Bella rode the elevator to the sixth floor of the dorm, where her sister was staying. There was a temporary visitor’s pass in Bella’s back pocket that had a chip in it that would track her movements, but Bella didn’t need any devices like that to know where Ana was at any given moment; she knew. They both knew. They had always known and they would always know. The fact they had been separated for four years didn’t change anything at all.
“Room six-oh-one, first door on the right from the end of the green hallway,” the smiling woman at the desk had told her, and Bella smiled back. “Are you her sister? You look just like her. I live next door.”
“Yes. Thank you,” Bella had said, and headed to the elevator.
The door was green, and Bella waited until the lock clicked. Ana had known Bella was there, without a knock or a phone call or a text or anything else. But Ana hesitated, stood there and tried to catch her breath, Bella knew that, too. The lock clicked, finally, and Bella opened the door, and embraced her sister.
Four years, three months, a handful of days, a few hours and some minutes, a lifetime now. “Where is he?” Bella asked.
“If you can’t see him you know I can’t either,” Ana replied, not breaking the hug. “He’s gone from us. There’s hope he will return now we’re together again, but you know they aren’t going to leave us alone.”
“We’re adults, we’re both living out of state and away from all of them,” Bella stepped back gently and admired her sister. “You’ve been working out, eating well, and sleeping on a regular basis.”
“You have not been doing any of these things but you look beautiful,” Ana replied with a laugh.
“Your parents?” asked Belle.
“Mom has early onset dementia.” Ana looked away. “Dad is well, but he has the University’s wifi plan that allows him to monitor me in this room to a degree. Yours?”
“Still alive and still angry.” Belle said.
“I have a place,” Belle replied.
“Yes, above a bar? Next door to a strip joint? Under a bowling alley?” Ana laughed again.
“No, it’s an old house with an apartment,” Belle said, “it’s secure. The woman who rents it is one of us, kinda. She knows who I am.”
“Does she know the consequences?” Ana asked. “Have you got a car? We need to move me out, mostly, but I’ll study here, to keep the internet thing going.”
“No, I think Mrs. Gerard is a latent without any training. Paula, that’s her first name, is one of those older people, I think she’s in her sixties now, who has retreated from what is, and years for what could be.” Belle sat on the bed and leaned back. “This thing is not comfortable.”
“Better than the floor,” Ana replied.
“Not as I remember it. But yes I have a car.”
They stepped into the elevator and as the door closed three giggling young women entered with them. Ana smiled and she knew Belle was looking at their reflection in the mirrored door as they rode down.
“You two are twins!” One of the girls, maybe she was stoned, thought being in an elevator with twins was hysterical.
“You’re pregnant,” Belle told the girl, “from a week ago Saturday. You don’t love the man but you aren’t willing to let him go yet. Take Black Cohosh, as a tea for three weeks, fast three days before you begin, and start before another week has passed, if you want to lessen the side effects.”
“Wha-what?” the girl stopped laughed and the other two fell silent.
“My sister does this as a kindness,” Ana said, “and if you do as she says then you’ll suffer less than if you do not. Ignore her manner and mind her wisdom in this, please.”
The doors opened and Bella took Ana’s hand and led her out. The girls hesitated and followed them.
“Are you a witch or something?” One of them called out.
“You were last time but they hung you for it, and it frightens you,” Ana said, “but there is still time.”
Paula took an instant liking to Ana and Ana appreciated the fact there was no awkwardness that existed with some older people. Paula kept a garden, which Ana was delighted to inspect, and found herbs and vegetables growing in neat rows. The apartment was attached to the house, but in the upstairs part, and there was a stairway outside that would eliminate Paula knowing when they came and went. Paula also kept a huge black cat named Brody in the house, and Brody wasn’t sure about either of the young women yet. He lay on the top of a bookshelf, flipping his tail and ignoring them both.
“So you two are twins?” Paula asked then laughed, “I’m sorry, I bet you’ve heard that all your lives, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” Ana replied, “but we aren’t twins, we’re not really sisters at all, not in the way most people think of it. We look very much alike, but at the same time, that doesn’t have anything to do with genetics.”
“Sounds very, uh, mysterious,” Paula said. “You both have referred to the other as ‘sister” tonight.”
“We consider ourselves to be sister of a union much stronger than blood.” Bella said, “it’s very unusual. We’ll have to talk more about it later, but right now, is it okay if Ana moves in? She’s the quieter of the two of us. You know I don’t have much money, and Ana less.”
“I could use an extra hand in the garden,” Paula laughed. “And you looked very interested in what I had planted, Ana, will you garden for rent money?”
“Yes ma’am, I will.” Ana smiled at the thought.
Later, they lay in bed, both naked, but nothing sexual about the embrace. They had been sleeping like this since they could remember, and they could remember many things. Ana sat up and said, “You disagree with me telling Paula.”
“I disagree with you not telling me first,” Bella said, “but it doesn’t matter. Your judgment was always better than mine.”
“You have what we need to begin?’ Ana asked. “We should soon.”
“Almost.” Bella said. “First, we need to make contact, and see if anyone is there. If not, we search.”
“And if someone is there?” Ana asked.
“We wait until we find Michael, and we bring him in.”
end part one.