The More Things Change

The little girl who opens the door is the very image of her mother, green eyes and thick, wavy hair that would be the envy of every girl in town when she grew up. The smile that spread across her face when she saw who had come calling, however, was all her father’s: wide, endearing, and always hinting at mischief. “Daddy!” she calls into the house at the top of her tiny lungs, “They’re here!”

“I’m coming, Anya!” a man calls from somewhere inside, but the reply is almost drowned out by three pairs of feet scrambling down a flight of stairs. Two girls and a young man join their sister at the door, eager to see the vistors.

The boy is the eldest, barely thirteen, the only male child in the household until three days ago. He steps forward to give a brief hug to each man standing at the door, the adolescent in him wanting to get the niceties over with, the child simply wanting to greet them first. “Hello, Uncle Dimitri, Unlce Leo.”

Dimitri rubs the boy’s head affectionately. They look nearly identical, aside from the hazel eyes the child has inheritted from a grandmother. “Good to see you again, Ivan. Looks like you finally got your wish for a little brother, hm?”

“Two, but they came too late to do me any good. I’ll be out of the house by the time they start kindergarten.”

“At least your sisters will have someone to protect them when you’re gone.” Leo steps forward and lifts all three girls off the ground in a giggling bunch. “And you’ll have some boys to tease, right?”

“Yes, Uncle!”

“Katya, Lana, Anya! Are you pestering your uncles already? No wonder they never come to see us!” The mother, Nadya, appears. She is as commanding as ever, not even looking strained from giving birth a mere 72 hours before. “Don’t stand around on the porch freezing yourselves, come in! I don’t know what’s keeping Kolya. NIKOLAI!” she ushers them into the livingroom and Dimitri jumps a little as she belts out her husband’s name, “YOUR BROTHER IS HERE!”

“I know, I know, we’re coming!” There is some shuffling and then a man pokes his head out into the doorframe, looking into the livingroom with a grin like his daughter’s. His eyes light up when he sees his twin and he bounds in, in his late thirties and still as energetic as he was when he was a teen. The youngest girl, Selena, totters in after him, a sleepy, three-year-old angel.

Greetings are exchanged. The brothers haven’t seen each other in several months; Dimitri winters in Italy, so that Leonardo can be close to his family for half of the year. Their sister, Dominika, lives in the States, and they see her even less. Everyone is looking forward to her arrival tomorrow.

“You didn’t stop by mother and father’s first?”

“I thought they might be over here, so we didn’t bother.”

Kolya’s eyes glimmer with wicked delight. “Are you ever gonna get it later.”

“Where are the twins?”

“Sleeping, upstairs.” Nikolai lifts his youngest daughter off his lap and deposits her in Nadya’s arms. “Do you want to see them?”

Dimitri looks to Leo, who has the three remaining girls crowded on and around him while Ivan shows off an essay he wrote for his social studies class on the Communist Manifesto, a paper many highschool students would have trouble writing. “My teacher thinks I should skip another grade,” he says proudly, “but Papa doesn’t want the age gap between me and my peers to get too large. Plus, I can’t do math any better than the rest of my classmates, just things like this.” Leonardo listens carefully to everything, pausing only to wave Dimitri on. He’ll see the boys later, he says, the brothers should have some alone time now, and Nadya agrees.

The twins walk up to the nursery. Only recently abandoned by Selena, it has been in use for the last thirteen years straight by Nikolai’s many children. “You’re going to keep the Petrovka line going for generations with this brood of yours,” his siblings often joked, “takes the pressure off us.”

They enter the room in silence.

“They look like us.”

“You expected anything else from Petrovka twins but good looks?” Nikolai leans down and brushes the dark, soft hair away from their faces. He points to the one on the left. “He came into the world looking so put upon. Gave the doctor a glare, I swear to you, it was the funniest thing I ever saw. He is the most indignant baby in the world.”

“Dimitri?”

A grin. “How did you guess?”

Dimitri softly strokes his nephew’s cheek. “Hello, Dima. I’m your namesake. I only live here half the time, so I hope it won’t be too confusing for you. Kolya’s got it easier, only the adults call your father anything other than ‘daddy’.” He looks at the other child, sprawled out the same way Nikolai sleeps even in his infancy. “They really are just like us.”

“Here’s hoping they end up as happy.”

“Here’s hoping they don’t deal with nearly as much sexual confusion.”

“That’ll be easy, I’ll just keep Dima away from those naughty Italian boys.”

“Oh, shut up. What about Nikki?”

Kolya.”

“You’ll have to keep him away from all the Russian girls, how are you going to do that?”

“Not all of them. Just pretty ones with green eyes named Nadya. There can’t be too many of those.”

“That’s true. Your wife’s pretty hot.”

They scuffle, and the twins wake up, Kolya with a wail and Dimitri laughs because Nikolai was right, Dima does glare.

Nadya yells at her husband while Leo chuckles in the background.

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