“We’re having pizza…” Mom announced as I entered the house.
“Again…” Kelsey sighed as she picked up a piece of cheese pizza and bit into it.
“Hey, you know your brother is sick. Once he’s better, he’ll be able to make dinners again, right?” Mom looked at me, a hint of worry in her expression.
“Can’t anyone else cook?” I asked helplessly.
“The question isn’t whether we can cook!” Kristy sighed. “It’s whether we can eat what we cook.”
“Like Twinsy says,” Kelsey spoke with a full mouth. “Your cooking is the best.”
“What if, because of the accident, my cooking isn’t very good anymore,” I asked.
“Look at him, he’s worried we won’t eat it!” Kelsey laughed.
“Kelsey will eat anything.”
“Twinsy is right. I once ate a pine cone on a dare. It… didn’t feel pleasant coming out.”
“Can you not discuss this at the dinner table?” Mom sighed, putting down her phone where she was looking at the news.
Everyone was standing around the table in the kitchen, grabbing plates and pizza. This was an odd sight since everyone usually just took their food and ate in their own rooms. The pizza was still steaming, so it must have arrived moments before I got there.
Usually, seeing all six women in the same room was a sight that would make me flee in horror. In the past, the second I stepped in, the girls would all look at me like I was an invader. I would awkwardly grab some pizza and then run away. This time, mom gave me a smile, and everyone else seemed to be welcoming.
I walked up and sat down in one of the unused chairs. Suddenly, everyone seemed to grab chairs as if they were waiting for me to officially start the meal, even though some of them had already been eaten while standing. Strangely enough, Bethany, who was on the other side of the table from me, walked around it deliberately to sit next to me.
This didn’t go unnoticed by the girls around the table, although it was Mackenzie who spoke. “Bethany, I swear to god, if you act creepy aga-“
“It’s fine!” I broke in, cutting her off. “She’s my cute younger sister, so why would I mind if she sat next to me.”
Bethany’s face became red and the other girls all stopped eating pizza to look at me with a shocked expression. Their mouths were open like I had just grown horns and breathed fire. Was it really that odd for me to be nice to Bethany?
“What about me?” Kelsey demanded, showing her bicep. “Aren’t I womanly?”
“Mm! You’re also my cute little sister.” I responded.
“Ah, jeez…” She suddenly grew shy and rubbed the back of her head.
“Brother definitely has brain damage.” Kristy sighed.
Mom snorted, almost spitting out her beer.
“Leave Noah alone!” Mackenzie snapped at the other girls. “If you need your little brother to make you feel good, you really are a creep.”
“I think Mackenzie is also beautiful.” I shot back, trying to cause her to grow flustered too.
Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to work on her. Rather, she gave me a stern stare. She didn’t have any humor in her expression at all.
“You shouldn’t say things like that to girls.” She said.
The atmosphere at the table grew awkward for a moment, but then mom let out a laugh. “Relax! He’s your brother, idiot. What do you think of me?”
“Ah, mom is beautiful! And sexy!”
“Haha… it’s been a while since a young boy told me that. If I wasn’t your mom-“
“Mom, please don’t finish that sentence!” Mackenzie cried out.
“Yeah, seriously, don’t be gross!” Kelsey added.
“She’s definitely the biggest pervert here,” Kristy added.
Mom let their words bounce off of her as she let out a laugh. She had managed to throw off the strange mood in an instant. However, that was short-lived as the sound of a chair scooting back got everyone’s attention. Dawn had stood up. Although her plate still had pizza on it, she picked it up and turned to leave.
“Ah! That’s right, Dawn I think-“
“You don’t have to say anything,” Dawn said, a bitter expression on her face. “I know I’m not cute.”
“That’s not true.”
“Just stop, Noah. No one buys you cute bullshit. You’re just a phony.”
I blinked, feeling a moment of panic at her words. For a second, I feared she knew that I wasn’t really from this world. However, I realized she didn’t mean things that way at all. I didn’t have time to respond though, as the other girls had spoken up.
“Dawn!” Mackenzie said in a chastising voice.
“Apologize to your brother!”
“Hmph… boys are all just fake dicks!” Dawn snapped, turning and walking away.
“Dawn, go to your room!” Mom yelled standing up.
“I’m already heading there!” Dawn shouted back.
Mom looked angry like she wanted to say more, but she had already assigned punishment. However, for Dawn who spent every day in her room, sending her there was hardly a punishment. Mom sat back down, an angry expression on her face.
“Dawn is just like that.” Kelsey gave me a sympathetic look. “Don’t listen to her.”
“No… it’s fine.” I responded.
Actually, it was the kind of snappy behavior that I expected from my sisters. It had been a weirder situation where everyone was hanging off my words and visibly reacting to everything I said. I hadn’t expected Dawn to have a freak out like that, but it was more in line with the Dawn I knew. The only odd thing was that anyone else cared that she said it to me. Strangely, there was something comforting in finding at least one of my sisters not changing very much from the sister I remembered.
“How is she at school?” Mom asked in a low voice.
The twins glanced over at Mackenzie, who was the closest to her age, just a grade behind, and would have the most awareness of how Dawn was doing in school.
Mackenzie raised her hands and shrugged. “She keeps to herself. I wouldn’t say she’s picked on particularly. She’s just one of those strange geeks who sit in the corner and go unnoticed.”
As someone who had been unpopular myself, I actually understood Dawn’s type. She wasn’t an ugly girl. There wasn’t an ugly girl in my family. However, her clothing was baggy, she had big glasses, and she made no attempt to do her hair. She always came off as frumpy. I had never heard much about Dawn in my old world, but even there I couldn’t imagine she was very popular with the guys. In this world, she seemed to be the type that resented men. You know, the kind that shouts at movie trailers for replacing the male cast with females.
“I see…” Mom responded to her words seeming to have her own thoughts on the matter, and then brought up her smartphone and started reading on it again.
“So… Noah! “Kelsey cut into the mood by speaking a bit too cheerfully.
“Hmm?” I was completely unused to my sisters going out of their way to talk with me.
“How was it like at London’s? Did you get along with Dan?”
“He’s still a tool,” I responded shortly.
Kristy laughed. “Brother doesn’t like Dan? Maybe he’s jealous.”
“I wish he was a tool, then I could use him all night,” Kelsey said.
“You shouldn’t schlick off to your older sister’s boyfriend, you perve!” Mackenzie hissed.
Kelsey stuck out her tongue and made a rubbing motion between her legs. “Maybe I’d schlick off to your boyfriend if you had any!”
“You’re a pig!”
“Hey… it’s a fish factory here. The only one I have to schlick off to is big brother… ah!” She suddenly realized I was present.
Mackenzie glowered. “I’m sorry brother, your sisters are the worst.”
“Not at the table.” Mom didn’t look up from her smartphone as she barked the words.
“Pu…p… ha…ahahahaha,” I began to crack up, laughing at this exchange.
It was so ridiculous; the obscene things Kelsey was saying. They were clearly there just to get Mackenzie riled up. Kelsey was always a troublemaker and a problem causer. However, seeing her personality turned into that of a male, it was just so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but laugh.
Mackenzie shot Kelsey a look and then punched her arm. “You broke brother!”
“Ah… s-sorry… I was just joking…” Kelsey apologized while rubbing her arm.
“No, it’s fine,” I said, still giggling. “It’s just… nice… is all…”
“Nothing is nice about anything that comes out of Kelsey’s mouth,” Kristy muttered before taking a sip of soda.
“No, I mean, sitting here, with the family. Being together and talking… eating together.”
“Well, I mean, you’re usually cooking, and as soon as you finish you flee to your room,” Mackenzie responded, looking somewhat awkward. “We always figured you were just sick of us.”
“Heh… if Brother cooks something tasty, I’ll always be there to eat it!” Kelsey flexed her arm again.
“Or if you give her a pinecone,” Kristy smirked.
“That seriously gave me the shits! Stop talking about that, Twinsy!” Kelsey cried.
“Language!” Mom muttered while biting into the last piece of pizza.
“Eh! Mom got the last piece!” Kristy complained.
“I only got two! I’m a growing girl! I’m still hungry!” Kelsey added.
“You guys will eat me out of my home.” Mom snorted.
I had barely touched my pizza, but I decided not to offer it to the twins as they started to ransack the kitchen looking for something else to eat. Mackenzie excused herself and returned to her own room. I decided to take my food back to my room since everyone else was leaving. It was only when I was nearly there, that I realized Bethany was following close to me.
“What is it?” I asked, awkwardly remembering what I had done earlier that day.
She touched my arm and edged me into my bedroom. Standing there, she had her head down and her shoulders slouched.
“Brother… about earlier today…” She said.
“Ah… that… look, I’m sorry…”
I reckoned that she was a bit angry that I intervened. She probably was going to tell me to stay out of her business. It’s certainly what I would have done if one of my sisters tried to get in between me and a bully.
“You’re so cool.”
She looked up, her eyes bright as stars. “You really saved me! And you did it in such a cool way! That guy is totally afraid of me now. He won’t even look at me.”
“Guys like him are dumb though, you need to be vigilant or he might start again.”
“I-I know…” She nodded. “And I also know I can’t depend on you forever.”
“Ah… well, it’s not like if you ask for my help I won’t…”
“No!” Her eyes turned severe and she grabbed my arms. “I’m the girl here. It’s my responsibility. You protected me, brother. I won’t ever forget it! I love you.”
“I love you too…” Even simple words like these said to family felt a bit weird to the normal me.
“Which is why… I’m asking mom to take me to a Tae Kwon Do class.”
“I’m going to work out like Kelsey does. I want to become strong. I want to learn to fight too.”
“R-really…” I did not see the conversation going in this direction at all.
“That way… I’ll be able to protect brother.”
“There are a lot of bad girls out there! Brother is way too pure and honest. So, just how you helped me, I will help you. I’ll become the woman who will keep you safe! I swear it!”
“Shh!” she put a finger on my lips. “You don’t have to say anything. I know I’m not good enough for brother right now, but one day, I will become a woman you can look up to. I will be brother’s woman!”
She turned away without another word, walking with her back straight and her head held high. Why did she seem to be strutting like a peacock? A small smirk formed on my face. Just as she reached the door, I ran and wrapped my arms around her from the back.
She let out a cry. “Wh-what are you doing?”
I kissed her on the cheek and whispered in her ear. “Thank you.”
After a quick squeeze… not of her chest but of her body, I let go and stepped back.
“B-brother…” She shot me a look with her mouth open and rather than walk away stoically, she ended up stumbling into the hallway.
With a red face, she practically fled back to her room, slamming the door. I let out a sigh and then chuckled. It served her right for trying to act all manly in front of me. Or was it womanly? Whatever. I closed my door, ate my pizza and got ready for bed. Perhaps this world wasn’t completely bad after all.