"Wouldja look at that," Toni murmured, glancing out the window.
"Looks like someone's moving in already." She paused, looking over to see if I had turned around in my seat with interest. It was sad, really. Did she think that the piece of information would make me drop my pencil in excitement? Was she expecting me to jump up into the air with a whoop of joy? Tsk tsk. Toni, you should've known better than that. Instead, I did the opposite; I sat there with the math textbook open in front of me, a pencil in one hand and a calculator in the other. Ah, little trusty calculator—what can't you do?
My lack of answer wasn't discouraging; if anything, it only made Toni more determined to catch my attention. "It looks like it might be a boy," she hinted slyly. "No woman would ever pick such a tacky-colored suitcase." It was her special technique, a way to prod at my never-ending curiosity and force me to join her at my window in my room.
"Oh, get off it," I grumbled, punching in a few numbers. The good thing about my precious TI-83 was that it was never wrong. It always gave the right answers every, single time. And it was precise and dependable, too; there was only one answer when it comes to a calculator. Can we say bonus? "Can't you go ogle their suitcases in your own room? I'm busy here, you know."
I could just hear her pout behind me. "My room has a tree blocking my view. And my window only shows our backyard."
"What's wrong with our backyard? It's a pretty nice one." Punch punch punch, and the answer was… 83. Perfect. Just like in the back of the book.
"Yeah, if you like watching Trunk running around in circles everyday and shitting all over Mom's flowerbed."
Trunk. Ah, the infamous Trunk. He was… special. Having found him near an abandoned construction site, Ed had brought the little dog home and showed it to Mom. (Why my brother was hanging around an abandoned junkyard, I will never know. His logic eludes me, anyways, so I never bothered to stop and question his thinking.) She had agreed to patch up the poor thing, but would go no further than that. But this was Ed we're talking about here; being the youngest, of course he had a special place in Mom's heart, and after much wheedling and begging, he had managed to wear the woman down to agreement. "However," she added with a stern finger, "if the dog come in the house, you be sorry!" Ed was elated and immediately named his dog Trunk, after some steroid-abusing kid in a show. No one's muscles should be that defined at eleven years old.
Needless to say, Ed had not kept up with his end of the bargain, and after a few, measly days, he had already started to shift Trunk's responsibilities onto Toni and me. By the end of the year, we were all arguing over whose turn it was with the scooper and the plastic bag. Not fun at six in the morning.
Not only that, but Trunk had grown up to become this wacky dog. Not just the normal wacky, oh no, but the I-eat-bumblebees kind of wacky. How many times that mutt had been sent to the vet because of a stupid bee ingestion was all recorded on the doctor's bill. Mom must have lost one of our saving's bank account that year. But in a twisted way, he had grown onto all of us, despite his constant crapping and bumblebee eating. So in the end, Mom had decided to keep him after all.
But I digress.
"Mom's going to fix that devil-may-care attitude of Trunk's pretty soon," I mumbled absently as I circled the number on the paper. Ew, why was the 'eight' in 'eighty-three' slanting like that? I quickly erased it and rewrote the answer.
Toni didn't respond; she was too busy pressing her face against my window and trying to catch a glimpse of the next-door neighbor. She must have been hoping for a good-looking family of boys or something, with the way she was making facial imprints against the glass. And it was cleaned yesterday, too….
At that moment, Ed burst into my room, his dark hair flying wildly. He was only nine years old, so the mushroom haircut suited him just fine. Or that was what Toni said, anyways. I, personally, couldn't care much less how Ed looked by the time he hit puberty hell. Just as long as he didn't dye it anything extreme or join a gang, how he presented himself to the public didn't matter too much to me, as long as he was still my precious, little brother at the end of the day.
"Mom said we're going to go greet the neighbors," he announced excitedly, bending over to catch his breath. He was too cute like that, acting all dramatic. Reminded me of when I was a hyper, little kid, before high school decided to screw me over with AP classes.
"Are you serious?" Toni asked, her mouth dropping open. Ah, her chance to score some potential 'hotties', or however she says it. Punch punch punch. "When are we going?"
"Uh… in three minutes."
"What? And you're telling me this now?" Her face pulled into a stern frown. "God, Ed, why don't you ever tell me anything ahead of time?" Before he could say anything, she flounced past him and was already down the hallway. "Great. Now I only have like, a few seconds to pick out an outfit."
Ed shrugged nonchalantly and turned to me; having lived with two older girls had taught him that he would never win in any verbal spars. Never. So he just sucked it up and went on with his life. "Well, aren't you going to go, too?" Ed inquired, his head cocking to one side.
Punch punch punch. "…Nope."
"But Mom said we all had to go, though."
I knew it was 34.8! I'm too good, I'm too good…. "Well, Mom also knows that I have homework to do. It wouldn't kill her if one of her children stayed at home." Translation: Be a good boy, Ed, and go relay the message.
He shrugged again and scurried out of my room (Good boy!), and a few moments later, his voice drifted from the kitchen. The best thing about being the oldest was having the privilege to order them young'ns around. God did I love it; it saved my sorry ass from walking up and down the stairs many times a day.
What I was expecting was Toni coming into my room and surveying her clothes in front of my full-length mirror; what I was expecting was Ed entering my room to give me the OK-you're-out-of-the-clear signal; what I was expecting was solitude afterwards, complete bliss with my lovely TI-83 and my set of math problems while my family bumbled over to the house across the street with their unanimous greeting and whatnot.
What I was not expecting was my mom appearing by the doorway, one hand on her hip. "Lia." Her voice rose a bit higher at the end of my name; it was how she usually says it when she was displeased with something I had done. "What do you mean by 'I won('t) go'?"
"Um… I won't go?"
"Oh, Lia," my mom sighed exasperatedly, as if I was some retarded child. Never mind the fact that she spoke broken English half the time and could barely pronounce the 'z' in the alphabet. "Pee-po will thing it is rude of us to not go. How will they see us, huh? Di(d) you think about that? Our reputation, huh?" If you took away the parenthesized letters, that was how my mom spoke on a daily basis.
I rolled my eyes. "Toni and Ed are going, so why do I have to come? It's like an extra limb—unnecessary and crowded. Besides, I have homework to finish."
"You cannot take fi(ve) minute?"
"No, I really can't."
I guess today was pretty stressful for my mom, or I guess that the question was her attempt to be rhetorical, or maybe she thought I was being cheeky, but either way, she flared up at my reply. And when she flares up, she reverts back to her root language: Vietnamese. Immediately my room was filled with rebukes and lectures about manners and civility and courtesy. It was what any normal family would do to a naughty child, really, except the verbal diarrhea was all in Vietnamese.
Mom: Why don't you ever listen to me about anything I teach you, huh? Why do you always hide in your house?
Me: I'm not hiding; I just have a lot of work.
Mom: Well, you should still come meet the new neighbors. It's considered very rude not to.
Me: But I don't see why you guys can't do it without me.
Mom: Oh God, how did I ever give birth to such a stupid child? If I show up with only a fraction of my family, what will they think? 'Oh, we are not good enough for an entire family'? It is so rude to not greet someone. You should know this by now!
Me: Well, I have a lot of work to do.
Mom: Well, you should have done it yesterday.
There was nothing that could top that one, there really wasn't. Any other answer would have been futile and shot down, because to a parent, there was no such thing as doing your homework too early. And if you happened to finish your homework on a Friday night, clearing up your entire weekend, you still would have been dragged to the welcoming because you were doing nothing. It was, essentially, a no-win situation. The thing was, my mom could tell she had won, too; it must have been the way I opened and closed my mouth like a gaping fish, because she smiled triumphantly.
Mom: See? Am I wrong? Or am I right?
Way to be modest. Jeez. I didn't say anything, but I closed my mouth and frowned sullenly.
Mom: Come downstairs in five minutes, OK? And for once, look presentable, please.
She disappeared with a sage nod, as if I had been enlightened and reformed of my unruly ways. What was it with my mom and her obsession with her reputation? I decided to wait a few seconds, and when she didn't returned, I ever so quietly picked up the pencil to finish just one more—
"I mean it, Lia. Tho-ree minute!"
I threw down my pencil with a frustrated groan. "Lia, you are getting up now—"
Dammit, that woman was good.
A/N: Hello! :D I hail from the rabid land of fanfiction. I'm trying my hands at original fiction because it sounds fun and totally awesome. I don't expect reviews, but it makes me happy nonetheless.