Karen Cooper thought of herself as a plump girl but in reality she was just a couple of dress sizes bigger than her older sisters.
In every other respect she was clearly a Cooper, the looks were unmistakable.
All the Cooper girls had Auburn hair and an abundance of freckle.
And each one of the sisters thought their siblings were much more attractive than they were, whereas in reality they were all very pretty.
Karen was a tall girl like Jane and facially she favoured Kath.
Although she wasn’t born by the lake she was only two when she moved to Coopers Villa and she had no memory of living anywhere else.
Karen also took the credit for being responsible for them being on the lake in the first place.
Because when she was a baby she contracted meningitis and had to be rushed to hospital, and it was her illness that brought about the reconciliation between her Dad, Paul, and Granddad Harry.
Apart from the Auburn hair and abundant freckles, another trait she shared with her sister was that they all possessed a propensity towards hard work, clearly inherited from their parents.
Whatever she wanted she would get because she was a hard worker, it had helped her through her education and it would help her in her chosen profession.
But there were limitation though even for a strong work ethic, for example hard work was not going to get her anywhere with Chris O’Neil.
She was convinced he didn’t even know she existed and she had been in love with Chris since she was 12 years old and she was now 18.
The Cooper girls may have been late comers to Teardrop Lake but the O’Neil boys were all Lakesider’s born and bred and whereas all the Cooper girls had Auburn hair and freckles all the O’Neil Boys had black hair and wild gypsy eyes.
Chris was 22 years old and worked as a paramedic.
He was the best looking of the O’Neil brothers and was as a result very popular with the girls, but the sort of girls who kept throwing themselves at him were not the type of girl he was looking for.
Like his elder brother Terry, what Chris was looking for was a girl he could settle down with, and a girl like that hadn’t yet thrown herself at his feet.
However Francis, the youngest of the O’Neil’s, who was 19 and was in his second year at University, studying English had other ideas.
Unlike his brothers he had no interest in a long term relationship, or settling down.
His plan was to get his degree and then travel the world with no burdens and no responsibilities to way him down.
Dakota Harris was 17 year old and she was the pretty girl of Teardrop Lake and she lived at Shoe Buckle House on the northwest side of the Lake, and she was a tall and slender girl with long dark hair.
She was on the outside at least ultra-confident and ultra-popular with the boys who she kept dancing on strings but they were only boys.
She was always immaculately turned out, painted, perfumed and powdered and ready to impress Mr Right.
But apparently he was never looking her way, whoever he might be.
But for all her big talk and bravado she was fast approaching 18 and hadn’t even been kissed.
Even her tomboy big sister was engaged to a gorgeous man, and an army Captain at that.
Because she was pretty and because she knew she was pretty, Dakota always talked big when it came to the opposite sex, and her friends bought into it.
But it was all bravado, if one of the men she flirted with actually came on to her she would have run a mile.
Outside she was sexy and confident but inside she was a shy and dowdy little mouse.
Karen Cooper’s hard work took the form of working multiple shifts waitressing at the Brown Windsor restaurant where her sister Jane was the Sous Chef.
But that was just in her spare time, the rest of the time she was serving an apprenticeship at the Purplemere Film Studios where she was training to be a makeup artist.
Peter Lutchford the renowned film director who also lived on the lake got her the position.
She also help her sister Jane with her home dining engagements as well as doing makeovers to the inhabitants.
That was how she first got to know Dakota Harris and they soon became good friends because of it and Dak let Karen practice her make up skills on her.
Dakota was convinced she was never going to be kissed and especially not before she reached her 18th birthday.
She could quite easily get a kiss in time if she acted like a tart but she wasn’t a tart and she wanted her first kiss to be romantic, not desperate.
Meanwhile Karen was still dreaming of a romantic affair with her prince charming Chris Cooper but was resigned to the fact it would never happen.
On the Saturday before Christmas Karen had a rare night off and was around at Dakota’s house,
Dak’s parents were out to dinner and her older sister, India, was meeting her friend Penny at the airport.
So they had the house to themselves and Karen out did herself with Dakota’s makeover.
“Wow” she said “I look really hot”
“Not bad eh?” Karen said admiring her handiwork
“I look about 20” Dak said “Don’t you think?”
“21 maybe” Karen added
“Let’s go to the pub then” she suggested
Karen thought about it for a moment and said
“I don’t know” she said “I look rubbish”
“You can borrow something of Indie’s and I’ll do your make up” Dakota said
Karen reluctantly agreed so half an hour later they were laughing and joking and on their way to The Woodcutters Arms in Shallowfield.
At the same time Dakota was doing Karen’s makeup Chris and his brother Fran were just leaving Lakeside Villa bound for the same destination.
It was Chris’s first weekend off for a month and Francis had only got home from University that day.
The pair of them hadn’t been out for a beer together for almost a year so they thought a few jars at the pub might just fit the bill.
There were three pubs at the Teardrop Lake end of Shallowfield, The Woodman’s Axe, The Woodcutters Arms and The Foresters.
Ant the names clearly reflected Shallowfield’s dependence on forestry over the centuries, the pubs at the other end of town had more of an agricultural flavour in their naming, The Wheatsheaf, the Plough and the Farmers Tavern.
But all of those were too far to walk to so they decided very definitely to restrict their choices to the forest end.
Chris had drunk in all three at one time or another so he didn’t really have a preference and Fran didn’t care which one they went to as long as Chris was paying so they went to the closest the Woodcutters.
Dakota hadn’t been to the pub before and although she looked old enough to be in there after the makeover she had no ID so Dak went and found a table and Karen bought the drinks.
The girls were sat at a corner table facing back towards the bar.
“Look who’s just come in” Dakota said and Karen looked up and saw the O’Neil brothers standing at the bar.
As soon as she saw them Karen got all flustered and her cheeks flushed.
“What’s wrong with you?” Dakota asked
“Nothing” she said trying to look anywhere but at the bar.
“You fancy one of them don’t you?” Dakota probed “Which one?”
“Chris” she reluctantly replied
“How long have you fancied him?” Dak quizzed
“Since I was 12” she replied
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked
“Because nothing will ever come of it” Karen said definitively and took a drink then she glanced at the bar just as Chris looked across at them and smiled
“He’s looking over here” Dakota whispered
They both smiled back at him and then Karen said
“Well he’s not looking at me is he?”
“Well he’s too old for me” she said “I like Fran”
Karen spent the next 20 minutes sneaking glances at Chris as he laughed and joked with his brother, every now and then he would throw a glance at her and she would look away.
There were a number of girls who approached them but whatever they were after they left without it.
Dakota suddenly got up and announced she was going to the loo and almost as soon as she left there was movement at the bar at Chris started walking towards her.
“Hi Karen” he said
“Hello” she replied “Dakota’s gone to the loo”
“I know I saw her go” he said “it was you I wanted to talk to”
“Me?” she said incredulously
“Yes you” he replied
“Why?” she asked
“Blimey you don’t make it easy for a bloke” he said
“I don’t understand” she said
“I wanted to ask you something while Dakota was in the ladies” he explained
“Oh I see” Karen said with a sigh “you want her phone number I suppose”
“No” Chris replied with surprise “Why would I want her number?”
“I wanted to ask you out” he explained
“Me?” she said incredulously
“Oh no not again, yes you” he replied
“I’ve been wanting to ask you out for ages but you’re always working somewhere or other and I never get a look in”
“Seriously?” she asked
“Yes” he replied “So?”
“Yes” she said
“Now was that a question or an answer?”
“Definitely an answer” she said and grinned like a Cheshire cat.
“Good” he said “now can I get you a drink?”
Chris walked to the bar just as Dakota returned from the toilet and Fran joined his brother at the bar.
When he first walked to the bar and saw Karen sitting at the corner table he congratulated himself on his choice of venue and hoped Christmas had arrived early and seemed he was not to be disappointed.
“Well?” Dakota asked when she returned to the table.
“Well what?” she replied
“Did he ask you?” Dakota asked
“Yes” she said excitedly and they hugged
“But how did you know?”
“Fran told me” she replied
“But how did he know?”
“Chris told him?” Dakota said
“Anyway Fran told me” she said “and then he kissed me”
“Where?” asked Karen, wide eyed with curiosity
“On the lips stupid”
“No I mean, Where?” she explained “Where were you when he kissed you”
“Oh outside” Dakota clarified
“What were you doing outside?” Karen asked “Apart from being kissed”
“Well I went to the loo” Dakota explained “and when I came out Fran was there waiting for me and he told me no to go back to the table because Chris was asking you out”
She paused for breath
“Which was taking forever by the way, and we were blocking the door so he suggested we went outside and that was when he kissed me, in the moonlight, it was very romantic”
“Wow” Karen responded “And did he ask you out as well?
“Yes” she said excitedly and they hugged again
“Who’d of thought it, I have a date with an O’Neil”
“Me too” Dakota squealed just as the boys and the drinks arrived.
As they reached the Shallowfield Lodge Hotel on the way home from the pub they split up.
Fran took the left fork so he could walk Dakota home and romantically kiss her in the moonlight once more.
Chris and Karen took the right fork and walked slowly hand in hand in the moonlight, they were in no rush to get home.
“Fancy that, Chubby Karen is walking hand in hand with Chris O’Neil” she said inside her head
While Chris was thinking to himself how lucky he was.
“Was that romantic enough for you?” Fran asked moments after his lips left hers
“It was acceptable” she said
“Perhaps I should have another go” he suggested
“Definitely worth a try” Dakota said obligingly
Francis O’Neil felt ten feet tall as he headed for home despite the fact that the evening had not gone as planned.
It was just supposed to be a few pints with his brother Romantic kissing was certainly not part of his plan at all but as soon as he saw Dakota Harris sitting in the bar trying to look all grown up, he was smitten.
Hook, line and sinker, smitten.
And this from the man who had no interest in a long term relationship.
His plan to get his degree and travel the world with no burdens and no responsibilities to weight him down was in tatters.
But then maybe he could take her around the world with him, she wouldn’t be too burdensome.
Chris and Karen still hadn’t reached either of the Villa’s by the time Fran came running along the road
“Don’t mind me” he shouted as he sprinted past.
When they got to the top of the path that led down to her house they came to a halt and he turned to face her and he kissed her soft lips, in a long and sensual kiss.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to do that” Karen said
“Me too” he concurred
“How long?” she asked
“A couple of years, almost three to be precise” he confessed
“I was 12” she admitted “when I first noticed you like that”
“Was it worth the wait?” he asked
“It was for me” she said
And then her kissed her again which she took to mean “me too”