"Large pile of letters for Kathie today," Rosalie Dene commented as she doled out the post. "Shall I leave it here for her, or do you want to take it, Nancy?"
"Oh, I'll take it," Nancy Wilmot said, frowning rather as she recognised the handwriting on the single airmail letter that represented her own share of the day's mailbag. "It'll be mainly travel brochures - Kathie's put herself in charge of our Christmas holidays this year. If you see her before I do, Rosalie, let her know I've taken them."
Retiring to her bedroom, Nancy made haste to open her own envelope and unfold the lengthy screed within. Ten minutes later, when Kathie skipped into the room, she was still considering the letter's implications.
"Rosalie said you've got the Italy brochures. All set to plan our romantic Christmas, my love?" Catching sight of the expression on her friend's face, Kathie broke off in concern. "Nance? What's wrong?"
"I'm not sure 'wrong' is exactly the word." A wry grimace distorted Nancy's pretty features as she regarded her letter. "I don't know though, maybe it is. Here, read that." And she held out the airmail sheets to Kathie, who dropped down next to her on the bed and began to read.
Almost at once her eyebrows rose, and she quickly turned to the signature, before fixing a laughing gaze on her partner. "'Babykins', Nance?"
Nancy rolled her eyes. "Trust you to focus on that. I was the youngest, remember? For the most part, I think she still pictures me as being about six. Never mind that, you get on and read the rest of the letter."
"Alright." There was a short pause, while Kathie mentally debated whether or not she could resist saying it. She couldn't. "Babykins."
Nancy poked her in the ribs. "Shut up and read it, before I decide I don't want to spend my Christmas with you after all."
Unfazed by this completely unbelievable threat, Kathie returned to the letter, under close surveillance from Nancy. Leaning back against her pillows in a would-be casual pose, Nancy watched Kathie's expression veer from curiosity to undisguised mirth, passing surprise, pleasure, and complete and utter bafflement on the way.
"Well?" she demanded, as Kathie handed the letter back to her.
"Well," Kathie gurgled, "you might have warned me what she was like, Nance."
"Not what you were expecting?" Nancy grinned.
"Not in the slightest. Although," Kathie's voice grew thoughtful, "in some ways, she sounds rather like you, my lovely."
Nancy choked at this insight. "She does not! I'd never write a letter like that!"
"You'd never write a letter at all, if you didn't have to," Kathie replied sternly.
"Unfortunately, I do have to." Nancy sounded less than thrilled at the prospect. "My mother will definitely be expecting a reply to this effusion. Although if she thinks I'm going to fritter away money on airmail, she's got another think coming. I don't suppose you have any words of wisdom on gracefully declining invitations?"
"Declining?" Kathie's tone expressed her surprise. "But, Nance, why?"
Nancy shrugged off the question. "We already have plans."
"Our plans haven't gone any further than sending for the travel brochures," Kathie pointed out. "I haven't so much as opened an envelope yet. Unless," she eyed her partner doubtfully, "you don't want to go?"
"You mean you do want to go?"
Kathie tried to find an appropriately noncommittal answer that would leave the decision in Nancy's hands. Being unable to think of one, she blurted out her instinctive response. "Yes, I do. I want to meet your family, and your mother invited me too so they're obviously, well, accepting of us, and I feel selfish for taking up all your holidays, and Christmas in a hotel would be very, very expensive."
At this hotchpotch of reasons, Nancy's expression lightened and her laughter bubbled up irrepressibly. "Alright, alright, you've convinced me, we'll go. Only don't say I didn't warn you," she ended ominously.
"Warn me about what?" Kathie was starting to have second thoughts. "You haven't warned me about anything at all!" Consternation crept into her tone. "Your parents, your family - they are accepting of us, aren't they? Nance?"
"Well, I'm sure they will be. I just haven't exactly got round to telling them yet."