He glanced up when a women entered the coffee shop and strode with long legs to the counter. Then he caught himself from shouting and leaping out of his chair.

The woman looked just like his little sister. If his sister had not been dead for forty years — if he’d not seen her die (God, stop that thought) and hadn’t gone to her services, consoling Mom and his other sisters — he would have been sure it was Sammy, the name she chose when she was little, telling everyone, “My name is not Debby. It’s Sammy.” Asked why she’d changed her name, Sammy thrust out a hip, removed sunglasses from her nine-year-old face and replied, “Look at me. I’m not a Debby.” It was delivered with such precocious contempt.

Carmichael couldn’t stop himself from watching her. Like Sammy, this woman was stunning, brunette with thick hair and sunlight delivered highlights, long-legged, athletic in stance and motion, like she’s waiting for play to resume. All his sisters were the same, except Sharon, who seemed to be from a completely different set of genes, except she shared their grandmother’s hips, face, and neck — well, all of it as she aged, almost becoming Grandma’s spitting image. The other problem was that the woman looked as Sammy had when she’d died, so she couldn’t be Sammy. Sammy would now be sixty-two. So, that was impossible. Also, what would bring Sammy to Corvalis? Sammy wouldn’t be this far north. She wanted warm sunshine. He’d always thought she’d end up in southern California. That’s where she always declared she was going to live, and Sammy had the will to make it so.

The woman turned, strolling from the counter, sunglasses in hand, as Sammy always did. She glanced his way. He met it with a small smile and slight nod. God, the resemblance to his sister was shocking. He should take a photo, maybe explain why, then —

Her eyes widening, she walked toward him. “Carm? Oh my God, is it you?”

Carmichael sat back and held off answering for seconds. Then, “Do I know you?”

The woman stopped six feet away, sunglasses pointed to her chest, long hair held back by the other hand. “It’s me, Sammy.”

“Sammy?” Carmichael dumbly nodded. He refrained from adding, you can’t be Sammy because Sammy is dead. Didn’t seem like a polite thing to say. “Sammy…Sammy who?”

“But — I’m sorry. You — but it can’t — ” Sammy shook her head with small and precise movements. “I’m sorry, but you can’t be Carmichael.” A smile charmed him. “I thought you were my brother. You look just like him. But you can’t be.”

“Why?” Carmichael asked.

“Well, he died almost forty years ago,” Sammy replied with a small sigh. “Car accident, along with my mother and sister.”


Sammy froze for two seconds. Her brown eyes narrowed. “What’s going on? How did you know that?”

“Because my sister is Sharon. She was with us when you died.”

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