Heat Wave, Rachel Ikins
Alex: 29 years old, male, Leni’s twin brother—the stable, mildly sarcastic half of the twin equation
Leni: 29 years old, female, a bit of a drama queen, having a hard time coming to terms with her life as it is in this moment
Stella: 26 years old, female, getting married to Ben (Leni’s self-proclaimed best friend)
The upstairs bathroom/hallway of a beautiful home. Offstage there are muffled sounds of a party—laughter, muffled conversations and soft music playing in the background. On one side of the door, Leni sits in the very large empty garden tub completely clothed in a pretty floral dress and strappy sandals. Next to her is a champagne flute half filled and she’s eating a plate piled high with chocolate truffles and humming softly and off-key to the song in the background. She’s feeling sorry for herself because her baby sister is about to marry the man Leni has loved for years—her best friend Ben.
(Alex walks into the hallway and stops at the bathroom door, hearing the faint sound of his sister’s humming over the din of the background noise. He shakes his head and barges in. Leni only mildly startles, tosses a glare at Alex and goes back to her chocolates.)
Alex: Why are you hiding in the bathroom? (He sits on the edge of the tub and snatches a candy from her plate, Leni pretends to bite at his hand, then snuggles her plate closer to her chest.)
Leni: What would you have done if I was shitting Alex?
Alex: Taken a picture and posted it on Facebook. (Alex pops the chocolate in his mouth and pokes her in the ribs.) I’ll ask again, why are you hiding in the bathroom? Aren’t you supposed to be the maid of honor? As in—the host of this shindig?
Leni: First of all—you are a despicable human being and I hate you. Secondly—I’m not hiding. I’m enjoying a moment sans all things wedding in the privacy of mom’s comfy garden tub. There’s a difference.
Alex: Riiiiight. Well then, I stand corrected. Want to talk about why you’re inhaling chocolate and champagne while fully dressed in said bathtub?
Leni: (sighs dramatically) Why isn’t it ok for a grown woman to take a moment for herself with some alcohol and refined sugar in the middle of her baby sister’s wedding shower (she shoves 3 chocolates in her mouth) a shower—I might add—celebrating her upcoming nuptials to my best friend—why can’t I take a fucking minute to regroup without there being something wrong? I’m fine. (she shoves another chocolate into her still full mouth) Fine and dandy. (she takes a drink and some spills some down the front of her dress leaving a brownish stain from the chocolate still in her mouth.) Shit.
Alex: You’re right, this seems completely normal and healthy. Carry on.
(Alex begins to get up and leave and Leni lunges, grabbing his arm.)
Leni: Wait! (she scoots over and tugs on his arm.) Get in.
Alex: I don’t think I can fit Len—(she jerks on his arm again and he flails, falling awkwardly in tub next to her. He glares at her, but rearranges himself so he’s squished in next to her. She rests her head on his shoulder and sighs dramatically.)
Leni: I’m gonna be thirty next week Alex.
Alex: (Gasps dramatically) No shit? Your birthday is next week? Mine too—how weird!
Leni: Shut up. You know what I mean.
Alex: Ah, so this is about the crow’s feet and the age spots that are set to appear the minute we hit the big 3-0? Fascinating, tell me more.
Leni: Oh no, not for you, you’re a man—men only get more attractive with age. While women just shrivel up and wilt into velour tracksuits and jazzercise classes that help absolutely nothing.
Alex: You’re right, you should probably start saving up for all the plastic surgery you’re going to need over the next few years. I hear 30 is the new 60.
Leni: Ugh, what the fuck Alex? You know what? Nevermind…out—just go. I don’t know why I even bother talking to you.
Alex: Because I’m the only one who will listen.
Leni: Ben used to listen.
Alex: (Snorts) No, Ben used to tune you out until you took a breath, then he’d distract you with something shiny like you were a toddler.
Leni: No he did not! What about when Yoda died and I was heartbroken and just needed someone to talk to. Ben sat with me that whole night while I talked about my memories.
Alex: Uh, earth to Leni—first of all, Yoda was an evil dog that you proclaimed undying hate for, so let’s not pretend that his death was all that traumatic. And Ben didn’t sit and listen to you all night long, he sat there and awkwardly patted your back while he and Stella watched the Seahawks game.
Leni: Huh, I forgot Stella was there that night.
Alex: Yep, you tend to block out reality on the regular little sister.
Leni: (rolls her eyes) You’re 3 minutes older than me dumbass.
Alex: So let’s talk about the real elephant in this bathtub. And let’s not pretend like it’s our looming birthday.
Leni: Do you remember when Ben moved in down the street?
Alex: Sure, I guess.
Leni: He rode that yellow bike of his down to our house and asked if you could come out and play, but you had a broken leg, remember? From that wicked trampoline accident?
Alex: So I said you should ride bikes with him instead.
Leni: And we were best friends from then on.
Alex: More like you were glued to him from then on.
(Leni punches him in the arm)
Leni: So, I never told anyone this but (pause) I just kind of always thought—well
Alex: That you would end up with Ben?
(Leni’s head snaps up and she stares at her brother with horror.)
Leni: You knew?!
Alex: Len—everybody knew you were kind of in love with him. Well, everyone but Stella and Ben apparently. You followed him around like a puppy from 4th grade on.
Leni: I didn’t follow him around…we were best friends!
Alex: Leni, we were all friends. You were just too infatuated with Ben to realize it. I figured you would eventually grow out of it. Apparently, I was wrong.
(A soft knock on the bathroom door)
Stella: Leni? Are you in there?
Leni: Um…be out in a minute!
(She walks in anyway and grins when she sees the twins in the tub, then proceeds to sit on the ledge.)
Stella: Is this a twins only meeting, or are all siblings allowed?
Alex: Leni’s hiding.
(Leni elbows her brother and Stella giggles, stealing a truffle from her sister’s plate)
Stella: I know, it’s kind of a circus down there isn’t it? But you know mom—
Leni: (laughs nervously) Yeah, I just needed a minute away from the crazy.
Stella: I get it, if I could sneak away I would too. I kind of wish I’d listened to Ben and just snuck away to Vegas for that matter.
Leni: Why didn’t you? (Alex elbows Leni) Ouch! I didn’t mean it in a bad way!
Stella: Well, I couldn’t get married without my big sister next to me and my big brother giving me away. And as crazy as she’s been in this whole process, I’m glad mom is here too. I didn’t necessarily want the big wedding, but I always saw us together for the big moments in life, ya know? When dad died we always stuck together to get through whatever life threw at us.
Alex: (reaches out and squeezes Stella’s hand) Three musketeers. Well, three and a half—with mom.
(Stella giggles and grabs one last truffle as she stands up, moving towards the door)
Stella: Anyway, I better get back, or mom will find all three of us. I just wanted to make sure you were ok. I know this has been weird—me marrying someone you two were always so close with.
Leni: Weird? Of course not…(she giggles nervously)
(Alex rolls his eyes and earns another elbow to the ribs from Leni)
Stella: Ok, well, I’ll see you down there in a few right? I don’t think I can handle mom alone for much longer, Len, she might also try to name my firstborn child before it’s even conceived.
Leni: No worries, Stell, we’ll be down in a minute, I promise.
(Stella slips out the door)
Alex: Look at you, lying to her face like a big girl!
Leni: You’re not as funny as you think.
Alex: Do you remember when we found out Ben and Stella were dating?
Leni: How could I forget? We caught them making out in the parking lot at the grocery store. (she gags dramatically)
Alex: You know how Ben took me aside after that and we had this long conversation?
Leni: Uh huh. Where are you going with this?
Alex: Well, the main thing we talked about was how I felt about him dating our baby sister and if I understood just how much she meant to him. He was so fucking gone for her that he was more worried about whether we would be mad at her for not telling us sooner than whether we were mad at him.
Leni: Okaaaay. So what you’re saying…?
Alex: Leni, he didn’t even think to ask if you’d be upset about it in any other capacity than that of a big sister. (She stares at him blankly for a minute and Alex sighs, grabbing both of her hands) It never occurred to him that there was anything between you two to worry about. Len, you were never even on his radar! (He says this last part forcefully but gently and Leni bites her lip, looking down.)
Leni: I guess…I guess I kind of knew that. I just spent so long imagining him in all of my future plans that I never stopped to think he didn’t want to be the other half of my equation.
(In the hall there’s a squeal and laughter as Stella gets caught by Ben.)
Stella: Ben! (giggles) Stop, we’ll get caught!
(In the bathroom Leni drops her forehead to Alex’s shoulder and groans.)
Leni: (gags dramatically again) I’m never leaving this tub.
Alex: Ah, so we’re back to hiding?
Alex: Well, I guess I can try to squeeze into your dress and be there for our baby sister instead. I mean, she’ll be crushed that her big sister—that she’s always adored—decided that she couldn’t be there for her on one of the most important days of her life. But you won’t be inconvenienced or uncomfortable, so there’s that.
Leni: Ugh, why do you always have to do that?
Alex: Be the voice of reason? Because there’s only room for one drama queen in this family and I don’t want to steal your crown. And because I love you enough to not let you wallow in self-pity over a man who was never yours to start with Len.
Leni: (whispers) How am I gonna get through this Alex?
Alex: You’re gonna get out of this tub with me first. Then we’re going to find you something to wear that isn’t covered in chocolate drool. Then you’re going to make the decision to be happy for two people you love very much who are very much in love with each other.
Leni: Oh, it’s that simple huh?
Alex: Yep. Now let’s get back to the party before I decide to ruin the moment and post that shit stain on your chest on Facebook.
About the Author
Rachael Gilmore · Missouri Southern State University
Rachael Gilmore is an undergraduate student at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. Her husband and two sons keep her on her toes as she works full-time while also attending classes at MSSU. Creative writing is a means to keep her grounded and sane when juggling the many facets of her life, while also providing an outlet for the many voices in her head vying for the position of protagonist or antagonist of her next work.
About the Artist
Rachael Ikins is an award-winning artist and writer, a 2016 and 2018 Pushcart nominee, CNY Book Award nominee, and a 2018 Independent Book Award winner. She lives with her animal family surrounded by nature, book in hand, happiest with mud on good clothes, gardening, windows open, listening to the wind. This piece first appeared in Persephone’s Daughters. This piece was first featured in plain china in 2023.