Friday night however, while Océane spent the evening at Denise’s, there occurred in the Maxxim home an event unparalleled in Astrid’s entire life when Uncle Carl, Aunt Lauren, and Gloria came to dinner. It was beyond weird. It was like living in the Twilight Zone, or that episode of the original Star Trek where Mr. Spock was evil and had a beard. Here sat Astrid at the dinner table, along with her parents, face to face with their evil counterparts. Well, to be fair, she wasn’t sure that Uncle Carl was evil. In fact, within a few minutes of his arrival, he and Astrid’s father seemed to have patched up most of their differences and were laughing and trading stories of their youth. The girl inventor marveled at their descriptions of a world without cell phones, computers, or broadband. How could a person have survived in that kind of wilderness? Gloria seemed to be listening too, in a bored sort of way. Aunt Lauren didn’t say or do much of anything and seemed not to really want to be there.
“Want to play a game of Toad Town?” Astrid asked her cousin, after their ice cream dessert.
Gloria looked at her for a long moment. “Okay. Can we go out and get our feet wet?”
They went out the back door, doffed their shoes, and sat down on the lip of the swimming pool, dangling their feet into the heated water. Pulling out their MX-360s, they tapped the application and selected their characters. Astrid as usual, picked Tugboat. Gloria picked Tiffaberry.
“My dad’s pretty happy with how things turned out,” she said, not looking up from the screen.
“I’m glad,” said Astrid. “I think my dad’s pretty happy that he has his brother to hang out with again. How’s your mom?”
“She’s kind of upset. My dad’s pretty mad at her, but he’ll get over it. They love each other and stuff.”
“We’re not best friends or anything all of a sudden,” said Gloria. “You’re still just a sophomore and a nerd. We’re not going to hang out all the time.”
“Fine,” said Astrid, annoyed. “I’ve got my own friends.”
“But we are moving back to Maxxim City. Dad needs to be closer now, and besides my mother says graduating from Rachel Carson High will help me get into a better college.”
“Oh, I doubt you’ll have much problem getting into wherever you want to go,” said Astrid.
“I know.” Gloria paused as she switched lily pads in the game. “Aunt Penny is moving back here too, you know.”
“I didn’t know,” said Astrid. “I haven’t talked to her since Monday. Is she going to live in our house?”
“I think she’s buying a condo,” replied Gloria. “Anyway, what I was saying was you’re a sophomore and a nerd…”
“Yes, you said that bit already,” Astrid interrupted curtly.
“Yes, but… You’re not a total freak, so maybe we could do something together… you know, you, me, and Aunt Penny.”
“Well that must have been difficult to say,” said Astrid. “I’m glad you didn’t hurt yourself.” She tapped the screen on her MX-360. “There, I have toad school, toad hall, and toad statue. I win.”