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Diamonds in the Rough
Miss Katerina Elisabetta Douglas was the richest young woman in South Africa. She appeared to have it all. But she didn’t. All of her money and jewels couldn’t buy her the simple gift of happiness. You see, her mother and father had been society darlings. In their day, they had been the most popular couple. Fashionable, elegant, rich, and well mannered, they had had no difficulty in getting to that position. Katerina had inherited all of those traits, but she was lacking one key quality. She had no interest in that world. Katerina would have rather spent her days out in nature rather than at a party. On top of that, people expected Katerina to be picture perfect, just like her parents had appeared to be. Of course, they had been far from that. Young Katerina knew all about her parents’ skeletons. But since the tabloids had never gotten hold of the Douglas’s scandals, the world was left thinking that they had been perfect. And poor Katerina was supposed to follow those footsteps.
One April day, Katerina was stuck at a particularly deadly social gathering. She didn’t really like any of the invitees, so she kept looking at the clock to see when it would be a respectable time to leave. Katerina ardently wished that she hadn’t had to go, but it was apparently the most important party of the season and she would be shunned if she didn’t go. At least that’s what her Aunt Catherine had declared. Katerina was having some serious doubts about that statement. No one was talking to her. She wouldn’t be surprised if even the maids hadn’t noticed her. Stifling a yawn, Katerina started to get up to leave. But standing in her way was Abigael Paratille and her posse. Katerina gave an inward groan. Why did Abigael of all people have to notice her?
“Why, hello Katerina!” said Abigael in a sugar-sweet voice that didn’t cover the nasty undertone. “I didn’t think that you would be invited to this party!”
What a hypocrite, Katerina thought. It’s no secret that she’s jealous of my wealth. And technically, it’s not even mine! I didn’t make the money, my great-great grandfather did. Plus, I won’t inherit until I’m thirty. Of course, Katerina didn’t say that to Abigael. Instead, she replied with an even sweeter smile, “Oh no, Abigael, I’m the one who’s surprised. I hadn’t known that you were on the guest list.” Truthfully, Katerina was surprised. She hadn’t known that Abigael and the hostess were friends.
Abigael’s plastic smile melted off and became a sardonic smirk. Her beady, bird-like eyes narrowed down to tiny slits. Her crew shifted excitedly behind her, aware of the upcoming catfight. “Why would you be surprised, Katerina? It’s not like your family has that many more diamond mines than mine. Besides, that outfit of yours doesn’t exactly speak for your social status. That plain old dress for a party, really? No class, Katerina, no class. And those gems look like paste- just saying!”
Katerina struggled to keep tears from escaping her aquamarine eyes. She hated when Abigael got cruel. But the bullying wasn’t over yet. Abigael continued, saying, “Really, I don’t think that your family must be very rich now. That ugly little piece of silk that barely passes for a dress is only $1,181. I was going to buy it the other day, but I decided that it would make anyone seem tasteless!” Her clique burst into silly little peals of laughter, and Abigael joined them, but only after she saw a single tear slide down Katerina’s cheek. Her eyes now brimming with tears, Katerina shoved past the snobs and out the door. She didn’t even stop to get her light jacket.
When Katerina finally got into the car, she just sat there and cried. Why was her life like this? She had everything, yet she had nothing. Why couldn’t she just live a normal, middle-class life? Maybe she wouldn’t be able to purchase $1,181 dresses with a clear conscience, but that didn’t matter. And anyway, she thought that $1,181 dresses were ridiculous. She had only gotten it under the counsel of Aunt Catherine, who had thought that it was a bargain. Wiping her eyes, Katerina decided to go to her favorite nature preserve. Being there always calmed her down.
Twenty minutes later, she was at the Little Hippo Nature Preserve. Five minutes after that, she was exploring her favorite area. It was simple- just a rather dry area spotted with green bushes and trees. But to Katerina, it was so much more than that. It was a place of comfort and solace, a place where she could be alone and at peace.
Suddenly, Katerina heard a soft rustling behind her. She whipped around, but no one was there. “Hello? Is anyone there?” Katerina called out. Sure enough, she saw a figure walking towards her. “So much for being at peace alone,” she grumbled, but braced herself to make small talk.
“Hey, darlin’!” exclaimed the newcomer. She was a tall woman with frizzy red hair sticking out of a baseball cap. She wore a tie-dye shirt with tired old jeans and worn out sneakers. I wonder what Abigael would say if she saw this woman’s attire, Katerina thought wearily.
“Hello.” replied Katerina listlessly.
“Well, you’re soundin’ like a happy camper!” the redhead smiled. “I’m Cindi Jones. Pleased to meet ya!” Cindi said jovially, holding out a sunburned hand.
“I’m Katerina Elisabetta Douglas,” replied the young millionaire, shaking Cindi’s hand.
“Well, if that ain’t a mouthful I don’t know what is!” Cindi laughed good-naturedly.
“It is!” Katerina admitted, letting a small smile adorn her face. “My parents went a bit over the top.”
Studying Katerina for a moment, Cindi said thoughtfully, “Ya know, ya don’t seem like a Katerina Elisabetta Douglas to me.”
“No. Ya seem like a simpler person than that. And that’s good, trust me! Ya ain’t impressed by fancy stuff, ya like nature better. Good quality, sweetie.”
“So what should my name be?” asked Katerina, curious.
“Well, Katerina Elisabetta Douglas is a right fine name. But what about just plain ole Kat? That’s still using the name your folks gave ya.”
“Kat.” The name rolled off Katerina’s tongue in one fluid syllable. “I like it!”
“Plus, with those pretty green cat eyes of your, it fits!” added Cindi, who had rather startling violet eyes.
Katrina smiled, a real smile, for what seemed to be the first time in years. “You know, Cindi, you seem like a really nice, understanding person. Would you mind if I told some of my problems?”
“Sugar, I would be delighted!”
So with that, Katrina got a new, refreshing name and a willing listener. Cindi seemed to understand everything. She made Kat laugh, too. Maybe she’d never be invited to one of Aunt Catherine’s galas, but she was the kindest person that Kat had ever met.
“Ya know what ya should do, Kat?” Cindi finally suggested.
“Ya said that today’s party probably isn’t over yet.”
“No, it ends late.”
“Okay, then. Go back and confront those mean girls. They won’t stop their bullying until ya stand up for yourself.”
“Uh-uh, darlin’. No buts. You are gonna go there whether ya feel like it or not.”
“Well . . .”
“Listen to me, child,” said Cindi softly. “I was bullied too, and it didn’t stop ’til I stood up for myself. I believe in ya. Now go!”
And that’s how Kat wound back up at the party. It was getting darker. She hoped that Abigael was still there.
Going into the mansion, she saw that the whole clique was there. Good. I can do this, Kat thought.
Walking over to Abigael, Kat said, “Hello, Abigael.”
Abigael looked shocked to see her. “What are you doing here? I thought that we had made it clear that you’re not welcome here.” Her crew nodded in agreement.
“No, you didn’t make that clear. What you did make clear was that you are hopelessly jealous of me. I know that I have more money than you do. But it’s not my fault! Don’t take it out on me. I haven’t done anything wrong. So stop bullying me, now. I won’t take it anymore.”
Kat had never seen Abigael look more surprised. “Touchy, touchy,” she muttered. “But fine. If it makes you happy then I’ll stop. Someday, I’ll be richer. So there!”
“You know, that’s okay. Because you’re the only one competing. Good night, everyone.” With that, Kat left Abigael looking stunned but just a little repentant.
Once home, Kat laughed in delight. She had finally beaten the mean snobs and gained self-confidence. Kat exhaled loudly. The day had been a long one, and she was ready to call it a wrap. But first, she had someone to call. Picking up her cell phone, Kat started to dial. When she didn’t pick up, Kat left a message.
“Hi Cindi, it’s me, Kat. The most amazing thing happened at the end of today’s party . . . ”