No text from Sawney. Three texts from Penny, one from Silvia, and two from Schmidt. I only read Penny’s.
I can’t just invite a random guy!
Look. You’re the only man-friend I trust, you hear?’
Deleting the rest of the notifications, I replied to Penny, Let me ask Mama first.
That instant she replied, Aww, you call her Mama.
That’s because I love her.
I wanted to repeat that last line, but that would sound as if I wanted to believe it when I don’t. I’ve always loved Mama; I just haven’t told her since I’ve moved to Arkham. In fact, the only time I did was our final dinner with my twin Anja. She was suspended at school for ‘defaming the name of God’ when, in fact, she called Him by another name for a presentation. She refused to walk home with me that day. By the time I returned, she was sitting, arms crossed and feet on one end of the dining table where Papa was supposed to sit. She was a girl of attitude: she was neither masculine nor feminine, and any weapon that might hit her would break. Perhaps it was because like me, she was Russian by blood.
She told me that both Papa and Mama had left us to prepare for ourselves. Her exasperated acceptance was unlike her. We searched in the fridge and reheated one calzone.
‘Eat,’ I said. She didn’t.
‘Eat,’ she said. I did.
Papa came home in a beige double-breasted suit, asking whether Mama had come home. His clothes smelt of tobacco. It didn’t mind me in the slightest. But Anja shook her head before striding upstairs, avoiding him as soon as possible. I caught up and asked her what was wrong. ‘This is no home,’ she said. She didn’t bother elaborating. Though this Anja showed none of the traits ideal to our family (she could be rude when she wanted to), I respect her the same I respect my role models, for the same reasons I look up to them. What leads me to respect people like Anja came down to an overly trite word of ‘indescribable’. They would all look indifferent on the surface, but once I got to know them, there would be this halo surrounding their heads like the Buddha. Their faces would radiate with welcome, and I would be able to recognise them from fifty metres away.
She widened her eyes, hoping to hide her cold sweat. I knew better than to ask her any further, so I patted her back, went back to reheat another calzone, and served it with butter on top. ‘Eat,’ I said.
‘I’m not hungry.’
I slid the plate closer to her. ‘Eat,’ I said.
‘You’ve only eaten one. You’re exhausted, aren’t you?’
I faced her with a glare, telling her I would not take her excuses. Holding the calzone to her mouth, I told her again, ‘Eat.’
She took a bite. I hugged her. She hugged back and cried.