Chapter 26:

Blue Sky Christmas I


December 4, 2022 AD. Sunview University, California, USA, Earth

Dinah lived just a 7-minute drive from Sunview’s campus; even Half-Plate Burgers was farther away. Cam had called his family to tell them that he would be spending much of winter break at a friend’s place. They didn’t care, since apparently Cam’s father had a major business trip that would last all December and his mother was going too. The conversation barely lasted 3 minutes before his mom hung up.

Fortunately, Cam and Jordan would be sharing the same room when they returned in the spring, so he didn’t have to remove all of his possessions. So Cam packed only the essentials he would need to live at Dinah’s home for the three and a half weeks of break. “Worst case, you could just grab your stuff from your room,” Jordan said. “I have to bring everything back home, you know?”

“But they lock the buildings over break…”

“Locks are only a barrier if you let them be!”

Cam was a bit worried how excited Jordan looked at the prospect of him breaking in. “Why don’t you ask to stay with Dinah too? You know she’d have you,” he suggested.

“Some of us actually like our families and want to see them, you know.”

“Fair enough.”

“Besides, I wouldn’t want to sixth wheel.”

“And that makes no sense at all.” Cam stuffed his swim trunks into his backpack. He bid Jordan goodbye until the next semester.

That Sunday evening, Cam arrived in front of Dinah’s home. It was a surprisingly large house. It had two stories, in contrast with the single-floor midcentury modern homes surrounding it. It was a bit intimidating, in fact. Cam nervously reached out to ring the bell. “Coming!” an unfamiliar female voice called from inside.

After a moment, the door was opened. The person who opened it looked almost exactly like Dinah in most ways. Her face, size, and hair color matched exactly. But there was no way Cam could mistake this girl for the Dinah he knew. While Dinah dressed in faded denim and greys, this girl wore a pastel yellow dress. She looked taller, too, although Cam suspected it was because Dinah usually slouched while this girl practically bounced off her feet. “You’re Cam, right? Come in. Dinah’s told me all about you.”

“Thanks for having me,” he said as he entered.

“Oh, where are my manners? I’m Ingrid. Dinah is my little sister.” Ingrid stuck out her hand. Cam took it. She enthusiastically pumped it up and down. “I’ve heard all about you from my sister.”

“Yeah…” There was something off-putting about seeing this near-copy of Dinah act so un-Dinah like. “Is she around?”

“She had to run to the store. My mom went with her. So! Got any fun stories of my little sister? I can tell you all about her as a kid.”

“Uh…not really.”

“Figured. Dinah’s not the type to have ‘fun stories.’ Why’d I even bother to ask? I’m her sister. I should know this already.” Screwing up her face, she smacked herself on the head.

“You don’t need to do that,” Cam tried to reassure her.

“No, no, I do. See, I made it my job to take care of my little introverted sister. Make sure she got to live a little, you know? I’m the one who signed her up for that dating app Heartmaker in the first place. If I hadn’t, she’d be all alone still I bet.” That doesn’t surprise me at all, Cam thought. Ingrid continued her waterfall of words. “Well, she might not have met her boyfriend, but at least she met some friends, so that’s great. Unless you two are secretly dating?”


“No, of course not. No way she could keep something like that secret from me. Still, it’s funny how accurate that dating app algorithm is. The one time I got her drunk, I managed to get her to tell me her taste in men. You seem just like her type. She’s crazy, huh?”

“Crazy. Can I put my bags down now?”

“Oh, one more thing.” While Ingrid had previously spoken with a breathy voice that sounded like her mind was jumping to subjects like a bee jumping between flowers, she now spoke in a much deeper way. Her posture was different, too. She put on hand on the wall behind Cam, leaning in so that their faces were only a few inches apart. “I’m counting on you to take care of my little sister. She doesn’t make friends easily. Your little game group is the only friends she’s got. So if you screw this up, or let her down, or make her sad at all, you will suffer a whole world of hurt. I promise you that.” She pushed away from a freaked-out Cam like nothing had happened. “Let me show you the guest room.”

Ingrid acted mostly normal for the short house tour, although she spent quite a lot of time pointing out which room was Dinah’s. She also showed him the one guest room, but she was quick to mention that with a total of three guests staying over, two could stay in the guest room but one person would have to share Dinah’s room. She urged him to put his stuff down in Dinah’s room, saying he should “stake his claim” or some such nonsense.

Cam heard the front door open on the floor below. Ingrid and he went downstairs to see Dinah and a middle-aged woman who was clearly her mother. The mother introduced herself and waved aside Cam’s thanks at housing him over the break. “A friend of my daughter is a friend of mine,” she said.

After all the introductions were over, Cam was finally able to slip away from Ingrid’s overwhelming presence. Sitting with Dinah in her room, the door swung shut and Cam breathed a quiet breath of relief.

The two were quiet for a while. Presently, Dinah said “sorry about Ingrid. She can be a bit much.”

“Oh, it’s fine. You don’t have to apologize for it.” He cast his eyes around her room. It was decorated mostly with bookshelves covered in books. He opened one at random. It took him a moment to understand it. It was a summary of Greek Mythology; the particular chapter he opened was on the lore surrounding Persephone. “I didn’t know you liked mythology.”

“I just like reading,” Dinah said, averting her eyes. “I never really cared about what. Say, Cam?”


“What should we do?”

“Well, I guess we can wait for Annette and Ella. They said they’d be here after dinner.”

She shook her head. “I meant just the two of us. For these hours before they get here.”

“Oh. Well, I’d love to read something in your library here!” He gestured to the expanse of books around.

“Ok.” Although she was trying not to show it, she was clearly disappointed by the answer in some way.

Of course, she’s probably read all of these, Cam realized. “Or, we could do something else?”

“I spent a lot of time in here alone growing up. I’m sick of reading my books.” He hadn’t expected that level of vitriol from her. He chuckled. “What?” she asked defensively.

“It’s just nice to see some of that Descartes defiance bleeding through. You look like you’d light this whole place on fire if you had the magic in real life.” He rummaged around in his luggage, pulling out his game system. “Here. Why don’t we play a few rounds of Fighting Fighters III?”

Dinah’s eyes lit up. “You brought your game console?”

“Hey, I wasn’t going to leave this expensive piece of hardware just lying around in an abandoned dorm with dollar store locks on the doors. Help me get this set up.” Dinah was happy to oblige. She had gotten better at the game, or maybe Cam had just gotten worse; they were dead even in skill now. They played until her mother called up the stairs that dinner was ready. At dinner, Cam got to meet Dinah’s father, a wispy sort of man with a voice that was far too deep for his thin frame. From the way he spoke, he was less than thrilled about having three strangers live in his house for several weeks, but other than a few jibes he didn’t make any protests.

Dinner had ended and the family was having coffee and desert when the doorbell rang. Ingrid zoomed across the house to answer it. She led Annette and Ella into the room, where they were subjected to the Ingrid Barrage, although not as badly as Cam had been. After that, they were taken on the same house tour as Cam.

When they were done, the four gathered in Dinah’s room. Ingrid had tried to invite herself in, but her sister had firmly shut the door on her. After standing around in silence for a little while, Ella said “this is a nice neighborhood. Perfect for morning runs.”

“Whaaaat?” Cam asked. “Aren’t we on break? And hold on, didn’t you say you’d be going back to campus regularly? Why do you need to run here?”

“Well obviously I won’t be there every single morning,” she clarified. “And no, we are not on break. Do you take a break from eating or breathing? Training is the same.” She remembered something, looking suddenly nervous. “Unless, you know, you want to take a break from the other thing.” She fidgeted with her fingers.

“No, we can work on it over the break,” Cam sighed. “Both things.”

“Ooh, what’s this?” Annette asked in excitement. “A secret project with just the two of you? Spicy.”

“N-no, that’s not it!” protested Ella, sputtering almost as much as Dinah when she was flustered. This, of course, only made Annette’s grin widen, and she began verbally prodding, trying to get Ella to spill it. After a while of back-and-forth, Dinah and Cam just played another round of Fighting Fighters III. Cam won.

It was getting late when Cam’s phone rang. That was surprising as always, so he picked it up to see who was calling. To his shock, the contact showed it was Bekah. Cam answered immediately. “Hi, Bekah. What’s up?”

“Oh, Cam. I’m sorry for calling, but I didn’t know what to do.” Along with the words, Bekah was audibly crying.