The Similars (The Similars #1)(5)

By the time I look up from my plum, the Similars are gone.


On the walk to the chapel, I think of them. Tessa’s look-alike. Pru’s look-alike. Both of them so unlike the teens they were cloned from. And Jake’s Similar… He, especially, appeared so markedly different in demeanor from his original just now, it’s hard to believe they share the same DNA. I wonder if any of my classmates have spotted them yet, and I wonder what the Similars were talking about with such secrecy. I don’t have much time to think about it before I’m surrounded by students, swept into the throng of Darkwoodians convening on the grassy lawn in front of the chapel. We’re minutes from learning the identities of the Similars.

But I already know about three of them… Four, if you count Madison’s clone.

The thing is, the fact that the clones are enrolled at Darkwood is a big deal. Most of us have never even met a clone. I haven’t—at least, not that I know of. The first clones were born in the early part of the century, when scientists started perfecting the technology after that failed Dolly-the-Sheep experiment. Reproductive cloning got really popular among certain wannabe parents who were more excited about copying themselves than using an egg and sperm to have a kid. I guess a lot of people thought cloning was unnatural, because it was eventually outlawed in the United States. But that hasn’t stopped people from seeking out reproductive cloning overseas.

The Similars—they aren’t supposed to exist. Because of some lab mix-up sixteen years ago, six babies from six high-profile families were cloned without the families’ knowledge or permission, using the umbilical cord blood that had been banked after their births. It’s fairly standard for modern parents to store their babies’ cord blood in case their child needs the stem cells in the future to treat a disease. But in this case, the cord blood somehow got into the hands of an “irresponsible” lab technician. Before anyone knew what was happening, the genetic material from the infants was fused with human egg cells and implanted in surrogate mothers, and voilà—nine months later, six bouncing babies were born. Six “Similars,” as they call themselves.

The details came together when the Similars showed up this summer. They’d lived their whole lives up north on some kind of secluded man-made island, and for some inexplicable reason, they’d been sent by the man who raised them to meet their DNA parents…and their “originals.” Since the Similars are minors, their identities haven’t been disclosed to the public, so nobody knows their names or who their originals are—except their DNA families.

And if all that seems out of the ordinary, here’s the wildest part: all six of the original kids are Darkwood students. Which is why the Similars were invited to attend Darkwood Academy. I guess because it’s their birthright. But also because Darkwood is progressive. If there’s any place the Similars could feel welcome, it should be here, where the administration has focused on inclusion since the school’s inception. But who knows. I’m only a junior. I don’t really have all the info.

I’m jolted out of my thoughts when I spot him—the real Jake Choate. He’s surrounded by his clique, which includes Madison, Tessa, and Jake’s roommate, Archer de Leon. Archer, with his winning smile, brown skin, and famously photographed dark locks, hails from sunny Los Angeles and is practically Hollywood royalty. He was a child actor on a successful show I never watched, but I hear it was solidly mediocre.

“Emma!” a voice calls out over the din of my classmates. I spot Pru across the way, waving at me. She pushes against the flow of traffic to get to me, and for a moment, I wonder if this is what life will be like from now on. The people who care about me constantly worrying that I need babysitting. Wondering if Oliver’s death has broken me beyond repair. They wouldn’t exactly be wrong.

Pru arrives at my side, and I can’t help but feel a strange sense of déjà vu. “I saw her,” I blurt.

“Who?” Pru asks.

“Your Similar, who else? The jig is up, Pru. She was by the lake just now. I saw her. I know.”

“I wanted to tell you, Emma. I swear I did! But the note from the Similars’ guardian asked us not to reveal their identities before—”

“I’m not mad! Well, maybe a tiny bit. But start talking. I’m dying to know all the details.”

Pru smiles. “Thanks for not hating me. It’s the hardest secret I’ve ever kept, especially from you.”

“So what’s her deal? What’s her name?” I ask as we inch our way toward the chapel lobby, following the forward motion of the crowd.

“Her name’s Pippa,” Pru tells me. “And she spent the last two weeks with us on the farm.”

“Two weeks?”

“Sorry,” Pru says. “It was torture not buzzing you. I had to stash my plum in the freezer so I wouldn’t call you.”

“So that’s why I haven’t heard from you in forever!”

Pru looks sheepish. “I know! I’m sorry!” She pauses. “Pippa’s great, Emma. I really like her, and I think you will too.”

“You have the same DNA.” I shrug. “She’s like, literally you. Of course I’ll love her. It would be sacrilege if I didn’t.” A couple of teachers begin directing us into a sloppy line. They hold pen-size scanners that they pass over the plums of the girls in front of us.

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