“Auntie!” Coral throws her arms around me and squeezes me hard. She’s still dressed in her black business suit, and I feel a flash of envy at her luxurious curls, which she inherited from my sister. Plus, she has a figure that makes grown men cry. “Come in, come in!”
“Auntie!” Michelle and Ing-wen (named for the First Lady and for the Taiwanese president, respectively. Ing-wen is called Ingrid by Americans), scream as they both tackle my knees. They are adorable, chubby, two-year-old twins with black curls and enormous brown eyes that tilt slightly at the edges. They have cocoa-colored skin that I could just eat up. They’re wearing matching jumpers, both dark blue, and they’re tugging at my hands. “Come play with us!”
“Girls, let Aunt Megan get in the house first.” Coral scolds her daughters, but lovingly. The girls back up and allow me to enter.
“Ms. Liang! Megan! So nice to see you. So sorry it’s for a sad reason.” Jamal Harrington fills the room as he enters. He’s a behemoth of a man, but all muscle. His dreads reach halfway down his back, and he fills his suit nicely. He also loves chess and has trounced me in it a few times.
“Good to see you again, Jamal.” I shake his hand before taking off my shoes. I follow the girls into the living room where they have two jigsaw puzzles for kids strewn across the floor. One is of kittens and one is of puppies. About half the pieces of each puzzle are filled in.
“Ooooh, I love puzzles!” I sit on the floor and study the pieces. Of course, I know where the pieces go, but I pretend to study them intently.
“Look!” Michelle picks up a piece and crams it into a space where it doesn’t belong.
“Not there, silly!” Ing-wen pries the piece out and puts it in the right place. Michelle immediately socks her in the arm, and Ing-wen starts crying.
“Girls.” Jamal folds his arms across his chest and looks sternly at his daughters. “We do not hit in this house.” This is directed at Michelle. “We also don’t make fun of others.” This is aimed at Ing-wen. Both girls mumble a ‘sorry’ before going back to their puzzles.
“Hey, girls. Does this piece go here?” I pick up a kitten piece and point at the puppy puzzle. Both girls burst into giggles, their spat forgotten.
“That’s not a puppy piece!” Michelle covers her mouth with her hand, but she can’t stop laughing.
“It’s a kitty piece!” Ing-wen claps her hand in glee.
“Oh, right! I think it goes here.” I make a great show of putting the piece in its right place before smiling at the girls. They smile back at me before returning to their puzzles. I look at them fondly, then see Jamal looking at me speculatively. Not in the, ‘I’d like to bed her way’, which would be flattering if not awkward, but in a ‘I’m not sure what to make of this woman’ kind of way. I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I’m good with his girls, but I don’t have kids of my own. Maybe I’ll tell him why one day. Maybe. The doorbell rings, so Coral goes to answer it. I’m sure it’s my sister, so I keep playing with the girls.