I’ve always been keen on the ways in which a body can portray the mind, always showing me exactly what is being thought without even knowing it. Mindlessly folding and unfolding one’s hands, rapidly blinking, impulsively tapping a rubber soled sneaker against the tile floor. People are open books if you know the language they are written in. I have studied and mastered this language all my life, even becoming a psychologist because of it.
The phone rings for the third time, and I know I can’t avoid her any longer.
“Hello, Mother.” I answer, trying to force the cheerfulness in my voice.
“Hi, baby. Where are you heading now? Off to see that boy again?”
“Mom! I’m going to work.” I can hear the phone shifting on the other line and can feel the disappointment from the small movement.
“I just wish you would give that man a chance. A man in your life would be a good thing.” She says, the pout audible in her voice.
“If it makes you happy… we’re going out tonight.” The screech that travels directly into my ear makes me contemplate hanging up, but before I get the chance she is rambling.
“Oh, you could wear that pretty little dress I got you for Christmas, the red one with the lace on the back. You look gorgeous in that. Or, you could wear the black strapless one and those nude heels.”
“Ma, I have to go, I’m at the office.”
“Well, alright. Call me before you start getting ready, I’ll walk you through it.” I know there is no point in arguing with her at this point, and I really have to go.
“Okay, I’ll talk to you later. Bye, Ma.” Hanging up the phone, I exit my sleek, black Porsche and head into the glass building. Walking through the entrance, I scan my keycard at the front desk, saying hello to Derek, who works as the security guard in the building. People are hustling around the main lobby, rushing to and from meetings and dropping files along the way.
Making my way to the elevator, I’m pleasantly surprised to see it already opened with no one in sight. Stepping it, I quickly press the small, circular button that will take me to my level. Exiting, I quickly greet my secretary, Gabriella, with a polite “Good morning!” and push my office door open with my hip.
A young woman stares at me, bewilderment laced in her features. A patient, perhaps? Whoever she is, Gabriella should have had her wait outside. And yet, here she is, staring with the same olive eyes that I would see in a mirror, full of suspense after waiting for me to return from my lunch break. A wrinkled paper, one that she had clearly tried to smooth out, was quivering between her glossed fingernails so much so that I was afraid it would fall to the ground. Before I have the chance to pull my thoughts together, she suddenly bursts with a stream of consciousness.
“Hello,” she starts, “My name is Bodhi Nichols. I was born in Wichita, Kansas just like you were…?” She trails, seeming to expect an answer from me.
“I’m sorry, did Gabriella let you in? You should really have stayed outside-” I start, trying to remain balanced as the woman clearly is spinning out of control.
“I didn’t think you’d really look like me so much.” She cuts in. “I mean, I know we’re twins and all, but I didn’t think we’d look this similar.” I have no words, only amazement floods my mind, followed by the shock that I hadn’t seen it before. Her eyes hold the same hue of green as mine, her hair cascades with the same pattern as well. She has hers cut much shorter, curling just noticeable at the ends. Her skin shares the same cinnamon shade, disorganized freckles scattered every so often across her face and and down to her arms.
“Twins? I’m an only child.”
“But you’re not, I’m your sister.” She says, perplexed that I hadn’t believed her tale. “Here,” she exclaims, remembering the paper she had been carrying, “it’s my birth certificate.” She hands the paper to me, and I take it reluctantly, the shock only subsiding slightly. The certificate was definitely real from what I can tell, but I don’t know the contents of my own well enough to determine whether it is a match. As I look at the document, the woman rummages through her bag some more, pulling out another paper that looks similar.“I have a copy of yours too, you’d be surprised how little firewall there is for legal documents online. Not that I’m a hacker or anything, I’ve just always had a habit of breaking into things. Even when I was little, I was only three when I broke into my dad’s safe that he used to keep in our old garage.” As she speaks, her voice attains more and more confidence. The subject is clearly one she is proud of, and it makes her personality shine through and her body more readable. The mechanic way she pulls her hair out of her face every three to four minutes tells me she is nervous, but the slight shake of her head gives way to conviction as she goes on about her hobby.
“Stop,” I interject, but her rambling continues without pause.
“I mean, I don’t hack regularly. I only do it when I really need something, and when Leo told me that I had a sister, a twin for god’s sake, I couldn’t just move on when I knew I could find out who she was. So, I only took a peek into state records and once I found you I got right out of there-”
“Stop!” I yell again, the suddenness making her stop and retract into her tense state once more. “Just… just wait, please. I don’t understand… I mean I understand what you’re saying, it just makes absolutely no sense. If I had a sister I would have known about it, my parents would have told me! How could they give up one of their children and keep the other? They wouldn’t do that. How could they do that to you?” I try to reach a reasonable state, but the thoughts are like individual catastrophes eclipsing my mind.
“They didn’t do that to me. They did it to you.” Guilt floods her face, making her look down at her sneakers, which are once again tapping the tile floor rapidly.
“What are you saying, that my parents aren’t really my parents? That I’ve been living a lie my whole life?” I question, my disbelief replaced with anger. I see the fear creeping itself into her body language, but I am too blinded by my own emotion to acknowledge it.
“I’m sorry, I thought you would be shocked at first, yeah. But, I wasn’t expecting you to be so angry-”
“Oh, you didn’t expect me to be angry? Well, you were right! I’m not angry, I’m livid. I’m disgusted that you think you can just come into my life and tell me everything I’ve ever known isn’t true. You know what? You’re a liar, and I can see it! You’re selling yourself out right in front of me! Tapping your foot, a nervous tick, clearly, and you keep pulling at your fingers, we both know they’re clammy due to you being so anxious. I noticed that the moment you walked in. If you were nervous to tell me this information you would be showing it in a more excited way, pulling your hair back or squirming in anticipation. No, instead you’re not just nervous, you’re scared. But, if this were good news you wouldn’t be scared. So, what are you here for? Who are you, really?” I finish, the words spilling out between my teeth. “Just forget it, I don’t care to hear an explanation, I’m going to leave and when I come back you better be long gone.” I grab my keys and walk out, passing Gabriella, who is ignorant to my newfound information.
“Is everything alright Ti?” she inquires, but I am too enraged to acknowledge her at all. Exiting the building, I spot my sleek, black Porsche parked where I left it fifteen minutes before. Climbing in, I sit in silence for a moment, pondering whether I should return to my office and get this issue sorted out. Yet, fearful of any potential actions I might later regret, I turn the car on and pull out of the small lot in record time. Easing onto the highway, I realize that a drive probably wasn’t the best idea. Yet, with the windows rolled down with the music blaring, nothing could be more perfect in this moment. Knowledgeable that there aren’t usually any cops hidden on this stretch of road, I push my foot a little harder onto the gas. The car responds graciously as I weave through the few other vehicles populating the stretch.
A few minutes of this, and a semi-trailer comes into view in the center lane. Shifting to the left, I accelerate even more in an attempt to pass the truck. Once around it, I return to my former place in the center lane. Looking to my right as I do so, I realize a moment too late that another car had done the same thing on the other side of the truck. In an attempt to refrain from colliding in the center lane, I jerk the wheel back to the left as quickly as I can. The wheel turns and I miss the car by a few feet, yet as I veer away from the car, I become too close to the guard rail that divides the two sides of the highway.
I can feel the shudder as the metal of my car grinds against the rail, and quickly realize the back end of the car is lifting from the ground, the wheels spinning aimlessly in mid-air. Before I can move, the airbag comes shooting out from in front of me with lightening speed, so much so that it slams my head against the seat, sending me into a wicked darkness.
“Tara, stop!” a small girl, only a toddler, runs ahead of me screaming in delight. Small hands that appear to be mine reaching out after her in pursuit. Two matching sundresses billow in the spring air as barefeet make their way across an endless array of thick, smelly grass. The girl ahead turns her head around every so often as to make sure the other is still following, a sly smile and a slow blink, and then her head turns back to see where she is going once more. Soon, as she turns again, those large, green eyes locking with my own, her foot lands unexpectedly into a small hole left by some animal and fell. Yet the fall is still a graceful one, and the smile never leaves her face.
“It’s okay, Bodhi.” I hear, the other child’s voice rings out as if underwater. The small hands that must be my own reach down and lift the girl to her feet. We embrace, and as we pull away I find that we are no longer in the sunlit paradise of a backyard, but a garage filled with miscellaneous items. The other girl has begun to climb a few boxes that lead to some shelves that can’t be reached otherwise by our small forms. Without thinking, I feel myself climb up the boxes as well. By the time I pull myself onto the last box, the other girl is already sitting on the shelf that is nailed to the wall. Resting beside her is a large safe that had obviously been there a while as it had a thick layer of dust along the top and a few chips of paint missing on the corners. Wrapped in amazement, I sit on the last box and stare at the metal box.
“Look what I found.” The girl says, pulling a small key from the front pocket of her dress. “I’m gonna be Daddy.” she says, lining the key up with the matching hole on the safe, her hand slightly shaking as she supports its weight with her fragile wrists. Pushing it in, she waits for the safe to open, but nothing happens. Confusion etched on her face, she wiggles the key with as much might as she can conjure up, but to no avail. Angrily, she begins to hit the safe on the side.
“Open, open, open, open!” she screams, and with one last jab, the door of the box swings open rapidly. Before any movement can be made, the heavy door slams into the top of the box, sending it off the one below it and starting a chain reaction. I can feel myself falling, looking up to see the little girl peering down from the safety of the shelf. Before I can hit the ground, that same wicked darkness covers me once more.
Miniscule shards of translucent glass, belonging to the windshield of my beautiful car only minutes ago, are now strewn across the charcoal gravel of the road. Similar pieces of that glass push their way further into the palm of my hand, but the pain does not register in my concussed mind as I contract my body into itself in an attempt to assess the situation. I can hear the accelerating thump of my heartbeat like a bass drum inside my head, only rising once I’ve acknowledged the sound. I squeeze my eyes shut, only to find that it makes the ever increasing headache worsen. Looking around, the world doesn’t seem… right. Through the empty space that was once a thick sheet of glass separating me from the fast, hard wind of this February night is the road and the sky… except the road is the sky and the sky is the road? That doesn’t make any sense, everything is wrong here. Cars are flying past to my right, going in the opposite direction, ignorant to my distress. Before panic can fully set in, my brain catches up to my body, reminding me that the world doesn’t just flip itself, a person does. More so, a car going 40 miles over the speed limit flips itself once, twice, three times until coming to a screeching halt.
Soon, my body is being lifted and held in place. But I don’t mind as the light of the stars twinkle unknowingly in my distant eyes. Their flickers of light resounding from space into my own iris. A man’s face comes into view, though, and those stars are immediately lost behind wild brown hair and matching eyes.
“Can you hear me? I need you to tell me if you can hear me!” a man, somewhere in his twenties, yells in desperation. “If you can hear me, tell me your name.” he says, his lips making a theatrical attempt at being understandable.
“My name?” I question, unsureness clouding my mind.
“Yes! Your name, what is your name?” he asks again, this time enthusiasm replaces the monotone nature of his voice.
“Tia… Tiana Moroson.”
“Okay, good! Hi Tia, my name is Oliver,” he says while shining a small light into my right eye. “I’m a paramedic, okay? Do you know what that means?” I shake my head no, too overwhelmed and concussed to think clearly. “It means I’m here to help you. Be still, okay?” I realize that I couldn’t disobey if I wanted to as my arms and legs become strapped to something hard beneath me, preventing me from my own free will. As much as I want to be freed, I feel too tired, and allow my eyes to flutter closed.
“No, don’t close your eyes. Come on, stay with me.”
“Where is the girl?” This voice catches my attention. Despite the craving of unconsciousness, I desperately want to find the source of that voice. It is an older woman, that I can tell, but she is loud and shaky. Before I have the chance to open my eyes, two fingers pry them open for me, and the same light as before shines brightly making my pupil contract and my lids shut quickly.
“There she is. How are we feeling?” I open my eyes again, and the man standing above me doesn’t look like any doctor I’ve seen. His black, button down shirt clings tightly to his body, tucked into a pair of dark blue jeans that lead to black, leather shoes. His brown eyes hold no concern, only a fake happiness that I have recognized in my own mother’s eyes. When did I get here?
The rumbling beneath me makes me think I’m in an ambulance, but the dark walls of the vehicle change my mind.
My mouth is dry, but I don’t even have the chance to ask for water when the door to the small, cement room bursts open, a sharp pain travels like a bolt of electricity as my neck turns sharply. A woman, about fifty with leathery skin and the beginning, stands in the door as if she didn’t believe the thing had even opened.
“Who are you?” I question, surprised that the words had even left my mouth, and even more surprised at how hostile I sounded. The woman looked taken back, but she soon regained some confidence and walked slowly into the room.
“Leo, could you give us a minute?” She asks, putting her hand on the man’s bicep.
“I still have to assess her injuries, D. I told you to wait outside until I came to get you.” The man, Leo, insisted.
“You know how long I’ve been waiting to meet her. Look at her, she is lucid and talking. Her injuries can wait ten minutes.” She pleaded, and I could sense that she had convinced him before he even turned to leave. As the door shut quietly, the woman looked at me for a moment. She said nothing, just watched me. Her eyes wobbled quickly from my own and all across my face. A small smile ghosted past her lips, and she just continued to look.
“This isn’t a hospital.” I began after a few minutes, ready to lecture my legal rights, but the woman only laughed.
“Two for two when it comes to brains, I did well.” she joked, shifting from one leg to another. Got her.
“You’ve been standing here for almost three minutes and you’ve been shifting from your left to your right, and then back subconsciously, only to do it again. You’ve got more thoughts running through your mind than I do, and you actually know what’s going on. So why don’t you stop with the fake confidence and tell me what I’m doing here.” The woman stopped shifting, and once again was just staring.
“Clever, you’re different from your sister.” This peaked my interest, all the questions running through my mind began to shift to the woman who had been in my office before.
“Bodhi? You know about her?”
“Know her? I gave birth to her, and you. I’m your mother, Deborah. Honestly, I thought you’d deduce that by now, but I guess you aren’t as clever as either of us thought.” she ended, wrapping all the confidence and pride she had into one sly look.