It was roughly three years ago when the twins came to us.
I wasn't that excited about it. Not at all. The most positive description for my mood after mother first told me about it a month before Christmas would be skeptical and annoyed.
"Dorian. I have been thinking… I mean we, I and your father, have been thinking that we want more children. You're so big already, fourteen years, wouldn't you want a little brother?"
'Oh no' was my first reaction. Not because I didn't want siblings, but because I knew my mother. She was the kind of person who had the habit of getting overly interested in something and then abandoning it. Hobbies, cooking, arts, movies, gardening, pets, sports, history, books… She'd been through a hundred different crazes and they never lasted.
I knew her, and she definitely shouldn't do this.
"What does father think?" I asked. He didn't like the way mother acted and could shake some sense into her.
"He thought it was a wonderful idea. Don't you?"
Later I heard from dad that he had agreed because he'd thought that giving mother some children and responsibility would calm her down and she'd stop running around with different things. He seemed to be really tired of it.
You see, mother had lost her ability to give birth while having me.
Mother found the twins. They were both five at the time and had been taken into custody due to an abusive father. I think that when she heard the word 'twins' something just clicked in her brain and a new obsession was born. She would stop at nothing before she got what she wanted or got tired of it.
On Christmas day the twins arrived.
None of us had been expecting anything like that. Two little boys, cute blond curls on both of their heads, tiny, in too big clothes… but they were anything but sweet. The other was promptly glaring at us while the other half hid behind his back.
"Welcome and merry Christmas", my father wished.
"S'not fucking merry", growled the one closer to us.
Five years old. And he still swears like that.
My father was shocked and my mother was terrified. I don't remember what I felt, at the time I didn't really care, I suppose. It was mother and father's thing. I was just their son.
It went on like that for months. The other twin, Emery, swore, didn't listen, hit other people, threw things around, vandalized the things in the house and never spoke a kind word to anyone.
Jamie, his quiet brother, followed him around without even looking, not to speak about talking, to anyone. He seemed to have a permanently sad look on his face, except when mother or father was yelling at Emery. Then he would glare so meanly –murderously- that I wouldn't have thought anybody, not to mention a five year old kid, was capable of it.
They were problem children, though it wasn't a surprise with their background. I heard bits and pieces of it, how their father would not only shout to them (no wonder Em swore) and hit them, but lock them to attic or closets, force them out naked in winter and all in all make them do humiliating or painful things with no meaning, just because he was a sick bastard. Thank god their neighbor reported him to police.
As it was clear from the very beginning, things went horribly wrong in our family. Instead of growing some responsibility my mother seemed to forget the meaning of it and started to loose interest in the twins. Instead of my father getting a closer family he got a one big mess and was furious about it to mother. Instead of twins getting a stable home they got fights and ignorance. I stayed by myself, waiting for someone else to clean it all up.
Then my parents got enough of each other. They divorced, father left the town on the same day and I've barely seen him since.
That left me, my mother, and the problematic duo.
My father leaving made me angry. To everyone: mother, myself and the twins. I was constantly so pissed; I didn't want to even see anyone's face. I spend my time in town, at some friends' places and everywhere but home. It must have been one of those unreasonable teenage things, hating your family.
Then it all changed.
It was a very slow process, but I can remember how it all started. At that point I had just turned fifteen and the twins were six years old. It was a night when I got home after another long absence and saw Emery and Jamie sitting on the couch in the living room. Mother wasn't home; I assumed she was at supermarket or something. I don't know where she really was, but she didn't come home that night. Maybe she got interested in moonlight swimming.
Anyway, the twins were on the couch. Jamie was crying with quiet, heartbreaking sobs while Emery was hugging him even though he had a face that looked like he might join his brother any moment.
I stood dumbfounded for a while. It was the first time I actually saw one of them crying, even though I had marked red, swollen eyes on their faces now and then.
"What's the matter?" I finally spoke. They turned their attention to me, and the moment Emery laid his eyes on me his expression turned angry. His eyes narrowed and the voice from his throat was vicious. It caught me off guard every time: six-year-old cute little kids weren't supposed to act like that. Never.
"Jamie's hungry, you asshole."
Hungry. Jamie was hungry.
That moment I realized the whole dread of the situation. Two children who had lived a life no kid was supposed to, and then taken to a home where no one cared for them. They weren't my mother's unsuccessful craze. They were humans, and they sat in my living room crying because they were hungry.
'Jamie's hungry', Emery had said. He must be every bit as hungry as his brother, but he had only spoken for him.
What kind of fucking monster am I? I had only lived for myself this whole time. And not very happily even. Just being angry.
I wanted to go and hug them.
I didn't. It wouldn't have helped any, and I was afraid. The twins probably wouldn't have let me anywhere near them.
Instead I left and went to the kitchen. The fridge was practically empty except for a bottle of soy sauce and two onions. Why the fuck were they even there?
I didn't usually cook, but well, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I found some macaroni from a cup board over the sink and the packing had instructions of how you were to prepare it. Going through the freezer I got some corn and peas, which I added to the macaroni boiling on the stove. More persistent search and I had a packet of eggs too. They were marked to be gone bad yesterday, but I figured it wouldn't hurt.
It had been fifteen minutes since I talked to the twins. When I went back, they weren't in the living room anymore. I found them from their room.
After a short knock I went in. They were both on Jamie's bed, hugging each other.
"Why you're here, asshole?" Asked Emery as soon as he noticed me.
It was more difficult to speak to them than I had thought. I felt incredibly guilty of not spending any time with them.
"I… uh… made some food… but there was almost nothing, so it isn't great… but please, would you eat some?" At the end I was looking at my shoes. Somehow it didn't feel at all like I was older than them, I felt scared and nervous.
It was quiet for a little while before Emery answered.
"Like you would do something like that." He sounded unkind but at the same time he was standing up and pulling Jamie with him too.
They followed me to the kitchen and I served them fried eggs with corn-pea-macaroni in soy sauce. And a pack of chocolate cookies I had gotten from my room. It wasn't great, but they ate every last bit of it. For a reason that then was unknown to me, it made me feel absolutely great.
As I said, it happened slowly. First I just made sure they got enough food and maybe some candies on weekends (I started asking my mother money for their food. She gave it to me without second thought), then I took them to places, like the park and mall, and I started reading books for them and then teaching them to read.
Emery was running his mouth all the time, I was called all the names he could come up with and regularly he threw stuff at me, like books and plates. He was never happy with anything I did for them. Sometimes I thought I might start hating him, but then I remembered how he had said 'Jamie's hungry', and I couldn't do it.
Jamie would almost never speak, but he would start crying at random moments, even though I don't think they were random for him.
I spend an increasingly large amount of time with them and took care of increasingly many things concerning them, like their school, clothes, food and limits. The last one was very important, even if difficult to achieve. Telling them what they were allowed to do and what they were not.
And just like that, little by little, I started to love them, wholly and unconditionally, like a parent. I didn't think they were my mother's kids anymore, she didn't deserve them. They were mine. They were the single most precious thing on earth, for what I was ready to give up anything: my teenage years, my friends, my freedom. It wasn't easy, but worth it. Definitely.
The best of it was that they started to love me back. Emery's harsh words stayed, but the venom behind them faded when he was speaking to me. When Jamie cried, he would hug me and let me comfort him and make him feel better. They would tell me about the horrors of their early childhood and I would listen and hold them. I'd tell it was okay.
In the beginning the twins seemed so different that it was almost funny they had identical looks, but as time went by I learned that they were really alike. Emery would cry at night when no one but Jamie, and later me, would see. Then the sadness he held inside during days would over flow with a ferocity I feared might break him. At those times Jamie, who usually looked so sensitive and docile, would first do anything he could to help him, but after Emery calmed down Jamie was so full with anger, if that's powerful enough expression. Wrath. Once he quietly, with a voice slightly trembling with fury, explained to me what exactly he would want to do to their father.
I never forgot that. He was seven years old and fantasizing of torturing his father to death, telling me how he wished to make him suffer. I couldn't sleep properly for days.
We've come a long way. Three years since I met them, and now there is nothing else than us. They're the center of my world, and I know I mean everything to them. It might sound arrogant, but I know it. I'm seventeen years old and the only parent they ever had, the only one that would accept them, protect them, take responsibility of all their actions and, of course, love them.
It was just the three of us.