“Are you coming? Come on, come on, come on!” Ken practically barked into the phone. Not like an army sergeant, but like an overly excited toy poodle. It had been weeks since he’d seen his sister, and he missed her terribly.
“Yes, yes, I’m coming. Hold your horses.” She laughed into the phone.
Ken was parked outside the Barnes and Noble. It was a safe assumption that she was at the local Barnes and Noble when he stopped into town to surprise her. In fact, he’d taken to go their first before even trying her house. She was that reliable. He leaned against the driver’s side of his door, trying not to bounce up and down as he waited, watching the entrance of the store carefully.
Then he saw her. She came out with her long brown hair tied up into a ponytail with a red ribbon around it, wearing a black nicely tailor pea coat, a pair of blue jeans with scribbled doodles all over them, and a pair of simple black converses. She had a faded denim messenger bag thrown over her shoulder, and she clutched the strap tightly as she smiled and scanned the parking lot for him.
This was how he liked seeing his sister. Not a speck of make up on her face, her hair only up because it was more convenient to her up rather than down, her posture still prim because that was a hard habit to break, but bouncing with an energy that was never seen around their parents’ house. Because at their parents’ house things had to be “just so” and the twins had never been a fan of “just so.”
Kenneth William Hunter Richardson III and Winifred Margaret Rose Richardson had been born into a very, er—lets say specific family. Winifred, more commonly known as Freddie to people who liked her and respected her right to choose her own nickname (also known as people who were not friends of her parents), hadn’t been allowed to wear a pair of pants in public until she was eight or nine years old, and neither of them were allowed to wear a t-shirt out of their bedrooms until they were well into their teens, because of the “image” their parents were trying to present. Their lives had been planned from the day they were born. Ken would grow up, go to the same school as his father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, become a lawyer, and tack his ‘Richardson’ on the end of the five Richardson’s that made up the firm of his Father, his uncles, and his grandfather. As for Freddie, she would grow up to be the angel of wife that her mother had been grooming her to be. She’d go to school, and get a bachelor’s degree, because that’s what was expected of women these days, but then she’d settle down with one of the amazing “men” that her mother would line up in front of her, most likely the one that her father liked the best, and she would settle down to raise daughters to marry off and sons to join her husband’s company.
That was their parents plan for them, at least. They had—well, other plans.
Freddie was lucky. Since her mother didn’t really care about what degree she came home with, so she was studying English, a degree she wanted to have anyway. She let her mother think that everything was going according to plan, with every intention of running away as soon as she had the degree under her belt.
Ken wasn’t as lucky. With his very specific plans came with a very specific degree that he had to earn. And as for Ken’s dreams to be a chef—well, that was much harder. Ken asked his father for “extracurricular money” every semester, which Kenny Junior handed over, with a nudge and a wink and a veiled warning to keep his drugs soft and his women clean. Ken would just nod and smile, look slightly embarrassed and yet slightly cocky, and let his father think that he was a perverted party boy, in the tradition of his father, and his father before him. Ken actually used the money to enroll at the school down the street, steadily working his way towards a bachelors in culinary arts. As for his Pre-Law degree, well, Ken did all right there. He managed to pull As and Bs, and when the work became too overwhelming, he handed an assignment or two over to Freddie, who despite being very addicted to her television shows and novels, she had found the time to read a law book or two, and was very, very good at mimicking her brother’s writing style. She always teased that both of them would make a very good half a lawyer.
When he was left alone for too long, Ken wondered why he hadn’t become a self-righteous prick like his father and his father’s father and so on. In a very big way, he was certain it was because he had Freddie.
Their father had grown up as one of five, the middle of four boys and a girl. They were each born, almost to the day, eighteen months apart, a perfect year and a half split to make things easy. As far as Ken and Freddie could tell, their father and his siblings had never been friends. Instead, they had been presented to each other as completion pieces, and lead to believe that each of them were doing better than the others. They were all convinced that they were mommy’s little angels and daddy’s little troopers, and that they could shit gold if they wanted to. Their siblings were good, but they were the best.
Ken never had that. If he got too big for his britches, Freddie was always right there, ready to point and laugh and remind him of the stupid shit that he had done in the past. Not in a mean or competitive way, but simply because it was a part of her personality.
However, on the flip side of that coin, whenever Ken was getting down on himself, or sure he couldn’t handle the pressure of his own dreams and his family’s expectations, Freddie was there for that too, ready to remind him that she loved him, or to reassure him that he was as amazing as he needed to be. Freddie was his strength and his anchor—and in her twisted little way, she loved to remind him that he’d never had made it this far without her next to him. And he knew she was a hundred percent right.
That’s why it made him so happy to see her like this. Relaxed, and calm, and entirely in her element. When they were home, under her mother’s watchful eye, Freddie wore dresses in the height of fashion and expensive shoes that made her toes hurt and caused her to make faces at Ken across the table at dinner parties when she was sure her mother was looking in the other direction. Her makeup was done to perfection, either by her or by her mother’s crack staff of stylists, similarly with her hair. She wore bracelets and necklaces that were worth more than she could hope to earn in a year if she actually worked, as was required by her mother to attend a weekly mani pedi to make sure that she was always in top form. At home, things were bearable, but Freddie was miserable. Here, standing in the cold outside a book store, eagerly looking for her brother—Freddie was happy, and Freddie was home.
Freddie caught sight of her brother, and her smile melted into something even warmer. Gripping the strap of her messenger bag to make sure it wouldn’t slip, Freddie started running towards her brother, flinging her arms out wide as she got close so that she could wrap him tightly into a hug without having to lose any momentum.
“Oof.” Ken let out a breath as he was trapped in his sister’s grip. She was smaller than him, but it was very possible that she was stronger.
“I’ve just missed you so much.” Freddie muttered as a way of apologizing.
“I’ve missed you too.” Ken laughed, squeezing his sister back as hard as he could until she giggled and cried ‘Uncle’ so he let her go.
“So, dearest Kenny, I’m all yours for the next twenty-eight hours. Do you have a plan for us?” Freddie smiled, walking around to the passenger side of Ken’s car.
“I’ve got a couple of ideas. Do you have anything in particular that you want to do?”
“I definitely do not want to work on any of your pre-law assignments.” Freddie laughed.
“Well, darn. I had planned to just work for twenty-eight hours straight on homework. Now, I’ve got nothing. What do you suggest?”