“Give it back!” Jayden screamed, pulling on the arm of the soft, red sweater. Her pretty green eyes were narrowed with anger and frustration. Sometimes being a triplet was a pain in the butt! Normally, she loved her sisters. But right now, she wanted to just run away and be in a place where she was the only one that looked like herself.
Janine was practically growling, which was an event in itself, as she pulled on the opposite sleeve. “No! This one is mine! Yours is blue and it is in the laundry.” Janine was usually the calm one, the one that stopped the fights between Jasmine and Jayden. She rarely participated in one of them.
Jayden was furious with her sister and tired of sharing her clothes, her room, her face, her life! “No. Mine is red. Jaz got the blue one,” she said, referring to their third sister. “Yours is the yellow one!” Why did everyone think it was okay to give triplets the same thing but in different colors?!
Maggie Hart walked into the room at that point and huffed. “Drop it now!” she called out to her girls.
Janine and Jayden looked up, but neither one released the sleeve of the sweater. Identical green eyes glared angrily at their mother, but she wasn’t intimidated. Not anymore!
“Drop it,” she warned, putting her hands on her hips, wondering where Jasmine was during this particular altercation.
Both girls knew that tone of voice and they released the sleeve, letting the newly stretched out sweater fall to the floor.
“Good,” their mother said with a sigh. She hid her consternation. Raising triplets, not to mention female triplets, meant showing no fear.
“What’s going on?” their mother’s twin sister stepped into the doorway of the girls’ room.
Neither Jayden nor Janine were surprised when their Aunt Mary stepped up behind her twin sister. The two were basically inseparable. Being twins, their mother and aunt were closer than best friends. That was normally the case between the Hart triplets, which was why this current argument was so out of the ordinary.
Jasmine walked into the room, staring at the sweater, then at her two sisters. “What are you guys arguing about?” she asked, stunned that she’d missed a fight. On more than one occasion and by more than one person, Jasmine had been called the instigator of the altercations between her sisters.
Jayden didn’t want to answer her aunt. Lifting her nose into the air with repugnance as if she couldn’t deal with the quarrel, she walked over to her bed. It was neatly made with the pillows stacked in precise order, unlike the other two beds which were still a mess. She climbed onto her bed and glared at the other two girls who were practically mirror images of her. They were fraternal triplets, although not many outsiders could tell the difference between them. Right now, Jayden just wanted to be alone. “I want my own room,” she grumbled. She wanted her own room and her own clothes and her own face!
“Time to get out to the bus stop,” her mother said, giving up on figuring out what was going on with her three daughters.
Jayden grabbed her book bag and rushed out of the room, ignoring her sisters who were a bit slower. She didn’t want to be with them right now. She was so tired of being with them, it made her sick. So she rushed out of the bedroom and out of the house. She was the first one to the bus stop and stood there, huddling against the cold and wishing she’d stopped and grabbed another sweater. But there was no way she would complain. Nope, she was her own person! She didn’t need to dress like her sisters. She wasn’t really even like them! They loved to cook. Jayden hated to cook!
She was the odd one out. She didn’t fit in. They were always in the kitchen while she preferred to sit on the couch doing her math homework. If she didn’t look almost exactly like her two sisters, she might consider asking her mother if she was actually adopted. Or not supposed to be part of this family.
At that moment, Bobby Martinez walked up to the bus stop and her whole day brightened up. “Hi!” she smiled to the cutest boy in the school.
Bobby hesitated and Jayden’s heart sank. This happened a lot. It wasn’t that he was afraid of her, he just didn’t know which sister he was talking to.
“Hi,” he eventually said. “How’s it going Jaz?”
Jayden sighed and hugged her books closer to her chest. “I’m Jayden,” she said and turned her back to the boy.
“Sorry,” she heard him mumble but didn’t bother to make him feel better. She just stepped away, wanting to put as much distance between her sisters and herself as possible.
When Janine and Jasmine walked up, they were with Laura and Chrissy, two of their neighbors. Jayden took more steps away, not wanting to talk to anyone at the moment. She wanted to be alone. She was never alone! Being one of a set of triplets sucked! She shared a bedroom, a bathroom, clothes, books…everything! It might be silly and irrational, but she wasn’t going to share her bus stop space!
Okay, that sounded really stupid, she thought, but she didn’t move closer. Nor did she feel the need to apologize for the sweater argument. The red one was hers! Darn it, why did everyone have to give them the same thing? Where was the individuality, the originality, the uniqueness?! Where was the thought behind the gifts? Didn’t other people know that they looked alike, but they didn’t think alike? It was ridiculous to assume that the three of them had the same taste in everything.
The school bus arrived and Jayden took a seat in the back, away from her sisters. She could tell that they were hurt, but she was still angry. She still wanted to be her own person!
School helped. She was really good in math and science classes, so she was in the advanced group. It gave her a bit of space away from her sisters and more time to breathe, to be noticed as an individual.
She ignored her sisters all day, wouldn’t even look at them when she passed them in the hallway and she skipped lunch, spending that time in the library buried in a book. By the time they were walking out of school at the end of the day, she was starting to feel better. She realized that she didn’t need to hang out with her sisters all the time like they normally did. She was an individual and could handle the world all by herself.
So she took a seat towards the back of the bus again, ignoring her sisters’ calls to join them.
And when the bus stopped at their corner, she moseyed her way off of the bus, wanting Janine and Jasmine to go on ahead.
What she didn’t expect was Mindy Jones, the mean girl down the street and her cohort, Dorothy, to be standing halfway down the block. Mindy and Dorothy hated the Hart sisters for some reason.
When Jayden realized that Janine and Jasmine were in trouble, she dumped her books onto the ground and raced into the fray. “What’s going on?” she demanded.
Jasmine was glaring at Mindy and Janine was glaring at Dorothy.
The two other girls were ready to pick a fight, not a good sign at the end of the day. “We’re sick of you guys walking around the neighborhood like you own it!” Dorothy said. “So we’re going to take you down a peg.”
Jayden heard the words and the hairs on the back of her neck bristled with anger. She burst into the fray without a second thought to her safety, only thinking of defending her sisters from a neighborhood bully. “Back off, bean-heads!” Jayden snapped, not willing to let anything happen to her sisters. She might not want to hang around them all the time, but Janine and Jasmine were still her sisters and she would fight to keep them safe! Especially from obnoxious, stinky girls who didn’t know how to dress, she thought as she looked at Dorothy’s ill-fitting, baggy sweatshirt and a pair of jeans that were so tight the zipper could barely stay up.
At that moment, she realized what the power of being a triplet really meant. Janine’s hand touched Jayden’s shoulder and Jasmine touched her hand. It was a powerful force that faced off the neighborhood bullies.
Dropping his duffle bag at the bottom of the staircase, Dante walked into the kitchen, looking around to try and find his father or some indication of his whereabouts. All he found was a bowl of nuts sitting on the pristine countertop and Dante suddenly realized that the kitchen had been remodeled. Again. He wasn’t sure if it was the fourth of fifth time that one of his father’s wives had decided to put her mark on their environment.
Everything was quiet. He grabbed a handful of the nuts and moved on through the house. His father and his latest…mistress or wife, he had no idea…must be gone, he thought. At fourteen, he already knew how to navigate through the airports to get himself from his home in Athens, Greece to his boarding school in Switzerland and back. He’d been doing it for years now and was pretty much an expert at solo, international travel. Thankfully, he was now tall enough that most people assumed he was older, so the airlines didn’t force him to have an escort any longer.
He could smell the cooked cabbage and a slight smile lifted the corners of his mouth in anticipation of the yemista – stuffed cabbage leaves that his father’s housekeeper always cooked up in advance for Christmas dinner. Peering into the fridge, he nodded his head as he took in the perfectly baked Christopsomo – Christ bread – as well as a pot of succulent pork stew. At least there would be something for Christmas dinner, he thought.
The fridge might be loaded with delicious, traditional Christmas fare, but as he wandered into the living room, he spied the uninspiring Christmas tree. Once again, it had been perfectly decorated by some designer. This year, the ornaments were white and silver. The color matched the newly decorated living room furniture, all done in greys, silver and white. Not a spot of color anywhere, he thought with resignation.
The Monet painting was missing, but he suspected that his father had just moved it to another room where it would match the décor better. The living room was blank. The Monet had color. Obviously, the two couldn’t be mixed.
He grabbed his duffel bag and headed up to his room where he found the note from his father.
“On my honeymoon, son. You’re going to love your new stepmother. Merry Christmas and stay safe.”
No affectionate Xs or Os from his father, Dante thought. Not even a signature, but that was to be expected. Dante suspected that his father hadn’t even written the note. It was a bit too effusive for his business-minded father.
He crumpled the note and tossed it into the trash then unpacked his duffle bag. He loaded his dirty clothes into the washing machine, then settled down with the newspaper, searching out the latest news.
Ten days later, his laundry, which consisted mostly of school uniforms, was repacked, all the shirts washed, dried and ironed.
He had spent his time with his friends from the neighborhood and, as he boarded the plane to head back to Switzerland, he wondered how his father was doing on his honeymoon. Since he hadn’t spoken to his father, not a phone call or an e-mail, he guessed he was doing okay.