Mother took Ai and Mai to her studio, so she could get a picture of them and discuss what they wanted in detail. Father, Emma, and I moved to the lounge where he sat in his recliner while Emma and I shared the couch. “Emma, what do your parents do for a living?” She hesitated a moment before answering. “My father died when I was young, and my mother is an Expatriate Administration Manager for a large corporation.” Father nodded and continued, saying, “I’m sorry for your loss. I understand that Ai and Mai aren’t from around here. Did you meet them through your mother’s work?” Emma responded with even greater hesitation. “Yes, and no. I met them through their cousin, Alpy, who is a friend of mine, but she also works for the same company as my mother, which is how I met Alpy through my mother.” I put my arm around her shoulders, since I was getting uncomfortable with how she was leaning against me. The couch did have plenty of room for two people to sit apart, especially with father’s watchful eyes on us.
“Is James as cruel to you as he is to Ai and Mai? I thought his mother and I taught him better, but she told me quite the stories as related to her by them.” Emma was smiling when she said, “He is such a horrible man-slave at times, but I’ve made do as best as I can, since he is pleasant to look at. He did mention that he is my man-slave, right?” Heat was rushing through my face, and I was quite certainly red when I glanced in the mirror. Father appeared quite amused by Emma and told her “No, James failed to mention that tidbit.” Emma gasped and responded, “Oh dear. There he goes, disappointing me again. Don’t worry, Mr. Somerset. I do plan on helping him learn some manners.” Father chuckled and claimed that would be a difficult task, as if I was ever a problem child. Then he continued by saying, “Did James tell you about the fuss he threw when his mother made him wear pink for a dance recital? She was rightfully worried about the color scheme for the dance, but James was all worried about wearing pink in front of people. Want to see pictures?”
To my great chagrin, father grabbed his laptop from the other room, sat on the couch, and started showing all of my most embarrassing moments to Emma. Before he finished, the twins entered the room and asked him to start over, claiming that they didn’t want to miss any of this. I very much wanted to excuse myself, but I knew father would consider my departure to be rude. Mother wasn’t remotely helpful when she joined us. She reminded father that he had videos on there as well, so I was asked to connect his computer to the television and aid in the unveiling of my childhood failings to three beautiful girls. We all spent a couple hours engaged in videos of me first learning to dance, failing miserably as mother attempted to teach me to paint, getting beaten by a girl during my early days of Tai Chi, and other awkward moments. “Who was the blonde girl who helped James off the mattress after the other girl kicked his butt,” asked Ai and Mai in unison. Father was obviously caught off guard, seeing them both speak while hearing virtually one voice, but he said, “Her name is Regina. She’s a friend of James, though I haven’t seen her around lately.”
I had no doubts that father had spoken with mother about Regina at some point, but he would continue feigning ignorance until I had an in-depth discussion with him about what happened. That was simply his way. Kindly, mother changed the subject before the conversation got any more awkward for me. “Honey, don’t you think it’s about time we ate? I’d hate for the girls to starve, and a certain boy’s stomach often rumbles minutes after he eats.” Emma giggled at this and said, “I always am amazed when I get a slice of pizza when we order it.” Father was shaking his head in disapproval, and I told him that she always ate her share. Then she playfully hit me, winked, and pouted when she turned to my parents. “Can you believe the things your son says about a poor, injured girl? I think he’s trying to call me fat!” Mother turned to me and said, “James Michael! You apologize to Emma immediately!” I could tell that she was teasing, but I dutifully told Emma “I’m terribly sorry if the truth hurts, but you easily eat half a pizza without gaining a pound.” Father barely stifled a laugh while mother raised her hands in exasperation. “Time for lunch before I find that my darling boy has joined a gang,” stated mother.
I offered to drive the twins in Emma’s car, so Emma could rest her leg in the backseat of father’s car. “Which of you has the key” I asked the twins. To my surprise, Ai said, “We don’t drive.” Then Mai followed up with “Emma has them.” I didn’t see how Emma could possibly drive with that cast on her leg, shifting would be more than slightly difficult. I caught her as she was getting into father’s car, held her crutches, and gave her a hand getting inside. “I’ll need your keys if I’m going to follow father. The twins said that you drove here.” She looked surprised, but her expression quickly changed to her impish grin. “Are you questioning my flexibility, James?” I took the keys from her hand and told father I would be close behind before Emma could say anything more inappropriate in earshot of my parents. I still didn’t understand how she managed to drive a manual transmission with a cast like hers, but getting an answer might not be worth the cost.
I followed father to his favorite restaurant with the twins teasing me the entire way. Emma had been so kind as to tell them through text messages about my curiosity regarding her flexibility, so they offered to demonstrate how flexible they could be, claiming to have experience in gymnastics as well as yoga. They told me about how easily they could drive with a cast if they knew how to drive, which seemed completely ridiculous to me. How could they possibly make a claim about being able to do something easily when they didn’t know how to do the task in the first place? I would say they had endless arrogance if I wasn’t certain both of them were very talented. They truly did have the grace for me to believe in their agility, and I didn’t doubt their intelligence after their demonstration of aquatic knowledge. My father seemed quite amused when he saw me walking arm-in-arm with them toward the door, but I probably did look a bit uncomfortable given the circumstances. No matter how accustomed I was getting to the twins clinging to me, having them do so in front of my parents was a totally different matter.
Mother didn’t seem to think anything of it, but she was giving Emma a hand with her crutches. Then something happened which truly shocked me. When Emma’s cast hit the ground, I thought I saw a seam open for just a moment, as if the plaster could swing apart on a hinge. I would have gotten a better look if Ai hadn’t reached up to turn my head toward her, claiming that she wasn’t getting enough attention today, which got Mai started as well. Upon overhearing the conversation, father seemed even more amused by my discomfort. “Man-slave, you should be carrying me rather than flirting with Ai and Mai. I can’t believe you’d force me to walk instead of making an attempt to redeem yourself in front of your parents.” I laughed and told her that a wheelchair might be far more appropriate for eating out, since I would hate to knock over a table if I slipped. She stuck her tongue at me and claimed that she might cry if I continued making fat jokes at her expense. Mother couldn’t resist telling me to behave myself as she walked arm-in-arm with father to the door.
Lunch began with my parents and the girls all making jokes at my expense, riddled with comments about the pictures and videos viewed earlier today. I knocked my fork to the floor at one point, feigning it to be an accident. Emma had been seated to my right with only a mild discussion between the twins about who was going to take the other side. Despite taking a good look at her cast, I couldn’t see any sort of seam along it and ended up feeling bad about causing the staff to have an extra fork to wash. I must have been seeing things in the dim light of the parking lot, although I couldn’t figure out what would have reflected light in such a manner. I gave up on the idea after enduring even more teasing, this time regarding my klutziness around girls. “Looks like you were right, James. It’s a good thing you didn’t carry me in here. I might have been impaled upon someone’s fork,” exclaimed Emma. On the bright side of the day thus far, father seemed to approve of my new friends and the food at lunch was most enjoyable. I wasn’t entirely convinced that I would survive the rest of the day at this rate, but I wasn’t without hope.