“Emma says that you need to be nice to us,” said Ai as she was texting something, presumably to Emma. We were nearly at the restaurant the twins had requested, and they were quite vocal about how ravenous they were. The girls had an amazing ability to speak in unison on whim which made their complaints all the louder as they expounded upon how they were wasting away from starvation. “James,” they cried together, “if we don’t make it, please relate to Emma how we struggled to survive and see her once more. Tell her,” each girl spoke her own name, “missed her the most.” I caught a glance between them in the rearview mirror as they spoke and couldn’t help wondering if the two had a competitive streak. During the drive, I had been questioning them on their interests. The girls were remarkably similar, claiming to have the exact same preference on everything I brought up. Of course, they could just be messing with me again.
“Uh oh. Valet parking. I wonder if Emma will be disappointed that I would let a stranger touch her pink beast.” Ai grinned wickedly and started typing more on her phone as I passed off the keys to the car, tipped the man five dollars, and said, “I feel your pain in driving a pink car even to park it. My apologies, Steven.” He chuckled and replied, “None necessary. You’d be amazed what we get in here.” I wondered what Emma would think when she finds out that I considered tips for others in the service industry a necessary business expense which I charged to my clients. Of course, Emma probably had read through my website before. As silly as the girl could be, she was amazingly thorough about some things. Before my thoughts could get too carried away in the ocean of possibilities, Ai and Mai each took one of my arms and brought me back to the moment.
Migliore del Cielo was an Italian restaurant with menus that were completely written in Italian and prices that I doubted Emma would really want to cover. I sent her a text to inquire about it while the girls looked over the menu. Much to my surprise, Emma said not to worry over the prices, though she complained about me calling her car a “pink beast.” I was really curious what type of allowance Emma had, since I couldn’t recall her mentioning a job. Whatever the case, the twins must really be special to her. Part of me wondered if she had ever dated one of them. “James? Do you already know what you’re having?” I had been looking at my phone, so I wasn’t sure which one had spoken. “Honestly, I have no clue what any of this means. Italian isn’t something I ever needed to learn.” They both smiled at me, and I felt uncomfortable with not knowing what they were thinking. “Do you have any food allergies?” By her eyes, I was fairly certain Mai was speaking. If only I could see who had the phone, I could be more certain.
After telling Mai that I didn’t have any food allergies, they both looked through the menu for a while longer. When our waiter returned with drinks, the girls ordered in unison which shocked the waiter. I was surprised as well, since I hadn’t heard them discuss anything. Of course, I hadn’t been paying enough attention to realize they ordered us all wine either. “I didn’t realize you two were over 21, and why didn’t he check my ID?” The girls smiled sweetly and replied, each stating part of the sentences, “Our family has a deal with the owner. Don’t worry. We won’t get in trouble.” I wasn’t sure how to take this, since Emma had given me the impression that the twins would need a guide. “Nonetheless, would you mind ordering me a cola instead? I’m not very accustomed to alcohol and need to drive after our meal.” Ai protested and told me “Cola won’t go nearly as well with what we ordered for you.” Seeing I wasn’t going to give into them on this, Mai suggested “What about mineral water instead?” I assented.
The meal was exceptional and considerably longer than I had imagined. We had some type of shrimp to start which seemed to have a slight lemon taste. Next there was something they called a “risotto,” apparently with squid and clam. A type of fish course followed the risotto with some vegetables followed by a salad. Last we each had fresh fruit, which had me feeling happily full. I was astounded that the girls polished their plates with such ease, but commenting on the matter didn’t seem prudent. Throughout the meal the girls had commented on the names of various parts of the meal in Italian, but I didn’t feel as if much of it stuck. Considering that the girls claimed to also speak Japanese, I was actually feeling a bit outclassed by the pair. Maybe I could convince Jarod to learn another language with me. Spanish classes in high school hadn’t left me feeling remotely fluent. When I went to pay for the meal, Mai beat me to the check. “This one is on me. You can pay me back later.” I might have to discuss with father how to deal with debts acquired while on a job. Then again, he would probably just tell me not to acquire them.
Steven was quick to bring the car around for us, but I realized something when I was waiting. Ai and Mai each had their own way of holding my arm. They had switched sides on the way out which articulated the differences to me. Ai wrapped her arm around my own while Mai tended to just hold onto my bicep and lean against me. Assuming this wasn’t another trick of theirs, I might have found another way to tell them apart. At that point, I became aware of how familiar these girls were acting toward me and of how I had been comfortable with it before realizing the situation. Spending time with Emma was affecting me, or perhaps I just wasn’t attracted enough to the twins to become a bumbling idiot around them. Risking a glance at each of them, I decided the latter was not the case. “Why is your face red,” they inquired together, which was luckily when Steven had arrived. I opened the passenger door for Ai and helped her into the back. Then I did the same for Mai on the other side. With the nod and smile Steven gave me as he watched, I was wondering if he would get along with Jarod for there was an implication to it that I didn’t care to consider with any depth.
Despite my determination not to think on what Steven may have been implying with his gesture, I couldn’t help wondering if Emma would consider such familiar behavior between the twins and I to be flirtatious. She knew them, so she would surely be expecting such antics. Besides, shaking a girl from my arm would be rude, or so I tried convincing myself. For a brief moment, part of me wondered what Regina would be thinking if she knew of this. Shoving my confused emotions to the side, I inquired about what the twins wanted to do next. “Let’s go to the aquarium!” Most large cities probably have an aquarium, but I was still wondering how well these girls knew this city. “How often do you two visit here?” They didn’t even hesitate before telling me this was only their second time. “Does Emma normally visit you then?” There was a pause now. “We mostly stay in touch online. Our parents travel quite a bit, so there never really has been a particular city we’ve called home.” That sounded rough to me. Even though I hoped to see more of the world someday, I enjoyed the stability of knowing an area well.
“Do either of you have plans to settle down in time?” I could hear the smile in their voice as they replied. “We’re actually thinking of moving here for a while.” I didn’t know whether to feel joy or worry over the prospect of having these two living reasonably close to me. “Oh? Why is that?” If Emma knew about this, there must have been a reason she didn’t mention it. “You, of course!” One of the tires touched the center line of the road when that statement hit me. “What? We just met today! How could you possibly want to move here for me after a few hours?” Their laughter filled the car as my face grew hot. I did my best not look in the mirror at the giggling girls until we reached the aquarium. Once there, they each waited for me to help them out of the car. The difference between how they held my arms remained true so far, but I felt unnerved with them both looking up at me and speaking in unison. “We didn’t mean to embarrass you, but we truly do think we’ll be moving here for a while. We finished high school last year, and going to college in a city where we already have friends would be nice. You’d visit us, right?”
I almost answered their question when what they just said sunk into my head. “How old are you two?” These two probably practiced innocent expressions in the mirror every morning. “Seventeen,” they replied. Great. I was escorting two underage girls who had been drinking into a public area. “You two are out to get me in trouble, aren’t you.” Without any bright ideas to improve my situation coming to mind, I guided the troublesome duo into the aquarium. They didn’t seem tipsy to me, but the alcohol might be why they were holding onto me. I definitely was understanding why Emma was so keen on paying me for spending time with these two. Perhaps I would be needing bail money by the end of the night. That would be an interesting expense to charge a client, as well as an expense which would never reach my father’s ears.
To my astonishment, the twins seemed like completely different people as we walked through the aquarium. Their enthusiasm for the aquatic life was astounding, as was their knowledge. I tested to see if the hint at a competitive nature between the two held any truth. I made the girls turn away from the signs as we entered each section and made a competition for them, seeing who knew the most about the creatures and plants in each tank. The girls were very well-matched. An interesting byproduct of my little experiment was finding that the girls lost all pretense of being clones while trying to best one another. Even when we were just admiring the beauty of the watery world after I had finished quizzing them on the current area, the twins were no longer speaking in unison at all. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere with knowing what these two were really like. What interesting answers would our next stop bring?