Author's note: Came up with this during a dreadfully insomniatic night over at my grandparents' place. Ended up not sleeping through the night. Drew the boys in their uniforms in the morning.
Anabelle MacManus sat the rear of her favorite pan down with a bang on the burning stove, the fire ablaze with beautiful reaching waves of blue and yellow, a contrast to her paint-white and wooden kitchen. She took the deepest breath she had ever taken since the last time her twin boys created a massive hole on their bedroom floor, but that was a breath of devastating exasperation. Now she couldn't make out the nature of her breathing, and so she let it out with a slight desperation she never knew whence. The cat wiggled its tail at her feet; tongue jutted out, and glanced at the boys who were silent as a grave, staring deeply with their ocean-blue eyes at their wandering mother. They had nothing to say to the pensive – they could not tell if she was that or simply catatonic even though they were hoping for the former - mother of theirs, more from loss of words rather than lack of knowledge for words, of course. Probably the whole Ireland knows how light the MacManus Boys' tongues are. Soft as cotton, sharp as whips, with a vocabulary as wide as the meadows of the hinterlands. Sunshine spread across their breakfast like a ray of honey, the butter on their toasts glimmering like liquid diamonds. But the boys had not even the slightest interest in their breakfast, as their eyes kept shifting from the stout pink bulk that was their mother and two old-looking envelopes before them, lying patiently on the breakfast table, waiting to be opened. The seal was of hardened red clay, stamped with a strange crest unfamiliar to the both of them.
Anabelle MacManus finally gave the boys a small jolt of surprise when she suddenly turned around to face their innocent, expectant, almost longing facades. 3 sets of blue eyes met, two of them dying for a single word as if it would bring the utmost comfort for the both of them. Anabelle MacManus, instead, stared sharply at her boys, one of them feverishly munching on his thumb nail. When she opened her mouth slightly, the boys held their breaths.
"Ye both seen this coming, now, have ye?"
None of the boys spoke. One stared with great childish desire at the envelope addressed to him as Mr. Conner MacManus, the other still occupied with his thumb nail.
Anabelle sighed. "Yer Da and I had been expectin' this day for years. Never thought it'd be this soon, though. But o' course, they always manage ta find everybody."
Conner stared at his twin brother, whom if no one had brought an end to his cannibalistic activity might have eaten his entire thumb. His twin seemed to understand, and stopped munching altogether, shifting a reluctant gaze at their mother whose brows nearly touched.
Anabelle always though her boys as something special, the most remarkable gift sent upon her by the Lord, and she had kept to herself that her boys should intelligent and aptitude of all the knowledge in the world to deserve it, but it was later when she realized what her husband had meant when he told her a few days after the boys' birth that they were going to grow up 'special.' She never comprehended his definition of 'special.' How 'special'? Absurdly? Amazingly? The kind of special that you find in someone who can levitate a teaspoon?
Maybe they were just special because she had thought of them as such; two extraordinary boys, clever and gifted, two pieces of a pendant, one hyperactive integrity ready to launch its routine assault at the backyard gate. It never bothered her that sometimes things snapped into two on their own when they were close by, it never bothered her when Conner's twin made the chickens disappear in one night, it never bothered her that Conner's hair was sometimes purple, and it never bothered her that the two of them came home dry after a rambunctious game of football when it was raining cats and dogs outside. After her husband had left the house and his two little monsters to their mother's arms, she had banished his malarkey of words out of the window, holding on to only his promise of the boys' growing up good men. Now it began to occur to her that he had different definitions of probably every word in the dictionary. She was relieved he had never taught the boys languages.
"Ye're eleven years old now. I'm not going ta drag yer mud-dipped little arses into yer room when ye do no good no more. The world's yer choice to take now."
Conner, after glancing a little at his brother, stared inquiringly at Anabelle, his hands now on the edge of the table, yearning to open the letter.
"Did...Da get his letters when he was eleven, Ma?"
"Aye, he did."
Conner pondered at her statement. The world's yer choice to take now. He wanted so badly to open his letter, to take a look of the mysteries it held inside the yellowing flap. But he was unsure. Would it be a parchment? Money? Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket?
His twin, on the other hand, had reached his letter right away. Taking his mother's words as a form of consent, he looked at his brother, waiting.
"Aren't ye gonna open it, Conner?"
Conner stared back at his brother, and then at his mother. He had never felt so hesitant in his entire life. His twin brother's energy had always coped well with his deep considerations, but now he felt as if they were on separate roads, with separate intersections. It devastated him a bit. They had always made the same choices. Why couldn't he choose the same option now?
"What's-what's in it, Ma?"
His mother shrugged. "Ye need ta open it yerself, Conner. I'll give ye a hint: if ye don't go, at least I could save some pennies for me late years."
Now Conner's heart was really throbbing. Go where? Was this a letter of deportation? Couldn't be; he and his brother were born Irish. Juvenile Hall recommendations? God, it frightened him. He wished his twin could open it for him, but he was eleven now; everything had to be done his way.
And it was with utter horror when he saw his brother rip the envelope with forceful enthusiasm; he didn't even mind the seal, he just tore the envelope into two. Curiously, the letter inside was sound and intact, still a piece of letter, although a little ripped at the edge of the fold. He took it out – Conner's breath was caught in his throat – and opened it before his nose. What his twin's eyes spoke to him had said more than words were able to convey.
He heard his mother's fingers tapping softly at the metal ramp of the sink. It was too soft to be heard during a normal day, but it wasn't a normal day; everything was quiet, tense, but full of excitement. Excitement that Conner interpreted as terror.
Staring at his letter numbly, he suddenly felt a gentle pat on his shoulder. His mother was standing beside him, one hand on his shoulder, one hand on his chair. Her touch comforted him in ways he couldn't describe – it was the only thing that could calm him down besides being close to his brother. He looked up and saw how tender – and, somehow, proud – her smile was. Her hand moved to his hair, and stroked it aback with her plump fingers.
"I always knew me boys we're going ta make me proud," she spoke softly, and Conner could hear a tinge of choke in it. He could see tears gathering around his mother's lower eyelids. It made him feel like crying, too.
"Ye boys go ta that school and come out men; that's what yer Da and I want. Ye go out there and make use o' what I been teachin' ye. Do something for the world."
Conner looked down, and he could feel his brother looking at him with great concern. He could feel everything – his mother's rush of emotions, his brother's worried gaze – most of it for the reason of not wanting him to stay and let him go alone, he could feel the sunray bathing his back. Everything was in correlation with his heartbeat and the letter, everything was pushing his small helpless hands to reach for it, open it, and read it, aloud if possible, to simply let the world hear what the letter said, what the letter would tell him to do, what the letter would tell him to become. Pressure began to overcome him. He could sense his brother's soft whispers behind his head. Please, Conner, open the letter. Please, Conner, don't leave me in this by meself.
It was a subconscious force that moved his hands toward the letter with the red seal. He observed it at first, a little suspicious as if it contained some sort of curse, and slowly, carefully, opened the flap to reveal a piece of letter twice folded, with a superbly fine handwriting on it. He adjusted his focus on the words, for they were as fancily curled as a sheep's fleece, and his head was spinning like a wheel. His hands were shaking and sweating – if this is the pinpoint of his entire life, if this is the choice he were to make by his own consent, then this was the moment to discover whether he would regret it or not.
The paper was of an old parchment texture which reminded him of those old scrolls the library archive hall had in long rows in the basement. Eyeing it cautiously, he couldn't decide which was flourishing his restlessness; the seemingly ancient crest at the head of the letter or the many curious titles with which the headmaster addressed himself. A catchword below the crest caught his attention, but he could only translate one word, and trying to translate the other three didn't make his stomach feel any better.
Jaysus Christ, he muttered uneasily in his head.
As slow as an old lady with a cane, he read the words of the first sentence on his letter with a gripped throat and a terrible quiver in every inch of his body,
"Dear Mr. MacManus, we are pleased to inform you that you've been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
If he were an atomic bomb, Ireland would be ground zero by now; destroyed and desolate, smoke fuming above the debris of houses and shops, electric poles scattered on the fractured streets, but with sunshine on every small space it could touch.
He felt a massive thud on his head. He had come to acknowledge that he was not the old Conner MacManus. His whole universe had been flipped upside down. It had never been official for ten years, but now it seemed as if he had been marked like a cow. There was excitement, how could there not be? But he was so overwhelmed by the situation that he couldn't feel his own head.
He had not the slightest idea why his twin brother wasn't reacting as significantly as he was. His twin had always been the more sensitive one, the fire to his lighter. Now there was nothing but fire inside him, and he was confused. Had his mother not let out a sob, he would've stared at that one sentence for the rest of the day.
Anabelle couldn't help it. She had begun to make sense of the situation – she wasn't going to lose them entirely, but she knew they wouldn't be coming home the same little monsters that she had nurtured and breastfed all these years. Nevertheless she was overflowing with pride and the greatest happiness for her beloved boys.
She took a hanky from a pocket behind her skirt, and sniffled into it. It was a classic gesture the boys had always seen when their dear mother was either nervous or ecstatic. She gave each one of them an affectionate look with her deep blue eyes, and caressed both their heads delicately.
"Don't ye think for a single second that I'm tearin' up because ye both are leaving soon," she exclaimed with a forced thunder of a voice, "I'm just too happy that ye both are going ta go ta that school together and be great men together."
Conner stared at his mother.
"Ye...how'd ye know I was going ta say yes?"
His twin nearly scrunched his letter at that question.
His mother rolled her eyes.
"Ye can tell by yer brother's nose that he'd die to make you go, and ye're still askin' for my permission? Dear Lord, how could ye two be fraternal?"
Conner couldn't help but smile as wide as possible, the widest smile today, the widest smile this week, this month, this year. He took a glance at his twin brother, who was clenching his letter while fixing his eyes at him. He could sense his relief, but it was still coated with fear, fear of his not going with him. He couldn't be convinced until Conner said it himself with his mouth.
Conner pondered again. Was this worth taking? How was it going to impact him in the future? What would it make of him? There were still a thousand reasons for Conner not to accept the offer – he still considered it as an offer before he gave it his consent – too many for the letter to be taken so lightly. But then he looked straight to his twin's eyes; those ocean blue eyes, perfectly identical to his own, seemingly swimming with expectancies and anxiety, but they were strong and trusting – they stood tall and rigid to what their owner had chosen for himself, and they had a glaring vow in them that whatever happens, they would always find Conner's– it was a blood oath, conceived since they were no more than infants, sharing the same womb, the same dark universe of one mind. He looked deeper into his twin brother's eyes, and for a moment an invisible metal chain connected them both, sending messages of eternal protection, that one would guard for the other, and the other would guard for him back. Nothing was to be faced alone; nothing was going to be dealt with only one pair of arms and feet. It had been two from the start, and two it shall ever be. It always astounded him how comforting his twin could be, even without sounding a single word.
He bit his lip. One word, it was all it would take. His twin was nearly jumping out of his chair.
Even the cat held his breath when Conner uttered – almost whispered, as a matter of fact – a soft, "Yes."
There had hardly been any 'yes' in that old yellow-painted house. It'd always been an 'aye.' The flowers stopped quibbling, the grass stopped dancing, the wind halted its course. The whole Ireland listened as one boy made the choice of his life, the first choice he ever took with his own thinking, his own consent, his own considerations, shared with himself and only him. Conner couldn't breathe for a second – the world was spinning, and he needed a grip.
The brutally abrupt ambush from his brother didn't do him any justice. Chairs tumbled and plates clanked as Murphy MacManus literally shook his brother like a rattle toy, hugged him – suffocating him, more like – and shook him again. He was laughing, the high-pitch laugh the whole Ireland was familiar with. If one were to compare joy to heat and put little Murphy over at the North Pole, he would flood the entire planet.
Murphy hadn't given his letter a second thought because he thought Conner would take it easy, too. But then there was the waiting drama, and he was almost a wreck. He couldn't take the offer if his brother didn't, and it was his dying wish to receive that letter. Nothing could stop the little boy from going, even if none of them had ever seen London except in books and magazines. But not even the entire world could make him go if Conner wasn't going. His brother was his home, and it would remain that way for – well, he couldn't really tell.
There was a certain kind of vivid intensity in his eyes, a glow of expression he could only give to his twin brother. The integration had been renewed; the stones on the bridge had been augmented. He was already imagining them both roaming the wondrous world they would soon enter – together. He could see them both flying. The shaking grew more violent – Conner was almost dying.
But Murphy wasn't listening. He was overwhelmed with elation as he rolled them both on the floor, laughing, with his brother's hand in his. The glow in his eyes intensified.
"Oh, Con, 'tis is going ta be the best thing ever!" he guffawed. Conner was struggling to release himself from his brother's grip, which ended by his taking a full-on whack upon the back of Murphy's head, and thus began the routine brawl of the MacManus twins.
"That hurt, ye arse-"
"You choke me again like that, ye-"
"Get yer stupid hands off-"
Collars were pulled and butts were slammed upon the seats as Anabelle retook control of the breakfast table. She nearly threw the mugs as they handed the boys their milk. She never liked giving them milk – made them all the more active. But it was habitual, and habits die hard.
There was silence for a moment as the authority of Anabelle radiated throughout the kitchen.. When they finished their toasts, they each gulped their milk and leered at each other. Plots were being conceived, Anabelle had hunched. They're going ta destroy that school.
"So when are we going ta go, Ma?" asked Murphy, eyes hungry for their moment, his mouth white with milk.
Conner's fingers danced on his thighs. His chest was dead frozen. It was really happening. He was really going to do magic.
Anabelle took a napkin and wiped her plump hands with it as she gave both of them a motherly scowl of impatience.
"Next week. Ye start packin' yer bags now, boys. Any o' ye not ready, it's end o' line."
Both boys searched for each other's hand so as to not slide off their chair.
Anabelle took away the plates and put them in the dishes. As she put the washed plated in the cabinet, she watched as her boys grasped each of their letter.
Conner gave his a wandering stare; Murphy gave his wandering stare to Conner. And then there were grins.
Imagine what we can do by the time we learn how ta float things.We can float the chickens!We can float us more pie!We can get Ma new dresses!We'll learn how ta make things appear!I can learn how ta knock ye down harder!
Anabelle could only sigh. The grins grew bigger.
"Lord, have mercy on me boys."
Happy birthday, Con.Happy birthday, Murph.