They share an unbreakable bond...
An inescapable bond.
As identical twins, Haylee and Kaylee Fitzgerald have always done things in exactly the same way. Under their mother’s guidance their every outfit, every meal, and every thought was identical.
But now things are different.
With Kaylee back at home after her sister's betrayal, her life has been turned inside out. Both her mother and Haylee are away and Kaylee’s alone and more lost than ever. Her father suggests going to a new school where she can have a fresh start, and where no one will know about her dark past. But if Kaylee knows her sister at all, she knows that her twin isn’t through with her yet...
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About the Author
Date of Birth:June 6, 1923
Date of Death:December 19, 1986
Place of Birth:Portsmouth, Virginia
Place of Death:Virginia Beach, Virginia
Read an Excerpt
It had taken me almost two months after my rescue and recuperation to build up the courage to visit Haylee in the juvenile detention center where she was undergoing psychiatric evaluation and counseling, the result of an agreement between the district attorney and the defense attorney my father had to hire for her. With Mother also still in a mental hospital at the time, my father, despite how disappointed he was in Haylee, was the only one who really could be involved in her present and future. Our grandparents and my father’s brothers and their families were too far away to be of real assistance and still in quite a state of shock over what had happened to me and what Haylee had done.
My father was overwhelmed himself by all that had occurred and had decided to take a leave of absence from his work for a few weeks after I was released from intensive psychiatric care following my rescue. He wanted to spend more time with me. Dr. Sacks had explained to him as well as to me that I had constantly to learn how to live with the memories of my horrible entrapment. He wanted to be there to help. Even though he needed the quiet time to handle all the legal and family issues, I knew he had put aside his professional life mostly to be there for me. In his mind, one of his daughters was probably lost forever. There was still a chance to save the other.
My father had lived with Haylee alone, too, while I was still trapped in Anthony Cabot’s basement apartment, because Mother was in a mental hospital. No one at the time, including him, knew what Haylee had done. My father admitted that the police detectives had some suspicions concerning Haylee, but he wouldn’t let them pursue her because he couldn’t imagine her doing what she had done. A central part of her plan was never to reveal to Anthony Cabot that she had a twin sister, so he was convinced that I was Haylee when I met him at that clandestine rendezvous my sister had arranged.
Returning home felt so strange. Everything reminded me of Haylee and Mother, and it was weird at first not seeing either of them or hearing their voices and footsteps. Everything familiar had a different look to it. During those early hours at home, I anticipated Haylee popping out of a room or rushing up the stairs to tell me something “we must never tell anyone else or hope to die!”
The silence was loud and in some ways was the most difficult thing to contend with, especially those first few nights, when I had to have my bedroom lights on and the door open. I don’t think my father slept very much, either. He was probably lying there in his bed, poised to jump up and rush to my side because a nightmare had exploded behind my closed eyelids.
Gradually, things improved, but almost as soon as my father brought me home, he and I immediately began to talk about my attending a private prep school, just as Dr. Sacks had intimated. From the things my father said, I realized he had obviously done a good deal of research on them.
“I agree with Dr. Sacks. I think you need a fresh start,” he said. “Make new friends. I found what I think is one of the best schools for you, Littlefield. It’s about sixty miles northeast of here. It has a great academic reputation. I took a ride to see it. It’s on a beautiful campus just outside the city of Carbondale, and what I like the most is that the class sizes are pretty small. You’ll get a lot of personal attention.”
“Personal attention? More counseling?” I grimaced. “All my teachers will know and be expected to handle me in a special way?”
“No, no, of course not. Nothing concerning what has happened will be anyone’s business,” he quickly said. “We’ll tell no one anything, not even the administration. You’ll be just like any other student transferring in from a public school or a different private school.”
“What if someone looks me up on the Internet? There were newspaper stories.”
“Why would anyone do that, Kaylee? Look,” he added, leaning forward, “you have to let it go, too. I know it’s very difficult to do that, but if you don’t, then, as Dr. Sacks says, you’ll always be a victim. Right?”
I wasn’t going to disagree about the school. I was still quite fragile, and talk about making so dramatic a new move frightened me. However, Dr. Sacks and I had spent a great deal of our time together talking about how I thought I was going to feel when and if I returned to my present school and my friends began asking me questions, hoping to get me to give them the disgusting details. I knew what concerned her as well as me. How could I not think everyone would look at me and think of me as a victim forever? Most would assume I had been raped repeatedly during my abduction. They would see my denial as some sort of mental defense, smile, nod, and tell me how happy they were that it hadn’t happened, but surely they would whisper about it when I wasn’t around. Their suspicions would haunt me. Their eyes would study my face, my hands, my arms, any part of me that was exposed, looking for scars.
Actually, that sort of thing began as soon as people heard I had come home. Friends began to call, each one eager to be the first who had heard something, but I refused to speak to anyone. I knew what really lay beneath something as innocuous as “How are you now?” or “Thank God you were rescued.” They would all hope to trigger a flood of information from me, information they would take and spread like birdseed at the front door of every other classmate.
My silence was unambiguous. I wouldn’t tell anyone anything, no matter who it was. Some tried a few times and finally gave up. Soon no one called. I wouldn’t accept any visitors, either, nor did I go anywhere on my own. My father was aware of how troubled I was about having to face down those inquisitive eyes. He tried to fill my time by taking me to restaurants out of our area and shopping in Philadelphia. At times, I thought he was in almost as deep a depression as Mother, who remained in the hospital. His emotions were inside a ping-pong ball bouncing from rage at Haylee and, of course, my abductor to sympathy for me, even sympathy for himself, and sometimes careening to compassionately consider Mother’s condition, although I always had the sense that he countered her accusations against him by placing all the blame on her.
For weeks after I came home, he and I tried to make sense of it all. We talked for hours sometimes after dinner, and when I was finally able to describe in detail some of the terrible things I had endured, his face would redden and his lips would drip his rage at Haylee. I didn’t want to upset my father, but Dr. Sacks had urged me to do this, to confront the demons. “The more you do, the faster you will defeat them,” she said. Nevertheless, I knew it gave my father nightmares, as it still did to me.
Ironically, however, the more he voiced his anger at Haylee, the sorrier I felt for her, which also made me sorrier for myself. I guess I couldn’t help it. It was instinctive. We had lived this long protecting and sympathizing with each other. How could I stop doing it now, no matter what the circumstances? Mother was never angry at one of us without being angry at the other. That was still true.
Haylee wasn’t in a terrifying basement of terror like I had been, but just like me, she had a seemingly impossible challenge to overcome. How could she ever return to this world, her friends, and our school? The story was out; she was quite the villain, and I was quite the victim. Neither of us could face familiar faces. The irony was that we were still looking at the world in a similar way, and it was still looking at us the way it had. We were never able to throw off the oddity of being so similar in appearance. People called us the “Mirror Sisters,” no matter what we did, apparently.
Would my visiting her now change any of it? Even when my father’s anger simmered down to a low boil, he didn’t push for me to visit Haylee and certainly never even suggested that I find a way to forgive her. In fact, he said, “If you never wanted to see or talk to her again, I’d understand. Who wouldn’t?”
However, even though time has a way of frustrating vengeance, I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t want to see her where she was suffering for what she had done and enjoy her pain. During the early days after my rescue, when I was in the hospital, I found relief in raging about Haylee. Dr. Sacks thought that was healthy. “Get it out. It’s like steam. You need the release,” she said. But even before that week ended, I was tempering the things I was saying about my sister, and if I did say something nasty, I always added, “But I bet she’s sorry now.”
I guess I was hoping that she was. Was I being stupid? I always looked quickly at Dr. Sacks to see if she would tell me any reason I should think Haylee was feeling sorry, but she either had no knowledge of Haylee’s situation or didn’t think it was wise to say. Whenever I asked my father about her, he would only say, “She’s being processed through the system.” That made it sound as if she were some sort of product being manufactured. She was placed on the assembly line of rehabilitation. What about me? Could I ever really be rehabilitated? Haylee could finally realize her guilt and feel remorse, maybe, but how would I really recover? The nightmares might hibernate, but they’d be back. I could go to another school, but could I make new friends? Would I ever trust anyone again? Friendships needed trust. Love especially needed it.
As my rage subsided, though, my curiosity about Haylee increased. Just what sort of state of mind was she in now? Did she really regret anything? And if she did, did she regret it only because she had been caught? What had been her real intentions for me? Did she want me gone forever, or in the back of her mind had she been planning to rescue me herself and become a hero instead of a villain? How much was she really hurting now?
Once, after I had come home from the hospital and after my father had visited Haylee for some legal reason, I asked him, “Did she ask about me?”
“I wouldn’t let her,” he said.
“What’s that mean?”
“I made it clear to her from the start that I wouldn’t believe she was asking sincerely about your condition, and I didn’t volunteer any information. She’s never going to work me again. I can assure you of that. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
His eyes were steely cold.
I understood what he was saying, of course, but I also believed he had been away from us too long after the divorce to tell whether either of us was speaking sincerely. Haylee had burned him badly with her shrewd performance after Anthony Cabot had abducted me. My father described how she cried and went to my room to embrace my pillow and sob for hours. She broke everyone’s heart by playing the piano while her face was streaked with tears, moaning that she could still hear me playing on mine and that it tore her heart. We had two pianos, and she and I would do duets. One of us never played without the other. Of course, she knew that. My father described how she had milked our friends of their sympathy and had taken advantage of everyone she could, getting classmates to do her homework for her and having them bring her gifts whenever they did visit. She was the “suffering princess,” while I was practically being waterboarded by a psychopath.
My father listed the details like a prosecutor before a jury, a jury of one, me. If I mentioned something that reminded him of one of her conniving achievements, he went on and on from that example to another and then another.
“She had me up nights crying for her,” he moaned, now feeling sorry for himself, too. “I couldn’t work; I couldn’t think. I did all sorts of things to get her not to worry about you and bought her all sorts of things, jewelry, dresses. I was even setting her up with her own car!”
He was still smarting from all that. He never stopped talking about it. It took little to set him off like a firecracker.
I knew that he was thinking she had made a terrible fool of him in the community. His reputation and self-respect were seriously damaged. He had to face the police, his friends, and his fellow employees and somehow explain how his own daughter had pulled the wool over his eyes. The memory of every call he had made demanding more action and more attention after I had been abducted stung him now. He had the answer to the mystery living in the same house with him all the time and didn’t know it. If Haylee hadn’t gone too far with her wild behavior, he might never have gone to her computer and discovered what she had done. I was sure that realization also gave him additional nightmares.
He insisted on keeping the door to her room shut now. He suggested that he might sell the second piano. He considered giving away all our duplicated toys from the past—iPads, cell phones, even her jewelry and especially anything new he had gotten for her. Of course, Mother would never give away anything, even after all this. Everything, no matter how small, carried an important memory for her.
“You would sell the piano?” I asked him when he rattled off his list.
“Why would we still need two? I can’t imagine hearing another duet,” he said. “I can’t even imagine her back in this house! I want to get all her things out of here and nail the door to her room shut.”
“Daddy, stop!” I cried. “You’re worrying me!”
He calmed. I really was concerned. He might give himself a heart attack, and then what would happen to me? I couldn’t imagine living with my grandparents or my uncles and aunts. I couldn’t imagine them wanting me. I was damaged goods.
Of course, I understood his personal rage and why he blamed himself as well. On more than one occasion, he told me that a parent should know his own child well enough to realize when she is lying to him. I didn’t come right out and say it, but I didn’t think he should feel stupid for missing any clues. I just didn’t know how to say it without making it look like Haylee had some special talent or gift, making it look like I still admired her for something.
But the truth was that even if he hadn’t been away from us as long as he was, he wouldn’t have been able to tell whether Haylee was lying. Haylee and I were truly closer to each other than any two sisters could be. Mother had brought us up thinking and behaving as if we were halves of one person. If I was fooled, why should he be surprised that he was?
Maybe Haylee did have a special talent for lying, although talent seems like the wrong word. That should be reserved for good things, but some people were gifted when it came to deception. They were born politicians, diplomats, and poker faces. Haylee was especially good at lying and looking innocent. Sometimes when we were very little, she was able to get me out of trouble when I accidentally had done something wrong or had forgotten something Mother wanted neither of us ever to forget.
I had listened to Haylee twist the truth often. She did it so well that I almost believed her myself sometimes. Perhaps I was just as guilty of encouraging her because I appreciated the results she was able to achieve. I did admire her for how easily she could get people to believe what she wanted or question any criticism made of us, especially when we were permitted to attend public school at grade three after being homeschooled so long. She was always able to distort things to make us look better to the other students and our teachers.
Few would challenge her, and I did feel sorry for those who had. Woe be unto the person who triggered Haylee’s ire, I’d think, by the time we were in junior high. She would find ways to get that person in trouble either with our teachers or with other students. I’d seen her do it successfully many times. Her picture was right beside the word manipulator in the dictionary.
But when I analyzed it all, I realized it was really my love for her more than her skill in deception that blinded me to what she had been planning for me with Anthony Cabot, the man who had abducted me. She wouldn’t have been able to hook onto my concern for her and cleverly manipulate me to put myself in danger if I didn’t love her as much as I did. It wasn’t that I trusted her so much as that I was worried about her. Foolish me, I wanted to protect her. It was my chance to do something for her. I wanted so much to do it, when all along she had set the trap well.
Anthony Cabot was convinced that I was the one who had tempted him on that computer and promised him we’d have a life together. Many times in his basement apartment, my dungeon, he threw that back at me to justify what he was doing to me. I quickly realized that Haylee had told him that her name was Kaylee. When I tried to explain, he didn’t even believe I had an identical twin sister, especially one that clever. How she must have laughed at my attempts to keep her safe—me, Kaylee Blossom Fitzgerald, trying to shelter her from trouble, pain, and even death itself, when all the while it was going to be my own life that was placed in danger.
Was she still laughing? Had she finally realized what a terrible thing she had done? How was she explaining it, justifying it, in her therapy sessions? What clever twist of the truth had she tried this time? Could she even manipulate psychiatrists? How evil was my sister after all? I couldn’t stop wondering.
“I think I’m ready to see and speak to her, Daddy,” I finally concluded one day.
Mother was making progress. Dr. Jaffe, her therapist, was talking about her being released soon, but with home care for a while, of course. As soon as she’d come home, I imagined her asking me about Haylee. She would be troubled that I knew nothing more about Haylee than what others had told her. How could I not be interested in my sister’s fate, no matter what? How could I not find ways to know more? I was sure that to Mother it was still like my being interested in myself.
The truth was that I was interested, very interested, but not for the reasons Mother would hope. At night, before I went to sleep, I would lie awake and think about Haylee. She’s thinking about me, too, right now, I told myself. I wanted so to believe it. I could almost hear her and see her lying there in her bed in whatever Spartan room she was in, a room perhaps with bars on the windows. In my mind, she had no television or anything to provide her with her own music. She certainly had no telephone, and she wasn’t much of a reader. Haylee hated loneliness. She was terrified of the pantry when Mother locked us in it as punishment when we were little girls, far more terrified than I ever was. Now she surely had a lot of time on her hands to think. She had to be wondering about me and how much I might hate her. She had to.
Did these thoughts haunt her as much as I hoped they did? Did she ever ask her therapist to contact me for her? Did she dream of speaking to me on the phone? Did she stare out a front window and imagine me coming to see her?
I tossed and turned in my sleep, thinking about it. I was bouncing from anger to simple curiosity to sympathy. Which would win out? I wondered.
It was time to stop wondering.
“You’re really ready for this?” my father asked.
“I think so, yes.”
“I haven’t been there much, but during the times I have been there, I haven’t seen any significant remorse in her,” he warned. “Maybe it’s too soon.”
“You haven’t been to see her for a while, Daddy, and when you do go, you admittedly spend as little time with her as you can.”
“I don’t need to go regularly or spend time with her. I keep informed about her,” he said, but not convincingly.
“Do you? Frequently? Tell me honestly, when did you speak with her doctors last?”
“That’s not the point,” he said, a little annoyed. Like me, he was conflicted about Haylee and didn’t want any reminders of his difficulties in coming to terms with that. “I don’t want her to hurt you in any way anymore,” he said. His lips still whitened a bit from his inner rage whenever he referred to her. “She’s not going to hurt anyone in this family ever again.”
“She won’t,” I said, with as much self-confidence as I could muster.
Was I at least a little frightened? Of course, but I couldn’t let fear stop me. If I could overcome Anthony Cabot so often in that basement apartment that was a torture chamber, I could visit my twin sister and dare look her in her eyes, our eyes. I wanted her to see that I had not only survived but grown stronger. I might even thank her for it. She’d hate that, of course. It amused me to think of some ways to get back at her, to give her some pain. No question, there was some Haylee in me, too. The question was, was there any Kaylee in her, at least enough to feel regretful and help me quiet my own inner rage?
“Okay, if that’s what you want,” my father said, with obvious reluctance. “As you know, she’s been undergoing psychotherapy, not unlike what you had but obviously for different reasons and under different circumstances.”
“Will she eventually go to a real jail?”
“I don’t expect so,” he said. “She has no previous record of anything illegal. There’s no proof she was working with this horrid man, conspiring directly with him. The police are convinced that she simply placed you in his path, in the danger, not that it makes much difference to me.”
Or to me, I thought but didn’t say.
“You know I had to hire an attorney to represent her. The most they were going after her for was obstruction of justice, preventing the police from finding you. Why she did it is, of course, why she’s in counseling.”
“Yes,” I said. He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know, but now I was even more determined. Despite what my father had said, I couldn’t help but wonder how successful Haylee’s counseling had been. How could any therapist even begin to unravel that knotted rope of emotions inside her? How deep had her anger and hate toward us all been? How could she possibly recover?
“I’d like to go to see her, Daddy,” I said, now more insistent.
He nodded. He could see that it was time to put his rage in a closet and find a way to go forward. “I’ll make arrangements for us.”
“I want to see and speak to her without you being there in the room with us, Daddy.”
He looked at me sharply, his eyes filling with concern. “Without me? Is that wise?”
“She’s still my sister,” I said. “I’m not afraid of her.”
“Yeah, well, I am,” he said, and then almost laughed. He shook his head. “She’s a piece of work. Your mother’s work,” he added.
I didn’t respond. Haylee and I were both pieces of our mother’s work. He should see that. Maybe I was more interested in Haylee now because I was afraid not of her but of myself. I had to get over that fear to complete my own recovery. Despite my resistance to it and Haylee’s resistance, too, Mother had us convinced we were too alike ever to be comfortable being different.
Would she prove to be right? Was I becoming more and more like Haylee, especially hard and vengeful, one of the side effects of my incarceration and my battle to survive? Her bedroom might be empty and her voice and footsteps gone from the house, but she could never be completely gone, not as long as I was here. I felt like I was absorbing her lingering spirit, keeping it part of me.
Two days went by without my father mentioning anything about a visit. Even though I wasn’t ready to return to any school, much less mine, I occupied myself by reading my textbooks and following the recommended literature list. I made our dinners, baked cookies and a cake, and looked after the house. I even washed windows. No matter what I did, time seemed to trickle like drops of honey or molasses.
I couldn’t get interested in television shows, especially soap operas. There were too many memories of Haylee, Mother, and me watching them together.
Every time I walked past Haylee’s room, even with the door shut, I’d stop and listen, recalling the sound of her voice when she was talking on her phone. Sometimes she would pause and call to me. “I know you’re there, Kaylee,” she would say when I was standing just outside. She’d laugh. “My sister is eavesdropping. She’s looking for pointers on how to talk to you boys,” she’d tell the boy she was toying with on the phone, and then laugh at something he might have said.
I’d hurry away, trying to deny to myself that she was right.
Finally, on the third day, when my father returned home from work, he announced that Haylee’s doctor had approved the idea of my visiting.
“As your parent and guardian, I gave Dr. Sacks permission to send Haylee’s doctor your psychological therapy report,” he told me. “Dr. Alexander, Haylee’s psychiatrist, asked to see it first before deciding whether to allow the visit right now. She received it yesterday.”
“Why did she want my report? Why did she want to know about me?”
“She likes to know the minefield she’s crossing,” he said, half kidding. “Anyway, she’s approved the visit, so I’ll take you there this Saturday.”
Now that I was going to do it, I grew very nervous and questioned whether I really should see her. I certainly didn’t want to forgive her, at least not this soon and not without seeing her show some shame and regret.
My father sensed my hesitation. “You don’t have to do this. No one, least of all me, would expect you to care one iota about her ever again. I mean it.”
“We can’t hate each other, Daddy. It’s just not possible,” I said.
Did I believe it myself, even though I sounded so sincere?
He didn’t look disappointed. It was, after all, difficult, if not impossible, for a parent to hate his own child, even a child who had done so much damage to all of us.
After a moment, he smiled. “I wonder if she’ll ever say the same thing about you.”
I couldn’t help but wonder myself. There was only one way to find out.
And like most things you’re not sure of and fear, you half wonder if you’re better off not knowing after all.