“Did you mean it, when you said you’d take care of her when I screw this up?”
Maksim considered it for a moment, sitting next to his brother at the front row of the bus while it hopped through the holes in the road towards the car show. At least the sun was gracing them with her presence. Laura was driving and he had been bitting down on his tongue to keep from distracting her. She was putting way too much pressure on the gearbox.
“I’ll beat you up and deliver you to her doorstep to apologize.” He said without humor in his voice. The breakfast had been a quiet affair and boys had been too spiked up to notice the moody faces of the women or the fact that his brother had skipped the eating part and gone for a run while they scamped up the sandwiches. Tessa had braved through the ordeal with furrowed brow and fake smile that fooled no one, but it was clear the conversation had not gone well last night.
Alik turned to look outside from the side window, wrapping his arms over his chest and slumping on the seat. Maksim felt sorry for him, for his life being torn apart so suddenly, but he would not sit and pat him for turning into complete brat, when his wife was looking as if really considering shouldering through this on her own. He could see her through the rear view mirror.
He leaned closer to his ear. “What it’s worth, can you think of any better woman to split your genes with?”
Alik glanced into the mirror and his hold over his chest softened, seeing her down cast eyes peering at the floor. Maksim sighed with a relief, when he got up and headed back to sit by her side and pulled her into a hug, whispering soft apologies.
Yeah, he though, leaning his head against the seat, they’ll be alright. He jolted, when couple of eww-s reached from the back of the bus to front, making Laura glare at the boys through the mirror.
“Look ahead!” Maksim snapped.
Laura gritted her teeth, but kept her eyes on the road. Another set of giggles and he nearly jumped up.
“Let me drive!”
“But you’re not paying attention!”
“I am, I am! What’s going on there?”
“They’re having clothes on humping party.” Maksim snorted and regretted his words a second later, when her eyes glued back on the mirror and the road was immediately forgotten before she blushed bright red and turned her attention solely forward.
“Boys, cut it out! You’re distracting your sister!” Alik’s shout echoed over the bus.
“Men! Always so eager to create order in chaos!” Petro mumbled, but still grabbed hold of Victor’s ears and turned the gaping boy away from the couple.
“You’re one too!” Alik didn’t back out.
“I am not!”
“Have you checked your p- ow! I was gonna say pants, not pe- OW! Tess!”
“What is this, kindergarten?” Laura mumbled and Maksim decided if he wanted to avoid accidents, he would have to distract the boys himself, so he grabbed the small bag he’d brought with him. He held the bag open and encouraged them to each get something from the clinking things inside.
“Metal puzzles! I’ve never had one before!” Alik mused when he reached the bag out to them too.
“I got few extra, in case they solve them.”
“How does it work?” Joni asked, moving something that looked like two bent bolts around in his small hand. The puzzle was bigger than his palms.
“They are puzzles – you have to separate the pieces and afterwords you need to put them back together.”
“Why -” Petro cursed, pulling on the ring stuck in a bronze cube.
“That’s yours to find out.” He held on to the seat while Anton picked his, a pair of elk antlers.
“That’s awfully sweet of you to buy all those puzzles.” Alik sneered and Maksim couldn’t decide if he was happy for his brother feeling confident again to tease him or he would have preferred him sulking a bit more.
“I didn’t.” He took the spiral from Victor, replacing it with a ring of many rings. “This is more up to your alley.” He offered, tossing the spiral back in the bag and turning to his brother. “I collect them.”
“I have close to a hundred of them, back at my apartment. You know, the big vase in the corner.”
Alik gaped at him with disbelief. “You’re keeping punch of wire figurines in antique vase?”
“Mom never did know difference between replica and real thing. I broke that vase long before she gifted it to me. I found a good Chinese replica.”
Alik went white.
“Oh god! I thought she’d kill me! And in front of all those people too! I kept praying her not to turn the vase over to show everyone the mark of the master!”
“I think she knew.” Alik said, slumping against the seat, closer to Tessa. “Why else would she let that vase go? She bought it from their honeymoon trip.”
“I know.” Maksim whispered, guilt ripping through his voice. He’d always thought he’d caused it somehow, the breakup of their parents when he’d broken it. The fear made no sense and he was sure any shrink could convince him otherwise, but it had been like a bad omen, when he heard it crash with all the sand simmering out on the floor. He hadn’t even been a kid anymore, yet seeing that orange clay piece’s last moments had sent him in a frenzy. He’d never admitted breaking it and before their parents had returned, he’d already replaced it. Together with his confidence.
“Hey, it wasn’t our fault.” Alik reached out, taking hold of his elbow and giving it a squeeze.
“I know.” He nodded.
“Then don’t make that face and ruin the day for us. For once, I feel like celebrating!”