You step into an acquaintance’s house for the first time, and discover that everything — from the furniture, to the books, to the art on the wall — is identical to your home. What happens next?
Jane opened the door, and there stood Vanessa, holding a small container. ‘I bought some cake!‘ she said, with a smile on her face. Jane grinned from ear to ear. ‘Fantastic, I was only thinking I should have baked something. This is perfect. I’ll put the kettle on. Come in, come in!’
Vanessa walked through the doorway, kissing Jane on each cheek. ‘It’s so good to see you. I can’t believe that I’ve never been here before. I was thinking about it on the way over and I realised that you and the girls always come over to my place, but I’ve never…’ Vanessa stopped dead in her tracks as she stepped into the lounge room.
She momentarily forgot where she was, as she looked around and saw all her furniture in Jane’s living room… but it wasn’t Vanessa’s. ‘…been… to… your… place…’
‘Really? Surely not?’, Jane replied walking through the lounge room and into the open-plan kitchen. ‘I’m so glad that you were able to come and visit, I haven’t seen you for a few weeks and we haven’t had a chance to properly catch up since you got back from Japan! Now, can I get you a tea or a coffee?’
Vanessa was too distracted by the furnishings of Jane’s lounge room. She thought that she might even be dreaming, because this kind of deja vu is just too full-on. Everything was identical. Her couch was the same, not just a dark grey three-seater with a chaise, but it was the exact same three-seater with a chaise that Vanessa had at her place. Same with the rug. And the coffee table. And the arm chair. And the framed prints on the wall. As she looked around, she almost wondered whether or not Jane had just robbed her and taken all her stuff and put it in her apartment instead. It was such a surreal moment.
She walked slowly through the lounge room, completely oblivious to what Jane was actually saying to her. Vanessa looked at the ornaments on the bookcase. They were all the same as Vanessa’s. Even the bookcase was exactly the same. Jane had even the same layout in the bookcase as Vanessa. She couldn’t believe it.
Vanessa leant in for a closer look at one of the photo frames. Exact same frame with a four-section divider. The photo’s were only slightly different, but still the same. All of Jane and her husband, the same as Vanessa’s. One of them at the beach, one in Bali, one at the zoo and one in a canoe – just like Vanessa’s.
Vanessa began feeling slightly uncomfortable, but then thought that perhaps it was some kind of joke… maybe there was some kind of surprise or something? Maybe the girls all put her up to it like a practical joke – like the photos you see on the internet of people’s work desks being wrapped completely in newspaper or covered in sticky notes.
She looked up into the kitchen, ‘Honey, are you having a tea or coffee?’
‘Oh, um… um… ahhh… coffee thanks.’ She felt quite shaken by all of this. It was far too much to take in all at once. She had no idea Jane was like this. But the more Vanessa saw, the more she thought about it and the more little details began to make so much more sense.
‘White and two?’, Jane called from the kitchen.
Jane let out a small giggle, ‘same as me! You know, it’s uncanny just how much we have in common!’
Feeling slightly concerned, she called out with hesitation, ‘yeah, I’m starting to realise that… I guess that’s why we’re friends!’ Vanessa reached into her purse and pulled out her phone. She wrote a message to Trish:
911. @ Jane’s. Get here ASAP.
Vanessa walked through into the kitchen, and tried hard not to let her jaw hit the ground. She had the exact same kitchen as Vanessa. Literally. The exact same kitchen. Same colour scheme, same layout, same appliances. She could have easily had her kitchen done quite larger, as she certainly has the space for it, but it was literally the exact same dimension’s as Vanessa’s. Unable to keep her mouth shut, Vanessa felt compelled to enquire, ‘Oh my god, I love what you’ve done with your kitchen. I remember not so long ago you were telling us that you were having it done. It looks fantastic, but it almost looks as though you could have gone larger… you’ve certainly got the space for it. You could have had a really big, kind of entertaining kitchen…’
‘That’s what Roger said. He wanted a bigger one. He didn’t want the white. He wanted a more natural colour. But I said no. I wanted white. I wanted it to be clean. Sharp. Clinical. Everything has it’s place.’
‘Yeah, it reminds me of my kitchen. Our’s is a pretty similar layout. I also like a white kitchen.’
‘Well you’re not the only one who can have a white kitchen, okay. They said it’s a standard layout. If anything it’s just average. Your kitchen is average. Just because you did yours first, doesn’t mean that it’s special. Mine’s just as nice’, Jane snapped.
‘Oh, I’m not saying that it’s not, it’s just that it’s so similar to mine. Who’d you get…’
‘WHAT, SO YOU THINK I COPIED YOU? IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE SAYING?’
Vanessa was taken aback by Jane’s snappy comment. ‘Um, no, I, ahhh, I’m just saying that it’s great that you went with a clean modern kitchen. I love a clean, modern kitchen as well. Who did you get to install it? We used Kleins Kitchens.’
‘Well I used Kleins as well. You’re not the only one who can use them. They’re not just yours, you know!’
‘Jane, calm down, I’m not saying they were. They’re great guys, and they did a brilliant job with ours, and it looks like whoever did yours did a great job as well, because it’s been finished beautifully.’
Jane slammed a coffee cup down on the bench, slightly spilling some of the dark brown steaming liquid onto the pristine white bench top. ‘NOW LOOK WHAT YOU’VE MADE ME DO!’ Jane screeched at Vanessa. Why didn’t you get a coaster? How uncivilised are you?’
Vanessa didn’t really know how to react to this. This was a side of Jane she had never seen before, not in the twelve years that they had been friends. She always though that Jane was a bit… eccentric, but now she was discovering that this lady was ’round-the-bend crazy. ‘Jane, Jane, you just sit down, and I’ll grab some coasters, and I’ll wipe the bench for you. How about we have some cake, huh? And I’ll tell you all about Japan!’ Jane took a seat at the kitchen bench and Vanessa grabbed the sponge and wiped the spilt coffee off the bench. Before she asked where the coasters were, she turned around to rinse out the sponge, eyeing the second drawer on her left. Feeling curious, she walked over to the drawer, wondering if Jane also kept her coasters in the same place. Surely not… She grabbed the handle and pulled it open slightly, revealing a small row of different sized coasters, all sorted by size and colour. Vanessa quietly gasped and began thinking of excuses she could use to get out of there… and never return. This was all too much for her to take in, and as she grabbed a couple of coasters, she heard Jane’s phone vibrate.
‘Hello, Jane speaking?’
Vanessa closed the drawer and turned around to face Jane, sliding a coaster under both of their mugs.
‘Oh Trish, hiiiiiiii. No, nothing at all. No, Vanessa’s here, we’re just having a coffee. Oh well that sounds great, I’ve just boiled the kettle. Well then we’ll see you soon.’
Vanessa turned back to the drawer to get another coaster out of the draw and sighed with relief. At least she’ll have company and wouldn’t have to deal with all of this ‘crazy’ by herself.
‘So that was Trish. She’s just at the shops and thought she’d call in on her way home for a coffee. She’s so lovely like that.’
‘Oh, so Trish has visited before?’
‘No, she’s never been here, but it’s great that she’s decided to try and be a nicer friend.’ Jane let out a small giggle, ‘Maybe we’ll start having our catch-ups here instead of your place! It’ll be a great opportunity to use my kitchen properly!’
Vanessa just smiled nervously as opened the cake container. ‘How about we cut some of this up. I baked it yesterday after I got off the phone to you. Didn’t want to show up empty handed.’
‘What sort of cake is it?’
‘Well, knowing that you’re gluten free, I made my famous gluten-free chocolate cake. It’s gluten-free and dairy-free but still tastes so amazing, that you just can’t stop at one slice. It’s amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever made it for the girls before. I usually only make it when Francesca needs to take something to school.’
‘Oh and how is little Frankie? Is she still doing her ballet?’
‘Yes, she’s progressed to a pair of demi-pointes now. Another year or so of training and she’ll be up en pointe before we know it. She’s so graceful when she dances, but of course, I’m a bit biased. She’s also playing Hockey as well.’
‘What? Hockey? But my Sarah doesn’t play hockey. She does Ballet, but not hockey. When did Frankie start Hockey? Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t Sarah know? Isn’t hockey a violent sport?’
‘Um… well, I didn’t know that I had to run those decisions past you. As for Sarah, she doesn’t need to play hockey just because Frankie does. She’s only doing it through school for sport, it’s not an after-school programme or anything like that.’
‘Oh… well that’s okay then. I’ll ring the principal on Monday and see if they’re going to make the kids play hockey for sport. They’ve been doing basketball this term, and Sarah is quite good at it. I guess if she did Hockey she’d be quite good at that too. Probably better than your little Frankie. Maybe she should join a weekend team and they could compete against each other?’
‘Orrr maybe they could join the SAME team and compete together instead. Besides, I thought you said Sarah didn’t like Hockey because it was too violent?’
‘NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU AND YOUR PRECIOUS FRANCESCA, OKAY?! THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE WORLD BESIDES YOU, VANESSA!’
Vanessa looked away and let the silence in the room build. She stared into her cup of coffee wondering what the hell was going on and why Jane was behaving like this? Maybe she’s on some kind of medication? Or maybe she’s OFF her medication? Maybe she’s having a nervous breakdown, or about to have one? Something’s fucking wrong with her, because she’s never like this… well… okay so maybe she is, but not this severe. This is something else…
Saved by the bell. Thank God.
Vanessa looked up at Jane.
‘Jane… there’s somebody at the door… are you going to answer it?’
‘No, they can go away.’
‘But it might be Trish? Remember… she said she was going to call in for a coffee?’
‘Well if it’s so important, then why don’t you answer the damn door?!’
‘Oookay then… I’ll go do that.’ Vanessa got up out of her seat and quickly walked to the door. She approached the door, and noticed the number of internal locks that were fixed to the door. She counted four separate locks / latches, and undid them all before opening the door to reveal Trish standing on the porch in her summer dress and sunglasses.
‘Oh hiii darli….’
Vanessa interrupted her, ‘Get the fuck in here. This bitch has lost her damn mind. She’s copied everything of mine. EVERYTHING. She even has the same kitchen as me. She’s lost the fucking plot and something is seriously wrong. You cannot leave without me!’
Trish looked a bit confused, ‘But what do you…’
‘Okay, okay, I promise. I won’t abandon you. Surely it’s not that bad.’
Vanessa looked at Trish, as Trish slowly lowered her sunglasses, to look through the doorway into the lounge room. ‘Oh. My. God.’
‘VANESSA… WHO’S AT THE DOOR?’
‘Strap yourself in for the ride, bitch…!’ Vanessa whispered to Trish as she walked past her into the lounge room.
‘HEY JANE, IT’S JUST ME, TRISH. I HOPE YOU GIRLS HAVEN’T STARTED WITHOUT ME!’
Trish walked into the room, and her eyes widened. As she looked around she realised that everything was exactly the same as Vanessa’s. She immediately felt quite uncomfortable. ‘Um, so I think I’m just gonna go… I think I left the iron on. Or the stove… something…’ Vanessa grabbed her arm quite forcefully, ‘Oh no bitch, you’re not leaving me alone. She’s bat shit fucking crazy and you can’t leave me here with her. Now, come and drink coffee, eat cake and be social.’
Vanessa escorted Trish into the kitchen, and Jane leapt up from her seat, running over to give Trish a great big hug. ‘Oh my god, it’s so great to see you again, I’m so glad that you were able to stop by. As they hugged, Trish turned slightly, looking at Vanessa. ‘OH MY GOD!’ she mouthed in silence, noticing the kitchen, which was an exactly replica of Vanessa’s.
‘How are you my dear? I can’t believe that I’ve never been here. I’m down the road at the shops ALL the time. I didn’t realise that we lived so close.’ Trish was lying. She knew exactly where Jane lived, but had never really warmed to her. Now she knew why.
‘Well, now that we live so close, we can hang out all the time. In fact, we should organise a girls day. Our husbands can all go golfing and we can do something girly, like go to a day spa or something!’ Trish and Vanessa exchanged glances. ‘You know what, that sounds like a fantastic idea!’ Vanessa replied. ‘Now, Trish, can I make you a coffee? We were just about to sit down and have some cake and I was going to tell Jane all about my trip to Japan.’
‘Oh that sounds fantastic, but I might just use the loo first’ Trish said, looking at Jane.
‘Just down the hall’. Trish stood there awkwardly waiting to be told which door it was, but that information never arrived. Trish grabbed her handbag and wandered down the hallway. There were at least five doors, and had to check each of them. ‘Nope, Bedroom. Nope, Bedroom. Nope, linen closet. Nope, another bedroom. Fuck me, how many rooms does this chick have? Ah, finally…’ Trish closed the door behind her and looked around the bathroom. Again, it looked familiar, and she felt more and more uncomfortable as the resemblance to Vanessa’s bathroom became more apparent. Trish stood up and began to wash her hands. As she looked at herself in the mirror, she noticed something. In the reflection she noticed a flashing light coming from the cupboard behind her. She ignored it, but whilst she dried her hands on the hand towel, she chose to have a sneak peek as to what it was.
Trish assumed that it was going to be something boring like an electric toothbrush or lady razor, part of her hoped it was something naughty like a rechargeable vibrator or something. She opened the cupboard door, and the top shelves were full of all different containers – a variety of containers including an A to Z of vitamins and and entire shelf containing an assortment of prescription medication. Below that the bottom half of the cupboard was filled with perfectly folded towels and bath mats, but she could still see the flashing light reflecting on the bathroom tiles. She couldn’t work out how or where it was coming from, so she quickly closed the cupboard door and returned to the kitchen.
As the ladies sat down and drank their coffee, they listened to Vanessa talk about her trip to Japan with the family, and they slowly devoured almost an entire cake. It truly was as delicious as Vanessa had said it was. But Trish couldn’t completely concentrate. She was too preoccupied with the lights on the bathroom tiles.
A few hours passed and more coffee and cake was consumed, and Trish couldn’t help herself. She excused herself and returned to the bathroom, this time, with a mission. She flung open the cupboard door and felt around underneath the towels. She couldn’t feel anything, but noticed that the cupboard seemed to be considerably shallower than she anticipated. She felt around the back of the shelf and without realising, she heard a ‘click’ and the entire inside of the cupboard swung forward.
Trish stood up, and covered her mouth to hide her shock of what had presented itself before her.
There, behind the shelves of towels and medication was an entire other room. It was completely dark, so Trish couldn’t tell how big it was, but there were all different types of small glowing lights from different electronic devices. Trish reached into the darkness and felt around for a light switch. As she flipped the switch and the light came on, Trish was floored at what she saw. The room was the size of a small bedroom, and she couldn’t quite work out how it was placed in the layout of the house. There was a long desk across one entire wall with three different computers placed on it. There were a number of silver cases stacked on a shelf above the computers, and the remaining walls were covered with all different pieces of paper, news clippings and photographs. As Trish stepped inside the room for a closer look, she noticed that the photographs were all of Vanessa. Vanessa, her kids, her house – both inside and outside. There were floor plans, and various documents including copies of bank statements, phone bills, even copies of Vanessa’s family’s passports. Trish didn’t know what was going on. Who was this woman? Was she working with the Government? Is Vanessa being investigated? Is her husband? Why is she being watched? Trish turned on a monitor, and the screen was split into ten separate smaller sections. Each of them were from a different camera angle. Assuming it was security camera’s inside Jane’s house, she looked at the kitchen camera, and noticed that there was nobody there. Then she saw Daniel, Vanessa’s husband, and realised that they weren’t camera’s in Jane’s house. They were in Vanessa’s. Why were there surveillance camera’s in Vanessa’s house?
Trish tried her best not to freak out. She switched off the monitor, turned off the light, closed the doors. She flushed the toilet and pretended to wash her hands. As she returned to the kitchen, she avoided eye contact with Jane.
‘You feeling okay, Trish? You look a little pale?’
‘Oh, um, yeah. I think it might have been the eggs I had for breakfast. I think they may have been out of date or something?’
‘Oh, really?’ Jane knew she was lying. Something inside her knew that Trish had found the room.
They both patiently sat there affording Vanessa the courtesy of finishing her story about Japan, despite most of the time being spent with Jane staring at Trish and Trish avoiding eye contact with Jane as much as possible.
As they finished their second cup of tea, Vanessa excused herself to the bathroom, leaving Jane and Trish together in the kitchen. The silence between them was so uncomfortable. Trish just wanted to run for the door and never look back.
‘So, Jane, I absolutely love what you’ve done with the place. Your kitchen really does look stunning’, Trish said to break the silence. ‘I really do love that you went with such a classic, yet stylish design. It really is beautiful and complements the adjoining rooms.’
‘Why thank you’, Jane replied through clenched teeth. ‘We used the same company that did Vanessa’s kitchen, but, you probably already knew that.’
‘So… do you have any plans to do any more reno’s. If I remember correctly, I think you were talking about doing the back deck and landscaping around the pool. Is that still on the cards?’
‘Oh, okay then. I know a great landscaper. He’s the guy who did my back yard. He landscaped around the deck and then did all down the side of the house to the poorhouse. If you want, I’d gladly give you his details.
‘No. I don’t want some second-rate nobody.’
‘Oh, okay. Well he’s quite popular, and he does an amazing job for a much better price than some of the other ‘reputable’ guys out there… plus he looks quite good in a pair of shorts, if you know what I’m saying.’
Jane glared at Trish, ‘I said no. I’m not having some peasant run around in my yard. I’m happily married. If you want to stoop so low and fuck the help then good for you, but I have standards and respect my marriage.’
‘I beg your pardon. ‘Fuck the help’? Who said anything about fucking the help. How dare you even insinuate that. I love my husband and have no problems in my marriage thank you very much. I’m merely saying that he’s very easy on the eye, and there’s nothing wrong with looking or appreciating a fine male figure. Look, I was just trying to be nice. I thought that it would be nice to recommend a great company to you. He’s booked to do Paula’s front and back yards in a couple of weeks, and I think Vanessa and Melanie have also booked him in to do their yards. But if you’re going to turn into a fucking bitch like this, then forget I said anything. Actually, you know what, I think I’m gonna just go.’
‘Vanessa’s booked him?’
‘Yeah, in a couple of month’s time, because he’s so popular. But, whatever.’
Vanessa returned to the kitchen and could feel the tension. ‘Everything okay in here? I feel like I’ve missed something?’
‘Yeah, your gal-pal here just flipped out and started yelling at me for no reason’, Jane quickly jumped in.
Trish looked at her in complete shock, ‘Are you fucking kidding me. You just insinuated that I ‘fucked the help’. I was just trying to do something nice for you, and you practically bit my head off.
‘What are you two talking about?’ Vanessa queried.
‘I suggested she should hire Mark to do her backyard. Remember how she was talking about getting it landscaped?’
‘Yeah, so I suggested that she should contact Mark, because I’ve use him, you and Melanie have him booked. Several of our friends have used him. And I said that he was quite attractive and she went from that to implying that I slept with him, and that he’s some kind of ‘peasant’.
Vanessa and Trish both looked at Jane. ‘That’s not what happened AT ALL. Vanessa, as if I would even use that kind of language. I’m a respectable lady. Meanwhile, would you like to stay for dinner?’
‘Certainly not’, Trish said, slinging her handbag over her shoulder.
‘I wasn’t fucking asking you, whore’, snapped Jane.
‘See… bat shit crazy. I’m fucking out of here. You coming?’, Trish said holding her car keys.
‘Well, it’s after six and I should be getting home to do dinner for the kids’, Vanessa responded nervously.
‘No. You can’t leave. We didn’t get to hear about Kyoto.’ Jane said nervously, getting off the kitchen stool.
‘Oh, that’s okay, we can talk about it over coffee another time.’
‘Okay then. How about tomorrow morning?’
‘Oh, I can’t tomorrow, I’ve gotta go to Frankie’s ballet class. We’re sewing costumes for the recital.’
‘Well what about Sunday?’
‘Sunday’s no good. Brian’s mother is coming to visit for a few days, so we’ll be doing things with her until she goes home.’
‘When will that be?’. Jane started sounding eager and frustrated.
‘Um, I think she’s here for a week or so. I’m not really sure. We haven’t really discussed it. But I’m sure I can send her off to the gallery or the museum for a few hours.’
‘Which day? How many hours?’
Vanessa laughed nervously, ‘Um, I’m not sure, I haven’t planned anything yet. Why are you so eager to know?’
‘Well I just want to know when you’re free for coffee. You’re not the only one who’s busy, Vanessa. I have a husband and a family as well. I’m just as busy as you are. Not everybody hangs off what you’re doing. The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know!’
Vanessa grabbed her handbag and her keys, and looked at Trish. ‘Trish, wait up, I’m coming with you!’ Trish headed towards the door. ‘Look, Jane, I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with you, or why you’re so upset, but if I’ve done something to upset you then I’m sorry. If you’re not going to tell me what I’ve done to upset you, then we can’t really talk through it, but I’m not going to stand here and be spoken to like that. I’m going to go now, and I’ll wait for you to call me when you’re ready to apologise. But I’m not staying here so you can treat me like this.’
‘So, thank you for your hospitality. I’ll let you keep the cake, maybe give the rest to Steve and the kids, and I’ll collect the container next time we catch up. Okay?’
‘Hey, ahh Ness, I can’t open the door’. Vanessa walked through the lounge room to see Trish fumbling with the various door latches trying to unlock them. ‘Ness, I need you to help me unlock them.’
‘Excuse me, but you think you can just come into my house, and flaunt your extravagant lifestyle IN MY FACE AND THINK THAT THAT’S OKAY? WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?! HOW DARE YOU COME INTO MY HOUSE AND MAKE ME FEEL INSIGNIFICANT. HOW DARE YOU DISRESPECT ME!’
‘Ness, seriously, the door…’
‘Now you listen to me, Jane. YOU invited me over for coffee. YOU invited me over to have cake. YOU were the one who asked me to tell you all about my Japan trip. This is all on YOU. I didn’t just barge in here make myself at home, you INVITED ME. And don’t you DARE tell me that I’ve made you feel insignificant or disrespected you, I have been nothing but polite and respectful to you, and I’m sorry if you’ve interpreted that as anything else but. So please do me a favour, AND UNLOCK THE FUCKING DOOR!’
Jane, took another couple of steps towards Vanessa and from behind her back, revealed a large, shiny kitchen knife. ‘I’m sorry, what did you just say? Would you like to leave? But then I wouldn’t get to spend hours looking at that pretty little mouth of yours, telling me all about your fabulous life you have, with your perfect husband and your perfect kids. Maybe I don’t want you to go anywhere… maybe I want you to go back into that kitchen AND SIT THE FUCK DOWN BEFORE I FUCKING CUT YOU!!’
Just as Jane pointed the knife towards Vanessa’s abdomen, she stood her ground, breathing heavily and flared her nostrils. ‘Don’t you speak to me like that. What are you gonna do… stab me? Do it. Stab me. I DARE YOU!’
Meanwhile, Trish had managed to unlock the door, swinging it open and looking through the doorway towards freedom. ‘Ness, let’s just go. COME ON!’
‘Go on… stab me. Cut me. Then what? Watch me die? And if I die, who will you have to obsess over? Or did you think that I wouldn’t notice. You’re not well Jane, and I mean it when I say I’m concerned for your wellbeing. You need help, or medication, but I know you’re obsessed with me, but if you kill me, then what? What are you going to do without me? You’ll be NOTHING. You’ll be NOBODY. YOU NEED ME JANE, AND YOU’RE NOT GOING TO HURT ME, BECAUSE YOU NEED ME!!’
‘VANESSA, Shut the fuck up and let’s go’, yelled Trish.
‘I DON’T NEED YOU. YOU’RE NOTHING TO ME!’ Jane lifted the knife above her head, a loud pop sounded, and Jane dropped the knife onto the carpet, before falling on the ground, convulsing. Standing behind her were two police officers. One holding a taser and the other with his handgun drawn, pointing at Jane.
‘Ma’am, are you okay?’, said one of the officers?
‘It’s about fucking time you turned up, we could be dead by now!’, scowled Trish.
Trish walked over to Vanessa and hugged her, as she burst into tears of relief.