Twin sisters, Erin and Ellen, have envied each other all their lives—so much so they can’t stand to be in the same room and their constant comparisons teeter them both on the brink of divorce. When their mother passes away, her bizarre last request shoves them and their husbands into an unusual situation—spend fourteen days together in her home preparing it for auction or lose all their inheritance. Can they do it, and will their marriages survive the ordeal?
Church bells tolled their arrival. Already a stream of cars dotted the parking spaces like soldiers lined for battle. For Erin Ballinger Duncan it seemed appropriate. Today she’d combat an overwhelming struggle of the heart. Well, perhaps it could involve skirmish for territory as well— in a strange sort of way. But she tried not to think about that right now.
Erin stepped out of the black limousine with her husband, John, and their two fifteen year-old sons, Travis and Austin. She shielded her eyes from the bright sunlight, a total dichotomy from the darkness brewing in her emotions. She scanned the church driveway and scoffed. Yep, her sister emerged from the limo behind them. “The perfect family has arrived. What no trumpets?”
John rolled his eyes. “Don’t start, Erin. Not today.”
“Whatever. She still makes me want to puke. Perfect life, perfect kids, perfect husband…”
“Stop, okay?” John leaned into her ear with a hiss. “Can’t you two get along for three hours? For your Mom’s sake, and mine by the way.” A residual hurt sounded in his voice. Once again she’d compared him to her sister’s spouse. Erin bit her lip and turned away.
Her twin sister, Ellen sauntered towards them in her black linen three-piece ensemble, which probably cost more than Erin’s monthly grocery bill. Not to mention the black and white pearl earrings and necklace set against her country club tanned skin, or her perfectly curled coiffure. Erin ran a hand over her own short curls, still slightly warm from the hotel hairdryer. When did Ellen find the time to book a hairdresser? They only heard news of their mother’s death three days ago.
Ellen’s husband, Robert—never called Bob because that would be too gauche and informal—climbed out in what appeared to be a custom tailored suit accented by a designer tie. Their three girls, Brittany, Elena and Jade, slithered out next, all without a crumple in their dresses. Miniatures of their mother. Each carried herself with shoulders back and spine straight as if the pavement to the church was a style show catwalk. Maybe the posh private girl’s school they attended made them strut with rulers on their heads in order to maintain proper balance.
She felt John’s hand on the small of her back, his pressure firm. She knew the gesture reiterated his demand she behave civilly today. He stood poised in case claws emerged. Erin huffed through her cheeks. “Okay, John. I’ll try. But if one snarky remark escapes from her sculptured ruby lips it won’t end up pretty.”
Ellen brushed past them with a nod, her brood and hubby in tow like peacocks on parade. Erin stretched her mouth in a terse smile as the sisters made brief eye contact. Then with a slam of the limo door, she gathered her boys around her and nudged them ahead. Friends, acquaintances and distant family silently trudged up the steps to the sanctuary doors. Most dressed in black with heads down or glassy eyes set straight ahead and clenched jaws. Typical funeral protocol.
As the families mounted the concrete steps to the church, Erin’s gaze panned her sister’s slim-legged length that ended in a pair of five-inch stilettos, most likely Christian Louboutin. Yep, red soles. How much did that cost?
With each stride, Erin pressed her high-heeled sore feet to the pavement to keep from wobbling. How did career women wear these all day? Ballet flats or sneakers were more her style as a stay-at-home mom. A blast of too cold AC and organ music hit her senses as the ushers opened the doors to herd the family down a separate side aisle. To keep the tears from welling again, Erin sucked in a lungful of air and marched straight ahead, chin up—not so much in imitation of her twin as to keep from noticing the sympathetic faces already seated. Her mother always told her daughters to never cry in public.
“Ellen. Robert.” John whispered their names and nodded for them and their girls to enter the reserved pew first. They shot him a terse half-smile and proceeded to herd their perfect princesses as John held his two boys at bay with a firm grasp on their jacket collars.
The perfect family scooted sideways and sat down, which left Erin to sit in front of the post. She leaned into her husband to peer around it so she’d have a view of the altar. With a hiss she verbalized her complaint. “Thanks, John. Of course Ellen gets the aisle view. No matter.”
John sucked in a deep breath through his nose and let it out in an elongated sigh as he snapped open the pew bulletin.
His irritation pierced Erin’s already punctured heart. John, whose best friends were also his brothers, never did understand the strained relationship between her and Ellen. Actually, Erin didn’t either. Twins were supposed to have a special bond. Some even had a secret language they shared. Not her and Ellen. No way.
Julie B Cosgrove is an award-winning, multi-published author as well as a Christian freelance devotional writer and public inspirational speaker. You can find links to her writings, fiction and non-fiction, on her website at www.juliebcosgrove.com. Follow her blog at http://WhereDidYouFindGodToday.com.
She is also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juliebcosgrove, Twitter-@JulieBCosgrove, LinkedIn and Pinterest.