"Move this box carefully," said my sister-Jane- and slightly tapped the box. Two men took it out and then into our small red car.
My sister and I shared a melancholic look before we left our house. We had been living there for our whole lives - 23 years- and now it was time to move out and experience independent life.
"Come on, Hanna!" Jane called me after she got in the car and started it.
I took the last look at my old room, where I played with toys, shared foolish secrets with my classmates, and learned to read the first words.
"Call me every day!" our mom, standing next to dad, put her head into the car from an open window, and warned us.
We laughed and promised we would call. So finally, we drove off. The crisp November air hit my face as we headed to the new chapter of our lives in a new city.
After a long and tiring ride, we reached our new home, a small, one-stored house, but cozy and beautiful—just enough for the two of us. As we started moving the boxes, I discerned an old lady about 65 years old, drawing closer to us.
"Hello, new neighbors!" she smiled warmly and shook my hand. Jane was in the house as we stood outside, in the small, green garden.
I greeted her, too, as she stared at my face. Her eyes were fixed on me as if she could find out all of my secrets from gazing at my features. The wrinkles on her pale skin looked like grooves of a deserted ground. The grey curls reached her jawline, and chubby cheeks were flushed from excitement.
"I'm so happy that my new neighbors are young and beautiful girls!" she said and giggled like a teenager, "you are sisters, right?"
"Right," I heard Jane, who approached us.
"You look so alike! Are you twins?" she asked again. The lady seemed very curious.
"Yes, we are," Jane answered with a sweet smile.
"Oh, I didn't even introduce myself," the lady scratched her head from embarrassment, "I'm Lydia; I live just right next to you, there," she said and pointed at the yellow-painted two-stored house.
"Jane," my sister said, "and Hanna," she looked at me.
"Pleasure to meet you," said Lydia, and her eyes started jumping from me to my sister as if she was trying to catch the differences in our appearances.
Lydia's tiny lips were curved up, but I couldn't understand from what. She finally said goodbye and left our garden.
"Jane, didn't you get some creepy vibes from her?" I asked as we went back into our house.
"What are you talking about?" Jane's eyes widened from surprise, "she is a sweet lady."
I didn't answer and just shrugged my shoulders.
"Maybe it's because of your career," Jane added when she noticed my confused face, "since you are a psychologist, you always search for something hidden under people's expressions when in reality they might be just genuinely nice."
The next morning the sound of the doorbell ringing woke us up. I tossed over in my bed, trying to ignore it, but someone kept on incessantly ringing.
"Ugh! It's 6 am," I said after checking the time.
Jane closed her eyes and continued snoozing. I slowly got up and opened the door, still in my pajamas.
"Hello, Hanna!" Lydia said with a high-pitched, cheerful voice.
She stood at the doorway with a pie in her hands. How could she tell I was Hanna? People have a hard time separating us, and especially we had met her only once!
"It's 6 am," I chuckled from annoyance.
"Oh, I'm sorry if I woke you up," disappointment ran across her face, and she pursed her lips, "I just made a blueberry pie and thought you and Jane might like it."
"Yes, sure," I regretted my rudeness when I saw her sullen face, "thank you, Aunt Lydia."
I smiled and took the pie. Lydia's face brightened up again, creating sparkles in her light-blue eyes.
"You can call me ma, darling," she said.
This sounded strange, but I was too sleepy to think about it. I thanked Lydia again and shut the door when she left.
As I turned back, I saw Jane drinking milk from a mug.
"She baked us a pie," I laughed and put the pie in front of my sister.
Jane immediately took the knife and cut a piece for her. She moaned from pleasure as she took a bite.
"She said to call her ma," I said again and looked at Jane, who had her mouth full. I thought she would agree with Lydia being creepy, but Jane just mumbled with her stuffed cheeks.
"I'll call her whatever she wants as long as she bakes us mountains of delicious pies."
I sighed and took a bite while telling myself that I was just overthinking.
It was a peaceful afternoon while my sister and I sat on the front porch, drinking some beer and chatting. Suddenly we heard our garden door cracking and opening.
"Hello, girls!" it was Lydia rushing to us.
This time she wasn't smiling. Her usual sweet expression had been erased from her face. Her pupils were hastily moving, almost shaking.
"You need to go back into the house," she said.
"What?" I laughed.
"There's going to be a thunderstorm in an hour. I heard it on the news," she said and opened the door of our house as a sign for us to obey her.
"But the sky is so clear," Jane added, not moving from her seat.
I noticed Lydia's features twisting in anger and her white skin reddening as if blood rushed up to her head.
"Just go in!" suddenly Lydia shouted, "I'm telling you it's dangerous!"
Lydia breathed out when she saw our shocked faces. She apologized.
"I just want you to be safe," she mumbled.
I looked at Jane, and we got up, went into the house.
"I can stay with you if you want," Lydia smiled, trying to overshadow her recent embarrassing moment when she exploded like a volcano.
"No, it's okay," I replied and shut the door before her.
Jane stood partly surprised, partly chuckling.
"you were right; she is really creepy," she said and closed all the windows.
The thunderstorm started in an hour, as Lydia said. I felt grateful, but also an odd feeling had been planted within me - I felt Lydia was not a regular old lady, wishing happiness upon young people. There was something very strange in her, but I couldn't pinpoint what.
The next day we heard the knock on the door, and now we weren't surprised anymore when we saw Lydia at the door. As soon as I opened it, she hurried to me, put my face in her hands, and started murmuring.
"My little girl, are you alright? You are safe, right? Nothing has happened to you".
Then she touched my forehead like a mother does when her child has a fever.
I freed myself from her and backed away.
"I'm fine," I said with a low and a bit angered tone.
My voice revived her as if she just woke up from a dream.
"Oh, sorry, darlings," she smiled again. The wrinkles grew bigger on her face, "I was worried about you."
As I stood horrified by her reactions, Jane tried to melt the ice and welcomed Lydia in, offered her some tea.
As we sat at the table in awkward silence, we could only hear the clock ticking.
"I think you shouldn't drink beer, girls," said Lydia, "Well, I saw your beer bottles yesterday. It's not a girly thing. You should drink tea like right now," said Lydia, and her warm and bright smile appeared again.
We didn't answer and kept on drinking the tea from tiny marble cups.
"You know, I had two little girls, twins, just like you," said Lydia with a hoarse voice. The tears pressed against her eyes, "two beautiful girls. But the car accident... They were only 12".
Huge balls of tears ran down Lydia's cheeks and dripped down on her shirt. I felt immense pity for her.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Jane, almost crying, and hugged her.
"I get it now," I said when Jane locked the door after Lydia left.
"I know," my sister looked at me with eyes full of surprise, "she is trying to become a mother again."
"Yeah," I nodded, "by replacing her dead daughters with us."
We didn't know what to do. We couldn't push her away. She had no one, and our hearts weren't made from rock. We were filled with sorrow and understood her strange behavior, thinking she was still grieving her lost children.
That night something kept flickering before my eyes, forcing me to wake up. As I opened my heavy eyelids, I noticed the light coming out of Lydia's window. It was past midnight, but she wasn't asleep. The lights turned off for a minute, and I thought she went to bed, but the window brightened up again. I noticed Lydia's silhouette appearing at the window and disappearing in a second. As she disappeared, the lights got turned off again. But in a minute she turned them on again and walked up to the window. She kept on doing this while looking in our direction.
"Jane, Jane!" I called my sister.
"What?" she said with an irritated voice.
"Lydia is checking on us," I said as Jane stood up and looked out from the window.
"Oh my god, Hanna," she gasped, "she's totally obsessed with us. What are we going to do?"
"I don't know," I shook my head, "maybe we should talk to her."
We decided that I would visit Lydia the next morning as Jane would leave for work.
It was 9 am when I knocked on the door and waited for Lydia to open up. She made an alarmed face when she saw me standing at the doorway.
"Hello," I tried to be as polite as possible, "can I talk to you for a minute?"
I noticed that Lydia started hesitating and fidgeting on her feet as if she did not want to invite me in. But I wasn't giving up, so she opened the door wide and let me in.
The vintage interior of her house looked just like the pictures from decoration magazines from the 60s. Lydia offered some tea as I sat on the brown leather sofa and stared down at the red carpet with white dots on it. The smell of old paper books reached me. I looked at the yellow-toned wallpaper, peeled off in the corners. The house screamed of loneliness. I felt like this unbearably melancholic atmosphere was slowly piercing into my skin.
"What is it that you wanted to talk about?" Lydia asked out loud from the kitchen.
"It's just a small thing," I said and waited for her to return to the living room.
While she was making some tea, I started walking around the house. I discerned the door of a small room was slightly open. The curiosity got the best of me, and I quietly pushed the door, trying not to get noticed by Lydia. As I stepped in, I saw a bed with a white blanket and a tiny table beside it. It was nothing special, just an ordinary room. Expect the wall, facing the bed, was covered with pictures. I drew closer, and my vision got clearer. I felt my pupils dilating, and the anxiety creeping up on me. My fingertips became cold, and my palms sweaty. I noticed my heart thumping against my chest and the veins shrinking from terror. I clenched my stomach, staggering, almost falling from panic. All those pictures, hundreds, maybe even thousands, were ours - Jane's and mine. They were taken from different angles, at different times of a day. The pictures of my sister and me in our garden, in the house, watching TV, outside - headed to work, at night - sleeping.
I couldn't move as if I became frozen like a statue. Suddenly I heard Lydia's voice.
"The tea is ready,"
I rushed out to the living room. Lydia was still in the kitchen.
"I..." my voice cracked, "I just wanted to ask for a pie recipe but just remembered I have one back into my house, so..."
I opened the door.
"I'll see you later," I said and almost ran from her.
I rushed into my house and dialed Jane's number with my hands still trembling.
"Jane, Jane..." I couldn't resist the tears that wetted my whole face, "we have to move out immediately."
We left the house the next day. After hastily packing the bags and getting into the car, we saw Lydia coming toward us with a face full of desperation and misery. She didn't ask anything, but I could read all the emotions running across her face: she felt like she was losing her children all over again.
We didn't say a word. Jane quickly started the car, and we drove off.
I looked back and saw Lydia standing in the middle of the street with her shoulders down, looking like she had been robbed of her last chance of happiness.
-- Tina Torola
Stay Breezy, Breezers!