"Ragnar, where are you again?" she called.
Where is that boy, she thought. He went missing all the time and it was getting really annoying. She turned around, just to jump and scream – her twin brother had been standing right behind her and grimaced at her.
"You scared the hell out of me!"
"How did you manage to sneak up on me like that?"
"I got some skills, sis. You really should wash your ears if you didn't hear me coming."
He laughed and she just snorted, shoving him around and making her way downstairs. She went to the kitchen and found a note on the fridge door. It read:
"I've gone to the College. I need to get some work done. Have some leftovers for supper and go to bed by 23pm. Mum."
"She's gone AGAIN!"
Ragnar took the note from his sister's hand and tore it to pieces before throwing it in the trash bin. He opened the fridge and took out something that looked like leftover pasta, but smelled like an old sock. He sniffed at it and made an ugly grimace.
"She knows how to cook," he said sarcastically.
"Let's just go out for dinner," Runa suggested.
Ragnar agreed and they put on their boots and coats. It was snowing outside. Ragnar tried to whistle as they made their way to their usual pub, where they always went when their mother wasn't home to cook. One could say they hated their mother's cooking, but that would be an understatement. They had always been wondering about how their mum could eat anything she made, because she couldn't make anything edible enough.
Soon they stepped into the warm pub and hung their coats at a coat rack.
"What are you having tonight?" asked the guy behind the counter when they reached it.
"The usual, I guess," said Runa and they went and sat down at their usual table.
The man mumbled something and went to the kitchen. He had been working there for as long as the twins could remember. He knew everything about everyone, but only shared his knowledge when he saw fit. Nobody even knew his name.
When their food arrived, Ragnar dug into his mashed potato in a way people who had been starving for three days did. Runa just watched her brother and then started eating her tomato soup. When they were finished, they ordered some hot cocoa and just sat there, in silence, watching people who rushed by. There was a man with a little boy across the street and Runa couldn't help herself so she asked Ragnar:
"Do you ever wonder about our dad? I mean, we had to have one at some point…"
"Not really, no."
"Really? When I was little, I always imagined he was a great soldier and died in the Old War or that he was from the south somewhere and he just fell in love with mum, but had to leave us for some reason, or…"
"Yeah, I get the idea. What if he is just a big old bastard who got mum pregnant and then ran away because he didn't want us?"
"No, I think he is somewhere, doing something important. Maybe he doesn't even know about us."
"You're such a dreamer, Runa. Just accept the reality and be glad we have our mother. Even if she doesn't know how to cook."
"Hey, don't you dare make it sound like I don't love our mum!"
"I wasn't trying to. Anyway, we should head home soon. It's our birthday tomorrow and I need a good night sleep."
Runa laughed. Her brother never said anything like that and it was obvious he was just tired of this conversation. He probably just wanted to sit in front of the fireplace, read his book for hours and then maybe, MAYBE, go to bed.
"Fine, let's go!" said Runa and got up.
When they got home, it was exactly as Runa had expected – Ragnar took his book and sat in front of the fireplace – his favourite reading spot – and forgot everything around him. Runa went upstairs to her room and lied down on her bed. Ragnar always had his books if he had nothing to do. What did Runa have? Her arm reached out and grabbed an old notebook where she scribbled when she was bored. She had been bored quite a lot recently, because their mother was always at the College, doing god-knows-what and her brother was always sunk in his book somewhere.
She opened the notebook from the beginning and found an old poem she had started writing. She had forgotten all about it, but she decided it was time to brush up on her poetry writing skill. She grabbed a pencil and started writing.
I'm hearing the angels' voice
they're singing high up above.
I know it will be their choice
whether I die in sadness or love.
Meanwhile, Ragnar had made a comfortable spot in front of the fireplace. He lit the fire and put some pillows on the rug so he wouldn't get sore from lying on the hard floor. He took his book he had left on the living room table and started to read. He had always loved reading, for as long as he could remember.
He remembered his mother reading to him when he was little and his only desire had been to learn to read himself. He convinced his mother to teach him the alphabet and he loved the feeling of being able to understand what was written on the pages of the books his mother read to him.
As he got older, he started to read more serious books and he spent practically every evening reading in his room or, when their mother wasn't at home, in front of the fireplace. She didn't like it when Ragnar read lying on the floor, because it was bad for his back, mother had said. But Ragnar liked the feeling of warm fire on his face and it was such a perfect place for entering the world of imaginary lives of imaginary people. He didn't even notice when he fell asleep…