Navigating middle school can be tricky. But, 14-year-old twins, Kaila and Zaria Bradley, known to everyone as the Double Dutch Dolls, seem to have it all figured out. At least until they hear their archenemy Trinity say, “Kaila’s only good for looks and Zaria’s only good for books.” Now, the girls feel they have something to prove and attempt to pull off the greatest double dare of all time: secretly trading places. It may be the oldest twin trick in the book but the Double Dutch Dolls are planning to do it in style.
Can Fashionista Kaila transform herself into a star student? Can class cool Zaria trade in her soccer cleats for designer fashion? Or, will competition permanently tear the twins apart?
The author has rated this book appropriate for all ages.
THURSDAY. Kaila Bradley was very carefully applying mascara in front of the bathroom mirror when a loud bang erupted from the kitchen. She jumped in fright, smearing mascara across her forehead.
“Shoot,” she grumbled looking quickly at the mess on her face before racing downstairs to see what was going on. “Oh my gosh Zaria!” she yelled when she saw her twin sister standing in the spacious kitchen in her red pajamas covered in purple goo. The mystery substance was also splattered all over the kitchen dripping from the cabinets and countertops. A large apparatus constructed from test tubes, beakers and tubing intricately connected on the kitchen island appeared to be the source of the kitchen disaster. “What happened?”
“I was conducting an experiment on the relation between surface tension and viscosity,” Zaria stated simply, wiping liquid out of her eyes. The girls’ miniature poodle CoCo excitedly lapped a puddle off the floor.
“What?” Kaila refrained from rolling her eyes. “Seriously Zaria when are you going to learn the kitchen is for cooking and not your kooky science experiments? Just once I wish you would use your talents to create something I need.”
“And what exactly is something like that?” Zaria could only imagine what Kaila had in mind. Staring at her identical twin sister was like looking at her reflection in a mirror. But, their similarities were only skin- deep. Kaila was outgoing and high-maintenance. She was not studious, responsible, or overly accepting of the “fashion-challenged” as she liked to label anyone who couldn’t tell the difference between chartreuse and ordinary yellow. Unfortunately, Zaria fell into the latter category. Kaila considered herself a creative, free spirit, someone for whom the rules did not apply.
Zaria believed she was Kaila’s alter ego- levelheaded and laid back. She valued ambition and hard-work and had her future all planned out- straight A’s, a soccer scholarship, Historically Black College undergrad and Ivy League med school. As for fashion she considered only function and comfort and would prefer to wear only a soccer uniform, white lab coat or both. Fortunately, as Kaila also liked to point out, Zaria was lucky her twin sister was a fashion prodigy who always made sure Zaria looked fabulous. The girls complemented each other perfectly and were somehow the best of friends.
“Lip-gloss,” Kaila exclaimed. Zaria gave her a puzzled look unable to remember what they had been talking about. “You could create a special lip-gloss formula…in a million different shades that you never have to reapply,” she continued. “Now, that would be totally amazing. Surely you can come up with a Biology formula for that.”
“I think you mean Chemistry”, Zaria started but noticing the blank expression on Kaila’s face decided giving her sister a tutorial in science was pointless. Laughing she instead simply replied, “Uh, sure Kaila I’ll see what I can do.”
A loud slurp from CoCo sent both girls into giggles.
“Mom is going to kill you,” Kaila laughed scooping CoCo into her arms. The dog squirmed in protest trying her best to get back to the sweet sticky liquid coating the entire kitchen. “You’d better get this cleaned up before we leave for school.”
As Kaila turned to leave, she nearly collided with their father who burst into the room rattled with shaving cream still on his face and his razor in hand. “What’s going on in here girls?” He took one step into the kitchen, stared at the mess surrounding Zaria and tried his best to hide a grin, “Boy, oh, boy!” he said, shaking his head. “Your mom is going to kill you.”
“That’s what I said!” Kaila sung.
The girls’ mother Nia, left for her office before breakfast. She was preparing for a big trial and had been logging long hours the past few weeks. Their dad Gordon, owned a restaurant, the hottest place in town for good Cajun seafood and better music. He’d named it Josephine’s after the twins’ grandmother and the best cook they knew. Kaila and Zaria frequently stopped by the restaurant on their way home from school to sample new recipes their dad pulled from Grandma Josephine’s recipe collection. Josephine’s didn’t open until lunchtime, so Gordon, usually had the mornings off.
“I know, I know,” Zaria sighed. “I’ll clean it up.” She looked over at Kaila and frowned. “What’s that black stuff on your face?”
Kaila glared at her sister and stormed out of the kitchen.
Forty-five minutes later, both girls sat side by side on the bus. They lived just over a mile from school so had the option of walking or riding. Their neighborhood in a North Georgia suburb of Atlanta consisted of two-story brick and stucco homes on quiet tree lined streets nestled just a few blocks off the main square which housed trendy fashion boutiques, a small theatre, ice cream shop and several chic restaurants like Josephine’s. In the summer, families flocked to the square with picnic baskets and blankets for an eclectic mix of live musical concerts and festivals.
The neighborhood faded away as the bus pulled away from the curb and passed through the square on the way to school. The girls loved the neighborhood square almost as much their home, a traditional 2-story red brick with white shutters, an expansive wrap-around porch and circle drive.
Seated on the bus, the twins were relaxed and ready for the day. Kaila had removed the mess of mascara from her face and finished applying the makeup perfectly. Zaria had also cleaned herself up and was now dressed to impress, just like her sister. Anyone seeing the girls for the first time would have done a double take walking past their row. They were nearly identical. Both inherited their father’s smooth, mocha skin and chestnut brown hair and their mother’s slim, graceful build. If it wasn’t for Zaria’s naturally curly hair, Kaila’s straightened, shoulder length style and the small, heart shaped birthmark on Kaila’s hand, the girls would have been almost impossible to tell apart. At school they’d earned the nickname Double Dutch Dolls not just because they looked so similar but also because, thanks to Kaila, they were always dolled up and dressed to impress.
“You did look kind of funny,” Kaila grinned, “standing in the kitchen covered in purple goo.”
“My experiments usually work perfectly,” Zaria sulked. “I don’t know what went wrong. The temperature must have been off. I will have to recalculate.” She bit her lip lost in thought.
“Don’t worry.” Kaila nudged her sister’s shoulder and smiled reassuringly. “I’m sure next time it will work perfectly and something tells me there will definitely be a next time. I’m just glad you managed to get the kitchen clean before we left for school. And, you were lucky Mom wasn’t home. Not to mention,” Kaila shuttered, “I’m glad you hadn’t gotten dressed yet or else that new outfit I made you would have been completely ruined.”
Zaria looked down at the shorts and hoodie Kaila had made her. The shorts were basic denim that Kaila frayed and distressed so they had the perfect worn look. She also added silver stars as an accent. Zaria’s entire outfit was tied together by applying the same silver stars to black knee socks. She wasn’t a girly girl like Kaila and cared little about Fashion, but Kaila always managed to design Zaria something that fit her style perfectly. Despite being a fashion test subject she did feel chic and trendy in Kaila’s designs – classic cool. Kaila knew exactly how to make sure they were always the cutest girls in school; just the way she liked it.
Kaila’s unique designs were unlike the usual clothes available at the mall and worn by every other girl at school. Even though she was only 14, Kaila’s fashion designs were already in demand. Other girls would beg her to design something for them but she always refused. She insisted that her work was exclusively for her and Zaria until she launched her very own line named Double Dutch Dolls, after the two of them. Her future fashion line was all she talked about and she recently entered into a young designer competition hoping to win an apprenticeship with the famous designer, Catalina del Rio. They both felt special in Kaila’s clothes and it made them even more connected to each other. It was something just the two of them shared.
“You really should wear your hair down in that outfit,” Kaila said dabbing lip-gloss on her lips. “It would work a lot better with that neckline.”
Zaria shrugged, touching her ponytail. She liked wearing her hair up, so she was always ready for soccer. Soccer was Zaria’s second favorite thing after science. She was the Striker for the Stringrays and if you asked anyone, she was the star of the team. They trained three days a week after school and had games on Saturdays.
The bus pulled up outside Stylesboro Middle School, which resembled a miniature college campus. The grassy lawn spread in front of the main building ending in stone steps that led inside. Behind the main building covered walkways branched out to each of the three classroom buildings, cafeteria, and gym.
“Another day,” Kaila announced happily. Exiting the bus, she eyed her sister’s hair again and before Zaria could stop her reached up and pulled out the band holding Zaria’s low ponytail. She fluffed her sister’s naturally curly hair as Zaria tried to fend off the unwelcomed attack. Kaila ignored her protest. Satisfied with Zaria’s improved look, she looped her arm through her sister’s. “Let’s go!”
Zaria, used to the frequent unsolicited fashion adjustments sighed deeply and allowed Kaila to lead her across the lawn. “Why are you so excited every morning?” Zaria asked, looking sideways at her sister.
“I’m not!” Kaila protested. She inspected her nails, painted a glossy, bright pink to match the new dress she was wearing.
“Yeah, you are,” Zaria’s face broke out into a grin. She couldn’t help teasing her sister about the reason she was always in such a good mood. “Is it because we have English first period?” she joked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kaila said. She took one last look at her freshly applied lip-gloss using her phone and marched up the school steps with her other arm still looped through her sister’s.
“Hi Kaila! Hi Zaria!” a group of sixth and seventh-grade girls standing near the entrance called out as they walked through the hall.
Both girls smiled and waved on their way to their lockers, Kaila slightly in the lead flashing a million dollar movie star grin. Zaria shook her head at her attention-seeking sister. It was all part of their morning routine and Kaila loved the attention.
Watching her sister instead of where she was going, Zaria didn’t notice the group headed straight for her. She collided at full-speed with Xavier Banks, captain of the baseball and basketball teams. Her books flew out of her hands and spread across the floor. “Oh, I am so sorry,” she quickly apologized. “I should have been paying attention. Are you okay?”
Xavier snorted. “Am I okay?” He repeated. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. What about you?” He helped her gather her books from the hallway and stole a quick glance at the textbooks as he handed them to her- Trigonometry and Chemistry. He was impressed- cute and smart.
“Yes. I’m fine. Thanks for asking.” Zaria quickly grabbed the books he offered, folded them into her arms and hustled down the hall after Kaila.
Xavier watched her walk away. He’d seen her around but didn’t know her well. Kaila Bradley’s twin sister was all he knew. Interesting, he thought as he jogged to catch up with the rest of the team.
“Did I just see you talking to Xavier Banks,” Kaila demanded.
“Uh, not really. I just bumped into some guy and he handed me my books.”
Kaila couldn’t believe her sister’s blatant disinterest in anything fun and exciting, including boys. If they didn’t look exactly alike, Kaila would swear they weren’t even related. She decided Zaria needed an intervention and a wicked smile spread across her face. She’d run the idea by Sascha in Math and together they could come up with a plan.
Kaila turned to follow Zaria down the hall and almost immediately the sight of Trinity Hill ruined her mood. Just the sight of Trinity made Kaila want to throw up. “Morning girls,” Trinity said dryly, stepping in front of the twins and folding her arms across her chest. She looked both girls up and down. “More homemade clothes?”
The twins glared at her.
“You’re just jealous,” Kaila retorted.
“Jealous? You mean you want to dress like that? Oh, I thought daddy’s restaurant wasn’t doing so well and you were trying to save your family some money.”
“Nice one Trinity! But that doesn’t bother me. Looking at you is proof that all the money in the world can’t buy style. When you’re ready for a fashion lesson, give me a call,” Kaila fired back.
Trinity laughed. “You can’t be serious. Thanks but no thanks. I’m not into discount fabrics.”
Trinity only wore couture, a style the exact opposite of the girls. Her expensive wardrobe accented her exotic look: light honey cream skin, grey eyes, perfect cheekbones and reddish brown hair. She had a look straight from the pages of Teen Vogue, but her style lacked the distinctive flare of Kaila’s designs.
“Actually, this fabric was imported from Milan,” Kaila spat, stepping towards Trinity as if she was ready to tear Trinity’s hair out. She considered Trinity her archenemy. The feeling was mutual.
Zaria pulled Kaila back. “She’s not worth it,” she hissed in Kaila’s ear. She led Kaila away from Trinity towards their lockers. Kaila glared at Trinity over her shoulder.
“Don’t worry about her,” Kaila’s best friend Sascha McKnight said, appearing at their lockers. “She’s just jealous. Those outfits are totally cute.”
“Thanks,” Kaila huffed. She studied her reflection in the locker mirror and took deep breaths, releasing the flow of anger. Trinity always managed to get under her skin. Good thing she could always count on Sascha to have her back. They’d been best friends since Ms. Hazel’s first grade class. “I made them over the weekend.”
“Love that color,” Sascha said, running her hand along Kaila’s dress.
Kaila turned toward her locker to hide her expression from Sascha and rolled her eyes. She knew that meant Sascha would probably come to school wearing the exact same color the next day. Sascha was a great friend, but it really drove her crazy that lately Sascha had been copying everything she did. Kaila knew Sascha didn’t mean any harm though. Her parents were getting a divorce and it was hitting Sascha hard. Over the weekend Sascha shared that her parents might be selling their house and if they did Sascha wasn’t sure if she’d have to leave all her friends on the cheer squad and transfer to a new school. Kaila knew her friend really needed her right now.
She decided to let it go, closed her locker door and grabbed Sascha by the arm just as the first bell rang. “Shall we go to English, girls?”
Kaila only sat in the front row for Engish, wedged between Zaria and Sascha after adding an extra desk to the front row. Alainna, Zaria’s friend sat on the other side of Zaria. In every other class she made a point of sitting in the back so she could listen in on the school gossip while drawing new designs in her sketchbook and occasionally taking notes. But, for English they had Mr. Miller, the greatest teacher in the universe.
He entered the room, dressed in worn jeans, an un-tucked, blue plaid button-down with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of navy blue low-top Converse. Mr. Miller was obviously older than he looked but had boyish features that could easily have him confused for an older high school student. His brown eyes twinkled and the dimple in his left cheek showed as he greeted the class. “Good morning, everyone,” he said, smiling warmly.
“Good morning Mr. Miller!” Kaila said a little too loudly.
“This morning we’re going to jump straight into it,” Mr. Miller said. “We’re starting a new section today on the Civil War and Reconstruction and to make it a little more interesting we are going to start with an excerpt from Gone With the Wind so please open your books.”
“He’s so dreamy,” Kaila whispered to Sascha.
“Tell me about it,” Sascha sighed.
“Something you girls want to share with the class?”
Kaila looked up sharply, totally embarrassed. “I was just saying how much I love this book, Mr. Miller.”
“Yeah, right,” Trinity said from her seat in the back of the class. “She probably hasn’t even read it.”
Kaila spun around and glared at Trinity. “That’s funny. Usually the back row is where the people who can’t read sit.” “That’s enough girls! You will not start that in my class today,” Mr. Miller warned. “Why don’t you start reading for us, Kaila? Please begin on chapter one.”
“Trinity is wicked,” Kaila declared joining their usual lunch table in the cafeteria. She slammed down her tray loaded with salad, French fries and chocolate milk in frustration. None of the other girls at the table commented on Kaila’s eclectic lunch. They were used to her strange eating habits. Sascha leaned over and grabbed a fry from Kaila’s tray. They were hot and crispy just the way she liked them. She reached for another and Kaila glared at her. “Don’t even think about it,” she mouthed.
Zaria took one bite of the overcooked mac and cheese, which more closely resembled oatmeal, and pushed her tray away. “She really hates you. Why is she like that anyway?”
“Like I said this morning,” Sascha said scooping some macaroni into her mouth. “She’s just jealous of you guys.” Zaria watched her eat wondering how she could stomach it.
“She totally is,” Alainna agreed. “That’s the only reason she’s so mean to you.”
“You shouldn’t let Trinity bother you,” Sascha said. “Everyone else adores you, both of you.” She waved her fork back and forth at each of them.
Kaila sighed. “She’s right. We shouldn’t let it bother us.”
“Okay,” Zaria shrugged. She had no real feelings about Trinity. As far as she was concerned this was just another battle among the popular people. She was only considered inner circle by association since she and Kaila were identical twins and Kaila was considered middle school “royalty”. But, she knew it really bothered Kaila. Zaria always tried to be nice to everyone and didn’t understand why someone would intentionally be so mean. Then again, Kaila could also be a royal pain when she went into “diva” mode. She let her mind wander and glanced around the crowded cafeteria. Her new lab partner Kadence caught her eye and waved. Zaria waved back.
“Who is that again?” Kaila questioned.
Before Zaria could answer, Sascha jumped in. “That’s Kadence Vaughn. She’s new. Her family just moved here from Michigan. She has one older sister in the 10th grade and one younger brother in 4th grade. They’ve moved around a lot due to her dad’s job and they’ve only been here 2 weeks. I think she lives close to you.”
“Do I even want to know how you know that?” Kaila teased. Sascha opened her mouth to provide more detail but Kaila shook her head and held up her hand signaling Sascha to stop. “I meant I don’t really care how you know that.”
Kaila flashed Sascha a playful grin and affectionately nudged her shoulder. “Let’s relive English instead,” she winked. Sascha smiled back. Kaila placed her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her palms. With a dreamy look in her eyes she sighed. “Why can’t all the boys in school be like Mr. Miller?”
The girls laughed.
“I think the more important question is why can’t all the teachers be like Mr. Miller?” Zaria teased. “Then you’d pay attention in all your classes, not just English.”
“That’s not true!” Kaila protested. “I do pay attention in all my classes.”
“Just not science.”
“Well, okay,” Kaila laughed. “Not in science.”
As much as Kaila loved English, she hated science. Science was the last period of the day, and to her, pure torture. Of course it was Zaria’s favorite. AP Science for Zaria meant Advanced Placement. For Kaila and the 6 other students temporarily placed in the class AP meant “Average People”. Kaila’s usual Science teacher was on an Emergency 4-week leave of absence. Instead of hiring a sub, Principal Bryant decided the “Average People” might be motivated to learn more if mixed with the Advanced Placement students.
Kaila was lucky and assigned to Zaria’s class. Normally she would have protested any additional schoolwork, but in this case it worked out great for her because she could get Zaria to do her Science homework. Kaila had that down to a science. Five or six rapid-fire nonsense questions and a frustrated Zaria folded easily.
Kaila always sat in the back of the class while Zaria got to class early just to make sure she had her favorite seat up front next to her new lab partner Kadence. Zaria was watching their teacher, Ms. Kale and listening intently as she explained something in gibberish. Kaila stared at her workbook. As far as she was concerned, it was written in Swahili. Boring!
She just couldn’t understand why her sister loved science so much. Zaria was Vice-president of the Science Club, and because of her the Science Club was actually one of the coolest clubs at school. It wasn’t quite as cool as the Stingray cheerleaders, naturally, but Kaila was proud of what her super smart stylish sister had done with the Science Club. People actually wanted to join and Kaila thought it was kind of cool that her sister showed everyone you could be smart, cute and popular.
Cheerleading was definitely more Kaila’s thing. She was co-captain of the school’s cheer squad, which she loved almost as much as fashion. At the beginning of the school year she had the chance to combine both her favorite things and design the team’s new uniforms. The uniform she designed – a short retro-inspired red and white one piece was super cute. Sascha was on the squad with Kaila, and unfortunately, so was Trinity, who also happened to be the other co-captain. Kaila and Trinity were in constant competition. Both were popular. Both were cute and both wanted to run the school. In Elementary school the girls had actually been close friends but jealousy and the desire for power soon came between them.
Zaria was furiously taking notes while Kaila sketched in her notebook, brainstorming ideas for new designs. She was thinking of outfit designs for her and Zaria to wear to Josephine’s 10th anniversary party next weekend. Kaila’s dad was excited about it so she wanted to make sure they both looked fabulous. She was thinking of using fabric that matched the golden yellow color of the restaurant, which would look great against their mocha skin, but she wasn’t sure of the exact shade. She decided to check out the color this afternoon. They were going to Josephine’s after school with some of their friends. Kaila looked at the clock and started counting down the minutes.
Finally, the last bell rang and she ran for the door.
“Ugh,” Kaila sighed dramatically as she shoved all of her books into her locker. “So glad that class is over.” She slammed the door and leaned against it for added effect.
“You are such a drama Queen. I thought it was great,” Zaria said. “I love Ms. Kale. She does such a great job breaking down complex concepts so they are easy to understand.”
“I guess, if micro-organs are your thing, sure.”
“Micro-organisms,” Zaria corrected.
“I need to go to the bathroom before we leave,” Kaila said, ignoring her sister.
“Me too. Let’s go together.”
The girls had just closed the doors on two adjoining stalls when the main bathroom door swung open and they overheard voices. Both girls froze in their stalls as they realized the voices belonged to Trinity and her friends. Trinity always traveled with Lindy and Shay, two other girls from their 8th grade class, by her side. Neither ever had an opinion that differed from Trinity, and both followed her around like servants. On more than one occasion Kaila and Zaria heard Trinity ordering the girls to get her lunch. In secret, the twins referred to them as Trinity’s minions.
“They think they’re so great,” Trinity declared as she applied lip-gloss in front of the bathroom mirror. “I mean, seriously, how hard can it be to make your own clothes? They think they’re so good at everything. Kaila swears she’s the leader of the Stingrays and Zaria might be cute but she’s still a nerd. They have everyone in this school fooled.”
In her stall, Kaila gritted her teeth. She could picture Zaria in the next stall willing her to keep silent and stay where she was.
“If you ask me,” Trinity said, “Kaila is only good for looks and Zaria is only good for books. Isn’t it obvious to everyone?” Satisfied with what she saw in the mirror, she waved her hand in the air and turned toward her friends who had no comment. Don’t you agree?” She prodded. Lindy and Shay immediately nodded in unison. “Good. Let’s go girls.”
When the door closed behind Trinity, the twins burst out of the stalls. They looked at each other in disbelief.
“She did not just say that,” Kaila roared.
Copyright© K. Charles. All rights reserved.