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Chapter 1

Lily

Flashback…27 years ago. It’s 11:51 P.M. on New Year’s Eve, at the previous Butchers’ home where young Lily, a woman in her mid-twenties with short, wavy, blond hair, flawless fair skin, and a thin frame, is shaking like an injured lamb in the thick woods behind the old gray-blue manor covered with dried vines. She’s barefoot and bleeding from slash wounds on her chest, neck, and arms. She glances around, lost, and surrounded by the thick grove of old trees; some with mossy barks and some had been stripped of their barks, rendering them hauntingly beautiful. A ghostly fog covers the area like a veil to another world. Lily has a strong grip on a hunting knife in one hand and is bleeding from the other. She catches her breath in the cold night as warm blood trickles down her fingertips. The smell of pine and moss fills her nose. She’s confused and deathly afraid, searching the area around her, and cowering into her boney shoulders. Her teeth chatter. Lily bites down on her jaw to keep the uncomfortable noise down.

Crack! A twig snaps in the near distance. Lily turns around, aiming the knife in that direction. It’s a small white rabbit on the. She nearly attacks it, but she lowers the blade upon identifying it as a harmless animal. Then, her eyes catch a red stain on the white coat of the tiny creature. It’s blood and it’s still wet, dripping down the rabbit’s neck the way a heavy raindrop trickles down a glass window. Lily spins around to meet a very messy and bloody Page Butcher, who also looks like Lily in every way. Both women are wearing silver dresses, diamond earrings and necklaces, and red lipstick. It appears as if someone had intentionally dressed them to mirror each other.

Page swings the ax at Lily and misses. She almost falls over, but she doesn’t. She returns to Lily. “I don’t know what my husband saw in you, choosing you as my double,” says Page, obviously jealous of how much better Lily looks in a silver dress than her.

 

Lily walks backwards, begging, “Please let me go. You’ll never see me again.”

Page hates the sight of Lily mimicking her image, down to her pink diamond engagement ring. Feeling replaced, she launches at Lily, screaming. Both women tumble in the dry leaves. They’re in a brute struggle, each with a weapon, trying to kill the other, tossing and turning. Slashing, punching, and scratching at the other woman’s face. They both lose their weapons among the piles of dead leaves. Page gains the upper hand and rolls on top of Lily. She grabs Lily’s neck and squeezes hard, laughing sinisterly.

Lily’s choking. She kicks. Tears fall down both sides of her temple. Lily claws at Page’s face. Page grins; she’s not budging. Lily reaches her hands higher and pushes her thumbs into Page’s eyes. Page shouts painfully. Lily’s able to finally kick Page over her body. Lily goes to her knees, covered in dry leaves and huffing. Page prances on all four limbs and launches at Lily again. Lily spots the knife. Page yanks Lily by the hair and slams her head to the ground. Lily elbows Page in the face and reaches for the knife. Page tackles Lily. They both smash into a pile of crispy brown leaves. Suddenly, the leaves from under the women sink and they’re falling ten feet down.

It’s dark. They’re in a pit. The bluish moonlight shines over them. Lily shakes off her foggy concussion. She brushes the dirty leaves from her face and realizes that the knife is still in her hand. Her sight becomes clear and she instantly meets Page’s wicked, unsettling smile. Their faces are inches from each other. Frightened, she immediately thrusts the knife into Page’s chest. Lily pulls the knife out, gets on top of Page, and drives the blade into her multiple times. Blood spills from Page while Lily stabs uncontrollably, sobbing and crying.

Page dies in a pool of her own blood with her eyes open. Lily falls to the side and then she finally sees the whole picture: Page is dead, her smile is gone, and her legs are both broken from the fall. Lily’s cries transition to laughter. Then, for a reason unknown to her, Lily takes the knife and makes a slit across Page’s mouth from cheek to cheek.

Chapter 2

Party Tricks

Back in the present…it’s five minutes after seven o’clock on New Year’s Eve. There’s laughter over dinner, pleasure indulging in hot fancy dishes next to colorful desserts, delight in small conversations, sparkling champagne, and excitement in eye contact. Flirtation. Lust. Tension.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Lily imitates her double, Elizabeth, breaking the burnt sugar crust of the crème brûlée in front of them with small golden spoons.

While some people have already moved on to dessert, May is unable to finish half a bowl of lobster bisque and a plate of garlicky lamb chops, baked sea scallops, and sour cream mashed potatoes. She can’t help but feel like she’s dining in an expensive restaurant as she adjusts her posture in the chair, feeling like she doesn’t belong.

James smiles at the sight of his double, Bob, stuffing his face with small mozzarella bacon skewers and washing them down with champagne, overindulging. Bob reaches for the remaining pieces of lamb chops from the oval plate on the table between him and James.

Arthur briefly analyzes his double, Marcus, who happens to be charming the crowd effortlessly. Marcus has a well put-together black suit and tie; he looks modest. His best features are his dirty blond hair, blue eyes, strong jawline, and a devilishly alluring smile.

Arthur avoids eye contact with him. Is that what I look like? He also recognizes that Marcus’s body appears to be in better shape than his own by far. Half the doubles tonight outshine the Butchers. Maybe they will also outperform us.

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Half an hour later, 7:35 P.M., the dishes and dessert plates are near empty. Everyone remains at the dining table, sitting in someone else’s seat to mix and mingle. Each guest is accompanied by a glass of champagne and a member of the Butchers. Arthur takes the seat next to May.

Emma takes the lids off two trays to reveal strawberry and coffee macarons. “Cat and I are having a little friendly competition. The cream is an old family secret.”

Cate stands up and cuts Emma off, saying, “We only made enough for the guests.”

Emma doesn’t look happy about Cate taking the lead.

“Family is too predictable, and biased,” says Cate, faking a nervous smile.

The guests laugh at her joke, and Lily joins in, chuckling loudly. Arthur looks at his mother and slightly shakes his head at her. Lily abruptly stops laughing and clears her throat. She plays with the pink diamond ring underneath her silver wedding band, turning it back and forth as a distraction from her anxiety. 

Emma carries her tray of coffee macarons around to the guests.

Cate makes eye contact with Arthur as she heads his way with a tray of strawberry macarons. He looks away, returning his interest to May and takes her hand underneath the table.

Arthur says to May with a serious tone, “Don’t eat the macarons. They’re worse than poison.”

May’s not sure if he’s serious or not. “I like—”

“May,” Cate calls for her attention. “Try a macaron.”

May looks at Arthur. “How can I resist?”

“Try,” says Arthur.

“Don’t listen to Arthur. He hates sweets, among many things,” says Cate, holding the macarons in front of May.

“It won’t hurt her feelings if you throw it up later,” says Arthur.

He’s really testing Cate, and she looks mad.

Cate tells him, “Stop it, Arthur.”

May feels a little uncomfortable. “I’ll try one.” She reaches for a pink macaron. 

“Great!” Cate waits on May, “Tell me what you think.”

“Oh, now?” asks May.

Cate nods. 

May takes a bite and chews. The smell of sweet strawberries travels up her nose as the soft, pink shell breaks in her mouth. The heavy cream is loaded with sugar and a strong strawberry flavor. “It’s good. Is that…?”

“Yes!” Cate excitedly explains, “I used real strawberries in the cream. Anyway, Grandma Emma’s coming around with hers. Make sure to vote for mine, though.”

May smiles. There’s a funny aftertaste in her mouth, and she quickly washes it down with a sip of champagne. 

Cate sits down, skipping the rest of the guests. 

Arthur glares at Cate, “Don’t you have to pass those out?” 

Cate ignores him and turns to May. “I heard something interesting about you.” 

Arthur tells May, “Don’t take anything from her seriously.”

“What’s that, Arthur?” Cate calls him out.

Arthur repeats louder, “I said, don’t take anything from her seriously.”

Lily hears him, so does James Junior.

“He’s right. I’m the least of your worries.” Cate touches May’s lucky bracelet.

Arthur takes May’s hand away from Cate’s prying fingers. He holds May’s hand firmly. How many red flags before May catches on that something is very wrong here?

Cate takes Arthur’s glass from the table and drinks from it, possessively. “I have to admit, I looked you up, May. Read some articles. Tragic home invasion.”

That last part got Dr. Grant’s attention. He glances at them.

“Is it true?” asks Cate.

Dr. Grant feels protective of May; he opens his mouth—  

“Cat, stop,” demands Arthur.

“I’m just curious. It’ll make the game more interesting if it is true,” says Cate. 

“Cat did plan the first game tonight.” Lily reaches for a raspberry from the dessert tray. 

“I’m just quoting the newspaper,” says Cate, looking into May’s eyes. “You claimed that you left work early because you had predicted the deaths of your father and brother.”

May feels the pressure sweating out of her palms. Arthur taps May’s hand to get her attention. “You don’t—"

Cate talks over him, “Is that true, May?”

Arthur squeezes May’s hand. “You don’t have to answer that.”

May is torn. The pressure of pleasing Arthur’s family members pours over her like a hot wave and flushes her cheeks bright pink.

Dr. Grant is getting uncomfortable and tries to hide it with his face in the champagne glass. The bubbles hit his nose, and his nose crinkles.

“Cat, you’re making our guests uncomfortable,” Arthur states the obvious.

“It’s okay,” says May. “Yes, it’s true.”

 

“See?” Cate smirks, taunting Arthur. She turns back to May. “So, you can predict people’s death?”

 

May takes a moment and then shares, “Not always. I see how long people live.” She’s nervous of what everyone would think of her now, keeping her eyes on the glass in front of her. The champagne bubbles rise to the surface like her nervous energy.

 

“How does that work?” asks Cate.

 

Arthur raises his voice, “Enough, Cat.”

 

“It’s fine.” May tries to defuse the situation. “Really.”

 

“Thank you,” says Cate, grinning at Arthur to rub it in. She returns to May. “How do you see how long people live?”

 

May pauses briefly; she’s unsure how to begin to explain the unusual process. “Well, I stare at the full name of a person and then a number comes to mind. The number resembles the age when they will die.”

 

“That’s wild.” Cate refills the glass in her hand with more champagne. “Would you mind demonstrating? For fun. We can use the name place cards.”

 

“I prefer not to, if that’s okay.” May stammers. “I—" 

 

Dr. Grant cuts in, “Doesn’t seem like a very fun game. Who wants to know when they’ll die? Right?” He has a half-eaten coffee macaron in one hand. 

 

A short silence sweeps across the table, then James raises his glass with a serious look on his face. Emma sees his motion and she seconds it, lifting her full champagne glass from the table and holding it high. Cate’s loving the support and holds her glass out with pride.

 

The guests start to notice, looking to one another with curious faces.

 

“What’s going on?” Marcus asks the question all the guests are thinking.

 

“It’s a vote,” answers Lily.

 

James Junior also agrees, taking up his glass just above his head.

 

“Sounds entertaining,” says Bob, joining the vote by lifting his glass up from his lips.

 

“I’m intrigued. I’d rather know than not know.” Michelle picks up her near empty glass.

 

Cate gives Lily a daunting look. Lily’s lips twitch a little as she holds up her glass in favor.

 

Cate smiles. “Well, it looks like majority rules. What do you say, May? Won’t you entertain us?” She sips from the glass.

 

May gives in. “Sure.”

 

“Wonderful! Here.” Cate passes a stack of cards to May.

 

Most of the guests appear engaged. 

 

May lets go of Arthur’s hand and accepts the cards across the table. “Does anyone have a pen?” asks May.

 

Cate pulls a black pen from her breasts and offers it to May. Bob, Marcus, and Dr. Grant all enjoy her pen trick. May takes the pen.

 

Dr. Grant makes eye contact with May. “You can skip my name.”

 

“Okay.” May sets Dr. Grant’s name card aside.

 

Cate looks at Dr. Grant. “I thought you were fun, Paul.”

 

The next place card has Arthur’s name. May glances at him and he looks away from his name. 

 

“This isn’t fun,” says Arthur, annoyed.

 

“You wouldn’t know what’s fun, Arthur, not even if it’s staring you in the face.” says Cate, trying to push him. “Unless you have a party trick that is to die for, stop talking.” 

 

Arthur opens his mouth—

 

“Let the girl do her work in peace,” says James, putting a stop to their feud. “The game is already in play. We must finish what we began, no matter how small.” He looks at May, telling her to keep going.

 

May returns to staring at Arthur’s name on the place card, then she writes the first number. 

 

“The real game will start soon enough, and everyone must participate,” says James. “Including you, Dr. Grant.”

 

Dr. Grant responds with a smile, but James’ attention is elsewhere. He’s more interested in Elizabeth, Lily’s double. Emma notices her husband’s infatuation with Elizabeth, but she quietly drowns her jealousy in champagne with a scheming look in her eyes.

 

Dr. Grant pops the rest of the macaron in his mouth and chews. He makes a slightly sour face, glances at the macaroon, and then sips from his glass. 

 

May moves on to the next name. 

 

“Are we close enough to see the fireworks from the city?” asks Elizabeth.

 

“No,” answers Emma, being short out of spite. 

 

“We have our own fireworks on the property.” Lily clarifies, “It’s set on a timer to go off at midnight. That’s when we’re allowed to use guns.”

 

“Oh! That’s great,” says Elizabeth. 

 

Dr. Grant is still wondering what the last part of Lily’s sentence meant. Cate notices his uncertain expression. 

 

“Mom says the strangest things,” Cate tells Dr. Grant. “She’s more blond than most of us.”

 

Dr. Grant drinks, trying to hide the fact that he’s becoming more uncomfortable at the party.

 

“I love the house.” Elizabeth has nothing more interesting to say. 

 

“It’s a relic, like some of the artifacts in it.” James Junior is enthusiastic about the subject. “The house was torn down and rebuilt in the late 1800s.”

 

“Really?” Marcus expresses interest, “Why?”

 

“It used to be an asylum for the mentally ill,” answers Lily.

 

A mad house for a mad family. Fitting. Arthur looks at May.

 

May stops writing and sets the pen down, a little nervous.

 

“People gave it terrible names back then; the crazy house, the madhouse, the loony bin.” Lily recalls, “Well, this place housed a few murders as well; the rich get away with everything.”

 

“That’s why the property is far from the city and surrounding towns,” Cate adds. “It was one of the most advanced and secure facilities of its time. The fence electrocuted patients when they tried to escape. The old fence is still up.”

 

The news shocked some guests, including Marcus and Dr. Grant.

 

“And still functional, we get a few dead animals throughout the year,” adds Lily. “It’s hard to find them all, the gate wraps around the entire property.”

 

“That explains the creepy black gates at the entrance,” says Marcus.

 

“How’s it coming, May?” asks Cate.

 

May’s hesitant. “I’m done.” She holds out the cards to Cate.

 

Cate stands up looking thrilled and rips the cards out of May’s hands. “How exciting!” She quickly passes out the name cards to their owners.

 

“What does the number mean again?” asks Michelle, brushing the fur coat at her chest.

 

Cate excitedly reminds her, “The age when you’ll die.”

 

Everyone stares at the number underneath their name. Everyone except Dr. Grant, May, and Arthur. 

 

Michelle dabs her lips at the corner.

 

Emma’s bothered by Michelle’s little quirks. She leans to James, “Am I really like that?”

 

James glances at Michelle. “Yes.” He lowers his voice. “Is there a problem with my pick as your double?”

 

Michelle seems unimpressed. She glares at May. A few people at the table are looking at May with questionable or unpleasant faces.

 

Arthur mouths to May: I’m sorry

 

May mouths back: It’s okay.

 

“72? This is a joke.” Bob sounds upset. “Was it you, Cate? Who told you my age? You two did this together,” he accuses them, pointing his finger from Cate to May.

 

“I don’t know what you mean, Bob,” says Cate.

 

“I’m 72 now,” Bob replies. “It’s not funny.” He looks at Michelle. “What does yours say?”

 

“70,” says Michelle, looking concerned. 

 

“That’s her real age,” says Bob.

 

Members of the Butchers are fascinated; there’s excitement all over their faces. 

 

“I don’t find it funny either,” says Marcus. “Mine is my current age.”

 

“Do you read palms, May?” Emma asks from across the table.

 

“No,” answers May.

 

“So you think I’ll be dead this year?” asks Emma. 

 

May stammers, “I…” 

 

“I turn 71 on New Year’s Day.” Emma sounds offended with a little doubt in her voice. “The number you wrote is 70.”

 

Arthur intervenes. “Grandma, don’t get angry with May.” He reminds everyone, “It’s just a game, remember? And it was Cat’s idea.” 

 

Lily shares, “Well, mine says I’ll be dead in two more years.”

 

“Same here,” Cate says without a worry. 

 

“So does mine.” James Junior looks down the table to Arthur. “What does yours say, Arthur?” 

 

Arthur glances at his card. “99.”

 

The Butchers are stunned at Arthur’s number. 

 

“I wonder where you will be when the rest of us are predicted to be dead in two years,” says James Junior, bitterly.

 

Arthur avoids the question. I wonder

 

“Can we move on to the next game?” Elizabeth’s anxious. 

 

“Patience, Lizzie.” James Junior assures her, “The next game is to die for.”

 

“Lizzie, what’s your number?” asks Cate.

 

“My birthday was last month. It’s the same number,” says Elizabeth, trying to avoid telling her real age. She appears skeptical, raising her brow. “Maybe she’s just predicting our current age.”

 

“I hope so,” says James. “If not, these are my last hours. Emma and I were born on New Year’s Day.”

 

“A couple born on the same day and dies on the same day? That’s somewhat romantic!” Cate glances at Arthur. “Don’t you think so, Arthur?” 

 

Doesn’t matter what I think. Arthur addresses the empty glasses and bottles on the table, “Does anybody want more to drink?” 

 

“How kind of you to offer,” says Lily. “I’ll help you.” She stands from her seat and joins Arthur. 

 

“I enjoyed it, Cat.” James Junior praises her, “Well done.”

 

He made Cate smile. She loves her father’s approval. 

 

“I’m off to the powder room,” says Cate. 

 

James Junior steps over to Cate’s seat and pulls the chair out for her. 

 

“Thanks, Dad.” Cate takes off. 

 

James Junior takes her seat. He makes eye contact with May. She’s intimidated by his gaze, and he likes it. 

 

James Junior puts on a kind facial expression and says, “I thought Arthur wouldn’t leave you alone for a minute. I wanted to officially introduce myself. I’m James Junior, Arthur’s father. Call me Junior.”

 

May replies, “Nice to meet you. I’m May.”

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, May.” James Junior hands her a place card. “If what you did is real, then it’s an incredible gift.

 

There’s one more name I’d like you to look at for me.”

 

May takes the card and peers at the name: Michael R. Butcher.

James Junior just gives her a stern look.

 

May picks up the pen. Her hand trembles over the name. She grips the pen tightly to stop from shaking. Then she writes down a number underneath the name and returns the card to James Junior. 

 

“Thank you.” James Junior looks at the card and smiles.

Chapter 3

Strange Weather

The old grandfather clock ticks: 7:47 P.M. Everyone is scattered, socializing. Arthur is back at the table with May.

“Sorry that my sister put you on the spot like that,” Arthur apologizes to May.

“It’s fine.” May plays with her lucky bracelet. “It wasn’t so bad.”

“I have to tell you something.”

 

“What?” 

 

It’s already begun. The only thing I can do is make sure she lives. “I’m afraid—”

 

“He’s afraid of snakes,” Cate’s standing behind them. “Arthur was bitten by a poisonous snake when he was five.” She sits down.

 

Arthur takes Cate’s arm and pulls her off of the chair, trying not to show any aggression. “Let’s get some air.”

 

Cate gets close to him and says, “Sure.”

 

May picks up on the unusual behavior Cate has around Arthur. It’s an uncomfortable feeling deep in May’s chest, like a bad kiss or like seeing her crush with his ex.

 

“I’ll be right back,” Arthur assures May.

 

Cate fakes a smile to May.

 

May sees the tension between them as Arthur walks away with Cate, still dragging her by the arm. They head down the hall towards the doors leading to the backyard.

 

Arthur lets go of Cate’s arm, almost shoving her against the wall. He rudely asks, “What do you want?”

 

“I thought we were getting some air,” says Cate. 

 

Arthur nearly rolls his eyes. “You’ve pestered her enough.”

 

“She’s the reason my hair looks like this! I’ve never dyed my hair in my life.”

 

“Is that all?”

 

“How dare you bring someone like her as my double!”

 

“There are hundreds of girls like you. Father insisted I bring her.”

 

“You have a problem, and you need to fix it before Father and Grandpa catch on.”

 

They are my problem. And so are you.”

 

Cate’s offended, and it’s clearly displayed on her face with the crinkles between her eyebrows. “Why are you like this? You’re acting strange.”

 

“How should I act?” 

 

“Like a Butcher.” 

 

“Then strange is nothing new.” Arthur turns to leave. He goes back towards the entry of the dining hall.

 

Everyone is still conversing, though there’s an anxious energy now. Dr. Grant’s on his way to May at the table. Arthur’s arm is suddenly yanked back. He’s facing Cate again, she’s upset.

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Tick. It’s 7:49 P.M. Back at the dinner party, Dr. Grant takes the seat next to May.

“You’re also here,” says Dr. Grant, glad to see her.

 

“Yes,” says May. “So are you.”

 

Arthur’s not too far away; he can hear May and Dr. Grant talking. He tears away from Cate. She grabs his other hand and grips it firmly.

 

Dr. Grant tells May, “I’m glad you came out.”

 

“Thanks, me too,” says May. 

 

She glances from Lily in the mixed crowd to Cate by the doorway with Arthur, taking note of their resemblance. Cate briefly catches eyes with May.

 

Dr. Grant lowers his voice. “Don’t look too hard; they’ll catch on,” he says half-jokingly. 

 

May feels stupid and looks down at her plate.

 

“It’s Cate,” Dr. Grant confesses.

 

May’s surprised. “She’s your date?”

 

“Yes.” Dr. Grant sounds a little embarrassed. “There’s a twenty-year difference.”

 

May responds with a smile. 

 

“We like each other. That’s all I have to say.” He fixes his black-framed glasses, somewhat embarrassed. “Also, she’s not like this when we’re alone. Maybe it’s the holidays; it can bring out the worst in some people. Cate seems a little…off.”

 

“Maybe she’s crazy—”

 

“What?”

 

“—in love,” she finishes.

 

“Really?” He glances at Cate and then back at May, with a curious smile. “How can you tell?”

 

May gives up, feeling a little foolish as she replies, “Beyoncé says it better.”

 

“Who?”

 

“What music do you listen to?”

 

Dr. Grant chuckles. “You’re teasing me, aren’t you?”

 

“Just a little.”

 

“Because she’s half my age?”

 

“No.” May assures him, “The age difference doesn’t matter.” She glances at Arthur. “But she seems more interested in her brother than anyone else here. Or am I imagining it?” She sees Arthur looking back at her.

 

That makes Dr. Grant curious. He looks over to Cate and Arthur.

 

Tick. It’s 7:50 P.M.

 

Cate pries her nails into Arthur’s palm. “Your problem is her.” She squeezes harder. Her nails break his skin and draw blood. 

 

Arthur feels his hand bleeding. “Are you satisfied?”

 

“You like her,” says Cate, jealously, and as if he needs her approval.

 

“You like Dr. Grant.”

 

“I like every inch of him.”

 

“Spare me the details.” I have to get out of here with May. “Drink less and try not to embarrass yourself.”

 

“At least I won’t defy family and tradition over an outsider.”

 

“You wouldn’t know how.” Arthur abandons her. He sees her downing the glass of champagne out of the corner of his eye. 

 

Watching Cate with Arthur from the dining table makes Dr. Grant secretly cringe. He doesn’t like the way she behaves, but he doesn’t want to think the worst of Cate. “Maybe they’re just really close.”

 

“Yeah, it seems like it,” says May, sarcastically.

 

Some of the guests see Arthur approaching. He pretends to smile at every person he makes eye contact with. Arthur focuses on getting to May as soon as he can. He sees that she’s still with Dr. Grant at the dining table. Elizabeth steps into Arthur’s view, trying to get his attention with her smoldering gaze.

 

Dr. Grant asks May, “Do you feel out of place?”

 

“Very much,” says May.

 

“Me too.”

 

“Isn’t it strange that everyone looks like someone in the family?” She points out to him. “Look at Emma and Michelle. James and Bob. Lily and Elizabeth,” she recalls her nickname, “or Lizzie. It’s a strange coincidence that those two have similar names.”

 

Dr. Grant quickly explores the faces in the room. He finds near-perfect matches with the guests to the family members that May just listed. Michelle and Emma both have a similar look down to the detail of their judgmental stares, even when they look at each other. Bob mirrors James with broad shoulders, same height, a large head of golden hair, and a prideful expression on his face as if it’s the only face he was born with and it’s permanent. Elizabeth and Lily, two beautiful women in their forties with perfect figures, ashy blond hair, plump red lips, deep blue eyes, and French manicures. “That is strange. I never noticed.”

 

“You’re dating Cate, right?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You look like her father.”

 

Dr. Grant glances at James Junior; the resemblance is there. He feels foolish and changes the subject. “You know what’s strange?”

 

“Sure, we can change the subject,” says May, teasing him again.

 

He can’t hide his embarrassment and smiles nervously.

 

“What’s stranger than being inside an old insane asylum with my date’s family and their twins?”

 

“When you say it like that, it is quite strange.” He doesn’t read too much into it and mentions, “Also, there was a blizzard this morning where we were, but there’s no snow here on this property for a few miles. And there’s fog instead, which is not supposed to happen. I’m not an expert, but fog and snow can’t exist together. It’s possible for fog to exist with a rainstorm, but not with the snow. However, the snow can follow the fog.”

 

“You sound like an expert,” she teases him.

 

He chuckles, a little embarrassed. “I hope getting back home won’t be so bad. When I last checked, the weather app said it will snow again tonight.” He sighs. “The reception here is bad, so I can’t get an update on the weather.”

May agrees. “That is strange for the weather.” She returns to the previous conversation. “So, you and Cate.”

Dr. Grant smiles. “And you and Arthur.”

 

May shyly looks away from him, rubbing her hands together. Dr. Grant notices. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

 

“I may have had too much to drink; my fingers are numb.”

 

He rubs his fingers together. “Mine too.”