From Welcome to Keystone Novel 5: A Traditional Keystone Christmas: Chapter 5, Scene 4
Out in the kitchen where Jody was now quietly gathering everything she needed to have her share of the meal that had been served that night, Caterina and Kaitlin sat around the kitchen table along with their aunts and mother enjoying slices of whipped-cream-topped apple pie while the soft strains of “O Christmas Tree” drifted in from the den where Marisa, Allison, Nancy, and Oscar, who had long since finished decorating the Christmas tree, were now sitting on the light pink carpet watching Yogi’s First Christmas on the big-screen TV.
“So are you girls looking forward to your Christmas break?” asked Dawn as she sat back in her chair and took a sip from the mug of tea that she was holding.
Kaitlin, who was sitting across from her aunt, looked up and smiled. “Definitely,” she replied. “School has been a lot more stressful this year, and I could really use a break from all the work.”
Next to her sister, Caterina shook her head and rolled her eyes. “School’s only stressful for you because you make it stressful,” she declared as she used her fork to chop off another piece of her pie slice. “Instead of getting involved in all the fun stuff there is to do, you spend all your time trying to make your homework perfect.”
“And what fun stuff would that be?” challenged Kaitlin as she turned her attention to her sister. “Chasing after boys?”
“Well…” began Caterina, “yeah! I mean, if we have to go to school, we might as well use it as a place to meet people who we can go out and have fun with, right?”
As Dawn started laughing, Marci, who was sitting to her right, said, “Let me guess. You have a new boyfriend, don’t you, Caterina?”
As her sister turned red and lowered her gaze back onto her pie, Kaitlin smirked. “Not yet,” she replied. “But she might by Christmas because there’s some guy she’s got a big crush on right now. And when Caterina has a crush, she doesn’t stop pushing until she gets a date.”
Shaking her head in annoyance as she stabbed at another piece of her pie slice, Caterina said, “Way to go, Kaitlin. Blow your reputation for being someone who actually knows how to keep secrets all in five minutes.”
But Kaitlin just innocently shrugged. “What?” she asked. “They’re all going to find out tomorrow anyway when they see you trying to get your crush’s attention at the tree lighting. So who cares if we talk about it now?”
As Dawn laughed again, Marci turned to Annie, who was sitting in the chair at the head of the table nearest the dining room, and asked, “And how do you feel about this? How do you feel about Caterina using school as a place to meet guys instead of as a place to learn?”
Annie shrugged. “I’m fine with it,” she replied as she wrapped her fingers around the handle of her tea mug.
“Really?” asked Caterina, her eyes widening in surprise as she looked up at her mother.
Annie nodded. “Sure,” she said. “As long as you’re getting your work done and earning decent grades, I don’t see any reason why you can’t have a little fun too. Just as long as that fun doesn’t end up getting you into major trouble.”
“Yeah,” added Kaitlin as the front door opened and closed out in the foyer. “Like that party you and Johnny had at the beginning of the school year where Cahuenga Riches showed up and the cops had to be called.”
“You threw a party that the cops got called for?” another female voice said as it drifted into the kitchen. “Wow! You’re almost as bad as me!”
Whirling around, everyone found that a thin teenage girl, who was dressed in black platform-style knee-high combat boots, a short black long-sleeve dress that had a keyhole neckline that was fastened with a pin that was shaped like a skull, and a black leather jacket that had silver studs on the sleeves, had just walked into the kitchen. A teenage girl whose once straight brown hair was now chopped into short spikes that were dyed pitch black. A teenage girl who now had a nose ring and multiple piercings lining her ears. And a teenage girl who belonged to…
“Hi, Annie,” said Jamie Klein, Annie’s younger sister, as she stepped up behind her daughter with a tired and frazzled look on her face. “I hope you don’t mind Paula and me just walking in, but Dennis, his brothers, and Johnny and Darrin were outside setting up a Christmas display on the front lawn when Albert and I pulled into the driveway, and they said that we could come right inside while Al drives down to the hotel to check us in.”
Too stunned by the dramatic changes that had occurred in her niece’s appearance since the last time she had seen her to process anything that her sister had just babbled, Annie stammered, “P-Paula?”
Sadly nodding, Jamie tucked her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ear and ashamedly looked down at her shoes. “Yes,” she quietly confirmed. “This is Paula. And as you can see, she is definitely not the same person she was the last time we spent Christmas together.”
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