With an exhausted sigh she heaved the big, old book up onto the shelf. A layer of dust from the surrounding volumes descended upon her and made her sneeze. Pleased with the result of her tidying up, she let her fingers slowly run along the old, worn spines of the books. How many stories they had to tell, how many secrets to give away. She sometimes wished books could talk and reveal all those secrets people unknowingly entrusted to them when believing themselves to be alone with their thoughts and worries. Her fingertips came to rest on the spine of a book bound in dark brown leather. The once golden inscription on the spine had been fading through time and only small remainders of its once glorious decorations were still visible. For no particular reason she carefully took it from the shelf. Ornamental carvings graced the cover of the book and in its middle the title of the book could be read. In Memoriam. As she muttered those words a pleasant tingle ran along her spine and she felt the urge to take it to her reading corner and immerse herself in it. As the little book shop was empty at the moment anyway, she took the book and retreated into the corner of the broad windowsill stuffed with cushions and blankets. From here she could easily observe the door in case anyone entered the shop, although most people did so rather by mistake, expecting to enter a café rather than a bookshop. The old name of the café that had been here before was still visible above the shop windows and they never repainted this part of the house. Instead they hung up the metal sign made by her great-grandfather which had adorned their old shop already in a different part of the town.
Again she let her fingers trace the adornments of the leather binding before she opened it. The first few pages were empty but on the fourth page the title of the book could be read again, while in the top right corner the name of the former owner, or as she would find out later, the writer of this diary, was written in a neat but curved handwriting. Eliza Morgan it said and she now wondered who she had been, now knowing she was soon to find out…
When people met us for the first time, they wouldn't believe we were really twins. How different we were. Amber with her long, blond, and straight hair and blue eyes, I with my auburn curls hanging loosely around my face, from which small hazel eyes looked shyly into the world. She always used to be the more outgoing one of the two of us. Girls despised her, whereas boys were clinging onto her lips, running after her whenever she beckoned them to. I used to almost hide behind my books whenever a boy just entered the same room or came any closer than twenty yards, so they would generally avoid me even more.
We had our assigned roles, Amber and I, and I got used to be in her shadow most of the time. The only time I could really shine was in the classroom. I always got better grades than her, could draw and paint better, speak better French, and play the piano better than my twin sister. But instead of being envious, she didn't care. All these things seemed useless to her anyway. Talking perfect French couldn't get you admiring looks from boys, but frilly dresses and shiny hair could. I pretended to not care about her popularity with the opposite sex. I mean, why should I envy her? With my grades and my education I had good prospects to be married off to a well-situated man in the future anyway. Or at least that's what I hoped for. But my love for books was interpreted as indifference and boys considered to be a good match for girls from our family, were generally introduced to my pretty, outgoing sister rather than me.
Twins can be best friends and soulmates who didn't need to say a word to understand each other perfectly. But just as well, twins could be the worst enemies…and that's what we became.
She looked up from the book when the little bell over the entrance chimed but it was just the wind moving the light wooden door. Her thoughts went back to the two girls, Amber and Eliza, who shared almost the same set of DNA and yet were so different. What had happened to distance them from each other so much as to make them enemies? By now it had started to rain outside, which made it even more unlikely that there would be any customers for the rest of the day. Thick raindrops fell from grey, heavy clouds and hearing them patter against the window made her feel cosy and content. She loved watching the little streams flowing down the window until finally vanishing in the little puddle on the windowsill. For a moment she kept on looking out of the window before her full attention was drawn back to the old book in her hands.
For the hundredth time this day I checked my reflection in the mirror, making sure my auburn curls still fell, as they should, over my bare shoulders, while little white flowers were integrated elaborately. The fabric felt smooth and cold under my fingertips as I straightened the wide skirt of my wedding dress. Today was THE day. Having been engaged to Thomas McDougal for almost six month now, I couldn't wait any longer to utter those two important words that would make me his wife. The sun was shining brightly from the immaculate blue sky, the garden was set for the ceremony, and family members as well as friends were arriving within minutes of each other. For once I didn't worry. Didn't worry about table settings, guest lists, or flower arrangements. And least of all I worried about my fiancé and my sister, who would be my maid of honour today, despite the difficulties we had had meanwhile.
A slight knock on the door announced the arrival of my father, who mustered me from top to bottom with a worried look on his face that I ascribed to the worries of a father about to give his daughter away into marriage. I would learn soon enough that my conclusion regarding this was totally wrong. "I'm ready!", I whispered after a last glance at my reflection and turned to the door. A gentle hand on mine stopped me in my movements and my father's hazel eyes met mine. "Eliza,…Darling…I'm so sorry!" He spoke quietly and earnestly and the way he looked at me, reminded me of the day, when he had to tell me about our mother's death. "Why? Why are you sorry, Dad? About what?" His words, his worries, and the look in his eyes didn't make sense to me and I couldn't figure what he wanted to tell me so shortly before my wedding, that couldn't wait until afterwards.
From outside I could hear the noises of people talking and although I was sure it had sounded positively excited and happy before, it now sounded confused, panic-fuelled. What I took for laughter just moments before, I now identified as sobbing and crying. Not waiting for my father's reply, I turned to the door again, opened it, and stepped into the park-like garden on whose upper terrace the chairs and gazebo had been arranged. Women were leaning against their partners, tears on their cheeks, and pity in their eyes. Although all eyes were on me now, nobody seemed to be courageous enough to tell me what had happened. Scanning the crowd, I looked for Thomas – and for Amber – but both were not to be found.
Suddenly I felt like the young Eliza again, who was always in her popular sister's shadow. The one who could never compete with her sister's astounding good looks, her outgoing personality, her talent to draw everyone's attention to her, no matter where she went or what she did. I felt like the boring and useless little know-it-all again, who took pride in being good at painting, French, and playing the piano, although she knew exactly that nobody cared for these abilities as much as she did, least of all the good-looking young men that came by the house on a regular basis.
Slowly I crossed the lawn, walked through the group of guests and past the gazebo, behind which a stone banister separated this part of the garden from the lower part.
What happened then, felt like a bad dream in whose midst I was thrown, unable to fight my way back out again. Amber, who stood beside the round pond covered in red rose petals with its fountain in the middle, was covered in blood. Blood splatters covered her dress, her arms, her face, even her long, blond hair. But instead of tears or a look of shock on her face, she was laughing. Laughing with all her heart as if she would never stop again. Still, I wasn't able to see any sign of Thomas. At least not until I realized that what I believed to be red rose petals was actually blood…Thomas' blood.
And again it was Amber who got what she wanted…As always…
She closed the book with a disquieting feeling and hoped the constant patter of raindrops against the window would calm her down, when the little doorbell chimed again but louder than before, thereby announcing a visitor to the shop. Even before she could see the face of the person, she knew who it was. High heels, which were totally inappropriate for this weather, at least four bags in each hand, and long, blond, and perfectly styled hair, that fell in waves across her shoulders. Just by her hair she could have spotted her twin sister Amber within a group of thousands, as she then turned around, greeting her with an insincere smile. "Hey Eliza, how are you? Hiding behind your books again?"