‘Mm, this lasagne is great. Now, what was I saying?’

‘Harriet, must you talk with your mouth full? I’m in danger of eating your meal as well as my own with all that …overflow of food.’

‘Never changed, eh? Steph, it’s actually ten years since we last spent any time, or in fact, had any contact and all you’re worried about is table manners.’

‘Sorry. No, I’m not sorry, manners are important. You’re right though, ten years is a long time for sisters to be estranged. Perhaps that’s why I need to remind you that I prefer to be called Stephanie.’

‘Well, Stephanie, as I was saying, my boys, Bert and Stan,  are now twenty-one and twenty-two and both working. Don’t roll your eyes, you were the only one who ever complained about their names, which, I might point out, are actually rather fashionable now. Of course, nowadays, no kids can afford to buy their own houses, so they both live with us and seem happy with that, though I do wish they were more independent.’

‘I was going to ask how their education was going, can’t believe they’re that old. Time slips by without you noticing, doesn’t it?’

‘Tell me about it. One minute they were twelve and now…  Geoff seems to have settled into old man mode; sold the Harley, donated his leathers to a charity shop and even bought himself slippers. We’re actually considering selling up and spending the rest of our days cycling around the world before we end up in a rut.’

‘That’s why you decided to contact me, to say goodbye in case we never saw one another again?’

‘Good God, no, we’ll be back to see the boys occasionally. Hopefully, they’ll have actually found somewhere to live by then and we can see you as well, if you want. Aren’t you going to eat that tomato?’

‘I was going to tell you to help yourself, but you did so before I had time to answer.’

‘Oops, sorry Steph, I mean Stephanie. Bad manners again.’

‘Why then? Why are we sharing lunch?’

‘Not actually sharing…oh, I see what you mean. I ate your tomato. The reason I thought we ought to get together is, well, ten years, I mean, come on, surely, it’s time to forgive and forget? Or, this may well go on forever. I can’t even remember what we actually argued about. Everyone says twins ought to be close, but we don’t actually seem to possess a special link at all.’

‘Perhaps that’s only identical twins. Though, when we were ten, we shared the mumps. My left cheek swelled up and your right one.’

‘Oh yes. Actually, it was your right and my left.’


‘Actually, I prefer Harrie.’

‘Must you say that all the time?’

‘Say what?’


‘Do I?’

‘Yes, and it’s annoying. I have no idea what we argued about, we had a lot of disagreements over the years.’

‘All about nothing, I expect. And heaven knows what we shared in the last ten years, without knowing. It’s so stupid, we only live thirty miles from each other and yet we’re actually a whole world apart.’

‘Please excuse me. I must visit the ladies.’

‘Me too, let’s go together.’

‘Harriet, I mean Harrie. How could you?’

‘What now?’

‘You’re wearing white trainers, at your age. And… you actually have bicycle clips clamped around your ankles. In a restaurant.’

‘You said the word.’

‘What word? What do you mean?’

‘Actually. You told me to stop saying it, but you said it.’

‘Once, I said it once. You seem to think it has to punctuate every sentence.’

‘Does it actually matter? And, what on earth is wrong with my bicycle clips?  I rode here on my bike.’

‘I thought you were bound to have changed, must have grown up by now. You’ve two adult sons; surely you’ve learned some responsibility, become slightly sensible?’

‘Why should I change? You haven’t. Still a stick insect who wears too much make-up.’

‘And you’re still plump.’

‘Geoff calls me voluptuous, says I’m Rubenesque.’

‘I’ve decided not to visit the ladies.’

‘Can’t bear to go to the loo with me? Scared someone will guess we’re actually related? Let’s order desert then. Sticky toffee pudding, I think. What about you Steph? Sorry, Stephanie.’

‘Just a coffee.’

‘We can’t sit in silence. Tell me, do you ever see Simon?’

‘No, after the divorce we decided it best not to.’

‘And there’s been no-one else?’

‘No. No-one. I couldn’t bring myself to trust another man.’

‘Are you still working for the solicitor?

‘I’m her P.A. now.’

‘Is that good? I mean, do you actually enjoy it?’

‘I suppose so. Does it matter? I need to earn a living. Do you work?’

‘Do a bit of cleaning now and again. Don’t turn your nose up, it’s honest work and I actually enjoy it.’

‘I didn’t turn my nose up, Harrie, not at the job anyway. I never thought you’d enjoy cleaning, you had the untidiest bedroom ever when we were teenagers.’

‘Probably grown up a bit since then. Wow look at this pudding. I’ll actually be twenty stone before long.’

‘Does your weight bother you?’

‘Good God no. Life’s far too short for that. Give birth to two hefty sons and you can’t actually expect to be slim. Especially if you breastfeed the little beasts for a year or so, plays hell with the bosom you know. Mm. Wonderful.’

‘Yes, well I wouldn’t know about that.’

‘Actually, you had your chance, you ought to have had some.’

‘How terribly cruel of you, Harriet. I wanted children; you know that but Simon’s secretary put paid to any plans of that nature when she got pregnant first.’

‘Good God Stephanie. I didn’t think you meant babies, I was actually talking about the pudding, I thought you meant...’

‘Same old Harriet, aren’t you? Say something cruel and then pretend innocence. Always the one that everybody loved; the one they all said was sure to make the most of life; the one that was so happy go lucky; the innocent, sweet little Harriet. Everyone said it, even mum and dad. And all the time you’d be having sly digs at me, making me feel even more inferior.’

‘Stephanie, I never knew you felt like that. Was that what the last ten years was about?’


‘You weren’t the easiest of sisters yourself you know. You always wanted, and got, the best of everything. Good old Harrie didn’t mind if she got the cheaper toy, the cast off clothes. But it’s part of family, part of growing up. Surely, we’ve moved on since then? I mean, look at you now, you sat first, chose the seat with the best view of the room, you’re immaculately dressed and made-up, and you’ve a good job. Don’t you think there were times when I envied you? I actually wanted to be the brainy one, the one who knew how to dress. How I longed to be slim and poised. And, you were always so damned bossy; I had to go along with everything.’

‘I always wanted to enjoy everything the way you did, wanted to be loved by everyone. Even now, no one calls me anything but Stephanie while as soon as people meet you they call you Harrie. I doubt anyone actually calls you Harriet. Except me.’

‘But you were loved, Stephanie. Surely you know that. We let a silly misunderstanding come between us and we were both too stubborn to make up, both as daft as each other. Why didn’t we talk ten years ago? After all this time, it’s only now we tell each other our true feelings. How can sisters do that to each other? Did we think it preferable to ignore one another? Did we think it polite? We always said what we meant when we were kids.’

‘Manners, I expect. We were honest, blunt even, about some things but not the thoughts that really hurt. Do you remember that awful kaftan thing you wore, and I refused to go to the dance with you unless you changed into something more feminine?’

‘Yes, and I spent the night trying to force you to smoke French cigarettes and not be so stuck up.’

‘Or the time I put your hair into a tight bun to get it out of your eyes and you looked awful but I said you were beautiful.’

‘And I backcombed yours so much that the hairdresser actually had to give you an elfin cut to get rid of all the tangles. Kids can be cruel, but actually, silence is diabolical.’

‘So true, Harrie. We’ve wasted ten years. Ten years when we ought to have got to know each other better as adults. Who knows, we may have even found we liked each other, perhaps even loved each other for ourselves and not for the blood we shared. We must  keep in touch.  I’d like to see Geoff and the boys before you go. Perhaps I ought to keep an eye on my nephews when you’re away.’

‘Go? Go where?’

‘You said you and Geoff were going to cycle the world.’

‘That’s the dream, reality may be different. Don’t take everything so literally. I needed to see you, to end the silence before it was too late.’

‘You still like to spin a story.’

‘I think it’s more about dreaming a dream. Can we meet up again next week?’

‘Agreed. We must make up for all that time we’ve missed. I’d like to meet my nephews.’

‘Yes, they’d like to see you again. And from now on, we’ll be like we used to be when we were kids, honest with each other at all times, even if it hurts.’

‘At all times?’

‘Yes, always.’

‘Well then. You’ve still not learned what to wear. Those trainers are awful, made for a scruffy teenager not a grown woman. And, while I’m at it, must you talk with your mouth full?’

‘Actually, you’re still a bossy cow. Now, give me a hug. See you next week.’

October 02, 2019 15:47

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