A twenty-year old memento reveals a secret.
| With a sigh Joy stretched up to the top shelf of her deceased parents' bedroom closet and pulled down a battered cardboard box. The thick layer of dust tickled her nose. Did she really hear her mother say, "Careful. You know you're allergic to dust. What are you doing anyway?" Before she could resist Joy answered as she always did. "For once I'm cleaning up after you Mom. What did you keep hidden in here, hmmm? You're not planning to reply, are you? Of course not. You're dead." Plopping onto the bed Joy swiped at the grime and lifted off the carton's lid. Several loose photos waited to be seen. One by one, she studied them. A smile lifted the corners of her mouth as she sniffed. Staring back at her were images of herself. Seaside vacations, zoo forays, birthday parties, dance recitals, all of them precious moments in time. She had enjoyed her childhood and she didn't require snapshots to prove it. At twenty years of age, she knew her parents had been the best. Joy dumped the contents in a pile next to herself. She stiffened and gasped when two teddy bears, a pink one and a blue one tumbled onto the photos. Each stuffed animal bore the name of the hospital where Joy had been born. One finger traced the embroidery. She expected to see a pink one, but a blue one? Joy had been raised as an only child. Scanning the various papers a distinctive back and white postcard-like one caught her eye. Joy studied it. Despite the grainy background she recognized the silhouette of two fetuses in a womb. In one corner printing displayed her mother's name and a date that preceded Joy's birth by several months. She held a sonogram. For a moment Joy's vision blurred. She had to be one of the babies in that long ago scan. The one pink teddy bear had to be hers, but where was the baby, presumably the boy, that had been gifted that blue bear? Wait. Not just another baby, a boy, she had a twin brother. Talk about carrying a secret to the grave. This bombshell had been waiting to implode. How? Why? Who? The questions exploded in her head. Joy jumped to her feet with the sonogram clenched in her fist. She did have one answer, one clue. She knew the where. At the local hospital, Joy waved her driver's licence and a sonogram at a bewildered volunteer manning the information desk. After a few concerned stares and a whispered phone consultation, the smocked woman pointed Joy to a bank of elevators that she assured Joy would transport her to the records department in the basement. Joy approached a bespectacled young man who nodded at her in greeting. Her hands shook as she repeated her story. When she paused to catch much needed breath, he rose and motioned for her to follow him into a cavernous room. Metal shelving loomed from floor to ceiling. Boxes were stacked upon them. Squinting, Joy noticed the labels on each of those cartons. Dates were legible in black ink. Without hesitation, the silent guide led her to a back corner and a box bearing the year and month of her birth. Thumbing through the contents with the reserved manner of someone who'd completed similar searches, the archivist tugged out a manila folder with a flourish. Joy half expected him to shout eureka. Relinquishing his find to her, Joy gulped as she opened the innocuous file. A familiar birth record jumped out at her. She made note of her parents' names and the ones they'd chosen for their newborn daughter. Everything lined up. She was still Joy. Holding her breath and afraid to exhale, Joy turned to the next piece of official-looking paper. Another birth certificate twinning Joy's date and place of birth wavered before her misting eyes. Yes, this confirmed today's shocking discovery. Joy had a twin brother. Her mother had given birth to a live fetus, a male child, only minutes after Joy's arrival on this earth. Unblinking, Joy stared. This brother, this 'younger' brother , had been named Jonathan. Joy and Jonathan. How could she not have remembered him? Why had he not lived with her? Why had her parents given her brother up? Why had they opted to take her home? Where could Jonathan be? Did he know he had a twin sister? How could the parents she knew and loved do this? The what-ifs whirled round in her head provoking a pounding headache. Joy mumbled a thanks to the helpful clerk a few minutes later as she stumbled to the elevators with a copy of her twin's birth certificate clutched in a trembling hand. Now what? What should she do? Re-emerging into a glorious sunshine, Joy began planning. She enjoyed challenges. Yesterday she would have laughed at the outrageous suggestion that her parents had hidden anything from her much less the existence of a twin brother. They had taught her to seek the answers to her questions and oh boy those questions clamoured to be heard. Joy needed to become a detective, or perhaps she needed to hire one. (864 words) |