Kate and Tate were Great

Trying to find the right time to make the announcement felt impossible. Our last concert? What if it ruined the magic for the audience that night? It wouldn’t be fair. Should we say something early so that anyone who’d wanted to make it to one of our shows could try and scrape together a last minute ticket?

But the show was already sold out and scalpers were already skyrocketing prices, if it was known this was going to be our last concert, we worried that more people would be likely to get taken advantage of.

And it’s not like we’d known in advance that we were for sure never going to perform again. It had always been a hypothetical one day with encroaching certainty that it would be this tour. But if we announced it, then we couldn’t ever come back from it.

So we said nothing leading up to the show. We performed that night as if it were the last concert of our tour, not the last one of our lives. And if we cried a little bit more than usual? If we came back for encore after encore long after we usually would have stopped? Well, no one in the band faulted us. And we let the crowd believe it was because we wouldn’t be performing for a while.

But things had to end and mom was there to remind us it was past our bedtime and shut the show down. We bid the audience a final, tearful goodbye. Our last farewell as Kate and Tate.

And then the world didn’t hear from us again.

No, that’s not right.

We weren’t going to ghost our fans.

But summer break was almost over and there were reading assignments and back to school shopping and no time to even so much of think of a way to say goodbye.

Goodbyes are hard.

Especially when they aren’t something you’re wanting to give.

I didn’t want to go.

I didn’t want my dream to end.

And so when the leaves started to turn and melancholy began to fill the air, we drafted an email and hit send before we could think better of it. Then mom hollered at us that we were going to be late and we were off, missing the quiet chime of a response.

Four weeks later, under the pretense of meeting up with our best friend, we met our makeup artist and costume designer one final time.
“You couldn’t have chosen a closer show?”

I leaned against the window of the car, staring out at the brittle brown of dead leaves and grass as we passed. “Not really, no. Anything closer and mom would have found out about it, would have found a way to keep us from going.”

It was weird, stepping into the role of Kate and Tate once more. At one point being Kate felt as natural as drawing in a breath and when I let it out I was back to Natalie. But that was… before. Before Tate stopped being Tate. If being Kate was weird for me, being Tate had to be weirder for my twin, but she’d said that it wouldn’t feel right to trade places for our final farewell.

The lights on set were glaringly bright, I’d forgotten how bright they could be. I paused to blink a few times, trying to remember to keep the smile plastered to my lips even as the wig weighed me down. Grounded me. Othered me. Reminded me of who I no longer was.

“Hello Jenny,” I greeted the host, letting her pull me in for quick air kisses. At my side, Tate woodenly accepted a hug. Tate was a hugger, but my sister wasn’t, not anymore. We should have swapped places, I should have insisted. I didn’t mind being a boy for a day.

“Kate, I was so surprised when you reached out, wanting to be on the show. It’s like you read my Christmas list.”

I tossed the long blue hair of my wig over my shoulder as I laughed. “But were you on the naughty list this year, or the nice one?”

“Well, you’re here aren’t you? The nice list, obviously!”

I wondered if she would think that after the show was over.

We all sat down and I fell into the easy pattern of curling against my twin’s side, my feet tucked up on the couch beside me.

“So,” she said after we were all settled, “you said you had an announcement you were wanting to make on air, do I get to break the news of your next album?”

“Cutting right to the chase, huh?” I shifted awkwardly on the couch. “It’s not an album announcement, I’m afraid.”

“Special Christmas performance?”

Tate bit her lip and shook her head. “You know how every time we come on stage we always say that Kate and Tate are Great?”

“Well, you are!” Jenny cut in. “I’ve never had so many people clamoring for tickets to a live recording before.”

“That’s the thing, though.” I said. “Kate and Tate were Great.”

Her smile faltered and she tilted her head slightly to the side, glancing over at the audience in what I could only assume was panic. “I’m not quite sure I understand.” She forced out an awkward, stilted laugh as if she were sharing a joke with us. Except she wasn’t, because if there was a joke at play it was one we weren’t a part of.

“Kate and Tate? We were great. It was an amazing journey, getting to embrace my dreams, getting to be a star. Getting to be great. Meeting so many amazing people.”

“But it was just a dream. I’m not Tate.” My sister said. “Maybe for a while I let myself believe that was who I was, that Tate was who I could be if I just tried hard enough. That I could be the perfect son if I just gave up on everything that made my heart soar.”

“But it’s exhausting to be someone you’re not.” I said.

Jenny looked like a gasping fish, her mouth open and bobbing as she tried to come up with the right words, with any words.

“Mom wanted us to say we were quitting because of school,” I turned to look out into the mirror still audience. “To say that middle school was hard and there wasn’t time for music and performing now, but maybe some day we would be able to come back.”

“Maybe she was right, let you down gently, give you hope that we’d be back. That maybe one day we would release a new album.”

“But, you deserve better than that. Every single fan deserves better than that. Deserves better than a lie piled on top of a lie. Because here’s the thing.”

“We’re not quitting because of school.”

“Or because we don’t want to sing any longer.”

“Or because of whatever reason you’re trying to come up with, convinced we’ll actually be coming back to sing in a year or two.”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“Kate and Tate?”

“They don’t exist any longer.”

“This is all so sudden,” Jenny finally cut in, high pitched and breathy. Moments away from a panic attack. “So, if you’re not Kate and Tate, who are you?”

“Mae,” I said, taking my sister’s hand.

“And Rae,” she said.

It wasn’t quite right, not really. I wasn’t just Mae and my sister wasn’t just Rae. We were so much more than that. That part was private.
I reached up and slid off my blue wig and soft lavender curls spilled free, framing my face. Another wig. Beside me Rae pulled her wig off and a soft fall of rose gold spilled about her shoulders.

“So you see, we can’t go back.”

Jenny did that awkward laugh again which was clearly an attempt to regain control of the show. “So, Kate and Tate were Great, but what are Mae and Rae?”

“Sisters,” I said at the same time Rae said, “Ourselves.”

The audience screams deafened those answers though. As it turns out? Mae and Rae are Bae.

“Well, there you have it,” Jenny smiled. “So, when will Mae and Rae’s first concert be?”

“That’s the thing,” I said. “Mae and Rae—”

“—don’t sing,” Rae finished for me. “We don’t know what we’ll do yet. But we have our whole lives ahead of us to figure it out.”

“So, have you always known that you weren’t going to tour any longer?”

“In a way,” I answered. “We’re twelve, I don’t think anyone expected us to last as long as we did. But it was this most recent tour that made us really come to terms with the idea that it would be our last.”

“Lying is hard,” Rae said. “None of our friends back at school know who we are or what we got up to every summer.”

“And at some point we were going to slip up and they were going to find out and then we would have to find a way to apologize.”

“Do you think they’ll figure it out now that you’re not performing any longer?”

“Maybe. Hopefully not before Christmas, though.”

“What’s happening at Christmas?”

“They’re getting a present, the last song we recorded.”

“You’re not releasing it for the world to hear?” Jenny asked, disappointment barely concealed.

“Don’t worry, we won’t keep it from you forever. It’s just… they deserve to be first, you know?”

“Because we wrote it for them. An apology, an explanation.”

A final farewell and a wish for the future, that no matter how many times we said goodbye, no matter how much we changed, the future was ahead of us all.

And the future was bright.



But full of possibilities.

Above all? The future was ours.

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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