This story is by Sally Carroll and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Tilly and Milly Lindbergh, fifty-three year old spinster, identical twins, gazed out their apartment window at the sparkling snow scene below. Shoppers were still out in abundance searching for last minute bargains. As usual, the twins were wearing matching outfits…reindeer sweaters with light-up noses, black stretch pants, jingle bell earrings, and antler headbands that held back their grey curls. A Christmas tree stood in the corner while Christmas music played in the background. A pine scented candle flickered on the mantle.
Tilly and Milly had always lived together. They were each other’s best friends and worked at the same department store, Havemeyer’s., Tilly was in housewares and Milly in gift wrap. It had made sense to share expenses. Not that they had to worry about paying bills. They were the only children of Emmet and Alicia Lindbergh, Swedish immigrants who moved to the quaint town of Harmony to open a bakery that offered Swedish delicacies such as Äppelkaka (apple cake) and Kanelbullar (a spiral cinnamon pastry. They quickly became very popular and were able to purchase a larger building which allowed them to not only do their baking but also offered patrons a place to sit and relax enjoying tea and coffee with their baked goodies. The American Dream. At least it appeared that way. Until Alicia went down into the basement one very chilly December night to retrieve Christmas decorations and caught Emmet with a seventeen year old waitress. The “Kafe” was sold. Emmet and Alicia had a little money saved and they worked on trying to heal their marriage. It wasn’t meant to be. On the night before Valentine’s Day as the girls lay sleeping, Alicia shot Emmet in the head and then turned the gun on herself. The girls went to live with their Aunt Ava who knew nothing about raising children but did her best. She tried to protect the girls from the constant pointing whispers of the community. But the notoriety never went away. They would always be “the weird twins whose mother killed their father and then herself.” No matter how old, they would be forever tainted.
Tilly said, “Let’s go out and see the decorations.”
Milly shivered, “It’s too cold.”
“Oh come on! Just dress warmly. You’ll be fine.” Milly shook her head but went to get her coat.
“Brrrrr it’s freezing” Milly complained when they were finally outside.
“But look how pretty everything is.” The town square was a winter wonderland decorated in the theme of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
“This is all so beautiful!” Tilly was excited. Spotting a hot chocolate bar, she aimed Milly in the general direction. “Yum, look at all the toppings!”
“Well if it isn’t the Lindbergh ladies! Inseparably weird as always.” They turned to see Bart Harrison smirking at them. Bart also worked at Havemeyer’s, in the stockroom. He made sure that everyone in the store knew the sordid history of the Lindbergh twins. He was relentless in his mocking.
“Imagine running into you here Bart” Tilly rolled her eyes. “Isn’t this all a little too ‘festive’ for you? I see you more as a “humbug” sort of guy.”
“I’m here with my old lady. You know Jenna?” He jerked his thumb to the woman with skin-tight leopard pants next to him. A cigarette dangled from her lips as she stared at the twins through a veil of smoke.
“You’re those chicks whose mother killed her husband and herself ain’t ya?”
Bart jumped in, “They sure are. Daddy was boinking the hired help.”
So are you both psychopaths like your mother?” Bart snarled.
Their raised voices attracted the attention of some passerby’s. People were looking at Bart and then the twins. It was obvious that they recognized Tilly and Milly. They’d look away quickly.
“Let’s go” Tilly grabbed Milly’s arm and pulled her through the crowd. She heard Bart say to Jenna, “Those two are such freaks.”
Tilly was still seething by the time that they got back to the apartment. “He is such an asshole. I’d love to smash in his smug face.”
The Christmas holidays passed. A cold front had moved in. The twins went back to work. The store moved Milly into confections in preparation for Valentine’s Day. Tilly stayed in housewares.
Milly was busy dipping strawberries in chocolate. A customer stood at the counter.
“I’ll be with you in a moment. Just need to take off my plastic gloves” The woman smelled of cigarettes. Her greasy blond hair hung limply around her face.
“How can I help you?”
The blond remained silent, her yellowed lips curling into a slight grin. Finally, she spoke softly, “Yes Milly I would like some help from you.”
Milly felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. “Do I know you?”
“You will” the woman responded. She turned and left.
The following day Tilly was loading antibacterial sponges onto a display according to color. She paused and looked around, feeling like someone was watching her. No one was there. But then she saw the sloppy blond woman riding down the elevator all the while staring at her.
On their way home, she said to Milly, “I don’t know who this freak is but we need to find out. When they were in their apartment Tilly looked out the window. She shrieked, “Milly…get over here. She is down there. We need to go find out why she is stalking us.” The two sisters put on their coats and headed downstairs.
The blond was puffing on a cigarette when she saw them coming, “I was wondering how long it would take. We finally meet!. We need to talk”
Tilly hesitated, said something to Milly, and then said to the woman, “Ok how about this coffee shop?”
They settled into a booth and ordered coffee. The woman began, “I’ve known about you for a long time, most of my life.”
Tilly and Milly stared at her. “I’m sorry. We have no idea who you are.”
She began, “I’m here for my cut.”
Tilly said, “What cut? Who are you?”
“Let’s just say that your father knew my mother. She worked for the pig several years ago. He took advantage of her. Your mother caught them. And then your mother found out my mother was pregnant. And well, the rest is history.”
“What a load of crap.” Tilly spat. “There is no way. Someone would’ve known and said something to us.”
“Sorry Sis, it’s the truth” she mocked them.
“Milly, let’s go.” She grabbed her sister’s arm and pulled her from the booth.
Back at the apartment, Milly asked, “What if it’s true?”
“There is no way. Why wouldn’t she have said something before now? She is not getting a dime from us! We need to find out who she is. We need a plan” Tilly frowned. “I’ve got an idea.”
Two days later the disheveled blond showed up again at their work. They told her they had further questions for her. She agreed to meet them at the same coffee shop they had met before. She was there waiting for them sitting in a booth.
“I think it would be nice to know your name?” Tilly asked sarcastically.
“Lana. Lana Larsen.” Milly took notes.
“If you have known this all these years why are you all of a sudden asking for something? Why not before? Tilly asked.
“Because it just dawned on me that I could. I was telling a friend I work with about it and she said I should get a lawyer. I was going to but then I thought about how much that might cost. I figured I’d contact you myself.” Lana drummed her fingers on the table. After a few more questions they agreed to meet in one week at the same place. Milly and Tilly left. Lana stayed to finish her coffee.
The twins waited in their car outside the diner. They watched Lana. She made a call on her cell with a huge smile on her face. She left the diner and was walking down the street when a car pulled up and she got in. The sisters tried to see who was driving. They had their chance at the next traffic light when the driver opened his window to toss out his cigarette butt.
“Bart!” Tilly and Milly looked at each other in shock. They followed until Bart pulled into a driveway. Out of the car came Bart, Jenna the leopard pants girl, and Lana.
The twins went back to their apartment. Milly the next day at work made up a very special heart-shaped box of chocolates. Later at home they added another ingredient. They wrapped it in pink and red cellophane and attached a gift tag that read, “Happy Valentines Day from your Secret Admirer.” They left it by Barts front door.
It was done. By the twin sisters. With poisoned chocolate. On the front porch.