The sun had passed the zenith, approaching the horizon. As it began sinking behind the high-rises, its lights turned golden, soaking the surroundings with warmth, dying the city with bright yellow. The pink-tinted clouds hovered above the sun, the birds flying close to the ground.
The shine reached through the broad windows as Sasha stood at her kitchen counter, listening to the rhythmic sound of the Espresso machine, her eyes pinned on the dark liquid dribbling into the cup.
She stood quietly in the vacant room, shrouded by silence. Her long, chocolate-brown curls fell to her waist, lean arms resting next to the cup, thick lashes creating shadows on her cheeks, full lips, defined as if carved from wood, were pursed as if she hadn’t spoken for months.
Finally, the cup got filled, and Sasha clicked the machine, its beeping halting. Taking the cup, she slowly turned around, sipping the coffee and gazing out at her apartment.
The place was filled with modern, plastic, uncomfortable furniture that she had chosen after moving in a few years ago. Sasha had always wanted to decorate her apartment like those she saw in furniture magazines.
And she had achieved her goal, painting the walls in black and deep red, putting smooth, sparkling white tiles on the floor, filling the apartment with glass and metal objects. The museum aura that the place held robbed it of a homey atmosphere.
But Sasha liked it.
She had worked so hard to create her ideal apartment, so she had no right to complain now. Brushing her hair behind her ear, Sasha drank the coffee till the last drop. Her face, frozen as if stoned, expressed nothing. The excitement that she had felt the first time she looked at her perfect home had vanished. She was used to it, used to having whatever she wanted, used to success and expansive life.
Putting the cup into the dishwasher, Sasha crossed the living room, walking into her bedroom, the fur rug swallowing the sound of her footsteps.
As she opened the wardrobe and slipped out of her silk gown, Sasha looked at her reflection in the mirror, gliding her hand over her firm stomach and toned arms, checking the everyday workout result.
Satisfied, she turned to the clothes lined up in the wardrobe, a slight smile curving her lips. Her eyes skimmed across the clothes arranged by color and type before she took a skirt and shirt out. As she put them on, she slid her hands down the cashmere textile, feeling it with her palms.
Sasha looked at herself again. She liked the woman who gazed back at her, her confident expression and perfect appearance that screamed of success and money. She had been a careerist her whole life, working hard to achieve her goals, take higher positions, and impress everyone with her strength and power.
Finally, after years of struggle and sleepless nights, years without any fun or vacation, Sasha had what she wanted — she owned a thriving company that kept growing every day. Now Sasha was the woman she had always wanted to be.
Glancing at her golden watch, she grabbed her leather bag, crossing the hallway. Her heels clanking broke the stillness before she opened the door, leaving her penthouse to sink in absolute silence.
The sound of a child screaming reached through the walls, mixing with TV noise and the tap running.
Sighing, Anita closed the tap and removed the plastic gloves. The waterdrops sparked on the dishes piled up in the sink. Anita turned, looking at her husband sitting on the couch with a beer bottle in his hand.
She glimpsed at his beard reaching his neck and the fat forming under his chin. The stretching voice of a baby grew, sounding like a nail digging across a chalkboard.
“Can you take her?” Anita asked, and her husband looked back as if unable to realize what she was talking about.
“Oh, yeah,” he came to his senses in a few seconds and stood up when suddenly a little boy came out of the next room, edging away from the furniture that seemed to pack the small room.
“Can I go to Ben’s please?” he asked Anita, looking up at her with wide eyes, his cheeks flushing in dark red.
Anita looked at the clock hanging on the wall and then back at her son. His curious gaze made her smile, and she bent, kissing his cheek.
“Okay, your dad will drive you,” she said and removed the apron, clasping it around her body.
The man walked out with a baby in his hands.
“I’ll take Breanna,” said Anita and picked the baby up from his hands. “You need to drive Mikey to his friends.”
“But I-” he tried to resist, but Anita shook her head.
“You know I’m busy today,” she said. “I have to get ready.”
Drew stared for a moment before giving in and nodding. Smiling, Anita gave him a quick kiss on his lips before turning around and walking into the bedroom.
As she put the baby in the crib, she heard the door closing, then the car starting and driving off. Anita looked down at the baby beaming at her. She touched her nose. “What are you happy about, ha?” Anita asked before turning and opening the wardrobe.
The sunlight couldn’t reach through the thick dark curtains, and the room, full of old, second-hand furniture, drowned into the gloom. Like the whole house, it was depleted of many luxury items, full of worn objects, some vintage, some just cheap.
The round, wooden clock hanging above the bed emptied the place of any modernity and made Anita feel like the house had been stuck in the 1950s.
But it was okay. Her family was all she cared about.
Anita put on a polyester shirt and jeans, hardly zipping them up. She squeezed her belly and shot a loathing glare at her reflection.
The cooing of the baby caught her attention, and her face changed, a smile rising to her lips. The problems immediately vanished as Anita looked at her daughter, twinkling at her. Suddenly, she heard the door opening, and Andrew walked inside. Anita grabbed her bag, stepping into the sneakers.
“I’ll try not to be late,” she said as she walked out to the front door and opened it. Approaching her car — a yellow beetle — she looked back at Andrew, holding the baby, waving at her. She waved back, sent a flying kiss, and got in the car.
Sasha stopped her grey Porsche and turned the key, looking up at the two-story house, her childhood home. Even though it had been renovated, it still raised the same feeling in Sasha as it used to when she’d come home from school, hungry and tired, ready to hug her mom, who waited in the doorway.
By now, Sasha couldn’t see anyone. She glanced at her watch. 7:30. Exactly the time they had decided to have dinner together. Not a minute early or late.
Sasha got out, walking up the stairs, and ringing the bell. She heard no sound through the door.
Suddenly tires braked behind her, and turning; she saw Anita getting out of her car. As soon as they landed eyes on each other, both froze to the spot, puzzled as if seeing their clones.
“What are you doing here?” Anita mumbled, staring without a blink, her lips twisting. “Oh, this is how you’re going to greet your twin sister?” Sasha smirked and opened her arms.
Anita forced a smile and closed the car door, approaching Sasha.
“I didn’t know you were coming!” said Sasha before they hugged. Even their scents were the same.
Putting her head back, Anita observed her sister, seeing the features she knew so well. For a stranger, Sasha and Anita looked exactly like each other. But they knew the details that differed them: the mole under Sasha’s right eye, the few extra pounds on Anita’s body, her hair, slightly lighter and shorter than Sasha’s and finally — her outfit that revealed that she was a wife and a mother when Sasha was a successful businesswoman.
“How long has it been?” Anita asked, smiling, still holding Sasha’s hands.
“Five years,” Sasha let out. “I can’t believe we haven’t seen each other since we graduated college. We are sisters, after all!”
“Yeah, we should change that and gather more often!” Anita agreed, regret forming across her face. “But we’ve been both so busy.”
“That’s true…” Sasha nodded and turned toward the door, ringing the bell again. “Aren’t they home?”
“Didn’t they know we were coming? “ Anita asked and grabbed the handler, realizing the door was open. “Maybe they ran for last-minute grocery shopping.”
Sasha peeked through the open door before stepping inside.
“Mom! Dad!” She called but received no answer.
The women looked around the vacant house, its wooden floors and bookshelves, old TV, and brown curtains.
“Look at this!” Anita exclaimed and pointed at the kitchen table.
Walking up to it, Sasha saw a piece of paper lying on it.
“We were evacuated because of a robbery,” Sasha read the scribbled writing out loud. “We tried to call you, but none of you picked up. So, if you read this, please go down in the bunker. The robbery is in our neighborhood, and the police are still searching for the criminals.” Sasha and Anita exchanged a puzzled look.
“Okay, let’s go downstairs,” said Sasha and turned, walking to the basement door, followed by Anita.
Sasha opened the door, hitting the light switch and going down the stairs. The long, wooden stairs lead into a cold, almost empty room with windowless, stone walls. The only one light bulb hanging from the ceiling brightened the basement in dim yellow. Sisters looked around, recalling the memories they had in this room together. The small TV, worn couch, and a fridge full of food was enough to get by for a few hours.
“We used to play here all the time,” said Sasha as she flopped on the couch. “Yeah, I don’t know why we liked being here so much,” Anita giggled.
“We liked it even more than the garden.”
“We were weird kids,” Sasha said, making her sister laugh.
Anita sat next to her. She opened her phone, her eyes running from edge to edge. “The robbery is all over the news,” she said. “I guess they robbed a house but are still in the neighborhood.”
Sasha put away her bag, crossing her legs and sinking deep into the couch.
“I guess we’ll have to spend quite a while here,” she said, sighing.
Anita nodded, putting down her phone.
“It’s weird that mom and dad left without us,” she uttered.
They sat to the opposite sides of the couch, both silent, staring into space. As the clock ticked on the wall, the room seemed smaller and smaller as if shrinking within minutes, clasping on the women’s bodies like a tight dress.
Feeling claustrophobic, Sasha stood up, opening the fridge and taking a bottle of water out. As she stood, gulping it, Anita couldn’t help but scrutinize every inch of her body.
She stared at her sister’s lean legs, soft muscles shaping under her smooth skin, the expensive fabric brushing against her waist and the shining hair falling over her shoulders like a waterfall.
Anita felt envy seeping in her, envied that her twin sister was more beautiful than her, and what saddened her the most was that it was all because of her efforts — they both had the same genetics, but Sasha took care of herself, maintaining the youthful and lively charm that everyone always adored. “You look great,” Anita smiled at her as Sasha swelled the water.
“Thanks,” Sasha nodded and fell on the couch, still — on edge, as far as possible from her sister. Her eyes sneaked up and down on Anita’s modest outfit, her hands resting in her lap. “You look good too.”
Her eyes froze on Anita’s finger and the ring — already rusty and worn — digging into her skin that had fattened, bulging from the edges of the ring. The ring seemed ingrown with her finger, and the thought that she would never be able to take it off crossed Sasha’s mind.
“Oh, no,” Anita chuckled, shaking her head. “I gained so much weight because of pregnancy.”
“You can lose that in a month with exercise and diet,” Sasha replied before her lids lowered, her voice becoming soft. “How are the kids?”
“Good, thanks,” Anita smiled with a dreamy face as if only thinking about her children brought her immense happiness. “They are my meaning of life.”
Sasha smiled, noticing the stars sparkling in her sister’s eyes and her lips curving up with love. She realized Anita had meant every word.
“I’m such a bad aunt,” Sasha scoffed and pressed her fingers on her forehead. “I’ve never seen my niece and nephew.”
“I tell them about you, about us, our childhood. How happy we were and how much we loved each other,” Anita said. “They are still little, but if you start visiting us, you can make up for those missing years.”
“I would love nothing more,” Sasha smiled.
Anita opened photos of her family on her phone, showing them to Sasha.
“Beautiful family,” Sasha smiled before Anita put the phone down.
“One thing I always wish for is that they love each other as much as we did,” Anita said. “We were inseparable! Literally. Do you remember? We used to go to the bathroom together!” Anita laughed, and Sasha did too, nodding, her smile stretching from ear to ear.
“I remember,” she replied between the waves of laughter. “We slept in the same bed, had a shower together…” she calmed down, nostalgia forming across her face. “They say there’s a special connection between twins. I don’t know. Maybe we had that.”
“We did,” Anita nodded, melancholy replacing joy in her voice. “But I don’t know where that vanished.”
“We grew up.”
Sasha and Anita shared a look, a quick, sad glance but so deep as if their whole childhood had passed by before them; memories of happy times, careless days, spent surrounded with love and care.
They looked down at their hand, falling quiet for a moment.
“How are you?” Anita broke the silence. “Tell me about yourself. Let’s catch up like we used to.”
Sasha inhaled, looking at a spot on a wall in front of her as if trying to remember every detail she wanted to mention.
“I’m good; I’m excellent,” she said with a confident tone of voice, putting her chin up. “I own the company I’ve always wanted to own. I live in a beautiful penthouse in the center of the city; I have a high salary and three different cars, spend vacations in different countries, have sex with handsome men.”
She looked at Anita, seeing her sister smile with genuine happiness.
“The best thing is,” Sasha continued. “I spend everything on myself. I work hard but also pamper myself. I don’t have to act according to some else’s needs. I prioritize myself and do whatever makes me happy,” she chuckled as if amazed by her life once again. “I don’t have to ask anyone anything. The people in my field respect me, want to work with me, even betray each other for me. It’s a great feeling to be in control, to have power over so many.”
She fell quiet, looking at her sister, thinking that she must’ve been feeling jealous. Little worms of envy must’ve been gnawing on her heart. But Anita’s lips were still raising with a smile. “I’m really happy for you,” she said.
“You’ve always known what you wanted and went straight for it, working day and night, throwing yourself into endless night shifts and piles of papers, studying, learning every day, soaking every information you could use,” Anita leaned in closer, her eyes glimmering under the dim lights. “I always adored you for that. I always admired your patience and resilience.”
Anita took her eyes off of her, looking down at her phone screen and the photo of her children.
“But we are different. I wanted something else, and I have it. My family is the most important thing in my life,” Anita pinned her eyes back on her sister. “I’m not as free as you, but to be honest, I don’t need that freedom. I like getting up at midnight to feed my baby, waking up at 6 AM to do laundry, making breakfast for everyone, and driving my son to school. I love kissing his cheek before he tells me how much he loves me and runs into school with his friends.
I love making dinner for my husband after he comes home, tired and hungry, hugging him, and feeling his scent that I can distinguish from every other in a second. Watching boring TV programs while my kids doze off on my lap and my husband caresses my hair.
It’s ordinary, far from movie-like life, but it’s my life, it’s what I’ve created for myself, and I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I am a person who is loved, that I feel cherished every day, that I know, whatever happens, my family will always be by my side.”
Sasha listened quietly, as if Anita’s every word melted into her mind, digging claws in her brain. Anita’s lips bent upward with silent happiness.
“You’ve dedicated your life to your family,” said Sasha with a low voice as if coming from ocean depth. “You have nothing but them. Your whole persona is your kids and husband.” “And I love it. I love being a good wife and mother,” Anita replied with a clear tone. “You have to be good within yourself to have something so precious.”
She glanced up at the clock. One hour had passed. Her eyes returned to her sister. Sasha’s eyes shone in light brown, almost yellow, like the eyes of a nocturnal animal lurking from a dark forest.
“You have dedicated your life to your career,” Anita continued. “You have everything you’ve ever wanted.”
But no one, Anita added in her mind.
“I guess we’re different,” Sasha nodded. “We look so much like each other, but we live on the opposite sides of the world.”
“We each have our own dreams and goals,” Anita replied. “but the good thing is, we both achieved them.”
A smile flickered across Sasha’s face. “We both made it.”
They fell quiet, gazing into each other’s eyes, unable to read one another’s thoughts.
Suddenly they heard footsteps running down the stairs and in a second, the door opened.
The sisters jumped, seeing a man dressed in all black, wearing a hat in the same color. Anita recognized one of the burglars from the photo leaked on the internet.
Glancing at Sasha, she saw her face changing, fear fading. Sasha turned to the man. “Do it!” she yelled.
Before Anita could scream, he rushed to her, putting his hand on her mouth. Anita felt a dreadful coldness of metal touching her temple: a gun. Anita’s eyes sneaked toward him, seeing the gleaming surface of the weapon in his right hand, with a silencer attached to its tip.
“Kill her!” Sasha screamed again, encouraging the man. “That’s what I’m paying you for!” The man pushed Anita against the wall, gripping her head more tightly.
“Sasha!” she cried out. “What are you doing?!”
“Something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” Sasha whispered. “To become you.” Anita’s heart dropped, and a terrible feeling crawled from the back of her head. Tears filled her eyes as she kept sobbing, trying to speak, but the man’s hand muffled her voice.
A few inches distanced their faces, his heavy breath hitting her skin. Veins had bulged on his forehead as he held the gun at her head. His eyes were pitch black, so black that Anita couldn’t see his pupils. Anita twisted her body, struggling to free herself, but the man was a lot stronger than her.
Sasha stood behind him, breathing sharply, her face flushing from nervous agitation. Looking at her, Anita realized Sasha wasn’t her twin sister she grew up with. She was someone completely different.
Suddenly they heard unfamiliar footsteps reaching the door, and a smirk flashed across Anita’s face. She pierced her sister with her gaze, and Sasha felt foreboding surging in her. “Do it,” she murmured in the man’s ear.
The soft sound of a shot broke the silence. The bullet pierced Anita’s forehead, and her hands loosely fell to her sides, her body sliding down the wall.
As a strange feeling fogged her mind, the only thing Sasha could hear was the trickle of blood dripping on the stone floor. The puddle of deep red, thick liquid spread, reaching the killer’s shoes as he stepped back.
Suddenly she heard someone stepping inside, and as she turned, she saw another burglar, dressed in the same outfit. He glimpsed at Anita’s body before raising a gun and pointing at Sasha. “I was hired to do it. Sorry,” he muttered.
Sasha remembered Anita’s smile a second before her death. She realized that her sister had done the same — tried to steal her life. They were twins, thinking alike, planning the same way. The blood froze in Sasha’s veins as the man pressed the trigger.
A screeching voice left her mouth before the bullet crushed her chest bone, tearing her heart in half. Blood gushed out of the wound, splashing on the wall before Sasha’s staggering body lost its balance, falling on the cold tiles. The red dots of blood, splattered on the white wall, looked like dribbled paint.
The men looked at the sisters, lying soullessly.
“Come on, let’s go,” said one of them, and they ran out of the room, hurrying out of the house and disappearing into the darkness.
Sasha and Anita lay next to each other, both drained, with glassy eyes. Their blood, spreading into pools, touched and mixed, staining the floor.
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