Katie’s father sipped from the champagne flute in one hand, and wrapped his other arm around her waist. It was always funny to her how much more openly affectionate he was in public than behind closed doors. In the private of the house they hardly talked, much less touched. “Now I’ll have you know that my daughter, despite having two years left in high school, is already taking college courses.”
“Is that so?” a round-faced man asked. He wore a maroon blazer and white button up shirt around his round frame. Her father looked more dapper in his blue pin stripes, and as much as Katie disliked it when her parents hosted a party, she like the new black cocktail dress her mother bought for her—long, sophisticated.
“Only community college, of course,” her father went on, “but she did pull a 4.0 for her first semester.”
Which meant she earned an A in the one class she took. Details. Katie caught a hint of Andrew bristling beside her at the comment about community college. She was thankful he remained quiet. Though Andrew was a full-time, matriculated student to SCC, he had explained time and again to anyone who would listen how it was a money-saving strategy and he had every intention of applying to Ivy League schools to finish his undergraduate career. To his credit, Andrew had earned a 4.0 with a full course load.
Katie hadn’t expected that Andrew would be someone who came to her family’s Christmas party. Two years earlier, her mother had started suggesting she bring a date, but she had never had a boyfriend, just friends and crushes. Then she joined The Acapocalypse and met Russ and Andrew. She had visions of meeting Russ in the image, of letting him turn her a little more bad, but also getting him trade in his checkered plaid for some argyle.
Russ ignored her. Andrew didn’t.
Andrew pursued Katie with enough persistence, that there came a point when she felt obliged to give him a chance. It’s not that she really saw a future for them. He came across as sophisticated, but in a very conscious way. He was cute enough, but never really gave her butterflies. He was a suitable placeholder as a boyfriend—someone to accompany her to these sorts of events, and to go to the movies with. Not someone she saw herself getting serious with, though—physically or otherwise.
Oddly enough, Andrew seemed at peace with that situation. Once she agreed to hang out with him, and to hold his hand on occasion he seemed content. He would try to kiss her every now and again, and of those times, every now and again she would let him. But he never pressed the issue, never made her uncomfortable. He was perfectly suitable.
Katie wondered if that’s all she would ever find in a man, and if her own parents ever felt anything more than that sense of convenience and suitability. They never really demonstrated it.
“Dashing through the snow—”
“On a one horse open sleigh—”
Mr. Blisely, a high school friend of her father’s had a tradition of getting knackered and starting to sing Christmas carols. Katie’s mother reported that, for years, it was an embarrassment, and they did their best to quietly hush him up. But then, one year, someone started to sing along, and before long, the better part of the party sang, or at least lip-synched the words.
Sure enough, a few old men were quick to join Mr. Blisely, then their wives. By first chorus, easily half the party had joined in. Andrew, despite not knowing of the tradition, was all too eager to get involved. Katie smiled, and joined at the start of the second verse.
The party sang without instrumentation. Despite the lack of a formal arrangement, vocal percussion, or choreography, Katie recognized that this, too, was a cappella, and perhaps in its purest form—not carefully tuned, or rehearsed.
They all laughed and cheered as the song ended, and Katie caught herself laughing too. Mr. Blisely didn’t skip a beat, starting “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” next.
This sort of singing felt disorganized, but fun and warm. For a moment, she thought maybe this was what a cappella was supposed to be.