Round Robin Story
Jamie had been the first. She had tapped Catherine on the shoulder after one of the children's concerts and beckoned to a side chamber. "Can I ask you a favor?" she'd whispered. "It's kind of an imposition, but it's important to me."
"Jamie, you know I'd do anything. What do you need? Topsider clothes, money, help?"
Jamie had blushed. "Nothing like that." She'd pushed a package into Catherine's hands.
"Can you keep that for me until Winterfest? It's Mouse's present. There's not a lot of privacy here in the first place, and between him and that raccoon... well, if you could keep it hidden for a little while, it would be great."
Winterfest was still over a month away, but Catherine could see the point. "Of course, I'll be happy to help out. You just let me know when you need it back."
It had all been so simple, so innocent. Looking back over the last three weeks, Catherine wondered if Jamie had told her strategy or if everyone had just come up with the same idea this year. Mary needed to hide Father's present; Olivia needed a place that Kanin couldn't find. Soon Catherine was having trouble finding places to put all the packages without tripping over them.
Then it got even more involved. Kipper and Samantha and Eric all wanted somewhere where they could work on their presents uninterrupted, but they couldn't all be up at the same time, of course, because someone might figure out what they were up to. And besides, they were making each other's presents as well.
Now, a week before Winterfest, Catherine didn't know whether to laugh or to scream, because life was rapidly turning into a Marx Brothers movie.
Vincent cocked his head at her. "You seem distracted this evening."
Catherine pulled her coat closer and tried to laugh it off. "Oh, it's turning into the busy season. My friends want me to come visit for the holidays, Joe wants me to do extra work before I take vacation, and every store in the city is trying to get me to spent yet more money on presents."
She didn't add, "Besides, right this very minute, Kanin is on his way up here, your Father is hiding in my bathroom, Samantha is hiding under my bed, and every single one of them doesn't want you or anyone else to know they've been here."