From adjacent chairs to carefully considered decisions, most things come in pairs at the home of sisters Lori and Dori Schappell.
The 31-year-old twins see movies together, dine together and consult each other constantly. They have to: The sisters are joined at the head, and fate has forced them to get along in a way few siblings must.
One works a daily job, the other is an aspiring country singer. They share an apartment, a quick sense of humor and a life of perpetual companionship.
Compromise, they say, is their salvation--their method of squeezing two sets of agendas and ambitions into one day's time.
"We are two people with two lives. We're not just one person with two heads," said Lori Schappell, who works in a hospital linen department.
The Schappells, known technically as craniopagus conjoined twins, are the rarest form of Siamese twins (a term they despise).
They have separate brains and separate bodies but share skull bone, tissue and blood vessels that bond Lori's upper left temple with Dori's. At the top of their shared scalp, one's brown hair fades into the other's auburn. They face opposite directions and can see each other's face only in mirrors. In conversations, they rotate their bodies so the one talking faces the visitor.
Dori has spina bifida and at 4-feet-11 is 4 inches shorter than Lori. When Lori walks, Dori rolls along with her on a wheeled stool.
From a distance, it looks as if one person is leaning in to whisper into another's ear.
Together, the two are making their own way on Lori's salary. It pays for a 15th-floor apartment in a senior citizens' high-rise with medical care nearby.
Their chairs and stools are arranged in twos, but portraits in the apartment feature one twin at a time, each posing while a backdrop masks the other from camera view.
"We have minds of our own," Dori said, and both laugh at the literal meaning they lend to the figurative saying.
The twins say they followed the separation surgery in Philadelphia in mid-August that sacrificed 7-week-old Amy Lakeberg so her sister, Angela, could receive their shared heart.
The technology available today is "astounding," the Schappells say, far beyond what was available when their mother rejected surgery that would have separated them.
"They probably could separate us now, but it would be a very long ordeal--they'd have to separate our bones," Dori said. "Besides, if you thought the Lakebergs were expensive, you ain't seen nothing. It'd be as high as the national deficit if they tried to separate us."
Neither twin has ever known a moment's privacy or isolation, but neither seems particularly bothered.
"That's our life," Lori said. "We just don't imagine life apart because it's not something we'll ever see."
Lori favors unobtrusive fashions; the more flamboyant Dori wears Western garb and cowboy boots. While Lori works at the hospital, Dori reads; in turn, Lori accompanies Dori on country-music trips.
"Look at me," Dori said. "Five days a week, 8 1/2 hours a day, I have to go somewhere I don't like. But it gets the rent paid and puts the food on the table. So I do it. I have to."
They say they have separate sets of friends and even date occasionally. Lori said she wants children, while Dori does not.
Doctors classify conjoined twins by their point of linkage. Most, 73%, are connected at the chest or upper abdomen. About 23% are joined at the hips, legs or genitals.
Twins joined at the head are the most rare, representing only 4% of conjoined births, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where the Lakebergs were separated.
The most famous unseparated twins who lived to adulthood were Chang and Eng Bunker, who were joined at the hip. Although their heritage was mostly Chinese, they were dubbed Siamese twins by 19th-Century carnival showman P. T. Barnum.
The Bunkers married sisters and fathered 10 and 12 children, respectively, before dying in 1874 at age 63 within two hours of one another.
"When you look back on Chang and Eng, they lived separate identities," Lori said. "They both had wives and kids and homes, and respectfully shared time--half in one house and half in the other.
"We're like any couple, but we're sisters," she added.
"Well, there's one thing different," Dori said. "We can't get a divorce."
The Schappells say emphatically they have no desire to be separated, even if it could be done.
"I don't want to waste time thinking about something that's not going to be, that could have been," Dori said. "I'd rather be living."
Lori taps her sister on the shoulder and enthusiastically agrees.
"If most sisters were put in a room together and someone said, 'Hey--you can't leave this room until you get along,' it'd be a better world," Lori said. "If people were made to compromise, they'd do it. And we're a living example of that."