“So you applied eh?” The red-head’s voice was lazy and amused. Nathan stepped through the doorway and regarded his fiancée’s twin brother.
“You started already.” Nathan quietly reproached him. There were half a dozen beer cans crushed into discs about the chair and Carter was already holding another in his hand. On the table a broken wine bottle nearby held the ashes and crumbled remains of cigars — a whole year’s worth. The air of the small kitchen was spicy with the aroma of curry and cloves.
Carter waved a careless hand towards the back of the kitchen. Nathan walked past him, clapping the sitting man on the shoulder as he walked past. Taking a plate from the full dish rack, he piled it full with rice and chicken curry. Turning, he snagged the rest of the beer from the fridge on the way back to the small table,.
Dangling the remaining five cans on the plastic rings in front of his friend, Nathan smiled and rattled the green aluminum. “Didn’t I tell you to wait?”
Carter lifted his own can to chapped lips and took a long pull before replying. “It’s your own damn fault for coming in late. Dinner was ready half an hour ago.”
Nathan snorted and dropped the drinks on the table. “I wanted to marry your sister — how did I end up living with you instead?” He tugged a beer from its ring and thumbed the tab. A hiss of pressurized gas punctuated the silence.
The other man just shook his head. “Jackass.” He swilled down the rest of his beer and placed it on the floor. Standing he brought his boot down on the can and with a crackle flattened it. Kicking the useless metal away, Carter made his way to the stove to pile up a plate of his own.
By the time the heavier man had returned to the table the army man had already gone through half his plate.
“You applied though right?” Carter insisted as he thumped back into his seat.
In reply Nathan simply nodded and wolfed down another bite of chicken. He stopped for a moment to take a swallow of alcohol and sat back. “You’ve added something. It’s hotter.”
The cook smiled, nodded. “Julie wouldn’t let me change her favourite dish in all that time.” He brushed his heavy hand through a shock of red bangs and blinked his eyes. The man stilled and there was a staccato ringing as the fork he was holding began to clink on the side of his plate. Carter flattened his hands on the table top, his muscles straining and twitching.
Green eyes from across the table narrowed and locked gazes with him. Without looking away, Nathan pulled another can from the plastic and slid it over to Carter. Carefully articulating the words, Nathan asked, “So why did you change it now?” He willed the trembling man to look at him, to get past the moment.
After a second Carter closed his eyes and sighed. He reached out to slump a hand down on top of the proffered green can and dragged it towards himself with a long dull scrape of wet metal on wood. He cracked open the beer and took a gulp, only then did he open hazel eyes again. “I’m twenty-eight now. Someone told me that I shouldn’t be letting my older twin make my decisions anymore.”
Nathan smiled and lifted his drink, tilting it towards the other man. “Happy Birthday Carter.”
The birthday boy, smiling just as wretchedly, lifted his can and clanked aluminum.