Molly managed to stick a cold asparagus tip in her mouth when a boy of about ten burst into the dining room. He slowed down as he skidded toward her.
“Are you with my uncle Nick?”
This was weird. It wouldn’t surprise her if next thing, someone asked where she was registered and if she’d picked out her china pattern.
“Yes, she is.” Barbara smoothed back the boy’s auburn hair and adjusted the collar of his white dress shirt in what seemed like a motherly gesture. “Speaking of which … here comes the Martian twin now.”
Nick entered the room, and Molly could have sworn the light rose in intensity. He kissed his sister on the cheek. “Don’t listen to her. She’s called me a space monster ever since the day I played Commando with her dolls.”
“You cut off all their hair.” Barbara brought her hand up like she wanted to swat him.
Nick raised both of his as if to ward off an impending blow. “You can’t charge into battle with flowing locks. If you wanted to join the Commandos, you had to surrender your hair.” He laughed in that deep, masculine way but with an ease of a man who rarely had to force it. “Right, Joey?”
“Right, Uncle Nick.” The kid performed a quick karate chopping motion.
“You’re twins.” Upon closer inspection, Molly saw the resemblance. Only Barbara seemed to possess a certain kind of gentleness Nick distinctly lacked. She was sweet, sticky lollipops and ruffled pinafores. He came across more like a chainsaw and boxing gloves.
“I’m four minutes older.”
His sister patted him on the shoulder. “That made you top dog.”
“Oh yeah, all that meant was I had to jump in the middle of everyone’s squabbles and whip the rest of you guys into shape.”
The Commando in action. Molly wondered if he planned to whip her into shape once they started apartment hunting.
Barbara smiled and nodded as if in acknowledgment of the role he played in their childhood. “Do you have any brothers, Molly?”
She shook her head.
“That’s too bad. In spite of how we sound, we’re all pretty close. Maybe next time you come around you’ll meet my younger sister. As usual, she’s late.”
Next time? Molly didn’t think so.
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