This is a short story set in the extended Uglies universe. It’s from the POV of Rafi, Frey’s sister in Impostors. This story takes place about six years before the time period of the novel, when the two girls are nine.
If you haven’t read Impostors, some quick background: Frey and Rafi are identical twins, but only Rafi is known to the public. Frey was created as a body double, bait for kidnappers and assassins who would strike at Rafia, the first daughter of Shreve. Their father has many enemies.
They have only each other.
Rafia of Shreve
My etiquette tutor is annoyed with me.
Sensei Noriko would never say so out loud, but I can see it in her pursed lips. In her crisp instructions to repeat my moves again and again. In her reminders that the First Family Ball is next week, and that Dad expects me to be as perfect a hostess as my mother would’ve been.
The best daughter.
“Straighten your back,” Noriko says. “This is a curtsy, Rafia, not a bow.”
I learned how to bow last month—in case business ever takes us to Japan.
“Just a respectful nod,” she says. “As if speaking to your father.”
My stomach twists. When Daddy’s in the room, I always stare at the floor. Not out of respect.
I force his image from my mind.
Concentrate. Be the best.
This is how you curtsy: Slide your right foot back. Shift your weight onto your left.
Take the corners of your dress between the thumb and first two fingers of each hand. Pull your dress wider, like gently opening a fan.
“Pinkies out,” Norika murmurs, even though mine are already.
Nod your head. Bend your knees outward, but keep your back straight.
All of it at the same time. Gracefully, like asking someone to dance. When I come back up, my best smile is on my lips.
Everyone loves my smile.
But Sensei Noriko still isn’t happy.
“A curtsy shows courtesy,” she says. “The way you move shows something else.”
I sigh. “How bored I am, maybe? We’ve done this a thousand times!”
Noriko doesn’t answer at first. She steps closer, scanning my posture. Then she reaches out and flattens one palm on my stomach, like a doctor trying to sense something beneath the surface of the skin.
The twist in my stomach flinches a little.
Her eyes soften. “You move with anger, Rafia.”
I leave the lesson early.
On the way back to my room, my fists stay clenched until I cross the red line painted on the floor. Only in the secure area can I let go.
Daddy has enemies. The people who killed my mother, who stole my older brother before I was born. Here inside the red line is where I feel safest.
It’s also where both halves of me slide back together with a click.
When I open the door to our room, my twin sister looks up at me, a little surprised. She’s toweling her hair dry. Her skin is flushed with exertion, her eyes bright. Her knuckles look raw—combat training.
She smiles at me. It’s such a waste. Frey has a beautiful smile, and no one ever sees it.
“You’re back early.”
“Obviously.” I fall backwards onto my bed.
Frey sits down beside me. “What’s up, big sister?”
“Just Noriko. She was being a pain today.”
Frey has to think for a second. She’s never met most of my tutors.
“She teaches you etiquette?”
I nod. “She says I don’t curtsy right.”
Frey laughs, like someone who’s never had to be a perfect hostess. Who’s never had to smile at people she doesn’t like. She laughs like someone free, even if she’s trapped here inside the red line.
“That’s silly, Rafi.” She leans back beside me on the bed. “You do all that stuff right.”
I love praise from my sister, but you move with anger still rings in my ears.
It was mean of Noriko to see inside me like that.
I can’t tell Frey why I’m really upset. I have to protect her, like she protects me.
While I’m learning how to bow and dance and be polite all day, Frey is learning how to fight. How to shield me with her body. How to kill for me if she has to.
She’s my guardian, my body double.
Frey is my anger, my violence. I’m not allowed to have my own.
It isn’t fair. All that time I spend with language tutors, dancing masters, etiquette tutors, I’m squishing my feelings down into my stomach—while Frey is swinging her fists.
She jumps up and tugs on the sides of her sweatpants so they look like jodhpurs. Does a little bow.
“This is a curtsy, right?”
I have to laugh. “That’s terrible!”
“Then show me. I’ll have to learn eventually.”
It scares me that someday soon, Frey will start taking my place. When I start going out in public, she’ll be bait for snipers, kidnappers, bombs.
She’ll have to know the basics of being a first daughter. Whose hand to shake. Who to ignore. How to wave to a crowd.
It helps settle the fear in me, when I teach her stiff I’ve learned. Frey’s terrible with words and manners, but she can imitate any movement in a flash. She thinks with her body. Her muscles, her fists.
I hold out my hands. “Okay. I’ll show you.”
She pulls me up from the bed, like I weigh nothing. We face each other, her in sweats, me in my formals.
“Feet in third position,” I say.
“That’s ballet-talk, right?”
I roll my eyes and show her. She becomes a scruffy mirror image of me.
Only one tiny thing is wrong—her pinkies are stiff. Like they’re broken, in tiny splints.
“Relax your hands.”
Frey tries, but her hands are never relaxed, never still—they always want to grab, to strike. Our hands are so different.
She always laughs at me when I make a fist.
Thumb on the outside! You wanna break it?
No. But most days I do want to punch someone.
Frey’s first curtsy is graceful. In a feline way, measured and dangerous. No anger in her movements.
“Is this right?”
I shake my head—it isn’t fair. She’s the trained fighter. But I’m the one who wants to kill.
Frey tries again, and a low growl runs through me. This is so easy for her.
“What am I doing wrong?” she asks.
“You have to be more . . . respectful.”
She looks confused. Then straightens and bows from the waist, much lower than Noriko has ever taught me to.
“This is respectful, right?”
I can only nod.
This must be the bow Frey gives her trainers. All at once, I see what’s missing in my curtsy. Frey feels something for her tutors that I never have.
And suddenly I’m angry at her for being twenty-seven minutes younger. For getting to punch things. For living here inside the red line, away from our father.
And I’m mad at Noriko for putting her hand on my stomach, for feeling the anger in me. I want to punish her for that.
“You should take my next lesson,” I say.
Frey’s eyes widen. “Pretend to be you? Dona would kill us.”
“She won’t find out. No one can tell us apart.”
“In a crowd, maybe. But one on one?”
“One day you’ll have to fool everyone, Frey—my friends, Dad’s business partners, a million people watching on the feeds!”
She shakes her head, stepping back into the corner.
This is how it always is. I’m the one who makes my little sister break the rules. Like when we sneak out of the secure area and pretend to be adventurers in a dungeon full of monsters, making sure no one sees us together.
“Aren’t you tired of hiding?” I ask.
Frey just stares at me. She doesn’t know what hiding is, like a worm doesn’t know what dirt is.
I switch to pleading. “I’ll never get this stupid curtsy right. But I bet you will. Then you can teach me!”
Thoughts flit across her face. She wants to help. To protect me, like she was born to do. But she doesn’t want to get me into trouble.
“What if your teacher figures it out?”
“How? Noriko doesn’t even know you exist! If she looks at you funny, just say you feel sick and leave.”
Frey stares at me. She’s not allowed to walk out of lessons whenever she wants.
I take her shoulders. Dig my fingers in.
“Do this for your big sis, please?”
I’m going to get my way. But Frey has one last argument to make.
“Donna said if anyone sees us together, they’ll get in trouble too.”
That’s the whole point, little sister.
No one sees through me.
“We won’t be together, Frey. And Noriko won’t figure you out.” I let go of her and turn away. “But if you’re not up to it . . . ”
The window is a few steps from me. It’s late afternoon, and the shadow of our father’s tower spills out across the gardens, almost to the forest.
“Okay. I guess.” Her voice is small.
I smile, but my stomach twists tighter. I want to hurt Noriko, not Frey. I want to hurt me. I want Daddy’s secret spilled into the world, just a little. I want to hurt him most of all.
As I turn to hug my twin sister, I move with anger.