At the precise moment she’d promised herself she would, Jane sat down in front of the computer, organized her notes and began writing her 1000 words for the day. “Phyllis recognized the man’s dark shape shuffling toward her down the dim hallway. Reaching into the large bag for the small pistol she now carried everywhere…”
A loud knock on the front door interrupted Jane mid-sentence. Cursing under her breath, she stormed across the living room and yanked open the door. A woman stood framed in the doorway dressed in a long skirt and flowing tunic with a shawl draped over one shoulder, hair and face hidden by the floppy brim of a hat. An expensive leather purse hung from her shoulder and large Audrey Hepburn sunglasses covered her eyes. Everything about the woman screamed money and poise — definitely not a Jehovah’s Witness or the Avon lady. Jane cringed at her own shabby ensemble of ragged cutoffs, baggy t-shirt and misshapen huaraches.
“Jane Buckner?” the woman said. “My name is Vivien Dunlop. I have something I need to show you.”
“I’m very busy,” Jane said, closing the door.
The woman stuck out her foot. “I promise you will be interested.” She shoved the door open and pushed past Jane into the living room.
“I don’t care who you are or what you’re selling, get the hell out of my house.”
The woman ignored her and prowled from room to room. “You could fit this whole place into the living room of my apartment,” she said.
Jane stood in front of the woman. “If you don’t haul your la-di-da ass out of here in the next two seconds I’ll …”
“What? Shoot me? For God’s sake, calm down.” She ran her manicured fingers across a crystal beaded curtain like she was playing a harp and ignited a shower of rainbow prisms that swirled around the room. “It’s cute, though, kind of tropical cum hippy. I like it.”
“I’m delighted you approve. Now . . .”
Vivien turned her back to Jane, unwrapped her shawl and threw it on the couch. The hat followed the shawl. After a moment’s pause, she took off the sunglasses and with a flourish threw them on top of the pile. Turning to face Jane, she spread her arms wide and said, “Ta-da.”
Speechless, her hand covering her throat, Jane stumbled back. The woman standing in front of her was an exact replica of herself — the same grey eyes, white-grey hair, pronounced cheekbones, square jaw. They were looking eye-to-eye so their height was the same, and they shared narrow shoulders, straight backs and zaftig frames.
A chill crept down Jane’s spine. “What the hell is going on here?”
“Long story, Sugar, and unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time. I have to catch a plane out of that miniature airport of yours in a little over an hour. Tell you what. Why don’t you go into that little dollhouse kitchen of yours and pour us a couple glasses of that appalling chardonnay in a box you prefer? I’ll be out on your deck.” She disappeared outside.
How did that woman know who she was, what kind of wine she drank? The whole thing gave Jane a bad case of the heebie-jeebies, but she might as well hear the woman out. She uncovered two matching wine glasses on the top shelf of the cupboard and polished them with the hem of her blouse.
Vivien’s voice came from the deck. “You have a sweet little Zen patio. Mind if we talk out here? There’s a rooftop garden at my apartment in Manhattan but I seldom take the time to go up there.”
“Should have guessed you were from New York City,” Jane said from the kitchen.
“Glad it shows.”
Jane took the wine out onto the deck and handed a glass to Vivien seated in one of the mismatched rocking chairs. She remained standing. “Now, how about you tell me what the hell you want and why you look exactly like me.”
“Your Southern hospitality overwhelms me. Very well then, here’s the gist of it.” Vivien began to rock. “You and I are – were – one and the same being before our births in this time. The bureaucrats upstairs selected us for an experiment to see what would happen if they split a soul into two parts and sent them for re-birth to different locations, different parents, and so on. They’re not big on sharing their plans but I’m guessing they’re testing the nature vs. nurture theory.” She took a large swallow of her wine.
“How is it you know so much and I know squat?”
“I was born in New York, and you were born in Oklahoma, so I suppose that makes me an hour older than you. Being the eldest gave me special privileges, one of which was to know a little bit about the experiment, including your existence. I had forgotten all about you until about a month ago when a dream reminded me. I’ve always felt incomplete, like something was missing, a hole left by an absence. After the dream, I decided to track you down, check you out, see if you were what’s been missing. It’s taken me over a month to accomplish all that.”
Jane sat down. “I know those feelings – I’ve had them all my life, even as a little girl, like I was a split personality or something.”
“If it’s any consolation, we will be reunited when this lifetime is over, be one being again. Then I guess those empty spaces will be refilled.”
“Do you know when I – we – will . . .”
“Afraid not. All I know for sure is that we will both die at the same nanosecond and be reunited before we reach home.”
Vivien stood and finished off the last of her wine. “Time to go. I know we haven’t had much time and we both have lots of questions, but my envelope for making all this happen was very narrow.”
At the front door, Vivien turned around to face Jane. “According to the dream, neither of us will remember anything about this meeting.”
“Do you think I could forget I have a damned Yankee twin sister?”
Vivien chuckled. “Guess we’ll see, huh, kiddo? Take care of yourself.”
“You, too.” Jane watched Vivien glide into the back seat of a gleaming stretch limousine and followed its progress until it disappeared around the corner. Vivien waved once then the tinted window slid shut.
Straightening the couch cushions the next morning, Jane discovered a pair of large black sunglasses. Puzzled, she slipped them on and looked in the hall mirror. Is that you, Jane Buckner, looking all la-di-da and full of yourself? A sense of déjà vu niggled at the back of her mind, and the word ‘Vivien’ floated in the air, hovered for an instant, then vanished. Jane studied her reflection a moment longer then shrugged, yanked the glasses off and tossed them into the garbage can on the way to her computer.