Pierre looked at his wristwatch. Just over thirty minutes had passed.
He still had another two more hours before his next class starts. Pierre wanted to seek Max out – his twin had been giving him the silent and cold treatment for days and he really didn't want whatever between them to persist any longer.
According to Katya, she hadn't known where he would be most times since he had the habit of disappearing wherever he pleased. And the school was already a big enough maze to hide, and he'd prefer not to get lost in the pursuit of his twin. After talking to Katya, he felt a bit more lighthearted, especially now that they were starting to talk again, without all the animosity they had shown when they first met.
Katya had given him Max's phone number and he felt out of place. There he was, finally having the means to contact him but he had no idea how he should go about it. Despite having an amiable conversation with his cousin, his twin was another matter. How does one approach and talk to one's estranged twin whom seemed to harbor loathing towards him?
He pondered on that, but he knew he had to go through with this – the conversation was due years ago.
He dialled the number and waited. On the second try, Max answered.
"Hello?" His accented English flowed through the receiver, and Pierre felt his heart thumping a bit erratically.
Don't be pissing yourself. It's just your brother.
A brother who hates your guts, his mind supplied pointedly. Pierre's anxiety heightened but he told himself to get a grip. He focused on evening his breath until he could feel himself not panicking internally.
"Hello? Who is this?" Max spoke again, sounding impatient, yet tinted with confusion.
Pierre cleared his throat quietly, his voice a bit deeper than intended before he said, "It's me, Pierre."
On the other line, Max went silent. The moment seemed to drag and it could have been hours although he was sure it wasn't.
Pierre thought Max had hung up on him, when the latter said in a monotonous tone, "What do you want?"
Pierre coughed into his other hand, feeling the awkwardness creeping up to him, but for the umpteenth time, he told himself to go through with it. Hearing his brother's voice suddenly sounded peculiar, yet he also felt terrible relief swept through him.
Max was talking to him. He was somewhat prepared for cussing but he was relieved when his brother seemed to be civil – at least for now.
He took a breath before exhaling, and then said, "I want us to talk. Where are you? Let's meet."
Max scoffed. "I don't want to talk to you. There's nothing to talk about."
Pierre couldn't help but raise his brows at that, but he was quietly pleased that some things remained unchanged with his twin.
"You are still horrible at lying." Pierre smiled into the phone.
"And you have become detestable."
He nodded, satisfied that they were going somewhere with this. "Alright, I'm detestable. We can talk about why you think that. I'm certain you have a lot to say to me, after all these cold treatment. What do you say?"
He tried to be nonchalant about it, but he was actually trying to get a rise from Max, so they could both find out why they ended up this way. As all siblings do, sometimes they fought but he knew it hadn't been anything serious, and Pierre was curious if he had done something to deserve Max's anger.
If anything, he was the one who should have been angry because Max had left him years ago.
Yet, after he knew some things, he hadn't known what to think or feel anymore.
Pierre heard him muttered an expletive, and hid a smile. It seemed as though he was having a lot of nostalgic flashbacks from when they were younger. He hadn't known Max to swear; he was always the proper and mannered one between them. How times have changed.
Finally, Max said, "At the lake behind the second building." As an afterthought, he added, "Follow the pebbled path." before he hung up on Pierre.
Pierre shook his head at Max's brief and vague answer. A lake? There was a lake in this academy? He had only found a garden before, but now there was this. To say he was flabbergasted was an understatement. Just how many more secrets does this academy have? He pocketed his phone and made his way down the stairs, then tracked behind the building.
"Follow the pebbled path, huh." He mused to himself.
He reached a small woods with shrubs and bushes that seemed to lead nowhere saved for the path shown by the pebbles. It made him skeptical and for a brief moment, he wondered if Max had played a prank on him but Pierre's eyes almost bugged in wonder when he came to a stop at the view before him.
A vast lake spread before him, dark blue surface glittered with the bright afternoon sun above. The white cloud's reflection on it reminded Pierre of a mirror; smooth and still and he wondered how the hell had he not known about such a thing. It also felt as though he could have stepped onto the surface of the water and be held by it.
It was eerie.
Coming here at first, he knew the school was bigger than it looked, but he didn't know to what extent, and he believed there was something unexplainable, a magnetic charm perhaps, about the school that made him teeter between dream and reality in that moment.
But he snapped into focus when he saw Max leaning against the tall tree, looking out over the lake as he contemplated on something.
Maksimillian Jovovitsch was sitting on a thick branch of a tree by the lake, basking in the solitude of the campus when he received a call from an unknown number.
He liked being up there. Up and above from the ground where he could observe things at a better angle. Viewing his surroundings in a higher position allowed him to see things that he couldn't view below, like the far away city skyscrapers separated by trees after trees, and a red bridge that spanned across an ocean. And the air was fresh too - away from bustling cities and moving cars, it was less polluted in this secluded little place.
At least this place had nice sceneries which helped him forget his longing at times.
With everything that was going on, he wanted to steal some peaceful moments to himself. To think about things properly; contemplate his life, wondering about the future but sometimes reflecting on his past.
He sighed quietly, missing the people in his life back home; family and friends – familiarity was something he desperately needed right now. Katya and Parker were his family but they started to feel a bit distant the moment they set foot here. Max couldn't place it, but it felt as though they were slowly leaving behind the pieces that he knew about them and becoming someone else. It happened slowly at which point he noticed a little later that he didn't have time to brace himself for the change.
He was unsettled by that, and even more so when he couldn't bring himself to put a stop to it.
It wasn't that he hated this place. Max had met some people who were nice and amusing, like December and her friends. They didn't single him out nor treat him as though he was an outsider, tip toeing around him just because he was a new and foreign student.
Yet, no matter how casual they were with him, he couldn't help the feeling of being completely misplaced, and the more he tried to ignore and put a façade which he couldn't feel sometimes, the more aggravated he become.
But at the thought of the girl whom he met at this very lake back then, he couldn't help a chuckle. She was definitely amusing…and loved. His smile dimmed a little. It must be nice, he thought briefly, but then cast it away.
Max didn't have anything against her, and for a second he felt bad for thinking of her like that. He was loved by his relatives, and though he told himself it should be enough, sometimes he hated that he couldn't help the longing of being accepted by his father and Pierre.
When his phone rang, he was puzzled since only Katya and Parker knew his new number in this country, and while Katya would now text him first, Parker rarely bothered him at school. With an unknown number at that, he thought in puzzlement.
He ignored it, thinking they must have gotten him wrong when it rang again. Curious, he answered but at the silence on the other line, he felt vexed. Is this a joke?
A few seconds must have gone by before he heard a male voice. Max didn't need to think through to recognise his twin's subtle accent; a slight hint of Scottish brogue, a language he didn't want to learn because of his hatred towards their father.
"It's me, Pierre." He had said.
To say he was taken aback was an understatement. If it wasn't for his tight grip on the branch, he would have lost his balance.
Out of everyone he could think of, his twin was definitely at the bottom of a bottomless list.
He fell quiet for a moment. Since there was few people who knew his number, his best bet would have to be Katya. He wanted to shake his head; if she wanted to be nice to the boy whom left them years ago and never looked back, it was up to her, but to think that she would drag him into this mess by giving his number to him? Max could hardly believe it.
He should have seen that coming, at least, but he didn't and that frustrated him.
He wanted to be in a street he knew, a language he was comfortable speaking in, sit around in the living room and inhale the nostalgic and delicious food his aunt and uncle made, their loud but warm affections made him feel at ease, and his mother.
He just wanted to go back home to his mother.
They were all enough for him, so why did he agreed to come with Katya to this foreign place?
Parker and Katya both had plans, despite moving on with their own intentions but him? What did he want, actually?
He couldn't deny the part of him that wanted answers, whatever it may be to move on from his wondering on why his mother and him were abandoned. Another part of him hated having even a piece of him connected to the man who spawned him. After he knew the truth, he hated the man even more for the lie he led people to believe.
The state of being indecisive and curious made him want to tear his hair out. He only had his ego, but in his case even curiosity triumphed over that.
She is really good at being persuasive, he thought to himself with a little resentment, picking apart leaves within his reach. Or maybe there wasn't an argument to begin with. Katya knew what she was doing and as angry he was, he relented in the end.
He had wanted to see how Pierre was doing, if he was even slightly miserable or just...doing well. He didn't liked that thought, knowing that Pierre had a nice time growing up when he had to deal with wanting something that wasn't there anymore and constantly trying to stop his mother from living in the past.
Max didn't know why Pierre had called him out of everyone, but he already felt annoyed at the sound of his voice.
With a bored tone of voice, he said, "What do you want?"
A cough before an exhale of breath. "I want us to talk. Where are you? Let's meet."
Max raised his brows in bewilderment. What could he possibly say after several years of pretending the other was nonexistent?
Max didn't feel like meeting with his brother but his temper rose when Pierre told him he couldn't lie. What did he know about him? Nothing! Yet why did he feel so prickly?
Max gritted his teeth. Sure, he could think of many words to describe how he felt when Pierre abandoned him too, but he didn't think he would have to do this now. He wanted to do it on his own terms, blast it all.
I'm going to regret this.
"At the lake behind the second building." Not knowing whether Pierre knew where the place was, he considered not telling him just so he could make him lose his way and give up, but Max didn't care to be petty at the moment. "Follow the pebbled path." He said briefly before hanging up on him.
Screw it, he was petty. Feeling satisfied on getting the last word, Max smiled smugly to himself before a look of horror crossed his face.
In the midst of pocketing it, he had lost his grip on his phone and now watched uselessly as it hit the ground with a thud.
"NO!" He exclaimed.
Panicked, he carefully but swiftly made his way down the tree – using a built-in sturdy, wooden steps hidden on the other side of the trunk. It was how he had first managed the high climb and while he had no idea how or who put it there, he was grateful for it.
Upon reaching closer, he looked on in distress at his now broken phone. The screen had huge cracks, with pieces of the glass scattered around, and the back cover…part of it was missing. He let out a sigh, squatted and gingerly picked up what he could, chastising himself for not catching it on time. After perusing it, he retrieved his SIM and SD card before putting away his broken phone in his blazer. He didn't think the phone could still be saved, but he wanted to try before chucking it away.
He straightened himself and leaning against the tree, Max let out a long sigh. First a phone call from his estranged twin and now his phone was broken, it seemed as though he just couldn't catch a break – a long break.
He stiffened, before snapping his gaze to his right. He was startled when he heard Pierre's voice, but when he heard that name, anger simmered within him. Why did he suddenly use the name? No one called him that, not since he was a kid. It also brought back unpleasant memories, thanks to his brother now.
He had never felt attuned to that name, as compared to Maksimillian.
Pierre had no idea why he said his twin's first name either. Perhaps it was the sudden reminder of hearing his mother's voice which took him by surprise – just the voice; foreign, but gentle – calling them over when they played outside with the other kids. Or maybe he just felt like it. But now that he did, the name felt foreign, untested on his tongue.
His father had called both of them by their first names, and his mother would mix both of theirs. But by the dark mood Max seemed to be in, he probably shouldn't have said that.
Is it because of his father? What is it with him being the center of all problems between them all?
"Ty zhazhdesh' drat'sya? Pochemu ty skazal eto imya?" He sneered before adding in an afterthought. "Konstantin."
Itching for a fight? The Max he knew would try to dissolve them, not start one. But this wasn't the boy he knew back then anymore. It should have sink in but he found himself feeling disoriented over and over when the memories flashed and he was constantly comparing how they were then and now.
What happened between them?
And then his lips almost twitched. Did he think he would wince at that? And with such distaste. Konstantin – his middle name – hadn't been used as frequently as his first name did. He guessed that Max just wanted to be even.
"Is that supposed to make me cringe?"
Max narrowed his eyes at him and before looking away. "Tch."
He shook his head. They could go at it for hours without getting to the point, and he was there to straighten things out, not stoke the fire.
"Alright, I will…just get to the point. I don't know what I did to make you hate me so much. So, let's lay everything out. I'm giving you a chance to say what–"
Max barked out a laugh. It was a harsh one, filled with disbelief and surprise at the audacity of a person.
"A chance?" He spluttered, eyes wide before he continued, "Who do you think you are? A chance..." He said softly at the last bit before he glared at Pierre. "I'm the one who should give you a chance. You betrayed my trust!"
Pierre's brows furrowed. Betrayed? What on earth did he do to betray Max? He was starting to get lost in this riddle.
Pierre must have seemed very bemused at that, which didn't do anything to tamper Max's anger.
"Don't you remember your promise? On the night mama had to leave with me?" Max said. He sounded exhausted, but there was pain and anger as well. It showed in his voice, his eyes.
Pierre fell silent. On the day his family were torn apart…
It had been years but thinking about it now, recollecting these memories made it seemed like it happened a long, long time ago. Dull but vaguely there.
He remembered huddling in his room with his brother, trying to ignore but also listen to what their parents were arguing and then singing a lullaby…he wasn't sure.
Was it him?
But...that had been it. What else really happened?
That night was a constant reminder that he hadn't imagined such happiness back then. But as quickly as a switch, he would try to tuck it away in the back of his mind, or away from his consciousness.
It was painful; he was full of life and then he had been emptied.
Max, on the other hand, remembered everything that happened, from his brother's distractions over their parents' fight to the moment his mother quietly woke him up in the middle of the night.
He remembered everything and he wanted Pierre to remember them too.ns 22.214.171.124da2