Chapter One

Although Cate had never smoked, she sometimes felt like she needed a cigarette and it was always because of her nephew C.J. In recent weeks, his behavior had become such that she wondered why she'd let him stay with them in the first place. Sure he was family but, she needed to set good examples for her kids and he was like adding two extra kids to the family…really bad ones.

"Aunt Cate! I'm really, really sorry, it won't happen again!" CJ apologized as he followed her down the stairs and into the kitchen. To Cate it seemed as though he was crawling on his hands and knees, and begging in the most pathetic, insincere way he could manage to.

"Look C.J. I'd expect this, if you were Rory's age but you know what, you're twice his age. Twice the age of a high school Freshman C.J." She locked eyes with her father who sat in the living room, reading the paper, as she said this.

"Aunt Cate it was just twenty dollars I…"

"Twenty dollars goes along way around here these days C.J." She said sadly. It was only lately that she'd realized how much money they didn't have. "I know you don't have a place to go I just don't know what I'm going to do with you."

"It's not your fault Cate. It's Maggie's fault." He began referring to his younger daughter and Cate's sister. "She did a real fine job with this boy." He rolled his eyes and turned the page in his paper.

"I'll pay you back."

"C.J. I know you'll pay me back, it's the principle of the thing…I mean I can't believe you think it's okay to steal from me."

"Oooh C.J. stole!" Rory came down the stairs excitedly upon hearing of his cousin's transgression.

"Rory Hennessey what are you wearing!" Cate was aghast when her son bounded down the stairs wearing a white hockey mask covered in blood.

"It's my Halloween costume, Mom, I'm going as Jason."

"Rory I…" Cate was not pleased with this but stopped her condemnation of both young men temporarily so she could answer the phone. "Oh hi Mom."

Jim Egan sighed. What had he done to deserve a call from his wife…even if he didn't have to be the one answering it. Suddenly he smiled, remembering a way to give C.J. the sweetest revenge.

"Oh Cate sweetheart." He called sweetly. She raised an eyebrow and knew immediately that he had something up his sleeve. "Can I talk to your Mother?"

"Uh, sure." She was a little shocked and handed the phone to her Dad. Usually he couldn't stand the subject of her Mom. Was he reconsidering their separation? While she'd welcome that, she couldn't be left with the kids and C.J…there was no way she'd survive that.

"Uh-huh, uh-huh…no way!" Bridget exclaimed. Kerry gave her sister an evil glare from her place on her bed, where she was trying desperately to study for her math test the next morning.

Kerry had tried covering her ears, throwing books…but Bridget was being especially annoying on that particular day, and it was far too gloomy outside to make a trip to the library just for math, that was for sure. Finally she did the only thing she thought would work, grabbed the phone out of her sister's hand and shut it.

"Hey that's mine!" Bridget cried in her best valley girl voice.

"Well it's my room too and you're so loud and obnoxious don't you have anything more important to do than blab on the phone. You know, I bet you, you couldn't go a week without talking on the phone to save your life."

"Me? What about you, you complain about everything, it's a sin to complain, you know that Kerry?"

Kerry rolled her eyes. Like gossip wasn't sinful?

"Fine then, I bet you…."

"We did this with Dad once." Bridget interrupted as she began playing with her long blonde hair.

"Yeah but Rory won. This time, if you win, I won't complain about your talking, but if I win, you have to give me some more respect."

"That sounds fair." Bridget agreed, narrowing her eyes at her sister as she finished assessing the contest's advantages.

"Oh no, Aunt Cate, anything but that!" C.J. cried as he followed Cate toward the girl's room.

"Yes C.J. you all need a lesson and I need a break!" Cate laughed, she knew this would provide both those things.

"Going somewhere Mom?" Bridget inquired.

"Well, not so much as leaving the home responsibilities up to somebody else for a little while and taking some time for myself." She said, Bridget and Kerry exchanged worried glances.

"This isn't going to be like the time you had Grandpa run the house for the…"

"No, no." Cate laughed. "In fact, I'm brining in someone who knows how to run a house, deal with bets between teenage girls," Cate chastised, informing them that she'd heard them waging their bet, "make sure Grandpa doesn't do anything hazardous and last but not least…manage C.J."

C.J. gulped. Having been raised by Gram until the age of 6, he knew he was in for a very trying week. Next time he'd take the $20 from Rory.