Habit

In their house, everything was always much the same. Eisenfeld, who couldn't cook, was in charge of breakfast, Sorano made lunch, and Falkner settled their dinner. The food was almost always the same, and so were their seats. Eisenfeld would attempt to explain how this was so, but things would wind up with Sorano comparing her to Freud and Falkner observing that it was simply because they couldn't be bothered. But she still maintained that it was due to their insecure childhoods. The simplest routines made them feel safe.

So it was that every morning began with Eisenfeld's cold shower, which invariably woke up Falkner, who in turn woke Sorano, and the routine squabble over the comb, hair gel and toothbrush. Then Eisenfeld would make the coffee that only Falkner ever really drank. His whole morning diet over the past few years had consisted mostly only of coffee. Sorano, on the other hand, would sit on the couch in the living room with her sandwich – always peanut butter and jelly – and flick through the television channels. Eisenfeld would then sit down next to Falkner in the kitchen and call out to her, saying not to bother because she always stopped at the five o' clock cartoon anyway. Eisenfeld always ate hard bread. Hard, and toasted, with nothing on it. Apparently it was less trouble to make.

Sorano wasn't a morning person. Therefore, their four o' clock ritual – Eisenfeld could never continue to sleep by three, and took her shower as soon as her teddy-bear alarm clock sounded at three-fifteen – consisted of Falkner, who had long since awoken the moment Eisenfeld turned on the water, shaking Sorano by the shoulders. Then she would wake up, tell him that he stank, and chase him into the bathroom. After ten minutes Eisenfeld would start to yell at him to get out because she needed the toothbrush, and another routine squabble would start.

Sorano would pretend not to notice when Eisenfeld complained that her hunting-knife had gone missing, and Falkner would usually find a way to change the subject for fear that he might be traced as the culprit.

"Don't you just love music?" Falkner would sigh at long last. Eisenfeld would tell him to shut up.

Really, there was this general assumption that, because Eisenfeld was the pianist, she was the one who most appreciated musical culture. Far from it. It was usually Falkner who introduced them to new pieces, and it was at his insistence that they had decided to start off the morning (after the breakfast routine, of course) with classical music. He really seemed quite fond of it. Eisenfeld complained that it gave her a headache, but Sorano said it was just her contrariness.

Sometimes they played Strauss. Most of the time, though, it was Mozart.

They would sit on the couch and talk as the music played. Sorano would chuckle; Falkner had obviously said something funny. Eisenfeld would tell him that it was one of his rare moments, and should they send it to the Guinness Book of Records? Falkner would mess up her hair in revenge and the sociopath (accurate description courtesy of the media amongst countless not-so-accurate ones) would glare at him and threaten to confiscate what they called his "sacred tub of hair wax". It was an empty threat, and they all knew it, but Falkner would shut up.

"Sora? Are you awake at all?" That would usually be Falkner.

"Oh? Yeah. Sorry. The morning really slows my brain down. What are you talking about?"

"Eyes is doing a scientific investigation."

"Yeah, about how long your brain stays alive after your head gets cut off," Eisenfeld growled darkly. It was a joke and they knew it. "No, really. I'm wondering about whether there's a Golden Ratio in music."

"Baby Eyes is growing up. She actually thinks now."

"Oh, shut up."

Then all hell would break loose. At exactly five-thirty in the morning, Falkner would draw out a pack of cigarettes. One slowly came loose from the others and a silver lighter would appear in his hand. Eisenfeld could see the smoke clouding the air and the poison slipping down their throats, strangling their organs, slowly killing them.

Her hand would slam down on the glass table, making it tremble precariously. It could have been a declaration of war. Sorano would get up.

"Hey, guys, I'll go do the groceries, the shops should be open – "

"Sit down, Sora. This concerns all of us," Eisenfeld would command. "I've told you to stop."

"I'll smoke if I want to."

"Eyes, I should really go get that hair gel and you need a knife, don't you?"

"Stop it, Sora." Eisenfeld's eyes became pools of molten blue fire, like they always did when she was angry. "Let me get this straight. Because you want to, even though I've told you not to?"

"Yes."

"That stuff kills people. I can't give a damn about you – " Sora would snort at that; she knew how much Eisenfeld cared, "but I will not have poison wandering loose in this house."

"Everyone dies someday."

"We've spent years defying that fate and here you are purposefully trying to bring it closer?"

Sorano was always afraid that, one day, the glass holding Eisenfeld's morning iced-water might break due to too much pressure.

"I like the taste."

There would be a pregnant pause.

"So," Eisenfeld would let out, not much different from the way most people would say "Bloody murder!".

"So?"

"I'm waiting for an answer."

"You won't get one."

"Fine. Fine. I hope you die. Just go away and don't smoke in here because Sora has weak lungs already and I have a heart problem. Neither of us need second-hand smoke right now. Out. OUT, I tell you."

Eisenfeld would storm upstairs to her bedroom. Even though she practically never slept in it (she slept next to the piano, in the hall), it was still officially her room. And she was still the only person with the key. Therefore, she would lock the door.

Falkner would never bang on the door. He would put out his cigarette and stand outside till her was convinced she wasn't about to let him inside. Then he would storm out.

It would be lunchtime, and Falkner wouldn't be back yet. Eisenfeld would be at the piano, furiously scribbling but periodically glancing out through the window. Eventually she would sigh and go out.

Sorano never knew what they did till dinnertime, but she did know that they made up – that is, until the next morning, when the pack of cigarettes appeared again.

Addiction was a habit. Death was a habit. Perhaps dying before one's time was a habit.

But as with all habits, there was the possibility of change. That possibility was the one Eisenfeld – no, all of them – had banked on. Once, and now.