AFTER PETER DROPS ME OFF
at home, I end up having just enough time to run to the grocery store and pick up chips and salsa, ice cream, challah bread, Brie, blood-orange soda—you know, all the essentials—and then come home and clean the upstairs bathroom and make up Margot’s bed with fresh sheets.
Daddy picks Margot up at the airport on the way home from work. It’s the first time she’s been home since Trina moved in. When we step inside the house with her suitcases, I see her looking around the living room; I see her eyes flit to the mantel, where there is now framed art that Trina brought over from her house—it’s an abstract painting of the shoreline. Margot’s expression doesn’t change, but I know she notices. How could she not? I moved Mommy and Daddy’s wedding portrait into my room the day before Trina moved in. Margot’s looking around the whole room now, silently noting everything that is different. The embroidered throw pillows Trina brought with her, a framed picture of her and Daddy on the day he proposed on the side table by the couch, the armchair we switched out for Trina’s. All of Trina’s little knickknacks, of which there are many. Now that I’m looking at it all through Margot’s eyes, it
kind of cluttered.
Margot takes off her shoes and opens the door to the shoe
closet and sees how stuffed it is—Trina has a lot of shoes, too. “Geez, this closet is packed,” she says, shoving Trina’s cycling shoes to the side to make room for her booties.
After we lug her suitcases upstairs and Margot changes into comfy clothes, we come back down for a snack while Daddy fixes dinner. I’m sitting on the couch, chomping on chips, when Margot suddenly stands up and declares that she’s going to go through the shoe closet and get rid of all her old shoes. “Right now?” I say, my mouth full of chips.
“Why not?” she says. When Margot gets it into her head to do something, she does it right away.
She dumps everything out of the shoe closet and sits on the floor cross-legged, going through piles, deciding which ones to keep and which to donate to the Salvation Army. She holds up a pair of black boots. “To keep or to toss?”
“Keep them or give them to me,” I say, scooping salsa with a tortilla chip. “They look so cute with tights.”
She tosses them in the keep pile. “Trina’s dog sheds so much,” Margot grouses, plucking dog fur off of her leggings. “How do you ever wear black clothes?”
“There’s a lint roller in the shoe case. And I guess I don’t wear that many black clothes?” I really should wear black more often. Every fashion blog emphasizes the importance of a little black dress. I wonder if there will be a lot of occasions for a little black dress at college. “How often do you get dressed up at Saint Andrews?”
“Not that often. People mostly wear jeans and boots when they go out. Saint Andrews isn’t that dressy of a place.”
“You don’t get dressed up even to go to a wine-and-cheese night at your professor’s house?”
“We get dressed up for high table dinners with professors, but I’ve never been invited to one’s house. Maybe they do that at
Margot holds up a pair of yellow rain boots. “Keep or toss?”
“You’re no help. You’ve voted to keep everything.” She tosses the rain boots into the cardboard giveaway box.
It seems both of my sisters are pretty ruthless about throwing away old things. When Margot’s done sorting through everything, I go through the box one more time to see if there isn’t anything I can save. I end up taking her rain boots and a pair of patent-leather Mary Janes.
* * *
That night I’m heading to the bathroom to brush my teeth when I hear Trina’s hushed voice coming from Margot’s room. I stop in the hallway to listen like a little spy, like Kitty. “This is a little awkward, but you left this in the bathroom, so I stuck it in a drawer just in case you wanted to keep it private.”
Margot’s cool voice returns, “Keep it private from whom? Kitty?”
“Well, from your dad. Or whoever. I just wasn’t sure.”
“My dad’s an obstetrician. It’s not like he’s never seen birth-control pills before.”
“Oh, I know. I just . . .” Lamely she says again, “I just
wasn’t sure. If it was a secret or not, I mean.”
“Well, thanks. I appreciate the thought, but I don’t keep secrets from my dad.”
I scurry back to my bedroom before I hear Trina’s reply. Eek.
* * *
The day before graduation, Peter comes over to hang out at the house. I’m sewing little flowers onto my graduation cap, Kitty’s watching
on the floor on her beanbag, and Margot’s shelling beans into a mixing bowl. She has a recipe she wants to try out for dinner tonight. A wedding show is on the
, one of those who-had-the-best-wedding type programs.
“Hey, for your dad’s wedding, what about one of those sky-lantern ceremonies, where you light up the lantern and make a wish and release it into the sky?” Peter pipes up. “I saw it in a movie.”
I’m impressed. “Peter, that’s a really nice idea!”
“I saw that in a movie too,” Kitty says. “
Hangover Part Two
“Yeah!” I give them both a look. Peter is quick to ask, “Isn’t that an Asian tradition? Could be nice.”
“It’s not a Korean tradition, it’s Thai,” Kitty says. “Remember, the movie takes place in Thailand?”
“Not that it matters, because it’s not like Trina is even Asian,” says Margot. “Why would she need to appropriate Asian culture into her wedding just because we’re Asian? It doesn’t have anything to do with her.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” I say. “She wants us to feel
included. The other day she was saying it might be nice to acknowledge Mommy in some way.”
Margot rolls her eyes. “She didn’t even know her.”
“Well, she knew her a little. They were all neighbors, after all. I don’t know, I thought during the ceremony, like, maybe the three of us could light a candle. . . .” I trail off because Margot doesn’t look at all convinced. “It was just an idea,” I say, and Peter makes a
face at me.
“I don’t know, I think that sounds kind of awkward? I mean, this wedding is about Trina and Daddy starting a new life together, not the past.”
“That’s a good point,” Peter agrees.
Peter works hard to impress Margot. He’s always taking her side. I pretend to be annoyed by it, but really I am touched. Of course he should take her side. It’s his job to take her side. It shows that he gets how important her good opinion is to me, and he gets the place she has in my life. I could never be with someone who didn’t understand how important my family is to me.
When Margot leaves to take Kitty to piano lessons, Peter says, “Your sister is really not loving Ms. Rothschild, huh.” Peter still hasn’t gotten the hang of calling Ms. Rothschild Trina, and he likely never will. In our neighborhood, none of the kids growing up called the adults by their first names. Everyone was Miss or Mrs. or Mr., except for Daddy, who was Dr.
“I wouldn’t say Gogo
Trina,” I say. “She likes her; she just isn’t used to her yet. You know how Trina is.”
“True,” he says. “I also know how your sister is. It took her forever to warm up to me.”
“It wasn’t forever. You’re just used to people liking you from the very first minute they meet you.” I give him a sidelong look. “Because you’re so very charming.” He scowls, because I don’t say it like a compliment. “Gogo doesn’t care about charm. She cares about real.”
“Well, now she loves me,” he says, all confidence. When I don’t answer right away, he says, “Right? Doesn’t she?”
I laugh. “She does.”
* * *
Later that day, after Peter leaves to help his mom out at her store, Margot and Trina get into a spat over, of all things, hair. I’m in the laundry room, ironing my dress when I hear Trina say, “Margot, when you shower, would you mind picking up your hair out of the drain catch? I was cleaning the tub this morning and I noticed it.”
Then comes Margot’s quick reply. “Sure.”
“Thanks. I just don’t want the drain to get clogged.”
A minute later Margot’s in the laundry room with me. “Did you hear that? Can you believe her? How does she even know it was my hair and not yours or Kitty’s?”
“Your hair is lighter, and it’s shorter,” I point out. “Plus, Kitty and I pick ours up because we know it grosses Trina out.”
“Well, dog fur all over my clothes grosses
out! Every time I take a breath, I feel like I’m inhaling fur. If she’s so concerned about housekeeping, she should vacuum more often.”
Trina comes up behind Margot, looking stony-faced, and
says, “I actually vacuum once a week, which is the standard amount.”
Margot’s gone red. “Sorry. But if you have a dog that sheds as much as Simone, I think twice a week is probably more appropriate.”
“Then tell that to your dad, since I haven’t seen him pick up a vacuum once in the whole time I’ve known him.” Trina stalks off, and Margot’s mouth drops open, and I go back to ironing.
“Don’t you think that was a bit much?” she whispers to me.
“She’s right, though. Daddy never vacuums. He sweeps, and he mops, but he doesn’t vacuum.”
“Trina isn’t one to be trifled with,” I tell her. “Especially not when she’s about to get her period.” Margot stares at me. “We’re synced up. It’s only a matter of time before you are too.”
* * *
Margot and I go to the mall, ostensibly so I can get a new strapless bra for my dress, but really because Margot wants to escape Trina. When we get back, the downstairs rugs are freshly vacuumed and neat as a pin, and Kitty is putting the vacuum cleaner away, which I can tell Margot feels bad about.
At dinner Trina and Margot are cordial to each other, as if nothing happened. Which, in some ways, is worse than a fight. At least when you’re in a fight, you’re in it with someone.