“You wanna do something fun?”
Jacob pulled his bottom lip down showing Caleb the inside of his mouth, wet and red.
Caleb closed his eyes as he drained his coffee cup and placed it on the table in front of him.
Jacob’s eyes hadn’t moved from Caleb.
The tannoy sounded, “Passengers for Madrid now boarding” and the wheels of a suitcase rolled past them. Caleb said nothing.
“I’ll take that as a no then?”
Caleb smirked. “Your kind of fun or my kind of fun?”
“Bit of both.”
Caleb sighed. “Jacky we’re in an airport. We’re going on holiday. We’re having fun right now. This is it: the overpriced coffees and the checking of the departure board and the constant nagging of ‘have I brought my passport with me’. The fun is happening now”.
Jacob lent forward in his seat, his voice dropping to a low whisper. “Caleb Caleb Caleb we both know that this weekend isn’t going to be a holiday”.
Caleb hated it when his brother said his name like this. It reminded him of school. The way Mr. Krewp would drone out parable after parable like some relentless fog horn. The way he would look at Caleb with such withering pity when Caleb asked him why it was that Jesus was the only man who knew about Christianity? Surely there were more, but Jesus’ was the only account that was written down? Why did God only have one son when the message was so important? Even from the age of 6, he had a thirsty curiosity that was never quenched.
Jacob had been different. It’s not that he adopted the faith that their teachers and parents had implored them to do. Instead, he just didn’t care.
“Let them think what they want to think”, Jacob would say, winking softly at his brother. Caleb’s jaw would set and he would sit with his fists bunched up on the end of his bed, Jacob lying on the floor and rolling a cigarette. Caleb would step over Jacob’s relaxed figure as he paced up and down the small room, recounting the most recent instance of irking his parents with his logic. Once his father had become so annoyed with his son’s reasoning that he had thrown his Dog Collar across the room and then yelped, immediately following the fabric’s trajectory as their Spaniel Jeanie had started to chew it.
Caleb did have a faith, it just didn’t belong to a Christian God. Or any God. He believed in what was in front of him at that very moment.
His smirk melted into something more worried. “Please mate, I don’t want any trouble I just want us to get on a plane, and go and do this anniversary”.
Jacob leaned back away from the table and put his hands behind his head. The brothers had very similar builds. Both tall. Both lean. He stretched his legs out so that they reached across the table and into the space around Caleb. His left ankle rested on his right.
“What have you got mum and dad as a present?”
“I told you I got all those photos printed”.
Jacob turned his mouth down, showing that he was impressed. “That’s a very thoughtful gift. I haven’t decided what I’m going to get them yet.”
Caleb sighed, “When are you going to get them a present?”
“I take it you don’t want to share your gift with me then do you? Stick a little J at the bottom of the card?”
“I knew you were going to ask me that, no I don’t,” Caleb said, reaching his hand forward and playing with the empty plastic cup. The dark rim of coffee rolled slowly around at the bottom.
“All that’s between us Caleb and you don’t want to share with your older brother?”
Caleb continued to watch the thin line of fluid move across the cup.
“What about when I told Danny Malone if he touched you again I’d put my foot in his other shin? Or when dad asked who all those magazines belonged to and I said they were mine?” With this, Jacob retracted his legs and stood up. His gaze rested briefly on Caleb before he squeezed his shoulder, and then sauntered towards the parade of shops.
Caleb rarely knew how he felt about something until it was about to happen, which meant he tended to not look forward to things. He hadn’t considered what his parents’ 40th-anniversary party might be like until now. They would ask about his work at the laboratory with a shallow interest. Their conversations on this subject were carefully choreographed, neither side wanting to push the subject too far as it would only end up in the same place of disagreement between his belief in what was proven, and theirs in what wasn’t. Their mother would look beautiful, she always did. Their father’s eyes would begin to twinkle after his fourth whiskey and he would recount the familiar story of where he had first seen Phillipa working in their grandfather’s post office. How he had been so anxious to talk to her he began to send weekly packages to himself. Jacob would both charm and offend all in the same 24 hours, convincing at least one of the hotel staff to sleep with him.
It’s not that he didn’t love his family. He did. He couldn’t describe the feeling that he had for them in words that he knew. It was just a sense of something that he would miss if it was gone. But he was so different to all of them.
Caleb felt Jacob before he saw him. His brother’s hands landing firmly on his shoulders.
“Come on Caleb we’re boarding”.
Jacob moved around to face him and beamed at his brother, out of breath. His chest was heaving.
“Jesus what have you done?”
“Look if you want to claim this is from both of us, I’ve really got no problem with that. You know I’ve always been generous”, and he opened up his jacket to reveal two bottles of John Walker, tucked expertly into the top of his trousers. His blond curly hair was almost exactly the same as when he was younger, bending around his ears. It’s just that now it belonged to a man instead of a boy.
‘There he is. Oi!’ Came a shout across the airport.
‘Oh shit’ Jacob wheezed, grinning. He closed his jacket again. ‘Move those lovely legs of yours at the right pace and we can be on the plane toasting to the wonderful presents we have for our parents in no time!’ He stepped lithely though the rows of waiting passengers. Knowing not to run to draw attention to himself.
‘For God’s Sake’, Caleb sighed, and at the same time his body seemed to be moving, following Jacob’s cue. Throwing his rucksack over his shoulder and scrabbling to pocket his phone and keys that sat on the table in front of him, casting low glances back to the security guard that was waddling in the same direction of Jacob’s bobbing blonde head.
This would never be Caleb’s idea of fun ever. Nothing that he expected to take place in the next 48 hours would be his idea of fun. But then, the strongest groups were made up of different perspectives. This was proved to him at work every day. Right or wrong, they were all in existence. It was these differences that made a family. And this was his.