Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)
TITLE: Double Exposure
By Arlene Showalter
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After college, Delores had headed for NYC, never looking back where she found a promising job. Joy had returned home and predictably married her high-school sweetheart.
As the train glided into sight, Joy pasted a smile on her small-town face. Never would Delores know how much she envied her exciting life, she promised herself.
“Joy!” Delores stepped from the train and rushed over to embrace her twin. “You look wonderful! How are Mom and Dad? How are Dave and the boys?” She threw out her arms. “It’s so good to be home!”
Home? Joy bit back the word. Delores hadn’t been home for five years and then only for a few days. She couldn’t wait to get back to the city.
“The family’s fine. Mom wanted to come, but I told her the heat would bother her. She’ll have tea and scones ready when you arrive. You know Mom.”
“Peppermint tea! It’s been ages. I can hardly wait.”
Delores chatted happily about her latest business ventures, oblivious to Joy’s silence.
The moment Joy stopped her car, their mother threw open the door ready to greet her daughters.
“Come in, come in. The tea is ready. I’ll call your Daddy from the garage”.
Minutes later the four sat down for tea. Years before, their English born grandma had established the tradition of afternoon tea. The girls carried it on as much as possible through high school activities, college and beyond. No matter where they were, at 4pm they would stop for a sip of something and remember Grandma’s tradition.
“How is New York, my dear?” Dad enquired.
“Busy. Always busy. I just landed an account that could mean a promotion.”
Delores’ parents beamed with pride. “We always knew you had it in you, Honey. We’re so proud of you.”
After a bit of talk, Dad went back to his woodshop and Mom took a phone call. Silently Joy got up to clear away the remnants of their tea. Delores joined her in the kitchen, still chatting happily about her work.
“It is so special to have tea together again,” Delores remarked, gently washing out Grandma’s heirloom teapot. “So good to be home again”.
“Really?” Sarcasm slipped past Joy before she could stop it.
Delores turned confused eyes on her sister. “What do you mean, really. Don’t you think I like to come home?”
Joy tried a short laugh and failed miserably. Long suppressed jealousy took over. “You grace us with your successful presence about every five years. No, I don’t think you like home; or us,” she tacked on as an afterthought.
Delores turned a stunned face toward her twin. Unwanted tears pooled and slid down her cheeks. “How can you say something so awful?”
“You waltz home like royalty with Mom and Dad fawning over you, hanging on to your every word.”
Understanding dawned in Delores’ eyes. “You’re jealous” she accused.
“Jealous?” Joy feigned surprise.
“Yes. You think my life is all glamour and fun. I live in an exciting city and don’t have anyone to hamper me. You’re jealous” she repeated.
“No” retorted Joy hotly. “I’m not!”
“Yes you are. Joy, Joy, don’t you understand?” Delores began to cry in earnest. “I love my life, I truly do, but you don’t know what it is like to return to an empty apartment every night or how deafening the silence can be. So many times at 4 o’clock I’ve pictured you with Mom sharing our favorite peppermint tea and scones. I’ve thought of you having your own family. How could you be jealous of me?”
Repentant tears cleansed Joy’s eyes, both physical and spiritual, as she realized how jealousy had tainted her thinking and almost robbed her of her sister’s love. She rushed into her twin’s arms, sobbing.
“Delores, I’m so sorry. I never knew until this moment how special my own life is. From now on, I promise to live up to my name, and I’m going to start by thanking God for such a wise and wonderful sister!
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