Amber included Lena in a knitting group that didn’t knit—four friends meeting Saturday mornings.
“Why call it knitting?” Lena wondered.
“Because, the husbands will approve of stitchery. Compared to weekend gossiping.”
Amber and Lindsey dropped out before March. Amber because her mother’s memory was failing. And Lindsey’s daughter was anorexic. For solidarity’s sake, they said, Lena and Marlene should keep meeting.
Between just them, Marlene confessed that her name was also Lena; Amber always got it wrong.
The first Lena said, “That’s so Amber. I’ll be Lena-a, and you—Lena-b. Like Dr. Seuss.”
Lena-b giggled. “Delightful.”
By springtime, Saturday mornings had extended into whenever they had free time.
They rarely gossiped. Lena-b adored Lena-a. Who cut her hair? Where did she buy her clothes?
After acquiring a physical likeness, Lena-b asked about Lena-a’s engaging home; and who decorated it.
Lena-a grew suspicious but answered questions about her children and where she bought such fresh food. Favorite recipes and restaurants; interesting books? What about music, movies, and other entertainment?
Following another summer evening with Lena-b’s family, Lena-a told her husband, Harry: “It’s frightening.”
“Frightening? Darling, she simply wishes she were just like you. What woman wouldn’t?”
“She has researched my toiletries. Uses my same soap, same powder, same lipstick, Harry.”
“That’s creepy. You’re right. But harmless.”
“It’s identity theft.”
“No, Lena. That’s someone tapping your bank accounts. She’s just copying you.”
“Give her a cheat sheet then. I dread seeing her.”
“Lena, that’s silly.”
She didn’t tell Harry about the hang-up phone calls. He wouldn’t understand.
Then the phone rang after midnight and she heard Harry on the extension. “She thinks you’re obsessed.”
The next evening, before dinner, Lena-a received a dozen roses. The note read, “Sorry for glomming on. Stop by tomorrow. Everything’s resolved.”
Long stem roses? Lena didn’t want Harry understanding or not. She buried them in the trash.
And the next morning? She paid Lena-b a visit.
“You know how much my husband travels.” Lena-b said. “No more midnight phone calls, I promise. I got a permit.”
Lena-b asked her eight-year old to find her purse. When he did, she unzipped a compartment. Lena-a expected a hand gun, but Lena-b produced papers. “The condo’s allowing me a dog.”
Panic had already seized Lena-a. Phone calls, roses, dog, a phantom gun—the woman was stalking her.
“Admit the truth or I’m calling the authorities.”
Lena-b covered her face. “Ask Harry; it was his idea. He wanted me to play your role. For fun.”
“Stalking me was Harry’s idea?”
“No, acting like you. It turned him on.”
Lena-a laughed out loud. “You and Harry are having an affair? Infidelity, not murder?”
“He dumped me Friday. It’s over.”
Lena laughed until it hurt. “Last question. Your name.”
“Marlene. Until Harry preferred Lena.”