March 22, 2017

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Black and White But Still the Same

Tina walked into the break room at work and came face to face with herself.

Or at least someone who looked very much like herself. The woman’s eyes were the same dull shade of blue, the same simple shape. Her mouth twitched upward in the same kind of smile. Her hair matched the same shade as Tina’s and her build was identical, short and perhaps a little stout. The woman held out a hand to Tina, who reluctantly took it in her own, their hands sliding together as if they were pieces missing from the same puzzle. Tina couldn’t speak, but the bubbly woman introduced herself as “Mina.” Even their names sounded the same.

Tina gave a weak smile before excusing herself in a mumble and leaving the room. As she left, she heard one of her coworkers apologize for her, “Don’t mind Tina. She’s a bit strange. She doesn’t really talk much. Though you seem different.”

Tina caught a snippet of the woman’s speech—“Oh, yeah, talking is”—and heard her own voice forming the words. Hastily, she hurried into the bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror, she took several deep breaths—in and out, in and out. She lifted her hands to her face, her fingers running over every surface to make sure it was indeed her own. And it was. It was her nose and her chin, her eyes and her lips, her cheeks and her eyebrows and her ears and her everything. Each and every feature on her face belonged precisely to her.

Which gave her some relief, knowing that some strange Freaky Friday thing hadn’t happened with her and some new employee, but it still left her rather shaken. The woman in the break room could literally be her in everything except, it seemed, in personality. In that, at least, they seemed to be exact opposites. Tina, the shy, quiet, I’m-just-here-to-do-my-job type of person, and Mina, the loud, talkative, I’ll-chat-to-anyone-who-will-listen type of person. That afforded Tina another sliver of relief, because, though they may look identical, at least they couldn’t claim to be the same person to those in intimate knowledge of either one. Tina could never pass as Mina nor Mina as Tina.

The door to bathroom squeaked open, startling Tina as she once again came face to face with the woman with her face. “Hi, Tina, right?” Mina said enthusiastically. Without so much as a pause, she continued, “I’m sorry if I scared you off. I can understand how it must feel to come into work and see someone who looks exactly the same as you. I had the benefit, because Emily told me about you, told me that I looked exactly like someone else who worked here, and I wish it had been you who had that benefit. I’m sure you would have preferred to be the one in the know. Honestly, for your sake, I wish you had been, too. You looked so scared back there, Tina. I probably would have been startled but then just laughed it off. You know what I mean?” Mina took a short pause, looking at Tina, before laughing, “Oh, I’m sure you don’t! You’re so quiet! They told me you were quiet. Emily mentioned that you hardly ever speak up, but I told her that that’s okay, because I’m sure I’ll speak enough for the both of us!”

Tina offered a weak smile and a matching laugh before nodding and agreeing. Just as Mina opened her mouth to continue her discourse on the obvious differences between them—other than just the M and the T in their names, of course—Tina excused herself once again and left the bathroom.

The entire day, Tina purposely avoided Mina. Seeing her face on someone else gave her the jitters and hearing her voice from someone else’s mouth set her on edge. Every time she would hear her own name, no matter the clarity of the pronunciation, she always waited until the person seeking her attention repeated her name with a more intense clarity—Tina and most certainly not Mina. Frankly, having Mina around irked Tina.

And Mina quickly caught on.

As Tina left the building after her shift ended, Mina hurried to catch up with her, having ended her own shift at the same time. “I get the feeling that you don’t like me very much,” Mina began. “Honestly, I can’t blame you! Tina, Mina, Mina, Tina! They’re so similar! It’s no wonder you were always hesitating before responding! And I’m so sorry. I can have them call me by my middle name if it would make you more comfortable. Though I’m not sure my middle name would be much of a comfort for me. I can guarantee you that people will laugh and tease me for it. It’s such a ridiculous name.”

“What is it?” Tina asked, her curiosity only slightly piqued.

Mina glanced at her non-biological twin, her gaze testing whether or not the other woman really wanted to hear or if she were just playing along to please her. When she had sufficiently satisfied herself that Tina did indeed wish to know, Mina leaned in closer to Tina, their faces almost touching, and whispered in uncharacteristic brevity, “Dorcas.”

Tina couldn’t help herself. Her laughter bubbled over before she could reign it in, dancing and skipping down the dim lit sidewalk. “Dorcas?” she giggled. “Mina Dorcas?”

Mina nodded vigorously. “Uh huh. Wilhelmina Dorcas Whiteshead. Isn’t it just awful? I never tell anyone what my middle name is. When I was younger, some of my classmates found out and they started calling me Dork instead of Mina. They teased me relentlessly. Ever since then, I just stopped sharing that information. I doubt the teasing would be much better even though I’m now an adult, you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” Tina responded. After a brief pause, she added, “Though my middle name isn’t exactly much better.”

“Yeah?” Mina asked, astounded that she had gotten her doppelgänger to speak to her for an extended period of time and actually involve herself in the conversation. “I’m sure it can’t be worse than Dorcas. Promise me you’ll never give your daughter the middle name Dorcas.”

“I promise,” Tina said, “just so long as you promise never to give yours the middle name Hannelore.”

“Mm, yeah, no, I’ll never do that,” Mina chuckled before adding in an exaggerated whisper, “But Dorcas is worse by far. Maybe I should suggest we start calling you be your middle name. Hannelore.”

“I’ll call you Dorcas if you call me Hannelore.”

“Deal.”

Dorcas and Hannelore were friends from then on out.

***

Prompt: Write about a main character discovering that his or her doppelgänger either lives down the street, or is a new hire at the character’s place of work.

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