Miranda glanced to her left at her sister, noticing how she pulled up her shoulders and had curled her fingers into loose fists as if she was still freezing, even though they hadn’t left the hospital yet. “You’re not dressed for this weather,” she said quietly and Shane turned to look at her as if the sound of her voice had startled her somehow. Miranda stopped and Shane followed her example without saying anything, not even when Miranda began to take off her jacket.
Shane blinked, trying to catch on to what was going on, but the lack of sleep the last few days was really starting to get to her and she felt as if she was in a daze. “What are you—what are you doing?”
“You’re gonna freeze to death if you go out there wearing that,” Miranda replied, pointing with one hand at Shane’s black leather jacket while she offered her her own jacket with the other. “Take this, you’re gonna need it. Shane, come on.”
“But you…” she began to protest, but her sister cut her off and shook her head.
“I’m used to it, I’ve lived in Pennsylvania most of my life and winter tends to happen every year, believe it or not. I’ll live.” She tried to smile a little when she saw the dejected look on Shane’s face, feeling like an asshole for having pointed it out as bluntly as she had, but it was reality that they had spent most of their lives on opposite sides of the country. “Stop arguing with me and just take it.”
Shane did as she was told, took the jacket and slipped out of her own, holding it out for her sister to take, still wondering if it was really such a great idea but it would probably be best to just do what Miranda wanted for now. As they both put the jackets on, they turned to look back in David’s direction and found that he and two other guys Shane hadn’t seen before were standing there, looking at them. Miranda didn’t seem to care about it though, so she didn’t either, and they took off down the corridor and left the William H. Foster Transplant Wing, heading towards the exit. The uncomfortable silence was back, and like before, Miranda was the first to say something.
“How long are you here for?”
“I don’t know yet.” She hadn’t made any solid plans for anything, it all depended on how long Miranda would want her around, but there was no way for her to tell her that at this point without making the situation even more uncomfortable, or maybe even risking being asked to leave right away.
“Well, where are you staying then?”
Shane shrugged. “I haven’t decided yet.” She looked at her sister and seeing her frowning at her in the exact way she used to when they were kids and she thought she was acting like an idiot, she realized she might need to explain herself. “See,” she said licking her lips, “I have a dog and I brought him with me and I need to find a place where they’ll let me have him. I mean, he’s a tiny little one, but…”
“You brought your dog with you?” Miranda asked, unable to keep herself from smiling a little at how Shane held her hands up in front of her to show her the size of her dog. They exited the hospital through the main entrance and she noticed that Shane shuddered a little when the doors opened and the cool air swept toward them from outside. She knew Shane couldn’t help it; her sister had spent her whole life in a much warmer climate than she was used to, but it still amused her since she didn’t even think it was that cold. Sure, it was colder than it usually was in Pittsburgh in the middle of October but it wasn’t that bad.
“Yeah, I couldn’t leave him in LA,” Shane sighed hopelessly as she turned and walked towards her car over at the hospital parking lot.
“But where is he now?” Miranda asked slightly confused and caught herself looking Shane up and down as if she was half expecting her to pull the tiny dog out of one of her pockets. The lack of sleep, especially over the last couple of days, was making her feel dumber than ever and she realized it was definitely not the best time imaginable to try to work things out with Shane but she didn’t seem to have much of a choice.
“Well, I rented a car and I let him stay in there because I figured it wouldn’t take me that long to find you. But he’s probably gonna want to get out of there about now.” She pulled her phone out of the right pocket of her jeans and looked at the clock. It hadn’t been too long since she left him, he should be okay.
Without putting any thought to it Miranda let her right middle- and index finger rub back and forth over her bottom lip as she struggled to find the right words. “You know,” she started with a flick of her hand, “you could have called me before you came here.” That didn’t come out right. “I—I mean…” she stuttered and squeezed her eyes shut for a second, “if I’d known you were in town I could have at least picked you up at the airport.”
Shane couldn’t help but hang her head slightly at Miranda’s words. It wasn’t as if she didn’t already feel bad for showing up the way she had without even telling her about it. “It wouldn’t have made any difference, you were working,” she mumbled. “But I—I did call you though. Probably about four or five times before I left LA, then I decided to just come here.”
For Shane, talking to Miranda felt almost like being Bambi on ice, she just didn’t know how to act or what to say and she couldn’t get over how she could feel so close to her but still so far away from her when she stood right next to her. She knew that some part of Miranda had to be the same person she’d been so close to all those years ago; she had to be, otherwise she wouldn’t feel so strangely connected to her after all the time that had passed since they were separated. And the type of bond they had just didn’t wither and fade – it was something unique that not too many people ever got to experience and if it had been up to her she’d never have let anyone try to throw away. It was just obvious enough that her coming to Pittsburgh was a huge inconvenience to her sister, at least that was how her behavior made it seem to her, but deep down she knew she had a damn good reason for going there and she wasn’t leaving until she’d done what she came there to do.
“Oh, fuck,” Miranda muttered when it dawned on her what the problem was. “Just…” She was about to put her hand in the right pocket of her jacket when she realized she was wearing Shane’s and instead walked over to her sister, apologizing as she dug her phone out of the pocket of the one she was wearing instead. She had two missed calls from the same number and figured it was safe to assume it was Shane’s. “I’ve been at work since yesterday, I didn’t…”
“Yeah, I know that now,” she sighed hopelessly. ‘Way to act like a crazy stalker, huh, Shane?’ she thought to herself before she went on. “Look, I’m sorry. I called the one at your house a few times too.”
“But why?” By the time Shane started calling her she’d according to the list of missed calls on her phone already been at the hospital, but she hadn’t even set foot in her own house for a few days before that. But she would be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that it did make her uncomfortable that Shane was suddenly so eager to see her when they never as much as talked on the phone otherwise.
“I was…” Shane started and glanced over at her, “I was worried about you.”
Miranda swallowed. “You were worried?” After she said it she felt a cold shiver run through her but it wasn’t because of Shane’s jacket or the weather at all. She stopped for a moment and took a deep breath, feeling completely naked as Shane looked at her with concern written all over her face. ‘She knows.’ She still didn’t know how or why or how much, but Shane had always had a way of picking up what she was feeling, especially when she wasn’t okay. But this was just one of the times when she really didn’t want her inside her head, especially not when she was right there with her. She was going to ask questions, ones she had no answers to, and she had a feeling it wouldn’t end well – at least not for her.
Seeing the way Miranda looked at her almost angrily for a second and without knowing what she’d done wrong this time Shane turned away and stood quiet for a while, looking out over the parking lot before she finally shrugged. “That’s the reason why I came here to begin with.” She sighed hopelessly and gave her a pleading look. “Manda, look, it’s complicated and I don’t think I can try to explain everything in the parking lot outside your hospital where it’s fucking freezing,” she said. ‘And I haven’t slept for days,’, she added in her mind. “Can we at least go some place where it’s warm?”
“You could stay at my place if you want, I have an extra bedroom,” Miranda offered, her expression softening a little, before she even had a chance to think about what she was saying and she nervously bit her bottom lip. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ she asked herself silently but immediately felt a twinge of guilt at the thought and heard a voice scolding her in the back of her head. ‘She’s your sister, goddammit, and she came here because she cares about you. Give her a break, at least she’s trying, and it’s not her fault you got separated in the first place. It’s yours.’
Shane blinked a few times, wondering if she’d really said what she thought she had. That had been the last thing she’d expect to come out of her mouth. “You sure? You don’t have to, I mean, it’s…”
“No, it’s all right. We can figure out the rest later.”
They looked at each other for a moment, both feeling equally nervous and panicky and wondering what the hell they were really getting themselves into staying in the same place for the first time since they were in foster care, and they remained silent until Shane finally nodded a couple of times.
“Okay, if you’re sure it’s okay, then yeah. Thank you.” She managed a small smile and was relieved to see that Miranda shot one back at her.
“Think I can ride with you over there?” Miranda asked sheepishly when she remembered that her own car wasn’t even in the parking lot and she slipped her hands into the pockets of her jeans after having realized she probably should have worn gloves after all.
“Yeah, definitely, you shouldn’t have to ask.” Shane’s rented one wasn’t too far from them now, it probably wouldn’t even take them a minute to get to it. “Wait, you don’t have a car?”
Miranda let out a small chuckle and lifted her hand to brush a few strands of hair away from her face. “No, I do, but…” she started, turning around and looking over at the part of the parking lot closest to the hospital that was reserved for the doctors. “I got a ride with someone else yesterday.” The Mercedes SLK 300 she’d come to the hospital in the morning of the day before was still standing there, not that she hadn’t expected it to. “I guess I just forgot about that for a moment.”
Neither one of them had a chance to say anything else when Sounder spotted them through the window on the passenger side of Shane’s car as they closed up on it and he began yapping at them, happily bouncing up and down and waving his tail around.
Shane chuckled and unlocked the door, opening it slowly and holding up her left hand to keep him from jumping right out of the car in excitement. “No, Sounder. Stay,” she said softly and the little Pomeranian sat back down on the seat, impatiently waiting for her to find his leash that he’d managed to knock down on the floor after she’d left him. “Good boy,” she told him when she’d picked it up and opened the door to let him out.
“This… is Sounder.” Smiling to herself as he quickly ran over to greet Miranda, she felt a warmth inside that she hadn’t been able to feel for a long time when she saw her sister light up if only for just a moment as he smelled her hand before nudging it with his nose to make her pet him. “Sounder, this is my sister,” she told him in a baby voice and smirked to herself when something occurred to her. “He doesn’t seem to have any problems telling us apart.”
Miranda’s eyes widened and she glanced nervously at Shane for a moment. “David didn’t—he didn’t say or do anything…?”
“What? No,” Shane replied with a slight shake of her head. “He just… he just thought I was you for a moment.” Her answer seemed to calm Miranda who sat silently scratching Sounder behind his right ear for a while until she looked up at her with a puzzled expression.
“I never pictured you as a Pom person.”
“Yeah, I guess didn’t really either,” Shane shrugged. “But I didn’t get him myself, I got him from a friend of mine.”
Shane’s face had fallen just barely at her last words, but it had been enough for Miranda to pick up on it. Maybe she could ask her about it later, right now definitely didn’t seem to be the best time. A second later Sounder managed to distract her from it when he jumped up and licked her right in her face, causing both her and Shane to burst out laughing.
“Haha, great,” Shane grinned, “he’s found himself a new best friend.”
Miranda leaned forward and pressed a kiss on top of his head. “Aren’t you adorable. I miss having a dog.” She noticed how Shane shot her a questioning glance and swallowed, wishing it wouldn’t have to be so hard for her to share any kind of personal information with her sister but the least she could do was try. “I haven’t had one since Remy,” she said, a small smile forming on her lips as she thought of the mix breed she and Shane had had when they were little and still living with their mom. “My… My adoptive mom had two cats when I was growing up though. But it’s not the same.”
“There ARE two of you! I knew it!”
Sounder barked and both Shane and Miranda looked up to find Ryan standing next to them, his eyes looking like they were about to pop out of his head as he stared from one of them to the other and Miranda stood up slowly, peering at him as she spoke.
“A—A—Andy and David said I was seeing things and that…” he began, stuttering.
Miranda pressed the palm of her left hand against her forehead and sighed deeply in an unsuccessful attempt to hide her annoyance while shutting out the sound of his voice as he ranted on. She didn’t need to hear the rest to be able to figure out what he was gonna say. Ryan had only been working with them for a few months and had turned out to be great at his job, but with other things, such as dealing with his co-workers, he could be so damn na´ve. Normally she and Pam, Andy’s operating assistant, didn’t mind clearing things up for him when Andy or David, though mostly David, had decided to pull some kind of prank on him, but enough was enough. She was exhausted nearly to the point where she might burst into tears in the middle of the parking lot and she didn’t feel like adding anything new to the already unnerving amount of things she needed to worry about. She knew it wasn’t even Ryan’s fault and she’d hate to take it out on him, but if she’d seen any of the other two walk out the doors at that moment, they probably would have ended up wishing they hadn’t. Why it was so hard for three men in their late twenties or early thirties to act like adults when they were in the same room was beyond her.
She closed her eyes and licked her lips, taking a moment to try to calm herself down so she wouldn’t say something that would only make things worse. Ryan already looked pretty miserable after the initial victory in figuring out that Shane wasn’t a figment of his imagination, but if she didn’t tell him like it was, he’d probably never get it. “They’re messing with you again,” she sighed. “Ryan, I’ve told you at least half of everything David ever says to you that has nothing to do with work is just a bunch of crap he tells you because he can and because he thinks it’s fun. If you keep believing every single word that comes out of his mouth he’s never gonna stop. You’re enabling him.” To be completely honest with herself, Ryan did seem like the kind of guy who’d have had to put up with the same kinds of things in high school and before that, and she found it hard to believe the concept was new to him.
She cast a glance over at David’s Mercedes again and smirked to herself for a moment. David had been going through a lot lately, she knew that and felt her heart sink as she thought about it, but if he could pull pranks on Ryan he should be able to handle a few himself. “Put some fake boobs on the headlights on his car or something and get back at him.” For some reason it had been the first thing that came to mind but on a second thought she realized he might actually like something like that or at least just find it amusing. He probably would, and it made her feel less guilty for having suggested it. “Ryan, I don’t know. Just be creative, you’ll think of something.”
Shane had been kneeling on the ground with Sounder, quietly observing the two as they spoke but couldn’t be bothered to focus enough to figure out what was going on. She hadn’t been paying too much attention until she heard boobs being mentioned and shrugged out of her reverie. She now got up and with Sounder’s leash in a loose grip she walked over to them and stopped next to her sister. Miranda explained that she had a twin and introduced her to the guy she was talking to who couldn’t seem to stop staring at the two of them until he suddenly began to jump around a little for no apparent reason. At least it seemed like it until she realized Sounder had decided to start humping his leg.
“Sounder! God, I’m so sorry,” Shane apologized, quickly picking her dog up off the ground and getting licked in the face by him, as if nothing had happened and he couldn’t possibly imagine what he’d done wrong. She turned to Miranda with a devastated look on her face. “He started doing that to some people, uh… after…” Her voice trailed off. For some reason ‘after my girlfriend’s death’ was just still too hard for her to say. “A few months ago,” she tried instead. “I thought he’d gotten over it.”
“It’s okay, really, it’s fine,” Ryan assured her, but he looked everything except fine and backed away from Shane, seeming to keep a safe distance between himself and Sounder, even though the latter was now calm and seemed more than pleased to be back in his mommy’s arms. Shane noticed and decided to get both Sounder and herself back in the car.
Miranda didn’t really think what just happened with the dog was gonna do wonders for the poor guy’s self esteem but there wasn’t a whole lot she could do about it now. She was about to get into the car when she realized there was one thing she wanted to ask him. “Hey, Ryan, did you see if David was going home?”
“No, I didn’t really think about it,” he said with a shrug. “No, wait, I think I heard them saying… he and Andy had something they needed to talk about, I don’t know where they went though. Why?”
“It wasn’t important. Thanks though.”
“No problem. I—I should get going. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Ryan started to walk over to his own car and Miranda was left feeling slightly uncomfortable for a reason she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She had no reason to think David and Andy had been talking about her behind her back, and yet she did. After breathing in some of the cool air and slowly exhaling, she decided the idea was ridiculous and she was just being paranoid again. Regardless of anything else that was going on in their lives at the time, they were still her best friends and they wouldn’t be doing that.
After Miranda had managed to calm herself down again she joined Shane in the car and while Miranda gave instructions on how to find her house Shane drove them over there. In spite of having made a couple of wrong turns and getting scolded just a little by Miranda, she managed to find her way there pretty fast since it was – as she soon figured out – not that far from the hospital at all.
They grabbed their things and walked up to the door, and for Shane it was a strange but yet amazing feeling to be invited into her sister’s home for the first time. Still, it wasn’t too hard to pick up on the tension and figure out that Miranda was slightly nervous about her being there. At least it was nothing compared to what her reaction used to be when Shane decided to set her foot down on Miranda’s side of the small room they’d shared as kids, even though Miranda herself had had no problems wreaking havoc on Shane’s side when she was having a bad day.
Miranda’s condo didn’t seem to have many rooms from what she could tell where she stood in the hallway, but the living room looked huge and there was a staircase left of the front door leading up to a second floor. Shane noticed that the place was neat and tidy and most things had their place, almost to the point where it seemed like no one actually lived there. The exception was a few boxes standing around in both the hallway and the living room and she frowned a little in confusion when she spotted them. “You just moved here?”
Her sister shook her head and put Shane’s jacket in the closet by the door after taking it off and then did the same with her own that Shane handed to her. “No, I got this place a little over a year ago when I moved here from Philly. I just haven’t been home much and I was thinking about moving somewhere else, but I don’t know if that’s gonna happen anymore.”
Miranda’s home wasn’t what she herself would call fancy, at least not by society’s standards and nothing like the house she’d grown up in but it was in a solidly built complex and relatively close to the hospital so it fit her perfectly. She hadn’t been looking for something long term when she bought it since she hadn’t been sure whether she could handle living in the city she’d grown up in again after all that time, the things she’d had to go through and the loss of both of her parents. Even though she had more than enough money to get a nice house, it had seemed completely pointless to her to waste a fortune on a place she’d hardly ever get to spend any time in. Besides, most of the money in her bank accounts came from her father’s inheritance, which to her seemed like a ridiculously huge amount that shouldn’t even belong to her and she hadn’t touched any of it since his death, nor did she plan to, at least not any time soon.
“Wa—wa—wait,” Shane stuttered, holding her hand up in front of her as if in an attempt to stop the world for a moment and give her some time to think. What Miranda had just said didn’t make any sense at all. “You lived in Philly? For how long?”
Miranda shrugged. “About ten years.”
“But I was here last time…” Shane began, her confusion written all over her face.
“I was just here to see my mom, I mean, my adoptive mom. I’m sorry if I didn’t explain that back then.”
“How come you moved back to Pittsburgh?”
“I got a job here.” That was the short version. If Miranda was going to tell her sister the longer one, she needed some time to think it through first and decide if that was something she really should share this soon. Not that it was a very interesting story to tell, but it didn’t put her in the best light imaginable either. Besides, she felt like whatever she said it was just going to lead to more questions from Shane, but she couldn’t blame her. She’d been the one asking questions last time and she knew that now it was inevitably going to be her turn to give some answers. In an attempt to decrease the risk of having to talk about it, she nodded at the stairs and changed the subject. “The bedrooms are up there. The first door is the bathroom, the room to the right is my bedroom and the other one is the guestroom.”
While Shane cast a glance up the staircase, Miranda walked over to the answering machine that stood blinking on a table in the hallway, red numbers showing the number ‘4’, and she blinked a couple of times. She usually didn’t have that many. Most of the people calling her knew her through work and they also usually knew her cell phone was the easiest way of reaching her. She wearily pressed the button to start playing the messages, seeing Shane in the corner of her eye as she shifted uncomfortably when the first message started.
“Hi, uh… It’s me. I know we haven’t talked in a long time but…”
“All four of them are from you?” Miranda asked skeptically, her forehead creasing as she once again glanced over at Shane who rolled her eyes at the sound of her own voice.
“Probably,” she mumbled. “I’m sorry.”
Miranda decided to let the messages keep playing just in case one of them wasn’t from Shane but she didn’t pay too much attention to what she’d said on her machine. The first and second messages sounded pretty much the same to her so she walked over to the kitchen instead.
The first thing she did was look through the cupboards until she found a small bowl that she filled with water and put down on the floor for Sounder who immediately scurried over to it and started lapping while wagging his big fuzzy tail happily. “There you go,” Miranda said softly and scratched his head before she washed her hands and opened the fridge, realizing it was about as empty as it always was and the few things that were there she hadn’t even put there in the first place. She didn’t spend too much time in her own home and hadn’t been there for three or maybe four days. She wasn’t even sure how long it had been. However, the bread seemed okay as did the tomatoes, the lettuce and the cheese, but that was about it.
“We can make some sandwiches,” she announced and Shane nodded even though Miranda couldn’t see that since she was kneeling on the floor next to Sounder and Miranda had her back turned.
“Yeah, sure. You want me to help you?” Shane realized she could use the distraction. She kept torturing her mind with questions, asking herself over and over again how that day would have been different if Jenny had still been alive, if she’d gone with her, whether or not she and Miranda would be getting along. When she tried to picture it all in her head she was tempted to assume that Jenny would probably have more in common with Miranda than she did either one of them, but she’d never know the answer to that…
“I can do it,” Miranda replied and placed everything on the counter before grabbing a knife and a cutting board. She rinsed the vegetables and glanced down at her sister as she started slicing a tomato. “Have you learned to eat tomatoes yet?” she smirked, suddenly remembering how picky Shane had been with them when they were kids.
Shane blinked a few times, then let out a chuckle and shook her head. “I can’t believe you remember that. And no, not really.”
“It’s okay, you don’t…” Miranda stopped mid-sentence as she felt a sting in her left hand and looked down to see the blood cascading from a cut on her index finger. She dropped the knife on the counter and swallowed, staring at her hand. She never cut herself. If there was something she knew she was always in control of, it was her hands, and things like that just didn’t happen.
“Manda? What’s wrong?” Shane couldn’t see what was going on from where she sat so she quickly stood up and walked over to her but Miranda didn’t even seem to notice she was there.
Drops of blood had started falling from her hand and Miranda let her eyes follow them down to the floor and on her jeans and the moment she saw it staining her clothes the room around her started to fade. In its place a long winding corridor began to appear and everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. David was there and she could see his lips moving, calling out to her even if she couldn’t hear him as he ran towards her but it seemed to take forever for him to get there. The only thing she could hear was the sound of her own heartbeats pounding in her head and she looked down, seeing blood all over her scrubs. ‘This isn’t happening.’
“Miranda!” Shane raised her voice but her sister still didn’t react. She grabbed Miranda’s hand and put it under the faucet, turned it on and rinsed the blood off before she wrapped the bleeding finger in some paper towels, they would have to do until she found something better. She still didn’t get a reaction and she felt chills running down her spine. It wasn’t the wound on Miranda’s hand that scared her, but the empty look on her face as she kept staring at something Shane couldn’t even see.
“Miranda, listen to me, okay?” she said and heard her own voice quiver as she spoke. She fought to stay calm as she held Miranda’s injured hand in one of her own and wrapped her free arm around her to hold her steady when it looked like she was about to collapse onto the floor. “I don’t think you need stitches, but we have to do something about this. Where do you keep the bandages?” As she spoke she led her over to the table and eased her down on a chair. She sat down on the floor in front of her and tried to look into her eyes but she didn’t even seem to know she was there. “Miranda? Should I call for help?”
Miranda shook her head and Shane let out a sigh of relief. She had no idea what had just happened, but her heart was still pounding fast in her chest as a result of it. “Where are the bandages?” she asked again.
“In the bathroom,” Miranda said quietly and finally looked up to meet Shane’s eyes, allowing her to see the tears covering her cheeks as she breathed shakily, struggling to calm herself down. “The downstairs one in the medicine cabinet.”
Shane swallowed and nodded, reluctant to leave her there like that if only for the short time it might take her to find what she needed, but she knew she didn’t have a choice. She couldn’t make her go with her either if she could barely stand on her own legs. “Will you be okay while I go and get that? Do you need anything? Some water?”
Miranda nodded and Shane quickly got her a glass that she took a few sips out of before putting it down on the table. Tears were still trickling down her cheeks and she raised her uninjured hand to wipe them away.
Seeing that was a huge relief for Shane, at least now she was reacting to what was going on around her, but she still needed to do something about Miranda’s hand. She sat down in front of her again, took her right hand and wrapped her sister’s fingers around the injured one that was still wrapped up in paper towels while Miranda sat there and stared at her.
“Just… hold on to that, it’ll stop the bleeding,” she told her and immediately felt like an idiot. Someone like Miranda hardly needed instructions for things like that, but she didn’t say anything about it, she just did as she was told. “I’ll be back in a sec.”
As she was about to leave the room she let out a deep sigh when she noticed that Sounder was sticking his nose into the bloodstains on the floor. She couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it at that point; most of it seemed to have ended up in the sink and on Miranda’s clothes anyway.
Whatever was going on with her sister, Shane didn’t get it. She could just be tired or she was stressed out about getting an uninvited visitor all of a sudden, or it was something else, something she couldn’t even imagine. It seemed like some kind of panic attack, but what would have caused it? She’d seemed at least somewhat all right before it happened. The fact that she hadn’t even said or done anything at all when she cut herself was the worst part. Shane was well aware of the fact that Miranda was all grown up now and that she couldn’t be expected to scream and cry like she would have in a similar situation when they were kids, but staring blankly into nothingness just wasn’t a normal reaction for anyone, that much she was certain of.
For Shane herself the whole thing had been a painful reminder of the time when she’d found Jenny on the bathroom floor four years ago, even though the two incidents were completely unrelated – in Miranda’s case it had clearly been an accident – she couldn’t get the memory out of her head.
Finding the first aid kit in the bathroom didn’t take her very long and she hurried back to the kitchen to find Miranda still in the chair, absentmindedly playing with Sounder with her foot. She didn’t look up when Shane entered the room, she didn’t even notice she was there until she started talking to her.
“Found it,” Shane announced and Miranda nodded slowly, sniffling a little. “Are you okay?” Shane swallowed as her sister gave her another nod in response and she pulled up a chair next to her and sat down so she could take a look at her hand. She removed the paper towels as gently as possible at the same time as she tried to read Miranda’s expression and body language. It hurt a little to realize it was a lot harder than it used to be. She knew she couldn’t expect everything to be the same, but they were still twins – there should still be at least something there and she wouldn’t give up this time. She had to keep trying until she figured out what was wrong. It almost seemed as if Miranda was ashamed which wasn’t too surprising, she’d been the same way when they were little and she fell and grazed her knees. But there was something else too – guilt? What reason did she have to feel guilty?
Pushing the questions in her mind aside, she looked at the wound on Miranda’s hand. Seeing that the bleeding had almost stopped and that the cut didn’t seem deep or wide enough to need stitches made her relax a little. It had looked worse that it really was.
“What just happened?” she asked as softly as she could and tried to look her in the eyes without any success while she prepared the gauze but she soon gave up and focused on the task at hand.
“Nothing,” Miranda mumbled, avoiding looking at her but Shane noticed her glancing at her for a moment out of the corner of her eye. Shane was about to go on but barely had a chance to open her mouth before Miranda cut her off, raising her voice this time. “Nothing, Shane! I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to.” Shane tried to give her a reassuring smile but the annoyed sigh she got in response made it pretty clear that Miranda probably wasn’t going to talk about what happened at all and she just had to accept and respect that – at least for now. “There you go, you think that’s okay?” she asked when she was done with the bandage on her finger. Miranda cast a criticizing glance at the result and Shane tried but couldn’t hold back a chuckle. “I know you would have done a much better job, but you hurt yourself and I’m just trying to help my little sister here.”
“I’m not your little sister,” she muttered crankily and the defiant look she gave Shane in that moment reminded her so much of all the times Miranda had told her the exact same thing when they were kids, that she had to struggle to keep herself from bursting out laughing.
“Yeah, you…” Shane grinned before Miranda interrupted her.
“Five minutes, Shane. We were five minutes apart and it doesn’t count.”
It was strange how even though they’d been apart for most of the last twenty years, apparently some moments could still make it feel like they’d spent their entire lives together. Miranda could glare and mutter at her all she wanted, but Shane knew her sister’s bark was a lot worse than her bite and that she wasn’t really mad at her. They both had their own ways of keeping people at a distance and Miranda’s had always been a bit more aggressive while Shane had realized she was more inclined to simply push people away or manipulating them into doing it to her. The bickering was an obvious sign that whatever had happened before, she was feeling better now, at least good enough to bother to argue with her. Miranda had always been sensitive about the insignificant age difference between the two of them and it had been the most common thing Shane had used to annoy her with. Apparently it still worked.
“Yeah, it does,” she chuckled and began to put the gauze she’d taken from the first aid kit back in the box and clean up the mess. It wasn’t too bad but she wanted to get it done before Sounder had a chance of making it worse or Miranda tried to get up and help her. “It definitely counts and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“At least I’m taller than you…”
“Did you say something?” Shane smirked, glancing over her shoulder at her.
Miranda sat in a thoughtful silence for a while before she sighed and leaned back in the chair with her arms crossed over her chest, her expression softening a little. “Thanks for helping me.”
Shane grinned at her and picked up the bloody paper towels she’d used on Miranda’s wound and threw them in the trash. “That’s what big sisters are for, right?” she dared to joke, half expecting Miranda to throw something at her but instead she received a barely visible, almost sad smile from her when she replied.
“Don’t push it, Shane.”
“All right, I’ll clean this up and you take it easy for a while,” she said, waving her hand at the floor and the cupboard door under the sink that still had some of Miranda’s blood on them, “and when I’m done I can order some takeout or something. I promised that friend of yours I’d make sure you ate so don’t argue with me. Okay?” Miranda nodded and she started working on it. “You up for anything in particular?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Miranda shrugged, “I just wanna get it over with so I can take a shower and get some sleep.” She got up and walked over to the drawers by the stove, digging out some takeout menus David had left there and handed them to Shane who was nearly done cleaning up her mess. “If it’s okay I think I’m gonna shower before we eat, so you can pick whatever you want. I think most of those places deliver and I’m sure there’s something there that doesn’t have tomatoes in it.”
“It’s not the tomatoes,” Shane grimaced as she stood up from the floor and leaned against the counter, flipping through the menus. “It’s the… icky stuff inside them that I don’t like.”
“No one ever taught you it’s the inside that counts?” Miranda smiled teasingly and Shane couldn’t help but laugh.
“Go and get in the shower already, smartass. I think I can figure this out.”
“I’d give you my address,” Miranda began as they left the kitchen, Shane following her to the hallway to put the first aid kit back in the bathroom. “But uh…I have a feeling you already have it since you managed to track me down.”
“Thank you for making me feel like a stalker,” Shane yelled back at her when she leaned into the downstairs bathroom to put the box back where she’d found it in the medicine cabinet. She left the room realizing Miranda was standing on the stairs waiting for her, looking as if she wanted to say something for a moment, but seemed to change her mind and shrugged a little.
“If you get bored you can just take a look around, but there’s not a lot to see. Or turn on the TV… It might take me a while” She held up her hand, grimacing at the lumpy bandage on her finger. “I’ll try to be quick.”
“Just take the time you need, there’s no rush.” Shane smiled softly, still feeling a little bad about the poor job she’d done with her finger but at least it was better than nothing. “I can wait a while before I call them so you don’t have to worry about it.”
When Miranda left her and went upstairs Shane grabbed her jacket and Sounder’s leash and took him with her outside for a while. She left the door unlocked but she wasn’t planning on leaving the front door out of sight for the few minutes it would take her to smoke. Besides, it seemed to be a pretty good neighborhood.
How Miranda had freaked out so completely over something as simple a cut on her finger still puzzled her. Was something like that likely to happen again? How was she supposed to handle it? She had no idea what was causing it, because something told her that in the end it didn’t have anything to do with the small accident itself, and she didn’t know how to make it better or what she was supposed to say. She wanted nothing more than to be able to help her but she was obviously no mind reader and if she couldn’t get Miranda to open up to her there wasn’t a lot she could do about any of it.
After exhaling a cloud of smoke and putting out her cigarette she began to walk back to Miranda’s house with Sounder by her side and she knew that even if Miranda decided to make things hard for her to figure out, she had to keep trying – there was just no other way.
When she was back inside she took out her phone and called one of the Chinese restaurants on the menus Miranda had handed her to order what would probably be a pretty late lunch. After she ended the call and put the phone back in her pocket Miranda was still in the shower and she decided to take a look around the place. Even if Miranda had told her she should she still felt a need to justify to herself what she was doing when she walked back into the living room. Last time Shane went to Pittsburgh Miranda had been the one to ask all the questions and when Shane left again after telling her pretty much her entire life story she still knew next to nothing about her long lost twin sister. Chances were it wouldn’t be any easier to get her to open up this time. She didn’t want to snoop around in Miranda’s home, but she still didn’t feel like she knew much about her own sister and she hoped she’d at least see something that could help her figure out what was going on in her life that had been so painful for her that she’d felt it in spite of how far from her she’d been.
The wall closest to her where she stood in the living room had a wide bookshelf that for the most part was full of books about anatomy and medical subjects that all looked like pure gibberish to Shane. There were some books that could be considered ‘normal’ works of fiction but they were all at the bottom and she didn’t bother to check what the titles were. Instead she looked on the far end of the shelf, to the left, where she’d spotted some framed photos, the biggest one in the middle showing five people; all of them wearing scrubs except the scatterbrained blonde guy she’d met outside the hospital. He was on the far end next to a male doctor she was sure she had seen before, possibly while she was at Three Rivers. He had one arm around the shoulders of a cute Hispanic woman in purple scrubs who was the only one aside from Ryan or whatever his name was that wasn’t wearing a white coat. The last two people in the picture were Miranda and David – the guy who’d mistaken her for her sister only about an hour or two ago; he had his right arm around her back and rested his hand on her hip and all five of them were smiling into the camera.
Next to the picture there was another one just like it except Shane couldn’t recognize a single person in it, her sister wasn’t even there. She decided to just assume it was Miranda’s friends from her old hospital in Philadelphia or something and moved on to a photo of a middle-aged couple that were probably Miranda’s adoptive parents. She hadn’t even met them and barely knew anything about them, but she already knew she liked them. They’d taken care of her sister when she wasn’t able to and right now that was all she needed to know.
On the far right she noticed one frame had fallen forward and had almost been knocked down off the shelf so she picked it up, intending to put it back in place so it wouldn’t end up falling down on the floor, but then she saw what it was and froze. Miranda and David were sitting together on a couch in a room that she didn’t recognize and the picture was probably at least a few months old; even if Miranda’s hair looked almost the same as it did now, David’s was definitely shorter. Neither one of them was looking into the camera – Miranda seemed to be talking to someone outside of the frame on the right side while leaning against David who had his left arm wrapped around her waist. He used his free hand to tuck a few strands of her hair behind her ear and the look in his eyes answered the question that had already been on Shane’s mind for hours. The guy was definitely in love with her sister and from the looks of things, at least when the picture was taken, the feeling was mutual. Miranda was smiling like she’d never seen her smile before. Shane tried but couldn’t remember a time when she’d seen her look so happy and comfortable. Something had obviously changed since the picture was taken but she just didn’t know what and it was starting to make her frustrated.
She couldn’t help but wonder if maybe Miranda had turned the picture upside down on purpose for some reason, maybe the two of them had been going out but weren’t anymore, something that would explain the weird vibe she’d gotten from both of them earlier that day. Just to stay on the safe side, she turned the framed photo around and was just about to put it back the way she’d found it when she noticed something written on the back. Before she was able to stop herself, she’d read the short note.
Blinking a few times after she’d read it, she realized she now had at least some kind of answer to her question even if she wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. There was no signature, but it was pretty obvious whoever wrote it was one of David’s siblings. She quickly put the picture back, upside down like she found it, but pushed it in a little deeper on the shelf, which had been her intention in the first place – not to pry in her sister’s love life.
The last picture on the shelf was a small one but even where she stood a few feet away and without her glasses, there was something familiar about it. As she took a few steps closer, she felt as if her heart had suddenly stopped. It was a picture of a young girl, maybe five or six, sitting on the floor holding something in her hands that she couldn’t quite make out what it was. She had shoulder length light brown hair, one of her front teeth was missing and she looked so much like Miranda when she’d been that age. Except it wasn’t Miranda. For the first time since she and her sister were separated from each other, Shane was looking at a picture of herself from when she was little. It wasn’t the fact that Miranda had the picture that shocked her so much because she knew every single photo they’d had left from when they were kids had stayed with Miranda when she ran away, but she’d framed it and kept it where she’d see it every day…
She couldn’t stop smiling and had to wipe a tear out of the corner of her eye. If Miranda couldn’t stand her as she’d thought was the case for the last three years, she wouldn’t have framed a picture of her, would she? Though there was always the possibility that Miranda had mistaken it for a picture of herself, but she doubted it. Even if some people couldn’t see the difference between them, they’d always known how to tell each other apart, even in pictures of them when they were really young, too young to even remember the picture being taken. She let out a sigh of relief and blinked a few times before she looked at the picture again. She didn’t hate her. Miranda didn’t hate her.
Letting out a relieved sigh she turned around and walked over to the couch, contemplating turning the TV on while she waited for Miranda. Instead something caught her eye on the table and she looked down at it, seeing a different kind of picture on top of a pile of books on different topics but as far as she could tell they were all related to the subject of twins. Having already noticed that, it wasn’t too hard for her to tell that the picture, an ultrasound picture much like the ones Tina had been showing off before she had Angelica, didn’t have one unborn baby in it, but two.
She didn’t want to stick her nose into someone else’s business because both the books and the picture most likely had something to do with one of Miranda’s patients, even if there was still a small possibility that she’d been reading up on it since she was a twin herself. As she looked at the picture again, she couldn’t help but smiling a little to herself. A little bit over thirty years ago, that was what she and her sister would have been like. Miranda had been the first person she’d been close to, the first one she’d ever met and that before she was even born. There was no way anything or anyone could ever take that away from them, even after everything that had happened since then. They’d gotten through so much already – they could get through this too.
Miranda tilted her head back and let the warm water wash over her while she held her left hand up against the wall and out of the way. Mixed with the noise from the shower was the all too familiar crying sound somewhere in the back of her mind, and she couldn’t block it out, even when she knew none of it made any sense. She’d never heard that exact sound anywhere except in her head and yet it felt like a memory. She could try as hard as she wanted to wash it all away but she knew it wouldn’t go anywhere. Her whole world was spinning out of control. What had just happened right in front of Shane wasn’t acceptable. Up until that point the only person who’d seen her lose it like that, as far as she was aware, was David but she knew he understood her at least to some extent. Shane on the other hand must have thought she was insane. Maybe she’d even be right in that assumption, after her little accident in the kitchen not half an hour earlier she was beginning to wonder herself.
She wasn’t even sure she could understand exactly what had happened to her, but she knew it wasn’t the first time. Sometimes things just happened around her that made all too hard for her to hold on to the reality of the moment and she’d slip. She knew what she’d experienced hadn’t been real in that moment, but it felt real. It had been real, no more than fifteen days ago.
It was starting to make her doubt in her own ability to do her job as a surgeon and the mere thought of ending up losing her job made her knees weaken a little and she had to hold on to the metal handle on the wall with both of her hands to keep herself steady. It couldn’t get to that. Not on top of everything else. She had to get a grip, get over it before it was too late. ‘Get over it?’ A short joyless laugh escaped her lips and she covered her mouth with her right hand while a tear began to trickle down her cheek. How did anyone ever get over something like that? How was that humanly possible?
She’d tried to talk to David about it. If parting your lips and then looking away as the tears started to come could even count as trying. It helped a little that he already knew. That she could be around him without having to explain why the smallest things could upset her for what appeared to be no reason at all. But it scared her every single day to realize that she was the only one who reacted that way. Maybe it didn’t work like that but somewhere it felt like he was supposed to be hurting too, if not in the same way as she was, then at least in some way. She knew he cared about her, but did he care about what happened at all?
It was just too much to deal with right now and she pushed the feelings away, far away to a place where she wouldn’t have to think about it for the time being and grabbed a towel after turning the water off. A few seconds later the silence brought the thoughts back up in her head and deep down she knew there was no other way around it – she and David needed to talk. They owed each other that much, no matter how hard it would turn out to be or how much they both wanted to just run away from it.
She caught a glimpse of herself in the bathroom mirror and glared at her reflection. She could barely look at herself anymore after what she’d done and it didn’t feel like that was about to change any time soon. How David could still stand her after everything she’d put him through was beyond her, but she was thankful that he did. Even though they worked together he could just as easily have decided to never speak to her again unless he had to and she wouldn’t have blamed him at all.
‘How can he not hate me?’
Kneeling down to pick up her dirty clothes she took a deep breath, knowing she’d see them again; the dark stains all over the front of her jeans. Even though they weren’t anywhere near the size of the ones from two weeks ago they still made her more than just a little uncomfortable and she had to clench her jaws shut to keep herself together when she saw them. She had to keep reminding herself that they had nothing to do with what had happened then and there was no reason for her to freak out about it, but it was easier said than done. She wasn’t over it, not even close. She gave herself a moment to breathe and then tossed her clothes in the laundry basket before slowly backing away.
When she left the bathroom with one towel wrapped around her body and another one around her hair she heard voices from downstairs and hurried across the hallway to her room to get dressed. It didn’t take her very long and she was soon rushing down the stairs heading toward the dining room where she found Shane setting the table.
Shane had a small somewhat insecure smile on her lips and every little part of her seemed to scream at her to just run over to her sister, hug her and tell her everything. She knew Shane was only trying to help and not a single part of her was questioning her motives – her sister had always treated her like gold whether she deserved it or not and no matter how she’d behaved towards her – that was just what she was like. Something told her that if she did open up to her about what she’d been through, perhaps not everything, but maybe a part of it would somehow be okay. She saw the whole possible scenario playing out inside her head but in reality she couldn’t bring herself to move from where she stood by the door. None of it really mattered in the end. Even if they were together at last for the first time in ages and had even been able to hang out for a while and joke around, she still felt unable to talk to her and she couldn’t remember a time in her life when she’d ever felt so lonely.