It was oddly quiet, when he got back from his Monday meeting. He’d dragged through the day and hated every minute of it. Thus it wasn’t a good surprise to find the house front completely deserted of life. The sunset glow lit up the house from the back, making it see-through with all the windows built to give it that effect. The lights were shining throughout the house, almost all of them on, but he’d learned in the past few days that this did not mean boys left them on after leaving the room. Instead, they pretty much filled the house completely.
He got out of the car and his mood sowered further when the illusion of an quiet evening flew literally out of the window. Somebody’s stuffed toy made a big arc and landed at least ten feet from the house very close to a mud pool. The act of rebellion was followed with Victor’s scream and Kaspar demanding Anton to get a grip and return it. Which, Maxim raised an eyebrow, was also done through the window, watching Kaspar’s muddy paws climb out of the living room window before he ran after the bear.
He coughed, hard, freezing the boy on his tracks. He turned slowly and pulled his dark head between his shoulders.
“Use the door?” Maksim suggested, nodding towards the wonderful invention with big flat surface and less glass attached to the wooden frame.
“Sorry?” Anton chirped.
“Shouldn’t you say that to Victor?” He gave himself a mental pat on his shoulder for recognizing the screamer. “Why did you through it out in the first place?” He opened the door for the boy clutching the blue furred plushy.
“He’s a baby?” Anton offered, rolling his tiny gray eyes as if it was self-explanatory.
“But Joni isn’t?” The walked through the kitchen to living room, where the middle punch was screamingly explaining some game rules. “BOYS!” He shouted and gave each a stern look. They seemed to ignore him at first, but toned down still.
“Zhenya wouldn’t let us touch Joni even if he were annoying!“
Figures, Maksim thought, the older boy was like a hawk. He heard steps rumbling through the house and there was the hawk himself, carrying the youngest on his lap again.
“Sorry!” He apologized quickly to Maksim, not meeting his eyes and ran straight to the boys, pulling Anton with him as he went, chastising them for picking on Victor and making a ruckus.
Hey, Maksim wanted to say, that’s my job! But he well knew it wasn’t. So for now he let Jevgeni handle it, taking notes how quickly the eleven-year-old organized the flock into sitting pairs with books in their laps in search for their evening story, although they’d been reading Tolkien for the past evenings. In all the fuss, none of them seemed to notice the little fact. The only one not searching through story books was Joni, who fully enjoyed his mighty prince status on the king’s lap.
Maksim did a quick head count. “Where’s Laura?” Ah, and the twins were missing too.
Jevgeni turned, his eyes bleeding for understanding. He winched under his questioning look and his eyes darted at the door to his private office.
He hadn’t strictly asked them not to go there, but it was the only room in the house that had thicker walls, often used by his father to have educational talks that should not disturb the womenfolk of the house. He nodded understandingly and headed there, quietly opening the door and closing it behind him.
What he saw brought back not very pleasant memories. Laura was leaning against his heritage office table, arms crossed over her chest and the two culprits standing in front of her with their heads bowed, both looking in different directions.
“Evening.” Maksim said to Laura’s glaring and set his suitcase on the chair by the door. Boys took a quick curious glances behind them in unison before their eyes met and they turned to look at different walls once more. But it was enough to clear the situation of why they were standing there. His eyes darted to Laura with his eyebrows raised. Ergo, he guessed was the dark haired one, was sporting cut lip and red chin and Petro, the angel of the pair, had received new eyeshadow of purples and reds.
He took two steps in, grabbed both boys and pulled them around, examining the evidence as they looked at his reaction with surprise.
“Show me your hands!” He demanded and he was presented with four dirty looking, scraped palms up and down. Petro’s knuckles were bruised a little and Ergo’s wrist had thick pink line as if somebody had grabbed him from it. They didn’t match the injuries on their faces. There was another bruise on Ergo’s neck, beneath the collar of his T-shirt.
“You didn’t fight each other.” He began, eying Laura’s frown. Her lips flattened into thin line, but she didn’t tell him to leave it.
He sat on the handle of the chair his father had so often used when he pressed for information and for a second he resented himself for following his example. He waited, pressing down the urge to spring up. He didn’t want to be bigger from them, he wanted them to tell him the truth. And differently from Laura, he’d had fifteen years of team meetings to polish his mean guy act.
“Well?” Laura asked with even tone and they observed their faces, waiting.
He counted seconds ticking by, probably so did the boys. When two minutes had passed it was pretty obvious they would not say a word.
“Alright,” he cave under their wall, “in that case, let me phrase it this way – should I expect some angry mother calling for their beat up son?”
Laura’s eyes widened and he saw her suck in her breath. Hadn’t thought of that, had you?