EARLY — At Early High School, somebody had to be the first.


First set of twins, that is, to be named valedictorian and salutatorian at the school.


That honor goes to 18-year-old Rae Bynum (valedictorian) and her older-by-two-minutes sibling, Megan (salutatorian). The twins are the daughters of Austin Bynum and Bethany Bynum.


“I can't say enough great things about Rae and Megan,” Early High School counselor Hope Bearden said via email. “I believe they are the first set of twins to be named valedictorian and salutatorian at Early High School. How cool is that?”


Both young women are bound for Stephen F. Austin State University, where Rae plans to major in creative writing and minor in literature, and Megan will major in theatre arts and studio arts, with an emphasis in sculpture.


Descriptions of the twins’ accomplishments from Bearden and an Early High School teacher who knows them well — English and theatre arts teacher Amber Jones — show them to be hard-working, disciplined students who have striven for excellence and participated in numerous organizations. The girls are also described by the counselor and teacher as kind, gracious, reliable, humble and naturally gifted leaders.


Seated at a picnic table in Riverside Park recently, the sisters admitted to be being — as Megan nailed it — “really ambitious when it came to academics and pretty much anything else. We demand excellence of ourselves.”


The twins also showed themselves to be funny, friendly and engaging, teasing each other with a back-and-forth banter that had them laughing at each other’s verbal antics.


And, the two have the deep connection with each other one would expect of twins. The two display the easy chemistry of longtime friends.


Best friends, the twins agreed.


“We’re attached at the hip,” Megan said.


“And I think one of the great things about having even just a sibling in general, is that you are born with a built-in best friend if you choose them,” Rae added. “Because we’re sisters by birth, but we’re best friends by choice.”


“And I choose you,” Megan said with a sly smile.


“I choose you too,” Rae answered. “Sometimes I want you to go away, but that’s all siblings.”


“That’s true,” Megan agreed. “We would be lying if we said we didn’t fight sometimes because that’s just because we get on each other’s nerves. Sometimes I think it’s because our similarities come out.”


***


The sisters answered questions about themselves easily, often with impromptu one-liners.


On how they’re similar: “We have the same face,” Rae said.


How they’re different:


“I think she’s funnier than I am,” Rae said of her sister.


“I’m more of the entertainer,” Megan agreed. Touching her sibling, Megan continued, “this one is really good at being a friend. She’s a good listener.”


“I’m a confidant,” Rae agreed.


“You are!” Megan said. “You’re a confidant.”


“And,” Rae said teasingly, “you’re just like, ‘look at me!’”


“That’s not how I am,” Megan protested. “If I’m on stage and performing, yes.”


***


The siblings remember being little girls and realizing that each had a twin.


“When we first started school, people would go home and tell their parents ‘mom I just made two friends with the same face!’” Megan said.


“That is true,” Rae agreed. “That happened, and it was really funny, and we still tell that story.”


Rae noted that her sister is the older of the two “by a whoppin’ two minutes … but she doesn’t act like it.”


“You milk the little sister thing for all it’s worth,” Megan chided.


Rae wasn’t finished. “When we were young, you used to tell me what to do all the time,” Rae countered. “You got me in trouble so many times for crawling into you crib! And it wasn’t my fault. You were coaching me. You manipulator … mini-manipulator.”


***


As the girls grew up, they didn’t compete against each other. That evolved into a friendly competition, as the twins described it, once they entered Early High School as freshmen.


“I guess until high school we hadn’t thought about valedictorian and salutatorian,” Megan said.


“We’ve always been each other’s best friends and confidants.


“That’s true,” Rae agreed. “We’ve always relied on each other for sure, and we’ve always had ambitious goals. I guess I didn’t really expect us to have valedictorian and salutatorian. Originally in freshman year, I thought I was going to be the salutatorian and my friend Morgan Kent was going to be valedictorian because she was first for awhile. But then she moved.”


Then the twins received their first transcripts.


“We were like, ‘oh my gosh, we’re in competition with one another!’” Megan said.


“I think that’s when the competition kind of sparked, Rae added. “It’s been a friendly and healthy competition. It hasn’t been like …”


“It’s not like fighting tooth and nail,” Megan finished her sister’s thought. “Although we probably do compare ourselves to each other more than we should.


The Early High School class of 2020 has been a competitive class — a good class, the siblings agreed.


“We made sacrifices for sure, but with any accomplishment that’s worth reaching, there are sacrifices that you make if you feel like it’s worth it,” Rae said.


Megan added, “And it’s one of those things where we never really cared who was first and who was second. We kind of just wanted us both to be first and second.”


“I think there was a lot of encouraging of each other,” Rae said. Touching her sister’s shoulder, Rae continued, “This one was afraid of being third a couple of times. She wasn’t terrified of it but she was going to be disappointed. And I was like, no, you’re not. You’re going to be second. It’s good. Chill out.”


“But the point being, Megan said, “we didn’t fight tooth and nail for valedictorian, because our relationship is more important to us than who gets first in high school, because that’s something that no one’s ever going to remember. What we’re going to hold onto are the little memories.”


***


“There’s always those people that have that stereotype of twins, that (say) ‘you all are basically the same person,’” Megan said. “It’s not true, and the older that we get, our interests are similar in some ways but still very different. Because we are different people.”


“And our unique personalities have become more defined over the years,” Rae said. “We definitely rely on each other for a lot and depend on each other for a lot, but we still developed ourselves separately, which is good. And I think a lot of people don’t see that.”


Megan added, “And we have our own individual identities that sometimes people just don’t care to differentiate between us — which is fine. We’re used to ‘hey you’ and being called by the wrong name.”


“That’s happened so many times,” Rae said, “we’re like, ‘that can be my name.’ It’s fine. I can be Megan and Rae.”


Rae joked about not even knowing herself. “I’m like, am I Megan? Am I Rae? I don’t know. Did we get switched at birth? I don’t know,” she said, laughing.


The two do finish each other’s sentences.


“We don’t really have the twin telepathy like so many people have,” Megan said. “But because we spend so much time with each other, we have the capability of finishing each other’s thoughts sometimes if we lose nouns or something like that.”


“We’re good at establishing lines of reasoning,” Rae added. “And I think the other one can follow that and so it’s like I know what you’re going to say.”


***


Megan said she and her sister “seem to have found the same purpose in life, which is trying to express our own ideas to the world in an effort to improve it in the long run.


“And (Rae’s) version of that is writing creatively, and we both tell stories. So my version is acting and bringing to life those stories that have already been written, and creating art pieces that create part of the human condition and how society works, while (Rae) writes about that.”