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What You See
Part 1 The twins
- Prologue -
Matilda

Thursday 16th June - The day of the party

If you are a twin, are you always you?

Stepping out through the automatic doors at Málaga airport was like walking into a furnace. The other passengers who’d been on Tilda’s flight were immensely pleased and crowing ‘heatwave’, though the intense light and boiling air made her queasy. Maybe that bottle of wine she’d had mostly to herself last night and the chicken jalfrezi hadn’t been such a good idea now.
   Baseball cap pulled down low, she squinted out at the pick-up area, where the English tourists were consulting maps or waving down taxis, their voices raucous. Did she look the part? Certainly, the hangover was genuine. Tilda briefly wondered why Haitch’s agent, Damian, hadn’t escorted her on the plane. If ‘Haitch’ was such precious cargo, surely he’d ensure she arrived on time, especially with her track record.
   The Spanish, who were either returning home or heading out, navigated it all cheerfully, herding small children and wheeling trolleys piled with suitcases with alacrity and a lot of amiable shouting. Cars were bumper to bumper, and some were bibbing, and there seemed to be a lot of scary activity concerning parking spaces.
   ‘HAITCH!’
   For one tiny moment, Tilda forgot who she was supposed to be and looked around her as if expecting Haitch herself to spring out of the shadowy interior.
   ‘Holy crap!’ She spotted Damian waving at her. Bugger! Nearly blown it at the first hurdle. Concentrate.
   ‘I’m Haitch, I’m Haitch, I’m Haitch,’ she mumbled under her breath.



Part 1 The twins
- Chapter 1 -
Harriet
Saturday 11th June - five days earlier
   
The strident music reverberating around her room made Haitch wince. The Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK. Whatever had induced her to choose that particular ringtone was beyond her. The drunkard’s choice. The White Lightning of ringtones. Surfacing took a long time, like being at the bottom of a deep well that was slowly filling, pushing you steadily towards the lip and the light. The phone ceased its wail.
   Oh, dear God! She couldn’t bear to open her eyes. Was this a hangover? Because she could deal with that. The tingling in her nose and the fullness of her sinuses, coupled with the pounding across the top of her skull and the hot, flushed cheeks stretched tautly; well, that wasn’t good. The phone rang again, and Haitch made a fumbling grab for it. She could just make out her agent’s blurry name on the tiny screen. Damian Montgomery.
   ‘Oh, bollocks.’
   Sliding the bar across, she let him speak first.
   ‘You haven’t forgotten where you’re meant to be on Thursday, have you, my sweetheart?’ His voice was clipped, a bit posh. Haitch reckoned he put it on and was really from Essex.
   Haitch lay for a bit in a stupor. ‘What? What’s happening Thursday?’
   ‘You’re going to that crucially important party, remember? The one that could send your career out into space? The one where you’re supposed to be impressing a potential patron?’
   ‘What day is it today?’
   ‘For fuck’s sake, Haitch. You really need to get a grip. You’re not Russell Brand, you know.’
   ‘Had him. I think.’
   ‘Is there anyone left on this planet that you haven’t?’
   ‘Only you, my darling boy.’
   Haitch could hear the rustle of his silk suit as he moved. The sound exuded exasperation. He was fidgeting.
   Damian’s voice hardened like it’d been dunked in a vat of liquid nitrogen. ‘Haitch. You’re going to be on that bloody plane Thursday morning, or I will bloody kill you.’
   ‘Okay, don’t get your sweet panties in a twist.’ How the hell was she going to tell him she was ill. Could she front it out?
   ‘What’s wrong with your voice? You sound like you’ve smoked forty packets of cigarettes every day for the last week.’ Good. He’d preempted her.
   ‘Listen, Damian. I think I’ve got the lurgy-‘
   ‘No, no, no. You listen, Haitch. I’ve set this up for you. Eighty thousand quid in the offing. Just think about that. If you’re not on that plane, I’m not going to be a happy bunny.’
   ‘I feel terrible-‘
   ‘If you make me come round to your place and drag you out by the scruff of your neck, I’ll do it. Remember you lent me your spare key?’
   Giving him her spare key had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now she wasn’t so sure.
   ‘I’ll be on it.’
   ‘That’s my girl, and yes, you will be on it.’ A pause. ‘Haitch? When was the last time you saw your brother-in-law?’ There was an underlying threat in his voice.
   ‘What?’
   ‘Sam, wasn’t it?’
   ‘Yeah, but-‘
   ‘Have you spoken to him? Told him about this party?’
   ‘Fuck, no.’ Scrambled egg brains weren’t helping her think. ‘I saw him at the gallery. That time with you.’ Oh man, she really didn’t want to remember that night.
   ‘Not since? Have you told your sister anything?’
   ‘No. I barely speak to her, and she’s definitely not speaking to Sam. You saw what a mess he was.’ More like what a mess she was.
   ‘Okay.’
   ‘Why? What’s he got to do with this?’ Did she want to know?
   ‘Nothing…just…well, just be on that plane.’  
   You didn’t cross Damian twice. Been there. Done that. But not twice. When the phone went dead, Haitch rubbed her eyes. She stared blearily at the dark smudges on the tips of her fingers. Like she’d trailed them across old ash. Why had he mentioned Sam? That was pretty unnerving. Anything to do with Sam meant bad news. For her. Nausea was bubbling up from deep inside, and throwing up over her expensive designer bed linen wasn’t an option. If she was home, that is.
   She sat up slowly, taking a while to focus on where the hands on the clock were. Gone one. It looked like her clock, in the right place at least. The fact that bright sunshine was trying to scrabble like an unwanted guest under the heavy curtains must mean that it was daytime. Oh, but the cruel light hurt so much. One naked boob flopped over the top of the plush duvet. She pulled the cover back over herself and sneezed five times in a row so hard, it felt like someone had whacked her over the head with a frying pan.
   ‘Aaargh, you’ve got to be kidding?’
   There was something soft under her head, and she sank back against it. Okay. It took a moment to muster the energy to open her eyes again. No mistaking the print on those curtains and bed linen. She was actually in her own bed. So, she’d managed to make it back to her apartment. The bit in-between her leaving her flat a couple of days ago and waking up was a bit hazy. Attending parties in her position was all par for the course, and there were always going to be drinks and drugs. Sucking on her teeth, she remembered the bottle of fine Scotch whisky shared with whats-his-name and the dabs of coke with young oojamaflip, but what came after? Memory was patchy at best after sessions like that. Was she alone? The soft ‘thing’ she was lying on had been know to be another person. Surely the horrendous bout of sneezing would be enough to wake anyone. She carefully inched round. Only a plump pillow was in bed with her. Small mercies, eh?
   This wasn’t a cold. How the hell was she going to travel to Spain of all places with the bloody flu? Hugging her pillow to her chest, one idea swirled around her head.
   ‘No way, Jose.’ But the thought wouldn’t go away. Would Tilda do it if she begged and grovelled? Sure, Tilda was in a bad way, but they both were really. She was hooked on booze and drugs and the sheer buzz of fame while Tilda, her polar opposite, lived the life of a broken-hearted hermit, imbibing herb tea and eating kale, her only companion a crazy dog. Who in their right mind calls a scared rescue dog ‘Boo’ for Christ’s sake? BOO! Shit all over everywhere!
   Would she do it? Swap places? They’d done it so many times before. So many times…well, she had, hadn’t she. Damian’s question about Sam triggered memories. If only she could pop the top off her own skull like a jam jar and use a bottle brush to clean up the dregs of her mind.


 
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