"May we play outside, Father?" Alwyn looked at Robert, his brother, his twin, exactly alike. Same hair, same clothes, same conspiratorial smile. The only difference was, one held the toy aeroplane with its wide wings and red propeller. Which one? They'd never tell.
"Of course, Robert, but only for a little while, and don't play in the woods."
Father’s face crumpled, suddenly. Like Christmas paper. Alwyn didn’t know why.
"Yes, Father!" The boys shouted in chorus. They ran through the lounge for the front door, kicking aside discarded wrappings like leaves, past the kitchen where Mother in her Christmas apron, opening oven doors and stirring pots with practiced efficiency, nevertheless had time to turn with a smile and a wave as they passed, the aroma of roasting turkey so enticing, it guaranteed they would come when called.
”Mmmmm, yum,” the boys said in unison, passing.
”I seem to have cooked too much,” Mother said, brow creasing. There was a smear of red like a tear on the otherwise neat expanse of her green and white apron. Cranberry sauce, Robert thought. “Don’t go too far.”
“We’ll just be playing aeroplanes,” Alwyn said, as Robert flew by, arms outstretched and zooming.
Outside it was a crisp, still morning. Bells echoed from the village church, beyond the stand of bare-limbed trees that edged the yard. Robert stood in the shadow of the wood, winding the propeller, tightening the elastic band. Alwyn waited by the house, on the sere winter lawn between the path and the woodpile, flexing fingers inside woollen gloves.
Robert launched it with an awkward throw, trying for maximum height. The plane bit the air with an insect whirr, diving upwards in starts, curving in a glide to the other side of the woodpile.
"A little off course, but good!" Alwyn shouted. He ran over, retrieving the plane, noticing for a moment the shapes inside. Mother stopped placing settings at the table, father hugged her.
Alwyn turned, winding it for his go.
"Hey, these ailerons in the wings are adjustable!" He set them as evenly as he could, for a straight, steady flight. Instead of throwing, he let go, relying on the propellor to take it up. It flew in a long upward climb, then curved down, above Robert's reaching fingers, into the shadows under the trees.
"Spectacular!" Robert found it without too much trouble, in the leaves and snow under the bone-bare trees. He thought, I can get a better distance than that.
"I'm going to take her to the rise!" he shouted.
"No, you mustn't. Lunch is soon, Father said not to!" Alwyn walked up to the wood, and stood staring at his brother. Robert was always the bolder.
The rise was a cliff high in the woods, above a creek, looking out across the valley. Mountains grey in the distance.
"If you fly her from there, she'll be lost. How will we get her back?"
"Stop being a spoil sport! Come and see her fly!"
"You mustn't!" He was pacing up and down, fretting, as his brother moved deeper into the woods, He could barely see him now.
The back door banged. Father was there. "Alwyn, come in, it’s lunch."
"Have you lost your plane?"
"Robert has taken it to the rise. He's going to fly it there. He's going to lose it."
"I'll help you look. Not a word to your mother, you know how upset she gets."
"But Robert took it!"
"You must stop this. I'll get you another. You know he fell, he died there a year ago."
"But look, he's almost gone!"
Thomas looked. In the shadows, amongst the drift and spindle trunks, perhaps something moved, something pale, looking back, something red and tinsel in its hand.