“I can’t believe we’re sitting out here like idiots. Why can’t we wait in the lobby?”
“BECAUSE, this is a boutique hotel; the lobby isn’t big enough that I’m sure we won’t be seen, and the bar is too far to see them come in.”
We were staked out in a rental in front of the Niche’ Luxe hotel. We’d been here for two-and-a-half hours awaiting her husband’s arrival, but we still hadn’t seen anyone resembling myself or him. The heat was obnoxious, causing me to sweat in places I didn’t enjoy.
“I’m not going to sit her much longer, Carmen. If they were going to show they’d be here by now.” I suggested, rubbing an overused napkin across my face for the hundredth time.
“So.” Carmen responded, nonchalantly, “…for once, this isn’t about you or your feelings. You’ll sit here all damn night if that’s what I want.”
“I can’t sit here all day, you know Mike is going to start to wonder where I am.”
“…well just do like you always do…” she smirked, “make something up…or tell him the truth. I don’t really care.” Her tone validated her lack of concern.
We sat in silence for the next forty minutes. I played a game on my phone in between stares, while she chain-smoked enough cigarettes to increase my risk of cancer sevenfold. I coughed as she lit another, and waved my hand in an exaggerated manner.
“If you’re gonna smoke that, at least let me step outside the car. You know how I feel about cigarette smoke.”
She rolled her eyes and turned to face me, “Do you…boo…” she huffed, purposely releasing the smoke in my face.
Annoyed, I stepped outside the car and inhaled deeply, allowing the fresh air to fill my lungs. I watched as a man and woman exited the hotel holding hands. They stood talking energetically for a moment before engaging in a passionate kiss and parting ways.
The man watched the woman enter a silver Jaguar and drive away. Once she disappeared, he climbed in the truck and headed off in the opposite direction. As he pulled out, I noticed a familiar blue car pulling in.
“LOOK!” I beat my palm against the window and pointed towards the truck. “It’s them!” I jumped in the car and tried to slide down in the seat. Carmen didn’t bother. She sat in full view of the truck as it passed.
“Carmen, duck!” I tried pulling her down so they wouldn’t see us, but she refused my demand.
“I’m not the one out here cheating. So, I’m not the one who needs to hide.” She said, taking a long drag from her cigarette, eyes glued to the car. We watched as her husband got out, and practically ran to the other side, to open the woman’s door. Carmen shifted, and flicked her cigarette butt out the window; her irritation growing by the minute.
“He doesn’t open my door at all anymore, more less push someone out the way to do it.” She spoke with disappointment in her voice.
We watched him extend his hand and flash a dashing smile toward the person in the car. My eyes fell on Carmen, I could see the pain settling on her face. She sensed my concern.
“Don’t give me that look, I’m fine.” She clenched her jaw and blinked back tears. A vein pulsated near her temple. She certainly was not fine – but I knew when to press and when to let things go.
I returned my gaze towards the car. Carmen’s husband stood talking to the valet, while the woman stood alongside taking selfies on her phone. From a distance, I could see the physical resemblance; we even had a similar style. Her current ensemble, a teal sundress with matching bag and sandals, was so familiar that it could’ve come from my closet.
“What the hell is going on here…” I spoke under my breath, stunned. I was probably more surprised than Carmen. I certainly didn’t expect to see myself in her husband’s sidepiece.
“SEE!!!” Carmen violently elbowed my ribcage and pointed towards the woman. “I TOLD YOU! I TOLD YOU! HOW COULD YOU! WITH MY HUSBAND! YOU WHORE!!!’
“CARMEN! FOCUS! FOCUSSSSS, SIS!” I clapped my hands in her face. “LISTEN TO ME, HONEY! I KNOW YOU’RE UPSET RIGHT NOW, BUT I AM NOT THE ENEMY! I’M RIGHT HERE! How can I be HERE and THERE?!” I spoke firmly, my hands grasping both her shoulders.
Carmen turned her gaze back to her husband just in time to see him plant a zealous kiss on miss thang’s lips. Without hesitation, we both jumped out the car.
“BARNARD ALEXANDER SMITH! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?!”
Carmen’s husband jumped and his eyes widened as he turned. “CARMEN!” he shouted, his faced flushed with guilt. I kept my eyes on the double in case she attempted to intervene. Surprisingly, she was headed in my direction.
“… WHAT, YOU WANT TO SLEEP WITH MY BEST FRIEND!? WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING WITH SOMEONE WHO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE HER?” I overheard Carmen yelling as she punched Barnard in his torso and back. I was surprised to see her react this way in public. I knew she had a temper, but she’d never been one for making a scene.
“I assume that’s his wife… and you are?” She extended her hand like this was a friendly gathering; her calmness caught me off guard.
“That’s not relevant,” I snapped back. “Who the hell are you…?”
“That’s not relevant either.” She responded in-kind. “And before you get an attitude with me, I had no idea he was married. He told me he was widowed.”
“Carmen, baby, please…calm down!” Barnard’s voice boomed around the entry-way.
Carmen continued her tirade, “Don’t you tell me to calm down! You, lying…cheating…piece of shit! You’re out here with some random, disrespecting me, in the middle of the day!” Carmen kept a gun in her glove compartment, I really hoped this wasn’t about to get ugly.
“It’s kind of loud over here, how about we chat over there?” My body double pointed towards a small sitting area off to the side of the building. I agreed, and followed her through the hot afternoon air, quickly glancing at my phone to see if my husband had called. Thankfully he hadn’t. He was probably still at work.
She sat on the bench and crossed one leg over the other, her toffee colored thighs bulged between the rips in her jeans. I watched while she pulled a compact from her pocketbook, and took her time retouching her make-up. After a few minutes, I let out a loud huff to make my irritation known. She side-eyed me with a smirk, chuckling slightly.
“Sorry about that,” she said, layering on another coat of lipstick, “…they say this lipstick is “kiss proof” but CLEARLY, it’s not.” She giggled slightly, alone.
“Ma’am…whoever you are. Please don’t do that.”
“Do what?” Her face was serious.
“…casually chat with me like we’re…friends…or whatever it is you call this…you do understand that that is my best friend’s husband we just caught you with, right?”
“Ahhh…” she sucked her breath through her teeth, “…that.” She rolled her eyes and laughed.
“Well her…and your… beef isn’t with me. Like I said, I had no idea the man was attached.” She shrugged and turned up her lips.
“Oh, let me guess. He didn’t tell you.”
“…did you even ask?”
“I didn’t ask…because I didn’t care. I can’t say it would’ve made a difference had I known, but in this case… I didn’t. So, you can’t put the blame on me. Besides, it’s frivolous in the scheme of things.”
“Wai- wha- are you…are you kidding me? Frivolous?” I retorted, insulted. I abhorred people who willingly interfered in other’s relationships, then acted like they were innocent when the shit hit the fan.
“Yes, frivolous.” She refused to back down. “It’s her own fault anyway. Had she given you my information when I called…”
“You called, Carmen?”
Sensing my confusion, she smiled and put up a well-manicured hand. “You know what, let’s back up. This is not how this was supposed to go down. I had this clever joke about how familiar you looked and how I just couldn’t place your face…and all…”
She huffed. I blinked with confusion.
“I came here a few months ago, looking for my biological family and ran into this man,” she pointed towards Barnard, who was now chasing Carmen down the walkway, “… at the University library. One thing led to another and, well…you know how these things go.”
“Actually, I don’t.” I snarled and folded my arms.
“I swear he never mentioned his wife, except to say she was dead. How could I know going out with him would lead to you? THAT was just a bonus!”
“A bonus? How is this a bonus? and why would you want to be led to me anyway…?”
She chortled and gave me an unbelieving look, “Are you serious, right now? We’re standing here with the exact same face and you’re asking me why I’d want to find you? Why the hell do you think?!?”
I got what she was trying to say, but my mind couldn’t accept it. As far as I knew I wasn’t adopted, and I damn sure didn’t recall having a twin sister who disappeared at any point in my childhood. This made absolutely no sense to my rational mind.
“CARMEN, PLEASE! Don’t do this…just slow down for a minute and let me speak to you, please!”
“FUCK OFF, BARNARD!” Carmen stormed across the pavement towards the parking lot. Barnard followed, repenting of his “mistake” and reiterating his love for her. I watched for a second and returned my attention to the matter at hand.
“What exactly are you trying to insinuate?”
“Damn, and I thought you were supposed to be the “smart” one.” She placed both hands on her hips and rolled her eyes.
“Let me spell this out for you…SIS…” The way she said “sis” unnerved me, she sounded more like a snake than I’d prefer.
“…we’re TWINS, GIRL!” My duplicate grinned like we’d just won the lottery. “…T-W-I-N-S! Identical!” She laughed and slapped me on the back.
I cringed and took a few steps back. What she was saying simply wasn’t possible. My parents were married when I was born; it didn’t make sense they’d keep me, my older sister, and my baby brother, but somehow throw away a twin? Absolutely not. There was no way.
“AMYA!” Carmen yelled from the curb. Barnard stood outside the car yanking door handles in a futile attempt to get in. I looked back at my “twin” and shook my head.
“If you’re my twin, why’d our parents give you away?”
“Our parents didn’t…” Barnard ran up to the vehicle as Carmen pulled up to the curb nearest me.
“…your mother, did.” She finished her sentence with an ice-cold glare.
Now I really knew she was tripping. How could my mother give away my twin sister without my father knowing? And WHY wouldnt my older sister mention this? There was no way her high holiness had these kinds of skeletons in her closet. There had to be a logical explanation for this.
“If you don’t get your lying ass away from my car I WILL run you over, please try me to find out. Please do it.” Carmen’s threats resounded across the parking lot. It wouldn’t be long before someone called the police.
“BRING YA ASS AMYA! OR I’M LEAVING, NOW!” Her impatience was reaching its peak. I had to cut this short.
“Shit.”I mumbled under my breath. “Clearly, I have to go.” I said, rolling my eyes towards the car, “…but we’re going to continue this conversation. What’s your number?”
I unlocked my phone and prepared to add her to my address book. Without asking, she snatched it from my hand, dialed her number, and handed it back as it rang.
“Rude, but thanks…” I said, disconnecting the call. As I saved her number to my contacts I realized I still hadn’t learned her name, “…and your name?”
“Ahh…yes.” She smiled and reached into her purse, pulling out a small photo of a young girl, whom I immediately recognized, and a man, whom I didn’t. The back of the photo read, Darryl D. Height & Daughter, Ameya D. Height, age 4.
“Do me a favor and give that to your mother,” she requested, clasping my hand. “… and tell her our father sends his regards.”
I stared at the picture, stunned to see my face on someone else’s childhood photos.
“Your name…i….is…Ah-me-yah? Like mine, except with an…” I stammered, still staring.
“Yep, with an ‘e’”
“How did you…”
“Amya!” Carmen shouted and hit the horn one last time. I could feel her eyes penetrate my skull. It was time to go. If I delayed any longer I’d either get left or dragged to the car by my hair. I preferred neither.
“OK! I’m coming!” I yelled, backing away, “I have to go. I’ll call you.” I said, and walked off without saying good-bye.
“You do that, but not before you give your mom that picture! And the message from our dad!” She hollered behind me, lighting up a cigarette.
Carmen sped off before I even closed the door, and Barnard ran, yelling, behind us. I watched until he was a mere speck in the distance, then pulled out my phone and sent a text to my parents.
WE NEED TO TALK. CAN I COME BY TOMORROW?
SURE BABY. EVERYTHING OK?
My dad text back, or should I say, the man I believed to be my dad. I did grasp Ameya’s use of the word “our” when she spoke of her father. Was she insinuating my father wasn’t my father? How could that be? Did my mother have an affair? What if I’m really adopted? Why wouldn’t my older sister say anything? A million questions I couldn’t answer bombarded my mind. I reached behind me and grabbed a blanket from the backseat.
“She’s your sister, right?” Carmen asked, as we entered the freeway. “You wanna talk about it?”
“Na, do you?” I asked back, pulling the lever to recline the seat.
“Good.” I said, snuggling under the cover.
We rode the rest of the way in silence; there were no words to be exchanged.
Continue to the next installment.