She sat in her armchair and observed the last oblique rays of the afternoon sun.
The phone rang.
“Why are you calling me? We have nothing else to say to each other. Mhm. You bore me.” Click.
The smell of cheese permeated the room which was now in half darkness.
She sprang to her feet as if she suddenly had a brilliant idea and went off to the kitchen, a smile on her face, eyes wide open, nostrils slightly widened, taking in the warm delicious smell of homemade pizza coming from the oven.
Oven mittens on each hand, she took out the tray and placed it on the window sill, still grinning from ear to ear.
Oh yes. You’ve outdone yourself, Ingrid Finestri.
Five minutes. That’s all I can do. Five minutes, she thought to herself.
The smell was unbearable. Her mouth was watering like mad. She went back to her armchair and rang the number back.
“Thank you… Are you feeling better?”
“What do you mean – I’ve been feeling perfectly well.”
“Before, when we spoke… Never mind. What are you up to?”
“You’ve got 4 minutes to come down or I’ll have it all by myself!’” Click.
She glanced at the clock. 18:57.
She got up and started turning on the lamps one by one. The little yellow one on the desk in the corner. The tall one by the sofa. The Japanese one on the side table. The room acquired a soft warm glow. She drew the curtains. 18.58. The doorbell.
A key turned twice. The door opened.
“I could smell it from upstairs!”
“Good. At least one of your senses is working properly.”
Plates clinking. More lights turned on. A knife scraping the bottom of the metal tray. Chairs scratching the marble floor. Some more clinking. Glasses filled with water. Then, silence. 19.02.
“What on earth is this? What did you do? This is sweet!”
Sobbing. Loud sobbing and then – bang! A plate flies through the air, smashes against the wall and lands on the floor in pieces. Hot melted cheese stains with tomato sauce stick to the wall, the chair, the floor.
“Shh. It’s still delicious! I was just surprised. That’s all!”
“Get out! Get away from me!”
“Alright. Calm down. I’ll go.”
Upstairs, Linda phoned Jeremy, a doctor by profession, her hands shaking slightly.
“Yes, it happened again. What should I do? When she is herself, she doesn’t want to hear it and we end up fighting or worse still – not talking to each other. And when it happens, well, she’s no different then either. Except she sobs like a toddler. She threw me out five minutes ago for pointing out she had used sugar instead of salt in the pizza dough. What do I do?”
“I’ll come over. I need to see her.”
“Thank you. I’ll let you in this time. I promise.”
20:30 I must have dozed off, Ingrid thought to herself. I need a drink of water.
“What’s all this? Who are you? How dare you?”
“It’s OK. This is my friend. He wanted to meet you but you were sleeping and we didn’t want to wake you.”
“Hello. I’m Jeremy. I’ve heard so much about you… and your cooking. “
She stared at the middle-aged man before her without blinking. Her face softened and it seemed like she was suddenly lit from within.
The man, in turn, had a look of absolute shock on his face and stared back at Ingrid with equal dedication. Nobody spoke for a good few minutes.
“I’ll put the kettle on. You two seem to have a lot to talk about,” said Linda, breaking the silence and leaping to her feet.
Three hearts thumping. Dim lights. The smell of cheese. The sound of dogs barking in the distance. A chilly hall. A warm kitchen. A scorching sitting room.
“How are you feeling…?”
“Warm, all of a sudden.”
“I had no idea you had a twin sister… How come you never mentioned it?”
“You never asked.”
Faint music coming from the radio. Their breathing. The flicker in their eyes.
The kettle, filled with water, waited patiently on the stove. Linda was staring at the stove knobs, unable to move. She was in the kitchen and away from him but could still clearly see his warm eyes, looking into hers with so much love she never even stopped to think why? What did she do to deserve such attention? It just never crossed her mind. So magnetising was his whole demeanour that she never even asked the question Do I know you? Then, of course, she had been so guilt-ridden for so long that when he walked into her life one fine day, she just let herself be. How many times before that she had wished that this gruesome illness had taken her instead of Ingrid, or at least, her as well! Aren’t identical twins supposed to do everything together? Silly, silly Linda! How could you not know? She knew Ingrid was madly in love with a young man, a young doctor! But that was during the war and way before she moved back home to take care of her sister’s declining health. Oh, why could she not have put two and two together sooner!
Then, suddenly, her arm twitched and she moved it forward to turn on the stove. A melancholic smile crossed her face and she felt relieved. Relief! That was on a par with happiness! No, it was bliss! All feelings of guilt and shame dissolved into nothingness and all she could feel was warmth and love.
In the other room, across the hall, her other half was in an identical state of affairs.
She sat down and observed the first oblique rays of the morning sun.
By Vika Stankovic
Join us in After Class sessions where we read and dissect short stories and have meaningful disussions on any topics that might emerge.