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Authors: John A. Heldt

Mirror, The (7 page)

BOOK: Mirror, The
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"You could have been friendlier," Ginny said to Katie as they stood across the street from the bookstore. "He's a nice guy and definitely not a serial killer."

"He's a distraction," Katie said. "Right now we need jobs and a place to stay. We don't need distractions."

"You don't look happy."

"I'm concerned, Gin. I thought about some things on the drive up and realized that we have some obstacles to overcome."

"Such as?"

"You want me to list them?" Katie asked.


Katie looked up and down the busy street, as if searching for something. When she apparently found it, she pointed to an unoccupied bench about twenty yards away.

"Let's go over there. I want to sit."

Katie followed Ginny to the bench and sat down beside her. When the two were settled, she reached into her purse and pulled out her organizer wallet.

"We've already talked about our worthless cash and credit cards. Now we need to talk about the other things."

"What other things?" Ginny asked.

Katie opened the wallet and pointed to her driver's license.

"Let's start with our licenses. We won't be born for another thirty-seven years. That might be a problem if we're asked to show ID."

"Yes, it might."

"Then there's the stuff we have to have but don't," Katie said. "We don't have valid Social Security numbers or references or phone numbers or even a home address. Do you remember the last time you applied for a job when you weren't asked for
of those things? We're screwed."

Ginny turned away for a moment and gathered her thoughts. She knew Katie was mostly right. They had none of the things they had taken for granted their entire lives, but that didn't necessarily mean they were screwed. She refused to believe the situation was hopeless.

"You don't know that, Katie. We may be just fine, at least with one thing."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean this is 1964. Employers here may not require Social Security numbers. If they do, we'll just give them our real ones. It's not like they can check them online. They probably won't check them at all until tax time. By then we'll be long gone."

"I suppose you're right," Katie said glumly. "Not that it matters. If we don't find jobs, it won't matter what we put on a form. What do you suggest we do to support ourselves?"

"I think we should do what we know how to do: bag groceries. There are probably five or six grocery stores in this area alone. We can visit them this afternoon, starting with the one we passed on Forty-Fifth. I'm pretty sure I saw a HELP WANTED sign in the window."

Katie nodded.

"Let's do it then."

Ginny smiled reassuringly. She was confident of finding employment soon and wanted to spread that confidence to her pessimistic twin. Then she pondered a more pressing matter and confronted doubts of her own. Within seconds her smile dissolved into a frown.

"What's wrong?" Katie asked.

"I just remembered our other problem."

"What's that?"

"We can't wait a few weeks for a paycheck. We need cash now," Ginny said. "We have no money – or at least money we can use. I don't think people here will accept multi-colored bills with watermarks."

"You're right. They won't," Katie said. "Fortunately for us, we have options."


"Like I said earlier, I know a way we can get by until we find work."

"What's that?"

"It's pretty obvious, Gin."

"Tell me."


Katie frowned.

"Look at your wrist."




Sunday, May 3, 1964


Katie sat at a small table in a motel room and stared at four things: a ballpoint pen, two job applications, and a bare wrist. When she got tired of looking at each she gazed at a sister resting on a double bed. Church bells rang in the distance.

"I'm having seller's remorse," Katie said.

"I'm not," Ginny said. "We had to sell something."

"I know. I just wish we'd had another option."

"Would you rather have sold yourself?"


"Then stop whining. We needed money. Now we have it. Case closed."

"I still don't like it," Katie said. "Mom and Dad spent two thousand dollars on those bracelets. We got only two hundred back. It doesn't seem right."

"It's not right," Ginny said. She got up from the bed and joined Katie at the table. "Nothing's right. It's not right we're

Katie scanned the room as Ginny settled into her chair and assessed their temporary home. It wasn't much to look at, but it was functional and safe. With a rotary telephone, a kitchenette, and a black-and-white television that actually worked, Room 17 at the Coed Court on Brooklyn Avenue was much better than a cardboard box in Pioneer Square. The twins had paid to stay two weeks at the discounted rate of ten dollars a week.

They had found the place around two thirty on Saturday, shortly after selling their diamond tennis bracelets to a pawnshop owner on Roosevelt Way. They spent the rest of the afternoon gathering job applications and buying clothes they could actually wear in a city filled with extras from
Mad Men
American Graffiti

The clothes were easy to find. Job opportunities were not. By the time the girls had finished pounding the pavement at five, they had managed to secure just one promising lead – at the same supermarket Ginny had spotted on the drive to the bookstore.

Wade Greer, owner and manager of Greer's Grocery, had told the twins that he needed two clerks to replace the ones that had left on Friday for higher-paying positions elsewhere. He gave each an application and invited them to interview for the openings at 10 a.m. Monday.

Katie knew they were lucky to have even that, but she didn't feel lucky. She felt miserable. She wanted to wake up from this nightmare and run home to her mother.

"Do you think God is testing us?" Katie asked. "I could understand if He was. We've led pretty charmed lives, Gin. Maybe we're like Job. Maybe God wants to see if modern girls in denim skirts can hold up as well as bearded guys in the Old Testament."

"We're not being tested, Katie."

"Are we being punished then?"

Ginny paused before answering.

"That's a good question. I don't know, but I don't think so. I asked myself the same thing last night. I stayed awake until two, but I never came up with an answer. I've done nothing to deserve this, and neither have you."

Katie stared at her twin.

"Did you cheat on your taxes again?"

"No, Katie. I did not cheat on my taxes. I didn't even cheat on Cody, though I wanted to several times and had many opportunities."

Katie lowered her eyes. She knew she'd asked a silly question. Even if Ginny
cheated on the IRS or a boyfriend who had cheated on her, she didn't deserve a possible one-way trip to the sixties. When she returned her attention to her sister, her eyes began to water.

"I'm sorry. I'm just still having trouble with all this. I want to be strong, but I don't know if I can. I miss Mom and Dad. I miss them so much. I miss our siblings. I miss my life!"

Ginny reached across the table and grabbed her sister's hands.

"I do too. This sucks, Katie. This sucks big time. But we'll get through it. We'll return to that fair and be back home before you know it. I can't promise everything, but I can promise that. We
see our family again."

Katie looked at her sister with envy and awe. She knew Ginny couldn't promise a trip to the nearest shopping mall – much less a trip to 2020 – but she admired her strength and spirit. She would need a rock to lean on in the coming months and couldn't think of a better rock than the best friend she'd ever had.

Ginny tilted her head and gave her sister a funny face. She didn't have to wait long for a smile and a laugh. She got both within seconds.

"Will you stop?" Katie asked. She pulled her hands from Ginny's and wiped her tears. "We have business to tend to."

"Yes, we do. I'm counting on you to help with that business too," Ginny said. "Do you have any idea what we should put on these applications?"

Katie grabbed one of the forms and examined each side. A few seconds later, she placed the unmarked sheet next to the other.

"No. I don't," Katie said. "We have an address now and a phone number, but we don't have work experience or references – or at least any that we can put on these."

"Think, Katie. You're good at this stuff," Ginny said forcefully. "Think of a way we can overcome the experience thing. You know we can do grocery work. We've done it for two years. There has to be a way we can convince Mr. Greer that we can do the job without lying on our applications. We don't want to do that because he could check out a lie with a single phone call."

Katie thought about the matter as she looked out a window at a parking lot beyond. A couple that didn't look a day over twenty slipped out of a room about four doors down. She frowned. Some things hadn't changed in fifty-six years.

She returned to the business at hand and gave her application another look. When she reached the bottom of the back page, a light bulb came on.

"I know what we can do," Katie said. "We can give Mr. Greer a demonstration of our skills. We may have to wing it on the old cash registers but not on anything else. We can bag groceries and tell him what we know about stocking shelves and tending produce. We can tell him everything we know and say we learned it by observing. He won't care whether or not we've actually worked in a grocery store. He'll care only that we appear to be competent."

Ginny smiled.

"I like your thinking. I think that will work."

"We still have two problems though," Katie said. "The first is that we need a story. Mr. Greer will want to know where we're from and where we went to school. We can't very well tell him that we grew up in Seattle and graduated from Westlake. I'm not even sure we can tell him that we grew up in Washington."

Ginny nodded.

"I agree," Ginny said. "He's been in business for thirty years. He knows the state. Even if we said we were from Spokane or Kennewick, he'd ask questions about those places too. We have to come up with another hometown – one that's much farther away."

Katie smiled.

"How about Savannah," Katie said in a sassy southern drawl. "I've always wanted to be a Georgia peach."

Ginny laughed.

"You wouldn't pass for a peach pit with that accent."

Katie glared at her sister.

"Sorry, Katie. We need to think of someplace else."

"How about California? Didn't you tell Steve that we were from Thousand Oaks?"

"Yeah. I did," Ginny said. "Do California girls have accents?"

Katie shook her head.

"I don't think so, at least not compared to people here. I think that would be a safe choice. Thousand Oaks is somewhere around L.A. It's at least a thousand miles away."

"OK. Thousand Oaks it is."

Katie sighed. She liked making progress on problems. She liked seeing her sister confident and focused. They would need her confidence and focus to pull this off.

"There is one more thing," Katie said.

"What's that?"

"We need a reference. Even if we dazzle Mr. Greer with our knowledge and skills, he'll still want to know if we're hard-working and trustworthy."

Katie stared at the floor for a moment, as if hoping that the stained carpet would provide a useful answer to the problem. When she returned her eyes to Ginny, she saw a smiling sister.

"What? Do you have a reference in your cell phone?"

Ginny smiled more widely.

"As a matter of fact, I do," Ginny said. "His name is Steve Carrington, and I suspect he'll be the best reference we've ever had."




Monday, May 4, 1964


"Let me see if I can accurately summarize what you've told me," Wade Greer said. "Each of you has a thorough understanding of the grocery business, which you've obtained by observing others, but neither of you has any actual work experience."

"Correct," Ginny said.

"You also have just one reference."

"Correct again!" Ginny said.

Ginny watched Greer laugh and shake his head as he settled into his large upholstered chair. She and Katie sat in smaller, harder chairs on the other side of the manager's desk, which occupied the middle of a modest office in the back of Greer's Grocery.

"I like your enthusiasm, young lady," Greer said. "You remind me a lot of my own daughter when she started working here a few years ago. The difference is that she grew up in the business and knew the ropes before she put on an apron."

"All we want is a chance, Mr. Greer."

Greer, a large, balding man racing toward sixty, stared at Ginny for a moment, as if trying to gauge her conviction and sincerity. When he didn't seem to find the expression he was looking for, he turned to Katie.

"Does your sister always speak for you?"

"Only in situations like this, sir," Katie said. "We both agree I'm the smarter one, but she's definitely better with people."

Ginny forced a smile as Greer chuckled. She would deal with Einstein later.

"Well, I must admit that I'm impressed with your knowledge of produce. I can't remember the last time a person your age could tell me the difference between a yam and a sweet potato."

Ginny laughed to herself as she recalled the first few minutes of the interview, when Greer, in an apparent attempt to put the girls at ease, had asked each to tell him something most people didn't know.

Ginny hadn't wasted a moment flaunting her love and knowledge of the 1960s. She had told the manager that 1964 Corvette Stingrays could go from zero to sixty miles per hour in eight seconds and that very short skirts would soon be all the rage.

Katie, the science whiz, had offered a more job-related answer. She had said that yams and sweet potatoes were similar but not the same. Yams were drier and starchier and related to lilies and grasses. Sweet potatoes had fewer calories and were part of the morning glory family.

BOOK: Mirror, The
4.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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