THE MISSING PIECE

Born two days before Christmas in 2002 at the same time in the same hospital were two beautiful baby boys. Both had gossamer flaxen hair and skin the color of edelweiss. The nurses marveled at their incredible likeness, remarking in their sing-song Irish accents “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, would ya look at that! These babes could be twins!” 

One baby was born to the king and queen of high society, Carlton and Evelyn Winslow of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The couple were like bookends – fair skin, blond hair and hazel eyes. The Winslow’s luxurious penthouse was located across the street from Mercy Hospital. Evelyn was having tea with friends in her comfortable library at home when she suddenly went into labor.

The other baby was the illegitimate son of Rosa Guarinos, an impoverished cleaning lady from the slums of Harlem. Her complexion was creamy, hair golden brown and eyes of green like her ancestors from ancient Persia. Rosa was sweeping the floors of Ken’s Tailoring, the little shop in Harlem where she worked when her water brokeHer kindly boss Ken Siegel carefully escorted her to Mercy Hospital.

It was fate that brought these two women from such divergent stations in life to the same hospital on the same winter’s night. Hours later both women had given birth to sons.

Five days later on December 28th the new mothers were discharged from the hospital. Evelyn and Carlton Winslow brought Maxwell home to their posh apartment where his elaborately decorated nursery awaited him. A specially trained nanny took care of Maxwell’s every need while the waitstaff plumped Evelyn’s pillows and served her breakfast in bed. 

Ken drove Rosa and her baby Victor home to her basement apartment in Harlem. He offered his help getting Rosa and Victor settled but she declined saying he had already done so much for them. There was a mattress on the floor in one corner of the basement on which Rosa dozed restlessly while her infant son slept in an old borrowed cradle. The bathroom consisted of a toilet bowl and a sink where Rosa washed herself with a sponge, shivering in the cold December night. She breastfed Victor and cooked simple meals for herself on a hotplate.

The identical babies grew into identical toddlers. The Winslows celebrated Maxwell’s first birthday with a spectacular party at Tavern on the Green attended by their many acquaintances. Rosa and Victor marked his first birthday with a simple cake shared by Ken and a handful of trusted friends. 

Shortly after Victor’s birthday, Ken proposed marriage to Rosa; he had always been in love with her and Rosa knew he was a kind and decent man. She cared deeply for him and believed in time she would grow to love him. They got married and the family moved uptown where Ken had acquired a larger space and expanded his small tailoring shop into a successful men’s clothing store. Their lives improved significantly and they were very content. 

The years went by; Maxwell and Victor were now teenagers, entirely unaware of the other’s existence. Though they lived just two miles apart, the large and busy city allowed them to lead separate lives. They attended different schools and their paths never crossed. They were both happy, well-adjusted boys with many friends yet sometimes they both felt an unusual void in their lives – something neither one could understand or easily dismiss. 

One day between Christmas and the new year Carlton brought Maxwell to Ken Siegel’s shop to buy a new suit for his son’s 18th birthday.

“We’re closing early today, Mr. Winslow – it’s a family matter. I’m sorry but I must ask you to come back tomorrow” Ken stated nervously when Carlton and Maxwell entered the shop.

Oh, come on, Ken. You always make time for me” replied Carlton in his usual condescending manner. “I brought my son Maxwell in for a suit for his birthday. Are you trying to get rid of us?” 

“I’m sorry but I have something personal to attend to. I really must close now!” Ken insisted. 

But it was too late for just then Victor and Rosa emerged from the back room; they were laughing happily and Rosa held a small cake with a single candle. When the two teenage boys came face to face, a silence fell over the shop. They stared at each other in a strange sort of amused bewilderment, unable to deny or explain their identical appearance. 

Carlton gasped in shock when he saw Rosa and she became faint; they had not laid eyes on each other in a very long time. Ken rushed to Rosa’s side and whispered “I’m sorry, my darling. I tried to get rid of them. I never wanted him to see you or Victor. I failed you.”

Rosa reached up and tenderly caressed her husband’s face, now wet with tears. “Oh, my sweet husband. This day was inevitable and you are not to blame” Rosa replied softly.

Gathering all his courage, Ken stood up proudly and spoke directly to Carlton. “Mr. Winslow, as you know twenty years ago I ran a small tailoring shop in Harlem. Rosa worked as my assistant, sewing and ironing in that tiny shop … but you knew that because you came there often. Eventually I was able to acquire this lovely store and you became one of my regular customers. After Victor was born, I asked Rosa to marry me and we have been together for seventeen years. Mr. Winslow, Victor is my adopted son and he’s very precious to me. I love Victor and Rosa dearly; we are a family. But even someone as self-centered and obtuse as yourself would know at first glance that both Victor and Maxwell are your biological sons.” 

Clearly stunned by this information, Carlton stammered “Rosa, why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?” 

“Because you were married and your wife was also pregnant. You would never have supported us or accepted us as your family” Rosa cried.

“But you deprived me of a son and Victor of a father! I could have provided for him.” Carlton argued.

Ken loudly slammed his hand against the front desk, startling everyone. “Victor is MY son. I am the one who lovingly and happily provided for him and Rosa!” he shouted. “You would never have done so even if you knew about Victor. You and your kind are selfish and spineless; you have money but you have no respect or dignity. Now, I must insist that you leave and never bother us again!”

Victor” Carlton said haltingly, “I didn’t know. You have to believe I would have done the right thing by you and your mother. You’re a bright boy; surely you can see that.”

Victor simply stared impassively at Carlton, the father he never knew, and said nothing. Finally, when he spoke, his voice was surprisingly calm. “Mr. Winslow, you know nothing about me. Please do not dare to insinuate yourself into my life or the lives of my parents.”

Victor’s words stung and Carlton was taken aback. “Maxwell” he said angrily. “It’s best we leave here, son. Let’s go home. Now!”  

“No, father. After all I just heard, there’s no way I’m leaving now. You can turn your back and walk away but I can’t” Maxwell replied. “I just found a missing piece of my life. I’m going to stay and get to know my brother, if that’s ok with Mr. and Mrs. Siegel.

Rosa and Ken looked at each other and nodded in agreement. “You’re always welcome here, Maxwell” said Ken.

Carlton was furious but he made no attempt to reach out to his sons. Instead, he angrily left the store and began walking home, wondering how he would explain this to Evelyn. It wasn’t going to be easy but he’d figure something out. He always did.

NAR © 2019

A CHANGE OF HABIT

“Called to be a nun? You can’t be serious, Luna!” Hudi was stunned when her sister disclosed her secret.

“Hudi, I shared with you what is in my heart. If you can’t accept it, that’s fine but don’t start giving me a speech or trying to change my mind.”  

Hudi started laughing. “This is some sort of joke, right? We’re no longer little Catholic school girls back in Spain!”  

Luna didn’t even crack a smile. “I should have known better than to expect you to understand, Hudi. We may be twins but we couldn’t be more different.”  

“Why a nun?”

“Hudi, look at me. I’m not petty, funny or sexy like you. I can’t dance, I don’t know how to wear makeup or fix my hair or even dress nicely. I’m hopeless! Being a nun and spending the rest of my life in a convent is my destiny.”

Hudi laughed again. “Your ‘destiny’? Please, Luna. Aren’t you being a bit dramatic? It sounds like this nun thing is more of a ‘hiding’ than a ‘calling’. You’re not supposed to be a nun because you’re unhappy with your life.”

Luna didn’t say anything; she knew Hudi was right.

“Listen to me! You’re not hopeless. I’m your twin; who better to help you? First thing I have to do is teach you how to fix this nest of twigs you have for hair; then everything else will fall into place.”

Over the course of a few days Hudi taught Luna how to apply makeup and do her hair. They listened to their favorite salsa music and without even realizing it, Luna was moving to the beat.

Getting dressed one day, Hudi couldn’t believe her eyes. “Luna, you have an amazing body! Why hide it under a habit?” Luna couldn’t stop blushing.

Hudi always knew she wanted to be a designer and landed a job in one of New York’s biggest fashion companies. Her boss was impressed with her designs and offered Hudi the chance to put together a hot new lingerie line. Hudi jumped at the opportunity and threw herself into her work.

Luna, however, was having serious doubts about her decision to become a nun.

When her assignment was done, Hudi had a brilliant idea: instead of showing her boss one-dimensional drawings, why not have someone model them? The first person who came to mind was her sister.

Luna wanted nothing to do with the project but Hudi was convincing and Luna reluctantly agreed. On the day of the big reveal Luna was a nervous wreck. Hudi put on some salsa music and shoved her sister into a room full of executives.

Luna swayed to the music, then let her satin robe slip to her waist revealing the most feminine and sexy bra anyone had ever seen. Her figure was as incredible as her lingerie.

Proudly Hudi announced “Ladies and gentlemen. May I present to you our model, Luna Delgado, wearing our next hottest seller – ‘Hudibras’.”

And the room erupted in applause.

NAR © 2021

I GEMELLI

Resemblance can be a freaky thing. Supposedly everyone has a doppelgänger; someone out there is a duplicate of you with your mother’s eyes, your father’s nose and that annoying mole you’ve always wanted to have removed. Apparently there’s a 1 in 135 chance that there are several pairs of clones walking around, each completely unaware of the other’s existence.

Speaking of doppelgängers, my husband has an identical twin – exactly the same in every way except their political leanings and choice in women. All their lives people have called Bill by his brother’s name and the same is true of Jim. Even our sons look more like brothers than cousins and have been confusing people for years.

In his late teens Bill had a cyst just below his right eye. After surgery he was left with a tiny, almost imperceptible scar. At last, something to differentiate the twins! A few months later while doing repairs on a boat, Jim turned his head abruptly, banged into a pipe and cut his face. He now has a tiny, almost imperceptible scar in the exact place as Bill. Identical right down to their scars!

My cousin Franco has lived his entire life in Sicily. The first time my family traveled to Europe I was about 14 years old and met my cousin for the first time. The strong resemblance between us was undeniable. We could easily pass for fraternal twins or, at the very least, siblings. It was simultaneously amusing and disconcerting for both of us. Everyone referred to us as “I Gemelli” “The Twins” – so named for the thin tubes of pasta twisted around each other. Fifty-plus years later and our resemblance remains strong; however, Franco has a mustache and beard and I, fortunately, do not!

It’s been said, and scientists concur, that the longer people have a pet the more they begin to resemble that pet. Pure-bred dogs have been matched to their owners by strangers time and time again. I wonder if the same can be said about husbands and wives or perhaps even friends. Apparently, that phenomenon is true. I can’t explain it – I’m not a scientist, just a writer of stories. However, the possibility became quite real when events unfolded at my son’s wedding.

There were many people in attendance, friends and family alike. My sister Rosemarie was one of the guests as was Debby, my next-door neighbor and best friend for the past 35 years. I should point out at this time that while Rosemarie and I have some familial similarities, we really don’t look alike.

Time arrived for the family photo session. The music was playing, people were dancing the Macarena and mingling about. Janet, the wedding photographer was scrambling around trying to wrangle immediate family members for photos. Craning her neck for a better look into the crowded room, Janet turned to me in surprise and said, “You’ve been keeping secrets from me!”

I was rather perplexed by that comment and asked Janet what she meant, to which she replied, “I know your husband has a twin brother but I had no idea you have a twin sister!”

Then it hit me: Janet was talking about my friend Debby who does indeed look a lot more like my sister than my real sister! Many people have said we look like twins and it just so happened, totally by coincidence, that Debby and I were wearing the same dress that day; the only difference was I wore deep purple while Debby chose black.

I laughed and said to Janet “I really hate to burst your bubble but she’s not my sister; she’s my best friend.” I spotted Rosemarie in the crowd and pointed her out to the photographer. “See the woman in the cream-colored dress? That’s my sister.”

It took a lot of convincing for Janet to accept the fact that Debby wasn’t my twin sister; I think she may still be somewhat skeptical. I wonder: would the same people who matched the pet owners with their dogs match me and Debby as twins?

You be the judge.

Me and Debby
Rosemarie and me

NAR © 2020