It took a long time to get to sleep that night. The moon was full and the curtains in the room were very thin. It was so quiet, that it made me nervous. I was used to noise at night from the shebeen next to my house, and the shouting in the street that starts the neighbourhood dogs barking. Here there was just the creaking and scratching of branches on the windows. I wanted to phone Themba, my boyfriend, but I had run out of airtime.
Then next morning I was polishing the furniture in the large lounge of the east wing when I noticed the photograph. It was standing in pride of place on the white grand piano. I picked it up to have a closer look.
It was an old photograph in a big silver frame. There were two teenage girls in the photo, wearing matching dresses. They had blonde hair, tied back in pony tails, and pretty faces. They were smiling at the camera. Twins!
I was staring at them when Mrs Hilton-White came up so quietly behind me she made me jump.
“That’s me,” she said, tapping her long red nail at the girl on the left of the photograph. The girl was standing next to a white fence. “And that’s my sister,” she continued, tapping the girl on the right.
“They say twins are very close,” I told her. She looked at me strangely and then she smiled. A smile like she was remembering something long ago.
“My twin disappeared,” she said as she took the photograph out of my hands. “She went missing twenty years ago, after her husband died. He was my husband’s brother. I filled in a missing person’s report with the police. But no-one has come forward. No-one, in twenty years.”
She put the photograph down on the piano, like she was putting those twin girls to sleep.
“Sometimes I think I see her, in the Constantia Village Mall. But when I call, and go closer, I see it is not her – but a stranger.”
She shook her head, like she was waking up from a dream and said quickly: “My husband is coming home tonight. We will have dinner in the east wing at seven pm. I will expect the food to be heated and ready.”
It was five o’clock. I had finished polishing and Prudence was busy in the kitchen preparing dinner. Mrs Hilton-White had gone to the shopping centre. Alfred was outside cutting the dead rose heads off.
I went to the door of the west wing.
You can imagine how surprised I was to find that it wasn’t locked. Surprised and a little bit excited. It opened so easily, inviting me, Nosipho Mtati, inside.
Tell us what you think: What happened to Mrs Hilton-White’s twin sister?