“I prefer Edna,” she said.
“Your name is Ednathore,” said I. “If indeed you are Ednathore. But you cannot be. I looked on your back and saw the birthmark shaped like a kick ball. That is Ethylthorpe’s birthmark. Ednathorpe has a birthmark shaped like a pie.”
“I used lip rouge to fill in the empty slice, so that it would look like a whole pie, or a kickball, depending upon one’s point of view.”
“Let me see.”
She turned around and I unbuttoned two buttons on her dress, just where her birthmark was. There was a round kickball. I wet my thumb and then rubbed the little mark, and behold, an empty slice was revealed.
“Ednathorpe! My beloved child!” I spun her back around and grasped her in a mighty hug. “I haven’t seen you since you were a baby. Oh, how you’ve grown!”
“Oh father, I am so happy to be here with you, and I have enjoyed these past twenty or so hours. I have yearned to be with you for so long, and I knew much about you, but alas, I didn’t think I would ever see you. My mother told me that you were dead.”
“Oh, what perfidy!” I cried.
She raised an eyebrow.
“Did you not tell Ethylthorpe that her mother was dead? At least Mother told me who you were.”
“It’s an entirely different situation,” said I, “but that is not important. Tell me of how you two managed to become switched. It was no doubt due to some incompetence on your mother’s part.”
“It was not my mother’s fault. She is a good person, and I love her. She is a fine mother, except that she never lets me wear dresses, and always has me dressed up as a boy, and never puts my hair up or ties it with a ribbon, and we always have to go adventuring, and seldom even stay in an inn, but have to camp out on the hard ground, and she never lets me have tea parties or play with dolls or live in a castle. I want to be a princess!”
“Oh, my poor, poor child,” said I. “She has probably neglected your education too.”
“She has taught me to read and to write and to algebra, but I’m sure it’s not the same level of education that I would have received from you.”
“Of that, there can be no doubt,” said I.
“Anyway, we had been traveling for the past several months, moving westward from Aerithraine’s border, when we arrived late in the evening at Fencemar. I begged and pleaded with Mother to let us stay inside, as I was frozen through, but the tavernkeeper informed us that he had let out the only two room in his establishment.”
“Which is to say, his tavern,” I added.
“Indeed. Mother said that we could stay in a room, if I could convince the current occupants to double up into one. I went upstairs and knocked on the door of a room and it opened. There, standing before me, was an almost exact copy of myself.”
“It was a doppelganger!” I shouted.
“No, it was Ethylthorpe,” said Edna. “We were both shocked, but after sharing a bit of information, we figured out that we were twin sisters, separated at birth by our parents. I had always wanted to meet you and hear your wonderful stories, and Ethyl had always longed to know her mother, so we exchanged clothing and took each other’s place. Now I get to travel with you, not to mention sleep inside, wear pretty dresses, and have my hair tied up in ribbons.”
“I suppose sleeping inside is a big deal for a little girl,” said I.
“I said not to mention sleeping inside,” she said. “Ethyl and I agreed to maneuver you and mother into being in Oordport in one year, so that we could compare our experiences and decide if we wanted to trade back or not.”
“What happens when you both inevitably, which is to say certainly and unavoidably, want to be with me. Then your mother will be all alone, with neither of her children there to keep her company. Why, she is likely to fall under the sway of some ruthless man… or woman… or bugbear.”
“That is something you should have both thought about some six years, ten months, and fourteen days ago.”