When I look in the mirror I not only see myself, I see her. Sometimes the pain is unbearable. Sure, I’ve changed my hairstyle and even the color of my hair, but still… the facial features, the eyes… they don’t even seem to belong to me anymore. They are hers.
Sometimes I want to forget. Other times I seek out a mirror so I don’t forget.
I should back up and tell you the story from the beginning. Or at least from the beginning of the end. Then you can understand my heartache. My pain.
As you will come to understand, this is just as much Ivy’s story as it is mine. Maybe even more so.
“Audrey? Are you ready? We really have to go!” Ivy exclaimed as she donned her fluffy Lands´ End jacket.
“Just give me a sec,” I hurriedly brushed my hair and grabbed my purse.
“Come on! We don’t wanna be late… again
,” Ivy hissed, glaring at me as I rushed out the bathroom door that adjoined our rooms in our tiny apartment.
“Chill out, sis. We’ll get there.”
“I know we’ll get there, but we’re always the last ones.”
She had a point. Ever since college graduation we met our ‘gang’ for dinner once a month at Harvest Cove. Why always the same place? Harvest Cove was the totally vegetarian restaurant my dear sis co-owned with Ryan; one of the gang. They were actually an item all through college and had recently called the romantic part of their relationship quits. Still they were best buds and I’d be willing to bet my fortune – if I had one – they’d be back together before the end of the month. And they both lived a completely vegetarian, cruelty free lifestyle. Heck, my sis had even gotten me to give up meat. Go figure! Who would have thought that Audrey, the steak and potato gal, was now the veggie lasagna queen?
“Well, you don’t want to break tradition, do you?” I smirked at my sis.
“Ha, ha. You think you’re funny?” She wasn’t happy; I could tell by that look.
After a nearly quiet ride to the restaurant, we arrived and Ivy quickly parked. She had the engine off and was out the door before I could unbuckle my seatbelt.
“Hey, wait for me…” I hollered, but she had already disappeared through the front door.
I took my time walking into the establishment that I helped my sis and Ryan buy only six months prior. It seemed to be a good investment. Sis had promised me a small percentage of the profits and free meals for life. Not bad. Especially since I wanted to freelance from home. A small income from her profits might afford me that opportunity. And, most importantly, I was helping my sis out.
True to form, we were the last ones to arrive. I casually waltzed back to our usual table in the far left corner, by the window. Ryan and Tony were laughing loudly; I heard them before they came into view. Heather and my sis sat across from them smiling widely. Funny how my sis had joined their conversation so quickly - it was as if we had come here separately. Ryan, Tony, Heather, Ivy and me – that was our gang. The three-plus-two musketeers.
“So you decided to join us,” Tony said in his best sarcastic tone.
“Yeah, I didn’t have anything better to do.” I took a seat next to Heather in the oversized cozy booth. “Have you ordered yet?”
“Ordered? You mean that’s why we’re here? We’ve been waiting so long, I forgot!”
“Shut up, Tony,” I uttered sternly, but grinned at him. His sarcasm was all in fun. He and I had been ‘fussing’ like this since our college days. Ever since I turned him down when he asked me out.
“Yes, Audrey, we just placed the order. Everyone’s usual. I hope that’s okay.” Ryan answered my question in his matter-of-fact way.
“Sounds great. I’m starving.”
“Me too,” Ivy gave me that we’re-late-because-of-you
glare. I simply ignored her. Sometimes she really annoyed me, and this was one of those times.
“Since we’re all here I guess it’s time for our monthly report,” Heather announced.
Part of our monthly dinner ritual was to go around the table and give an update on the life and times of the three-plus-two musketeers.
“And you’re starting this evening, right, Heather?” I asked, but my tone was more suggestive than questioning. Heather loved to announce that it was report time, but she hated to be the first to report.
“Um… sure, I guess.”
“I can start. If you want…” Ryan was quick to rescue Heather from being first.
“Sure, go ahead.” She smiled warmly at him.
“Well, Ivy and I broke an all time record in sales last month,” he announced proudly as he glanced around the restaurant and then at my sis. She smiled back. The way they looked at each other was all it took. I knew by the month’s end they would be an item again. I just knew it!
“That’s right!” Ivy exclaimed, her smile widening into a huge grin. “Harvest Cove is doing great.”
“Just think how much you could be making if you offered your customers a good steak,” Tony teased them.
“Not going to happen,” Ryan declared. Like any of us ever thought it would.
“Of course not… not in a million years,” I agreed, innocently, but that set my sis off. She said nothing, however her grin fell and she leaned back against the cushy booth bench. Perhaps my tone came across more sarcastic than I’d planned. I don’t know.
“Anything else to report, Ryan?” I asked, hoping the change of subject would appease my sis.
“Not really, no.”
“I got the space to open up my firm,” Tony chimed in with something other than a sarcastic remark.
“Really?” I inquired.
“Yes,” he said proudly. Tony was a jokester, no doubt about that, but he was a brilliant lawyer too. He had worked as an assistant for a small firm throughout college and as junior partner for the last year since graduation, but his dream was to open his own firm.
“Congrats, buddy,” Ryan patted him on the back.
Heather looked at me, and I peered back at her. She’s the one who insisted on this report time, so I only thought it right that she go next. Plus I didn’t like all this talking about my successes or lack thereof.
“Um… I really don’t have much to tell,” Heather finally said quietly. “Things are pretty much the same. I’m still working in the doctor’s office – still looking for that dream job of mine.”
Heather wanted to pursue a career in interior design, which is what her degree was in, but she was too afraid to leave her secure office job to follow her dream.
“Aren’t we all?” I commented with a soft sigh. “I still want to start my freelancing, but something has to pay the bills.” I was working part-time taking pictures of houses for a real estate company. House photographer, I guess you could call me. Not a bad gig, but I craved more.
“Audrey, you’re only working part-time. You have plenty of time to get your freelancing going,” Ivy snapped at me.
“Some of us actually work full-time. Take our responsibilities seriously.”
Okay, so since I’d helped my sis and Ryan with the start-up costs for this place I’d been strapped for money. And yeah, Ivy had been paying most of our bills. But that was temporary – and she knew it.
“And how do you think you got this place to begin with?” I growled at her. “How do you think your dream came to fruition?”
“Come on, you two,” Ryan intervened.
“Twins.” Tony muttered.
Ivy stared at me with a look that surely could have killed something. An ant wouldn’t have had a chance. A mouse, very little. A cat, maybe a cat could have escaped with eight lives.
The food came and we ate while engaging in small talk. Ivy said nothing more to me, and I returned the favor.
“I’m really tired,” Ivy announced before we had a chance to order dessert. “Do you think you can give Audrey a ride home?” she asked, turning to Tony.
“I’ll find my own ride,” I said curtly. “Go ahead. Go home if you want.”
“Fine. I do.” Ivy stood, snatched her purse up, slung it over her left shoulder and swiftly strode away.
That was the last time I saw my sis.
After Ivy left, I stayed out late with the gang. Tony was so excited he had to take us by his new office space once we left the restaurant. He was more excited than a kid on Christmas morning.
When I got home I did find it odd that Ivy’s car wasn’t parked in its usual spot, but I was tired so I didn’t think much of it. Not at first, but it wasn’t twenty minutes after that when an officer from the sheriff’s department pulled into our apartment parking lot. When the doorbell rang, I answered it and I knew. I knew something terrible had happened. I still remember the look on the officer’s face. Grim. No hope.
“Are you related to Ivy Larkin?” he asked, like he couldn’t tell.
“Yes,” I said hesitantly. “I’m her sister, Audrey.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but your sister was in a car accident. Drunk driver.”
I knew the rest before he said it. Violently, I shook my head. So much so that his next words sounded like they were a million miles away, muffled as if they were underwater.
“She’s gone. Died at the scene.”
“NOOOOO!!” I shrieked.
That’s all I remember about that night. They tell me I fainted. For months I was in denial, then depression set in and took up residence deep inside me. I never thought I’d find my way out of that grim, horrid feeling of despair. Somehow I managed to struggle through and find the surface of my life again. Life without Ivy.
Despite our many quibbles, Ivy and I were true identical twins. We shared everything. And most of the time we got along. I know I didn’t share with you the many good times we had. Or the times we tricked our dates by switching places. Or the times Ivy took the rap for me with our parents, when I was the guilty twin. Or the times she took my math tests in high school. What’s the point of algebra, anyway? To Ivy, it was important. To Ivy, I was important. And she was to me.
Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. Crave her presence and her company. Long to hear her voice again - even if it’s her angry tone yelling at me. I wish to God that I had insisted on going with her that night. On driving. Something.
Since that night, our gang doesn’t meet for our monthly social dinner - too painful for all of us. Instead we now hold monthly Ivy Nights at Harvest Cove. Most of the proceeds on Ivy Nights go to animal shelters and groups that help prevent cruelty to animals. Those were my sis’ passions. We also give a percentage to MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving. If that will help someone else not suffer the pain we have…
When I look in the mirror I not only see myself, I see her. I see my wonderful twin sister, Ivy. I see all her good and her not so good. I see myself. But never just
Now I’m running Harvest Cove with Ryan, my husband. To this day I don’t know if we truly fell in love or if we simply found a common ground from loving Ivy. But whatever it is, it seems to be working.