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 #30609  by Everevna
Location: An Apartment in Chicago, USA • Date: Winter 1986
Ksenia Ilyenkova (c.1970) • CAW Grade 11
Let's get our own place, her devious, accursed twin had said in that cajoling tone, why not? It would be fun, just the three of us.

Anatoly had looked at her from beneath his long, thick lashes across the cafeteria table, somehow managing to appear deferent despite the blatant demand. The older of the pair, the seemingly pliant and more personable twin. He knew that he had her from the start, simply because she cannot refuse him anything, but he still put up a damn good charade for the sake of her pride. She loved him for it, but that was before they had signed a lease with a crabby goblin with fistfuls of hairs sprouting out of his limp, wrinkled ears and looked harmless enough when they met him last spring. As it turned out, the old perdet' was either entirely senile or was doing a frightfully good job at faking it in order to avoid fixing the temperature-regulating charms on the house. It was one thing to be cold outside the house. It was another to sleep in the cold and wake up in the cold.

She didn't complain. Not out loud, anyway. Ksenia Ilyenkova would rather freeze to death than admit aloud that there was another place on earth colder in winter than Russia. Only two hands cupped around a steaming mug of black tea and a pale face were visible from beneath a thick, furry blanket on one end of their thrift-store couch, but the look Anatoly's younger twin gave him as he hurried out the door to his part-time research project in the academy library spoke volumes enough. She didn't love the Academy's residence halls downtown, but at least the heating charms there didn't break down in December.

It would all have been fine if at least one of them was seventeen... but here they were.

No use complaining. It was her only weekday that Ksenia did not have class. She was going to enjoy it as best as she can. The girl freed one hand to snag a packet of poppy-seed biscuits that her mother had sent with the last visit from the family's owl and placed one in her mouth. Over the back of the couch, the door to the boys' shared room remained closed. Ksenia tipped her head, eyes narrowed with interest, and flicked a biscuit at the door. It landed with a light clatter before falling out of sight.

Suddenly fascinated by the endeavour, she aimed another squarely at the door.
Last edited by Everevna on 07 Feb 2020, 18:14, edited 5 times in total.
 #30650  by Kael
Wylder was basking in what heat he'd sunk into his bed, having not spent much time out of it since waking. Snow flurried past the window with a brevity that reminded him off home, in a place that was as different as it was far away.

It was colder in the city, he thought, even though he had many memories of winter nights spent nestled in a mountain cabin with nothing but the heat of a fireplace. It was a reminder of the lackluster living conditions that he and his roommates had compromised for a cheap cut of independence.

A clatter outside the door pulled Wylder's attention from the notes in his lap. Anatoly was gone, he knew, working on his research. With Wylder neck-deep in works of his own, the pair suffered less and less face time. Still, Wylder could see his friend in the eyes of his twin sister, whose intrusion revealed itself to be clearly intentional with the sound of a harder clatter against the door.

Wylder scooped himself to his feet, shrouded in his blanket so as not to lose any warmth. He stepped through the doorway and his eyes followed a trail of crumbs to the girl's face, expressionless.
 #30653  by Everevna
Wylder was not like most American boys, she learned quickly.

Actually, he was not like most Americans—with their unfettered compulsion to verbalise every other thought in their heads and their jovial smiles given away to strangers as freely as toffee candy on Halloween. The first year her twin and she had moved to this strange country to attend the Academy, Ksenia was suspicious of every American on the streets that met her eyes and offered a smile, convinced that the unearned congeniality was but a deliberate masquerade to hide some ulterior motive. When she and her classmates first met one another at the icebreaker, everyone was all smiles, giggles and chatter as they gravitated into cliques that would come to hold shape for the next several years. Ksenia had looked around the large room with its wide glass panes overlooking the windy city and marched up to the only boy in the corner whose expression can only be described as a strangely adult-like blandness.

His name was Wylder, and he would become her brother's soulmate. In other words, they were best friends, and Ksenia was only the begrudging passenger that somehow had tagged along. She didn't think anyone remembered that it was she, not Tolya, who found Wylder in one fleeting moment four or five years ago amidst a gaggle of nervous, excited schoolchildren.

Ksenia did not know why this little fact was important. It probably wasn't, but she ferreted it away anyway like a rough gemstone that one kept safely for something important in the future. Now, she peered out from her blanket-cave at the familiar, imperceptible face and tried not to let her pleasure show for having successfully lured him out. She slipped another poppyseed biscuit into her mouth. She would regret the crumbs at his feet later, when the last of her mother's care package inevitably depleted.

"I am hungry," Wylder's companion announced simply, the Russian still prominent in her consonants and vowels. "I vant something nice."

She looked at him as if silently challenging him to suggest that she cooked, as she typically did for them.
 #30654  by Kael
Wylder was not one for the girl's games. A rising challenge was usually his opportunity crush the opposition with pure and simple indifference. His eyes peeled slightly at her, in a way that one might when they thought no one could see them. He didn't linger long, but just enough accentuate the brief silence.

"I'll make eggs."

And with that he marched forward, and began stirring through the kitchen, looking for a skillet and spatula. Eggs weren't really nice though, were they? He wondered. Maybe he should poach them.. it was more difficult, but did that make them nice?

Wylder paused, hunched over a lower cupboard, and peered back at Ksenia. "Are eggs.. nice?"
 #30656  by Everevna
Last night, in the narrow cot of her bed with its ratty sheets and blanket far too flimsy for Midwest American winters, Ksenia dreamed that she was back in Yekaterinburg, pressing and kneading dough into thin, round sheets to wrap over Tetya Nadia's secret dumpling mix. It was traditional peasants' fare. In the summer, they might have eaten it chilled and smothered underneath a generous dollop of sour cream. Something about the winter and the broken heating made her crave for a piping hot bowl of pelmeni swimming in chicken broth.

"Depends vhat you make out of them."

She unfolded herself from the decrepit old couch and padded after Wylder into the kitchen. At sixteen years old, Ksenia was just a finger joint taller than her twin—it made all the difference—and all awkward, long limbs and jaunty angles. She kept the blanket bundled around her so that the only garment he might see that she was wearing were a pair of thick, woollen socks patterned with little Golden snitches. They were one pair in a discounted pack of five from the mall.

The designated chef of the household narrowed her eyes at his movements as she leaned against the kitchen archway.

"Will it be sweet?"

I'll make eggs did not sound like he was going to bake a cake, but she might get lucky.
 #30657  by Kael
"Eh.. eggs normally aren't sweet?" he replied, rising again to full height. He was truly perplexed as to how she could expect such a thing. He was just hungry. He wanted breakfast - eggs, bacon, maybe some hash browns and coffee. That was the sort of thing he was used to, as long as he was cooking.

Wylder set his cooking tools on the counter and unwrapped himself from his blanket. He loosely folded it up and set it aside before crossing his arms and posting up opposite Ksenia. He seemed to run warm once he got moving and his air was a contrast to the girl's. There was a certain strength and firmness to the way he carried himself, despite the meat on his bones having not quite caught up to all the sudden growth of the past few years. This was accentuated by the way he dressed quite plain, rarely lingering in lounge wear even in the mornings.

"You could cook," he offered. It might have been a challenge of his own. He couldn't deny that he enjoyed her cooking and it was much more elaborate than his own. Wylder just couldn't bear to branch out too far beyond the epitome of practical when it came to most things.

"I take it the heat's out again," he stated, giving Ksenia a slow look over. He always seemed to edge on gazing just a tad too long, for whatever reason. His expression was unlikely to give way to his intentions. In fact, it seemed likely that he had none at all. This hadn't stopped Anatoly casting him quizzical, arguably scolding stares from across the room, whenever Wylder's thoughtful gaze happened to land on his sister.
 #30658  by Everevna
At the beginning, Wylder's phlegmatic indifference was merely stable and recognisable. His blunt practicality and stoicism reminded her in many ways of the people she was used to encountering at home. She did not think to question it, and she did not know when it was that she started finding herself wondering what went on inside their American boy's head.

"You do not say," his roommate quipped back, though it was unclear which statement it was made in response to. Ksenia raised the mug in her hand to draw a long drink from the unfiltered black tea, lowering it to peer at Wylder.

"I know you are cold, too," she stated, her gaze briefly drifting to the blanket he folded and placed on the adjacent chair.

"And you should be. Eto pizdetz kak kholodna. If you don't do anythink about it, I do not promise that I vill not rattle the old bat until his teeth fall out from his eye sockets."
Last edited by Everevna on 06 Dec 2019, 02:34, edited 1 time in total.
 #30722  by Kael
Wylder's lips managed a small smile at that image. He enjoyed Ksenia and Anatoly's accents, and outbursts of their native tongue, even if he was being scolded. It was refreshingly different to what he was so used back at home.

"I don't know what you want me to do about it." He shrugged. "Short of rattling him myself."

"What did you say?" he looped back. As much as he enjoyed a foreign language, he didn't like being out of the loop. Wylder figured he'd be proficient in Russian by the end of his CAW career, so long as he kept his friends close and paid a little attention.
 #33229  by Kael
He could have argued. It got plenty cold back home for him too, and the seasons may as well have been eighty percent winter. That and the snow it brought along drove away the majority of the country's population. Wylder kind of liked it that way.

"You're wrong," he stated firmly. Then he turned and started gathering things for a cup of coffee, starting with pouring some water to get boiling on the stove.
 #33238  by Everevna
The curtness of his tone might have made a stranger flinch, but Ksenia was not a stranger, and the corners of her lips curled fleetingly upward in an indulgent smile that might have almost been affectionate if Wylder was looking at all.

"And you vill prove that I am wrong?"

As few-worded as her roommate was, one did not become friends for all these years without learning a thing or two about one another's upbringing. Chicago was a far cry from any place from home. Wyoming, though, sounded familiar, almost nostalgic, from what little of it she had heard on the rare occasion that Wylder spoke of it.

Not that he had never invited them to visit, but that did not mean she would not try to solicit an invitation.
 #33332  by Kael
Wylder simply shrugged, preparing some coffee beans and grabbing a mug from a cupboard above the sink. He gave it a quick inspection, and after seemingly deciding that it was clean enough for use, went back to his preparations.

Moments later, Wylder was pouring himself a cup, and gave Ksenia another good look over. His expression made it clear that she didn't have much of an argument, with the majority of her body buried under a blanket.
 #33335  by Everevna
Unfazed by Wylder's apparent lack of a response, his housemate absent-mindedly fed herself poppy-seed biscuits as she contemplated the weather through the kitchen window.

"Just fitting in," she shrugged as he eventually returned his attentions to her, almost as if what little conversation they were having never faltered in the first place. She flicked a biscuit for him to catch and have with his coffee, then fed herself another before tilting her head slightly to offer what might seem like a sudden, unrelated change in the topic.

"Tolya and I might stay back out here for Christmas this year."
 #33337  by Kael
By now, Wylder was sipping at his coffee tenderly and wielding a biscuit in his free hand.

"Why won't you go home?" he asked. He wondered what his own plans would be. Typically, he'd go home for the holidays, but there was always the appeal of spending that special time with his housemates and friends in Chicago. There was something magical about the metropolis during the winter, even if it was cold.
 #33356  by Everevna
Ksenia's mouth momentarily downturned at its corners in what might have been a facial shrug. The twins typically returned to Russia every break, especially for Christmas and New Year, the latter of which was arguably a more momentous affair for the Ilyenkov's than the former. Certainly there was greater incentive to return this year—at least the heating at home was actually functional.

Yet, something about this particular break made her chest tighten.

And not just this one, but the next one, and the one after that, and.... there wasn't one after that.

Ksenia had no idea of what it would take to remain in the States after her student visa expired. Actually, that was not quite true. She'd need a work visa, obviously, but did she even want to remain in the States after graduating from the Academy?

"There's nothing new at home. And it's freezing. It vill be nice to see more of America. Maybe California. They say it's always sunny in California."

She shrugged again, nonchalantly lowering her gaze as if taken by the task of identifying the correct biscuit to consume from the packet.

"Maybe we vill visit Wyoming in the summer, too."