It Started One Christmas(7)

By: Susan Mallery

“You’ve already been to medical school and you’re getting your PhD in something. I would think you’d mock a lowly marketing major.”


She grinned. “Good to know. Let’s see. I was born in Los Angeles and lived there until I was twelve. I never knew my dad. He was kind of a jerk who didn’t want anything to do with me. Sometimes it seemed he didn’t want anything to do with my mom, either. Anyway, he didn’t send much in the way of child support and my mom blamed me and she took off and I was taken in by a neighbor.”

She wondered what had happened to Carl/Angelina. Had she ever transitioned or found happiness? Keira had tried to find her, but without a last name, it had been impossible.

“Your mother abandoned you?”

“She wanted to be famous and then she got into drugs, and then she OD’d. It was hard and scary. Social services put me in foster care. Then my grandfather found out about me and sent Malcolm to get me, and I moved here. To this house.”

She thought of the small alcove where she’d lived when she’d stayed with Angelina. “It was a big adjustment. Oh, Malcolm is my half brother and Callie, the one who’s been taking care of you, is my half sister. We share a father.”

She paused. “What else? Oh, my grandfather is so fabulous. He’s in Italy for Christmas this year. He did that family DNA thingy and found a bunch of our family there, so he’s visiting them. With Carmen. She’s his girlfriend, which sounds weird because he’s old, but she won’t marry him.”

Keira finished hanging her Disney princess ornaments and opened the box of her Mickey Mouse collection. “It’s not that she loves him, it’s that she loves us. Which is really sweet.”

“And confusing. Why would her loving you have anything to do with marrying your grandfather?”

An interesting question. One she should have anticipated. “Have you ever heard of Alberto’s Alfresco? It’s a mail-order food company.”

“Of course.” He nibbled on a cracker. “Pricy and elegant.”

“I like that.” She hesitated. “It’s us. I mean, my family. My grandfather started it like fifty years ago. Malcolm and Callie are co-presidents. When I graduate, I’ll go to work there. I’m going to spend next summer interning with a candy maker. I want to start a line of fudge. Anyway, Carmen won’t marry Grandpa Alberto without a prenup because she wants to protect us, but he says he doesn’t believe in prenups.”

“So I wasn’t imagining the size of the house.”

“Not really.”

She waited, wondering if there would be more questions about the family fortune. That was another way guys annoyed her. Once they found out who she was, they wanted to know how much she would inherit and if she really was a third owner of the company. Talk about a turn-off.

“Why the Disney tree? Is it because you grew up in Los Angeles? Did you go to the park a lot?”

“Not until Malcolm and Callie took me.” She smiled at the memory. “I was thirteen. Callie and Santiago got married in the fall and Malcolm and Delaney got married the following Valentine’s Day. Between Christmas and New Year’s, we all went to Disneyland. It was amazing. The park was so beautiful and everything was decorated, even some of the rides. We saw the parades and the shows. I’ve been back three times since, and every time I love it more.”

She turned and scowled at him. “Do not, in any way, mock my Christmas Disney memories.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it. They sound lovely and charming.”

When he didn’t say anything else, she relaxed. “Okay, that’s my life, what about you?”

“There’s not much to tell. If I remember correctly, you already know I—”

“Am very, very smart?” she offered.

“You’re going to hold that over me forever, aren’t you?”

“That is the plan, yes.”

“I was going to say, you know I started college when I was young.”

“Fourteen. That can’t have been easy.”

“I was focused on my studies, so it wasn’t too awful until my parents died. That was tough. Socially, I fit in better at college than I did at home. I got my undergraduate degree from Northwestern, went to medical school at Harvard, then moved here for a fellowship and my first PhD.”

“There’s going to be more than one?”


“Are you really going to cure cancer?”

“Not all of them, but at least a couple. I hope so.”

She dug through the bin, then held up two tree toppers. “That only leaves us with one pressing dilemma then. Do you want Mickey as Santa with the sleigh or do you want Mickey and Minnie on the star?”