Seven-year-old Jimmy was wandering around the street kicking a dusty rock around, bored out of his mind. It was the middle of summer so most of his friends were either at the lake or on vacation with their parents. His mom had to work and so there he was – stuck in the hot city watching the clouds of dust rise every time cars passed by. Mother promised him ice cream but said he needed to stop whining and wait for her outside for a few minutes. Jimmy didn’t know how much time had passed but thought it must’ve been more than a few minutes. He wiped his nose with his sleeve, brushing long sandy-colored hair out of his eyes in the process.
Jimmy was about to go back inside the house to hurry his mother when something caught his eye – a large black car turned from around the corner and started driving slowly through the street. It slowed down by every house as if the driver wasn’t sure where he was going. Jimmy was watching it curiously – he’s never seen a car like that before in their small town. He was anxiously waiting for it to pass by him, hoping to observe it in detail so he could describe it to his friends later when they were back. The car slowed down in front of his house and suddenly came to a complete stop. Jimmy was watching with a wide-open mouth. The driver came out from his seat, walking around to open the passenger door with a dark tinted window. When he noticed Jimmy, the driver gave him a slight wink before pulling the door wide open and stepping aside.
The first thing Jimmy saw was a feminine leg in a shiny black shoe with a long heel. Mesmerized by that vision, for a moment it appeared to Jimmy that the woman was coming out in slow motion just like in the video he saw on his friend's phone. As she emerged, he slowly looked up taking it all in – the black stylish suit with sparkly buttons that matched the shoes perfectly. Jimmy also noticed a big fancy watch on the woman’s hand along with a few rings which seemed almost blinding in the sun. The woman stood up tall, looked around, and finally spotted Jimmy. She took off her large sunglasses and Jimmy braved to look up at her. The minute he saw her face, his own mouth twisted in horror and he screamed at the top of his lungs – he was looking at his mother who, he knew, was inside the house behind him. The woman made a quick step towards him, grabbing him by the sleeve with one hand and covering his mouth with the other.
How could it happen that this was the end? Paul always thought that people who love each other marry once and for the rest of their lives, just like his parents did. Mother always told him not to rush into it, choose the right girl and he thought he did. The best girl in the world! They were so happy in the beginning. She didn’t have any parents of her own and got along with his mother. Everyone was complimenting him on how beautiful and smart his wife was - well-read, kept the house nice and tidy, and always had something yummy ready to pop out with just a wave of the hand it seemed. She never nagged him about going to the pub with his friends on Fridays. Took care of him the next day if he had a few too many. Supported him in his desire to start his own business and was smart about money, never spending more than necessary. She was a perfect wife in every way… until they decided to have a kid.
He could remember it as if it was yesterday – the day when Emma came to him visibly nervous and told him he was going to be a daddy. Before he could even get up from his Barcalounger to hug her in happiness, she suddenly started screaming, calling him a son of a bitch. Paul froze in a stupid pose with his arms spread out to embrace her. Emma NEVER as much as raised her voice at him, so seeing her standing there, shrill, spitting out one profanity after another, felt absolutely surreal. He tried to calm her down, thinking that she was just scared and wasn’t thinking straight but nothing worked. Finally, Paul couldn’t take it anymore and just walked out of the house grabbing at his smokes with shaking hands. This couldn’t have possibly been his lovely delicate wife. It must have been someone else! He dared to show his face at home only a few hours later. Emma looked like herself again moving lightly around the kitchen. When she saw him come in, she smiled and told him that dinner will be ready any minute now. Paul came up closer, not sure what to make of this situation.
“Honey, are you feeling better now?” He asked carefully but she just nodded. She didn’t apologize or talk about her earlier fit, just proceeded to set the table with his dinner as if nothing happened. Paul ate silently listening to her usual chit-chat about the neighbors and her friends. When dinner was over, he took her hand into both of his patting her gently.
“Emma, I think we need to talk about what happened earlier,” he said as softly as he possibly could. “If I did anything to make you think that I’m not happy about the baby, I’m really sorry. This is the best thing that happened to us, right?”
She looked at him for a while and Paul thought she was about to start screaming again. Instead, Emma sighed and stood up.
“Right,” she said indifferently. “Are you done with your dinner, hon?”
The weeks were passing by and soon enough things came back to normal. Paul forgot about the incident and wrote it off as a new mother’s shock. Emma was pleasant as always and seemed to accept the changes that were happening to her including her fast-growing tummy. Paul tried to be helpful, even more so than most of his friends, but he couldn’t get rid of the feeling that there was still something hanging in the air. In her last month, Emma started to act more and more nervous. Her stomach got so big that she wasn’t able to do much around the house anymore. Paul’s mother came to stay for a few months to help out but also noticed a change in her daughter-in-law.
“You know, she is going somewhere in the middle of the day.” She whispered to Paul one evening.
“Mom, she likes to walk to the lake, and get some fresh air.” Paul waved her off impatiently. His business was growing rapidly and he had no time for all this female drama. He worked hard to make sure his kid would have a good life and expected that the rest would be handled without bothering him.
Paul’s mother left him alone but decided to get to the bottom of things herself. The very next day, when Emma left the house, she sneaked out behind her. To her disappointment, Emma surely went towards the park at the end of their block turning towards the small lake in the middle. Paul’s mother slowly walked after her watching from a distance. Emma sat down on the bench looking at the water, staying still for a while. Her mother-in-law was about to turn back, embarrassed for her suspicious mind when she saw an older man who came from the other side and sat down next to Emma. He took her hand and they sat there not saying a word. About half an hour went by when the man, equally quietly, got up and left. Emma stood up, turning around to leave, and immediately saw Paul’s mother who stood frozen in place, completely forgetting about her spying mission.
Emma sighed, wobbling towards her with determination. She stopped a few feet away looking coldly at Paul’s mother waiting for her to speak first. Emma’s face resembled a white mask with large dark eyes and slightly trembling tightly pressed lips.
“Who was that?” finally asked Paul’s mother.
“My father,” Emma replied simply.
“Your… But you said your parents passed when you were little!”
“My mother had some issues and was placed in the institution by my father where she died when I was eleven. He was certain that I would grow up just like her so he left. The neighbors told me he died in a car crash but he showed up just a couple of years ago. I didn’t want to talk to him at first but the more he was telling me about my mother the more I understood that I AM like her. That’s why I didn’t want to have children, but Paul wouldn’t have listened. Now my father comes here almost every day to see me. That’s all.”
Paul’s mother was looking at her with compassion.
“Honey, why didn’t you say something?”
“Because I can’t stand you, any of you! You all make me sick!” suddenly screamed Emma and continued to yell showering Paul’s mother with curse words worthy of a sailor. Abruptly she stopped, breathing heavily and grabbing at her stomach with a loud moan.
Three days later Paul was standing in the hospital room still having a hard time believing everything that happened. He thought they would be together forever but this was the end. Emma refused to even look at their daughter, just kept staring out the window saying again and again that she wants to be free of it all and all of them. The doctors tried to calm her down, telling Paul that sometimes it happens after a woman gives birth but when Paul came back on the third day after work, Emma was gone… He picked up his tiny baby-girl thinking about how beautiful she was, immediately feeling his heart filling up with love for her.
Paul was ready to leave when an older nurse came up to him patting him on the shoulder encouragingly.
“It’s good that you both decided to handle it peacefully. What good would it do for the kids if you were both unhappy!”
Paul nodded unsurely and then it dawned on him.
“What do you mean kids? This is my firstborn! We didn’t have any others…”
Now the nurse was looking at him dumbfounded. Finally, realization shone through her face.
“I’m sorry, I know you are hurting and it’s hard to accept what happened but she will calm down and you will bring your girls together. Give her some time!”
The nurse patted him again but Paul now grabbed at her wrist.
“Girls?! What are you talking about?”
“Your wife had twins, two girls…” It was clear that the nurse was sorry she ever started talking to him. “Didn’t you know?”
Paul let go of her in shock and shook his head.
“She said you both agreed to her taking one girl and you taking the other for a little while. So, she took her daughter and left.” Now she truly felt awful for him – he looked like a decent guy. What more could his wife possibly want!
Paul walked out of the building holding his daughter trying to think of ways he could possibly find Emma. After his mother told him about the events which transpired at the park, he started to wonder if he even knew her real name… He will try to find her, he was sure of that, but in the meantime, he will do everything in his power to make sure his business is widely successful and his little girl has everything she could possibly need or want.
Jimmy thought he was having one of his night terrors. The lady that grabbed at him was strong and scary. She looked at him coldly and said in his mother’s voice.
“Stop screaming! You must be Jimmy, right?”
He nodded, making a muffled sound trying to shake her hand off his face. At that point the door from his house busted open and his mother came flying out after hearing Jimmy’s scream.
“What do you think you are doing?” she referred to the woman in a way Jimmy never heard his mother speak before. “Step away from my kid!”
She grabbed the woman by the shoulder pushing her away from Jimmy and only now looked into her face.
Jimmy was standing between them looking back and forth not sure about what was happening. His mother took a step back making a loud “Ah” sound covering her mouth.
“So much drama!” sighed the woman. “You must be Emma?” she looked at Jimmy’s mother without a hint of a smile. After receiving a nod, she continued. “I’m not much for explanations so I will just come out and say it. I’m your sister and I’m here to settle some old debt between us. Could we talk inside?”
When they settled around their tiny old kitchen table, the woman looked around and grimaced. Then she turned to Jimmy.
“Well, let’s meet officially. I’m your aunt – Olivia.”
Jimmy nodded swallowing hard – he still couldn’t believe how similar they looked! Even their hair was about the same length although they were styled differently. Olivia continued turning her attention to Jimmy’s mother.
“I know our mother always liked the name Emma and that’s what she called you before she left you at the orphanage. Our father looked for her for a long time but eventually, he gave up. His business got big so he didn’t have time for anything or anyone else, including me. So, I might’ve grown up in better conditions, but just like you, I really didn’t have any parents in my life. Just nannies while I was younger. Dad died about a year ago. He was very angry with our mother for a long time but decided that he wanted to do the right thing and end this split once and for all. In his will he named both of us equal heirs with one condition – I wouldn’t get a dime until we found each other and built a relationship. So here I am!”
Emma still looked at Olivia stunned.
“I had no idea I had a sister…” She finally mumbled. “I just can’t wrap my head around it. It’s weird…I feel like I’m looking in the mirror!”
Olivia smirked and replied in a softer tone.
“I didn’t know either. This was as much a shock to me as it is to you. So, this is a damn good day for both of us – we are both getting a sister and the money!” She turned to Jimmy again. “What do you think we should do next, Jimmy, if we want to get to know each other?”
Jimmy, suddenly feeling shy, looked down and replied turning bright red.
“Mommy promised me Ice cream!”
Olivia stood up, extending her hand to him.
“Then why don’t we go get some ice cream? Would you like a ride in my car?”
Jimmy jumped up, giving Olivia the most radiant smile she had ever seen in her life, and ran for the door.