Read an Excerpt
“Have you lost your mind?”
“It’s a great idea.”
“It’s a dumb idea. We haven’t done that since we were children.”
“And we always got away with it.”
Allison Leamon eyed her sister in exasperation. Except for the expression Ann’s was expectant, Allison could have been looking at her own reflection.
Ann was sitting Indian-fashion in the center of her sister’s bed. Allison turned her back on Ann and began taking the hairpins from the bun on the back of her head. She shook out a mane of deep auburn hair that fell to her shoulders in thick waves that matched her sister’s.
“Bette Davis has played twins who swapped places in a couple of her movies. Something terrible always happened.”
“That’s the movies; this is real life.”
“Doesn’t art imitate life?”
Ann sighed in vexation. “Come on, Allison. Will you or won’t you?”
“I won’t. I can’t believe you’re serious about having this operation in the first place,” she said, pulling a hairbrush through her hair.
“I don’t want to go through the rest of my life flat-chested.”
“We’re not flat-chested,” Allison argued, assessing her own figure in the mirror.
“We’re not overly endowed either.”
“Who wants to be? They’ll just sag in a few years, then you’ll wish you didn’t have them.” Laying the brush on the vanity, she turned to Ann. “Please reconsider, Annie. Don’t do this.”
Ann laughed. “You’re always so damned cautious and practical. Don’t you ever have one frivolous thought? Just look at yourself now that you’ve let your hair down. You’re gorgeous. Don’t you want to be?”
“I’m not gorgeous. And no, I don’t particularly want to be. Looks aren’t important.”
Ann pressed a hand over her heart and addressed the ceiling. “I know,” she said theatrically, “it’s what a person is like on the inside that counts.”
“Make fun of me all you want, but that’s the way I feel. I’d much rather be considered intelligent than a knockout.”
Ann frowned in aggravation. Her sister was hopeless. All Allison cared about was her laboratory, her electron microscope, her Bunsen burner, any old organisms that could be cultivated in a petri dish! “Are you going to do me this favor or not?”
“No. I don’t want any part of it. Why can’t Davis know beforehand?”
“Because I want it to be a surprise.”
“He likes you the way you are. Why else would he be marrying you?”
“Do you know one man who wouldn’t like his woman to have large breasts?” The moment the question left her lips, Ann began shaking her head. “Forget it. I withdraw the question. You don’t know any men.”
“I know quite a few men,” Allison said loftily.
“And they’re all brainy and weird!” Ann shot back.
“As I said, brainy and weird,” Ann mumbled as she plucked at a loose thread on Allison’s bedspread. The sulking lasted only a few moments before she lost her patience. “I want a breast enlargement. It’s for my self-esteem. Davis will go absolutely bananas when he sees the improvement. I’m asking my twin sister to help me out a little and she’s making a big deal out of it.”
“No pun intended, I hope,” Allison said dryly. At Ann’s fulminating look she relented somewhat. “You’re hardly asking me to help you out ‘a little.’ You’re asking me to pretend to be you while you sneak off and have the surgery.”
“Only for a few days. Only until the bandages come off.”
Allison covered her own breasts, one with each hand, and shuddered. The whole idea repelled her, but it was Ann’s business. She only wished Ann hadn’t involved her in it. “What about your job?”
“I’m taking a week’s vacation. No problem there. You’ll go to work as usual. It’s only in the evenings when you’ll need to be with Davis.”
“What will you be doing, hiding in the back bedroom?”
“I’m staying in the clinic. It’s expensive, but I’d rather stay there than at home.”
Allison pushed away from the dresser and began to pace. “Annie, this is crazy. You and Davis ... well, doesn’t he expect certain, uh, you know...”
“You mean bedroom privileges?” Allison blushed. Ann laughed. “I’ve covered you on that. I told him the gynecologist changed my birth-control-pill prescription and that we weren’t supposed to sleep together for three weeks until we knew they were going to take.”
“As a biologist in genetics you know that, and as a woman I know that, but Davis doesn’t know it. He griped like hell, but he accepted it. So you won’t have to worry about him trying to get you into bed. And for crying out loud, it’s only for three or four days!”
Allison nervously twisted her hands. Ann had always been able to do this to her, talk her into something common sense warned against. “Switching places was an amusing game to play on Mom and Dad, even teachers, but I have a premonition that something dreadful will happen.”
“You’re a fatalist. Nothing’s going to happen.”
“And you want me to move into your condo?”
“That would be the most convenient arrangement. Davis could always find me, or rather you, there.”
What remained unsaid, but understood, was that Allison’s absence from her own apartment would go unnoticed. She had no one calling for her in the evenings. “I’d have to wear your clothes,” she said unenthusiastically.
“Which will be a vast improvement over your wardrobe.” Ann eyed Allison’s navy dirndl skirt and tailored white blouse with undisguised distaste.
“I’ll have to wear my contacts all the time and they give me a headache.”
“Better a headache than those owlish glasses you wear.”
“And my hair...”
“Will you stop! Your hair looks terrific loose and natural instead of knotted into that old-maid’s bun.” She hopped off the bed and confronted Allison with both hands on her hips. “So will you or won’t you? Please, Allison. This is important to me.”
Everything was important to Ann. She lived from crisis to crisis. She didn’t do anything by half-measures. She plunged right into every critical event, usually dragging her unwilling, less adventuresome sister right be- hind her.
Allison turned to the mirror and gazed at her image. Could she pass for Ann? Ann who never met a stranger, but a potential friend? Ann who felt at home in any situation? Ann with the bubbling personality and more charm in her little finger than Allison possessed in her whole body?
Ann walked over to stand beside her. Since Allison wasn’t wearing her glasses, and with her hair curling over her shoulders like Ann’s, they were identical.
And it was only for a few days. And Ann was her twin, her only sibling. And lifetime habits were hard to break.
Allison smiled wryly. “Do you realize that for the rest of our lives people are going to be looking at our boobs in order to tell us apart?”
“Oh, Allison. You’ll do it?” Ann spun Allison around and gave her an exuberant hug. “I knew I could count on you. Here’s my engagement ring,” she said, twisting it off her finger and putting it on Allison’s. “Don’t dare lose it. Now let me tell you about tonight.”
“Davis and I are meeting his best friend for dinner. They grew up together, blood brothers and all that. I’ve never met him, and Davis wants to show me off.”
“Oh, Annie,” Allison wailed.