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Lori Taylor

 The Doppelgänger 

 

                                                    1980

 

     Cherlynn Meyers, Daphne Anderson, and Jillian Edwards met at J.P.’s Tasty Freeze after school.  They were waiting on Cameron Bailey and Jessica Mason, the other two members of the decoration committee for the Sadie Hawkins Day Dance.  While they waited, they munched on a tub of fries and talked about the dance.     

     Jillian, Cameron, and Jessica all had steady boyfriends. Daphne had been dating Robbie Pruitt, so they all already knew who they would be taking to the dance.    

     Cherlynn, on the other hand, wasn’t dating anyone and had her heart set on asking Jake Patterson.    

     However, Daphne dashed that hope when she announced that Amie Walters had asked Jake to the dance that morning, and he had said yes.    

Cherlynn couldn’t hide her disappointment.  

“You should have asked him when I told you to.” Daphne quipped, not caring about her friend’s feelings.

     Uncomfortable with the conversation, Jillian quickly changed the subject.  “So, what do you think about light blue and yellow ribbons?”   

     Cherlynn and Daphne looked at her.   

“Light blue and yellow?” Cherlynn echoed.   

     Jillian nodded.  “Yeah, you know, like a pale yellow.”   

     Cherlynn frowned and looked at Daphne.   

     Daphne shrugged and replied, “All depends on where you are wanting to put them.”  

     “I thought about, maybe, curling them and having them hanging down on both sides of the photo booth.” Jillian replied, “What do you think?”     

     “Uh . . .  No!” Cherlynn exclaimed, “Do you have any idea how tacky that would look?”   

     Feelings hurt, Jillian looked down at her hands, which she had been anxiously wringing in her lap.   

     “Cherlynn!” Daphne quickly admonished.   

     “Well, it would!” Cherlynn defensively replied.  

     “Our colors are navy blue and gold, so why would we want to use light blue and pale yellow?  It would look tacky.”   

     Daphne opened her mouth to argue, but before she could form the first word, the door opened, and Cameron and Jessica came in.               

“Hey, all!” Jessica cheerfully called as she and Cameron approached the table where Cherlynn, Daphne, and Jillian sat.                 

“Have you guys figured anything out?” Cameron asked as she pulled out a chair and sat down beside Daphne.   

     Cherlynn sneered, “Get this, Jillian here thinks that we should use light blue and pale yellow to decorate the photo booth.”  

     “Cherlynn!” Daphne snapped, seeing the way that Jillian had cringed when Cherlynn had made that comment.   

     Much to Cherlynn’s astonishment, both Cameron and Jessica thought that was a great idea and wanted to know more about her vision for the photo booth decorations.   

     Obviously relieved that someone had liked her idea, Jillian quickly told them her plans.   

     The only change that Cameron thought they needed to make was for navy and gold ribbons to be added.  She felt that they should be curled and intertwined with the light blue and pale yellow.

     Everyone seemed to like that idea, except Cherlynn, and she was overruled.   

 

                                                       ◆◆◆

 

     Walking home together, after the meeting was over, Cherlynn quickly let Daphne know what she thought about her siding with Jillian.  “I can’t believe you did that to me!”   

     “And I can’t believe you were so mean to her.” Daphne countered.

     “I just didn’t like her idea.” Cherlynn flatly said,

     “And I can’t believe you guys did.”   

     “This isn’t about the decorations, is it?” Daphne asked, “It’s about you not being able to ask Jake to the dance because Amie beat you to it.”    

     Frowning, Cherlynn ruefully admitted, “Maybe a little.”   

     “I thought so.” Daphne murmured and placed a comforting arm around Cherlynn’s shoulders.  

     “Who else do you think is date-worthy?”      

     Cherlynn shrugged.   

     “How about Malcolm Needleman?” Daphne asked, “He sweet and funny, and he really likes you.”        

     “He’s also a nerd.” Cherlynn complained.   

     “So, not Malcolm, then.” Daphne conceded, “Hmm . . .  Then what about Gaven Smith?  He’s a cutie, and, as far as I know, he’s not got a date yet.”      

     “He’s also only five foot four.  I tower over him by a good three inches.” Cherlynn countered, “No, thanks.”   

     Daphne laughed and asked, “Roger Donnaly?”   

     Cherlynn shook her head.   

     “Can’t you think of anyone?” Daphne asked.   

     “Seth Wayne is a hunk,” Cherlynn said, “but he’s already got a date.”   

     “What about his brother?” Daphne asked.   

     “David?” Cherlynn incredulously inquired, “You’re joking, right?”      

“No.” Daphne replied, “He’s really cute.”     

     “He is.” Cherlynn agreed, “But he’s also weird as hell.  No, thank you.  I will either go solo, or I’ll stay home.”      

     “You’re on the decoration committee.” Daphne protested, “You can’t stay home.”    

     “Then, I guess I will go solo then.” Cherlynn said, “Because no one else interests me.”    

     “Maybe something will happen, and Jake won’t go with Amie, then you can ask him.”      

     Cherlynn snorted and scoffed, “I can’t see that happening.”                  

     “Me, either.” Daphne admitted, “But it’s a nice thought.”                   

     Cherlynn nodded and agreed, “Real nice.”  Then she changed the subject.  “So, are you ready for the Trig test tomorrow?”     

     “Not really.” Daphne replied, “Are you?”  

     Cherlynn chuckled and muttered, “I hate math . . .”   

     Laughing, Daphne said, “I take that as a no.”     

     The two friends made small talk until they reached Daphne’s house, and there they parted.    

     Cherlynn was about halfway home when she was overcome with the strongest feeling of being followed.  Pausing, she glanced all around her and saw no one.  So, she started walking again.  A short time later, the feeling was back.  This time, when she stopped to look around, she caught a glimpse of someone that looked just like her as they dashed behind the privacy fence across the street.   

     Puzzled, she stood there and stared across the street.  Surely she couldn’t have seen what she thought she had.  That girl had looked just like her, right down to the clothes that she had on.  That was impossible.  She shook it off and started walking again.   

     The rest of the walk home, Cherlynn kept feeling that she was being followed and would abruptly stop walking and look around but never see anyone.  Yet the feeling remained.   

     Pausing, Cherlynn took one last glance around before dashing up the front steps to the door.  Opening the door, she quickly stepped into the house, and just as she was closing the door, she saw the girl again.  She was staring at her from behind the big Elm tree in their front yard.  “This is insane!” she gasped as she shut and locked the door.     

     Sighing, she turned from the door and started toward the stairs, thinking, ‘I must be losing my mind.’  There was no way that a girl could look so much like her, including wearing the same clothing.           

She went on upstairs, changed out of her school clothes into a pair of sweats and an oversized tee-shirt, and then went back downstairs.  “Mom?” she called as she crossed the living room headed toward the kitchen, “Are you home?”     

     “In here, Dear.” her Mom returned from the family room.     

Changing direction, Cherlynn went into the family room, where she found her Mom sitting on the couch watching her favorite soap opera.       

     Smiling, her Mom looked over at her.  “What’s wrong?” she asked as the smile quickly faded, “Are you okay?”   

     Cherlynn nodded. “Yeah,” she assured her Mom as she joined her on the couch. “It’s just . . .  Well, the strangest thing just happened.”        

“What kind of thing?” her Mom asked.   

     “Well . . .  It started right after I’d left Daphne’s house.”   

     “What did?”   

     “I just kept feeling like I was being followed by someone.” Cherlynn replied, “But I could never see anyone until I got by the Morris’.”   

     “What happened at the Morris’?” her Mom wanted to know.                Cherlynn frowned, uncertain as to whether she should tell her or not.  “I’m sure it

was just my imagination.”   

     “What was?”    

     Still frowning, Cherlynn muttered,  “You’re not going to believe this . . . but I thought I saw myself hide behind their fence.”     

     “What?”   

     “Well . . .   Someone that looked like me, right down to the clothes that they were wearing.”    

     Her Mom frowned and quietly replied, “It must’ve been your doppelgänger .”      

     “My what?” Cherlynn gasped.   

     “Doppelgänger .” her Mom replied, “It’s your double, and seeing it can be a warning that someone is going to die.”     

     A chill ran up Cherlynn’s spine.  “You can’t be serious!”   

     Her Mom nodded and gravely replied, “You need to be careful, watch where you go and what you do.  This isn’t a good omen.”               

“Stop it!” Cherlynn hissed, “You’re scaring me!”   

     “You should be scared.” her Mom replied, “Something bad is coming your way.”   

     “Like what?” Cherlynn asked.   

     Her Mom shrugged.  “I have no idea, but seeing your doppelgänger is nothing that you should take lightly.”   

     “This is crazy . . .” Cherlynn muttered as she jumped up from the couch and stalked out of the room.  She went back upstairs to her bedroom, so she didn’t see her Mom pick up her phone and dial her Grandma’s number.   

     The thoughts that a doppelgänger might be following her rattled her.  Her Mom hadn’t been clear on exactly what a doppelgänger even was; she just kept telling her that it was a bad omen.

 

                                                    ◆◆◆

 

     The next morning, Cherlynn got up early enough to go to the Library before school started, and she searched for any information that she could find on doppelgängers. What she found disturbed her.     

One book revealed: ‘A doppelgänger is a shadow self that is thought to accompany every person. Traditionally, it is said that only the owner of the doppelgänger can see this phantom self and that it can be a harbinger of death. A person’s friends or family can sometimes see a doppelgänger as well.’    

      Another said: ‘A doppelgänger seen by a person’s friends or relatives portends illness or danger while seeing one’s own doppelgänger is an omen of death according to many old beliefs. In either case, be careful.’       

     And the last she found said, ‘They may give bad advice or put thoughts in their victim’s heads. Seeing one’s own doppelgänger or that of a friend or relative is usually considered very bad luck, often heralding death or serious illness. In some traditions, a doppelgänger is considered a personification of death.’    

     “This is crazy . . .” She muttered and tried to put the whole incident out of her mind.  

 

                                                  ◆◆◆

 

     Three days later, Cherlynn re-encountered her doppelgänger.  This time she was at school and saw it coming out of the bathroom.  Gasping, not wanting it to see her, she quickly hid behind the lockers and watched it.  It came out of the bathroom and paused, glancing around as if it had sensed her presence, and then fell into step behind Amanda Phillips as she passed the bathroom on her way to class. Again, Cherlynn noticed that it was dressed just like her.   

     Once it had passed by, Cherlynn stepped out from behind the lockers and stared after it.  ‘Why is it following Amanda?” she wondered, “Is something going to happen to her?”    

     For the rest of the week, Cherlynn continued to see her doppelgänger following closely behind first one classmate then another.  Still, it wasn’t until it fell in behind Daphne that she felt that she had to say something.      

Daphne had laughed it off at first.  Then she happened to be with her when the doppelgänger appeared from behind the Tasty Freeze and fell into step behind Robbie.

“Hey!” Daphne yelled and gave chase.  “Robbie!”   

     Robbie stopped walking and turned to see Daphne and Cherlynn as they came running up to him.   

     The doppelgänger had vanished.   

     They chatted with Robbie for a few minutes and then let him go on to work.    

     “What does it mean?” Daphne asked, “Why was it following Robbie?”   

     “Something is going to happen.” Cherlynn stated, “Something

bad . . . ”   

 

                                                     ◆◆◆

 

     The day of the Sadie Hawkins Dance arrived at last, and Cherlynn still had no date, but rather than stay home, she had opted to go solo.  She wanted to be there in case her doppelgänger decided to make its appearance.  If something were to happen at the dance, she wanted to be there to warn people, to help them if need be.   

     However, that wasn’t meant to be.  When she returned home from school, she found her Grandma there.  And together, her Mom and Grandma talked to her about the doppelgänger. Her Grandma told her about the time that she had encountered hers and how she had ignored her Mother’s warnings and went ahead and gone to the ‘Play in the Park’ with her beau.    

     “I was seventeen and so in love . . .  And when Blayne asked me to go see Shakespeare’s  ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ with him . . .  Why there was no way that I could refuse.” her Grandma said, “The night was warm, the moon full, and Blayne was being so attentive.  I was in heaven.  And, then, it started . . .”    

     “What did?” Cherlynn asked.   

     “The black blizzard.” her Grandma replied, “A dust storm of astronomical proportions.  It got in your eyes, your ears, your mouth . . .  People were coughing and choking, and trying to make it to cover. We were all wanting to escape the storm. People were trampling over other people.  It was horrible.” Her Grandma paused and drew a quivering breath.  “Blayne had my hand, and we were running for the Masonry building.  I heard something and glanced to my right, and there she was, running with me.  Our eyes met, and she smiled at me.  It was the evilest smile that I had ever seen.”  Goosebumps rose on her Grandma’s arms as she continued her story, “I looked away but not before I saw her hand reach out . . .  She pushed me, and I fell to the sidewalk.  People ran right over the top of me, and I was sure that I was going to die . . .  I heard Blayne call my name; I heard the squawling of tires and . . .  And, Blayne was struck by a car that’s driver hadn’t seen him until he was right up on top of him and couldn’t stop.”  There her Grandma’s voice trailed off, and she fell silent.   

     “So, it saved you?” Cherlynn asked.   

     “In a way.” her Grandma replied.  “You see, it was there to warn me of the impending death of my beau and many of our friends.”             

“That’s why,” her Mom said, “we have decided that you can’t go to the dance tonight.”  

     “But if my friends are going to die, I need to be there! I have to warn them!” Cherlynn protested.   

     Her Mom opened her mouth to speak but saw a flash of the pink gown that she had bought Cherlynn for the dance and could merely gape toward the stairs as Cherlynn’s doppelgänger floated down them and through the front door without a glance in their direction.         

“It’s your death!” her Grandma wailed, “You’re going to die if you go to the dance!  You saw her!  She is portending your death!”   

After that, there was no further discussion.  Cherlynn was forbidden to go to the dance and ended up spending the night playing cards with her Mom and Grandma.       

     The next morning,  what had happened at the dance was all over the news.  Apparently, Seth Wayne’s brother David had taken a gun to the dance. He had opened fire, killing thirty of their classmates, his brother Seth, Jake Patterson, and Amie Walters, among them.             

After seeing Cherlynn’s doppelgänger, Daphne and Robbie had decided to go to a movie, instead of the dance; otherwise, there was a good chance that they would have been among the dead.   

     After the shooting, Cherlynn didn’t see her doppelgänger, again, for nearly forty years . . .

 

                                                   2020   

 

     Having suffered a mild stroke two years ago, Cherlynn, who was now fifty-eight, lived with her son Robin and his family.   She liked living there because she had no bills, other than what she insisted Robin accept as rent and what she gave Donna to help with groceries.     

    And she loved being a built-in babysitter for her two youngest grandchildren, Aiden, nine, and Elizabeth, who was twelve.  Her oldest grandchild, Sara, was seventeen and too old to have a sitter, but Cherlynn loved being able to spend time with her.   

     One evening Cherlynn felt extremely tired and had excused herself from dinner to go up and lie down.     

     Robin was concerned, but she quickly assured him that it was nothing, that she was just tired.   

     She went up to her room, sat down on her bed, kicked her shoes off, and then stretched out on the bed.  From this vantage point, she could see most of her room, so when something flashed past her mirror, she was able to turn her head and see what it was.   

     What she saw in the mirror caused her heart to spasm, and Cherlynn clutched at her chest, thinking that she may be having another stroke or a heart attack.     

     Unable to believe what she was seeing, she struggled to sit up.  There, standing as pretty as a picture in her mirror, stood the doppelgänger of her youth!  Her heart spasmed again and then cramped.     

     Moving as if in slow motion, her doppelgänger turned its head and looked over at her, and a sinister smile slowly drew across its lips.    

     Now Cherlynn knew what her Grandma had meant when she had told her that ‘her’ doppelgänger had looked at her and smiled one of the evilest smiles that she had ever seen.   

     As Cherlynn watched, her doppelgänger climbed silently out of the mirror, floated across the room, and dissolved into her door.              

Trembling uncontrollably, Cherlynn managed to get to her feet and hurry to the door.  Swinging the door open, she looked both up and down the hall but saw nothing out of the usual.   

     She carefully made her way back downstairs to the dining room, where she had left her family; on weak legs. She had to make sure that they were okay.   

     Robin looked at her in surprise when she came into the room.  “I thought you were laying down?”   

     “Are you all right, Mom?” Donna asked, noticing how pale she was.   

     “Yuh – yeah.” Cherlynn weakly replied as she made her way over to the table and sat down beside Sara.   

     “Are you sure?” Robin asked, scowling worriedly over at her, “Because you don’t look so hot.”   

     “I’m fine.” She quickly assured him, her eyes darting nervously around the room.  She reached for the water glass that she had left on the table near her half-eaten plate of food with a trembling hand.             

“Grandma?” Sara asked, noticing the beads of sweat that had broken out across her Grandma’s upper lip and forehead.    

     “I – I’m okay, Dear.” Cherlynn quickly assured her and managed a small, tight smile for her benefit.   

     Sara returned her smile.   

     She reached out and patted Sara’s knee.      

     Sara finished her dinner and then excused herself to go upstairs and get ready for her date.   

     Cherlynn remained with the family as they finished their dinner, and then she helped Donna with the dishes.   

     She didn’t see Sara come downstairs, but she heard her calling goodbye and promising to be home by her midnight curfew.  Then she heard the door shut and peeked out the window to watch her as she made her way down the walk to her boyfriend, Delcan Farmington’s, waiting car.

   What she saw next caused Cherlynn to gasp and drop and break the plate that she had been drying.     

     Before her horrified eyes, her doppelgänger appeared and followed Sara to the car.  As Sara was getting in, it turned to look over at the kitchen window, where Cherlynn stood and flashed her another of those vile smiles.  Just as Sara pulled the door shut, the doppelgänger slipped into the car behind her and into the backseat.          

When the plate shattered, Donna instantly dropped the dishrag into the sink and squatted to clean up the glass shards.   

     “I am so sorry . . .” Cherlynn murmured as Delcan pulled out of the driveway, and she tore her eyes away from the window and turned them on Donna.  

     “Don’t worry about it.” Donna quickly said, then gestured toward the living room, “Why don’t you join Robin and the kids, and I’ll get this, and finish the dishes.”   

     Instead of joining Robin and the kids, Cherlynn returned to her room.  She needed to figure out what was going on. After all of these years, why was her doppelgänger back, and why did it still look like her when she was young?   

     She prayed that Sara wasn’t in danger, but she feared that she just might be.   

     Once in her room, Cherlynn got out her tablet and powered it on.  She needed to research what it meant to have your doppelgänger return and look exactly as it had forty years ago.    

     Try as she might, she could not find anything about this on the Internet anywhere.   

     Chewing on her lip, she tried to figure out another way to word her question that might yield her an answer.    

     Nothing that she came up with brought her any answers.  Frustrated, she nervously waited for Sara to return home from her date.   

 

                                                        ◆◆◆

 

     Sara arrived home promptly at midnight to find that her Grandma was still waiting up for her.  “Grandma!” she exclaimed in surprise, “What’re you still doing up?”   

     “Waiting for you to get in.” Cherlynn replied, turning from the TV to face her.  

     “Why?” Sara asked.   

     “Come over here,” Cherlynn replied, patting the cushion next to hers on the couch, “I want to talk to you a moment.”   

     Sara walked over and dropped down.  “What’s up?”   

     “I was just wondering,” Cherlynn hesitantly replied, “did you happen to see a girl with long brown hair anywhere tonight?  She had it all pouffed up in something like an eighties, big hair type, style.  And wearing a pink gown?”   

     Sara frowned thoughtfully.  “No. Why?”   

     “I was just wondering.” Cherlynn replied, relieved that the doppelgänger hadn’t been present the whole night.  But it made her wonder how long it had stayed with Sara and Delcan and where it had gone when it had left them.    

     “That’s kind of an odd question, Gran.” Sara quietly stated.                 Cherlynn shrugged.  “It’s nothing, really.  I just thought that I had saw a girl about your age, that looked like that, when you got into Delcan’s car.”  

     Frowning, Sara shook her head.  “I didn’t see her.  Where was she?”   

     Cherlynn hesitated.  Sara’s eyes firmly held hers, and she could see the worry in them.

     Sighing softly, Cherlynn replied, “I saw her on the sidewalk, not far from the car.  And what struck me the most about her was the evening gown that she was wearing.”   

     “You say it was pink?” Sara asked.   

     Cherlynn nodded.   

     “You know . . .” Sara drawled, “I didn’t see the girl but I did see a flash of something pink.  I got a glimpse of it through the visor mirror and I swear, I thought someone was in the backseat, but when I turned to look, no one was there.  Weird, huh?”   

     Cherlynn nodded, again, and proffered,  “Maybe both of our eyes are playing tricks on us?”   

     “Maybe . . .” Sara murmured as she rose to her feet.  “I’m gonna go to bed.  You want me to walk you up to your room?”   

     “Nah,” Cherlynn declined, “I’ll be up in a bit.”   

     Smiling at her, Sara bid her goodnight and then went on upstairs.

       Cherlynn watched her go and then turned back to the TV.  She had to

think . . .  Why was the doppelgänger of her youth here now?  What did it want?

 

                                                           ◆◆◆

 

     Cherlynn found it nearly impossible to fall asleep that night, and when she did finally manage to sleep, she dreamed.      

     In the dream, her fifty-eight-year-old self had just come face to face with her seventeen-year-old doppelgänger.  “What’re you doing here?”  Cherlynn asked, “What do you want?”     

     “The same thing that we’ve always wanted.” the doppelgänger replied, “Jake.”  

     “Jake is dead.” Cherlynn flatly replied, “He died the night of the dance as I’m sure you know.”   

     “A part of him lives on.” the doppelgänger coldly stated, “That part belongs to me as I’m sure you well know.”   

     “No, I don’t know.” Cherlynn admitted, “I don’t know anything.  I’ve tried to learn things but nothing is making sense.  Why don’t you look the way that I do now?”   

     “Looking the way that you do now would do nothing to help me achieve my goal.”   

     “What is your goal? What is it that you are wanting?” Cherlynn asked.   

     “I have already told you that.” the doppelgänger replied, and with that, it vanished . . .  and Cherlynn woke up.

 

                                                      ◆◆◆

 

     “Sara, may I see your yearbook?” Cherlynn asked over breakfast.       

“We haven’t gotten our new ones yet, Gran.” Sara replied, glancing curiously across the table at her Grandma.      

     “How about last years?” Cherlynn asked, “Do you have it?”                

     Sara nodded, her curiosity growing. “It’s in my room.”      

     “Will you get it,” Cherlynn asked, “after breakfast, so that I can look at it?”     

     “Sure.” Sara replied, “But why do you want to see it?”      

     “I’m just curious about something.” she replied.    

     “Oh, okay.” Sara said, her curiosity not sated.           

     “Thank you.” Cherlynn gratefully said.     

     “But . . .” Sara hesitantly inquired, “What do you want to see it for?”   

     Cherlynn couldn’t tell her about the dream she’d had, so she replied, “I’d heard that the grandchild of a friend of mine attends school with you.  I can’t remember the name but I am certain that I would recognize the face because I am told that he looks like his Dad.”   

     “Oh . . .” Sara drawled, “I see.  Yeah, I’ll run up and get it here in a minute.”  

     Cherlynn nodded and picked up her coffee.  

     After breakfast, Sara went upstairs and got her yearbook for her Grandma, then the two of them sat down on the couch to go through it.   

     Cherlynn studied the faces of the boys in Sara’s yearbook, going through each class carefully.     

     She didn’t find anyone that even remotely resembled Jake in the Senior, Junior, or Sophomore classes.  In the Freshman class, however, she came across the photo of a young man named Zeke Hollingsworth that bore an uncanny resemblance to her late crush.  “This boy here,” Cherlynn said, tapping the photo, “do you know him?”   

     “Is that him?” Sara asked, “The boy that you were looking for?”         

“I’m not certain, but I think so.” Cherlynn replied, “Do you know him?”   

     “Everyone knows Zeke.” Sara replied, “He’s cute, smart, and funny.  All of the girls like him.”   

     “And you?” Cherlynn asked.   

     Sara shrugged.  “I like him well enough but – well . . .  He’s too young for me.”   

     Cherlynn smiled, then asked, “Do you know who his parents are?”       

“I don’t know his Mom,” Sara thoughtfully replied, “but his Dad runs the Sundry Store, over on Emerson.”   

     “I see . . .” Cherlynn murmured, glancing down at Zeke’s photo once more.  He certainly did look like his Grandpa Jake; the resemblance was unmistakable.  She closed the yearbook and handed it back to Sara, “Thank you.”  

     “Glad I could be of help.” Sara replied, smiling, and then jumped up and took the yearbook back upstairs.  

     Cherlynn decided to pay a visit to the Sundry Store to meet Zeke’s Dad.  The only problem that she would have would be getting out of the house without  Elizabeth or Aiden tagging along.   

     She had never liked lying to Robin, Donna, or the kids, but she felt that lying was going to be the only way for her to leave the house on her own.   

     So, Cherlynn went upstairs and got ready for her trip to town.  

When asked where she was going, Cherlynn lied and told the kids that she had received a phone call that a good friend of hers, from back home, was in the hospital and wanted to see her.  She said that she was going to visit them and would be back before dinner.   

     “Can I go?” Aiden asked.   

     “No, me!” Elizabeth argued.   

     “I’m afraid not.” Cherlynn replied, “Not this time.  My friend is in the hospital, in ICU, and children aren’t allowed back there.” She looked to Donna for help.  

     “Do you remember when Grandma was in the hospital?” Donna asked, drawing Aiden and Elizabeth’s attention, “Do you remember how you and Elizabeth had to stay home with Sara when your Dad and I would go to see her because you weren’t allowed into her room?”    

     Aiden nodded.  

“Well, Grandma’s friend is in a room like she was.” Donna explained, “So, she can’t take either of you with her.”

     Aiden and Elizabeth looked at Cherlynn.   

     Cherlynn nodded.  “I’m sorry.”  Then offered, “Maybe we can go for ice cream after dinner?”    

     That appeased her two youngest grandchildren, and she was able to leave the house alone.   

     Just as she opened her car door to slide under the wheel, Sara came running out of the house and over to her.  “Are you going to see Zeke’s Dad?”   

     “No,” Cherlynn lied, “I’m going to see a friend that is in the hospital.”   

     “Really?” Sara asked, obviously not believing her.   

     “Yes, really.” Cherlynn said and then got into the car.   

     “Can I go?” Sara asked as she hurried around to the passenger side and tried to open the door, and was disappointed to find that it was locked.    

     “No kids allowed.” Cherlynn replied as she closed the driver’s side door and lowered the passenger window a hair, “Sorry.”  She started the car, “But you can go with Aiden, Elizabeth, and I when we go for ice cream, after dinner.”   

     “I’ll think about it . . .” Sara muttered, then turned and headed back to the house.   

     Smiling, Cherlynn watched her go.  Once Sara had gone into the house, she backed the car out of the driveway and pulled out onto the street.

 

                                         b               ◆◆◆

 

     Mr. Hollingsworth was behind the counter, checking a customer out when Cherlynn entered the Sundry Store.  Standing back, pretending to look through a stack of clearance books, she studied his features.  Nothing about him resembled Jake, so the connection must be through his wife.   

     Having changed her mind about speaking to him, Cherlynn left the Sundry Store and crossed the street to the gas station.    

     At the gas station, she asked to borrow their phone book and looked up the phone number to Mr. and Mrs. Hollingsworth’s.  There were actually three numbers for families named Hollingsworth in the phone book, so she wrote them all down, thanked the attendant for the use of the phone book, then returned to her car.   

     In the car, Cherlynn opened her phone to the browser app and typed in each name.  Two of the families were older people; the third turned out to be the one she wanted.  She opened her purse, took out a notepad, and jotted down the address to the telephone number.              

Next, she opened the GPS app on her phone and typed in the address.  With the GPS programmed, Cherlynn followed the directions and soon found herself parked across the street from the Hollingsworth home.  

     ‘Now what?’ she wondered, not having thought this through, she had no idea how to approach Mrs. Hollingsworth.  What was she going to say?  What could she tell her that she didn’t end up sounding completely crazy?   

     “What are you doing here?” came her own voice from the backseat of her car, startling her.  Gasping, she glanced in the rear view mirror and saw her doppelgänger sitting in the backseat, looking as she did now.   

     “I’m not going to let you hurt that boy.” Cherlynn said, surprised at how brave she sounded when her insides had gone to mush with fear.  “I’m here to warn them.”   

     The doppelgänger burst out laughing.  “The boy?  Seriously?  That’s who you think I’m after?”   

     “Isn’t it?” Cherlynn challenged, fighting to keep the quiver from her voice as she turned to face the image of herself.   

     “Not hardly!” the doppelgänger laughed, “He’s just a boy.  I want a grown up.”   

     “A man?” Cherlynn asked, “His Dad looks nothing like Jake.”            

“No? Really?” the doppelgänger scoffed, “What was your first clue, Sherlock?”   

     “His Mom?” Cherlynn queried, frightened. “Are you after Mrs. Hollingsworth?”    

     “Why should I tell an old busy body like you anything?”  

     “Why do you look like me now?” Cherlynn asked, “When I first saw you -“

     Laughter erupted from the doppelgänger and cut her off mid-sentence.  “You mean like this?”  Then, right before Cherlynn’s eyes, the doppelgänger began to shimmer and changed into the seventeen-year-old version of her.   

     Cherlynn screamed.   

     The doppelgänger laughed and disappeared.   

     “Stay out of my business.” Cherlynn heard in her mind, “Or you will live long enough to regret it.”   

     Trembling all over, Cherlynn sat in her car, crying. She had just been threatened by her doppelgänger.

 

                                  ◆◆◆

 

      A short time later, as Cherlynn struggled to regain her self composure, there came a light knock on the glass of her driver’s side window.  She looked up to find herself coming face to face with a perfect female replica of Jake Patterson.     

     “Are you okay?” the woman asked.   

     Cherlynn quickly lowered her window.  “Yes, yes,” she stammered, “I’m fine.”   

     “I’ve been sitting over there, watching you, for the past ten minutes.” the woman said, “And it looked to me like you might need a friend.  I’m Alice.” She extended a hand through the window to Cherlynn, “Alice Hollingsworth.”   

     Cherlynn clasped her hand and shook it as firmly as she could.  “Cherlynn.” she replied, “Cherlynn Bradshaw.”   

     Alice smiled, “It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Bradshaw.”   

     Cherlynn returned her smile.  “Call me Cherlynn, please.”   

     Alice nodded. “I’ve just put a fresh pot of coffee on.  Why don’t you come in for a cup?”   

     Cherlynn considered the invitation for a moment and then nodded and graciously replied, “Sure, why not?”  She opened the door and got out of the car, “Thank you.”   

     “You’re most welcome.” Alice replied, taking Cherlynn’s arm.  “I’m right over here.”  She led Cherlynn across the road and up the walk to her one-story, white, ranch-style house.

     Cherlynn was led into the kitchen, which she found very lovely, and seated at the table.      

     Alice poured her a cup of coffee.  “Cream?”   

     “Yes, please.” Cherlynn accepted.    

     The two chatted over coffee and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Cherlynn casually mentioned that Alice looked a lot like a boy that she had gone to school with, named Jake Patterson.     

     Alice gaped at her. “That’s my father!” she exclaimed, “My Mom used to tell me about him and about how I looked so much like him.  I never met him, he was killed before I was born.”    

     Cherlynn nodded.  “At the Sadie Hawkins Day Dance, I remember.”      

     “He was killed by a fellow classmate.”    

     “Yes, David Wayne killed him. He killed his own brother Seth, and another twenty-eight of our classmates that night.  My friend Jillian and her boyfriend were among them. I wasn’t allowed to go to the dance that night, otherwise I would have been there, myself, when it all went down.”    

     “That is so scary.”   

     Cherlynn nodded.  “Who is your Mom, if you don’t mind my asking?”   

     “Amy Davis.  She was Amy Beth Rodriguez back then.” Alice supplied, “She was a sophomore when she got pregnant with me.  She was too afraid to tell Jake because he was so popular and a jock.  She was afraid that people would accuse her of getting pregnant to trap him.  So, she broke up with him instead and moved in with my Great Aunt Audrey.  She had planned to tell him after I was born but she never got that chance.  She was six months pregnant with me when he was killed.”              

     Cherlynn tried to remember Amy Beth Rodriguez.  Amy Beth was two years younger than her, and she just couldn’t recall what she had looked like.  Did she remember Jake dating anyone named Amy Beth?  No.  But she was so focused on getting him to like her that she hadn’t paid too much attention to anything else about him.   

     “It’s a small world . . .” Alice mused and rose to her feet.  “Be right back.”

Cherlynn nodded.   

Alice returned with a photograph.  “This is my son, Zeke.  My Mom says he looks so much like his Grandpa that it’s uncanny.”   

     Cherlynn took the picture and looked down at the photo.  Zeke was the spitting image of his Grandpa, that was for sure.  “Handsome young man.”   

     “Thank you.” Alice said with a smile as she took the picture and returned it to wherever she had gotten it.  When she returned, she refreshed Cherlynn’s coffee and then rejoined her at the table.   

     They chatted for another thirty minutes, and then Cherlynn announced that she had to be on her way. She thanked Alice for the coffee and cookies and then followed her to the front door, where they said their goodbyes.

     “It was really nice meeting you.” Alice said, quickly adding, “If you’d like to stop back by sometime, I’d love to hear any stories that you have about my Dad.”   

     Cherlynn promised to stop by again and, even though she already had Alice’s phone number, she exchanged numbers with her.  Then she returned to her car and headed home.   

 

                                                   ◆◆◆

 

     Over the next few weeks, Cherlynn thought about Alice and Zeke a lot.  She really liked her and worried that her doppelgänger was after Alice, but she had no idea how to broach the subject with her.          

It had been almost a month since her doppelgänger had appeared in the back of her car and warned her to stay out of its business or suffer the consequences.  And she also knew that even though she hadn’t seen it since that it didn’t mean that it was no longer there because she was sure that it was.    

     ‘What are you waiting for?’  She wondered.   

No answer came, but she hadn’t expected one.

 

                                                  ◆◆◆

 

     And then one afternoon, not too long after Cherlynn’s second visit with Alice, Sara came home from school and sought her out.   

     “Do you remember when you asked me if I’d seen that girl in the pink gown,” Sara asked, “and I told you that I hadn’t but that I had seen a flash of pink?”   

     “Yes?” Cherlynn replied, her heart sinking.  Did that mean that Sara has seen the doppelgänger?    

     “She was at the school today.” Sara whispered, “I saw her on the football field, she was with Zeke.”   

     “Did Zeke see her?” Cherlynn asked.   

     Sara flashed her an odd look.  “Are you okay, Gran?”   

     ‘So it is the boy you’re after . . .’  Cherlynn was lost in thought until Sara touched her arm.   

     “Gran?” Sara asked, concerned for her Grandma.   

     Cherlynn quickly snapped out of it.  “Wha – what?”    

     “Are you okay?” Sara repeated.   

     Cherlynn managed a weak smile and nodded.  “I – I’m fine, Dear.  What were you saying?”   

     “Just that the girl you were asking about showed up at my school today.” Sara replied, “I saw her out on the football field talking to Zeke.”   

     “What was she talking to him about?” Cherlynn absently inquired, her mind drifting back to her doppelgänger and what it had planned for that boy . . .  And, she knew without a doubt that it was the boy now.   

     Sara shrugged.  “I have no idea, I wasn’t where I could hear but I did see them.”   

     ‘I’ve got to do something.’ Cherlynn was thought, panic rising inside of her, ‘I can’t just stand by and watch it get that boy.  But what?  What can I do?’   

     “Grandma?” Sara asked, touching Cherlynn’s arm again.                           

     Cherlynn glanced down at her granddaughter.   

     “Please tell me what is going on.” Sara beseeched her.   

     Cherlynn shook her head as if to clear it.     

     “Why is this girl at my school?” Sara asked, “Who is she?  Why is she still wearing the same pink gown that you saw her in?  And what does she want with Zeke?”   

     “I don’t know,” Cherlynn absently replied, and she sincerely meant it, “but I am going to find out.”  She started toward the door.         

     Sara followed closely behind her.   

     Pausing, her hand on the doorknob, Cherlynn turned to face Sara.  “You need to stay here.”   

     “Why?” Sara asked.   

     “Because it is too dangerous to take you with me.” Cherlynn firmly replied, and with that, she opened the door and stepped out onto the porch.   

     “If it is so dangerous,” Sara asked, “why are you going?”   

     “I have to.” Cherlynn replied, “Everything that is about to happen is on me, if I can’t stop it.”   

     “What are you talking about?” Sara demanded.   

     Cherlynn sighed softly, then attempted to close the door.   

     Sara held the door open.  “Tell me what is going on!” she insisted.     

“When I get back.” Cherlynn softly replied, doubting that she would make it back.  “I promise.”   

     Sara nodded, accepting her Grandma’s promise, then stepped back and allowed Cherlynn to close the door.   

     Cherlynn hurried to her car.  She had to hurry, she had to get to Alice’s before it was too late.   

 

                                                        ◆◆◆

 

     Pulling into the Hollingsworth driveway, Cherlynn quickly cut the motor, jumped out of the car, and hurried toward the porch.   

     At that same time, Zeke was climbing out of his friend’s jeep.  As he turned toward the house, he saw Cherlynn.   

     Relief flooded Cherlynn.  ‘Thank God, I’m not too late.’   

     “Can I help you?” Zeke asked.   

     Cherlynn smiled.  “I’m a friend of your mother’s.” she replied.            

Zeke acknowledged this with a slight nod.  “She should be home.” he said, gesturing for her to follow him.   

     Cherlynn fell into step behind the boy.   

     Just as they reached the front porch, a young girl’s face appeared in the door’s diamond-shaped window.   

     Cherlynn recognized the face instantly.  It was her doppelgänger in the guise of her seventeen-year-old self!      

     Zeke didn’t notice the face.    

     From the window, the doppelgänger turned its head and looked at Cherlynn.  The smile that drew across its face sent a shiver up her spine.    

     “Oh God, no!”  Cherlynn anguishedly exclaimed as she pushed ahead of Zeke, in an attempt to reach the door before he did.                    

Startled and confused, Zeke looked at the strange woman that was supposedly there to see his Mom.    

     Cherlynn, her eyes never leaving the diamond-shaped window where her doppelgängers face had been, grasp the doorknob and tried to turn it, only to find it locked.      

     “What’re you doing?” Zeke asked, finding his voice, “Are you crazy?”   

     “Do you have a key?” Cherlynn asked, her eyes wild with worry.       

     Frightened, Zeke slowly backed away from Cherlynn.   

     “Do you have a key?” Cherlynn shouted.   

     Swallowing, Zeke turned and fled.   

     “Alice!” Cherlynn called, pounding on the door with her fists, “Alice, open the door!”   She couldn’t hear a sound coming from inside.   

     “Alice!”  Cherlynn began searching for a spare key.  She found one under the planter, next to the door.  Relieved, she quickly unlocked the door and rushed into the house, calling, “Alice, where are you?”   

     She found her in the kitchen, sitting at the kitchen table with a still steaming cup of coffee before her.  Her throat had been slit, the blood running down the front of her shirt to pool in her lap and drip onto the floor.   

     “Oh my God, no!” Cherlynn screamed, running over to Alice’s body and trying to stop the flow of blood with her hands.   

 

                                                  ◆◆◆

 

     Moments later, Zeke and the next-door neighbor came into the house.  They found Cherlynn with her hands around Alice’s ravaged, bleeding throat.   

     “Mom!” Zeke screamed, his tears flowing freely, and he tried to run to her.  

     The neighbor grabbed him, stopping him.  

     “Mom!” Zeke was sobbing.  The neighbor held him with one hand and dialed the Police with the other.   

     Cherlynn was barely aware of any of this.   

     The Police arrived and Cherlynn was handcuffed, and forcibly removed from the house, and loaded into the back of the Police cruiser.    

     They thought that she had killed Alice and her actions only reinforced that thought.     

     She was acting crazy, screaming and crying and claiming that her doppelgänger had killed Alice.   

     The Police Officer left Cherlynn in the car and went back inside the house.   

     No sooner had the door closed, behind the Officer, than Cherlynn heard a chortle from the seat next to her and looked to her right to see her doppelgänger. It was in the image of her now, and it was covered in Alice’s blood.

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