Sebastian looked at her askance: ‘D’you mean to tell me,’ he said slowly, emphasising every syllable to ensure his meaning was clear, ‘that you are my long-lost twin?’
She was silent for a moment, her head held imperiously, her eyes flashing a greenish sort of blue just like his, her pony-tail identical in colour to his hair. She stared at Sebastian unflinchingly. ‘Yes,’ she said positively. ‘That’s exactly what I mean.’
Sebastian was having none of it. ‘Bullshit,’ he said. ‘And you know that only too well.’
She started to slowly unbutton the front of her shirt, one button, then a second and then a third. Her head was cocked to one side, and she looked steadily at Sebastian. His breathing slowed. His pulse began to race. As she undid the last of the buttons, she pulled her shirt tails from the waistband of her jeans. She smiled now.
‘You can’t do that,’ he said. ‘Not if you’re my twin.’
She undid the buttons on the left cuff, and shifted her attention to the right one, slipping each of the two buttons free in a very deliberate way. She left the cuffs hanging for a moment, and sucked in her lips to moisten them. They shone in the light from the window. It was half an hour or so before sunset, and the rays of the sun slipped almost horizontally in through the wide kitchen window.
Sebastian stood as though carved from rock. This was the very last thing he had expected. She pulled her collar open and slipped the shirt from her shoulders. It fell to the flagstones behind her, and she let her arms hang motionless.
He raised his right hand and caressed her breast, the left one, his fingers slipping lightly over her skin. She had a placid smile on her face. She knew what she was doing, knew that she was doing it well. Her breasts were perfect, a gentle slope to the nipples and a soft curve back up to her ribs, both identical, both beautiful. He put his arm around her naked shoulders and pulled her gently towards him.
She was nearly as tall as he was, and her chin rested on his shoulder. His hand, flat-palmed, ran down her spine and under the waist-band of her jeans and rested in the hollow above her buttocks. Her pony-tail swayed, almost waist-long, as she nestled her lips into his neck just below his jaw line. He swallowed nervously as she kissed him.
One-handedly she started to undo the buttons on his shirt, slipping one free then moving her hand slowly to the next one, the little pauses very suggestive, as though, once started, she couldn’t stop. After the third button she slipped her hand into the opening of the shirt, and cupped his pectoral muscle, one finger sliding back and forth over his nipple.
‘God,’ he breathed in a whisper.
Her mouth moved to his ear and she ran her tongue into it. ‘She won’t help you,’ she whispered.
‘That was great,’ he said afterwards. ‘But we mustn’t do it again.’
‘Well, we just mustn’t.’
‘Not much of a reason,’ she said. ‘You’ll have to do better than that.’
He seemed to puzzle over this for a while. ‘Mummy and Daddy wouldn’t like it.’ He had the slightest glimmer of a smile on his lips.
‘We’re not going to invite them.’ A pause, then: ‘Well, me might, but certainly not at first. Mummy is far too old.’
‘Mmmm,’ he agreed. ‘But I think you’re missing the point.’
He put his hand on each side of her face and drew her close until their noses were just about touching. ‘Siblings aren’t supposed to do this. Not with each other.’
She pursed her lips and kissed the tip of his nose. ‘Well, that’s not fair!’
‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘But we can’t do anything about that. If you’re my twin, or even if you’re just my sister, then it’s taboo.’
She thought about this, then turned away from him, sat and began to dress again.
‘I wish you wouldn’t do that,’ he said.
She turned and smiled at him. ‘I have to. If I’m your twin, that is. You just said so.’
‘Couldn’t you just be my cousin then? My second cousin, just to be sure.’
She seemed to consider this, a frown lightly shaping her brow. ‘No,’ she said. ‘I’d much rather be your twin.’
He sat down beside her, put his arm around her shoulders and kissed her, first lightly on her lips, then even more lightly on each of her eyes. ‘Shall we, you know…’
‘Do it again?’
‘Yes,’ he said.
‘Sorry, it’s against the rules.’
‘Not even for a last time?’
‘Rules is rules,’ she said, wagging her finger at him.
‘Well dammit, you’ll just have to be my girlfriend.’
‘Oh no… not just like that. You have to ask properly.’
He slipped down onto one knee and took her right hand. She giggled. ‘You don’t half look silly.’
‘Will you be my girlfriend,’ he asked. ‘I’m terribly fond of you.’
‘No, I won’t. Just look at my eyes. Look at my hair. Look at my height. I’m your twin sister.’
‘But I only met you today.’
‘True. But the mirror does not lie.’
In the morning they slept until nearly nine-thirty. When he looked at his watch and realised how late it was, he leapt from the bed. ‘Come on,’ he shouted. ‘Get up. They’ll be here in about half an hour.’
She sat up, her hair falling about her shoulders. ‘Who will?’
‘My parents,’ he said, and crossed the hallway to the bathroom.
‘Oh, is that all? Mummy and Daddy.’
His head poked back into the bedroom. ‘We can’t keep on with that,’ he said. ‘Get up and make the bed, will you?’
‘Okay, Bro. Haven’t seen them for such a long time.’
Sebastian snorted. ‘Look, it was good fun yesterday. But today is today, and I’m not playing that game any more.’
She gave him a funny look, hard to interpret.
She made the bed. She washed up yesterday’s dishes, congealed fat resisting the detergent and hot water. She dressed. She looked in the mirror and smiled. And when the bell rang at the front door, she dashed and got there first.
Sebastian sensed trouble, but he was too late to avert it. She flung the door open. ‘Mummy,’ she shouted, and clasped Sebastian’s mother to her in a vast and comprehensive hug. Sebastian’s father stood back, aghast, but she released Mummy and pounced on him. ‘Daddy’ she cried, and clung to him as though she really was his long lost daughter.
Sebastian’s father was an optimist, a pragmatist. He didn’t at all mind being hugged by a tall, enthusiastic and rather smashing young woman, even if he was at a loss to explain the situation. He hugged her back with equal enthusiasm, his hands not groping, exactly, but relishing the sensation of a pliant young body pressing against him.
‘Vincent,’ his wife almost growled. ‘That’s enough. Put her down.’
And, as he had had more in that thirty seconds than he had achieved in the last decade, he released her.
She stepped back as though looking at them for the first time. ‘D’you know,’ she told them, ‘I really can’t remember the last time we met.’
‘That’s because it’s the first time,’ Sebastian said. ‘Mum, Dad, this is Susanne. Let’s go in.’
Sebastian took their coats while Susanne led them to the sitting room. ‘What can I get you?’ She asked. ‘Coffee? Tea? Something a little more tempting - a Scotch, perhaps?’
Sebastian’s dad nodded. ‘A Scotch would go down very well,’ he said.
‘It’s ten in the morning, Vincent.’ His wife told him. ‘You’ll have tea, and that’s that.’ She glowered at him.
He looked at Susanne and gave a little shrug. ‘Coffee, then. Flat white, if you can manage it. No sugar.’
It wasn’t until the tea and coffee had been served and Sebastian and Susanne were sitting side-by-side on the long sofa that Sebastian’s mother, with what seemed to be a start of recognition, blanched and fell silent.
Vincent had been regaling them with the adventures they had had on the road from Tamworth that morning, the near escape when they were running short of fuel, the needle bumping on empty and having to switch off the air-conditioning and open the windows, slowing to close to forty ks an hour, ‘… and then blow me down if a service station didn’t turn up around the next bend. I was imagining a long walk with an empty can…’
And then he stopped, mid sentence, and looked at his wife, who was staring at Susanne as though in horror. ‘You’re not Susanne,’ she said quietly, almost pleadingly. ‘You’re Felicity.’ And then she started crying.
Vincent stared at her, shocked. ‘Don’t be silly, Josie. How could she be?’
‘Look at them. Oh my God, how could this happen? Just look at the two of them. Peas in a pod.’
Susanne took Sebastian’s hand and squeezed it. ‘I did say, didn’t I?’
Sebastian looked at his parents, looked at Susanne, clearly failing to understand. ‘What?’ He said. ‘What on Earth are you all on about?’
‘You’re right,’ Susanne said to Sebastian’s parents. ‘My middle name is Felicity.’
Sebastian’s mother gave a little shudder.
‘So they gave you away?’
‘Mmmm,’ Susanne said. ‘It was okay. I didn’t know until last year. That I was adopted, I mean.’
‘But you knew before you came here?’
‘And you just went ahead with it?’
‘This needs a little thinking about.’
‘If,’ he said, and stopped. It was nearly three hours after Josie and Vincent had left in tears, and Sebastian seemed incapable of understanding. ‘If we go on,’ he resumed, hesitantly, ‘people will know, won’t they?’
Susanne was, for once, serious. ‘I think so,’ she said. ‘Not necessarily, but I guess probably. After a while, anyway. We do,’ she smiled at her brother, ‘we do look remarkably similar.’
‘There are laws against it.’
‘Yes. Laws decided two thousand years ago when the genetics weren’t understood.’
‘But laws, anyway.’
‘Difficult to prove. That we knew, I mean.’
Sebastian thought about it. ‘I suppose so,’ he said at last. ‘I guess, we could have gone ahead quite innocently.’
‘But we’d know, wouldn’t we?’
‘We would now. Would that worry you?’
He was silent. He turned away. Went to the kitchen. Got a glass of water. Came back and stood before her. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anyone as much as I want you.’
Susanne stood and went to him, taking both his hands in hers. ‘You’re a very naughty boy,’ she said, leaning forward and kissing his nose.