Tuesday, December 7, 2010


"TWINS" - Brenda Gunning

Alice was older than Evelyn, by eight minutes precisely. They’d come into the world at 7am on 17th June.  Gemini – identical twins. From that first moment of life it was clear that they were going to be “different”, though no one could say how. They’d been wrapped up in stiff linen and laid side by side in the hospital cot where their wide eyes gazed at each other establishing their togetherness from the start. Oblivious to the other bawling babies, neither of them cried and they needed little in the way of comfort from nurses’ arms. Their solace lay in each other and while the babies were in the same cot, they were content.

No one was sure what had become of their parents. There were rumours about the mother’s mental state, what with her being under age, but for whatever reason, the twins were alone and their early family life was in the local authority children’s home.

They were not unhappy, yet their guardians always felt that the twins were unlike the other children who passed through their care. Alice, possessed a slight authoritarian attitude towards her sister and Evelyn in turn was a little servile.

During the summer of their seventh year, the twins played in the garden of the large building which served as home. A length of rope stretched between a flowering cherry tree and the gate served as a tennis net and the girls called out the score in unison at each pass. However, any bystander would have noted that it was Evelyn who ran each time to retrieve the stray ball and it was Alice who waited patiently, racquet poised, for her sister’s return. No words were ever exchanged as to the inequality of this procedure. The girls knew their roles and complemented each other perfectly.

When they reached their eighth birthday, a series of foster homes became available. Alice and Evelyn anticipated this with childish excitement and discussed the likelihood of their future.
“It’ll be a family with lots of … “ Alice would begin.
“...children," Evelyn would finish.
“There’ll be a big garden … “ Alice would start.
“with apple trees”. Evelyn would complete the sentence.
They would look into each others eyes and nod and smile their agreement.

They were not unsociable but there were never any real friends, for the twins. Each other’s company was adequate for them. They dressed alike, but not identically. Alice’s favourite colour was rose pink and her clothes were chosen accordingly. Evelyn preferred pale lilac and though the styles were the same, each sister could be identified by her colour choice.

At school, teachers would call out names to mark attendance, but the girls would answer to both names and soon they were referred to as “The Twins” and could reply as one, which suited everyone. Never did only one twin attend school. Through epidemics of childhood illnesses, the twins could be found waiting together for the start of their lessons.

Mrs Baxter, one of the dinner supervisors, often recalled the day when she came across the twins in the playground, seated on the ground, Evelyn with a protective arm around her sister who had tears streaming down her cheeks. The puzzled woman was told through sobs “We’ve hurt our knee”. Inspecting Alice’s leg at close quarters brought surprise when it was found to be unmarked, but Evelyn’s leg had a large graze oozing blood. Mrs Baxter recounted this tale many times and revelled in the astounded looks that she managed to gain from her story.

The ball at St Thomas’ Secondary School, the year the twins were sixteen was also remembered. The fifth form had waited all year, planning what they would wear and which songs would be played. The twins joined in with the anticipations, though only with each other. It was accepted that they would dress in their favourite colours and there was no reason to think that the ball would cause any changes in preferences. So when the twins arrived it caused quite a stir to see both Alice and Evelyn dressed in a profuse shade of rosy pink. Many of the boys commented that when Alice was asked if she would like to dance, Evelyn followed onto the floor and when Evelyn had a drink, both girls took alternate sips from the same glass.

After school the twins worked at the local hosiery manufacturer. They barely spoke to others on the factory floor but the dialogue between the sisters was constant and eavesdroppers marvelled at the amount of talk that passed between sisters who lived, worked and leisured in only each others’ company.

Suddenly, Alice became ill.
Evelyn took leave from work to nurse her.
The factory sent messages of concern each week but the replies were brief.
“Everything is as well as can be expected.”
Then came the note that shocked the whole workforce.
“We wish to inform you of the death of Alice Reilley. No flowers please.” 
The letter was unsigned and gave no clue as to the informant.

A funeral took place followed by a cremation which incredulously to the whole community, the surviving sister didn’t attend.

Evelyn did not return to work. When milk had begun to accumulate on the doorstep of the twins home the police had been informed. The door had been broken down and a search of the house revealed that nothing had been removed. Newspapers reported on the “Marie Celeste Home of Twin Sisters”, and the mysterious disappearance of Evelyn.

Gradually the story faded from the front pages, the police search was called off and the twins former house cleared and sold, the proceeds put in trust in case of Evelyn’s return. The memory of the twins drifted from the minds of those who knew them.

Except one. Dr R Hinton GP.

Nothing could erase the memory of the day he was called to the Reilley house, to pronounce one of the sisters dead. The day whose events he spoke of to no one.

Alice was laid on her bed in an upstairs room when Evelyn guided Hinton to her side. He’d seen many corpses before and one more would not affect him. Evelyn moved ahead of him, slowly and silently as if floating rather than walking up the flight of stairs. He followed, dreamlike, his blood rushing and pounding through his veins as he ascended.

Evelyn entered the room. Turning to glance once at the doctor, as though in confirmation, her form took it’s position over that of her sister, laying her body against Alice’s till the contours melted and merged perfectly into one.

The twins were at peace.

BIO: I write short stories, poetry, flash fiction and topical discussion which have been published in magazines, newspapers and online. I have published a travel/biography "Crossing Borders" and am currently working on the follow up. I also have a novel in progress.


  1. Really enjoyed this story with its very fitting but mysterious climax, Brenda.

  2. A moving story of another level of compassion and sympatico between siblings, Brenda. Lovely.
    - Ben Hubble

  3. Thanks folks ! I am thrilled that this is published on Spook City.

  4. superb story, Lexia, inevitable and yet perfect ending to a lovely story.

  5. Brenda what a great story. The tension and characters built to a suspenseful climax that dipped into death. But we were treated to a twist and a corker at that. The introduction of the doctor was perfectly timed.

    Each beat hit on the nose and the story had a very satisfying conclusion. Eerie and well written.


  6. How beautiful. And a nice companion piece to my own twins story earlier! Have you read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Nifffenegger, Brenda?

  7. I missed this comment before, Lou. I am going to get a copy - also The Time Traveller's Wife. Thanks for that

  8. Hi Brenda

    Great" great story

    I really enjoyed ;-D