“If you put ice cream on anything, it’s good,” Kitty says.

“Can’t argue with the kid,” I say, and Peter and I exchange smiles over Kitty’s head.

“Point taken, but this isn’t your average fruitcake. It’s not, like, a wet loaf of neon jujubes. It’s got pecans and dried cherries and blueberries and good stuff. I think she called it Christmas Memory fruitcake.”

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“I love that story!” I exclaim. “That’s my favorite. It’s so good but so sad.”

Peter looks puzzled and so does Kitty so I explain. “?‘A Christmas Memory’ is a short story by Truman Capote. It’s about a boy named Buddy and his older lady cousin who took care of him when he was little. They’d save up all year to buy ingredients for fruitcake and then they’d send them as presents to friends, but also to, like, the president.”

“Why is it so sad?” Kitty wants to know.

“Because they’re best friends and they love each other more than anybody, but they get separated in the end, because the family thinks she doesn’t take good enough care of him. And maybe she doesn’t, but maybe it doesn’t matter, because she was still his soul mate. In the end she dies, and Buddy doesn’t even get to say good-bye to her. And, it’s a true story.”

“That’s depressing,” Peter says. “Forget the fruitcake cookies.”

Kitty crosses out fruitcake cookies on her pad.

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I’m thumbing through an old Good Housekeeping magazine when the doorbell rings. Kitty scrambles up and runs for the door. “Check who it is before you open it,” I call after her. She’s always forgetting to check first.

“Josh!” I hear her squeal.

Peter’s head jerks up.

“He’s here to see Kitty,” I tell him.

“Yeah, right.”

Josh walks into the living room with Kitty hanging around his neck like a monkey. “Hey,” he says, eyes flickering in Peter’s direction.

“What’s up, man,” Peter says, friendly as can be. “Have a seat.”

I give him a strange look. Just a second ago he was grousing, and now he’s happy as a clam. I don’t get boys.

Josh holds up a plastic bag. “I brought back your casserole dish.”

“Is that Josh?” my dad calls from the kitchen. “Josh, do you want a snack? Turkey sandwich?”

I’m positive he’s going to say no, because I’m sure he’s had as many leftover turkey sandwiches over at his house as we’ve been eating over here, but then he goes, “Sure!” Josh disentangles himself from Kitty and plops down on the couch. To me he says, “Christmas Cookie Bonanza?”

“Christmas Cookie Bonanza,” I confirm.

“You’re making my favorite, right?” Josh gives me puppy-dog eyes, which always makes me laugh, because it’s so un-Josh.

“You’re such a dork,” I say, shaking my head.

“What’s your favorite?” Peter asks him. “Because I think the list is pretty set.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s already on the list,” Josh says.

I look from Josh to Peter. I can’t tell if they’re kidding or not.

Peter reaches out and tickles Kitty’s feet. “Read us the list, Katherine.”

Kitty giggles and rolls over to her notepad. Then she stands up and grandly says, “M&M cookies are a yes, cappuccino cookies are a maybe, Creamsicle cookies are a maybe, fruitcake cookies are a no way—”

“Wait a minute, I’m a part of this council too,” Peter objects, “and you guys just turned down my fruitcake cookies without a second thought.”

“You said to forget the fruitcake cookies, like, five seconds ago!” I say.

“Well, now I want them back under consideration,” he says.

“I’m sorry, but you don’t have the votes,” I tell him. “Kitty and I both vote no, so that’s two against one.”

My dad pops his head into the living room. “Put me down as a yes vote for the fruitcake cookies.” His head disappears back into the kitchen.

“Thank you, Dr. Covey,” Peter crows. He drags me closer to him. “See, I knew your dad was on my side.”

I laugh. “You’re such a suck-up!”

And then I look over at Josh, and he is staring at us with a funny, left-out look on his face. It makes me feel bad, that look. I scoot away from Peter and start flipping through my books again. I tell him, “The list is still a work in progress. The cookie council will strongly consider your white-chocolate cranberry cookies.”

“Greatly appreciated,” Josh says. “Christmas isn’t Christmas without your white-chocolate cranberry cookies.”

Kitty pipes up, “Hey, Josh, you’re a suck-up too.” Josh grabs her and tickles her until she’s laughing so hard she has tears in her eyes.

After Josh leaves and Kitty goes upstairs to watch TV, I’m tidying up the living room and Peter’s sprawled out on the couch watching me. I keep thinking he’s about to leave, but then he keeps lingering.

Out of nowhere he says, “Remember back at Halloween how you were Cho Chang and Sanderson was Harry Potter? I bet you that wasn’t a coincidence. I bet you a million bucks he got Kitty to find out what your costume was and then he ran out and bought a Harry Potter costume. The kid is into you.”

I freeze. “No, he isn’t. He loves my sister. He always has and he always will.”

Peter waves this off. “Just you wait. As soon as you and I are done, he’s gonna pull some cheesy-ass move and, like, profess his love for you with a boom box. I’m telling you, I know how guys think.”

I yank away the pillow he’s got cushioning his back and put it on the recliner. “My sister will be home for winter break soon. I bet you a million dollars they get back together.”

Peter holds his hand out for me to shake on it, and when I take it, he pulls me onto the couch next to him. Our legs touch. He has a mischievous glint in his eye, and I think maybe he’s going to kiss me, and I’m scared, but I’m excited, too. But then I hear Kitty’s footsteps coming down the stairs, and the moment’s over.

53

“CAN WE PUT UP THE tree this weekend?” Kitty asks at breakfast.

My dad looks up from his bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal, ugh. “I don’t see why not.”

Halfheartedly I say, “Margot might be mad if we do it without her.” Truth be told, I want to put up the tree too. It’s so cozy to do Christmas Cookie Bonanza and have the lights twinkling on the tree and Christmas music and the whole house smelling like sugar and butter.

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