“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you’ve gone back to your old ways.” Maksim murmured loud enough for his brother to hear and got a deep frown back.
What a bedtime story it would make, he mused, watching how they instinctively looked up at Alik with trust only a true kin would have. Maybe they were similar in ways one couldn’t put in words. Like stealing candy from a local shop, when the shopkeeper was distracted. Though he seriously hoped Ergo had had enough stealing accusation for one day.
“What were his old ways?” Petro asked under his arm, but Maksim waved it off and pushed him further in the small shop so he wouldn’t block others trying to enter. The boys were already in and he was dying to see what was the flashy thing he saw in Anton’s hand.
Instead, he saw them disappear between the four isles. He guessed their destination was the ice cream place in the way back, where the large ones were kept.
“Evening, ma’am!” He shouted loud when he saw the old woman’s gray hair top rise behind the counter, where she had been reading a newspaper. She waved before her attention went to the boys. “We came for some ice cream!” He explained and followed them.
He got around the corner just in time to see Anton’s small hand reach for marshmallow pack on the shelf. He was about to shout him to put it back, when his eyes went searching and stopped on him.
“Can we get these too?” He asked hopefully.
Maksim bit down on his lower lip and nodded. He felt like a fool, when he watched the boy grab two large packs with clear intentions of sharing it with others and he’d nearly accused him of stealing. His chest heated up, when he realized he’d nearly accused him just because he assumed he’d do it. And why did he assume it in the first place?
“It’s OK.” Ergo said suddenly appearing next to him, watching his brother taking them to the end of the isle, where others had disappeared to.
Maksim frowned. “It’s not, I shouldn’t have -” And he didn’t feel alright that Ergo was once more by his side, witnessing his lack of judgment.
“It’s always like this, when we go in the shop near our orphanage too. It’s not just you, so don’t worry about it.” He turned his eyes up.
“I hate it.” He admitted in a whisper.
Ergo smiled. “That makes two of us, but you know, it doesn’t end unless someone adopts us. As if belonging to someone specifically makes us honest people.”
With that, he grinned and presented the metallic item he’d seen in Anton’s hand between his own fingers and started towards sugar bags. It was a tiny knife with a very sharp poker in the end.
“All for one.” He whispered and his small hand reached towards the oil can above the sugar bags.
Maksim stopped his hand, and presented a lighter.
He nudged him to disappear and quickly lit the flame underneath the nearest can. It didn’t light up, but it did melt a small hole in it and as soon as it was big enough to create a flow, he stopped. When he looked up, he saw Ergo standing in the end of the isle together with Kaspar, both their heads tilted with their hands in their pockets.
He got by the ice cream holder, ready to cut in to the argument over banana or vanilla, when he saw Kaspar back away and go back the way they came from. He didn’t see his brother anywhere.
“I suggest chocolate.” He did as if he didn’t notice, but moment later they all heard his bright voice shout. “But if we can’t decide, we might as well get all three, though didn’t Joni and Jevgeni like apricot one?”
“Shopkeeper, shopkeeper! The oil can is broken!”
The woman came running and they met her in half way, holding on to four cartridges of ice cream while all looking, dazed at the thin drizzle of oil running straight at the blue packs of sugar.
She grabbed the oil and turned it upside down, gazing at the bottom and of course not missing the small burnt hole.
“This’ outrageous! You burnt a hole in it!” She shouted, looking at the boys one by one, as if that would give him the culprit.
“No, we didn’t, we were choosing ice creams!” Anton argued back, tightly hugging the bags of marshmallows.
Maksim was thankful for the cold ice pressed against his chest, for he no doubtfully was red-faced.
“Boys!” He cleared his throat, trying to sound confident. The lie heated him up so fast, he seriously wanted to shout Alik for help, he wasn’t cut out to be the bad guy at all! Especially if boys got the rep for it. He seriously hoped whatever Alik needed cover for, was a quick thing. “Show me your pockets!”
The shouts about unfair treatment were so sincere, it made him feel even worse.
“What would that help?” The shopkeeper asked, holding the oil bottle a little bit further away.
“That hole is clearly burnt in.” He explained while praying for none of them carry a lighter. “If it was one of them, they would have the lighter, wouldn’t they?”
After a quick thinking, she agreed and her eyes turned on them while they turned all their pockets around, presenting the small knife, couple of toothpicks, a collection of acorns and a blue model car.
Alik came around the corner, holding peppermint ice cream and gave them all a confused look before he groaned loudly. “What now? Can’t we go anywhere without problems?”
Maksim so wanted to kick him for that last sentence, for who else had asked them to distract her?
“See?” He turned to the shopkeeper instead. “None of them carry a lighter, so it must have been someone else from earlier.”