John and James
It had been four months since John and James moved out of England. They had been able to get a flight to America and were now touring the country aimlessly. From the outside, they simply looked like two brothers on a road trip, going from place to place wherever the wind would take them.
But nobody knew why they were really on the road. Even long before they had fled from home they had been running from this secret. But somehow it always caught up with them and James was getting tired of it.
The sign of the next motel appeared in the car’s headlights. James had almost missed it as the windshield wipers were having trouble with the steady downpour. His mind wandered for a second. ‘Another week, another motel, in the middle of another place they might as well call nowhere.’ The closest city was a two-hour drive away, but that was the whole point of this, to stay away from civilization. James had been driving for the majority of the journey to allow his brother to rest. The sudden stop of the car woke John up just enough for him to stir and squint one eye.
“Wake up, John.” James prodded his brother in the side. “Home sweet home for the next couple of day,” he said and gestured to the old motel.
John didn’t even bother to look out the window. “This place looks like a dump.” He started rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. John wasn’t exactly an eternal pessimist, but it had become a tradition of his to talk down every place they stopped at.
“It probably is,” James answered and smirked. “But so was the last place. And the one before that.” He paused. “And the five before that. But the one before that was okay, I guess.”
“No, it wasn’t,” John replied and stretched his arms, trying to get his aching joints to pop back into place. “That one had cockroaches. Big ones.” He held his thumb and index finger apart as far as he could to drive his point home.
“Ah, you’re talking about the one after that. Where the heater was broken, and the toilet wouldn’t flush,” James pointed out as he grabbed their coats from the backseat.
“Oh, yes. Now I remember.” John took his coat from James and cringed once he took a look out the window. “I thought we were getting close to the Mexican border. Isn’t it supposed to be sunny here?” he mumbled, more to himself than anything.
“Well, there’s one thing this place has going for itself.” James started pointing out as he put on his own coat.
John stared at his brother, puzzled. “What’s that?”
James grinned. “A twenty-four-hour bar.”
John looked at his brother. “You’re smiling. I haven’t seen you smile in the four months since we’ve gotten off the plane from England.”
James’ face turned grim again. “Well, it has been a quiet couple of months. But we shouldn’t let our guard down.”
John immediately regretted his remark. James was so fragile these days, it was rare to see him in a good mood. He should’ve known better than to point that out. “Don’t worry little brother. You know I’ll always keep an eye out for you.”
James gave an annoyed sigh. “When will you drop that little brother routine? We both know I was born first.”
Now it was John’s turn to smile. He had always known exactly what to say to distract James. “Yes, you were. But it’s always been me looking out for you. And you know it,” he answered as he pulled up his hood and got out of the car. “Now, let’s get our luggage and book ourselves into this dump.”
“You might want to rethink using that term when you talk to the receptionist,” James yelled over the sound of the pouring rain when he jumped out himself. “You haven’t even gotten a good look at the place yet; it’s too dark.”
Behind the reception desk sat a guy that looked like he had jumped out of a cliché sitcom. He was a chubby balding Mexican with a big moustache, wearing a T-shirt stained with sweat, and something that looked like melted cheese. As the man noticed John and James walking in, he took his feet of the counter, muted the television and smiled at them. “Buenos Noches, señors. Nasty weather to be caught in, no? Luckily, it should be sunny again for the rest of the week.”
His smile made way for slight confusion when the twin brothers pulled their hoods back, revealing their faces. He rubbed his eyes and looked back and forth between John and James about four times before John stepped forward and offered his hand. “Hi, I’m John, and this is my brother James.” When the receptionist just continued to stare, John added, “my twin brother.”
This snapped the receptionist back to reality. “Right, oh right. Excuse me for staring. I am so tired I thought I had fallen asleep and was dreaming. My name is Jorge Luis Paulo di Tomés. But please call me Jorge. My wife and I run this motel. The help we got has had to take a vacation. She just got the most beautiful bambino you will ever see. Since my wife cooks, I’m stuck with the night watch at the reception. Is there anything special I could do for you?”
“Right now, we would just like to get a room and something small to eat, please.” John looked back at James. “You need something, bro?” James just stared at the floor and shook his head. It was sad for John to see his brother like this. James hadn’t always been this way. As long as the two of them were alone, he seemed just fine. But the moment people were around, he closed himself off.
“I’m very sorry señores,” Jorge said, calling John’s attention back to the moment, “but we only have single person rooms left. I could give you two rooms next to each other if you like.”
“No. Just the one room will be alright,” John answered. “We’ll take turns using the couch.” He bent in a little closer, pointing back at James, he whispered to Jorge. “I can’t really leave my brother alone. He has some trouble.” James tapped his temple to make sure Jorge understood what he was implying. He moved back and continued with a normal tone. “And how about some food? We’ve been on the road for days and would really appreciate a meal.”
“Ah, yes. My wife Silvia made her delicious Paella this afternoon. We have some leftovers in the fridge. Let me heat some up for you and I’ll bring it to your room.”
John bowed his head in appreciation. “That would be great. Muchos Gracias.” He tried his best to answer in Spanish, but couldn’t hide his thick British accent.
Jorge smiled, clearly appreciating the effort. “De nada. Here is your key. You are in the last room on the right. Number fifteen. I will be up in about ten minutes with your food.”
John took the keys and nodded a last ‘thank you’ before he and James left for their room. The moment they stepped inside they took off their soaking wet coats and dropped themselves on the couch. “You might want to get some sleep, James,” John said. “You’ve been up for way too long.” James looked a little distressed at the remark. “Don’t worry, little brother,” John said, messing up James’ hair with his hand. “You take the bed and I’ll keep watch.” James opened his mouth to argue but realized it was pointless. Plus, he was exhausted. He got up and crashed onto the bed. He fell asleep almost before he hit the bed. That’s when the dreams began.