Good morning, Internets! How about a little ghost story for this last Thursday in April?
Iris and Ivy
Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed
Cover art copyright 2009 by Ivan Bliznetsov at iStockphoto.com
Iris leaned her weary back against the inside of the front door to her apartment. She felt as well as heard the latch snap shut.
Home again, home again, whoop de doo.
She closed her eyes and concentrated. In her mind’s eye, she saw a faint green glow surround the lock. She kept concentrating until the glow spread to fill the crack between the door and the jamb, like a bit of glow-in-the-dark weather stripping.
Satisfied the bit of threshold magic would hold, she opened her eyes and pulled off the wig with its long, brassy red curls. Her scalp itched. She scoured her fingers through her own blonde hair until the skin on her head tingled.
Her face itched, too. She’d caked the makeup on pretty heavy tonight. Foundation and blush. False eyelashes so thick they looked like furry caterpillars crouching on her eyelids. Enough steel grey and dark brown eye shadow to make her look like the sexiest nearly-dead person trolling the dockside bars. She couldn’t wait to wash all the crap off her face so she could get back to being herself.
Changelings shifted their appearance with hardly a second thought. All they had to do was see you, or better yet touch you, and presto chango, say hello to a brand new version of yourself, original model no longer required. Non-changelings like Iris had to work a little harder to become someone else.
“Well?” she said to the not-quite-empty apartment. “What did you think of that one?”
The wig she still held jerked out of her hand and floated in the empty air in front of her. The elastic netting that anchored all those red curls filled out.
“Oh, you’re so big and tall, you man, you,” said the disembodied voice in front of Iris. “Could you possibly help poor lost little old me?”
The accent was thick Southern belle, the fake kind northerners who’d never been farther south than New York City used when they wanted to make fun of someone born in a Gulf Coast state. The voice was accompanied by the overpowering scent of gardenias.
“Stop it,” Iris said. “I’m trying to help you, remember? Don’t make this anymore difficult for both of us than it already is.”
She pushed past the floating wig and stepped out of the heels that hurt her feet. The shoes weren’t hers, just like the obscenely short spaghetti strap dress wasn’t hers. The wig wasn’t even something she’d pick out on her own. They were all red, and red wasn’t Iris’s color. None of her borrowed clothes fit her quite right, but then again, Ivy’d had some work done over the years. Iris wanted back in her comfortable jeans, in her oversized sweatshirt and the ratty tennis shoes that fit her feet like a glove. She wanted to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine and a good book, and fall asleep right there if the mood took her.
Most of all, she wanted her apartment back all to herself, like it had been before the ghost of her dead twin took up residence.
The wig dropped to the floor. “I’m sorry,” said Ivy’s disembodied voice.
The fake southern accent was gone. So was the smell of Ivy’s favorite perfume.
“It’s hard being stuck like this,” Ivy said. “You know that.”
Yeah. Iris did. She felt sorry for her sister, but she’d heard the pout in her twin’s voice. Funny how after so many years of growing up in the same house, she didn’t actually have to see her sister to know what expression would be on her face.
“You never answered me,” Iris said, ignoring Ivy’s obvious ploy.
Their parents used to coddle Ivy, giving in to her every whim. Odd, considering Iris and Ivy were twins, but Iris supposed even with identical siblings, parents were bound to favor one over the other.
Not that they were identical in every way. Certainly they’d looked alike when they’d been younger, but Iris had always been the practical, reliable one. Ivy had been the wild child. Iris used to wonder sometimes if the fates hadn’t mixed them up somehow, putting the wrong consciousness into her body, or into Ivy’s. Maybe somewhere out in the world there was another mismatched set of identical twins grappling with the same not quite sameness.
Ivy didn’t say anything. Still hoping for sympathy, no doubt, but Iris had never coddled Ivy when she was alive. She wasn’t about to start now. She needed to keep Ivy on topic. If Iris couldn’t find what Ivy needed in order to move on, she might be stuck with her ghostly sister for a long, long time.
“Well?” Iris asked again. “Did I find the right guy?”
(read the rest of the story here)