A Love That Conquers All


Mariah Wood

 

            The subway system in New York can be a confusing place to navigate, especially for someone who has never used it.  Janelle had just moved to New York City from Cleveland for her new job.  The stairwells going beneath the city were easy to find, but finding the right train and making sure she actually got on it was not so easy.  For days, she missed the right one by seconds.

            When she finally got it, she realized she had a new obstacle to defeat: finding a place to sit.  Many people were standing, holding onto a long bar that extended the length of the train.  Janelle, the germaphobe she is, cringed at the idea of touching it, but she could imagine the pain her ankles would feel if she stood that long in her pumps.

            After pacing the entire car from front to back, she was able to see an empty spot on the long bench, except that one of the indented spots was filled with an overflowing black backpack filled with notebooks and blue prints and pencils. The woman to the left of the bag was wearing an expensive dress suit and her hair was pulled back in a chignon, so it was doubtful that the bag belonged to her, especially since the man to the bag’s right was wearing a paint-stained black shirt and khakis.

            “Is anyone sitting there?” Janelle pointed at the seat where the backpack lay and addressed the man.

            Jacob looked up to see a beautiful woman with light chestnut hair (although a thin stripe of dark brown roots suggested it was dyed) was smiling with just the right side of her mouth and pointing a perfectly pale pink-painted finger at the seat to his left.  He did not hesitate for a moment to say, “N-no.  Here, sit.” Jacob yanked his backpack out of the way.

            Janelle broadened her one-sided smile and sat down. “Thank you.” She stuck her right hand out to him. “I’m Janelle.”

            “Jacob.” He shook her hand gently because he knew that he had a tight grip.  Her hands looked delicate and he did not want to scare her off.

            The two sat in a comfortable silence before Janelle asked, “Are you an architect?”

            “Hm? Oh. Y-yes,” Jacob stuttered and looked down at his feet. It was a horrible habit of his to not look people in they eye when he was talking and stammered when he tried to talk to women.  The combination made him want to kick himself at that moment.

            “What are you working on?” Janelle thought it was cute that Jacob was stumbling all over himself trying to talk to her and felt flattered.  Because of a bad reaction to the anesthetic used during her surgery (she tried not to think of it as a nose job), the left side of her mouth was mostly paralyzed.

            “J-just a house.” Jacob peeked up at Janelle who was smiling at him, then shot his glance back down. “I own a company that builds ‘very grand homes,’ as the critics say.  This one is f-for Denzel Washington.”

            “Oh wow! But is there any room to build? New York City is pretty cramped; I haven’t seen anywhere a ‘very grand home’ could be built,” Janelle speculated.

            “W-well it’s demolition of an old, falling building. Then my team and I build on the cleared sight.”

            “Ah,” Janelle nodded her head.

            There was another comfortable pause before Jacob finally became brave enough to ask. “S-so. What do you do? Y-you know, at work.”

            “I’m an accountant. Numbers, numbers, numbers.” Janelle shrugged her shoulders. “I always loved math in school, so that’s what made me decide to be a CPA.”

            “Math was my favorite, too.” Jacob lifted his gaze to see that she was not looking at him.  He took the chance to admire her profile.  Small, straight nose; wavy, light chestnut hair; high cheekbones; fair skin, the only imperfection was that the left side of her mouth was frozen in place but that just made her so much more interesting to him.

            “Really?” Janelle turned to face Jacob and was able to see his face completely.  He had dark brown wavy hair, a round face with a nose that was a little bit oversized but that it worked for him.  But looking in his green eyes something felt familiar.  Not the faint déjà vu familiar, but staggeringly familiar.

            “Y-yes, it’s why I became an architect. Geometry was my favorite class and that is what’s u-u-used for archi… architecture.” He was completely oblivious to whatever it was that Janelle had felt.

            The train came to a smooth stop, followed by the doors opening. Everyone stood and tried to squeeze through the small doors all at one time.  Jacob followed Janelle off the train. “Are you going to be on the subway tomorrow?” He asked

            “I’m pretty sure I’m going to be on there almost every day.”

            “W-would you like me to save you a seat?” Jacob was forcing himself to look Janelle in the eye when he asked.

            Janelle smiled so big that the left side of her face lifted up a little. “That’s would be wonderful.”

            Jacob’s smile mirrored hers. “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow then.” He stuck his hand out.

            Janelle shook it and said, “See you tomorrow.”

 

 

For days, Janelle and Jacob sat together on the subway and talked.  They talked about where they grew up–Jacob in New York, Janelle in Cleveland–the family they had–what a coincidence, they were both adopted!–and other small talk new friends learn about each other.

            “I’ll be twenty-six on November first.” Jacob had gotten over his fear of looking Janelle in the eye and was no longer stuttering. Much.

            “Huh. My birthday is November second.” A true lady never reveals her age, she thought.  Janelle’s cell phone buzzed in her purse. “Oh, I’m such and idiot! I forgot that the office was closed today.” The buzzing was a calendar reminder Janelle had set months ago.

            “Well, um, I have nothing important to do today, and it’s very nice out, last I checked.” Jacob offered.

            “Yes?” Janelle wanted him to clarify because she had been known to assume and everyone knows what they say about assuming: it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’

            “Did you want to, um, I don’t know, go to the park? W-with me?”

            Janelle smiled what Jacob coined a three-quarter smile: her right side lifted up high and the left side lifts up a little. “I’d love to.”

 

 

When the train stopped, Jacob and Janelle got off, went up the stairs and headed straight to Central Park.  Once they were there, Janelle took off her pumps and walked through the soft grass.

            Janelle saw Jacob’s puzzled expression and said, “It’s something I saw in a movie.  Pretty Woman to be exact.  Julia Roberts took off her shoes when she was walking in the grass.  It’s much nicer, you should try it.”  She smiled.

            Jacob looked down at his work boots.  “These boots take a while to remove.”

            “So?” Janelle laughed and lay down on a smooth spot, not caring about her dress suit.  It was her least favorite one anyway.

            Jacob envied her carefree state so he followed suit.  He figured it wouldn’t hurt to lie down, especially next to Janelle.  He unlaced his boots and took off his socks as well.  He positioned himself so that his head would be even with Janelle’s; he didn’t realize how much taller he actually was now that she had taken off her high heels.

            Janelle closed her eyes and let the sound of the birds chirping, the soft brush of the grass against her skin, and the misshapen pattern of the sun shining down through the tree leaves relax her.  She kept them closed when Jacob asked, “S-so, what’s it like working in an office all day?”

            “Well, it goes one of two ways: boring or crazy, especially during tax time.  People are calling me, demanding that I calculated something wrong because they shouldn’t owe the government money; the government should pay them back.”  She opened her eyes and turned to Jacob.  “What about you? Working in the field?”

            Jacob sucked in a breath.  “I-I’m the foreman.  People think that just means I wear a hard hat and boss people around but I actually work right alongside the people working under me.  I mean, I will help out with the sawing, the nailing, the cement, everything.  But the best part is layout.  I get to create a blueprint of everything: measuring the height, width, depth, angles, et cetera.” He shrugged.  “P-probably sounds boring to you.”

            “No, no. It sounds fascinating.  The only thing I’d be good at would be the blueprint part,” Janelle said and giggled.

            Jacob cleared his throat after a long pause.  “Did you want to get d-dinner sometime?”

            “When?” Janelle knew she would cancel anything to go on a date with Jacob.

            “Saturday? At, um…”

            “Seven?”

            “Y-yeah. Seven. Is seven on Saturday okay?”

            “Mm-hmm,” Janelle mumbled.  She sat up and reached for her purse that she had placed up against her thigh.  She dug around and found a small notebook and a pen. 

“Here, let me give you my number.”  She was making sure it was written clearly so that there would be no confusion in her scrawl.  “And my address. Stop by before we go out for dinner?”

            Jacob took the piece of paper and briefly admired her handwriting.  It was clearly legible; a kind of thing that people who deal with numbers would not get confused by.  He took out his wallet and placed it in there for safekeeping. 

            Janelle and Jacob lay back down at the same time. It made Janelle smile with just the right side of her face but when Jacob reached over and clasped her hand, she smiled a three-quarter smile.

 

The couple decided to go to Gaia Italian Café for their first date on Saturday at seven.  The service was awful (Janelle’s coworkers warned her) but the food was delicious.  Jacob apologized for taking her somewhere with such terrible waiters but Janelle laughed it off.

            “It was the best Italian food I’ve had since coming here.  I’d come back again just for the food,” Janelle said.  “Mary, one of my coworkers, said the food was worth the shitty service and price.  Thank you for dinner, Jacob.” She hooked her arm through one of his.

            “My pleasure,” he said. “Do you like Thai?”

            “I’ve heard it’s good, but I’ve never had it. Why?”

            “Because my best friend owns a Thai place and I just wanted to know if you’d like to try that place next.” Jacob looked down at Janelle.

            “That sounds great. Saturday at seven?”

            “Saturday at seven.” Jacob smiled.

 

Jacob and Janelle spent every Saturday from then on out trying new ethnic restaurants throughout New York.  It was on the fifth weekend at Dhaba, an Indian restaurant, where Jacob proposed to Janelle.

            Jacob made a grand show of his proposal.  He waited until they went outside and kissed her softly.  Then he dropped down to one knee in front of all of the foot traffic and pulled out a small, black felt jewelry box.  Janelle covered her mouth and nose with both her hands with tears soaking into the creases of her fingers while Jacob asked, “Will you marry me?”

            Janelle’s throat was clogged to keep from sobbing so she could not speak.  Instead, she nodded her head.  “Really? You will?” Jacob said.  He didn’t realize he was going to be so surprised by her answer.  She just nodded more fiercely for emphasis.  Janelle felt that heart-stopping familiarity that she had felt on the subway so many weeks before.  She still had no idea why that feeling came to her.  The feeling that she knew Jacob from a long time before.

            They were too excited to wait a year for a well-organized, grand and ornate wedding.  Instead, they each invited a few people for the ceremony and decided to plan a great and formal reception.  Janelle bought a plain white dress from a second-hand store and Jacob dug out a suit his adoptive father had given to him when he was going to job interviews.  Even though she dreamt her wedding would be bigger and be navy blue and silver themed, she was too in love with her husband-to-be to care about being married by the local registrar with Jacob in his light blue shirt and black tie.

            The two of them were walking hand-in-hand up to the local registry office when they heard a raspy voice call out to them, “No!”

            They turned around to see an old woman dressed in a long, dirty white skirt, a bright purple shirt and a light pink shawl with her white hair swirled back in a loose bun.  She reminded Janelle of a gypsy woman.  “What can we help you with?” Jacob offered kindly.

            “You two cannot get married,” the gypsy woman said.

            “Why?” Janelle asked, confused.

            “Because I’m your grandmother,” the gypsy woman said. She looked at Janelle’s face first then Jacob’s.

            “Wait, whose grandmother?” Janelle demanded and shook her head.

            “Yours.  Both of yours.  I’m your mother’s mother.  You’re siblings.”

            “Hold on a second,” Jacob held his hand up. “We can’t be siblings; our birthdays are a day apart.”

            Jacob did not add up the facts as quickly as Janelle did.  She looked at Jacob’s hair and recognized the dark chocolate brown to be her natural color as well.  Jacob’s oversized nose was similar to what Janelle’s nose used to be before her nose job.  But what stopped her breathing was when she looked Jacob in the eyes.  She realized why she felt that he was so familiar when she looked him in the eyes: they were the exact same color as hers.

            “No,” she whispered. “No, Jacob, we’re twins.”

            Jacob turned towards her, stunned. “What? How?”

            “You must have been born very, very late on November first and I was born at 12:01 in the morning on November second.  Jacob, everything about you is the same as me!  Hair, eyes, nose, oh, for Pete’s sake, even math!” Janelle’s hand flew to her face as tears welled in her eyes.

            “T-that’s not possible,” Jacob said but remembered being told he was born at 11:58 P.M.  Except looking at Janelle, he did not see many physical similarities.  Yes, they both loved math, but there are millions of people on Earth who love math.  Yes, their eyes were the same shade of dark green, but it cannot be that uncommon.  Then it dawned on him that many of the other physical characteristics of Janelle that had been altered were actually the same on him, Jacob slowly sank down and sat on the stone stairs.

            Janelle joined him and wrapped her arms around him.  Tears were rolling down her face because she did not know what they were going to do.  Her romantic love for him did not shatter, as one would think it should; she still desperately wanted to marry him.

            Jacob pulled Janelle’s shaking body closer to his side.  When he looked up to confront the old gypsy woman, she was gone.  It angered him that the old woman would show up on their wedding day, reveal that they are twins, and then disappear without an explanation.

            “What do…” Janelle wiped a hand over her wet cheeks. “What do we do?”

            Jacob breathed in really long and let out his breath in one short gust.  “I d-don’t know, Janelle. I just don’t.”

Janelle swallowed back a sob. “Do you… I mean, do you still want to marry me?”

            Jacob looked down into Janelle’s eyes, eyes that were the exact same color as his.  He threaded his fingers through her hair and pushed it off her face.  “Yes, I still do.”

            She leaned back and out of his embrace. “Me, too.”

            After a long, awkward pause, Jacob said, “Then we should still get married.”

            “But it’s wrong.”

            “It wasn’t wrong when we didn’t know.”

            “Jacob, that’s just an excuse.”

            “No, it’s not.” Jacob caressed her face in his hands and gave her a small kiss. “It’s not.  We are still in love now, just like we were fifteen minutes ago.  We just didn’t know then.” 

            “But we know now!”

            “So what? No one else does.”  Jacob dropped his hands.

            “But–”

            “Stop but-ing!” Jacob yelled.

            Janelle looked down at her lap. “Jacob, I wanted children. Lots of them.  But, not only is it morally wrong for us to have children, it’s physically wrong as well.”

            Jacob placed a finger under Janelle’s chin and lifted her face up. “So we just adopt.”

            “Adopt?”

            “Yes, you know, where a couple–”

            “I know what it means, Jacob!” Janelle cut him off.

            “Okay, then.  So we adopt a few kids and we tell absolutely no one about what we just heard today.  Hell, maybe that woman actually saved us from having children together but we can still get married.”

            Janelle frowned and thought it over.  “I guess you’re right.”

            “Now,” Jacob said and stood up, “let’s go get married.” He extended a hand towards her.

            She took it and smiled a three-quarter smile. “Let’s go get married.”

 

*          *          *

Jacob and Janelle were married at 7:05 P.M. on a Saturday.  They adopted a baby girl from China, named her Rose, and picked her up on a Saturday at 7:12 P.M.  They also adopted a baby boy from Japan, named him Andrew, and picked him up on a Saturday at 7:10 P.M.  The couple raised their two adopted children as their own and lived to see their children’s weddings and the birth of their grandchildren.  They never told a soul about what the gypsy woman had revealed to them and were married for sixty years.  They both died on the same night together, at eighty-six, on a Saturday at 7:00 P.M.