It had been five months since Rico told them he’d be back. Spring weather was breaking and what was usually the twins’ favorite time of year, still felt like winter. The first few days after Rico was arrested, Kita acted like it hadn’t happened. Matter of fact, up until the end of the year, she pretended. It wasn’t until late December that she broke down while explaining to the girls what she and Rico had gotten them for Christmas. She was a wreck. Ava and Bri were fending for themselves most days while Kita cried about how they were going to live or be taken care of.
A few guys who worked with Rico had been bringing money to the house and helping pay the bills, but Kita kept saying that wouldn’t last long and that no one was loyal in the drug game.
It was how Rico gotten arrested in the first place.
Ava and Bri spent a lot of time at their grandmother’s house. Rani Daniels was one of those grandmothers that you would never think had kids old enough to have kids. She kept young hair styles and dressed nice but her soul was very old school. She hadn’t approved of Rico’s life, business or personal, yet over the last few months she’d been keeping the girls. Kita was losing her mind.
Rico was Granny Ran’s only child, so she spoiled him and talked about him all the time. Ava loved the stories of Rico as a little boy. They kept her calm while her insides freaked out about never seeing her dad again. She’d heard people talking about how much time he might get. Whenever she tried to ask Kita about it, she just ended up crying.
Bri seemed to be shutting down in a different way. Whenever Ava wanted to reminisce about times with their dad, Bri usually changed the subject. Even when Granny Ran began to tell stories, Bri found something else to do. She was becoming distant; Ava could sense it.
“You ever wonder why they didn’t name us different?” Bri asked. The girls were sitting in Granny Ran’s living room, doing their homework at the coffee table. Ava was seated between the couch and the table, her knees bent under it. Bri sat on the opposite side with her legs spread out, reaching past Ava’s knees.
“Different like what?” Ava said.
“I don’t know, like Keisha and Neisha or something.”
“Bri, that’s stupid.”
“I’m just saying, all the twins I know have names that sound alike.”
“What twins you know?” Ava snapped, finally looking up at Bri. Bri sucked her teeth and looked up at the ceiling before narrowing her eyes at Ava.
“Raina and Jada.”
“Bri, shut up.”
“Aiden and Jaden.”
Ava rolled her eyes before looking back down at her math set. She folded her paper into three columns and three rows, numbering each box until she stopped at 15 on the back side. She looked over the problems in the book and circled the easy ones. Bri sucked her teeth, irritated that her twin wasn’t entertaining her at the moment, and went back to her homework as well.
Granny Ran came in huffing with the phone in her hand. She dialed a few numbers, put it to her ear for a second, before pulling it away and huffing again.
“That woman isn’t fit to raise kids,” she mumbled. Ava narrowed her eyes at her grandmother, knowing that she was referring to Kita. “What am I going to do with you two while I go to choir rehearsal?”
“We can go,” Bri said. Granny Ran laughed before shaking her head.
“Last time you two almost tore up the church,” Granny Ran responded. Ava and Bri looked at each other and giggled, remembering how they terrorized the other kids whose parents or grandparents had brought them to rehearsal as well.
They watched Granny Ran huff and puff as she stalked through the house, getting ready. She tried to call Kita about three more times, to no avail. Ava finished her math set and began to watch an old episode of Rugrats while Bri finished her Science homework.
Granny Ran came back into the living room with a dark red velour jumpsuit on that was zipped up to her neck. Her dirty blonde hair lay straight with a slight curl under her chin, she was still fingering the wrap out as she stopped and looked at the girls.
“I’m going to have you leave you two here since your so called mother isn’t answering the phone. I don’t have time to drive all the way over there for her not to be home.”
“We’re fine,” Bri said. Ava had been blocking her out.
“Do not tear up my house!” Granny Ran said. “Or I’ll be tearing you two up when I get back.”
She left out the house with a thud of the front door and the click of the lock.
Ava leaned back against the couch and smiled, mischievously. Bri continued to do her homework. Ava looked around Granny Ran’s living room. The old couches were wool; the one Ava sat against was the longest while there was a love seat adjacent from it and a recliner on the wall near the steps. It was a weird, plaid pattern that reminded Ava of vomit for some reason. The oak coffee table was smooth on top, thanks to a fitted sheet of thick glass that had Ava and Bri’s finger prints all over it. There was a small, rectangular area rug that matched the pattern on the couches.
There was a faux fire place with a small, brown gate around it. Above the mantle sat pictures of Rico, Granny Ran’s sister and brother, and their kids.
The only thing modern in the room was the big screen television that Rico had bought for Granny Ran last year.
Ava kept scanning the room, looking for something to occupy her time. She saw that Granny Ran hadn’t put the phone back in its cradle. She reached for it and called Kita. It rang twice before it connected.
“Kita!” Ava yelled into the phone, after hearing muffled voices. She heard Kita groan and immediately froze. She’d heard it enough times through the thin walls of their home to know what it was. Ava also knew that there was no way that Rico was with Kita at the moment.
Ava remembered a couple years ago when she and Bri fell asleep in Bri’s room after coming from their first and last Girl Scout meeting. Granny Ran had convinced Rico to sign them up. Kita and the girls protested, yet Rico won that argument. He promised if they didn’t like it that they wouldn’t have to go back.
Bri picked a leaf from her ponytail and groaned, disgusted, before throwing it in the trash.
“I’m never going back to that!” she said. Ava nodded in agreement, kicking her white sneakers off under Bri’s bed. She giggled at Rico calling the sneakers “white girls” saying that everyone in the hood called them that.
“I can’t believe we had to go,” Ava said, rolling her eyes.
“Granny Ran must be smoking,” Bri whispered. They both giggled and looked around as if they’d get caught and whooped for saying such a thing about their grandmother.
“Well, we kept our end of the deal.”
“Why are you getting comfortable in my bed?” Bri asked, pushing her cover back to get under it. Ava slipped under it as well, ignoring Bri’s question. “You snore, you can’t sleep in here.”
“You snore louder than me!” Ava defended. “My bed is too far.”
“Lazy,” Bri said, laughing. She turned on her television and Ava turned the other way, closing her eyes.
“Ew, Ava wake up!” Bri shook Ava’s shoulder while turning the television down. At first Bri thought it was her television making noise, but once she turned it down, she realized her parents were having sex.
“Stop Bri, I’m tired.”
“Mommy and Daddy are having sex,” Bri whispered. Ava frowned as her eyes opened. The twins got quiet as something bumped against the wall and Kita made a throaty noise.
“Ew!!” Ava and Bri yelled. Their parents’ room got quiet for a moment.
“Go to sleep!” Rico yelled. Ava and Bri yelled in disgust again before Bri turned the television up.
“Did she answer?” Bri asked, not looking up from her homework. Ava quickly hit END on the call and tossed the phone on the couch.
“No,” she snapped. Ava stalked off towards the kitchen; all the sudden, she was hungry. Ava gripped the handle of the brown refrigerator and swung it open. “The only thing that we can cook in here is hot dogs!”
“I hate boiled hot dogs!” Bri yelled back. Ava sucked her teeth before pushing a few containers aside to see if she’d glanced over something.
She stood up and looked over towards the kitchen door. The blinds were open, so she could see the small, black barbeque pit sitting idle in the middle of the small concrete slab that Granny Ran called a back patio.
“How are we supposed to light it?”Bri asked, looking around the small pit for some type of on/off switch.
“That’s easy,” Ava said. “Rico did it with a lighter and rolled up newspaper.”
“It’s easy huh?” Bri asked, looking at her twin sister skeptically. She put her hand on her right hip and pursed her lips. “Do it then.”
“We’re going to do it together.”
“You can’t squeal and say I did something if you did it too,” Ava said, pulling Bri by her arm back through the open patio door. “Find a lighter.”
Bri went over to where a row of candles sat on the window sill and looked around for a lighter. Ava went over to the kitchen table and rummaged through the stack of junk mail. She found the local paper, opened it, and tore the crossword puzzle out. She rolled it up, leaving it loose and long.
“I found one,” Bri said. Ava looked around for the best spot to light it.
“Let’s do it over the sink.”
Bri nodded as they stood side by side in front of the sink. Ava held the newspaper over the sink, out in front of them. Bri flicked the handle on the lighter twice before a flame appeared.
“Okay,” she said, moving the flame over to the tip of the newspaper. The flame caught on the end, immediately turning the paper black around the edges as the flame began to devour the paper. “Go!” Bri yelled.
Ava quickly spun around with the inflamed newspaper in her hand and ran towards the patio door, with Bri on her heels. The paper caught fire too quickly. When Ava felt the heat at her fingertips, she yelped and dropped the newspaper.
Ava and Bri’s eyes widened as the flame fell on the small rug just in front of the patio door. They began to stomp at it, putting the flame out before it could do anymore damage.
“Calm down!” Ava said, kicking the burnt newspaper off the carpet.
“It’s burned! She’s going see it,” Bri cried, looking at the small, black hole in the rug. Ava pulled at her curls while trying to think of how to hide the carpet. “I thought you said it was easy!”
“How was I supposed to know it was gonna catch that quick!”
“Just do something!”
Ava sighed before bending down and picking up the rug. She rolled it up and jogged outside again. She looked around for the nearest trash can of a neighbor’s house. After discarding the rug, Ava jogged back into Granny Ran’s kitchen.
“Hopefully she won’t notice,” Ava said. Bri sighed and nodded.
“Now we have to microwave the hot dogs.”