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‘You just decide--it’s time to get your own place.’

As usual, Yvonne and Yvette McCarther seemed mostly bemused to find themselves the center of special attention. So they’ve moved out of their mother’s home and into an apartment of their own for the first time. Big deal. People do it all the time. That was pretty much their reaction to the fuss last year, too, when they decided to go to college.

“I’m 39, and I always said I was going to move into my own place by the time I was 40,” shrugged Yvette. “I mean, when you get to be in your late thirties, you just decide--it’s time to get your own place.”

Yvonne agreed. “I only wish I’d gotten around to it before--I love it, being on my own,” she beamed.

Then, in that curious, seemingly instinctive way the McCarther twins have always had of anticipating each other without a word--their mother has long been convinced that they read each other’s minds, although they laughingly deny it--they suddenly rose from the couch with the grace of one, not two, and hurried into the kitchen to check on a turkey baking in the oven. It is always an indelible sight, watching them in motion, these two women welded together by nature at the tops of their heads.

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In medical terms, they are known as craniopagus twins, the rarest kind of Siamese birth. They have separate brains and personalities but share a commonblood stream.

“You want something to drink, hon?” Yvette called from the kitchen. “Or something to eat?” Yvonne wanted to know. “Damn, I don’t have any ice,"muttered Yvette, banging the refrigerator door shut. “Well, I can go out and get some,” Yvette said. It is among Willie McCarther’s most conspicuous achievements that she taught her children well to think of themselves as individuals. The twins’ almost always speak in first person singular, sometimes with enough comic effect to make even them grin.

The grand tour doesn’t take long, the twins’ new apartment is tiny, a one-bedroom unit inside a typical Southern California complex, facing the standard courtyard swimming pool. Rent is $510 per month, which they manage with close budgeting of their government checks.

But the twins aren’t complaining. They never do. Whether they are subject to rude stares and cruel remarks from shocked strangers on the streets, or bathed in the warm acceptance they have found on the pretty little campus of Compton Community College, a more even-tempered, accepting pair of people would be hard to find.

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“It took me weeks to find this this place,” declared Yvette, leading the way. “I saw one in Compton I liked, but it was so expensive, I told the guy it would have to wait till I got married,” she giggled.

“Better see if he’s got a brother,” deadpanned Yvonne.

Their apartment is immaculate, filled with the scent of Lemon Pledge, mirrors sparkling, floors gleaming. The bedroom is organdy ruffles, pink shams and dozens of dolls collected over a lifetime. Carefully framed photographs of family and friends are everywhere.

One photo in particular stands out, prominently displayed atop the livingroom TV. It is an autographed picture of Ronnie and Donnie Galyon, 37, the only other known pair of living adult Siamese twins still joined. The Galyon brothers, attached at the chest, tour with a circus in the South. The four twins have never met.

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