Chapter 3

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It was a good thing Alexander wasn’t alone, because that could have ended awkwardly. Before we had a chance to do more than just stare at each other, three strange Chinese girls came running and screaming through the hall.

That was odd, even for my house. Alexander and I both stared at the hall and then at each other.

“Uhhh….” I said, momentarily forgetting the fact that I was in the process of hating Alexander and making him feel uncomfortable. “Did you see those kids too, or is it just me?”

I was genuinely concerned. It wouldn’t have been the first time I’d hallucinated something under stress.

Alexander gave me a funny look. “What are you talking about? Don’t you know them?”

That was a very good question. “Uh...I’ll get back to you on that.” Leaving Alexander looking more confused than ever, I got out of my chair and ran down the stairs.

“Moooooom!”

“What?” she screamed back.

“There are weird people in our house!”

“Guests, honey. Those are guests!”

Well, it would have been nice if she had told me. I hadn't even seen Mom when I came home.

And then it hit me that she had told me, a long time ago. It was mid-September. The mid-Autumn festival was today!

I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten. I knew all the important festivals by heart. Well, I was supposed to, anyway.

When I was a kid, Mom had me memorize all the dates of significant Chinese holidays, because she’d have me play the piano for guests or something equally draining every time we threw parties. 

Which was always super fun.

Not.

Nobody else probably realized it, but I hated these parties. I hated the pressure that came with them. I hated the pressure that came with everything: school, studying, college applications, even my crowd of alleged friends...it was all so overwhelming for one person to deal with at times.

But I’d make it through somehow.

I always made it through. Somehow. Probably not with my sanity intact. But somehow.

The aroma of Chinese food hit me when I made my way through the crowd of partygoers. Several Chinese families were hanging out in our living room, and a few of them nodded to me when I passed by.

I recognized only some of them. Mrs. Chang who volunteered at the library, and Mr. Li who had been my group’s chaperone on the sixth grade museum trip. The one where I tripped over a stand and toppled practically everything in sight. That disaster was not likely something I would forget very soon.

Aside from those two, everyone else could have been Japanese and I wouldn’t have even noticed.

“How are you doing, Nancy?” one old man called out to me.

“Oh, I’m well, Mr…” I drew a blank. Smiling tightly, I tried to remember who he was.

Mom’s brother? My great-uncle? A really old cousin? Our extended family and other friends were way too complicated for me to figure out. Like I said, math equations were practically all I bothered storing in my head these days.

In the end, I settled for rattling off a quick greeting in Mandarin and running away before the man could realize I was bluffing. I realized not even a full ten seconds later what a smart move that had been, when I saw Kevin, who hadn't escaped the room so quickly, get snatched up by an old Chinese lady who proceeded to tell him about all eighteen of her cats.

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