The flat I lived in was small, and that was the least of my problems. Not that I had any, I just felt like I had them all the time. Like, here I was sitting on the sofa, with the TV off, in silence.
"Oh my God, Axel. You have got to be kidding me," Anna, the first (and, technically, eldest) of my twin sisters said, shaking her head. Yes, this depression was to be expected. Anna sat on the floor in front of me, crossing her legs.
Ella, twin number two, dumped a soft-ish, green wrapped, package in my lap and then sat next to her sister in exactly the same position.
"Happy Birthday," they said, smiling. I almost managed a smile back when I noticed the effort they'd made to look different. Except for the fact that Anna was a brunette with blonde streaks and Ella was blonde with brown streaks, my sisters were absolutely, one hundred per cent identical.
It was summer, so they were both wearing skirts and strappy tops. Anna's strappy top was yellow and her skirt was green. Ella's skirt was purple and her top was pink. They were both wearing dark blue tie-tops over their strappy ones. They still wore matching make-up, but Anna's necklace was a small plastic sweet, while Ella's was a tiny cup and saucer.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for the smile that was in my head to reach my lips. I just mumbled, "Thanks."
"Oh, cheer up, Axel. It's your birthday, for God's sake," Ella groaned.
"I know," I said.
"Well open your present then," Anna told me.
"Yeah, you're lucky we even put any effort in this year," Ella insisted. No doubt they were both thinking about how they could've bought three times as much for themselves from Primark, instead of spending money in whatever shop they went to for my present.
I sighed and ripped the lime coloured paper to reveal baggy blue jeans and a yellow T-shirt. Written across the join on one of the sleeves of the shirt were the words Just smile a little =), and there was an orange sun on the breast pocket. They were both sewn really neatly. I rolled my eyes and lifted the jeans in front of me, inspecting them for any of the twins' jokes. Sure enough, on the top of the front left pocket was sewn Don't laugh a little… and on the bottom of the pocket Laugh a lot.
"Thanks for that," and I couldn't help letting a smile creep onto my face and a little laugh escape.
"Yeah, Jude hasn't been that nice about it," Anna grinned.
"S'good advice he's given, though," Ella agreed, nodding.
Anna handed me a rectangular package that looked like it'd travelled through a few countries rather than just a few cities.
"Apparently C wanted to stamp it," Anna said.
"But we think he's too city-ish to know how to post a letter properly," Ella finished.
"You two shop at Primark," I reminded them.
"We do know," they chorused, flicking their hair. I laughed and they clapped.
While they were celebrating my display of happiness, I started to make my way through the excessive amount of sticky tape that was holding the brown paper around whatever it was.
"OK, seriously, you have nails that are better than mine and you don't even know how to use them? I swear you're going to be- Just give it to me."
Even Anna had to stare at Ella for that one.
"Going to be what?" she asked of her twin. Ella ignored her and snatched the package from me, slicing straight through all the tape with her fake nails she was oh so proud of. It gave me an idea of subject change.
"Your nails are fake."
The only word I could think of was 'awkward', and Anna voiced it slowly. The silence afterwards was interrupted by another of my laughs and I could tell the twins were baffled by my period of good humour.
The present my brother had given me was a picture of him, his wife and his daughter. Scratched messily onto the top of the frame were the words Get a Life, and Live It.
I looked to my sisters to see that they were in fits of giggles.
I cleared my throat 'cause I'd just noticed what their outfits reminded me of. "You look like a couple of fluorescent cowgirls."
"Oh my gosh, he actually noticed!" Ella sounded horrified.
"Great. Perfect!" Anna's voice was mildly sarcastic.
"What the hell are you going on about?"
Suddenly the twins were looking very guilty and uncomfortable.
"OK, please don't be angry but we've had these plans for absolutely ages and we didn't realise until-"
I sighed and tried to sound like I didn't care that I spent every single birthday since I was nine on my own. "It's fine. You can go to your fancy dress party with your boyfriends."
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Anna squealed.
"We owe you for, like, ever!" Ella promised.
No, just, y'know, four years…
My sisters kissed one of my cheeks each. I sighed and gave them a weak smile as they rushed upstairs. Those girls were stunning, but as a brother I wasn't allowed to admit it. I just wished that sometimes they would think more about me and less about themselves.
So I went back to moping, sighing, and generally being depressed for about two seconds when I saw that one of them had left their purse down here. I'd never seen this purse but they had so many that I wasn't surprise. What did surprise me was that it wasn't even a nice purse. It was shiny-ish, purple, and had a light blue strip down one side, that, strangely, wasn't shiny at all.
I slid off the sofa, picket it up and turned it over. It felt light, as if it was empty. I undid the zip, and the whole thing just ripped and finished as a pile of silver glitter on the dull brown carpet.
"That was weird," I muttered.
"No it wasn't," said a voice behind me. I turned slowly around. "Right. Stay silent, okay? I'm going to explain why I'm here." The guy sounded irritated, and like he was trying not to show it.
"OK. We're going to school. Your sisters already know that I'm taking you. I told them." This time his voice was genuinely soft and gentle, like he was trying not to upset me by springing it all on me.
"But… it's Saturday," was all I could think of in answer to that.
"School starts on Sunday," he said. "What's your name?
"Axel Moon," I told him. "What's yours?"
"Dinley. Let's go," and without warning, he grabbed my wrist and we were gone.