My Name is Jane

written by Christine Unger


Crime Scene

Standing on the little half step in front of the avocado green door on rue Drolet, M was pulled back in time. Her first meeting with Jane, before she'd even heard of Val-David. It was a sweet little apartment on a quiet little street, minutes away from the Mont Royal Metro. Having heard how much Jane enjoyed flowers, M had stopped at the open air market and picked out a bouquet. Brilliantly coloured Freesias, sweet as candy. Jane had answered the door with a wide smile on her face, it got wider still when she saw the flowers. M had come, determined to make a good impression, to get the job. Within minutes she found herself sitting cosily tucked into a chair at a tiny table with a cup of green tea, pouring her heart out to Jane's sympathetic ears. Job or no, she'd made a friend. While she'd been in China, she'd managed to fool herself. She'd become Jane but here, in Montreal she felt like the fraud she was. Here she was still just M, the assistant. She reached into the scrollwork above the door, relieved to find the little key where it had always been. She never even heard the neighbour calling her name.

"Jane, Jane, bonjour Jane."

Even if she had, she wouldn't have thought to answer to the name.

Dick had not reached out to her for a long time. All that money sat in their Dubai account. M had taken out just enough to get by and Dick clearly had no interest in it. She couldn't help worrying that Dick had lost interest in her too. She'd grown up a lot in China: learned to think outside of herself. What she'd seen there, fear, deprivation, cruelty, all like it was perfectly normal. Hong Kong was like a big smoke screen, hiding a reality filled with ghosts. Too much history, too much. She'd been wrong about almost everything. She needed to see her parents. Tell them what had happened. Apologize. She wasn't Myron any more, but for the most part Myron had had a good childhood, none of what had happened was their fault. The surgery had been crucial, she could stop thinking about it all the time, thinking beyond the body. Gender, it turned out was no cure. It helped, but it was her mind that would not settle, would not find itself, find that balanced place that made Jane seem to float through life, the thing that had lured her to that little mountain town.

It had seemed so easy, playing the role of Jane in China. She knew Jane so well. After all, Jane herself had trained her.

Dick would photograph them and they'd look over the images at the end of the day. "See here, you're trying too hard, Jane would say. A woman doesn't try to be a woman. Stand straight, you're not a weeping willow. Women are strong. You've seen too many old movies, women acting the way men thought women should act." Dick would role his eyes but M absorbed every word, but mostly, every movement, inflection, every little thing that made Jane, Jane.

They'd practised for weeks during "Jane's Journey" until she was ready to stand in, with Jane herself able to frame the shots just as she wanted them. When they were done she came out, like Liza Dolittle, going to openings as Jane and not even her dealers realized it wasn't Jane.

She remembered now, how eager Dick had been for her to step into Jane's shoes. How quick he'd been to tell her that Jane was taking advantage of her. Not giving her the credit she deserved. But when she was alone in Hong Kong in recovery she remembered that she'd told Jane she didn't want the credit, that it would only make her nervous. She'd never asked for Jane to give her credit. Never told her she'd changed her mind.

The plans they'd made for the China shoot were perfect. Jane was a fanatic for details. She would have liked to think that the results of her work there were her own, but shot for shot, it was all Jane. Maybe there was an artist in her somewhere, but she was no Jane. Day after day in absolutely glorious surroundings and not a single original idea had occurred to her. It had been completely by the book, Jane's book. Every shot came off perfect.

No one questioned her, her identity. The look, the make-up, it was Jane and in a world populated by ghosts already, it almost seemed normal. Errata had been ecstatic about the new prints. They'd insisted on shipping in all the right paper and setting her up in a studio. They hadn't blinked an eye when she asked them to transfer the money from her sales into a new joint account with Dick in a bank based in Dubai. Dick seemed to know a lot about moving money around. But then, sometimes it seemed like he was omniscient. In China she'd played a role and played it superbly. But not here. Here it was all a lie. Here, she didn't want to be Jane any more. She wanted to be herself, whoever that was. She'd died her hair red and let it grow to her shoulders. Changed her wardrobe, picked out jewellery she liked but imagined Jane wouldn't care for. Anything she could think of to find her own tastes. Nothing worked. She needed to talk to Dick even if he didn't want to talk to her.

She bumped along that secluded little road the led to Dick and Jane's home in Val-David, dark with overhanging branches even on a sunny day like this. The days were getting shorter, already sun streamed through the tops of the pines that grew thick around their narrow little driveway. Parking on the other side of the deep dirt ditch that edged their property, she walked toward Dick's house, Jane's house. So much had changed since she'd first walked up that path, so full of hope and gratitude for a new opportunity, a new start. The house seemed flatter than ever, resisting entry. Everything about Jane's garden screamed welcome but the house had always been intimidating. Not that it was too grand, not at all. For someone like Jane it was positively humble. Looking up she saw a light on in the kitchen, movement. Good, Dick was home, but then the figure moved closer to the window, it was a woman, unmistakably a woman. She held her breath and rocked back on her heels as if someone had slapped her, hard. Jane, it was Jane! Relief flooded through her as she rushed to door. After all, no body had ever come ashore, maybe she'd been alright. M didn't care what Jane thought of her, but the guilt, if that guilt could just go away, she'd have a chance. She ran to the front door, pounding her fist, desperate to see Jane's face, to see her alive.

But when the door flew open, it wasn't Jane's face that greeted her, but her own. She must be mad, she'd gone mad. They were practically identical, but this woman had it, that easy self-confidence, sure in her femininity. She looked angry then shocked. Suddenly her face softened. But M was beyond hearing, beyond seeing. Blood coursed like a thundering river through her body, shutting down her ears, a tightening fist over rational thought. This was who Dick really wanted. This woman, this was why Dick had encouraged her to stay so long in China. She knew it. She wanted to scream, to cry, to bite like a feral little animal caught, pressed against the crumbling earth of her borough. All her suspicions about Dick were confirmed in a single, awful moment.

Joy was waiting, again. Dick was out a lot these days. She wanted to surprise him. She'd made dinner, a rich beef stew was simmering slowly in the oven. A bottle of Chateau Cantaloupe Mèdoc sat on the counter. She'd dressed in a tight black cocktail dress with a suggestively plunging neckline. She looked terrific. It was still early. Hours before Dick would be back, a little time to relax and think. She needed to confront him. Things had been off lately, she wanted things the way they'd been before she'd written that stupid note.

When she heard the pounding on the door she was irate. It had to be that fool, D down the road. He kept nagging Dick. "Where is she, where is she, she does not send me even an email. You're hiding something."

Dick was dismissive, "he was always nuts about Jane. Jane couldn't stand him. She only spoke to him because he has some influence in the town and she needed him to back her with the committees. Now she's in California. He can go to hell."

Joy ran down the stairs. She pulled the door open, dish towel still in her hand, angry, ready to tell D off, when she saw M. She crossed herself. It was her mirror image. Lipstick, hair style, clothes, almost identical. Then she breathed a sigh of relief and grinned. so like Dick to make such an elaborate joke. So this must be M. Dick has told her a lot about M: how she likes to dress as other women. This must be some trick of Dick's, a joke, for fun. She laughs but M doesn't smile. There's something terribly wrong. The look on her face now, she's insane.

M runs at her, shaking with rage. It's too late to close the door, Joy backs up, holding her arms in front of her defensively. What's wrong, she shouts. But M doesn't acknowledge her. She frightened. Stumbling backwards she reaches blindly behind herself, feeling for the gun Dick keeps in the little desk at the front door. She swings it forward, arms held stiff, like a tv cop, and starts to back away. It is a stupid thing to have done, she realizes it the minute the gun is in her hands.

M keeps coming, at first slow and then faster. Not even seeing the gun. She feels utterly betrayed and runs at Joy.

Joy is terrified now. Dropping the gun she runs out the back door with M close behind. The dress isn't helping. She never did get used to high heels, it's not exactly something you got practised at in a convent. She kicks them off, but now the rocks and branches are tearing at her feet. branches are raking across her face and chest. Adrenaline keeps her going. She's disoriented. The evening sun strikes deep shadows. Everything looks unfamiliar.

M is shouting something, "Arrêt, arrêt, danger"

Then suddenly the ground is gone, she can't find a grip anywhere, loose leaves, already drying for fall, crumble in her fingers as she plummets into a dark abyss. Her head hits something hard and the pain swells, unstoppable, unbelievable and then fades. M is at her side talking, talking. what is she saying. Tears and dirt run down her face, the make-up is running off. Recognition comes through a blur of pain. She realizes who M must be. "SISTER," she cries weakly.

M is confused, disoriented by everything that's happened in such a short space of time. It cannot be happening again. What is she saying? what does she mean?

"We are twins, look, look at me. I am your sister, Joy, do you not feel it."

All of M's rage is gone in an instant. It is more than how they look, she holds her hand next to Joys, a perfect match. She pulls Joy up against her shoulder, helping her to sit up. "Are you alright."

"Yes, yes, I think so, I don't know."

"How, how is it possible?"

As the shadows lengthen around them, Joy tells him what she knows about the babies that come to the convent, "We must have come as twins, but I was so sickly they kept me and they loved me so desperately, perhaps, they thought I would leave them if I knew I had a sister. It is true, I would have looked for you. You must go see Sister Martine at the convent, she will help you."

"We'll tell her together."

Joy eyes flutter, "I think it is worse than I thought, look at me. I think I am dead."

"You'll be fine, I'll call for help," mesmerized by Joy's story, in the growing darkness M had not noticed Joy grow paler, had not noticed the blood pooling at the base of her skull. M had imagined nothing worse than twisted ankle and a bump on the head. Terrified, she tugged at her skirt, pulling off a large swath, and placed Joy carefully back onto the ground with the material rolled up beneath her. It's too late, her chest is not moving. M listens for a heartbeat. Nothing. Joy lies perfectly still, lifeless.

M howls at the moon, in that moment, lost to humanity, a wild beast lying in the dirt. She wants to rip and tear, inflict pain, feel pain, to shut all the voices down. Emotionally, she is done, she's reached a limit. Her thoughts grow still and cold. Taking Joy's hand in hers. "I am a monster. I have killed. I will avenge you, I will avenge Jane." Above the moon has silvered the edges of the clouds for Joy's ascension. M imagines angels reaching down to pull Joy away. Not yet. I need this body. She begins to undress her and then, gathering strength she didn't know she had, she carries the body up the impossible hill and into the basement studio. All her old tools, clothes make-up everything, are still there. She does what she knows best how to do. In a matter of an hour Joy looks more like Jane than M ever did. Returning her to the place she fell she turns Joy face down, as Jane would have wanted it and crawls back up the hill once more, exhausted.

From the edge of the clearing, Jane is watching. Fascinated. Too bad about Joy. She hadn't meant for her to die but there's nothing she could have done. She wouldn't have had a happy life anyway. Dick would have dumped her. She'd have returned to the nuns, damaged, unhappy and most probably lived the rest of her life, lying to herself. Pretending to a faith she had no feeling for. But M had something more to her, she had something to offer the world, she had played her role well, she'd suffered enough. She raised a hand and blew a soft wind toward her lover's home, to where M rested, devastated, on the couch. The wind caught her breath and stole across M's face. M inhaled. Jasmine, mandarin, sandalwood, the smell of India, of Clive, Jane's favourite perfume, rushed deep into her lungs as she fell asleep on the sofa. When she awoke she held an envelope in her hands. Inside a key and a note,

Dearest M

I'm NOT dead, you are NOT guilty, in some ways, M, you saved me.
I am sorry about Joy. I saw it all. It was an accident and it would never have happened if Dick hadn't been manipulating you both. All of us really. Don't worry I'll take care of everything. There are a lot of things Dick doesn't know about me. He will pay for what he's done.

Tell no one what's happened. Take this key. The house in California is yours. I put you in my will long ago. Now that I am officially "dead," or will be in the next few hours, there shouldn't be any trouble.

Be Jane if you like, or don't. I'm done with her. You were better at it than I was anyway. For your own sake though I hope you choose something of your own. Don't doubt your originality, it's there. You've lived through too much not to have something to say.

PS I like the red hair, keep it.