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  • Erin M. Wright

A Kiss That Changed Her Life

Updated: Sep 27, 2021

Tammy had a reputation for being a positive person, so 17 days into her husband’s medically induced coma, it wasn’t surprising to see her out and about running errands and preparing for her annual summer kick-off bash. This party became a tradition of Tammy’s, even though it was extremely stressful and expensive to plan a party for 200 people year after year, she enjoyed the challenge.

No one expected her to have the party, let alone plan it. Josh’s accident that the police were now investigating as an attempted murder was stalled. All of the leads were dry and it seemed like everyone lost hope. Josh wasn’t showing any signs of improvement and it began to drive her crazy just watching him sleep in the hospital room with armed guards outside of the door.

Tammy and Josh lived in the small city they’d both grown up in 3 hours outside of D.C. - they were nursery school sweethearts and everyone loved them. They went to school together from kindergarten up until 12th grade. Josh was an engineer and probably the smartest person she’d ever met, the C.I.A. recruited him at a young age and even paid for his tuition at M.I.T.

Tammy was smart but focused much of her efforts on socializing. She knew everyone and everyone knew and loved Tammy, so the local college was good enough for her. Tammy’s smile was so infectious, she could make the most depressed person smile with a wink from her deep brown eyes.

She always knew her and Josh would get married and opted for a cheaper education – taking design classes and living at home while Josh pursued his engineering dream, that way she could splurge on the most special day of her life.

They got married two weeks after he graduated from college in the woods behind Tammy’s parents' house. It was quaint, romantic, and worthy of being in a magazine spread. Tammy had the time of her life planning and enjoying her wedding, even though she’d married Josh who was not impressed with his wife’s gift to throw an unforgettable party. He smiled, participated in the first dance – as he’d promised, and quietly disappeared into Tammy’s childhood treehouse after all of the drunken speeches.

Guests wondered about the dynamic between Tammy and Josh, but Tammy never worried. She knew Josh loved her and she’d accepted a long time ago that he loved science even more. Josh’s parents adored her and thanked her for loving Josh and his obsession with work and Tammy’s parents loved Josh for his patience when it came to Tammy and her whimsical personality. The two of them found a way to work and that was all that mattered.

Josh was employed by a small private company that the military funded. Tammy didn’t know much more than that. Her husband was extremely discreet when it came to his work, probably the main reason why the detectives working his case were having a hard time solving his almost-murder. Before the unfortunate attempt on his life, Tammy didn’t care to know much about his work, but she did look forward to his trips to the Pentagon. While he sat through hours of briefs, Tammy often hung out in D.C. to get some decent shopping done and try out the latest restaurants she’d read about. She enjoyed her alone time in the city.

Tammy was used to being alone, especially after Josh converted their garage into a lab. It looked like something out of a James Bond movie. Because Josh worked so much, Tammy was left to entertain guests on his behalf – including his family. But to Tammy’s satisfaction, Josh’s twin brother, Jared, had a very entertaining love life. One that she often heard about over a bottle of vodka in her kitchen while she planned events for the town. Jared loved Tammy, he often joked that his brother needed to build a clone of her, so he could finally settle down. Tammy always took that comment light-heartedly, but Josh never found it funny.

Tammy sat on the floor of the venue she’d rented out, her event and style company was doing extremely well, thinking about her husband and they life they’d created together. The functions she had served as an advertisement for her business, but this year’s event, in particular, was a way for her to get out of the hospital and try to cope with the idea of possibly never seeing her husband again. The ceilings were sky-high with a massive crystal chandelier in the center of it. She sorted through the gift bags, making sure they were all equipped with the newest earrings she was going to release and her business cards.

“Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” a deep-voiced athletic figure announced by the entrance.

“Jared! Hey you!” Tammy squeaked as she effortlessly popped up from sitting on the floor like a pretzel – she had her pilates teacher to thank for that.

They embraced each other under the sparkling chandelier and Tammy caught herself taking in a deep smell of her husband’s twin.

“Oh. I’m so sorry. It’s just a habit, I always do with your brother when he hugs me,” Tammy explained as she tried to hide her embarrassment.

Jared chuckled and replied, “really? I always thought Josh smelled like oil from one of the machines he’d been working on.”

Tammy agreed and awkwardly laughed, but that was what she loved about Josh. He was dedicated to his work, even after a shower his hands or hair still reeked of his homemade lab. Jared’s smell of a fresh shower jolted Tammy back to reality and she quickly let go of her brother-in-law.

“Uh, what are you doing here?” Tammy asked, sitting back on the floor in an inelegant manner.

“I came to check on you. I haven’t seen you much since the accident. Well, I’ve seen you, but I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to you alone,” Jared awkwardly responded in an uncharacteristically low and shy tone.

She didn’t know what to think of his comment. The two of them were close because they attended the local college together while Josh went away, but Tammy didn’t expect him to drop in on her unannounced.

“Thank you, that’s sweet. Odd, but sweet,” Tammy sarcastically answered in hopes to ease some of the weirdness in the room.

Jared smiled with his infamous dimples appearing on each side of his face. Tammy diverted her gaze to the perfectly decorated welcoming table near the entrance. She always liked Jared’s dimples. They were so cute and often wondered why Josh, her husband, didn’t inherit them.

The truth was although they were twins, the brothers couldn’t be further from opposites. Josh was smart, cautious, and handsome. He always had a plan and Tammy loved that about him. He kept a journal that he wrote in religiously, but it was more of a road map to Tammy. He documented what he wanted to do, how he wanted it done, and when whatever it was complete he wrote down exactly how it was executed in perfect typewriter-like handwriting. Most people saw his attention to detail as unnecessary, but to her it was impressive.

Jared, on the other hand, was nicknamed ‘the mayor’. He was just as smart as Josh but never felt the need to tap into that side of himself. He was charismatic, one smile with his crater-like dimples, and teachers gave him an instant passing grade. Jared was a golfer, amateur DJ for their parties all through school, and even dabbled in growing marijuana in his mom’s garden. Josh despised his brother’s lack of motivation for academics and laissez-faire attitude about his future.

He regularly complained about his twin brother to Tammy, but she never quite understood why Jared bothered him so much. She didn’t mind Jared’s goofy jokes or pranks he liked to play on Josh and her when they were younger.

“Don’t encourage him, Tammy. If you laugh at one joke, it will never end,” Josh’s voice warned Tammy in her mind.

“Do you ever wonder what if?” Jared asked.

Tammy looked confused, “what if what?”

Jared began to answer Tammy in an around-about way, “technically I knew you first, remember? We sat at the same lunch table in kindergarten and we hung out in timeout together for the first half of the year.”

Tammy grinned. She did remember that. She also remembered her cheeks being feverishly red every time they sat in timeout next to each other and Jared would scoot his chair toward hers just enough to press his big toe on top of hers as if they were playing I Declare War, but the toe version, instead of their thumbs. Jared also shared his cucumbers with her every day. Tammy’s mom never listened to her requests regarding her lunch, but Jared had no problem sharing his perfectly cubed cucumbers with her. He’d even went as far as sneaking the ranch dressing from the fridge in his backpack so they could enjoy dunking the cubes in their favorite dressing.

Josh hated the way Tammy smothered her salads in ranch dressing, she reminded herself. You may as well just drink it from the bottle, he’d say when their salads would arrive at the table – which sometimes embarrassed her. Tammy shook her head, trying to focus on the good of her coma-induced-husband and not his sometimes nagging ways.

“Yes, I remember. I also recall you falling in love with my best friend, Brittany, in second grade. Oh, and then my soccer teammate, my neighbor, my lab partner, my roommate, my co-worker when I worked at the ice cream shop, and my business partner who is no longer my business partner because of you,” Tammy reminded the chiseled 6’3 smiling man who was now standing uncomfortably close to her.

She took a step back to get a better look at his face, thinking she’d shut down his inappropriate pass at her. But, Jared was in full charm mode. He snickered and his right dimple grew deeper, while his hazel eyes sparkled in the light that ricocheted off the chandelier – that damn chandelier.

“You and I never had a chance, not as long as my brother was around. You know, I’m not even sure if he truly loved you or he just loved the way you fit into his ‘plan,” Jared explained.

Tammy initially took offense to the comment, but not for long. She too thought that way sometimes. Tammy’s simple life easily fit into Josh’s fine-tuned life plan and deep down that bothered her. They’d known each other their entire lives and he never once constructed a plan for both of them, he had his plan and Tammy, luckily, fit in. He knew her family and he didn’t want to waste his precious time on finding a new girlfriend. His strict guidelines wouldn’t allow for courting or dating. So, his girlfriend from grade school would just have to do.

“You and I would never work. Right?” Tammy was now questioning her once solid stance in the discussion.

“But did you ever wonder about us? Come on Tammy,” Jared sighed as he spoke.

“What are you saying, Jared? I’ve got stuff to do. What do you want?” Her curiosity was growing into anxiety.

Jared drew in a deep breath, he was nervous, which was unlike him.

“You. I want you. I’ve always wanted you and my brother knew it,” Jared said as his eyes began to form pools of tears.

Tammy was unsure if he was upset about his brother or if what he was saying was true.

“Jared, that’s the fear talking. I experience it myself. One minute I’m sad, thinking I’m never going to speak to Josh again and the next I’m angry because he kept his work-life so private. It’s ok,” Tammy said as she stood up again and smoothed out her clothes to generously rub his shoulder to console him.

Jared pulled her petit frame close to his. He gave her a warm, sincere, and passionate hug. Something she wanted Josh to do, but he never cared for hugs. Tammy tilted her head back to examine his face. Jared was already staring at hers. Their eyes met. Tammy felt a jolt of electricity surge through her body down to her toes. Instead of releasing herself from his hold, she remained still. Jared pulled one of her curls from in front of her face and gently tucked it behind her ear.

It was at that moment, Tammy felt the most alive. She felt seen. Heard. Wanted. But she also felt guilty. She thought of Josh laying in the hospital connected to a dozen machines that beeped all through the day and night.

“Jared, I can’t. It just seems wrong,” Tammy stammered.

But it was too late, Jared already made up his mind. He gently lifted Tammy’s chin with a finger and softly kissed her lips. Jared tried to pull his lips away from hers, but she pressed her lips harder to his. The kiss was euphoric, she felt like a young girl experiencing her first kiss. Jared grabbed the back of her head and cupped his other hand under her butt as they continued to kiss. His hands were strong, but his embrace was loving. She felt like she could melt in his arms. She wanted more, he did too until her phone rang.

“Tammy? It’s me, Carol. The nurse just called me he’s awake, sweetie! Josh is going to be ok. Have you seen Jared? He said he was going to stop by and check on you. If he’s there please tell him the good news!” Josh and Jared’s mom excitedly screamed through the phone.

Tammy eventually pulled herself together to give her mother-in-law a response. She ended the call and was about to repeat the news, but Jared already heard his mother’s shrieking voice through the phone. There was no time to talk about the kiss. Jared grabbed Tammy’s bag, her hand, and rushed her out of the room to take her to his twin brother.

The ride to the hospital was short, so there was no need to discuss anything, both of them were eager to see how Josh was doing. They sprinted to his room in the ICU and were stunned to see Josh sitting up with a smile on his face talking to his mom.

Tammy rushed to his bedside to better examine her husband. He greeted her with a peck on the forehead. That was it. An awkward, dry, and meaningless notion. Tammy, who was determined to prove that the kiss between her and his twin brother was nothing, but a grief-charged mistake, bent over and kissed her husband as passionately as she could.

“Whoa Tammy, I’m ok, no need for all of that. I’ve had tubes down my throat for 17 days, the last thing I need is your tongue,” Josh said as he gently pushed his wife away.

Tammy looked at Jared, who looked like he just witnessed a ghost fly by. He was staring blankly at his twin brother. Tammy began to cry. She wasn’t crying because her husband was going to fully recover from his accident or the fact that he’d just embarrassed her in front of his brother and mother. She cried tears of pain. She made a mistake, she married the wrong brother and there was no getting out of it. Now more than ever she wanted Jared and he wanted her. Tammy excused herself from the hospital room. Her happy simple life was over, just like that. After a kiss from her husband’s brother.

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