It Started One Christmas(3)

By: Susan Mallery

“They named their children Frick and Frack?”

She laughed and helped him to his feet. “No. I just wanted to know if you were really listening or if all your energy was taken up in being so very, very smart.”

“Book smart,” he told her, staggering only a little. “Not life smart. Hence the beautiful girlfriend who abandoned me.”

“Hence. Have you thought about dating someone more normal? It might work out better.”

“I have tried, but it’s not the same. There’s something about a beautiful woman.”

“For someone as smart as you claim to be, you’re kind of an idiot.”

“Tell me about it.”


AS KEIRA PULLED into the driveway of the hundred-year-old, three-story house on the edge of Lake Washington, she felt a zing of relief combined with happiness. Everything was exactly as she remembered from her last visit. Although, as she’d been home for dinner a mere two weeks ago, a case could be made that she should stop worrying.

Keira knew she couldn’t help it. She wasn’t like a lot of other people her age—she was a worrier. Until age twelve, she’d never been sure about being loved and welcomed. She wanted to take things for granted like everybody else, but sometimes it was hard not to assume the worst.

After she parked Dalton’s car by the steps leading up to the front door, she glanced at her sleeping passenger. He was still pale and sweaty and looked like crap. She was pretty sure he had the flu or something equally normal, but if he wasn’t better in the morning, she was going to drag his butt to an urgent-care center.

She left him where he was and went inside the house. After breezing through the huge two-story entry decorated with a twelve-foot tree, wreaths and lit pine garland draped along the staircase banister, she went directly to the kitchen, where she knew she would find her sister. Visiting with her niece and nephew would have to wait—Callie ran a tight ship, so to speak, and Keira had arrived during mandatory nap time.

Sure enough, Callie Trejo stood at the huge island, expertly chopping vegetables into perfectly equal pieces. It was Thursday and therefore spaghetti night. Questionable ingredients, like vegetables, were often discreetly placed into otherwise kid-friendly dishes.

“I’m home,” Keira said. She grinned at her sister, then took a step back as Callie started to put down the knife. “Let me wash my hands before we hug. I might have icky flu germs on me and I don’t want to spread them.”

Callie chuckled. “I continue to be amazed at how perfect you are.”

Keira rolled her eyes. “Then you need to look at raising your standards.” She washed her hands at the sink and dried them before turning and hugging Callie.

The two women were about the same height and of similar build. They both had blond hair, blue eyes and lots of freckles. While they had different mothers, they shared a father and were nearly thirteen years apart in age.

Almost six years ago, Keira had been plucked from foster care in Los Angeles and brought to Seattle to live with previously unknown relatives on her late father’s side. At first she’d lived with her half brother Malcolm, her grandfather Alberto and the housekeeper, Carmen. A few months later, Callie had been found and joined them. Theirs had been a rocky start as a family, but now they were close and perhaps just a little too involved in each other’s lives.

“So who’s the guy?” Callie asked, returning to her vegetables. “I didn’t know you were seeing anyone.”

Keira fought a wave of guilt. When she’d called to ask if she could bring Dalton for the holidays, she’d sort of implied that they were possibly involved.

“Yes, well, it’s not like that.”

Callie made a little moue of disappointment. “Here I was hoping you’d finally taken the plunge and decided to find yourself a boyfriend.”

“No. Yuck. Why?”

“At some point you’re going to have to surrender to your baser emotions.”

Keira grabbed a tiny square of carrot and popped it into her mouth. “I’m perfectly happy being single.”

“You’re eighteen. You’re supposed to fall in and out of love with boys. It’s the way of the world.”

“Not my world.”

Keira was not the least bit excited about giving her heart to some stupid, oafish guy. They were too interested in sex, too selfish, too big, and sometimes they smelled. Thank you, no. In her heart of hearts, she knew there might be some leftover emotional issues about her past, but why go there?

For a couple of years in high school, she’d wondered if there was something wrong with her. Or if she was a lesbian. But she had no interest in playing for the other team, and every now and then, she had to admit she got a bit of a quiver when she met a guy. But then he ruined it by doing something gross like burping or trying to kiss her or lying about how beautiful she was. Keira was smart (not as smart as Dalton claimed to be, but still, she did okay), funny and passably pretty, but she wasn’t anyone’s standard of beautiful.