another piece from that creative writing class
Alex looked up from his essay as Oscar came crashing into the room behind him, and moved his chair to the side just in time to avoid his twin’s bag, which, as always, had been thrown very inaccurately at his bed. It landed instead at Alex’s feet with a thump. They both looked at it.
“Did you have to do that? Couldn’t you, just for once, have the self control to just put it down?” He failed to make eye contact with his brother as he spoke, but his face clearly told his twin he did not appreciate the interruption.
“Wow, someone’s grumpy. As usual.”
Oscar threw his school sweater down on top of his bag, and started pulling his polo-shirt over his head. Alex merely shook his head at him, and turned back to his desk, knowing arguing would be pointless.
“Whatever. Can you just do whatever you’re going to do quietly? I’m trying to work.”
He raised his pencil to finish the sentence he had been writing, when his brother fell silent behind him. Knowing Oscar would be staring at him; Alex put the pencil back down and turned to face him, resting his hands on his knees, hoping that by having this conversation he would get peace to work.
“Let me guess; it’s Friday, I should be out with my friends, not home alone working.”
“I…how did you know I was going to say that?”
Oscar sat down on his bed and picked up the acoustic bass that had been leaning against the foot of it. Alex stared at Oscar long enough to make him put down the bass, pick up a t-shirt and put it on before he answered him.
“Maybe because you say it every week?”
He watched his brother playing the bass, head down, fingers positioned over the fret board. His eyes followed his twin’s hands as they moved over the instrument, the ink stains on his fingers annoying Alex; why could he never just keep his hands clean?
His brother didn’t bother to look up at him as he replied.
“Yeah, well…there’s a bunch of us going to the cinema tonight. If you can fit it into your busy schedule, you can come along.”
With that he left, bass in hand. Alex watched him leave, shaking his head again, something he did a lot when it came to his brother, then turned back to his work. He found he had forgotten what he had been about to write due to the interruption, so cursing his twin under his breath he opened up the textbook, and re-read the relevant paragraphs.
After re-reading the same sentence for the fifth time, his mind wandering as he read, Alex gave up; he couldn’t get Oscar’s invitation out of his head.
“Maybe he’s right,” he mumbled to himself, staring unseeing at the pages in front of him. “Maybe I do need to go out.”
He looked around the room; it was perfectly clear to see where they had divided it. Alex’s side was neat, nothing out of place. He made a point of cleaning up what little mess there was before starting his homework. The only decoration on the wall was a picture of this year’s rugby team. At the end of his bed stood a bookcase stuffed full of medical texts and novels. Most of the medical texts were new; he had just been accepted into Edinburgh University, starting in September.
Oscar’s half, on the other hand, was a complete state. Clothes lay strewn across the scrunched up duvet, band posters fighting for space on the wall, half-finished lyrics and bass scores scattered across the desk, and across the floor around it. At the end of his bed nestled an electric bass and its amp. Their mother would be sleeping before her nightshift, hence why he had taken the acoustic version with him.
They were entirely different, but happy in their own ways Alex thought. And yet, the feeling continued to nag at him. Every week, usually on a Friday, Oscar would come hurtling in after a band rehearsal, get changed, hang around playing his bass until someone else made dinner. Alex was yet to see his brother cook anything; if there was no one around he knew Oscar would resort to a take-out, despite Alex’s attempts to hide the menus. Oscar would then disappear out with his friends. Alex had maybe eight numbers in his mobile phone, and he only called any of them if he needed a lift to a rugby match.
“Nah, he doesn’t want me tagging after him.”
With this disheartened comment he lowered his head and went back to his essay.
The boy’s head snapped up, and he stared out of the window in front of him for a moment, suddenly realizing how dark it was, head a fuzzy mess, not sure if he had really heard someone calling to him. Maybe he had imagined it; he had been entirely absorbed in his essay.
“Alex, come on!” The call came again, confirming he wasn’t imagining things.
He got up, stretched and yawned, bringing himself back to life. He looked at his clock, and was startled to see that it had been an hour and half since he last looked up, when Oscar had come crashing in. He went to the door and opened it, stopping when he heard his name come floating to him from the kitchen.
“…Alex never goes out Mum, it can’t be healthy.”
“Oscar, I’ve told you before, you’re twins, but you’re different people. If Alex is happy then leave him be.”
The clatter of plates and cutlery could be heard.
“He’s good fun though; there have been times when we’ve just been chilling here, and he’s been a great laugh. I just thought he would like to hang out for once.”
Alex felt a smile run across his face as fondness for his brother welled up inside him. His mind was made up. Taking a deep breath, he walked into the kitchen, sitting down opposite his brother. His mother passed him a plate of pasta, which he took with a small “thanks”.
“Right, I’m off, I’ll see you two tomorrow.”
“Bye mum,” the twins chimed in unison.
Picking up the block of parmesan from the centre of the table Alex grated it liberally over his food as he spoke to Oscar.
“So, what movie are you going to see?”
Oscar looked up at him with a forkful of pasta halfway to his mouth, brow wrinkled slightly.
“The new Tarantino I think, I dunno, Jack chose it.”
Alex swallowed the mouthful of food, and licked his lips.
“Would you mind if I tag along? You’re right, that essay isn’t due ‘til next week, I don’t need to be in working on it tonight.”
“Yeah, course. We’re to meet the others there about half seven, so we can have dinner, then you can get changed.” The boy grinned. “Because you are not going in your school uniform!”
Alex rolled his eyes at him, and chuckled.
Now that their mum had left, and wasn’t coming back for any forgotten items, Oscar got up from the table, and pulled a couple of cans of beer from one of the cupboards. Alex stared at him in disbelief.
“Where the hell did you get that?”
Oscar passed him one, and opened his own, raising it to his brother.
He took a large swig, his twin still staring at him with questioning eyes.
“Oh, lighten up. One beer won’t kill you.”
Alex opened the can, and after a cautionary sniff of the contents, took a small sip, instantly screwing up his face, much to his brother’s amusement.
“You’ll get used to it. Now come on, we’d better get a shift on; we don’t want to be late.”
Alex stood in front of the bathroom mirror, trying his best to make his fringe lie flat. He felt uncomfortable; the denim of his jeans bit into legs unused to the material, and he still wasn’t sure the shirt looked right on him, it seemed too bright. Oscar came barging in without knocking as usual, and caught sight of his pale face in the mirror.
“Will you stop worrying already, you’ll be fine.”
“Agus, nach leithideadh mise?” Alex replied, the resort to his first language a sure sign he was nervous. “But what if they don’t like me?” He looked up into the mirror, and caught sight of what his brother was doing. “Dude, you could have waited ‘til I was finished.
“It’s not like I’ve got anything you haven’t. And they will like you, they’re cool guys. Anyway, you’re gonna be sitting in the cinema, it’s not like you’re gonna have to sustain conversation for long. Now come on, or we’re gonna be late!” The other boy left the room again, pulling his mobile from his pocket as he went.
He made one last, successful attempt to make his fringe lie flat, straightened his shirt and took another look in the mirror. He looked presentable; Oscar hadn’t told him off for wearing the shirt as opposed to a t-shirt, so it must be ok.
“You can do this” he told his reflection, then taking a deep breath and leaving the room.
“Oscar, finally, dude, where have you been?”
“Sorry, bus got held up on the main street ‘cause of the road works. We’ve still got time though. Oh, and this is my brother Alex. This is Jack, Stu and Ben.”
Alex nodded to them all, not trusting himself to speak, something he saw Jack noting as he looked at him. Without a word, Jack turned and led them into the cinema complex, Stu and Ben closer behind him, the twins tagging along at the back.
“So Oscar,” Jack asked when they were standing in the queue for tickets. “When’s the next gig gonna be? You guys have been practicing for ages, but we’ve never actually seen you play for months. Or are you secretly recording an album and don’t want to tell us.”
“Ha ha, more like we don’t have the money to hire anywhere for a gig, and after what happened when Stu’s lot played the school are refusing to let us use their hall again. So unless one of us wins the lottery, it might be a while yet.”
“Surely you could raise money at school? Enough people like you guys, I’m sure they’d pay. Or just sell tickets in advance to raise the money.”
All four boys turned and looked at Alex, and he felt his face heating up with embarrassment. Oscar seemed to be giving the idea some thought, but his musings were interrupted by Jack’s laughing.
“Don’t be so bloody stupid. People aren’t going to buy tickets for a gig you can’t guarantee is gonna happen. I know some of them are thick, but I don’t think they’re that thick.”
Oscar made to answer, but they were called forward to the desk. His twin made sure he stayed at the back of the group during the transaction, only looking up from his shoes when Oscar asked him for the money for his ticket. They got clear of the cordons, and Jack looked at his watch. “Damn, we’ve still got ten minutes ‘til the doors open. Guess we’ll just have to wait here.”
There was an awkward silence, and it grated on Alex’s nerves. He felt he wanted to say something, anything just to get a conversation going, but he had no idea where to begin.
Oscar eventually spoke up. “Hey, did I tell you guys, Alex got that unconditional for uni, isn’t that cool? Wish I had his brains.”
Jack sneered. “Why? You clearly got the cool, isn’t that more important?”
Alex felt his temper rise; just who did this guy think he was, and why did he seem to have it in for him? Oscar noticed the change in his brother’s expression, and was about to speak, when his twin rounded on Jack.
“Look, just what the hell is your problem with me? I’m not into music like you guys, fair enough, but that doesn’t make me a bad person!”
“My problem with you is that you’re a complete loser. We see you round school, head stuck in a book, where’s the fun in that?”
Alex clenched his fists at his sides; he was easily half a foot taller than the other boy, and much bigger built; it would be so easy to hit him…
“Alex, what the hell? Look, guys, grow up. We’re here to see a movie, not be best friends. You’re like a pair of dogs squaring up to each other.”
Alex rounded on his twin at this. “Look, you’re the one who invited me out, and said these guys were ‘cool’. I didn’t come along just so you and your mates could get a good laugh at me. If that’s how it’s going to be, I’m off.”
He turned and made to move away, when he felt a hand grab his shoulder and swing him around again. “Don’t be so bloody stupid! The movie’s about to open, come on, just come see it.” His twin glared at him, and Alex returned the look for a moment, before pushing Oscar’s hand away.
“Forget it. I’ll see you later.”
Alex was slumped on the sofa, feet up, flicking idly through the TV channels when his brother came storming in later that night. Oscar slammed the front door behind him, then, catching sight of his twin, rounded on him.
“What the hell did you think you were doing back there?”
Alex sat up, and turned the TV off before facing his brother.
“It’s like I said; I wasn’t there to be the butt of the jokes, I wasn’t standing for it anymore. For fourteen years I’ve been picked on by other kids at school, all because I wasn’t into the latest, fads, because I’d rather take an interest in something that might serve me well in the future. I wanted to spend time with you, I did, but when I saw him…I knew he was going to say something, and I tried not to retaliate, but I couldn’t help it. I’ve had enough Oscar, I’m so sick of it. So I’m sorry, but if that’s the sort of person you’re gonna introduce me to, I can do without thanks.”
Oscar merely stood staring at him for a moment, then screwed up his face.
“You think I invited you out so they could take the piss? Do you really think I would do something like that? I was just trying to get you to go out and meet new people, try new things!”
Alex stood up and faced his twin; he knew his face, knew it was an almost identical copy of his own, but now, their differences were more apparent than ever.
“You heard what mum said earlier; we’re different people Oscar, and it’s about time you realised that. I don’t need you anymore, we’re not little kids anymore. Just back off a bit, ok?”
With that he walked over to their bedroom and went inside before his brother could say anything else, pushing the door closed a little harder than he meant to, and leaning back against it, breathing deeply. It was the first time he had really spoken his mind to Oscar like that…and it felt good. He grinned in spite of himself; maybe some good had come of the evening after all.