? Do you know what the other is thinking?” Jocelyn’s wide-eyed amazement overtook the jovial smile.

Rosa jumped in. “Not really. At least I haven’t noticed it.”

Ella turned to face her sister. “Oh, admit it, Rosa. You can tell when I want to do something. Especially if you think it’s wrong.”

“Yeah, but that’s because you’re predictable.”

Ella rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

Turning to face Joss, Ella added, “I can tell what Rosa is going to say. I probably have the advantage since I’m the firstborn.”

Joss appeared mesmerized. “Wow, that’s gucci.”

Inch forward. Wait, wait, wait. Inch forward.

“Hey, Joss. Do you know why we have to stand in line? I thought all this information was to be mailed a week ago.”

“What I heard Ella, was some sort of printing snafu happened. They couldn’t get the info to the post office in time.”

The line inched forward, and Joss arrived at the table.

Ella turned to get Rosa’s attention. “Rosa, we should make it a point to meet some guys right away. Maybe in our first class? We will get the same class schedule, won’t we?”

“Ella, why are you so fixated on dating? It will happen. God will provide in His time.”

“That’s the problem, Rosa. God’s time takes too long. All we could do was wait in junior high. I can’t wait any longer.”

“Well, I suggest you do or you’ll get yourself in trouble.”

There were times when Rosa’s focus on God annoyed Ella. They grew up in the same church, same Sunday school classes, and same youth group, but trusting God interfered with Ella’s plans more often than not. Ella wanted what she wanted on her timetable. Waiting for God’s timing was too annoying.

Joss turned towards them holding a large manila envelope. “See you two later.” Her amazing smile returned as she turned and walked away. The two sisters finally stepped up to the table. The lady sitting there was looking down at her list, marking on a sheet of names.

She spoke as she lifted her head, “Hello, and you are? Whoa, am I seeing double?”

“Yes and no,” Rosa replied. “We are Rosalinda and Rochelle DeLuca. We are identical twins.”

“I was born first,” Ella offered.

Rosa tried unsuccessfully not to sneer.

“Well, I will probably find both of your packets together here. Let’s see… Oh yes, here you are.”

After looking at the packets the lady set them down on the table as if to rest. Her eyelids drooped making her look very tired for so early in the morning. Still, she forced a smile for the girls. “The labels on the front show your first-period class and locker numbers. You have different first-period classes, but your lockers are right next to each other.”

Coming back to life, just a bit, she handed both packets to Rosa. “I’ll let you sort them out.”

Rosa handed Ella’s packet to her.

The lady continued, “The information inside will help you find your way around the building. There is a map of the campus, a calendar of upcoming events, and a student handbook. I’m Mrs. Jenkins. I teach English. Welcome to Germantown High School.”

* * *

Ella and Rosa left the line and walked around the end of the table. Walking behind Mrs. Jenkins they passed through double doors. Turning right, they walked through the commotion looking for any clue of where to go. Ella pulled Rosa into a corner, as out of the way as she could.

“Stop here Rosa.” Ella’s heart was beating hard within her chest and her short breaths quickened. “Let’s talk for a minute.”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“You’re my sister, right?”

“Of course, Ella. Why even ask that?”

Ella glanced around. “I’m sorry, but I’m a little freaked out right now and I don’t want anyone to notice.”

“That’s kind of hard with all the kids around, Ella.”

“I know but I’m finding it hard to breathe and my heart’s pounding. I don’t know why. I guess I expected something different when we first got here. All the confusion and the thought of meeting new people is exciting but overwhelming. I expected you to be my support, but we’ve been put in separate classrooms. How can you support me, sis?”

“I am supporting you right now. It’ll be OK. Remember what the youth pastor said when we were on summer retreat? He said that we will always encounter times in our life when we want to freak out. But God knows what we are going through, and He has already prepared a solution for us. Try to trust Him.”

“That’s easy to say but I don’t feel any better.”

“Close your eyes…” Ella hesitated. She rubbed her arms as if she was cold. “I feel silly, Rosa.”

“Trust me. Close your eyes…” Ella surveyed her surroundings once more and then closed her eyes.

“Take some slow deep breaths and listen to my voice. In through the nose… out through the mouth.” Rosa made breathing noises so Ella could follow the slow rhythmic timing. “Mom and Dad and the people at Orchard Hill have prepared us for being here. We’re OK. I will be by your side whenever I can. And if I must leave, Jesus will never leave you.”

Ella’s breathing began to slow. It didn’t take long, and she opened her eyes. With the best smile she could muster, Ella looked at Rosa. “Thanks, sis. You’re the best. What do we do first?”

“Let’s find our lockers.”

Rosa opened her packet and pulled out the map of the school. “This doesn’t help us find the lockers,” she said.

Ella scanned the hall. The lockers were clean and nicely painted but with a drab institutional blue-gray. 621, 622, 623 on one side and 535, 536, 537 on the other. “What are our locker numbers?”

“Mine is 213,” Rosa said looking at the label on her packet.

Checking her own packet, Ella said, “Mine is 212. I guess we should find another hallway.”

“There was a hallway on the right when we first came in,” Rosa offered. “Let’s retrace our steps past the registration tables and try that hallway.”

They walked together through the throng of students, many looking as confused as Ella felt. The girls continued past the tables and were able to avoid the arriving students. Turning left, they passed the main office. Once they got to more classrooms Ella searched for locker numbers again.

“The one hundred numbers are on this side,” she said pointing to the right.

Rosa called out from Ella’s left. “Over here, Ella.” They walked past the first classroom door.

Ella avoided several students as she crossed over and counted, “210, 211, 212 and 213. I guess these are ours.”

The lockers didn’t have locks on them. The information they received in the mail a month ago provided a list of items to bring on the first day. Combination locks for the lockers were item one. The girls had purchased them and practiced the combinations together in their bedroom. At their last school, the sisters agreed they should memorize the combinations to each other’s locks. They anticipated it would come in handy someday.

Each girl removed a lock from their mostly empty backpacks. They worked the combinations and affixed the locks to the lockers.

“OK, Ella. Get your bearings. We should remember where our lockers are.”

Ella slowly turned around surveying the crowded hall. “This part is easy. We are near the main entrance. Now, what about classrooms?”