I don't think much of her. Of the other me, to be precise. If I think of her now, all that crosses my mind is the way she looked before she left.
Her eyes were blank.
She wore a large white shirt and black slacks that were slightly too big on her, held against her waist with the help of a belt she must’ve taken from my…. our father’s closet. Over her shoulder was a small bag, brown and worn out, with a half finished butterfly on the canvas. She didn’t quite say what was in it, but it looked heavy. Heavy enough to contain everything she owned or thought she owned.
We have the same face. The same blue eyes and nose with a slight bump on its ridge, and the same shape of lips. We share everything but the small cuts on her cheek, left against her skin as a small reminder of me. And though I apologised for the glass, and she smiled, telling me not to worry, I know she has not forgiven me. She and I are the same, after all, and I would not forgive myself.
Sometimes David dreams of her. He sees her coming in through the door. He tells me stories of her finding the spare keys underneath the flowerpot and making her way in, slowly, but not as though she were breaking in.
In his dreams, she makes her way up the stairs, knowing well where the door to my room is. In his dreams, she does not hesitate, and I do not wake up.
My body is simply dragged out of bed, leaving behind a trail of blood. I am dead then, and he is nowhere nearby, but he can still feel the rug brushing against my skin and the way my head falls against the steps as she pushes me down. He tells me she doesn't care about bruises. Nor does she care about being clean, though she should, because we don’t like cleaning beyond what we’re supposed to. But in his dreams, unnecessary messes don’t matter to her, and the way my head cracks open as it falls against the floorboards is like the mess left behind when making dinner.
I often tell him that he thinks about her too much.
He boarded up the windows the other day. Came back home carrying several planks, nails, and a brand-new tool box. He asked for help, but I told him it was too much. That she would not be looking for us through windows. She would not stand behind bushes with binoculars and take note of our comings and goings. She likely was somewhere out there, living what little life she had left. And she had better things to do than worry about us.
He said, “If that was you. What would you do? And don’t lie and tell me that you’d just let me be. That you’d go on your merry way, somewhere up north or down south. Far away from us. Don’t tell me you’d just stand aside and not do anything.” He let the wood fall against the floor with a thud. “Don’t lie to me.”
“But she's not me.” I told him, though that didn't seem to do much.
So, I let him do whatever he wanted. Watched him curse and fumble with the wood and the nails. When the neighbours asked what he was doing, all I said was that he was afraid of the weather. They all looked at the sky, empty and a clear blue. The sun, a bright dot in the distance.
“He's lost a bit of weight. Hasn't he?” The wife of the couple said. “You should talk to him. Get him to eat something, talk to someone.”
“He's not listening to me any more,” I sighed, and the wife set her hand on my arm. “He's got an appointment with his doctor soon,” I lied. “I was hoping they could talk some sense into him.”
She took my hand and gave it a squeeze, “I'll pray for you and David this Saturday.” Then she left, leaving behind just those words. Never returning to check up on whether David was doing any better. Though, at one point, she dropped a casserole on the front porch. He ate the whole thing.
“I thought you said she was different from me.” I told him after he’d finished boarding up the windows and was in the living room, his head resting against the couch and his legs on the coffee table. “That you didn’t really love her because she wasn’t like me. Not exactly.” His eyes were closed, and his fingers were dirty. “What makes you think she’ll do exactly what I would do?”
What makes you think I would do anything like that? I thought, but the words didn’t slip out from in between my teeth.
He did not bother to open his eyes, and his fingers stretched out, fingers popping with each movement. He said, “I don't know. You were very similar sometimes. Sometimes you weren't. You met her, didn't you?”
“Once. You told me the rest,” I reminded him.
He was never going to tell me about her. But we'd met by chance. I'd been hoping to surprise me. Had bought a bouquet of flowers because a friend had told me that men never get enough flowers. It had seemed romantic then. Like I was taking the step, he always complained I couldn't take. He'd always complained that I expected too much of him and gave very little back.
It was meant to be a new beginning for us. But instead, I found her.
She opened the door to his house and seemed just as surprised to see me. We stood in front of each other, waiting for one of us to speak. And it really was like looking into a mirror.
We shared the way my left arm was slightly shorter than my right. And the birthmark on my hand, curling towards my palm. Shaped like a cloud. She even had the scar on my cheek, from when I'd fallen off a horse when I was ten.
Eventually, she said, “Can I help you?” And we moved inside, where I set the flowers down on the table.
She made tea We didn't speak to one another as the water boiled, but there would be moments in which we caught each other stealing glances from each other. Eyes wide. It was only until she handed me the mug and I felt its warmth spread through my fingertips that I found the energy to ask, “Did he make you?”
“I don’t know.” She answered, lifting her mug to her lips. “How do we know he didn’t make you? That the real one is me?”
I could see it flicker in her eyes, a desperate need to prove that she stood taller than me. I could see her claw away at the past few days and weeks, trying to cling onto the days that were now too sharp or too faded.
“Have you visited your father recently?” I asked.
Her eyes went wide, and her body tensed up, fingers nervously typing against the mug. She took several steps back and stopped only when the counter came up against her waist. She set down the cup against the counter and laughed. Her hands went to her face, they ran through her hair and pushed her head back. Then she went quiet.
My mug was empty by then and hers cold. “I’m sorry.” She eventually said, pressing a finger against her bottom lip. “I knew it was strange that he wouldn’t let me…” The words died on her lips.
“Yes, well. It’s not really your fault. Is it?” I turned the mug in between my fingers. “Isn’t this sort of funny? He finally manages to make a proper clone and uses it to make himself a new girlfriend. An exact copy of an ex-girlfriend.” I imagined he hadn’t told anyone that she existed. That he’d managed to go beyond the mice and the creatures he’d been testing on. “Sarah was right. I shouldn’t have given him a chance.”
“What do we do then?” My clone asked me.
I looked at the way she stood there silently, watching the window, waiting for him to come back. “Do you love him?” I asked.
“Of course I do.”
A loud crash echoed against the walls. The mug in my hands had slipped, and mid-air were my fingers. What had happened didn’t quite register until blood began to fall from her cheek, and her fingertips kept pressing against it. “I’m sorry.” I muttered as she pressed one fingertip against the other. “I-” I couldn’t quite tell why it had been so easy. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. It had simply happened. And I wasn't a violent person. Never had been. “How can you even love him?”
She reached out for the paper towels kept by the sink and ripped one off. “I don’t know.” She muttered. “Don’t you also love him? I mean, you brought him flowers.”
“You mean I wasted thirty pounds on flowers.” I quickly followed up with.
We stood there, for a while longer, not picking up the pieces of the mug nor going out of our way to stop the blood from running down her cheek. “I think I should go.” She said, taking another paper towel and replacing the one on her face. “He doesn’t love me, so it makes no sense for me to stay.” She took a deep breath and pressed the tissue against her cheek. “He started talking to you, didn’t he?” Her eyes seemed lost in thought. “Can I see my father?” A frown settled over her brow. “Our father? I suppose he’s yours, but he feels like mine. I can sort of remember him as mine.”
“He is not.” I said, the words slipping out from in between my teeth before I got the chance to think it through. “Maybe genetically. But it wasn’t you who’s been there. Who’s stayed by his side. Has it?”
“It feels like I have,” She said. “Are you going to stay with him? David, I mean.”
I shrugged, “I don't know. I'll have to see.”
We agreed that she would come over on a Tuesday. She chose the day. Insisted that she could only come over once she’d settled things with him, and only on a Tuesday. Since that was the only day, the nurse wasn't at home.
The days went by, and I thought of her more and more as a dream. A strange sort of mirage. But, she was at my doorstep on Tuesday. And I took her upstairs, to our father's room.
I wasn’t in his room when they spoke. We thought our father might get too confused if he saw the two of us standing side by side. I waited in the kitchen, eating a bowl of cereal and watching a TV show on my phone. By the time she came out, she carried with her a bag, a bag she hadn’t walked in with, and an outfit with shirts and trousers I had seen worn by my father.
“To keep a piece of him with me.” She explained, tugging at the shirt with her fingertips. “I can take this much, can’t I?”
“Not really,” I muttered.
She nodded. “I destroyed his lab,” She said. “I thought you might want to know. I tried to make it so that he couldn't make another of us, but well… I guess he eventually will be able to. If he gets the chance, I mean.”
“Okay,” I told her. I looked back down and heard her leave the house. She left through the front door. And though part of me wished I'd asked where she was off to, I was relieved I hadn't even bothered to ask.
I suppose that’s what bothers David the most. That she’s gone. That she left without a fuss, a single complaint, or a full on shouting match. That she left without the crying and the confusion. The conversation that went nowhere and the anger neither of us could figure out what to do with.
He should know as well as I that her and I are not entirely the same. He made her, after all. Stripped away at her until she was the way he'd always wanted me to be. He should know. She's not like me.
We might've had similar mannerisms. Likes and dislikes. She woke up in the morning as I did and went through the same hair and makeup routine. She could not stand the taste of chickpeas, the way they burst against her teeth and felt like softened pieces of almonds against her tongue. But, she couldn't stand peaches, and they were my favourite fruit to eat.
He began to wait outside at night. He sat down in the middle of the hall, several steps before the door, holding a makeshift knife. There is a string tied around the doorknob, the other end in his grasp. He said it was so that he could wake up when the door opened. That way he’d be able to tell when she was coming through the door. And each morning I caught him in the bathroom, looking for sores inside his throat. Then, when he found them, he asked for a lozenge and a cup of tea.
“You should go to the doctor,” I told him, once. He shook his head, insisting it was just a cold.
The last time I saw him alive, he was pushing a bookcase in front of the door. He was shaking the entire time, and his breathing was loud and heavy. “Do you think of me as a murderer?” I asked him, as he took a small break to breathe. “Is that what you think of me?”
He stopped, twirling the string around his fingers. “No. No. I never said that.”
“Right,” I told him. “But since you think she and I are the same, and you're preparing yourself for when she snaps and comes for… I don't know, revenge? What am I supposed to think?”
He slammed his hand against the bookcase. “Don’t put words in my mouth,” He said. He stepped away, and stumbled as he moved back, his eyes on the boarded windows. “I’m just taking precautions.”
“Precautions for what?” He didn't answer. “I stayed, didn't I?” I asked him. “She left.” He continued to move, his hand blindly reaching out for a chair. “So, tell me. Are we the same or are we different?” He sat down and kept an eye on the door, listening to the sound of cars driving down the road. “David?” There were dark circles beneath his eyes. “David?” I walked up to him, set a hand against his forehead. He was sweaty and running a fever. “You should get some sleep.”
“Why did you come back?” He eventually asked. His voice was a whisper, and from between his lips there came a series of sharp breaths. And if I didn’t know any better, I would say that the shade over his eyes was fear, or at least something similar to it.
“I’ve already told you.” I said. “I missed you.” His lips were dry. “Do you want something to eat? Or some water?” There was blood in the inside of his mouth and on his lower teeth.
He nodded and reached out, asking for my hand, placing a soft kiss against my palm once it was in between his grasp. His dark hair fell against his cheek. When the morning came, I found him asleep by the entrance. Eyes open, in a daze. Still waiting for someone who would never return.