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Free extract! Her Perfect Twin by Sarah Bonner

‘A terrifyingly vivid psychological thriller – paranoid, claustrophobic and captivating’ Janice Hallett

When Megan discovers photographs of her estranged identical twin sister on her husband’s phone, she wants answers.

Leah already has everything Megan has ever wanted. Fame, fortune, freedom to do what she wants. And when Megan confronts Leah, an argument turns to murder.

The only way Megan can get away with killing her twin is to become her.

But then lockdown hits. How can she continue living two lives? And what happens if someone else knows her secret too?




Part One


Chapter One


I have no memory of my husband taking this photo. It shows me lying on our bed in my underwear, eyes closed, a private smile on my face. It is definitely our bed, with the padded leather headboard I have to wipe constantly because otherwise it accumulates so much dust you’d think I hadn’t cleaned for a year. The white bedding with the little blue forget-me-nots is the one I bought in the January sales last month and the flowers perfectly match the electric-blue bra and knickers I am wearing.

I do not own electric-blue underwear.

Chris is still in the shower; he’s humming some god-awful soft rock song as he splashes water around the en suite. Keeping an ear out, I dig through the top drawer of the dresser, spilling plain black and flesh-coloured knickers to the floor as I hunt for the more risqué items at the back. I find a red lace set that hasn’t seen the light of day in… well, probably a year? I don’t know, it can’t be that long, surely, although it’s been a while. But there is nothing blue. Stuffing things back in, I sense someone behind me and turn

to come face to face with my husband, wet from the shower, hair hanging around his face.

‘I always liked the red.’ He smiles lazily at me, holding the towel around his waist with a dangerous casualness, like he could drop it to the floor at any time. He raises both eyebrows, gives me an almost imperceptible wiggle of his hips.

I blush and look away, trying to ignore his presence behind me as I carry on stuffing everything into the drawer, the feeling of his eyes on the back of my head.

‘Were you looking for something?’ he asks.

Still facing away from him on my knees in front of the dresser, I shake my head. ‘Nothing important.’

‘It never is,’ he says with a sigh, scooping his phone from the bed and sauntering towards the little dressing alcove.

There was a time in our marriage when I would have reached out and grabbed the towel. When I would have slipped into the scraps of red lace poking out from the humdrum sea of black and tan microfibre/cotton blend. Chased him around the house.

Instead, I pick up my phone and begin scrolling through my own photos. I take a lot of pictures to help me remember. To confirm. Documenting every outfit helps me by linking my memories of what I was doing to the feel of certain fabrics against my skin: if I was wearing cotton or silk, or a slightly scratchy jumper like that mauve one I bought last year and still wear even though it gives me goosebumps if I move too quickly.

I scroll back through the album dedicated to shopping: the last week, then the last month; but there is no sign of electric- blue lace. I definitely did not buy these. And surely I would remember wearing them? Remember lying on the bed with a little smile and one finger jauntily hooked into the waistband waiting for him to take the picture.

There is a chance that Chris bought the set and then I put it on for him, too caught up in the moment and the fact that my husband had finally paid me enough attention to go out of his way. But we’ve been together for four years and he’s only ever bought me underwear once. A virginal white set for our wedding night. Since then, nothing.

Unless he’s trying to fuck with me. Again.

He thinks he’s so clever, but I will catch him out eventually. His ‘concerned husband’ act is starting to wear thin, the edges fraying. I know he’s behind at least some of my ‘forgetful episodes’, even if I can’t prove it yet.

I can hear him in the kitchen, making coffee in that irritatingly precise way of his. All carefully measured and exacting, like he’s a chemist in a lab. He always looks horrified when

I scoop some instant granules into a mug and slosh on some boiling water. Even worse when I top it up with cold water just so I can drink it faster. I begin to paw through his drawers. He is tidy and so I am slow, careful not to leave a wake of mess behind me. No blue lace. But something so small would be easy to hide and I don’t have time to take the house apart.

Did he want me to find the photo? Did he leave his phone deliberately, right there on his pillow while he had a shower, knowing I wouldn’t be able to resist having a little peek? And knowing I wouldn’t be able to confront him either, not after I’d made such a thing about privacy last week. Fuck him.

I abandon the search and pad down to the kitchen, hoping that I might catch a glimpse of whatever he is up to. He is making pancakes – little American ones with their bubbly surfaces, light and fluffy – while he hums a song, one I know from somewhere but can’t recall the name of: a vague memory of singing along in a car, feeling wind whipping at my hair. The air is salty, cool. 2002. The summer Leah and I went to Dublin on a school trip, hours and hours on a cramped coach, desperate for a pee. The second night, Leah had met these boys who took us for a ride in their dad’s convertible, driving us out of the city and over the wooden bridge towards the long sandy beach at Dollymount. Leah had gone off with one of the boys and left me with his friend – or possibly brother, I don’t really remember – trying to make polite conversation while I tried not to imagine what my twin was doing behind the men’s swimming shelter.

‘You don’t fancy…’ the one I was left with had said to me with a gesture towards the shelter.

‘I have a boyfriend,’ I’d replied, prim and proper, waiting for the perfect boy and the perfect time.

Chris has laid the small table in the corner of the kitchen, a French press of coffee alongside a few white flowers in a narrow vase. The one I bought at the same time as the forget-me-not bedding, along with a pair of soft grey cushions for the living room and a bale of new towels. I have a photo of each. Chris wasn’t impressed with my choices, but then I hadn’t expected him to be. We’d had a row about the towels. His mother had bought us some for a wedding gift, ones I had to throw away because I accidentally covered them in hair dye but hadn’t been brave enough to tell him. I had thought I was replacing like for like, that I could shuttle them into the airing cupboard and he would be none the wiser, but he had noticed immediately. Of course he had; he always notices when things are out of place.

Ever since we moved in together, I have painstakingly tiptoed around him, going to great lengths to ensure that everything is just so. I even make sure the toilet roll is the ‘correct’ way in its holder and load the dishwasher per his exacting specification, knowing that he would notice the second anything was out of place, out of line, out of the order he imposed on the world around him. He’d accused me of being slovenly. Forgetful.

A disaster. Just like your mother.

The Pattersons have a curse. But I will not let it take me, will not succumb like my mother, will not let it wash over me and drown everything like she did, to leave me and my sister to flounder while she sank away.

As I pour a coffee, I watch Chris stack pancakes on a plate and drizzle some maple syrup over them. He has that spring in his step he normally reserves for special occasions and he puts tthe pancakes down in front me with a practised flourish.

‘Ta-da!’ he says. ‘Pancakes for my beautiful wife!’ He kisses my cheek and grins at me. The grin grows wider as he pulls some napkins from a drawer and unfurls one into my lap. It is a brilliant electric blue. I watch him as I take a mouthful. It is like glass in my mouth. He watches me back, a flicker of something at the corner of his mouth. He is goading me. Again.

‘Are you OK, Meggie?’ His voice drips with concern. ‘Something wrong with the pancakes? You’ve hardly touched them.’

The pile in front of me seems to shimmer in the weak sunlight coming through the window. The glass in my mouth dissolves into ash; am I imagining the taste of almond on my tongue?

‘I’ll eat them if you don’t want them,’ he says, hovering his fork over my plate. I push them towards him. ‘Worried about seeing your mum?’

No, of course not, I want to scream at him. Why would I possibly be worried about seeing Mum? Who doesn’t have any idea who I am and who calls me Leah every single time I

can face visiting her in that place? Instead I smile and whisper, ‘A little.’

‘I’ll be with you, Meggie. We’ve got this. Together.’

Mum lives just outside of the village of Wotton, near Dorking. The house is gorgeous, with the North Downs behind it, large grounds full of fruit trees and hidden nooks

of shade, perfect for summer reading. It would be idyllic: except for the other residents and the truth of why they live there. Sometimes I can imagine everything is fine, that we are just meeting up for a pot of tea in the grounds of an old stately home, like some of my friends do with their mothers, a lovely day out somewhere special. But most of the time our visits to the Jonas Institute are punctuated by the screaming of the woman in the next room, normally set off by the man who likes to rap on her window just to scare her, or by the man who likes to strip naked and run around the grounds irrespective of the weather until he is caught and bundled back into the warmth by the harried-looking staff.

‘What’s the racket, Leah?’ Mum will ask me, confusing me with my sister. Sometimes I just go with it, let her think that I’m Leah and reminisce with her about the past. I wonder if

Leah does the same when she visits? If she visits at all.

I just wish I could talk to Mum properly. Tell her that I’m terrified I’m turning into her and that all I have in my future is a room right here, in this place that smells like stale piss and

overcooked cabbage. Or that I think there is something very wrong about my husband.


‘You should call her,’ Chris says as we drive home.


‘Leah. You should call her.’

We always have this conversation after visiting Mum, her confusion over which twin I am leading Chris to once again suggest a reunion. I haven’t seen Leah for a long time. Although, of course, I keep tabs on her. It isn’t stalking. Stalk – that’s a strong word, bringing to mind some dirty pervert in a mac watching

through the window as the pretty girl takes off a roll-neck sweater with the light playing exactly right in the background. No, I wasn’t stalking. I was just checking in, making sure Leah was alright. She’s always made the worst choices, after all. Has always had terrible taste in men, looking for those who will treat her like shit, worse even than Dad did to Mum. She needs me to keep an eye on her. Even if my own romantic judgement hasn’t exactly turned out to be so great after all.



I don’t know which of us was born first, but Leah always maintained she was. The hospital had attached a little band to each of our scrawny, wrinkled wrists, our skin the colour of uncooked chicken in the glare of the delivery room lights. Our bassinets were similarly labelled with Baby Girl One and Baby

Girl Two. But the bands were taken off in favour of a different colour of piping on our onesies as we were prepared to be taken home. Our dad wasn’t around, and Mum had forgotten which colour represented which twin in her struggle to take two tiny babies home on her own. Dad had found Mum in hysterics, not knowing who was Megan and who was Leah. He had looked from the tear-streaked mess of his wife to the identical faces of his twin daughters and made a rather worrying decision. With a needle and a broken BIC pen he tattooed a tiny dot onto Leah’s ankle. Two dots onto mine. Yes, my father tattooed us. When we were just a few days old. It was the only way he could think to tell us apart. Of course, once Mum had calmed down a bit, she told him he could have just used a marker pen or something, but by then it was too late. We don’t know if he was right, either; perhaps I was actually the elder and had spent the first few days of my life being called Leah. We will never be certain.

When we were about five, I remember we tried to get away with a swap. We swapped all the time, of course we did. Twins always do. Especially as it’s harder for parents to discipline both of you for a crime committed by just one. But normally we were just trying to avoid the punishment for minor transgressions: a stolen biscuit, spilt milk on the floor, a little bit of felt tip bleeding through the paper onto the wooden kitchen table and leaving a small stain. This was a little more serious, involving a football and the next-door neighbour’s greenhouse. We got away with it though. My father hadn’t counted on the ingenuity of the rather precocious children we were. Children with a permanent marker to ensure we both had two little dots on our ankles.

When we were fifteen, we lied to a man on holiday in Turkey, convincing him we were eighteen – it was an ill-advised ruse and one he really shouldn’t have believed – and he tattooed a little matching flower onto each of us, obscuring the baby marks for ever. No one could tell us apart then. That was the summer before everything started to change. Before Leah began to look at anything that was mine and want it for herself. Until we were sixteen things had been ours: our toys, our clothes, our bedroom with the bunk beds and the weekly fight for who got to take the coveted top one. When Dad left the second time – or was it the third, I don’t quite remember – Mum had swapped rooms with us, taking the smaller one for herself so we could get rid of the bunk beds and have two divans side by side. I bought a curtain and used it to divide the room down the middle.

Nothing was safe from Leah’s sticky fingers: my make-up pillaged, clothes bought with saved-up wages from my Saturday job stolen and ruined, books destroyed. But her greatest pride came in stealing away my friends. And, of course, the occasional boy who looked my way. I had begun to shrink away into her shadow, and she seemed to draw strength from watching me suffer.


‘You definitely should talk to her sometime.’ Chris has been speaking without me listening for the past ten minutes.

‘What?’ I reply.

‘Jeez, Meggie. Have you been listening to anything I’ve been saying?’

We are only five minutes from home; the past forty minutes have shot past without my recollection. Stoke Park appears on our left, home to the County Fair where, last year, Hannah – my best friend, who can be a little ditzy sometimes – had got pissed and ordered a hot tub from a very nice man she had been trying to chat up. Then Burger King and the retail park on the right. Chris and I had once eaten the world’s biggest whippy ice creams there as we debated spending a fortune on a pair of

sofas for the living room. Amazingly, a sugar high is almost like being drunk; we’d ended up buying a sideboard and a coffee table at the same time.

‘Sorry. I was miles away.’

‘Which affront to your life were you obsessing on this time?’

He sounds tired. Like he’s bored of me talking about the issues with Leah even though he is the one that brought her up again. Did he always do this? Needle me to talk about something and then act like a dick when I did? I’ve noticed it more and more recently.

‘I wasn’t obsessing.’ I sound like a child. I feel like a child. I wish I could have a tantrum and scream and shout and generally just make a fucking scene. How cathartic that would be. But I don’t. Because… well, adults don’t get that opportunity, do we?

‘You need to let things go and move on. She is your sister, after all.’

‘You wouldn’t understand.’ He’s the very spoilt oldest child of wealthy parents who are still together. His idea of dysfunctional is laughable – the worst skeleton in the Hardcastle family closet is his Aunt Louise who didn’t marry until she was nearly thirty-nine and almost missed the boat to collect her trust fund. I’ve never had the heart to tell him that his dearly beloved aunt is living a lie to keep up appearances, the marriage a sham to ensure her eligibility for the inheritance that demanded she be married, and the ‘friend’ she always talks of is undoubtedly the true great love of her life. Well, I do have the heart – I would love to see the look on his face when he realised his aunt wasn’t quite so prim and proper as he imagined – I just knew he wouldn’t believe it. And, of course, if he did believe it, he would make Louise’s life difficult, possibly even try to have her disinherited or something awful. But she knows that I know, and we have a lovely time exchanging cards and gifts that are increasingly unsubtle. My last birthday she had signed the card from Louise and Bella instead of Louise and Tony.

Not that Chris had noticed.


Anyway, in his ignorance, Chris assumes all other families are like his. He is wrong. Mine is a disaster, a car-crash lurching from one catastrophe to the next. I forgave Leah so often growing up, as time after time she would beg my forgiveness and promise that she wouldn’t do anything bad again. ‘Cross my heart and hope to die,’ she would say. But then she did something that I couldn’t forgive and will never forget. That was before Chris and I got together. He has never met my sister. He has no idea what she is capable of.


After we get home, I pour myself a huge glass of wine, right to the brim, catching the overspill in my mouth before it sloshes onto the floor. Chris looks at me and then sighs and heads to his man cave in the spare room, leaving me alone with thoughts of my sister and our mum and all the shit that has come to pass.

Instagram sends me a notification. Leah has posted some new pictures. What did people do before social media? I mean in terms of keeping tabs on each other? I have not spoken to her for five years now – ever since the book was launched – but I still know exactly what she ate for breakfast yesterday, who she has been dating, what days she goes to yoga. And now I know that last night she went ‘out out’ with a gaggle of girlfriends, wearing a very low-cut black dress. An electric blue bra peeking its lacy face from her décolletage. The same electric-blue bra that I don’t remember wearing as I lay on the new duvet cover in my bedroom and my husband snapped a little photo.

Does Chris think it was me?

This time I will fucking kill her!


Enjoy Chapter One? Pre-order Her Perfect Twin now.