Building Family (S1, E8)

Season content notes: transphobia mention, ableism,

In spite of the initial awkwardness, the rest of the evening went well. Following Andie’s lead, they took turns asking questions and giving questions. Nothing was off-limits, but without discussing it, they steered clear of things that might stir up painful memories. Emeka wondered about Orli’s ex but didn’t ask, and no one asked him about his family or how he came to have this big house all on his own.

By the time dinner was over, they were talking about the practicalities of living together. Emeka had been a little worried about the kosher thing, but once Orli explained the details of ‘kosher style’ he figured he could work with it. Shellfish was too expensive to be worth it anyway, and Orli wasn’t going to complain if he or Andie had a cheeseburger; she just didn’t eat them herself.

Andie had gotten quieter as the meal went on, and when they cleared the dishes away, they pulled out a tablet. “I’m going nonverbal,” a computer voice said for them. “Is this okay?”

Emeka had been surprised but didn’t see why it wouldn’t be okay. Orli had laughed. “If you two can put up with my kosher stuff, I don’t know why you’d think that would be a problem.”

“She’s right,” Emeka agreed. “We all got our baggage. As long as that’s comfortable for you, we’ll go with it.”

“How does it work?” Orli asked, gesturing to the tablet.

Andie typed a bit, and the tablet said, “Mostly it’s a standard text to speech program, I type in what I want to say, and the tablet turns it into audio. But I also programmed in some shortcuts for stuff I need to say a lot. Like ‘how are you’ or ‘have a good day.’ ”

“You programmed that yourself?” Emeka asked.

“Not all of it,” Andie replied after a moment. Typing was slower than speech, changing the pace of the conversation. “But some of it, yeah. There are commercial programs available for autistic and other nonverbal folks, but they are mostly expensive and only run on i-stuff.”

“You don’t like Apple?”

“I will give up Linux when you pry it from my cold dead hands.”

Orli laughed and offered Andi a fist bump. “Tux for the win.”

Emeka looked back and forth. “Linux? But you can’t run anything on Linux just about!”

Orli cough-muttered, “Gamer,” and Andie rolled his eyes.

“There’s lots of good games on Linux,” Andie said after a moment. “Just because not everyone likes triple-A bullshit–”

“Bullshit! Name one top game you can play on Linux–” Seeing Andie was typing, Emeka cut himself off.

“I can name dozens, but I only do need to name one. Minecraft.”

Emeka shook his head. “Okay yeah, but–”

Orli’s phone buzzed. She pulled it out and saw a text from her daughter. I can’t believe you are serious about doing this poly stuff.

You never had a problem with your aunt’s relationships, Orli replied.

She’s never been a stick in the mud.

And I have been?

Orli watched the three little dots pop in and out of existence as her not-quiet teenaged daughter debated between seeking mom’s approval and the teenage ‘cool’ factor. Chana was a good kid, school problems aside. But Orli could see more and more hints of the teenage monster-to-be peeking through. She was okay with that. Like many parents, she wanted her kid to have as normal a childhood as possible, and that included one where she felt safe to indulge in teenage rebellions.

Finally, those dots were replaced with words. Are you sure this isn’t some kind of mid-life crisis?

If it is, you can spend from now until you get your first car saying ‘I told you so.’ 

Deal! came the instant reply.

Orli chuckled and turned back into the continuing debate about games and gaming platforms. Chana was another gamer, but most of the game stuff went right over Orli’s head.

She had, however, learned a few things from her daughter. And, she thought soberly, if she was going to be living with these folks, she needed to know more about them than the surface they put on. So she waited until a break in the conversation and said, “I can’t say I really see the point in any of this. There’s lots of fun games I can play on my phone, and they don’t have double-digit price tags.”

Immediately, both Emeka and Andie and turned on her. A moment later, Andie’s tablet blared out, “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!”

Emeka was making a horrified face. “Oh no! There’s a casual in our midst!” He held up his fingers so they formed a cross. “Back! Back demon! We will not be tempted by your foul Candy Crush!”

Then Andie started playing that really ominous music from Star Wars and said, “Throw yourself on the phone, Emeka. It may not be too late to save her.” In the same voice as the ‘danger Will Robinson’ bit.”

Testing the waters a bit more, Orli opened up Candy Crush on her phone and turned up the volume as high as it could go. Then waved it toward Emeka as if to ward him off.”

“No!” He threw himself back in his chair as if he’s been shoved. “Nooooooo…”

Orli started laughing and settled back in her own chair. The laughter was more relief than humor — she generally wasn’t a fan of mocking comedy. But she could recognize the humor in it. They weren’t being mean or derisive or disdainful.

A moment later, her phone beeped. She had a new friend request on Candy Crush from Andie945.

She accepted it saying, “Oh well. At least Chana will stop pestering me to play Civilizations if she has you two around.”

Emeka and Andie looked at each other, Andie flat-faced as always but Emeka with comically wide eyes.

“Strategy gamer,” he whispered.

In his normal voice, Andie replied, “We’re doomed.”

Orli messaged Chana saying, They’re gamers. Emeka plays triple-A games, and Andie plays ‘indy’ games.

Sweet! When can we move in?

Orli shook her head. Teenagers.

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