Bennie Rosato didn't have anything in common with her identical twin, except their DNA. They shared the same blue eyes, strong cheekbones, and full mouth, but whenever Bennie looked at Alice Connelly, all she could see were their differences. Tonight, Bennie had on a khaki suit, white shirt, and brown pumps, her lawyer uniform. Alice had on tight shorts with a low-cut black top, flaunting cleavage that Bennie didn't even know they had. She made a mental note to look down her shirt, after she got home.
Alice was making dinner and she opened the oven door, releasing the aroma of roasting chicken. "Finally, it's ready."
"You sound surprised."
"Not at all." Bennie changed the subject. "I like your new house, it's great."
"Yeah, right." Alice turned, carving fork in hand. "Why are you being so condescending?"
"You are, too. It'll look better when I move all my stuff in, and the rent is low, since the estate can't sell it. That's the only way I could afford it. I don't have your money."
Bennie let it go. "It's good that it came furnished."
"This crap? It's dead people furniture." Alice pushed back a smooth strand of hair, yet another difference between them. She blew-dry her hair straight, and her eyeliner was perfect. Bennie let her hair curl naturally and thought Chapstick was makeup.
She sipped her wine, feeling warm. There was no air conditioning, and the kitchen was small and spare except for knobby wooden chairs and a dark wood table. A greenish glass fixture gave little light, and cracks zigzagged down the plaster like summer lightning. Still the cottage had a rustic charm, especially set in the rolling countryside of southeastern Pennsylvania, an hour or so outside of Philadelphia.
Alice plopped the chicken on the table, then sat down. "Don't panic, it's organic."
"You're eating healthy now, huh?"
"What do you mean? I always did. So, are you dating anybody?" Alice asked.
"How long's it been since you got laid?"
"Nice talk." Bennie bit into a potato, which tasted good. "If I remembered sex, I'd miss it."
"Whatever happened to that lawyer you lived with? What was his name again?"
"Grady Wells." Bennie felt a pang. She'd get over Grady, any decade now.
"So what happened?"
"Didn't work out." Bennie ate quickly. It had taken forever to get here from Philly, in rush hour traffic. She wouldn't get home until midnight, which wasn't the way she wanted to end an exhausting week.
"Who'd you see after Grady?"
"So he's the one that got away?"
Bennie kept her head down, hiding her expression. She couldn't understand how Alice always intuited so much about her. They'd never lived together, even as babies, though Alice claimed to have memories from the womb. Bennie couldn't even remember where she put her car keys.
"So, what's new in your life? Don't give me the official version. I read the website."
"Nothing but work. How about you?"
"I'm seeing a few nice guys, and I'm working out. I even joined a gym." Alice made a muscle of her slim arm. "See?"
"Good." Bennie had been an elite rower in her time, but she'd been too busy lately to exercise. "By the way, I hear great things about the job you're doing at PLG. Karen thinks you're terrific."
"Are you keeping tabs on me, now?"
"Of course not. I ran into her, at a benefit."
Alice arched an eyebrow. "Does she have to report to you, just because you got me the job?"
"No, but If I see her, we talk. She knows me, like she knows most of the bar association. She has to, we all support the Public Law Group." Bennie felt a headache coming on. She'd lost a motion in court this morning, and it was turning out to be the high point of her day.
"So what did she say, exactly? She loves to gossip."
"It wasn't like that." Bennie sipped her wine, but it didn't help. "All she said was that they like you. They have you doing office administration, payroll and personnel, in addition to the paralegal work."
"Not anymore. I quit."
"What?" Bennie said, blind-sided. "You quit PLG? When?"
"The other day. It wasn't for me, and the money sucked."
"But you have to start somewhere." Bennie couldn't hide her dismay. She'd stuck her neck out for Alice and now her friends at PLG would be left in the lurch. "They would have promoted you, in time."
"When, ten years?" Alice rolled her eyes. "The work was boring, and the people were so freaking annoying. I'd rather work with you, at Rosato & Associates."
Bennie's mouth went dry. She couldn't imagine Alice at her firm. "I don't need a paralegal."
"I can answer phones."
"I already have a receptionist."
"So fire her ass."
Bennie felt cranky. Maybe it was the headache, which was a doozy. "I like her. I would never do that to her."
"Not even for me? We're the only family we have."
"No." Bennie tried to keep a civil tongue. Being her sister's keeper was getting old. "I can't fire her. I won't."
"Okay, fine, then think outside the box. You need somebody to run the office, don't you?"
"I run the office."
Alice snorted. "If you ask me, you could use a hand with personnel. Those girls who work for you need a life lesson, especially the little one, Mary DiNunzio. Time for girlfriend to grow up."
"That's not true." Bennie wished she hadn't come. Her stomach felt queasy. Her appetite had vanished. She set down her fork. "DiNunzio's a good lawyer. She should make partner next month."
"Whatever, then I'll be your assistant. I'll take ninety grand, to start."
"Listen I can't always be the solution to your problems." Bennie's head thundered. "I got you a job, and you quit it. If you want another job, go out and find one."
"Thanks, Mom." Alice smiled sourly. "The economy's in the toilet, if you haven't noticed."
"You should have thought of that before, and you'll find something, if you try. You went to college, and you have lots ofƒabilities and, oh, my headƒ." Suddenly the kitchen whirled like spin art, and Bennie collapsed onto the table. Her face landed on the edge of her dirty plate, and her hand upset her water glass.
"Aww, got a headache?" Alice chuckled. "Too bad."
Bennie didn't know what was happening. She felt impossibly drunk. Her eyes wouldn't stay open.
"You're such a fool. You think I'd really want to work for you?"
Bennie tried to lift her head up, but couldn't. All her strength had left her body. Sound and colors swirled together.
"Give it up. It's over."
Bennie watched, helpless, as darkness descended.
© Lisa Scottoline 2010