After the extravagance Migliore del Cielo, I had been expecting another expensive restaurant for dinner. To my great surprise, Ai and Mai picked an Irish pub named Gallagher’s. The surprise continued when they ordered sodas instead of alcohol. We ate some spicy wings as an appetizer, and I was actually able to order my own food, a type of lamb dish served with mushrooms and carrots. The twins each ordered a steak with a whiskey glaze, mashed potatoes, and battered onions. I was hoping they would each order something different, but I had no such luck. Their preferences were definitely similar if not truly identical. After their continued pestering in the car about how I could tell them apart, I started feeling disturbed. Originally, I had been looking for new tricks on how to manage the feat, but now I didn’t even have to glance at them. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out how I knew. I just did. Trying to get my mind off the dilemma, I checked my phone for new messages and found two that surprised me.
The first was an email from my website stating that my tutoring job for the night was canceled at the client’s request. Why would someone pay half in advance for a tutor and then cancel before the session? The second email was from Evelyn. She wanted to practice twice per week, starting next week, and an additional time the day before her competition. I would have to check my schedule and figure out what nights were still available when I returned home tonight. “James prefers his phone over our company,” whined Ai. “I would understand him liking his phone over your company,” teased Mai, “but I am hurt that he would rather play with his phone than speak with me. Perhaps this is because Ai never gives us the alone time James craves.” I slid my phone into my pocket and replied, “I am terribly sorry for making both of you feel ignored, but I am most pleased to say that my schedule miraculously cleared itself. Now I can spend more time with both of you.”
“I’m not sure I want to spend time with a boy who ignores me,” exclaimed the twins together so loudly that our poor waiter nearly dropped our food as he jumped back in surprise. Both of them were crossing their arms and facing opposite directions. I did my best not to laugh at the sight and told them “Please forgive me. I could not help being so enraptured by the thought of more time together. Look at the superb meal David has brought for us.” David, our waiter who didn’t appear remotely Irish, was seeming quite flustered by having almost spilled our food and didn’t appear to know how our conversation was to be taken. Nonetheless, he smiled and wished us his best before hurrying off at a rushed pace. The girls both eyed their steaks sideways, and then turned to eat. They still didn’t seem pleased with me. “I would apologize for checking my phone, but I truly cannot apologize for something that brought me such joyous news. I’m sorry that you two weren’t more thrilled by it. I’ll take you back to Emma’s after we eat.”
I expected some form of protest over the idea of heading back to Emma’s now that I was free. Instead, the twins continued eating their meals in silence, not even glancing at me. I started eating my food, but I felt extremely uncomfortable very quickly. After a few minutes of silence, I realized the twins were passing something, probably their phone, back and forth under the table. I considered that they might be passing notes, but that seemed silly. Why were they so upset with me? I had thought that I was only looking at my phone for a few minutes, but perhaps I neglected them longer than I thought. Girls were such confusing creatures at times. Whenever I felt I was understanding one, she’d transform into an entirely new creature. Ok, so not entirely new. I felt flustered. I truly wasn’t trying to offend them. Though I found their behavior cute at first, I was sincere in my apology.
With my attention divided between trying to figure out a course of action and trying to discretely gauge the mood across the table, I hadn’t noticed David returning with the bill. I started reaching for it, but Ai was quicker. “Now you owe me as well,” she told me. Mai then claimed, “He owes me more.” I was baffled by this turn of events, especially upon noticing that the credit card, which looked identical to the one Mai had used earlier, had both of their names on it. How much did these two share? “Can you really claim to have paid more when you two share an account?” Part of me may have shriveled under their glare. “Thank you both for the meals.” David appeared sympathetic to my situation as he tiptoed away. The twins kept up their glare until David returned, not saying a word. Ai signed the receipt and thanked David. When I stood up to leave, they both took my arms as was normal for them. If they were truly upset with me, I couldn’t feel it in their grip.
After helping the girls into the car, I started driving to Emma’s, since the twins still weren’t talking with me. I tried making conversation a couple times but failed to engage them in it, which made the ride seem like a record for most uncomfortable car ride. The twins sat in the car waiting for me to help them out after I pulled into the garage. Then I opened the door for them and received a surprise. “James! You really are here,” yelled an excited Aaliyah as she jumped up at me. I caught her and barely wondered how the kid had such amazing hops when the twins started calling for Emma, who came hobbling out of her room a moment later. “James! Emma let me play video games with her, and we watched movies, and we were coloring, and then Emma said that you were coming here, and I was so excited!!! Isn’t it awesome that we both know Emma!? Did you tell daddy that you’re babysitting me next week? I’m sure he’s asked by now.”
I was about to respond to her when the twins laid into Emma. “Oh Emma! You wouldn’t believe how James was ignoring us! He hardly spoke the entire way here, and he never asked if we were finished shopping. There were so many more things we could have done tonight, but no. He started acting all strange at the restaurant, and then pretended that we were mad at him or something.” Emma was holding back a laugh, but Aaliyah looked horrified at the accusation. “James would never do something like that,” she cried. Emma lost it at that point and the twins joined in on her laugh. I gave Aaliyah a hug and told her between my own laughs that I definitely wouldn’t behave in such a manner. All smiles now, Aaliyah announced, “You know you can always come play with me if they’re being mean. Daddy loves having company.” She was such a sweet kid. Easily holding her with one arm, I could hardly believe that she was eleven. I definitely would have to accept if Chad truly wanted me to babysit again, so I could ask him about her size among other things.
“How do you three know Aaliyah,” I asked. “We don’t really know Aaliyah, except by reputation,” explained the twins in unison. Emma gave them an odd look before saying, “All of our parents work for the same company.” Aaliyah added, “Daddy has done translation for Emma’s mom often, so he begs Emma to watch me when he has to rush off to work unexpectedly.” This seemed a bit odd to me, so I stated, “I thought the twins’ parents were into computers and weapons.” They shrugged and responded, “They are.” Ai continued, “There are a vast number of branches under different names.” Mai finished, “But they’re all intertwined under the same family.” This still seemed pretty odd to me. “Then how did you and the twins meet?” Emma sat at the kitchen table and leaned her crutches against the wall. “Well, we all met through a mutual friend.”
“Our cousin,” started Mai but was interrupted by Aaliyah shouting, “ALPY!” Ai was smirking at Aaliyah’s enthusiasm and said, “Yes, Alpy. Aaliyah made quite an impression when Alpy got to babysit her a year ago. Alpy’s mother had bought plenty of things to keep Aaliyah entertained, and Alpy had her hands full from what I heard.” I could only imagine what this child could do with encouragement to make a mess. “Is that what you meant by saying that you heard of Aaliyah from reputation?” Aaliyah was grinning, completely proud of herself. “That among other things,” said Mai. “Emma has shared numerous stories with us as well. Aaliyah apparently kicks her butt at video games regularly.” This was surprising. “Let’s go play,” Aaliyah begged. She squirmed free of my arm, dropped to the ground, and started pulling on my hand, getting nowhere until I started following her. “Man-slave! You can’t let a little girl steal you from me,” called Emma as she grabbed her crutches and stood up again.
With four teenagers and Aaliyah all on Emma’s bed, things were a bit cramped. I did my best not to think about what was touching me where, but I was definitely having issues. Emma had insisted on sitting between my legs on her bed, holding Aaliyah in front of her. Then the twins were each on a side of me, leaning against me. If I had a girlfriend, I’m sure she would want to murder me on principle at this point. With Aaliyah’s head resting against Emma’s stomach, playing video games with my arms wrapped around Emma was a bit more interesting than I typically enjoyed. Aaliyah truly was kicking my butt, but I partially blamed that on distraction. Emma didn’t seem nearly so distracted, but wasn’t doing any better. The twins simply refused to play, grabbing my arms when I wasn’t playing. Aaliyah eventually grew bored and stuck in a movie. I was the only one who wanted to move to the living room, so we all continued laying in Emma’s bed together watching Wall-E. I’m not sure when I fell asleep, but there was light coming through the window when I awoke. My parents were going to kill me.