The Disciplinary Committee
The final exam had already lasted six hours, and the twins were beyond exhausted. But they pressed on, knowing this was more than just a simple examination.
It should have been the stepping stone into their long-awaited careers.
But now they sat before the school disciplinary committee, their eyes blurred with tears as they watched the school snuff their dreams out.
It shouldn’t have been this messy. No one told them such things went to this extent. But the committee was serious. “Cheating in an examination is a severe offense,” one of the professors stated as he yanked his glasses off.
“Admit you cheated, and we can put this behind us.”
That was a trap to get them to fess up. How could they admit to something they didn’t do?
Attending the Medical University of South Carolina had always been the plan for Beaufort natives Sadie and Sally Miller. After long days and nights spent studying in high school, they secured positions there.
It was a dream come true, and the nineteen-year-old twins couldn’t believe their luck.
They had yet to learn how a simple misunderstanding would ruin their lives.
Being doctors had always been their endgame. Helping people regardless of any background spoke to them, and it should have been what they did until their last breath on earth.
But now Sadie sat beside her sister, surrounded by a panel of professors, their school’s dean, their mom, and several student leaders.
The painful end was here.
Sadie sat in silence as the events unfolded before her. She remembered the week that led up to this painful day. Like many exam weeks, she and Sally had sat through the night studying.
“This is it,” they’d reminded each other, grinning as they sipped their coffees and stacked more textbooks on their night desks.
But none of it would amount to anything.
Sadie had never cheated in an exam in all her life. She was gifted that way, with a natural ability to remember things that most didn’t. She also loved studying and always chose it above going out with friends or even taking the holidays to travel the state.
The only time she ever let loose was when Sally was in the picture, and they went out for ice cream or to the park.
But her sister was different.
Although identical twins and similar in every way possible, the twins were as different as day and night. While Sadie loved cuddling on the couch with a good book, her sister Sally enjoyed the outdoors.
Which campus party didn’t she attend, and which Friday night didn’t she spend away from their sorority house? Sadie had always told her this behavior would come back to bite her if she wasn’t careful.
Now here they were.
She watched Sally as the professors continued talking. Unlike her, awash in tears, Sally was clear-eyed, leaning into her seat like nothing was wrong.
Instead of crossing her legs as a lady should have, she sat with her knees as wide as possible. She’d worn cargo shorts instead of a respectable dress, chewing gum that Sadie couldn’t remember her buying.
How could she be so unhinged?
A Hard Worker
Sadie sat quietly as her dreams faded before her eyes. Her mom, who was beside her, squeezed her fingers in support. Even she knew Sadie couldn’t have cheated.
The girl always worked hard and had results to show for it. She was the leading student in high school and most exams through their four years of medical school – a feat for many.
But could the same be said about her sister?
An Indescribable Connection
Although Sadie and Sally had behavioral differences, they both excelled in school. They were familiar with that indescribable connection that only twins had, which usually shone in their academic results.
Yes, the twins typically scored similar results, although a few points would usually separate them.
So when the disciplinary committee presented the exam results, Sadie knew they would be nearly identical.
The Tip Of The Iceberg
The professors claimed that they noticed some sketchy behavior during the exams the twins took in the school library. Although the twins sat across the room from each other, they worked through the questions at a similar pace.
They kept lifting their heads to search each other out and even asked for pencils almost simultaneously.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
An Interesting Find
As the exam answers were being monitored in real-time, the head professor noticed something that had him leaning toward his computer’s screen.
The twins were not only moving from one question to the next at a similar pace but getting the same answers correctly.
But that wasn’t the brow-raising part.
The twins also got the same incorrect answers, indicating they must’ve been communicating. The professor thought he was reading too much into this, but after two hours of the same, he decided enough was enough.
He informed the invigilator in charge of the exam, telling her there was an examination irregularity.
That alone prompted an investigation. If the twins were cheating, they would face the consequences of their actions.
Like many schools across the globe, the Medical University of South Carolina has zero tolerance for cheating.
“An institution meant to produce healers cannot be involved in such unscrupulous activities,” said the dean at the disciplinary hearing.
“No sick person would want to be treated by a doctor who doesn’t know anything about medicine but has a degree saying they’re qualified to diagnose and prescribe medicine or medical procedures,” he added.
Sadie could understand where he was coming from. This was a severe issue, especially in a world rife with liars and people who get to high places by forging documents.
Unlike many other professions, medicine demanded a complete understanding of the material. As the dean said, “No one would want to be treated by a quack.”
But did that mean that she and Sadie were liars?
The professors laid the irrefutable evidence before them. Footage of the exam room played before Sadie and Sally, showing the twins pushing away from their computers at almost the same time.
They requested stationary and constantly nodded their heads during the six-hour period.
They also looked around the classroom and shuffled their scratch papers simultaneously.
The dean paused the video and said the twins were signaling each other and possibly passing notes. It didn’t matter that the twins sat three rows away from each other.
The dean failed to mention that there wasn’t a moment where the two locked eyes during the exam.
But that aside, the test scores proved his point. The twins had scored the same in their final exam, crediting the disciplinary committee’s belief that they cheated.
The committee read its final verdict. It was suspending the twins for a thousand academic days, effective immediately. That meant Sadie and Sally’s last semester of school didn’t count. They would have to go home for three years before returning to retake their final exam.
Sadie had never seen Sally break down before. She was usually the stronger one emotionally.
Today would be different.
Tears tipped Sally’s lashes to match the ones racing down Sadie’s cheeks. The dream they once could see so clearly was no longer visible to them.
The years spent playing doctor as kids were wasted, and the future they’d worked hard to attain was gone.
Sally reached a hand to Sadie before standing up to hug her. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered, ignoring whatever else the dean said.
Sadie and Sally had been through a lot in their lives. After losing their dad at the tender age of seven, they vowed to work hard so they could take care of their mom. Now that, too, was off the table.
Sally, who rarely shed tears, couldn’t stop crying on their way home.
She couldn’t even look Sadie in the eyes and kept sniffling, her gaze bound to the blurred South Carolina vista rushing outside their car.
This Is Far From Over
“It’s not over, girls,” their mom kept repeating, even though she knew it was done. A three-year suspension was nothing to scoff at, and that’s what the twins were facing.
“I’ll call in some favors and see if we can’t do something about this misunderstanding.”
She knew the committee had made a mistake as someone who’d been there throughout the girls’ lives. She would fix it.
Mrs. Miller, Sadie and Sally’s mom, collected all the test results from her daughters’ past academic achievements and returned to their school the following week.
She scheduled an appointment with the dean overseeing the disciplinary proceeding and laid out her own evidence.
She’d save her daughters’ future if it were the last thing she did.
Mrs. Miller’s documents included her daughter’s college, high school, and even preschool exam scores. She’d brought Sadie and Sally’s SATs, the MCATs, and LSTATS results, which were almost identical.
Her documents also had cognitive tests taken when Sadie and Sally were three, seven, thirteen, and nineteen years old.
They would be the final nail in proving their innocence.
Is It Credible?
The cognitive tests showed that Sadie and Sally had identical genetic profiles. That meant that it would be more common for them to perform similarly academically instead of the other way around.
The dean rubbed a hand across his lips, eyes wide as he took in the information. As a medical practitioner, he could see the credibility of the documents.
But could the committee’s decision to suspend the twins be reversed?
“They’re innocent,” the dean said, his brows drawn close. He advised Mrs. Miller to appeal the case. What she had here was significant and could help prove her daughters’ innocence. Mrs. Miller didn’t waste any time. In the next two weeks, she was sitting next to her daughters in the same council room.
But this time, Sadie and Sally’s tears weren’t wrought with pain. They were happy tears, and the mom couldn’t be prouder.
If only she knew that the damage was already done.
Something’s Not Right
Sadie and Sally returned to school, ready to finish up and graduate. But they realized that the school was colder than usual.
Friends who’d known them throughout their four years of college were not even looking at them, let alone willing to hang out. Phone calls to the prestigious medical institutions the twins wanted to work at weren’t going through.
Something was terribly wrong.
Don’t Get Too Close To Them
Sadie and Sally had transformed into the social pariahs of the Medical University of South Carolina. No one would even say hi to them on the road. Even their favorite coffee shop wouldn’t let them sit in longer than needed.
They hadn’t even picked up their degrees, and their lives were already in shambles. The twins couldn’t even cry at how besmirched their name was.
They stood in shock, unable to process anything.
Fixing The Damage
Mrs. Miller visited the school faculty several times, trying to find a way to reverse the damage. But there was only so much she could do when word had already gotten around that her kids were liars and cheaters.
No hospital or research center would accept them. They would wither with their degrees in the house, slowly devoured alive by depression.
The mom couldn’t watch this happen.
She doubled down on her efforts, begging the school faculty to help. Couldn’t they send letters informing all medical bodies that her daughters were innocent?
But instead of being helpful, they called campus security to escort her out of school grounds. They deemed her a nuisance, maintaining that she was disrupting educational processes at the college.
They should have known who they were messing with.
Mrs. Miller couldn’t watch as her daughters languished in depression and PTSD. They could barely eat and wouldn’t even leave their rooms. Sadie spent her days sleeping while Sally sobbed through the night. They both had panic attacks and woke up screaming in the middle of the night.
The worried mom dug into her savings, phoning a lawyer friend to take on their case. “Defamation, negligence, and gross negligence,” she said over the call. The school had ruined her daughters’ future.
It would rue the day it decided to cross them.
To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.