Through the Glass
I never cared to be an actress. Waltzing across the stage with all eyes on me wasn’t my style, nor was feigning confidence as a different character. I admired them really, the performers who could fool an audience into feeling and believing their words. The very best could pull people into their world within minutes, tugging on heart strings and wrapping the crowd around their little finger.
Turns out my mother was the true actress around here.
I lifted my eyes from my bowl of stew, a fleeting glance landing on Mom as she sipped wine from a goblet. Without even meeting my gaze, her words found me from across the table.
“I’ll take it as a compliment that you haven’t spoken since we sat down for dinner.” She positioned her goblet beside her placemat, careful and precise. Regardless, the red liquid sloshed from side to side, taking a minute to settle.
I tried to hide how my eyes widened. Like an ostrich burying its head in the sand, I bowed mine over my dinner, slipping the spoon into my mouth and forcing myself to swallow another bite. Tasteless, it hit my empty stomach like a punch to the gut. I would never pull this off.
“Are you feeling okay?” Mom asked. She cocked her head to the side, studying me. Her eyes bore into me like a magnifying glass, reading beyond the obvious signs of my discomfort. She could always see right through me.
I scrambled for some line of truth, knowing it was the only way I’d be able to disguise my lie. Stalling, I ran my napkin across my lips, still focusing on the carrots and potatoes inside my bowl. How could I talk to her when I could barely maintain eye contact?
“Does this have anything to do with Andre Steele?” Dad asked. Grateful for the interruption, I found comfort responding to my ally, though he had no idea how deceived he truly was. Until just hours ago, I hadn’t either.
“Um, sort of,” I said, my fingers clenching the napkin in my lap. I couldn’t picture Andre without seeing him with Emma, harboring my twin in his backyard pool house. I’d only just met her after our entire childhood apart, and now we were separated again with more secrets and lies. There would be a time for truth, but that time was not now. Not until we solidified a plan.
Mentioning Andre seemed to fit my unsteady behavior, though. Dad cleared his throat and exchanged a knowing look with Mom, who gave a tight-lipped smile in return. I needed to play along as truthfully as I could, which, considering Andre and I were still unsure about our relationship status, shouldn’t prove too difficult. So, out with the truth.
“Well, we did kiss the other day—” I paused with an exaggerated sigh. “Come on, Dad. Don’t make this more awkward with that face. You’re the one who asked,” I reminded him, not actually wanting to talk about Andre and me either. However, it seemed easier than explaining, “Oh, and by the way, the woman you married separated me from my identical twin and has been using us to run a social experiment.” I wasn’t sure I’d ever be equipped to navigate that conversation about the woman he loved and the mother I trusted.
Used to trust.
“So…” I continued in a hurry. “We kissed, but then I decided I didn’t want a boyfriend, so I put an end to it. Only… Dominic stopped by on the weekend and I was mad at Andre, so I kissed Dominic, too—” I stopped when Dad dropped his fork against his plate and then clamored to pick it up in a clumsy fashion. I bit my lip, wishing I were only fibbing about kissing Andre and my ex-boyfriend within twenty-four hours of each other. “It’s been a little confusing around here,” I finished, folding my arms against the table.
Mom made a curt noise that sounded like judgement to me, not that she had any room for that. “It sounds like we might need to set up a second visit with your therapist.”
“No, not Todd,” I moaned, a genuine response of humiliation and dread. The first sit-down with that uncomfortable man was enough. However, I’d have to give in. This apparent boy drama seemed to be working as the perfect detour from the truth. And the lies.
“Livvy,” Mom said, her tone softening as she used my childhood nickname. I met her eyes in surprise. She hardly ever called me that anymore. It wasn’t like her to coddle. “One session alone is not going to help you come to terms with understanding your adoption situation… Yes, I know,” she clarified. “I mean, how I raised you without actually adopting you. We have our differences in opinion, but I’m sure we can agree you suddenly chopping your hair off and kissing a new boy every night might be symptoms of something deeper beneath the surface.”
Ugh. The psychiatrist was back in the house, which was why she’d sent me to a therapist in the first place. She hadn’t wanted to wear her mom and psychiatrist hat at the same time. Little had I known back then that Mom wore multiple hats every day.
The client-focused psychiatrist.
The devoted mother.
The twisted social scientist running tests on separated identical twins.
My cheeks burned as images of facing Emma along the river leapt to the forefront of my mind, shadowed by her navy hoodie. Pale and afraid. Nervous to my touch. I’d left her tonight, seated on the edge of the bed inside Andre’s pool house, her eyes wide and uncertain. Andre would take care of her, but I hated how the sister I’d only met hours ago lay just a few miles away from my reach. We had so much to catch up on. So much to try to understand, and a plan to devise.
“Fine, I’ll go see Todd again,” I said, conceding with less fight than normal—anything to keep this conversation at bay. On second thought, maybe I was conceding too fast, raising suspicion. That didn’t sound like me. “But don’t go pulling one of your favors again and getting me in tomorrow,” I hurried to add, crossing my arms for added effect. I slouched into the back of my seat. “Give me a week or so to figure out what I want to talk with him about. Deal?” I raised my eyebrows, hoping I’d pulled off my usual stubbornness mixed with compliance.
Dad cleared his throat. “That sounds fair enough. Don’t you think, Evelyn?”
Mom smiled softly at him and took a deep breath. “I suppose so.” She looked my way to say, “I’ll call Todd in the morning and see when he is available. No rush,” she promised. She stood up, gathering dishes from the table, and then disappeared into the kitchen.
At last, the charade was over. I jumped up, taking mine and Dad’s bowl to the sink. I let the water run over them. After a quiet minute, Mom’s hand landed on my shoulder. I let her touch press into me, stifling the urge to knock her hand away.
“I hope you know you can talk to me,” she said. “No matter what’s going on.”
I swallowed. At this point, there was no use professing I was just fine. She was letting me know she saw right through me, a skill I once considered more sentimental than manipulative. I could only do my best to conceal my knowledge for a while longer and hope she chalked my uneasy behavior up to the original adoption issues. Or boy problems.
“I love you, Olivia.” She squeezed my arm.
I unclenched my teeth. “I love you, too, Mom.”