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Even under the best of circumstances, I wouldn't consider myself a skilled conversationalist. Small talk with strangers often felt superficial and left me uncertain how to respond, the sheer futility of the discussion insipid and tiring, a routine social norm formulated to mirror comfort in an uncomfortable world. When someone asked "How are you," I knew to reply with "Fine," because people don't truly mean the sentiment behind the words; it is not an invitation to unburden one's self of their troubles.

So when Daniel Fairchild stood in the doorway to my sister's bathroom and blithely commented on how I was supposed to be dead, I sat frozen and continued to gawk.

He frowned. Narrow, dark eyes fringed in brown lashes flickered over my person, the tub, and my bloodied hands, no emotion other than utter contempt on his polished face as he opened the plain manila folder tucked under his arm and rifled through the pages contained therein. He paused, then drew in a deep, rattling breath through his nose—twice, and I stared, slack-jawed, at the man plainly sniffing the air.

Perhaps going mad was inevitable in the end. I had to be mad; how else would I materialize a rich pop star in my dead sister's apartment?

He wrinkled his nose again and perused the folder. "No, not dead. The twin, then. He didn't say anything about you being here...." The man drifted off without further comment, leaving me behind in the bathroom while he continued along the hall. I lurched to my feet, braced against the answering pain in my middle, and went to the doorway.

"What do you mean by 'he'?" I demanded. "Better yet—what are you doing here? How do you know Tara?"

Daniel Fairchild didn't answer. Instead, he entered the bedroom being utilized as a home office and scanned the loose papers left out on the desk, tucking Tara's laptop and accompanying charger into the messenger bag left strung across the desk chair's back. I watched in a daze as the man slung the bag's strap over his shoulder and proceeded back into the hall, then into the bedroom, passing me by as if I had all the presence of a coat rack or oddly placed end table.

Had I been more myself, I would have screamed at Fairchild, would have thrown something at him or maybe called the police, not that the latter was a wise decision. However, given my exhaustion and heartbreak, I could do little more than watch the slim celebrity as he moved about my sister's space, opening and closing drawers, flicking through her clothes and possessions with bored, harried gestures.

I'm crazy. I have to be.


Further evidence of my declining mental faculties sat on the bed's mussed sheets; a black cat rested on its haunches and watched my dazed shuffle into the untidy bedroom, wide, amber eyes flashing in the sunlight spilling about the crooked window curtains, tail twitching back and forth in steady anticipation. Tara didn't have a pet.

Fairchild saw the feline as well and gave it a frustrated side-glance as he dug a duffel bag out from the closet's depths. "He never said anything about a damn cat...."

Who is he talking about?

The cat in question stretched and spilled from the bed, crossing the room to thread itself about my ankles. Without thought, I bent and scooped the feline into my arms, wondering when Tara decided to get it—him—and why she never mentioned having a pet before.

What a stupid thing to worry about right now, Sara. Get your head straight!

"You," Fairchild said. "Leave and take that with you." He flicked a dismissive hand at the cat and I stiffened, temper rising through the shock's obfuscating mist until it welled like blood in a bruise. He continued rifling through my sister's things and stuffed clothes into the duffel bag, moving on to the dresser and Tara's more personal effects.

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