It had taken a long time, over half an hour of strange looks and hesitant responses, but he had finally accomplished his goal. He tried to keep his excitement to himself, but Aina was more alert than she usually was. He'd managed to discover the ways to mislead her, but the tricks didn't seem to be working.
"What are you so happy about?" She pried, poking him in the ribs playfully. She was grinning, happy that he was happy, and looked about to burst with expectation. He smiled at her, treasuring the moment for all it was worth.
"I don't want to tell you, yet," he hollered jovially. "It's a surprise!"
The two bus tickets were practically burning a hole in his pocket. She would never believe what he'd done for her.
For her, he reminded himself as the swell of malcontent came to life. Sure, he was probably going to hate every second of it. Sure, it was going to be awful and he was going to have to pretend his way through the entire night. But she needed it. She yearned for it, he could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice when they were around other people.
There were yet ways to handle the situation, ways to mold the circumstances to fit his needs.
"Hey, you should get dressed," he said suddenly.
From her restful position on his lap, her legs stretched over the rest of the couch, she said, "Why? It's already six o'clock!"
"It's part of the surprise, Aina. Just wear that cute blue sweater Mom got you for our birthday."
"Fine," she said, "though I don't know why it matters."
Twenty minutes later, she came out of the bedroom. She looked radiant, her short brown hair framed her face perfectly and the color of the sweater made her eyes glow. Something about that aquamarine shade played magic tricks with her eyes.
He grinned broadly at her, taking in the sight before him. "You look stunning, darling Aina."
She blushed, and he didn't wait for her to speak.
He took her hand in his and said, "Let's go! We're going to be late if we don't hurry." Pulling her down the hallway and out of the front door, he shot a carefree smirk at her as she tried to keep up with his long strides. "Hurry up, slowpoke! We need to get to the bus station!"
Practically the moment they arrived at the bus station, the groaning monstrosity pulled up and opened it's door with a long, creaking sigh. He gestured for her to climb in first, and followed closely behind her. He showed the driver the tickets and they took two seats in the far back.
Immediately, he pulled her close to him and she nestled against his shoulder. Look how easy it is with us, he thought to himself, wishing it was the right time to mention it to her. Just look at how well we fit together.
So much more than twins.
He smiled quietly to himself, hiding his joy behind her hair. She smelled wonderful.
The bus trip took fifteen minutes, and when they pulled up to the mall parking lot, Aina threw him a curious look, the slow upward lilt to her eyebrow making him want to laugh.
He shook his head, silently denying to explain, and they got off the bus.
Waiting outside of the mall entrance was a small gathering of kids about their ages. When they got closer, it was clear she was able to make out who they were.
"Oh," she said, almost to herself. Disappointment rang clear in her voice. She moved to the other side of him, farther away from the crowd, as if she wished to avoid them.
His heart twisted in his chest. Was this the right thing to do? Force her like this? He shook it off, recalling the faint creases in her forehead when she had overheard the conversation of her classmates in the hallway.
She thought he didn't pay attention, but he did. He was always paying attention to the things she did. Always.
He took her hand for a milisecond, knowing the group would just judge them if he did it for too long, and gave it a comforting squeeze. He let go and used the same hand to wave at their classmates.
"Hey guys," he said, leading Aina to approach them now. "I'm sure you all know Aina, my twin." He turned to her, the smile he knew she liked most on his lips, and said, "Aina, this is Minah, Saul, and Jez." He gestured to each respectively, the tall, slender blonde, the stocky soccer player, the quiet redheaded dancer. He looked back at them all, tearing his gaze off Aina.
She was so much more beautiful than the other girls. He didn't show it, but he caught the once-over Saul did. The way his eyes lingered on Aina. He swallowed down the urge to punch him in the face.
A low chorus of "Hey Aina" bubbled forth from them.
He said, "You guys ready to go see the movie?" He hoped this wouldn't blow up in his face, but his gut told him otherwise. For Aina, he reminded himself.