The Bradshaw Twins, Part 2
By Viktoria Pavlova & Nevin Mays
The Bradshaw Twins saga continues… Will the twins put their differences aside for the good of thousands of people?
Chapter IV: Oliver
I walked into Alaric’s room where he sat with his letterman jacket, a t-shirt, and sweatpants on. He was doing calculations for a math project he had due later in the week, and crumpled papers surrounded him.
“Are you going to stand there, or are you going to tell me what’s on your mind?” Alaric asked, not looking up from his work.
I had begun to tear up, the pressure in my heart was tightening my chest and I gripped the doorframe tightly so I didn’t fall over. I knew that I was walking, but it was almost as if my feet had rocks weighing them down, and I felt relief when I got to his bed and finally sat down. I began to bite my nails, something I did when I was nervous.
Beatrice, Nebraska, was a small town with less than 13,000 people living in it, many of whom were religious. Many families, mine included, attended church on Sundays, and although I did believe in God, I didn’t think that even He would be able to help me get through this if my family turned against me.
Alaric looked up. He looked shocked, worried even. Dropping his pencil on his desk, he stood up and walked over to me. Silently, Alaric took a seat on his bed next to me and turned his body to face mine, our knees touching.
“What is it, Oli? Are you okay?” Alaric asked.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I braced myself and took a deep breath before opening them again and looking him in the eyes.
“I think I have a crush. No, I know I have a crush,” I said, faking calmness.
Alaric’s face now wore a confused look. “Why is that making you upset? She doesn’t like you back?”
“No. It’s not that, it’s just—” I dropped my eyes to the floor.
“She is a he,” I said in a hushed tone, feeling all of the air leave my lungs as if I had just been hit in the chest.
“Say that again, you’re talking too low,” he said.
My hands trembled as I forced myself to look him in the face.
“I have a crush on a boy.”
“Is that it?” Alaric laughed.
I sat in silence, staring him in the face with what I’m sure was a dumbfounded look.
“Oli, I’ve known since we were 12 and you couldn’t tear your eyes off of Jacob Matheson.”
“You knew? Wait, so you don’t care? But you asked if ‘she’ didn’t like me back.”
“Nope,” Alaric said, popping the ‘p.’ “I was waiting for you to tell me, You’re still Oliver, you just like guys, whatever, it’s not a big deal.”
I looked at him in shock as relief washed over my body. The tears that had threatened to fall for the past 10 minutes now fell down my cheeks, a mix of joy that my brother didn’t care, and fear that I still had to tell my parents.
Alaric noticed and leaned closer, enveloping me in one of his bone-crushing hugs, which he only ever gave me when I was upset.
“I love you Oli, I don’t care who you choose to love as long as they like the Cowboys,” he muttered as I laughed into his shoulder.
“Oh, and Mom and Dad know, too. We all know, and we still love you and will always be here for you. No matter what.”
I raised both of my eyebrows, “They know?”
“Well yeah, Mom and Dad always know everything somehow. Oh and what you’re doing—the eyebrow thing,” Alaric pointed a finger at my face. “That’s pretty gay.”
We were silent for a moment before we both burst into hysterical laughter.
Chapter V: Alaric
Alaric inhaled deeply, savoring the mixed aromas of meat and vinegary salad dressings and sweet desserts that were the backdrop of his childhood. He followed the sounds of clanging pots and a beeping timer into the kitchen. Hannah Bradshaw was stirring a steaming sauce with one hand and stretching toward an egg-shaped timer that was just out of reach with the other.
“Oli, dear, I’m so glad you’re here. Would you turn off that wretched egg and get the strudel out of the oven, please?”
Alaric smiled as he tapped the button on the top of the timer. “Hi, Mom.”
Hannah gasped. Her stirring hand released the spoon, letting it fall into the sauce. She turned slowly toward Alaric and raised her round face toward her son’s.
“My Big A,” she said, almost as if she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Then she wrapped her arms around his waist.
Alaric returned the hug for a long moment, leaning his cheek against hers. It was warm from the heat of the stove.
“I’m pretty sure you mentioned a strudel in the oven,” he said as he pulled away from her embrace. “My favorite, in case you’d forgotten. What kind of welcome would it be if you burnt my favorite dessert the first time I’ve been home in eight years?”
Hannah pinched his chin. “I have not forgotten, Big A. Go see your father in the TV room and I’ll join you as soon as I’ve set this all to cool.”
Alaric’s father, Frank, turned off the TV as soon as Alaric stepped into the room. The two men embraced in a brief hug then sat side by side on the sofa. The long time apart was suddenly like seconds and Alaric felt as if he was a teenager again, at home and protected by family.
They sat quietly, gazing out the window at the green backyard and a couple of squirrels cavorting around the bird feeders until Hannah joined them, wiping her hands on an orange tea towel.
“I suppose you’re in town to duke it out with your brother,” she said.
Alaric sighed. “As always, Mom—”
“—gets right to the point,” his dad finished.
Alaric recounted the brothers’ argument at the newspaper office. Hannah and Frank listened quietly, occasionally nodding their heads and offering knowing glances to each other as Alaric worked himself into a more and more irritated state.
Finally Hannah reached out and put her hand on her son’s knee. “Alaric, let me tell you about the week after you both were born—premature mind you!”
Alaric and his father leaned into each other simultaneously, as if the action was rehearsed. They said, in unison and both mimicking Hannah’s sweet voice, “This is how I knew you two would always beat the odds together.”
“Alright, alright, I won’t tell it again. But you think about it before you do whatever it is you plan to do while you’re here, Big A.” Hannah gave her son a hard look before she planted her hands on her thighs with finality. “You’ll remember what you and your brother can accomplish together.” She got up and left the room.
Alaric leaned back into the sofa. Frank put his arm across Alaric’s shoulders and Alaric let himself enjoy the comfort that can only come from knowing his parents were still his parents no matter how old, or successful, or far away he got. He’d let himself forget this feeling. He’d let Edward Fox stand in for family, believing that Fox’s praise for an excellent business plan was enough to fill the space that had been empty since leaving Beatrice, Nebraska, for college in the big city. And he had convinced himself that a desire for homemade strudel and oft-repeated stories of childhood were a weakness the fast city life could push away, leaving no trace behind.
“I like my life, Dad,” he blurted, turning to face his father. Frank’s expression remained impassive. “I like my life and I do good work.” He could hear the pleading in his voice, the need to convince just one of his family members. “We employ thousands of people. My job is to ensure we can keep employing them. What’s going to happen to all those people if Oli keeps pursuing this article?”
His dad squeezed his shoulder. “Your mom is right and you know it. You and Oli together are an unbeatable team.”
Alaric felt a rush of fire in his face. He didn’t need his brother to help him do his job! But just as quickly as he’d felt the heat, a wave of icy cold seemed to wash over him. He couldn’t deny the truth of what Oli had dug up. His boss was stealing from his company and keeping that secret wouldn’t help his employees.
“Alright, I admit I have some things to work out,” Alaric said. “And maybe Oli can help. But I’m not going to solve anything without first eating a giant piece of the strudel that’s been tormenting me for the last half hour.”
Frank jumped up from the sofa. “How right you are, Big A.” He held his hand out to help up his son. “Eat first! Crusade later.”
They laughed as they raced each other to the kitchen.
Chapter VI: Oliver
I had been spending a lot of my time at work recently. Maybe it was to distract myself from the fact that Jace was in Africa, in a different time zone. Or maybe it was because my email and mailbox had been flooded with requests to investigate and write about other corrupt people and companies. I liked to think it’s the latter.
As I sipped on my coffee, which wasn’t as sweet as I liked it to be because I’d run out of oat milk, I sifted through my emails. My eyes could hardly focus on the laptop screen, the lack of sleep and constant fighting with Alaric finally taking its toll; that was until one email, in particular, caught my eye:
Subject: I’m Sorry Oli
Attachment: 7 Images
Oli, I’ve known Fox was corrupt, I just never cared to admit it because I’d admired him so much and felt like a fool. I don’t want to diminish the good reputation of my business, but more importantly, I don’t want to lose you. Here are pictures of Fox’s transactions and purchases made through an offshore bank account—you didn’t get these from me. Please abstain from releasing these to the press yourself; if the company gets shut down, thousands of people will lose their jobs, think of them.
I smirked at the screen. You can take the boy out of Nebraska, but you can’t take the Nebraska out of the boy. He was raised right and, as much as he doesn’t care to show it, he has a big heart. Well, when it comes to me, he does. I liked to joke with him and say that he has a soft spot for me because it agitates him knowing that it’s true, and that I know it. But I have one for him too, I just don’t mind admitting it.
My palms became clammy and I held my breath as I dragged the mouse over to the images. These images could either make my career and destroy Fox’s, or it could destroy Alaric’s if I didn’t use them correctly.
As each picture lit up my laptop, I felt my eyes grow wide. Fox had spent over $1 million in the past two months alone—and none of that money had come from his own bank account. These pictures not only proved that theory, but solidified it and turned it into a fact.
I reached for my phone, knocking over my coffee mug in the process, which would have annoyed me but at this current moment, it was simply a minor inconvenience I chose to ignore.
I clicked Alaric’s number and waited for it to ring … and turned when I heard his ringtone behind me. Alaric was standing outside the glass door, his hand on the handle as he dug his other hand through his pocket to fish out his phone. He looked more relaxed today. He had jeans and a plain crew neck t-shirt on, but the same worry lines remained around his eyebrows.
“Hey, I’m actually—” Alaric’s voice said through my phone, as well as muffled through the door, but I hung up the phone before he could finish. Quickly stepping over the expanding coffee puddle on the ground, I threw open the door and hugged Alaric.
I felt his muscles go tense and his body stiffen; a hug was not what he had expected. However, when he realized my intentions, his body relaxed, and he wrapped his arms around me, returning the hug. We hadn’t hugged, and I mean really hugged, in years. We were both caught up in our own worlds, our own desire to create change and make a name for ourselves, that we lost each other in the process.
“Thank you,” I whispered, and I felt him smile. He and I both knew that the thank you meant more than just one thing.
“So now that you know that I’m not actually a bad guy, Oli, you can put this to rest. I helped you, so send the picture to whoever you need, but keep our names out of it,” Alaric said as he moved to my laptop, stepping over the coffee puddle, and taking a seat at my desk.
“Oh, and you should really clean that up,” he stated, looking at the puddle on the floor.
I stood in place, dumbfounded.
“What do you mean send it to whoever I need?” I asked, folding my arms over my chest.
“So they can use the proof in their article.” Alaric’s voice suggested I should’ve already known that.
“You mean my article, right? As in, I’m writing it, not someone else.”
“No, you’re not. I told you specifically in my email to ‘abstain from releasing this to the press yourself’,” Alaric said, pointing to the email on my laptop screen.
“You know I can’t do that, Al. you know that writing is my dream and this story, these facts, are for me to write.”
Alaric crossed one leg over the other and then uncrossed them, the tension in the room remaining. I saw him thinking, his thoughts moving behind his eyes as he began to fidget with his hands.
“Alaric?” I asked, taking a step closer to him.
He stood up and moved farther away from me, the gears in his head still working. I was surprised he didn’t have steam coming out of his ears.
“Okay,” Alaric said after a few minutes of silence.
“Yes. Okay,” he repeated.
Chapter VII: Alaric
Alaric had left Oli’s office certain he’d made the biggest mistake of his career. He was only a little surprised to realize it was one he was willing to live with. He spent the walk back to his parents’ house studiously not thinking about the consequences of his brother’s looming expose. By the time he got home, though, he was sure he had a solution to save his job, his company, and his relationship with Oli.
Alaric turned at the sound of his brother knocking on the kitchen wall behind him.
“Little O,” Alaric said in a playful tone.
Oli was immediately on guard. He dropped into a bent-kneed boxer’s stance and shifted his whole body slightly sideways.
Alaric laughed. “No more fighting today, Oli. We have business to discuss. To finalize.” He pointed to the table where he’d poured two glasses of iced lemonade next to an intimidating stack of papers.
“What’s going on here?” Oli looked from the papers to his brother.
“I have a proposition for you.” Alaric sat down, so Oli did too. Alaric took a sip from one of the lemonade glasses, then continued. “You do the kind of work you do because you want to make the world a better place for all. Not just fat cats like me and Fox.”
“Al, you’re not the bad guy. I never—”
“I know. It’s okay. We already agreed we’re on the same page.”
Oli looked into his glass for a long moment, then finally took a long swig. When he set it down he said, “Okay, Mr. F. Cat. Go on.”
Alaric smiled. He’d forgotten how disarming Oli’s banter could be. That was good, because he was pretty sure they both needed to be disarmed for what he was about to do.
“You obviously have the trust of RidgeCo.’s employees. Don’t start pretending to be contrite, now, I know you had to have a source.” Alaric refilled both their glasses. “The point is that despite being the brother of the guy they probably partially blame for the situation, they talked to you. And I want to leverage that.”
Oli drew his eyebrows together in confusion. A realization seemed to dawn on him and his eyes and mouth perfectly mimicked a surprised emoji.
“That’s right, kid, I want to offer you a job!” Alaric said as he shoved the pile of papers toward his brother.
Oli read the top page with a note of skepticism, “Director of People and Job Satisfaction.”
“What, you thought I was going to make you our accountant? You never even balanced your own accounts until you married Jace.” Both men laughed at that.
They were still chuckling when their parents walked in from the garage.
Frank set a couple of grocery bags on the counter and walked over to his sons. “I wasn’t sure the house would still be standing. It looks like you boys have worked things out, though.”
Oli had started flipping through the stack of papers and nodded absently at his dad’s words. “Yeah, well, it seems like I have some stuff to think about.” He took the papers out to the patio with a promise to do the dishes if they’d let him out of helping with dinner. Hannah, Frank, and Alaric happily set to work dirtying every pan in the kitchen.
Over dinner the four discussed Alaric’s proposal, Oli and Frank seeking all the ways it could fail, and Hannah fawning over how, together, her boys could make gold out of lead.
“Mom, you have to stop reading science fiction novels for a while,” Alaric teased. “Although, I do think if we spin this right we could earn some gold for RidgeCo. And all our employees, of course,” he said at Oli’s scowl.
“And the Beatrice Gazette,” Oli said.
They had agreed that Oli would write his article as an employee of RidgeCo., so that the company could reclaim some control of the story. But they’d give this first and any subsequent announcements to Oli’s newspaper to break first, as an apology for stealing their best reporter, as Alaric had put it.
By the time the dessert dishes had been cleared and the kitchen cleaned, Alaric didn’t even feel nervous about presenting his new proposed strategy to the company board. He knew after they saw the evidence and Oli’s article they would agree this was the best path forward.
The Beatrice Gazette, June 2021, Volume 3
RIDGECO. HIRES FIRST ETHICS OFFICER
by Raina Abdel
Following the arrest of RidgeCo. CEO Edward Fox, Alaric Bradshaw, notorious for being Fox’s right-hand man, has taken over the top spot in the company. Last night, Bradshaw announced his new position as CEO at a press conference. For those of you who saw the press conference, you may have seen a familiar face standing beside Alaric—his identical twin brother, Oliver Bradshaw.
The brothers seemed to prepare for the speech together: Oliver placed a hand on Alaric’s shoulder and both smiled broadly and exchanged a few words. Then, faced with over a hundred concerned RidgeCo. employees with a desire and passion to see change, Alaric spoke boldly and charismatically:
“As the new CEO of RidgeCo., to those hurt by previous actions, I offer my sincerest apologies. RidgeCo. was created in hopes of inspiring change and it blossomed into a multi-million dollar company with the platform to reach millions of people around the globe. These resources were corrupted, and these benefits used for the betterment of a few instead of for all, but this shall not be what RidgeCo. stands for. Today I promise a bright new future for RidgeCo.—a prodigious one. To ensure success on this new endeavor, I have enlisted the help of my brother, Oliver Bradshaw, our new Chief Ethics Officer.”
Oliver Bradshaw was the leading reporter to break this story at the Beatrice Gazette. He revealed the truth behind Edward Fox’s embezzlement from RidgeCo. Observers were surprised to learn of his new connection to his brother’s company.
He addressed the skepticism in his speech: “RidgeCo. is a company that more often than not, people have heard of. It’s influence is broad, and the power the company itself holds is tremendous. To hear of its disreputable actions was not only alarming, but formidable too.”
Cheers erupted from the audience and people nodded their heads in agreement. He ended his speech with a promise similar to that of his brothers: “As the new Chief Ethics Officer of RidgeCo., I promise to create an environment that assures the well-being of our employees, and provides them with the best opportunities and work space that my brother and I can give.”
Many promises were made that night, and many people left feeling very hopeful. One audience member, Helen McDowell, said that the speeches made her feel “like a new era is dawning upon RidgeCo., and this time it seems to be for the better.”
What’s New in Beatrice
Jody Jackson’s tomatoes top seller at Riverside Park farmer’s market … Page 2
Hannah and Frank Bradshaw celebrate 35th wedding anniversary … Page 3
Following the completion of the first part of the Bradshaw Twins saga, we knew we wanted to bring the twins back together somehow. The bond between siblings, especially twins, is special and we had to portray that but still show the tension between the two. We each wrote from the perspective of one twin, so they were already different people with their own personalities, but we now had to figure out how those personalities linked. We discussed personal relationships with siblings, and the backstory for our twins, Alaric and Oliver. The thought process was a lengthy one, but ultimately we believe we found the perfect way to tell their story.
Viktoria Pavlova is a lively aspiring author. Born and raised in New York, Viktoria is first generation, coming from a Russian family. She is an aspiring psychiatrist and writer who has been writing fiction for eight years. She lives at home with her inspiring and eccentric parents, grandma and golden retriever.
Nevin Mays is a children's book addict, dog editor and chocolate cuddler… and sometimes makes embarrassing malapropisms! She has worked in-house in audiobooks, ebooks and novelty books, and as a freelancer editor helping authors and publishers create and publish picture books, chapter books, and novels for kids and teens. In her free time she enjoys volleyball, Japanese yosakoi dance and tug of war with her dog—he pulls toward home and she encourages him to "walk just a little bit further, please!"