The girls all seemed to be sleeping still, and I couldn’t find an easy way to extricate myself with the twins each leaning against a shoulder, Emma’s head resting against my chest, and Aaliyah hugging my leg. This would have to be one of the few things which I didn’t tell Jarod about, or the lascivious comments would never cease. I carefully retrieved my phone from my pocket and called mother. “Hi, James. How was the sleepover,” she asked. I blinked and stared at the ceiling in wonder. “Great, actually. Sorry that I forgot to call last night. I lost track of time and managed to fall asleep during a movie. How did you find out?” I could hear amusement in my mother’s voice when she replied. “Emma’s mother, Mary, called me. She had mentioned that you all fell asleep, and she didn’t have the heart to wake you. Now I smoothed things over with your father, but you really do need to call first next time.” I really wondered how much Ms. Wilson had said, but I couldn’t find the words to ask.
“Remember that your track practice is this morning, not afternoon, so you better hurry. Before you leave, invite everyone over for lunch. I would like to meet them.” I agreed, and she hung up. The entire situation left me feeling uneasy. How did Ms. Wilson even get mother’s number? Why does mother want to meet all of them? I was surprised she didn’t want to make it a dinner, so father would be there. Then again, she probably figured that I had work tonight, which I did. “James, stop moving,” mumbled Ai as Mai said something completely incomprehensible. “No leaving,” demanded Aaliyah, still hugging my leg. “I was having such a nice dream. Bad, man-slave. You were being such a great pillow till you woke up.” I apologized, saying, “I’m terribly sorry, but I really must go to track.” Somehow, they all managed to yell, “NO,” at precisely the same time. Perhaps all girls could communicate telepathically together. There had to be an explanation for how girls worked so well together when they had a common goal, yet worked against one another the rest of the time.
When no manly method would work to save oneself, one often had to fall back on the defense of one’s mother. “I’m afraid that my mother just told me that I need to hurry to track. I would hate for her to retract her invitation for you girls to have lunch with us. Oh. I forgot to mention that she invited you all to lunch, didn’t I.” At that point, Aaliyah literally flipped off the bed and yelled, “Shower time!” The twins leaned up, looked at one another, and stated, “That runt,” which sent Emma into a fit of giggles. “Does this mean I’m allowed to leave?” Emma was about to respond, but she started giggling more after seeing the matching expressions the twins bore. At least she was sitting up now, so I could move. I used my phone to look up when the next bus would be coming, and then leaped over Ai to the floor. “So sorry. The bus will be here within a couple minutes. I need to run.” As I started for the front door, I heard Emma say, “Next time we need to take his pants,” and then she started giggling yet again. I was probably blushing while leaving the house, but I was certain the girl actually meant it. “No dozing off around those three again,” I told myself as I sprinted to the bus stop.
I managed to get home, change clothes, and get to track with ten minutes to spare. My coach pushed me extra hard, since I had missed practice yesterday. The exercise was great to work off some of the anxiety I had toward the coming meal. Part of me felt safer without the twins knowing precisely where I lived, but that safety was about to end. What would mother think of these girls? They were all so very demanding, save for Aaliyah. She was a sweet kid, despite being a stinker at times. “Go, James,” came shouts from the bleachers which caught me by such surprise that I almost tripped in the middle of doing lunge jumps. I looked up moments later to see the girls waving from the bleachers. I also caught sight of Regina’s back as she left. At that moment, I did trip, scraping my leg against the ground as I went sprawling. With everything on my mind, I hadn’t even noticed that she was here. My teammates were asking about the girls for the rest of practice, but I refused to comment beyond saying that they were friends. The girls truly did look out of place in the bleachers, each in a nice dress, even Aaliyah.
“You rented a limo to come for lunch? Seriously?” I saw the thing parked at the side of the road with the chauffeur holding the door, but I still could hardly believe it. “Emma’s bug just wouldn’t work,” stated Ai. “Aaliyah’s too small for the front seat. My sister and I” I quickly interjected with “You mean to say, ‘Ai and I’, which is the same as the two of you? Just think if you were triplets, you’d have me, Mai-self, and Ai covered well.” Aaliyah at least giggled. “My sister and I,” Mai continued with a pretty wicked glare, “prefer sitting next to one another.” Emma was at least smiling when she added, “Plus, we couldn’t pick you up if all the seats were full, at least not legally. Even Chad might flip if Aaliyah didn’t have a seat belt. You know she’d tell him.” Aaliyah was smiling ear-to-ear. Having her around Jarod might be hilarious with how they both could do that so well, but I didn’t want to risk the end of the world quite yet. I introduced myself to the driver and got his name, David, before entering the vehicle. Though obviously completely different guys, both limo drivers I had recently shared the same name. What were the odds of that?
When I commented on our driver’s name while we were heading toward my home, I received the most curious story. “Well,” started Ai, “our family only hires drivers who are named David.” Mai continued, saying, “We’re very accustomed to it now. Wherever we go, we are safe to call the driver David.” This seemed extremely peculiar. “Why on earth would you have someone’s name as a prerequisite for the position?” Aaliyah was bouncing in her seat. “I know! I know! Erik died!” Having this cute, young girl so giddily talk about someone dying made this conversation all the more bizarre. “There was a very long-standing tradition in the family of our drivers naming their sons after themselves. Eventually, there was one with no male heir. At that point, there was quite the fuss made over finding a suitable replacement. They settled on a man named Erik, who was an enormous fellow with curly, brown hair and green eyes. He kept a brown beard more similar to a modern goatee than common for his time.” The twins were taking turns speaking, but did so with such fluidity that their story drew me in well.
“Ok, so what happened to him?” They continued their tale, telling of how Erik seemed like a great man for the job, being quite experienced with horses. I hadn’t realized quite how long-standing their tradition was until they mentioned horses. “No one knows quite how it happened, but Erik was late pulling the carriage around. When our ancestor went to check on him, they found that the cart had somehow flipped over and crushed the man. Ever since, there was a curse believed to be on any man other than David to drive us.” I had heard of strange superstitions before, but this one was definitely at the top of my list. “That is definitely quite the tale, but I am surprised your family didn’t simply decide that Erik was a cursed man instead of all drivers who tried replacing David.” The twins both shrugged, but Aaliyah was still all grins. “Daddy told me that story one night after he had heard about it at work. I wanted to go ghost hunting for Erik, but he said it was too far away.” There was the briefest of frowns when she finished speaking.
Mother was waiting for us at the door when we arrived. “Girls, this is my mother. Mother, may I present Emma, Ai, Mai, and Aaliyah.” She greeted each at the door and told Emma, “I’m so sorry about your leg, Emma. Will you need the cast much longer?” Emma replied, “Probably for another couple weeks. Thank you for letting me borrow James off and on. He is quite the gentleman, when he’s not picking on me relentlessly.” Mother feigned a gasp and said, “Yes, that does sound like my son. He gets the vicious streak from his father.” All I could do was smile and shake my head. Before I could step inside, Jarod pulled into the driveway with his Mustang. “Hey, James. Your mother invited me to this shindig.” On the bright side, I wasn’t going to be the only guy in the room. I still felt that my own mother had transformed our home into a trap designed to playfully torment me.