The sun was shining through the living room windows. My little apartment didn’t usually get much sun unless it was a particularly bright day. It's autumn, my favorite season. For some, this time of year is thought to be a time of endings. It’s close to the end of the year and the trees are shedding their leaves. That’s not how I always felt about the season. It was a time of beginnings, not endings.
I had received my divorce papers from my ex-husband the previous month, along with the news that he was going to be married to the woman that he left me for. She was pregnant and I fell into a depression. There was a specification in the divorce papers telling me that I can no longer use my ex-husband’s last name as my own. I was told that my name will be legally turned back to my maiden name. This little act of adding insult to injury had my ex’s new love written all over it. She wants to be the only one with his last name and that was how it was going to be.
In mourning for my marriage, and what could have been. I tried not to look online at their social media. It was easier said than done. My curiosity always got the better of me and I found myself looking at their baby shower pictures and their trip to Paris. When I was married to my ex, we never had money to travel and I honestly didn’t mind it. However, he has risen in the IT field and was now making much more than he ever imagined. He wasn’t paying any alimony to me and life seemed to be going very well for them. A happiness that eluded me.
I couldn’t help but feel anger and sadness. I felt as if this woman didn’t just take my husband, she took my life, too. She stole the life that was meant for me. I cried, threw things, and tried to see what she had that I didn’t. She wasn’t any prettier than me, but she could have his baby. That is something that I couldn’t do. What if we had sought fertility treatments? That was something that could have been done, but money was tight at the time. Still, didn’t I deserve a chance and not be blamed for my infertility, something that I had no control over? Isn’t that what you do for a person that you claim to love? What if I met someone new, would he blame me for my infertility, too? Would he leave me for someone else eventually?
I didn’t have answers to my own questions. I cried and screamed, but my pain didn’t go away. My life consisted of going to work and going home. I was still working for at the doctor’s office, and didn’t have much of a social life. I never really had a social life, even when I was younger. I’m a very shy person by nature, and the thought of going out and meeting people always made me feel nervous.
There was a new doctor that would come in during the week to help the doctor that I worked for. He asked me to call him by his first name, Kevin. Kevin seemed nice and would always stop by my desk to talk. He said that he remembered me from college, but I couldn't recall ever meeting him prior to working at the office.
Kevin asked if he could take me out to dinner one day after work. I was surprised because I didn’t think that he was interested in me in a romantic way, but I said, yes to the dinner date. I was excited for my date with Kevin. He was very good looking and obviously educated and intelligent. It was a Friday night when Kevin took me out to dinner at a little Italian restaurant in Park Slope. My family lived in Park Slope when I was a child and only recently, my mother moved out of my childhood home to live in a small apartment. After my father’s death, my mother felt that she didn’t want to live alone in a big house. I can see how a house can be overwhelming for just one person, especially for someone that was older.
Kevin and I had just finished dinner at the Italian restaurant, when I excused myself to make a quick trip to the ladies’ room. Kevin and I talked during dinner and we were taking our time. I figured that Kevin might want to have coffee or dessert, but it was getting later in the evening. I try not to have coffee or sweets after sunset. I don’t like feeling too full before bed and it makes it harder for me to fall asleep.
I walked into the very elegant ladies’ room. It had about 3 stalls and their doors were all open. I can see that I was alone. I took a brush out of my purse and as I started to brush my hair while looking in the gilded mirror, I suddenly felt strange. I felt like someone was watching me, even though I didn’t see anyone there….at first. I looked down for a second to put my hair brush away. When I looked up again, I saw her in the mirror.
I didn’t hear anyone come in after me, but there she standing right behind me. A girl that looked not much older than 10 or 11 years old, in blue jeans and a green peasant blouse. She had a faint smile on her face, a knowing smile, but that was not the only strange thing about her. This child looked exactly like I had when I was her age. She was almost my height and I felt her warm breath on my neck. I’m not tall and by the time I was 15 or 16, I had reached my full height. The child was about the same height I was at 11 years old. I felt a cold sweat break all over my body. My heart was beating faster and my hands started to shake.
I wanted to speak to the girl. I wanted to ask her who she was and what she wanted, but I couldn’t. I felt frozen in place, just like I did in the park a year earlier when I saw the toddler standing alone by the swings. As I stood there, still looking in the mirror at the girl behind me, she suddenly turned and walked away. I heard the door open and close. The whole encounter took no more than 3 or 4 minutes, but I felt as if I stood in front of that mirror for hours.
I washed my hands quickly as I tried to calm down before going back to the table where Kevin was still waiting for me. I finally left the ladies’ room, but I could feel that I was not steady on my feet. I tried to walk as fast as I could back to the table, I needed to sit down. The shock that I had in the bathroom must have been apparent on my face because Kevin asked me if I was alright. I said, I was startled by someone slamming a door, and tried to laugh it off as nothing. Kevin did most of the talking for the remainder of the time at the restaurant as he drank his coffee. My mind was on that strange girl who could be my twin.
I thought about the toddler in the park from a little over a year ago, and wondered if she could be the same child. No, of course not, I thought. No human being ages this fast and besides, I hear that everyone has a double somewhere, they even have a website, its main purpose is to allow people to post photos of themselves and to find their “twin”. People that look exactly alike, but have no relation at all. People that are not even in the same parts of the world as their exact double. Besides, I had to keep my mind on Kevin. I’ve been alone for a while, just avoiding relationships because I was afraid of getting hurt. But,what if this grows into something wonderful? Don’t I deserve some happiness?
I invited Kevin in for a few minutes as we walked to my apartment door from Kevin's car in the driveway. I lived on the first floor of a three story house and I had adopted a couple of cats from a woman who could no longer keep them. One was a calico girl named Daisy and the other, an orange boy named Mooshi. They have been a ray of light in my life with their funny antics and sweet dispositions. Both cats were seniors and I was happy that I could give them a home and love. They made my apartment into a real home, lived in and welcoming.
Kevin didn’t seem to like my cats. He kept asking me if I could put them in another room. I asked if he was allergic? No, he said, he just wasn’t an “animal person”. That statement bothered me a little because my pets were very important to me, but I tried to be understanding. Maybe he never had pets before and he is not used to animals in a home. I’ve known people like that before. Kevin had told me at dinner, that he grew up being shuffled from one relative to the next. His mother had emotional problems and couldn’t give him a stable home. I suppose pets were impossible to keep since he was always moving from place to place. Not every place or relative wants a child, much less, a child's pet.
It was getting very late and as I walked him to the front door, Kevin stopped and kissed me. I wasn’t expecting the kiss, but I liked it. He asked me if I would like to go to lunch with him the next day. It was the weekend and I liked him, I said, yes, I would love to. After Kevin left, I found myself, once again, thinking about the strange girl I saw at the restaurant. I tried to busy myself with reading a little before going to sleep. Something to relax me and take my mind off of the child.
That night, I had hazy dreams that I mostly couldn’t recall the next morning. I did remember, however, that the girl was in them and that she was laughing. Her laughter was mocking and cruel.
© 2021 Johanna Elattar