Evelyn’s Thursday morning began like any other, although it would prove to be very unusual. Her alarm goes off at 6:00 am with a startling nasal tone. Evelyn rolls over and groans, eyes covered in sleep and dark blonde hair stacked on her head pointing every which way. She rubs her eyes and looks around the dim room. Momentarily, she feels the serenity of the darkness and imagines the comfort of seeping back into the blankets and into slumber. Click. She flips the switch on her bedside lamp and the room is flooded with soft yellow light. The contrast is so striking that she must scrunch her eyes and squint until they adjust. She slips on her bunny slippers before walking out across the cold hard wood floor to the kitchen. The kitchen is dark, empty, and almost silent apart from the soft static of the radio. Evelyn frowns as she pulls out the coffee pot to find it empty, nothing but shiny metallic staring up at her from the bottom.
“Francis?” she calls out to her roommate; there is no reply. Evelyn lets out a deep breath and turns off the radio. She stands in the middle of the kitchen for a moment, hands on hips as she looks around and ponders different thoughts. Where could Francis be, her roommate was always up early. Usually by the time Evelyn walked in to the kitchen Francis would be there, flipping pancakes and singing along to the radio. Usually the coffee would be made hot, steamy, and fragrant. Evelyn started the coffee pot and walked to Francis’ room door. Knock, knock, knock “Hello? You in there?” still no reply. She rests her hand on the doorknob, then lets it fall back to her side. Francis likes her privacy and hates it when people go in her room while she’s not home. Maybe she took the day off? Evelyn thinks to herself on the other hand she could be sleeping but how rude to not answer my knocking. Bewildered, she wanders back to the kitchen and pours the freshly brewed coffee into her favorite mug. She’s taking a sip when she notices the clock on the stove says 6:36 am. “Oh dear” she mumbles, she had completely lost track of time. She shuffles her way to her room holding her now sloshing coffee mug and rushes around to prepare for the day. Dress? Skirt? Jeans? Shirt? It’s all a blur to her as she grasps the first decent outfit she can find. Plopping down in front of the mirror she slaps on her makeup.
Twenty minutes later she is ready to go. Crisp white t-shirt with a wrinkled cardigan and the good old blue jeans. Evelyn glances nervously to her roommate’s bedroom door. This was all very unlike Francis, but she decides to just give her a call later. Evelyn walks out into the frosty morning air, scrunching her arms in closer to her body and noticing the puffs of her hot breath. She locks the front door and walks to her car to head for work.
The small townhouse is left dark and silent, dirty dishes still in the sink from last night’s dinner and the coffee pot half full. Francis’ room is cold and feels isolated; it usually appears bare and neat unlike the rest of the full home, scattered with furniture, empty blankets, and random knick-knacks. Today her room is crowded. Papers are spread along the floor and jumping up the walls on thumbtacks. Her bed is occupied with stacked brown boxes and clothes piled high as possible. No room for the sleeping Francis that Evelyn had suspected. No sign of her anywhere.
Evelyn calls Francis after pulling into her parking space at work. Back home there is a ringing in Francis’ room coming from somewhere within the mess. Evelyn nervously taps the steering wheel as the cell goes to voice mail. This is so unlike her she begins to worry should I leave a message? The phone beeps “Hey, it’s Evelyn.” How do I say this? I don’t’ wanna be weird if she’s just fine. “I was just wondering what you’re doing today? I’m thinking maybe we should get takeout for dinner tonight. Uhh. I gotta talk to you about something so call me back soon!” That should do it. Evelyn gets out of the car and is walking through the parking lot when her phone starts ringing. She smiles, sure it is Francis returning her call. “Hey!”
“Evelyn?” Francis’ voice is very soft but Evelyn is just happy to know she is okay.
“I am SO glad to hear from you! Where have you be-“
“Where are you? I need you to meet me. Now.”
“I’m at work.. I just got here.” Evelyn twirls her hair around, something she does when she is tense. What is going on?
“This is an emergency. We could be in a lot of trouble. I need to go. Meet me at our brunch spot. No one can know.” Click. Evelyn looks around disgruntled and confused. She looks down at her phone and notices that the number was unknown. Summoning up every bit of her courage, she walks back to the car. She’s hoping this isn’t some kind of prank while at the same time hoping it is so that everything can be okay. A sense of insecurity is gnawing at her gut, she feels like something is wrong. She stares at her reflection in the car mirror for a moment, looking into her hazel eyes and trying to find the appearance of courage. At a loss she closes her eyes, leaning her head back, and takes a deep, shaky breath before pushing her uncertain feelings aside and placing her hands on the wheel.
The café is warm and filled with the sound of gentle music, clinking mugs, and coffee being brewed. A small figure sits in the corner behind a newspaper, almost like something you would see out of the movies. Evelyn walks in and looks around at all the faces but she sees no sign of Francis. She walks up to the counter and orders her regular white mocha. The Barista tries to make small talk but Evelyn is very obviously distracted as she continues to glance around the café. The barista gives up after listening to a few halfhearted mumbles and hands Evelyn her drink.
Psst. Pssstt. Evelyn whips around startled to see Francis sitting in the corner behind the newspaper, hardly recognizable with her hair up in a baseball cap. Francis never wore hats like that. Evelyn rushes to the second seat at the table and speculates Francis’ condition as they speak.
“What is happening?” Evelyn asks with a frantic whisper. Francis has deep bags under her brown eyes which are smeared with day old mascara. Her regular stupid-sweet grin is replaced with an empty stare, no trace of emotion but a small wrinkle between her eyebrows.
“Wait, first.” Francis holds up the newspaper to shield their faces, making it appear as if they are reading it together. She takes a deep breath and makes eye contact with Evelyn. “I’m so sorry.” Her voice shakes and she looks as if she is ready to cry.
“What happened? I’m sure we can work everything out Fran, you just gotta talk to me.” Evelyn feels afraid but wants to appear calm to Francis. Francis is not fooled but needs to get out the point of this discussion. She takes a gulp of her coffee with trembling hands and begins,
“I have a secret. My name is not Francis.”