“Hey. Where’s Bella?
“Over there, talking to some guy.” Carl gestured with a french fry to the couple standing by the counter, never taking his gaze off them as he spoke.
Janet sat down next to him and helped herself to a french fry smothered in ketchup. Carl didn’t even blink. Janet waved her hand in front of his face, but his gaze remained fixed on their sister. “Wow. Really?”
“Because I don’t want my sister to end up with some rapist or serial killer? Have you seen the news lately?
“Yes, but Bella’s a big girl who can take care of herself. She doesn’t need you hovering over her every time she goes on a date.”
“Well, it can’t hurt.”
Janet noted Bella’s date shifting his weight and fidgeting as he saw Carl staring him down. “Are you sure?”
“Of course. What does he have to be afraid of if his intentions are good?”
“The creepy stalker staring him down from across the room?”
“He should know that Bella has people looking out for her. If she goes missing, I’m starting the search at his place.”
Janet gave up trying to talk any sense into her brother. She knew his heart was in the right place.
“Thanks for that, Carl.” Bella said as she sat down. “Are you trying to make sure I die an old maid?”
“If it’s between that and you getting chopped to pieces in some guy’s basement, then yeah, I prefer the old maid option.”
Bella rolled her eyes and she and Janet shared a look. “I don’t suppose you’ve been stalking Janet on any of her dates.”
“Nah, he can-” Carl stopped, his eyes widening as he realized his mistake.
There was an uncomfortable silence at the table, but Bella was triumphant. “I knew it. You still think of Janet as your brother and that’s why you don’t worry about her dating.”
“Janet … I…”
Janet burst out laughing. “Really?” She gasped between peals of laughter. “Is that really why?”
Carl blushed and looked down at the few fries he had left on his tray. “I guess. But I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“I know. And if it means I don’t have to put up with that treatment when I go on a date, so much the better.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” said Bella. “What about me? Why do I still have to put up with this?”
“Because you’re our baby sister,” said Janet as she snagged the last fry off Carl’s tray. “Always have been, always will be.”
“That’s not fair. Do you know what the statistics are of violence against transwomen compared to violence against cis-gendered women?”
“Yeah, but how many of those transwomen have put their brothers in headlocks before they had their sex change operation?” said Carl.
“I like how you always have to qualify it with ‘before the sex change operation’,” said Janet. “You just can’t stand the fact that you got beat by a girl, can you?”
Carl blushed as Janet and Bella howled with laughter.