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Family Resemblance

Two girls were born to the same mother, on the same day, at the same time, in the same month and year, and yet they’re not twins. How can this be?

For the most part, Carole believed teaching kindergarten was her life calling. She loved the children— and she took a certain pride in being able to manage even the most stubborn of them. No five year old could resist the power of music, and when Carole pulled out her guitar each morning before lunch time, she rarely had trouble convincing them all to sing along with her. Music, she had found, spoke to the hearts of people. Like little Caleb, known for his refusal to sit quiet and still during lessons— during a song he rocked to the beat, cheeks pink as he sang every lyric. Olive, a girl who at first struggled to make a friend, giggled and hummed amidst the circle of her peers. Her singing habits had attracted a little posse of fellow musicians, and it warmed Carole’s heart to see that many of her student’s hangups with elementary school were feeling eased.

Carole approached every hurdle with optimism and enthusiasm, for the most part. She still struggled with the occasional odd duck. This time it was two.

Bethan and Lizbette Cline. The two little girls were sisters. Bethan had pin-straight brown hair that could very well brush her toes if she let it. Instead she wore it in twin tail braids down each side of her head. Her eyebrows were very thin, nearly translucent, but that did not stop her from furrowing them in the heaviest glare she could muster on nearly every occasion. Lizbette looked exactly the same down to the round gray eyes. Neither was much disturbance in class, although Carole wished they would sing a little more before lunch when she played her guitar. No, they were not much of a problem at all, except for one small issue.

“We are not twins.” Lizbette stood her ground on this statement. It came in direct response to a throwaway comment from Carole. While Carole didn’t know the full story with the Cline family, she didn’t want to assume too much about her students. Nonetheless, these girls must be twins, and it was her job now to teach them so. Even when their outfits and hairstyles weren’t the exact same, like on the day Bethan wore a blue cardigan, and Lizbette a yellow turtleneck, it was clear to Carole that the pair was identical. When Lizbette scratched her ear, Bethan rubbed her nose. They moved in sync always, and they even behaved as if they shared a mind.

“We are not twins.” Bethan repeated. Carole could only frown down at the two begrudging stares. Their light eyes and unblinking natures made them look like a pair of owls. This was the response Carole always got from them. They refused to admit they were twins, despite it being very obvious to everyone around them.

“Girls, a twin is a wonderful thing. You two will always have a very special relationship, and many people wish they had that. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” Even Carole used to wonder what it would be like to have such a close confidant. As a girl she’d begged and begged her parents for a sister, but nothing ever came of it. She hoped her students would realize their blessing soon, even if right now they weren’t able to accept it.

Bethan and Lizbette never budged on the matter, and not a single song Carole played for them could sway their minds otherwise. Surely, this was beyond stubborn refusal and embarrassment at this point! Was someone at home making them think this way?

Elsa Cline sounded perfectly reasonable over the phone. Before attacking the heart of the issue, Carole had talked to her for a moment just catching up and explaining herself.

“You must be a very proud mother, Mrs. Cline. Your children are progressing so well into elementary school!”

“Oh, thank you, but it’s actually just Ms. Cline. And yes, I do believe the girls are positively blooming under your instruction.”

Back and forth they went until Carole finally spilled her reason for calling. She didn’t know whether to be shocked or perfectly expectant of Elsa’s answer: “That’s exactly right. They’re not twins.”

“They’re not?”

“No, and I suggest you don’t let the logic of it bother you. You seem overly enthusiastic to correct them about this when no correction is needed.” After that the phone call ended rather abruptly.

Ultimately though, kindergarten teaching was Carole’s calling, and she would get to the bottom of this mystery, even when nobody seemed to want her to do so. There was no useful information from any of the Cline women, so she decided she might bring communications a little more face-to-face.

She seemed to only consider that this might be a bad idea when she got to the doorbell.

The door opened without her knocking, and out stepped Bethan. Or was this Lizbette? It was hard when Carole couldn’t rely on her seating chart to tell her.

“Hi there, Bethan! Is your mother home?” The girl squinted at Carole.

“My name is Libby.” Carole had to pinch herself not to gasp out loud. This girl so closely resembled the twins in Carole’s class… So what, were they triplets? Could that distinction really be enough to lead Carole on about the situation with little to no context? Libby was eyeing Carole with a familiar expression. “But Elsa is here. Follow me.” She sounded so despondent as she spoke, but Carole couldn’t help but eagerly follow her inside.

Inside was like any standard home. In fact, the interior reminded Carole of her childhood. The wood paneling, the carpets, the portraits. Well, actually. The portraits were totally different. The only face on this wall was a woman in her late thirties. Her hair had all grayed prematurely, or perhaps she’d dyed it. Carole would recognize those thin brows and round owl eyes anywhere though. The face of the photograph was the spitting image of Elsa’s daughters.

Then the basement door swung open.

Out walked the woman who must be Elsa, along with an additional five little girls. Any one of them could be Libby or Lizbette, or Bethan, but the fact of the matter was that there were too many for that, regardless.

“What’s going on here?”

“You silly woman. I told you to let this go. Now that you’ve seen my little experiment, I suppose my personal clones weren’t what you’d been expecting?” There really never had been any twins, or even triplets.

The students of her class were sad when Carole stopped bringing her guitar. She sang every now and again, but it wasn’t often enough for the students to learn the words with her. She tried her best to help the kids transition into elementary school, but it seemed as if she’d lost her spark.

Not much later, she quit teaching altogether, and was never heard from again.