"She's going to call you Mom, starting tomorrow."
"Oh, Corey, isn't she wonderful?" Mary said, her eyes filling with tears.
Corey rolled her eyes, but she didn't deny it. "It was my idea that she call you Mom. All she did was say she wanted to do it."
"You're wonderful, too," Mrs. Foster said with a laugh as she kissed her daughter. She turned out the light and closed the door when she left. Corey lay there, thinking about the conversation and wondering if Diana was asleep. After several moments, she scrambled out of bed and pulled on an old plaid flannel robe over her nightshirt emblazoned with "SAVE THE TURTLES" across the front.
The hallway was dark as pitch as she groped her way across the hall toward the door of Diana's room. Her fingertips finally encountered the doorframe, and she raised her hand to knock just as the door flew open, startling a muffled squeal from her. "I was just coming over to see if you were awake," Diana whispered, backing up and beckoning Corey into her room.
"Did your dad have a talk with you tonight?" Corey asked, perching on the edge of Diana's bed and admiring the cream lace ruffles at the throat and wrists of Diana's high-waisted, pale rose robe and the delicate lace trim on her matching quilted slippers.
Diana nodded and sat down beside her. "Yes. Did your mom have one with you?"
"I think they were afraid we weren't going to like each other."
Corey bit her bottom lip and then blurted, "Did you happen to ask your dad about me calling him Dad?"
"I did, and he loved the idea," Diana said, keeping her voice low so that this cozy pajama party for two wouldn't be ended by parental decree.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. In fact, he got all choked up." Diana looked down at her lap and drew a long breath, then lifted her eyes to Corey's. "Did you mention to your mom about me calling her Mom?"
"Did she say anything?"
"She said you're wonderful," Corey replied, rolling her eyes in feigned disagreement.
"Did she say anything else?"
"She couldn't," Corey replied. "She was crying."
The two girls eyed one another in smiling silence, then, as if by mutual agreement, flopped onto their backs. "I think," Diana said after a moment's contemplation, "this could turn out to be really, really cool!"
Corey nodded with absolute conviction. "Totally cool," she proclaimed.
Yet later that night, as she lay in her own bed, Corey found it hard to believe that things had turned out so well with Diana.
Earlier that day, she would never have believed it was possible. When Diana's father had married Corey's mother after a two-week courtship and brought his new wife and daughter to his Houston home, Corey had dreaded meeting her stepsister. Based on what little she'd already discovered about Diana, Corey figured they were so different they were probably going to hate each other. Besides being born rich and growing up in this huge mansion, Diana was a year older than Corey and a straight-A student; and when Corey took a peek into Diana's feminine bedroom, everything was so neat it gave her the creeps. Based on what she'd heard and seen, she felt sure that Diana was going to be disgustingly perfect and a complete snob. She was even more sure Diana was going to think Corey was a dumb hick and a slob.
Her first glimpse of Diana when she walked into the foyer this morning had confirmed Corey's worst fears. Diana was petite, with a narrow waist, slim hips, and real breasts, which made Corey feel like a deformed, flat-chested giant by contrast. Diana was dressed like a model from Seventeen magazine, in a short tan skirt, cream-colored tights, and a tan-and-blue plaid vest topped off by a jaunty tan blazer with an emblem on the front. Corey was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.
And yet, despite Corey's absolute conviction that Diana would be a conceited snob, Diana had been the one who broke the ice. It was Diana who had admired Corey's hand-painted sweatshirt with the horse on the front, and Diana who'd first admitted that she'd always wanted a sister. Later that afternoon, Diana had taken Corey over to the Haywards' house so Corey could take pictures of the Haywards' horses with the new camera Diana's father had given her.
Diana didn't seem to resent the fancy camera her father had bought for Corey or hate the idea of sharing him with Corey. And if she thought Corey was a dumb hick, she definitely hadn't shown it. Next week, Diana was taking her to Barb Hayward's birthday party, where everyone was going to ride horses. Diana said her friends would become Corey's friends, too, and Corey hoped she was right.
That last part didn't matter nearly as much as having a sister so close to her own age to spend time with and talk to—and Corey wouldn't be doing all the taking either—she had some things to give Diana. For one thing, Diana had led an awfully sheltered life, in Corey's opinion. Earlier that day, she'd admitted she'd never climbed a really big tree, never eaten berries right off the vine, and never skipped rocks across a pond.
Closing her eyes, Corey sighed with relief