Liam digs his heels into the fort’s dirt floor. Ethan has known for a while that there is something wrong. An inner turmoil he can sense in his brother but not name. And he knows well enough to not pry into the matter. Ethan takes the bottom of his shirt and wipes the sweat off his brow. If he can sense Liam’s unrest, Liam can sense his. They look at each other. Then laugh at the recognition.
Liam gets back to business.
“Tomorrow we’ll hit up those neighborhoods by school and knock on doors for lawn work.No one but us wants to mow in this heat. “
“Yeah.” Ethan pauses. “Ya know when I was at the gas station with Nick, Kady from down the street invited us to swim at her place. They just got an above ground pool.” Ethan likes to give them a shot at normalcy.
“We should go. Her friend’s got a thing for you. She told me.”
“She likes me cuz I don’t talk much. Makes mystery. And girls love to pry shit open. And don’t you think she has a thing for you? We got the same face.”
“I talk too much for mystery. So she’s all yours. Kady likes me cuz I got a way with words. Plus she finally got some tits.”
“This friend got tits?”
“Eh, a mouthful.”
Liam lifts the wooden crate that acts as a table between their chairs to make sure the dirt that covers their jar of funds hasn’t been disturbed. Under the crate, in the top left corner of the box’s outline in the dirt, is a finger traced infinity symbol. This way, if ever the treasure is compromised, they’ll know.
The next few weeks pass by in an unmeasurable pace. The boys have been spending most of their time with Kady and Lana. Kady, at age thirteen is all knees and elbows. Warm eyes and high cheek bones are framed by frizzy blonde hair that rest on her shoulders. Lana, also thirteen, is a bit taller. She seems exotic with emerald eyes and thick brown hair falling down to her mid back. Both have begun to take that womanly shape. It’s what keeps the boys coming back. Kady and Lana like the twins. A lot. They’re sweet and gentle. Unlike most boys in this town, the twins were never shown how to mistreat a woman. But they were shown what can happen if you do.
It’s a muggy August afternoon and the boys walk to the creek dragging two flamingo pink lawn chairs. One of their few certainties concerning girls is that they like pink. Ethan assures his brother that the girls will love it.They can’t wait to show them their palace tomorrow. What they’re really excited about is the possibility the girls will run away with them. They’ve got almost three hundred dollars saved.
The boys position the chairs across from theirs. They stand and observe the new addition.
“Flowers. We gotta get some flowers.” Ethan says as he puts his hands on his hips. Liam nods. Ethan hands him a smoke and a light as he leaves to do just that. He can tell Liam needs a moment anyway. Liam remains standing. He covers his eyes with his hand. He massages his temples before running his hand over his shaved head. He takes a drag. Lately his thoughts have become haunting. They’re strongest when he kisses Lana. She thinks it’s her fault when he pulls away abruptly. It’s not. Thank god Ethan can only read his mind so deep. Any deeper and he might not want to be his brother anymore.
His short time in this small world has proven to him that darkness is not something you can run from. You take yourself with you where ever you go.
Ethan returns with a plastic cup serving as a vase for some wildflowers he plucked from the woods. He places it on a ledge formed from a jutting piece of wood in the wall behind the girls’ chairs. He wears a prideful smirk over his skill in interior design.
“You sure we won’t get caught having them sleep over at the house tonight?” Liam ask.
“Kady told her folks she’s staying at Lana’s and Lana told hers she’s staying at Kady’s. Even if mom comes home tonight, what makes you think she’ll give a shit?”
“I don’t know. There was that one time she got pretty pissed when she caught me trying to record the Girls Gone Wild commercial. Remember? She threw her drink at me? Then after that we didn’t have T.V. anymore. What if she catches us in the actual act?”
“Yeah I remember that. But we’ll be in our room and y’all will be in the spare room. Like she ever checks in on us.”
Ethan wishes his brother would share his excitement. He isn’t used to this distance. He feels like half of a whole. This incompletion he feels is like the phantom itch described by amputees. Except the sensation is in his heart.
Later that evening the girls come over. The four of them drink Dr.Thunder and talk about the adults and other teens that make their lives difficult. They talk about what it will be like when they’re older. They share their ideas about the world. The whole time speaking through wide smiles and bright eyes.
The living room grows brighter as it transitions from a window lit room to one lit solely by fluorescent light. The time comes to initiate that which they’re all anticipating. Each pair held a pre- co-ed sleepover-discussion concerning the hopes and fears that come with fresh lust . But it won’t be the inexperience of youth finding them unprepared for tonight.
It seems like it takes forever for the four to couple off, despite unspoken yet, unanimous intentions. Finally, eagerness breaks through the awkwardness. The teens find themselves lost in another for the first time.
Ethan and Kady face each other as they lay on the bottom bunk in the boy’s room. They speak in soft voices and simple sentences. They kiss with a rigid yet passionate embrace. They stop and rest on the others’ forehead. His hand slides under her shirt and lightly scratches her stomach. She kisses him to exert the anxiety of what she hopes will happen next.
But before that can happen, they hear a scream. Rustling. A slap. Hurried steps. A door swings open. Out runs a fear and tear soaked girl. She bolts through the front door. Ethan and Kady almost transport to the hallway. Kady runs after her.
They won’t be coming back tonight. Or any night.
Ethan steps into the spare room. His brother sits at the edge of the trundle bed. His head hangs low, almost between his knees as his fingers lace over the back of his neck. Without moving, he speaks.
“I-I-I .. tried to hurt her. I wanted to hurt her. It’s always always in my head. It won’t stop!” Liam’s voice raises as his shoulders flex.
“I hate her.” He says referring to their mother. “What the fuck did we ever do? Why hate us? Why make us hate ourselves?! They’re all like her. Hating us for bein men. For just bein fuckin’ human men!”.
He looks up at his brother who is paralyzed in the door way.
“Or maybe I’m just like our father. “ He says in a solemn tone. “They did this to me. I don’t want to be … I don’t want to be THIS! I don’t deserve to spend my whole life fuckin fightin it!” His arms’ angered gestures cease as his gaze lowers to the floor.
He exhales a puff of air through his nose in a dazed snicker.
“What if I make another family like ours? What if I just let this rollin shit heap continue down the mountain?”.
He shakes his head and looks off to the side. He then rises and passes his immobilized brother on his way to their mother’s room. Ethan hears a drawer open and the clicking of her colt’s magazine clip. His legs never felt so heavy as he sprints to her door.
Ethan leaps through the door way and stares at the side of the bed where his brother kneels, clasping his ear as blood gushes through his fingers and down his arm. The sour smell of gun powder fills his nose.
Sobbing and rocking Liam cries out, “I couldn’t do it. I can’t do it. I’m so scared.”
Ethan kneels next to his brother. He holds him tight. Time passes. Liam grows still. The boys look at each other. That same look that puzzles everyone around them in its exhuming intensity. More time passes. The two brothers, desperate and discarded, come to an unspoken agreement.
The neighbors report hearing two gun shots that night. They thought the loud pops may have been fire crackers at first. But when Miss.Cole discovers the body of one of her sons two days later, the neighbors see in perfect hindsight. Lana tells the adults what Liam did to her. Many theories are presented of how the events leading up to that night transpired to result in one boy’s death and another’s disappearance. However the theories are too circumstantial and no conclusion is reached.
It is never officially determined which of the boys was found lying at his mother’s bedside in a pool of blood. Having identical DNA and a mother who could never look at them created the impossibility. How was she to know if it was Liam or Ethan any more than a microscope could? The stage of the body’s decay eroded the few identifiably differing features between the two, preventing those who saw them frequently from confirming the boy’s identity.
The autopsy finds inconclusive results in determining if the victim’s mangled ear is the result of a struggle verses a self-inflicted wound. Although there is gun powder residue on the victim’s right hand, an analysis of the gunshot wound resulting in his death rules out suicide. They never found the other boy. Not that much effort was made to do so.
In the basement of a municipal building, inside a dusty cardboard box, stuck in a manila folder labeled Cole, is a crime scene photo documenting the impression of two lips preserved in the blood covering the young boy’s cheek. To some it is a symbol of the twin’s bond. Such a thing is too great to grasp yet it’s beauty incapable of not being seen. A love brighter than most because of its contrast to the shadows it stemmed from. It reached for the light in a cursed blossom like a flower grown in a garden of ashes.