A pair of twins cause headaches at Hayfield Hall.
An unauthorised story set in the SPA Universe created by Karen Page. These events are intended to take place one year after the events described in “A New Style of Education.” Reading that story first is essential.
Note: This story assumes the counselling team at Hayfield Hall does not change significantly as a result of events yet to be revealed in Karen's story.
“… and that is where Alice and Peter came from,” concluded Keith.
“And that explains why Jordan was in a dress when they ended up at the welfare agency!” added Quentin.
“The good news is that they don’t appear to meet the criteria for dissociative identity disorder,” said Rachel. “There appears to be a complete internal awareness of their different personalities and the lack of blackouts is a very positive sign. So we probably won't need to consult any outside expert. But there is some dissociation going on that we will have to deal with. I think we have enough experience amongst ourselves to handle that."
"I am quite satisfied that this is not just a pair of twins playing an extended game." said Quentin. "The roles are too deeply embedded for that."
Rachel nodded. "However, we should probably consider Alice and Peter as well-entrenched social roles rather than separate personalities."
“I’m still astonished that they’ve been alternating every day since they were seven,” said Quentin.
“In a sense, it is not that much different to children from repressive home situations who present one personality at home and a different one at school,” Rachel replied.
“Now that I know what I’m looking at, I have more understanding of what I’ve been seeing since the interviews,” said Keith. “I agree that Alice and Peter aren’t really complete personalities. In a way they started as two seven year olds’ idealization of what the differences are between the personalities of girls and boys. Alice and Peter’s personalities have grown and developed since then but their origins are still visible. Alice is emotional, Peter is rational. Alice is tidy and prim, Peter is messy and slovenly.”
“We’ve also seen that Alice can be sneaky and manipulative,” added Rachel. “Peter tends to be more direct and straightforward.”
"More of that gender stereotyping," said Quentin with a grin.
“I suspect that there is really only one possible way forward in the short term,” said Keith. “We will need to spend more time with the Jordan and Justin – building them up so that they can draw on the strengths of both Peter and Alice. But we will have to go slowly. Peter and Alice are still in control and they have only just begun to trust us. I think we made some progress on that front today. If we are careful not to betray their trust, we will make better progress. I will also work with Peter and Alice – try to help them become more rounded individuals – or characters, if you prefer. I think both of those actions will eventually give me access to a more mature Justin and Jordan. Then we can try to answer some of the important questions.”
“Such as whether they are truly transgendered,” said Rachel. “I’m not convinced that they are. They both seem as comfortable portraying Peter as they do portraying Alice. Only Justin and Jordan can answer that question. I don’t think we can rely on the answers Alice and Peter gave you in the interviews.”
"It is possible they are truly androgynous," suggested Quentin. "Effectively without gender. Society forces us all into either one gender or the other. Even as young children, our twins wouldn't have been permitted to present as completely androgynous. Adults and other children would have pressured them to come down on one side of the line or the other. By presenting alternating genders, on average our twins end up in the middle."
"We've had androgynous students here before," said Keith. "They reported feeling uncomfortable portraying either gender. These two seem comfortable in both gender roles. Maybe rather than being non-gendered, our twins are pan-gendered."
"The story about the ear infection is very revealing," said Rachel. "Both of them became anxious and stressed when forced to remain in the same gender role for an extended period."
"Once again, we discover that there are as many different types of people in this world as there are people in the world," said Quentin.
"This speculation is interesting," said Keith. "I am sure the truth will be even more fascinating. Right now, the only thing I'm sure of is that we have two very mixed up kids on our hands. We haven't really addressed what happened on the night of the fire, or the effects of how they have been treated since then. They appear to be happy presenting as Peter and Alice but I'm not sure what is going to happen when Justin and Jordan emerge more regularly. I have a feeling the questions about Justin and Jordan's gender will also be central to resolving their issues. To unravel what's really going on will be a long term task. I can't see us making much progress until Alice and Peter accept that they have a problem. Who knows how long that will take? Even once that happens, we will have to work slowly and carefully."
"I agree," said Rachel.
“Being in an environment where it is safe to openly discuss questions of gender will be an enormous advantage for them,” said Quentin. “Once they realize that the entire student body is actively supportive, they will feel free-er to explore the question of their own gender.”
“So this is what I was thinking of doing over the next few days,” said Keith. “I’ll leave them alone tomorrow, so that they can settle back into their Alice and Peter personas, but then …”
"Good morning Mr Hobson."
"Good morning David."
"I was thinking about the Fallow twins in Year One," said David.
"Really? What were you thinking?"
"I think it's interesting that we have two people who can convincingly portray a single character so identically that nobody can spot the difference," said David. "More than that, they can portray identical characters in either gender. Then I was thinking about how that could be useful in certain activities outside the normal school curriculum."
"I must admit, I was having similar thoughts. But at the moment they are a long way from being able to cope with the pressures such activities would involve. Our first priority is to untangle their various issues. The health of the students comes first."
"I know. I'm just saying that it's interesting. Also, I think they have the right mix of intelligence and observation skills and paranoia to be successful. Eventually, once they are well enough to join us, they could be quite useful."
"Understood! Perhaps at some stage down the track we can explore that possibility."
“Hey!” said Peter as he walked into the bathroom.
“Hi,” said Alice. She was sitting on a stool in front of the mirror and frowning. Her hair still hung straight down and she was fiddling with it.
“Yesterday was pretty weird,” said Alice. “It was like I was watching a TV show or something. It felt like I was just sitting back and watching while they talked to Justin.”
“I felt the same,” said Peter. “What was really weird to me was that Jordan and Justin seemed to know more about us than we did. How could that happen?”
“It was a bit scary!”
“They seemed to act a bit immature sometimes. Like they’ve been half-asleep for the last five years. How could that happen? I mean – they are us, we are them. We’ve been the same people for all of this time but now they are different from us.”
“It is a bit confusing. Do you know what I noticed?” said Alice.
“They were having fun. Not during the session with Keith, that was pretty rough, but afterwards when they were hanging out with our year level. Remember how we used to hate looking the same and acting the same. Well, last night they were liking it.”
“You’re right! They were having fun,” said Peter. “It’s something they haven’t done for five years. Maybe they missed it. I mean, maybe we missed it. Maybe we could do that again some time.”
“Sometime soon, maybe? But not today. I want to be normal today,” said Alice.
“Yeah! Me too!”
“This conversation is so surreal,” said Alice. “We’re talking about ourselves as if we’re completely different people.”
“Surreal? You get points for using that word in a conversation,” said Peter. “But you’re right, it is surreal. Speaking of cereal, it’s nearly time for breakfast.”
They both had a laugh about that.
“You haven’t even started curling your hair,” said Peter. “If you don’t get started soon, we’ll be late.”
Alice looked into the mirror and twisted a strand of her hair around a finger.
“I was thinking – before you came in – I was thinking of doing something different.”
“Girls change their hair all the time,” said Alice. “I was trying to figure out why I always did the same thing with mine.”
“Alice always curls her hair,” said Peter. “Always! It would be wrong to do anything different.”
“I know. I agree. It feels wrong to me, too. I was just thinking about it. But why is it wrong? Why can’t I just put my hair into a ponytail like some of the other girls do?” asked Alice.
“Because … I don’t know. It just is!” said Peter.
“I think Jordan and Justin might have been right.”
“Last night, before they went to sleep, Jordan and Justin were talking to each other.”
"I know. I was there." Peter stopped and frowned. "Kind of."
“They said there was something wrong with us. It’s like we’re broken inside. And because we’re broken, we’re stuck doing the same things over and over.”
“We don’t do the same things over and over. We learn new things all the time,” protested Peter. “We do different things.”
“Yes, but I think they meant about the way we act, all of that sort of stuff. Like me always curling my hair, for one thing.”
“Oh!” said Peter. He frowned for a moment and then got a determined look on his face. “Hold still!”
Peter quickly went into closet and came back holding a scrunchy. He stepped behind Alice and gathered all of her hair into a ponytail, sitting high on her head. He secured it in place with the scrunchy and stepped back to look at the result.
Alice turned her head to one side, and then the other so that she should see the ponytail in the mirror.
“It looks wrong,” they both said in unison.
Alice looked down at the small photo on her lap. "Mother had her hair in curls at the wedding. I'm supposed to have curls."
Alice put her hands up to undo the ponytail but Peter caught her hands and stopped her.
"I remember Mother with her hair tied back one time when she was doing housework. You'll still look like Mother but just not like in the photo. Let's try the ponytail. You'll get used to it. Just like you got used to wearing a bra. After a while, it will feel like part of you. We can change. Justin and Jordan were wrong.”
Peter played with the ponytail, twisting it and fluffing it out.
“I don’t think so,” said Alice. “What they said feels right, in here.” She tapped the centre of her chest firmly with her fist. “I think there is something wrong with us. You said it yourself. How can we be different from Justin and Jordan? They are us!”
Peter looked at the image of her face in the mirror as he thought. Then he leaned forward and put his arms around her.
“Maybe! Maybe you’re right. I think these people are trying to help us. They seem to know something is wrong with us. I think Keith and the others want to make us better. Maybe we should work with them – let them help us.”
Alice leaned back into Peter’s arms, putting her head back onto his chest. “I’m scared. They’re going to want to change me. They’re going to want to change you. By the time they’re finished we won’t really be us anymore.”
“Maybe. But maybe we’ll still be us but better – not so broken anymore.”
“Maybe,” said Alice with a sigh. "I guess I'm most worried that they'll stop us being us altogether."
“I don't think they're going to do that or they would have done it yesterday. Regardless of what is going to happen,” said Peter. “I know one thing.”
“They aren’t going to do anything to us before breakfast.” He held out his hand to her. “Let’s go.”
"I just have to hide the photos again," said Alice. "Wait a minute!"
They held hands as they walked towards the breakfast hall. Just before they went through the door and joined the rest of the school, Alice stopped and bit her lip.
“Peter? Will you promise me one thing?”
“Whatever happens, however much they change us, will you promise to always stomp on the spiders for me?”
Peter smiled and opened the door.
Alice nodded and then stood up straight.
With a confident smile on their faces, Alice and Peter strode through the door – ready to join the rest of Hayfield Hall.
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