Fabiana Fuller groaned, the light coming through the window like daggers to her aching head. It was more of a stabbing pain pounding through her temples, and her stomach cramped uncomfortably too.
“Jazzy,” she moaned, hoping her twin was still in the room somewhere. She vaguely remembered hearing the squeak of the door as it opened, but that could’ve been yesterday. Or last year. Maybe another lifetime.
Everything hurt, but Fabi managed to push her legs over the side of the bed and use her hands to get herself into a sitting position. Her vision swam, and she lay back down.
This couldn’t be happening, but a late spring flu had been making its way around Brush Creek, taking down the Chief of Police, her mom, the pastor, and now, apparently Fabi herself.
“Jazzy,” she tried again, this time rewarded with that squeak that annoyed her sister but that Fabi actually found comforting. After all, no one could come in their shared bedroom silently, and Fabi’s overactive imagination sometimes had someone trying to abduct her in the middle of the night.
“You’re burning up,” Jazzy said, her usually playful voice nowhere near jovial now. “I’ll call Wren.”
“Wait.” Fabi curled her fingers around her sister’s wrist. “I have a date tonight.”
A beat of silence passed before Jazzy said, “So? You can reschedule.”
Fabi shook her head, but that made the whole room spin violently, and she clamped her eyes shut. “I can’t. I’ve already done that twice. He’ll think I’m not interested.”
“Surely whoever the flavor of the week is will understand the flu.” Jazzy spoke with enough bite to add to Fabi’s headache. Fabi didn’t blame her, but it certainly wasn’t her fault men asked her out instead of Jazzy.
“It’s that cute paramedic from the park,” she whispered to her pillow. “I really wanted to go out with him.” And her stupid work schedule over the past two weeks since the pet adoption in the park had kept her from making her previous attempts to meet Max.
She’d been cleaning up flu germs for everyone from the river to the horse ranch up the canyon. No wonder she felt seconds away from passing out.
Somewhere in the haze of her flu-ridden mind, an idea formed. “You have to go,” she said, tightening her grip on Jazzy’s forearm.
“No.” Jazzy tried to shake her hand away. “He doesn’t want to go out with me. Remember how he met us both and only had eyes for you?” So there was some bitterness in Jazzy’s voice. Fabi heard it, didn’t know what to do about it. Jazzy was the flirt, and she usually got the men to come over and meet the sisters. But it was almost always Fabi who walked away with a date.
Honestly, the whole charade was getting old. Fabi couldn’t even count how many first dates she’d been on in the past year. Probably fifty. Maybe more. It was getting to the second date that was hard.
She could count those. Two. Two second dates in the past year. Zero third dates. She wasn’t sure what was so wrong with her, but somehow, she believed she was fundamentally flawed.
But Max had been different.
“Please,” she begged, only able to say one word through the fire in her throat.
“I don’t even look like you.” Jazzy stopped trying to get away, and Fabi relaxed a little too.
“Go see Starlee. She can replicate my A-line.”
“I don’t want to dye my hair.”
“It’s a few streaks,” Fabi said, opening her eyes. “Please, Jazzy. If I don’t show up or if I cancel again, I’m sure it’ll be over.”
“Maybe it should be. I mean, if the guy can’t understand the flu.” Jazzy sat on the edge of the bed and stroked Fabi’s hair off her feverish forehead.
“Just one dinner,” Fabi pressed, sensing that she almost had Jazzy convinced. Growing up, the twins had loved switching places, going to each other’s classes, trying to fool their friends into believing they were someone they weren’t.
They hadn’t really taken the practice into adulthood, but then again, the situation had never demanded it.
But this one did.
Fabi pictured Max, who was big, broad, and bald. She’d been immediately attracted to him as he worked with the dogs that were up for adoption. She and Jazzy had a cat, and Marbles would definitely not appreciate a canine companion, but Fabi had played her cards just right, showing just enough interest in the dog to capture the attention of the man.
“He’s taking me to Clive’s,” Fabi said, hoping that would seal the deal. Of course, her sister would have to do their normal housework alone—which she hated—and get her hair cut and colored before six-thirty. But it was do-able.
“What about the mole?”
“He won’t notice.”
“What if he does?”
In moments like this, Fabi wished she could get the fingertip-sized mole behind her right ear removed. “He won’t,” she said. “Because you’ll be witty, and charming, and flirty—you know, you’ll be yourself—and he won’t notice.”
Jazzy fell silent for what felt like a long time. “But that’s not how you act,” she finally said.
“You’re right,” Fabi said. “You better pull the flirting back a bit. And the giggling.” Her twin giggled entirely too much. “And no kissing him.”
“Why not?” Jazzy said, standing. The movement jostled Fabi, who groaned as discomfort swept through her. “You kiss on the first date.”
“Not this year,” Fabi said.
“Please.” Jazzy scoffed and her footsteps moved away from Fabi’s bed. “You kissed Mason Limebert last weekend.”
“And he didn’t call me back,” Fabi said, another pinch moving through her that had nothing to do with the flu. So she wasn’t perfect. Maybe she came on too strong. Maybe she had a reputation of kissing on the first date and that was all the men in this town wanted.
“Jazzy?” she asked when she didn’t hear the squeak of the door.
“I don’t think I can,” she said.
“Of course you can.” Fabi lifted her head and squinted, wondering how sunlight could hurt so badly. “It’s totally do-able, Jazzy. Please.” She couldn’t quite see Jazzy, but she heard the squeak as the door opened.
“I have to go call Wren.” The door clicked closed and Fabi let her head fall back to the pillow before pulling the blanket over her eyes to drown out that merciless sun.
Wren managed all the jobs for A Jack of All Trades, the family company that Fabi and Jazzy worked for. They cleaned all the residential accounts in town, in Beaverton, and even up in Maple Mountain. It was Thursday, which meant their schedule was jam-packed, and Jazzy would never be able to get all their work done, get her hair colored, and be ready to meet a man by six-thirty.
Please, she prayed, her fall-back whenever she couldn’t quite make a situation do-able in her mind. But God could make anything do-able. Please have everyone cancel for today.
If God was a God of miracles, and Fabi believed He was, then when Jazzy called Wren, she’d find out she had plenty of time to get her work finished and get her hair cut into the stylish A-line bob Fabi had adopted three weeks ago, streaks and all.
* * *
Fabi had a unique talent to think anything was do-able. Jazmin Fuller, on the other hand, did not. The thought of squeezing in a two-hour appointment at the salon had her teeth clenching while she waited for Wren to pick up.
Her sister answered with a harried “Hey, Jazzy,” while a toddler screamed in the background. “What’s up?”
“Fabi’s not getting out of bed today,” she said. “She’s got the flu.” Jazzy wandered back over to the bedroom doorway and peered inside. Fabi lay perfectly still, her eyes closed and her face gray. A prick of concern touched her heart. “I’m not sure she should be left alone, honestly.”
Wren exhaled and grunted. Etta quieted, though her soft sniffling could still be heard through the line. “Well, we got lucky,” Wren said, her voice slightly muffled. “Dottie and the Fierios canceled for today.”
“They did?” Jazzy couldn’t believe Dottie Tanner had canceled. Jazzy and Fabi had been cleaning the older woman’s house for a decade, ever since she was their youth leader and her husband had passed away. The Fierios were hit and miss, and in the summer, they were sometimes gone for weeks at a time and did cancel their maid service.
“Dottie has gone to her daughter’s for the weekend,” Wren said. “The Fierios left a message this morning.” She tapped on her keyboard. “So that clears up a few hours. You’ve still got Guy Haskell’s place, but you could do it alone. Doesn’t he just want his kitchen and bathrooms done?”
“Yeah, and I could go this morning.” Jazzy turned away from the bedroom and moved down the short hall and into the kitchen. Marbles sat on the counter, his gray eyes clearly saying, “Breakfast is late.”
Jazzy bent to retrieve his bowls and washed them out. “Don’t we have the Robertsons too? There’s no way I can do their whole house myself.” Well, she could, but the completely irrational side of her was actually considering Fabi’s insane plea.
“I’ll call them,” Wren said. “See if we can reschedule for another time.”
“The weekend,” Jazzy said as she filled the water bowl and put it on the floor. She reached for the cat kibble. “I hate working weekends.”
“I can come do it with you,” Wren said. “It’ll go quick.”
Jazzy couldn’t argue with that. Wren was an excellent maid, and Jazzy didn’t get to spend much time with her now that she was married and had a little girl. She scooped cat food into the bowl and put it beside the water. Marbles jumped down from the counter, his striped tail held high, and padded over to his breakfast.
“So all I have on my schedule today is Guy’s place.” Plenty of time to get her hair done and even take Fabi’s credit card and get herself something cute for a date that night.
I can’t believe you’re even considering this, she thought to herself. But she hadn’t been out with a man in ninety-nine days, something she hadn’t said to anyone, not even Fabi. And for some reason, Jazzy really didn’t want to hit Day One Hundred.
“Yep, and give me five minutes to check with him and make sure you can come this morning instead of this afternoon. Then you can take care of Fabi the rest of the day.”
Jazzy didn’t have the heart to tell Wren that really she had time to get a new look in preparation for a date. Instead, she said, “Sure, five minutes,” and hung up.
She immediate texted Starlee to find out if she had time to do a cut and color that day. The stylist’s response came within seconds and said, Absolutely. Tell me when.
Jazzy had to wait to hear back from Wren, and when she did, she sent Starlee another text—one o’clock?—still in shock that she was actually considering going out with a man who’d only had eyes for her twin. Well, and his dogs, which Jazzy was sure was actually worse.