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Chapter Eight

     Corey sits wrapped in a towel in the white tiled women's steam room, breathing in the eucalyptus scented steam. She has been rushing headlong through the day, out to Fire Island on impulse, where she inventoried the furnishings of her newly purchased cottage, then back to New York and her health club gym, where she pushed her body through a punishing regimen, forcing exhaustion to balance the excitement.
     Corey loves the warm, shrouded anonymity of the health club steam room. She sits, letting her mind go, and her morning conversation with Deanna surfaces. Her discomfort with Deanna, she decides, is simply that the woman is so vulgar, so in-your-face. And that all-girl rock band she heads — Bitchcraft, indeed! Corey has seen a publicity shot of the group &mdsash; nasty/pretty women with chiseled bodies wearing ripped silver pants, metallic miniskirts, push up bras, studded leather half gloves and anklets.
     Corey begins to relax. She sinks back into the thickening steam, shoulders down, head drooping, eyes closed. Her breathing slows and deepens.

     ...She is half dreaming about Cal and herself as children, together since they suckled twin breasts, since they mouthed their first baby words and supported each other's first attempts to stand and walk. It was an uncanny closeness, the way the two of them seemed from the beginning to form two halves of one complete personality, with Cal taking risks, exploring, creating, and she providing ballast and balance. Their shared experience was so rich it left no room for deep bonds with other children, yet their intelligence and beauty drew others to them. Corey remembers many children who wanted to enter their charmed circle, or to destroy it by tugging one or the other away, children who were always finally disappointed when she and Cal turned away from them and toward each other.
     They slept in the same bed till they were six. She remembers weeping bitterly when her mother told her she was "a little lady now" and "needed her own, private room." For months afterward, she would awake in the night, panicky, wondering where Cal was.
     Corey has done research. She knows her powerful early bond with Cal was unusual for male/female twins, that the twinning phenomenon called "unit identity" is far more common among identical twins, who are necessarily the same sex. She believes the bond was reinforced by their parents' remoteness, their father a Connecticut Yankee lawyer whose genteel alcoholism made him sad and distant, their mother a Christian gentlewoman and landscape painter who would speak ill of no one, least of all her husband, who "needed his drinks" because of the "pressures he was under." In this vacuum, Corey and Cal had nurtured and sustained each other, created, for a time, their own rules and rewards.
     Corey nods in the steam, slumped against the tile wall, half asleep, half dreaming. Then, through the moist haze, through the thick frosted windows, she hears the faintest sound from the New York street, faint but unmistakable, the high squeal of rubber on asphalt followed by the heavy metal-to-metal crunch, and it triggers the dream memory of that November night when she and Cal were twelve, curled up together like two cats on the sofa, watching TV and waiting for their parents to come home from a neighbor's cocktail party, and the same sound, that faint squealing crunching sound, came from outside, from what seemed like a great distance. They slipped on coats, and she followed Cal out the door, down the country road toward the jagged, jumping light, the source of which lay around a banked curve, there to see, oh please God, in the twisted metal frame, their parents transformed, so...odd looking, the angles all wrong, and a keening noise began in her throat, a high, thin note that continued even as Cal folded her in his arms and rocked her, rocked her back and forth and crooned nonsense sounds in her ear while his tears fell onto her face and mixed with her own.
     And that night, after the police and the useless ambulance, after their aunt arrived to stay with them, after Corey had cried and kicked things and torn up her room, she slipped into Cal's room and into his bed, where she had slept for the first six years of her life.
     "Oh, Cal," she said, sliding her arms around him, "there's just us now."
     And he whispered, "We're all we need. Haven't we always been?"
     The family convened to discuss the disposition of the radiant twins. There was a small insurance policy, enough to cover most of their upkeep till they were eighteen, and it was remarked discreetly that their father had been lucky to get any policy, given the shape he was in. The twins did not wish to change schools and would not even consider living separately, so it was decided to board them with a nearby aunt and uncle, an older, childless couple who had a modest house some twenty miles to the north, but still within the same school district.
     The uncle fashioned two small side-by-side bedrooms for them from his attic space. And late at night, when she was lonely or afraid, Corey continued to slip into Cal's bed, curling her body against the contours of his back and legs while he slept, adopting his breathing rhythm like the second half of a single animal...

     Corey wakes with a start, embarrassed that she drifted off in public. She looks around through the steam, relieved that no one is sitting near by, then checks the wall clock and hurries from the room. She has a dinner date with an investment banker, a newly wealthy, immensely self-assured young man. She knows his firm is on retainer to Alphadyne, but she has yet to learn why, a question she cannot ask directly, but intends to have answered.
     The rosy, seal sleek, inflated young banker she will dine with tonight has never been disappointed by life. He has yet to learn and will never fully accept the fact that Corey will not have sex with him, not tonight, not ever.



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