by Lisa Gioia, 1402 Words
While her grandmother conducted the meeting on the porch, Meghan had stood just inside the screen door. She reflected back on the day before and thought about all that transpired after her mother’s reappearance.
“Let’s go home and I’ll explain everything,” Amy had said to Meghan as they headed to the car. Alice, head down but gazing through the fringe of her long hair at her twin sister, (she still couldn’t believe it) didn’t know if she’d be invited back in the car. She’d overheard Meghan ask Amy why she was there, with her – their mother. Perhaps her coming along with Amy had been a mistake. No one would welcome her into this family, no matter what Amy said. Meghan had been nice to her in the diner when she’d had that embarrassing meltdown, but accepting her as a sibling, well, that might just be asking too much.
“Alice, honey. Get in the car. It’s okay. I’m going to explain everything to Meghan. At least I’m going to try. Granted, I don’t know everything, but I do know, you are my daughter. Together, the three of us are going to figure all this out.
As Meghan was about to slide in the driver’s seat, she looked over at Alice. Could it be true? Could this crazy woman be her sister? Her twin? That’s what Gran and Ted had told her. Now her mother seems to be confirming it. But Meghan didn’t want to believe it. Had her whole life been a lie?
No, Meghan said to herself. Gran said they were trying to protect me. From what? From this girl? But why?
Meghan couldn’t wrap her head around it, not now. With the fire, the loss of the diner, and her mother’s reappearance, Meghan figured her brain was overloaded with information and confusion. Maybe they were all confused. This mousy, unhinged woman couldn’t be anything but an unfortunate stranger and Meghan couldn’t wait to be rid of her.
As Meghan drove the short distance to the bungalow, she kept stealing glances at her mother who stared straight ahead out of the windscreen. Just before they turned onto their street, Amy suddenly reached for Meghan, grabbing her arm, and said, “Stop! Pull over.”
Amy pulled to the side of the road, put the car in park and turned to her mother. “Mom? What’s wrong? Gran is going to be so happy to see you.”
Shaking her head and glancing toward the backseat to look at Alice, Amy said, “No. We can’t go home yet. I’m not ready. Your grandmother, she knows the answers to what happened when you and Alice were born,” she points her thumb over her shoulder. “Meghan, I’ve been gone these last three weeks trying to figure something out. Your father, and Alice’s father – he’s not dead. But I wish he was because he’s a very bad man. Meghan, Alice is your sister. Your twin sister. But I didn’t know that until today, although I think I did know, deep down inside me because I felt incomplete. I’ve been trying for all these years to forget about your father. His name isn’t really Jeff, it’s Willoughby, but that’s a story for another time. I couldn’t forget about him because he’s been stalking and threatening me for years.”
As Amy stopped to take a breath, for she realized she’d been rambling, anxious to get the words out, Meghan stared at her, not understanding what was happening. Her father was alive but was a danger to her mother. The woman sitting behind her was her twin. Closing her eyes, Meghan shook her head to rid herself of the impossible. Just as she reached up to put the car in drive, Alice spoke up from the back seat, her voice just above a whisper. “I’m sorry.”
In the rearview mirror, the two women locked eyes, the same hazel-flecked-with-gold eyes.
Amy said, “I have someplace you can take me and Alice. Just until we sort this out. Don’t tell your grandmother I’m back. Not yet. Just give me more time. I don’t want Willoughby to know where I am. I don’t want him cottoning on that I know what he did.”
Amy directed Meghan to a house about ten miles from town. Apparently, this is where Amy had been the whole time. Not completely understanding what was happening, Meghan left after a long embrace with her mother and a cursory nod to her sister.
Later that day Phyliss went off to bed after the meeting; she’d looked so worn out that Meghan insisted she rest. Meghan and Ted sat on the porch under the canopy of stars. Should Meghan tell Ted about Amy’s return and that she’d been with the strange girl from the café (she better get used to saying her sister)? Before she could decide to open up, they heard a thud coming from inside the house. Together they ran in and found Phyliss in a heap on the floor just outside her bedroom.
“Phyliss, wake up! Wake Up. What happened? Ted leaned close to her face and shook her gently.
It took a minute, but Phyliss opened her eyes and looked at the hovering faces of her granddaughter and her friend. She was dazed, but once they helped her to sit, her head began to clear. She turned to look into her room. When she returned her gaze to the two of them, she said, “Willoughby, he’s here. He was looking in at me through my window. I came out here to warn you, tell you to watch out. I guess I fainted or something.” Phyliss grasped Meghan’s hands in hers and said, “Honey, I think he’s come for you.”
Willoughby Smyth saw the old lady fall to the ground after she’d seen him. Good, he thought to himself. I hope she’s dead. Rather than stay and see if his wish was true, he headed back to the woods. I can torch the place another time, after I’ve gotten even with Amy and have my hands on my daughter, my other daughter.
Smyth had a score to settle with Amy and the old woman. Because of them he’d lost out on being a father. Granted, when he first heard Amy was pregnant, he wanted nothing to do with it. That’s why he split. He’d changed his mind though and when he’d heard Amy had given birth, well, he wanted to be a part of his kid’s life. Then he discovered Amy had twins. It was Ted that had informed him. He also learned Amy was in a bad way, had some medical complications after giving birth. That’s when he decided he was going to take the girls, raise them himself.
When he’d gone to the hospital to claim that he was the father, he was barred by Amy’s mother Phyliss from going anywhere near her daughter or grandchildren. It took some doing, but he was able to sneak into the hospital and nursery one night. He had one of the twins in his arms and was ready to pick up the other when a nurse entered the room. “Hey! What are you doing here? Put that child down!” she shouted. Willoughby bolted for the door, pushing the nurse aside and getting outside before he was caught.
It didn’t take long before he realized the mistake he’d made. He didn’t know how to care for a squalling kid, didn’t know how to feed it. But he was sure as hell not going to give her back to her mother. Instead, he placed the kid on the doorstep of The Sisters of Charity School for Girls.
It was after that he began his campaign of terror, contacting Amy, telling her she would never be rid of him. The funny thing was, Amy never once asked him about the kid. Was she glad she only had one to raise? Had he done her a favor? If she begged him to tell her where her other baby was, he would have another way to torture her.
But Willoughby was unaware that Amy never knew anything about the second baby she’d given birth to. That was a secret only he, Phyliss, Ted, and the hospital staff knew. That is, until things started to unravel. Alice appeared looking for her family. Phyliss and Ted confessed to Meghan. And Willoughby Smyth decided it was time to exact revenge.