Jake… or Edward? Edward… or Jake? The dilemma they—well, Jake, mostly—had forced on her kept bouncing around in her skull, problem unsolved, until Heather was ready to cry with frustration. It had been several days since Jake had confessed he was in love with her, and almost a week since Edward had kissed her for the first time. In spite of all the sleepless nights since, she wasn't any closer to a decision than before.
As she twisted around in the bed, her legs tangled in the sheets. Angrily, she kicked them free. Dammit, why did they have to put this decision on her? She really didn't want to make it. Maybe I should run away and join the circus. She uttered a bitter laugh, startlingly loud in the silence of her bedroom: even that sounded more appealing than her current situation.
She squeezed her eyes shut against the tears that threatened. If only she didn't have to choose….
When she opened her eyes again, the soft, gray light of early dawn filled her bedroom, much to her surprise; she must've drifted off after all. Not that it seemed to have brought her any closer to making up her mind, she realized grumpily, remembering her last thought before she'd fallen asleep. But at least she felt more rested and better able to face the day than she had for the past several mornings. Yawning, she swung around and put her feet into her slippers, before snatching up her robe and padding to the kitchen to put on the coffee.
The smell hit her when she was halfway to the kitchen. Was she so exhausted that the sheer idea of putting on coffee made her imagine she could already smell it brewing?
As she got closer to the kitchen, she grew aware that the smell was accompanied by soft noises: cups clanking, spoons clinking, the prattle of the coffee machine…. Her heart pounded against her ribs. This was no hallucination: someone was in her kitchen!
She stopped beside the couch, glancing around the room for a weapon. The poker from the fire, maybe? Even as she picked it up, she mused that a thief wasn't very likely to put on the morning coffee. But who else could it be? Clutching the poker tightly with one hand, she closed the last few feet and nudged the kitchen door open wider with the other.
A woman was standing at the counter, her back to the door. She was about as tall as Heather, slim, and with straight dark hair brushing her shoulders. She must've sensed Heather's presence, because she turned around before Heather could ask who she was. "Hey, you're awake."
Heather's jaw fell, and the poker clattered from her hand, suddenly limp with shock. She clutched at the door frame for support. "Wha—?" Her voice came out as a squeak, and she cleared her throat, desperately trying to find something to say. But her brain seemed to have gone blank, and no words came.
"Coffee's almost done." The woman indicated the machine, as if she felt quite at home in Heather's kitchen, as if she belonged there. As if it was perfectly normal that she was Heather's spitting image.
Heather continued to gape back at her, opening and closing her mouth, faintly worrying she looked like a fish on dry land but helpless to do anything about it. Finally, she found her voice again. "Who—who are you?"
"You, of course." The woman rolled her eyes in a way Heather hoped she never did when one of her students asked a silly question. "I'm you, and you're me."
The explanation made about as much sense to Heather as if the other her had been speaking Chinese, yet at the same time…. It was hard to ignore the fact that looking at the strange woman in her kitchen was like looking into a mirror. "Is this like… like an out-of-body experience?"
The other Heather laughed. "If it makes you feel more comfortable to think of it like that, sure." The coffee machine gave the gurgling burp that indicated it had finished, and the other Heather turned and poured some steaming liquid into a mug before handing it to Heather. "Here. Just the way we like it: hot and strong and unsweetened."
Heather accepted the coffee automatically, absently noticing the woman had used her favorite mug. She sipped from it in an attempt to gain time for thinking—or maybe because she hoped the hot brew on her tongue would wake her for real and prove the entire thing just a weird dream.
The other Heather shrugged and shook back her hair. "Don't know."
Heather noticed her hair had been combed and that she was carefully made up—eyeliner, lipstick—and she felt she must look like a slattern in comparison, having just climbed out of bed. She hadn't even had a shower yet! Self-consciously, she drug her fingers through her hair to try and get some of the tangles out. "But…."
"Don't care, either. This is a good thing." The other her pursed her lips and blew on her own coffee to cool it, before peering back up to meet Heather's gaze.
"A good thing?" Heather realized she was trying to cool her coffee the same way, and she made herself stop with a shudder. "How the heck can this be good?" This wasn't real; it couldn't be. Doppelgangers, clones, parallel realities merging: whatever the explanation was, those only happened in the movies, not in real life. Right?
"Don't you see?" The other version of her pushed past to head into the living room, where she settled herself in Heather's favorite armchair, next to the hearth. Since it was summer, there was no fire, but Heather loved to curl up in that chair with a book during the cold winters and warm her feet near the flames. With a twinge of annoyance—that's my place!—Heather took a spot on the couch.
"Now that there's two of us, we don't have to pick one man over the other." The other woman looked at her meaningfully, and Heather got the impression that if she (Me? Us?) had been given to such gestures, she would've winked at her.
"Pick one…? Oh! You mean…?" Heather swallowed, heart in her throat.
"Yup." Her other self smirked. "We can have our cake, and eat it too." She finished her coffee and set the mug down on the low table nearby. "And nobody needs to get hurt."
Heather wasn't so sure about that. This other Heather might look and sound and move like her, but she wasn't her. And neither Jake nor Edward would be so easily duped.
On the other hand, if they could pull it off….
She really didn't want to choose Jake over Edward, or Edward over Jake. Because, whatever she decided, someone was going to have their heart broken, and neither man deserved that.
"So…?" Heather angled toward the other her, lowering her voice without consciously thinking about it—oh God, she couldn't believe she was even considering it! "H—How would that work?"