"Six months." Mama whisks away the large metal bowl, now empty of the ground beef, vermicelli noodle, and shredded cabbage mixture, and plunks a new one in its place. "Six months ago, Papa and I gave you permission to start dating. Given how much you girls grumbled and complained about not having relationships in high school, I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask if you have any serious prospects."
"That's not what you said, though." I grin impishly. "You said, and I quote, 'How come you're not engaged—'"
"Hush, Winnie," Mama says automatically. At least once in every family discussion, someone breaks out with these words. Normally, it makes me straighten to my full five five—two inches taller than my sisters, thank you very much—as if they have to pay attention to me if I'm in their line of sight.
But today, I'm just happy to wrap egg rolls while my mom and sisters bicker.
Because they're here, Ari and Bunny. Home for spring break. No doubt they're Mama's favorites. Ari is premed, while Bunny is prelaw. Together, they're a Thai parent's dearest fantasy come to life, which is why Mama's hosting a fifty-person farewell party for the final night before they have to go back to college.
I'll never be able to compete, so I don't even try. Anything I could hope to do, they've already done and done better.
But I don't mind. Because Ari and Bunny are 'my' favorites, too. We're like three sides of an isosceles triangle. I'll never match their lengths or their angles, but they'd be hard-pressed to exist without me shoring them up. I think. Ari stands and begins to sort through our egg rolls, setting aside the ones that have been wrapped too sloppily (me) or have too much filling (me again but also Bunny). Either infraction will make the egg rolls break apart in the frying oil or create unattractive air bubbles in the skin. Behind Ari's back, Bunny shakes her head bossily, crossing her eyes and sticking out her tongue.
I giggle. Man, I'll miss them when they leave me tomorrow. So much.
"I want to introduce you girls to some people tonight," Mama continues.
Bunny puts her tongue back in her mouth. "People, Mother?" My super-sophisticated sister never calls her "Mama" like the rest of us. "You mean boys?"
The twins exchange a look. While I'm fluent enough in their silent-speak to get the gist, they have entire conversations with their glances. Whole debates, complete with opening statement, evidence, and rebuttal.
Ari sits and begins wrapping again. "I don't know who else we could possibly meet," she says. "Pretty sure we've come across every Thai family in the greater Chicago area."
"Ah, but some of them, you've only said hello to. Take Jack, for example. Auntie Took's son. Very nice young man." She directs a nod at Bunny. Jack is an acquaintance of ours but not actually a relative. In Thai culture, all my parents' friends are considered "aunties" and "uncles." "He's a lawyer, you know. You two should have plenty to talk about."
"He's positively ancient!" Bunny says, horrified.
Mama grimaces. "Nonsense. He's only thirty."
"Like I said, ancient," Bunny mutters. Ari kicks her under the table, and Bunny kicks her back. Their movements are like a well-orchestrated symphony. I'm so used to the vibrations, I can narrate exactly what's happening, even if I can't see through the wood. Not wanting to be left out, I kick them both. In return, I get two swift kicks to either ankle.
"Owww!" I yelp.
"What is going on here?" Mama demands.
"Something!" we chorus together. It's a response that Ari came up with a decade ago, when Papa said we were clearly doing more than nothing, especially with those mischievous looks in our eyes.
Mama's face softens. "You three," she says fondly. "It's lovely to have you girls back, even if it's just for a week. We've all missed you terribly. Especially Winnie. She's been moping around the house like someone took the last bite of her sankaya."
I frown. Fine. Maybe I do pout—a tiny bit—when we run out of my favorite pumpkin custard, but Mama's definitely exaggerating on both counts.