A speedier course than ling'ring languishment
Must we pursue, and I have found the path.
Sunday, April 5, 1999
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Trixie stared out the huge window of their room high above the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, gazing at the panoramic vista, mesmerized. “I think I could just stand here and stare for the entire week.”
Diana joined her, taking in the array of lights twinkling above the breathtaking view of the Great Cataract. “Yeah,” she agreed with a sigh. “Except for one thing.”
“What’s that?” Trixie asked distractedly, still focused on the tableau.
Pointing to a spot well below them in the center of their view, Di grinned and said, “I want to see the view from there.”
Giggling, eyes twinkling, Trixie pointed across the river. “Don’t forget there.” Then she pointed high above them and to the left. “Or up there.”
Diana wrapped her in a big hug. “Trix, this is gonna be so great! Thank you!”
Trixie hugged her back. “No. Thank you, Di. Thanks for not giving up on me.”
“That’s what friends are for,” Di replied. She grinned deviously. “That… and shopping.”
Groaning good-naturedly, Trixie rolled her eyes. “If I go shopping without complaint, you can’t complain about hiking in that gorge.”
Surprise and delight lit Di’s lavender eyes. “Deal!”
“This is going to be the best vacation ever,” Trixie promised, before the two broke down into another fit of the giggles.
Monday, April 6, 1999
The day was overcast, so the sun did not waken the girls. They rose slowly, ordered a full breakfast from room service, and showered while waiting for their meal. When breakfast arrived, Di answered the door dressed casually in new jeans, a purple argyle sweater, and penny loafers. She set the food out on the lovely dining table in front of their big picture window while she waited for Trixie.
Trixie arrived in her bathrobe, still brushing out her long, cantankerous hair. She continued to brush out her hair while they ate leisurely, discussing ideas for what to do and see. After observing the hair ritual for a while, Di felt the need to comment.
“It seems to me that, for as long as I can remember, you’ve hated dealing with your hair,” Di said. “You didn’t start to let it grow until you started taking care of Mrs. Wheeler.”
Trixie’s hand froze in mid-brushstroke. Her expression hardened into a closed, stubborn face Diana knew well.
“Don’t get all defensive, Trixie,” Di said quickly. “I know that look. The ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ look. That’s fine. It also answers my question as to whether or not the unprecedented length of your locks is connected to Maddie.”
Examining her brush in great detail, so as not to look Di in the face, Trixie eventually nodded. “It is.”
Di nodded. “I figured. I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I just wanted to ask… have you talked to your therapist about your hair?”
Trixie rolled her eyes and got up, walking to where she could stare out the window while keeping her back to Di.
Diana rolled her eyes right back. “So that’s a no. Does anyone know your hair has a connection to Maddie?”
With a shrug, Trixie said, “Matt.”
“Well that’s something, anyway,” Di said. “Did Matt tell you it was okay to cut your hair?”
“How did you respond to that?”
Trixie winced and braced herself for a lecture to rival any Brian or Jim had ever delivered. “I told him I’d cut it when he took off his wedding ring.”
“Trixie!” Diana’s voice expressed her shock at what she considered a scandalous response. “You can’t possibly equate your hair to a man’s wedding ring!”
With a loud groan, Trixie turned to face her friend. “Of course not! But the principle is the same. When you lose someone you really care about, you can’t let go all at once. There are some things you let go of immediately, because you have no choice. There are other changes that are gradual, as you grieve. And there are some things that you hold onto as long as you can, because you don’t really want to let go of them. That’s why he’ll keep that ring on his finger long after he thinks he’s over her death.
“And, no matter how stupid anyone thinks it is, for me… the last thing I will deal with is cutting my hair.”
Diana rushed to her and wrapped her in a tight hug. “I’m sure, if I knew why, I wouldn’t think it was stupid. Regardless, it’s how you feel. I respect your feelings. I just worry about you.”
“I know,” Trixie answered from the safety of Di’s embrace. “I’m lucky to have a friend like you.”
“Someday, will you tell me the story about your hair?”
Di stepped back and grinned. “Okay, Rapunzel, what outfit will go with that hair?”
Groaning again, Trixie grabbed Di’s hand and pulled her toward the bedroom of their suite. “You aren’t going to believe this!”
Halfway into the room, Di stopped and stared. It was not surprising to find order and neatness in Di’s half of the room, and chaos throughout Trixie’s half. The nature of the chaos, however, was hard for Diana to imagine. A large suitcase lay opened on the floor, about half full of under garments and pajamas. There were several items hanging in the wide-opened closet. Several outfits were laid out upon Trixie’s queen-sized bed. A dozen pairs of shoes lined the foot of the bed. Three different jackets were tossed haphazardly on the pillows.
Di turned to stare at Trixie for a moment. She had to choke back her instinctive exclamation, Who are you and what have you done with Trixie? Saying that out loud would have upset her friend. Instead, she walked through the chaos and examined the articles of clothing in question. She found a nice “little black dress”, several stylish skirts and blouses which would be acceptable office attire, a couple of pairs of dress slacks, a few nice sweaters, two pairs of khakis, button-down oxfords in three different colors, and one seriously ratty pair of jeans.
The selection of shoes surprised her even more. There were black pumps in low, medium, and high heels. The exact same shoes were repeated in navy blue. The medium pumps were also available in ecru and cocoa. There were brown leather dress boots, and black suede boots that looked both comfortable and chic. Next to them stood a pair of sturdy-looking hiking boots and a simple pair of brown penny loafers. Lastly, there was a beat up pair of green Keds that Di recognized as having been a 16th birthday gift.
She turned back to Trixie. “Well, at least I know now why you didn’t object when I mentioned shopping.”
Trixie grimaced. “I don’t really think I have a choice. Do you?”
Di picked up the ratty jeans. Upon closer examination, she distinctly remembered talking Trixie into buying them during a shopping trip for Di’s 17th birthday. “Are these the only jeans you brought?”
“They’re the only ones I own.” Avoiding Di’s incredulous look, Trixie ran her hands through her hair. “I had another pair, nice ones, that I wore riding last month. When I was packing, I managed to catch them on the bedpost and rip them… and I do mean rip. A master seamstress couldn’t have saved them. I had to throw them out.”
When Di could find her voice, she only said, “Huh.” Shaking her head, she quickly grabbed a pair of khakis, a shamrock green Aram sweater, and the penny loafers and handed them to Trixie. “Get dressed. Obviously we’re shopping before sight-seeing. You can’t drag me hiking in the gorge in any of these outfits.”
She turned to leave Trixie alone to dress but stopped at the doorway and glanced back over her shoulder. “And Trixie… we are going to have fun.”
Trixie watched the door close behind her and shuddered. “Right.”
Once they were dressed and had cleaned up their breakfast, the girls were ready to go. Trixie hastily flipped through a phone book before they headed to the lobby. Once there, they approached the reception desk.
Drawing on years of practice at being a millionaire’s daughter, Diana tossed her hair and smiled at the handsome clerk. “I’m in desperate need of a shopping fix. Could you direct me to the nearest mall?”
The clerk, whose nametag proclaimed him to be Derek, quickly sized up the two women. Both were young and beautiful, wearing expensive clothes. While the brunette was clearly more fashion-conscious, the blonde’s clothing was high end. Experience with the hotel’s patrons had taught him enough to recognize her sweater as being hand-knit and imported directly from Ireland. They weren’t wearing much jewelry, but it was real 24-carat gold, not cheap imitations. The blonde carried a classic satchel of fine leather from Jack George’s, while the brunette clutched an elegant Italian import from Pineider. Combined with the knowledge that they were staying in the Presidential Suite, the clerk realized that their simple, understated style was still well-funded. The higher end shops were more likely to suit the women than the outlet mall would be.
“The nearest mall is Niagara Square. It’s off McLeod, just across the QEW… that’s the highway, officially the Queen Elizabeth Way. If you want more elegant shops, you should spend a day in Niagara-on-the-Lake. And, of course, there is an outlet mall nearby.”
Mentally giving Derek high marks for his accurate assessment and appropriate response, Trixie smiled. “For the moment, Niagara Square sounds perfect. Could you give us specific directions?”
He smiled. “Would you like me to call you a car, ma’am?”
Diana mentally cringed at the word ma’am, but acknowledged it was the most polite response. “No, thank you. We have a rental. Do you have a map?”
“Absolutely,” Derek’s smile grew bigger, friendlier, without quite reaching flirtatious. He pulled a map from beneath the counter, pointed out their location and destination, and made a few notes for them. Once he was sure they were comfortable with the directions, he wished them a safe journey. “If you need anything else during your stay, please do not hesitate to ask.”
The girls thanked him and left, making it all the way to their car before Diana whirled on Trixie. “You were grading him!”
Giggling as she walked to the driver’s door and got in, Trixie responded, “Of course I was.”
“Well?” Di asked, curious.
“High marks, obviously. Now we have to bug the front desk several more times at different times of day and during different shifts. The question is whether that was Derek’s own personality, or the training and expectations of the hotel.”
Di nodded, pondering as she buckled her seatbelt. “I like that he was friendly without trying to hit on us. I hate being hit on.”
Trixie gave her a sideways glance while backing out of the parking spot. “I wouldn’t know about that. However, I agree that it implies a level of respect and a recognition of what’s appropriate. Like I said, high marks all around.”
“We’re not grading the mall, right?” Di asked with a wicked smile.
“No,” Trixie rolled her eyes. “Matt’s not looking at buying the mall, just the hotel.”
“Good!” Happiness lit the violet eyes. “Now we shop!”
The mall wasn’t large, not compared to the Galleria in White Plains, and the stores were Canadian chains that were not familiar to the girls. They found this added a feel of adventure to their excursion, because the logo on the front of the store didn’t give them an automatic picture of what was inside. They explored for several hours and made dozens of purchases before resting their weary feet in the Mandarin Restaurant.
Once they had selected their meals from the all-you-can-eat buffet, they began to relax. Di pulled out several brochures for local attractions that she had grabbed along the way. “I’ve been trying to figure out what’s seasonal and what’s year-round, just trying to guess our options.”
“From what I can tell, a fair number of the seasonals open on April 1st, so our timing is pretty good,” Trixie replied. “Some are weekends only through Memorial Day, so we’ll have to reserve Saturday for any of those we really want to see. There’s a few that I would only want to do on a hot summer day, anyway. The jet boats through the rapids, for example.”
Di wrinkled her nose. “I’m not sure I’d enjoy that one at all, but yeah, ice cold water sounds awful. How cold do you think the wind will be at the top of the Skylon Tower?”
Trixie shrugged. “It depends on the day, of course. That view is one thing I don’t want to skip, but if we don’t feel like freezing we could just do dinner in the revolving restaurant.”
“Really?” Diana’s eyebrows shot skyward. “I thought that was an elegant, upscale place. We aren’t searching for the Wimpy’s of Niagara Falls?”
There was a long pause. Trixie leveled her gaze at her and slowly raised one eyebrow. “You had to take me out to buy jeans.”
Startled laughter bubbled out of Di’s pretty face just as the waiter arrived with drink refills. She thanked him politely while giving him a look that said Hurry along, young man. Still giggling, she said, “I take it five-star is more your style these days.”
Again, Trixie shrugged. “When I was thirteen and would go places with Honey and her parents, I was always nervous and uncomfortable. I wondered how they could be so at ease in such elegant surroundings. What I’ve discovered over the last few years is that you get used to what you’re around every day.”
“It’s called growing up, Trix,” Di smiled gently.
A sadness came over Trixie’s face. She absently twirled her fork through her lo mein. “When we graduated from high school, we thought we were all grown up.”
Matching her friend’s somber mood, Di responded, “And then life threw us a curve ball.”
Trixie snorted. “More like dropped a meteor on us.”
“Trixie!” Di admonished, unable to hold back her giggles.
“Well? Am I wrong?” Trixie looked up, anger racing through the pain and shadows in her eyes. “A curve ball is your dog dying. A curve ball is an elderly relative passing away quietly in their sleep, even though you thought they’d live forever. This wasn’t a curve ball. This was bad enough to rip the Bob-Whites apart.”
Di was quiet, chewing her pepper steak while giving Trixie a moment to compose herself. She knew Trixie hated to fall apart, and she wanted to continue the conversation without pushing her friend over the edge. When she thought she had waited long enough, she carefully placed her chopsticks on her napkin and reached her hand out to cover Trixie’s.
“We’re still here, Trix.”
“Wrong,” Trixie’s voice trembled with the strength of her emotions. “Each of us, individually, is still standing. Barely. But the Bob-Whites… we’re not here.” She clenched her jaw, fighting the tears welling up in her eyes, and squeezed Di’s hand so hard it hurt. “And I don’t know how to fix it.”
Diana stopped breathing. It took every ounce of her willpower to keep her facial expression from changing. There was no way she could have hidden the light of joy shining forth from her eyes, but fortunately Trixie wasn’t looking.
Trixie wanted to fix it.
With her free hand, Di reached for her drink. She used the glass to hide her attempt to draw air, and then took a sip to cover her struggle for calm. Inside, her heart was singing.
Trixie wanted to fix it.
Thinking that the Bob-Whites might just have a chance to pull through this, after all, Diana smiled. Only superhuman effort kept her voice even when she said, “You don’t fix it alone.”
Trixie looked up at her then. She couldn’t miss the light in Di’s eyes. She didn’t want to crush the hope spreading across her friend’s features, but she shook her head. “There’s still too much I have to do alone. You can support me and let me cry on your shoulder, but you can’t say the things I need to say to Jim. You can’t make me ready to think about talking to Honey. And Brian…” A wave of despair washed over her. “I don’t even know where to begin. I have no idea how to get my brother back.”
Di’s heart broke for her. As the oldest sibling in her family, she had tried to imagine what her brothers and sisters could do that would cause her to shut them out as completely as Brian had Trixie, but she had never been able to imagine anything that bad. Brian had always been Trixie’s rock, and seeing the devastation his defection was causing his sister made Di angry. She was not about to let Trixie give up, however.
“Forget him for the moment,” Di advised. “Whatever his problem is, it started with the mess with Honey and Jim. If you fix things with them, he’ll have no choice but to at least talk to you. Your parents will brain him if he doesn’t.”
The smile that crossed Trixie’s face, however fleeting, made Di feel better. “My parents’ influence didn’t work on me the last couple of years, and it didn’t do much for Mart, either.”
“If your parents hadn’t raised you to be who you are, you wouldn’t have been able to help each other,” Di argued.
“True,” Trixie conceded.
“So start somewhere else,” Di encouraged.
Trixie looked at her intently. Several times she seemed about to say something, and then didn’t. Di wondered if she had pushed too hard. She didn’t want her to shut down. Finally Trixie balled up her napkin and pushed back from the table. She was clearly ending the conversation, but not with such finality that the topic could not be revisited later in the week. Di was so relieved she could have wept.
“Come on, Di. Let’s get our haul back to the hotel and plot our strategy for the rest of the week.”
When they arrived back at the hotel, a friendly bellhop loaded their shopping bags onto a luggage cart. Watching the pile grow larger, Trixie began to wonder how they’d managed to carry it all to the car.
“Di, we’re gonna need more luggage.”
Giggling, Di responded, “No, we’re not. I always have extra room in my luggage, expecting to shop. Besides, most of that haul is yours. You’re gonna need more luggage. Which means more shopping.”
Following the bellhop into the lobby, Trixie shot her a vicious glare. Di ignored her and grinned with delight. When they stopped at the front desk, Derek greeted them.
“How was the shopping, ladies?”
“It was fun,” Di said. “Wasn’t it, Trix?”
Trixie paused to assess her honest opinion. “Surprisingly, yes.” She slit another evil look towards Di. “But don’t push your luck.”
Derek chuckled. “Is there anything I can help you with this afternoon?”
“No, we need fresh air,” Trixie stated firmly. “We’re going to walk over to the Falls.” Seeing that Di was about to object, Trixie turned to her. “That was the point of the jeans and sneakers, was it not?”
Di wisely withdrew her objection. “Of course it was.”
“However, Derek, there is one thing you could do for us,” Trixie continued.
Eager to please, Derek was all ears. “Anything, Miss Belden.”
Trixie didn’t react to the use of her name, but she filed it away for her report. Knowing your guests was good customer service. “Tomorrow night we’d like to dine at the Skylon Tower. Could you make us a reservation?”
Smiling broadly, Derek said, “No problem at all, ma’am. What time would you like to eat?”
Trixie deferred to Di, who answered, “I think seven would be perfect.”
“Of course, Miss Lynch. I’ll take care of it right away.”
They smiled at him and headed for the elevator. The patient bellhop was waiting and called a car for them. Once their things were in their room, they tipped him and sent him on his way.
Trixie looked around the bedroom. The chaos she had left behind appalled her. “I think I’ll put my stuff away.”
“No problem,” Di said. “I’ll put my purchases away – which will take all of three minutes – and then I think I’ll study more of those brochures and relax for, well… however long this is going to take.”
Trixie’s withering glare followed Di’s quick movements around the room, as well as the brilliant smile she flashed over her shoulder as she fled the room. Once the door had closed behind her, Trixie turned to restoring order to her life… or at least her hotel room.
Di got comfortable on the soft sofa with a pile of brochures. She flipped through a couple but got quite distracted by one in particular. Knowing Trixie, tomorrow would need to be spent exploring, sight-seeing, and perhaps hiking. Shopping two days in a row would never be allowed. Thoughtfully, Di turned on the television and searched for a weather forecast. Rather pleased that the weather was supposed to be damp and chilly on Wednesday, she reached for the telephone.
“Derek, this is Diana Lynch in the Presidential Suite. I was wondering if you could make some arrangements for me on Wednesday. Here’s what I had in mind…”
Later that afternoon, the girls went to the viewing platform at Table Rock. Trixie leaned over the railing, almost wishing she could get closer to the water. This was the most spectacular view she’d ever seen in her life. The mist on her face was refreshing, almost soul cleansing. She was so close, she felt like she could reach out and touch the Horseshoe Falls.
Di was not as thrilled with the mist, mostly because she imagined how horrible her hair would look later. She was just as enthralled with the view, however. More than that, she could see how relaxed Trixie was. They had walked quite a distance through Queen Victoria Park before arriving at the Table Rock Welcome Center, chatting freely all the way. Passing through the welcome center to arrive at the outdoor viewing area, Trixie had even joked about more shopping when they saw all the souvenir displays, complete with floaty pens.
When they grew bored of standing still, they walked along the rim of the gorge, where they had the best view of the waterfalls. They stopped near the base of Clifton Hill, once again amazed by the view. From here, they had the best vantage point for the American Falls. They grabbed a treat from one of the multitude of fudge vendors and indulged by the incredible cataract.
They spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening exploring the wax museums, family-friendly venues, tourist traps, and souvenir shops that lined Clifton Hill. The street was lively, even this early in the season. The juxtaposition of the neon-happy world beside the natural beauty of Niagara Falls and the surrounding parks was odd, but somehow it just worked. It seemed the best of both worlds.
Eventually, at the top of the hill, they turned onto Victoria Avenue and wandered into a restaurant called The Wild Mushroom. The casual, rustic atmosphere fit their mood, and they sat down to enjoy burgers and fries.
All the while, they talked. They told each other about school. Di caught Trixie up on the lives of her siblings, while Trixie shared stories of the Easter dinner Di had missed. They talked about Mart and about Dan. Trixie talked about her job at Wheeler International, and Di talked about an upcoming internship with a museum in Boston.
They avoided conversation about three certain Bob-Whites. However, it didn’t feel like there was an elephant in the room. They didn’t have to work to skirt the issue. They had a wonderful time just being friends.
Since they were both of legal drinking age in the Province of Ontario, after dinner they stopped into a nearby nightclub. Rumours was loud, with lots of dancing and good music. They stayed a short while, just to get the feel of the place. Then they made their way back to their hotel.
When they turned in for the night, Trixie tried to remember the last time she had had such a good day. It seemed to her that it must have been years ago. She felt younger than she had in a long time. She felt light-hearted. She looked over at her oldest and dearest friend, already fast asleep. She realized that today the two of them had fulfilled a dream from their childhood. The memories of the happy children who had spun that dream made her smile and carried her off to a restful sleep.
Tuesday, April 7, 1999
Trixie rose early, and was standing in the living room to the suite, coffee in hand, ready for the day before the first glimmer of sunrise. She thoroughly enjoyed watching the golden orb rise above the wonderful view, but felt a tug in her heart. A sunrise was meant to be shared… but not with Diana. The wave of loneliness for Matt hit her with a force that surprised her. She almost reached for the phone, but then she remembered the time. It wasn’t even six yet on the east coast; if she woke him up before three a.m. in Seattle he would be sure something was horribly wrong. The only thing wrong was that she was watching a sunrise without him.
Perhaps she would call him while the sun was rising in Seattle.
This was supposed to be a vacation, and a normal person would want to sleep in until a decent hour, so Trixie didn’t want to wake Di. She selected breakfast from the room service menu and place an order to be delivered at the respectable hour of eight-thirty. Then she was bored. She pulled out the laptop computer that Matt had tried to prevent her from bringing. He’d told her not to work this week, but her mind was incapable of being still. Realizing that resorting to work before the second day of her vacation had even started was pathetic, she instead pulled up a barely-started term paper that wasn’t due for two more weeks. Matt couldn’t yell at her about schoolwork, could he?
When Di stumbled groggily into the room in her bathrobe shortly after eight, she took one look at Trixie’s outfit and groaned. She wore new jeans, a warm sweatshirt, and – most ominously – sturdy hiking boots. Trixie looked up at the sound of her groan, and grinned evilly.
“Hey, I went shopping yesterday.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Di mumbled.
Trixie laughed. “There’s coffee on the table, and breakfast will be here in twenty minutes. If you want to wait until afterwards to get ready, that’s okay. We’re not on a schedule.”
Di fixed her coffee and took a sip, slowly digesting the information her brain was too slow to process. Trixie was completely relaxed, and they weren’t on a schedule. This was a good thing. Plus, she was laughing. On the other hand, she was pounding away on her laptop.
Settling on the couch, Di grumbled, “Please tell me that’s not work.”
Trixie barely looked up from the computer screen. “Term paper.”
“Term paper?” Di fairly shrieked. “Are you kidding me? When is it due?”
“Two weeks.” Trixie’s answer was terse. She was on a roll, and she wanted to finish the section. Two or three more paragraphs ought to do it.
Jaw dropping, Di stared. “What time did you start working on that?”
“Six-thirty.” Adept at carrying on conversations while concentrating on other things, Trixie’s fingers never paused.
“That’s insane! You seriously need to learn how to relax!”
“I am relaxed.”
Di shoved her hand in front of Trixie face in order to break her focus on the screen. “Your mind, Trix. Let your mind be still.”
Hitting the save button, Trixie turned honest eyes to Di. “My mind is never still. If I choose to focus it on something like homework, it keeps it from wandering places I don’t want to go… like things I could have done differently.”
There were so many emotions floating in Trixie’s eyes, Di had a hard time identifying them all. There was fear of her own thoughts. There was a certain practical acceptance. There was also a determination to put the past behind her, to focus on positives rather than negatives. And there was an energy, eagerness and inquisitiveness that had been missing for a long time.
Accepting her friend as she was, Di relented. “So what subject is that?”
“Forensic accounting,” Trixie answered, a mischievous twinkle lighting her face. “It’s like detective work focused entirely on math.”
Coffee spewed everywhere. Di choked on her laughter. Trixie thrust her laptop out of harm’s way, then pounded her friend on the back. She started giggling while she ran for a towel to clean up the coffee. By the time they had the mess under control, they were laughing so hard their sides hurt. Room service chose that time to arrive. Trixie answered the door, trying to contain herself enough to sign the bill. Di huddled on the sofa, trying to pretend the waiter couldn’t see her in her coffee-stained bathrobe.
When Di sat down to her meal, she finally managed a response. “I knew there had to be some way in this world to get you interested in math.”
Trixie just grinned and dug into her food with Belden-style gusto.
After breakfast, Di went to shower and dress. Trixie checked her watch, calculated the time in Seattle, and dug out her cell phone. Matt answered on the first ring, as if he were waiting for her call.
“Are you watching the sunrise?”
“Well… it is Seattle. Notoriously overcast.”
She could hear the teasing in his voice. She was sure there was a matching twinkle in his green eyes and wished she could see it. “Regardless, you’re having your coffee by an eastern-facing window and watching whatever kind of sunrise the day has to offer.”
He chuckled. “Of course. What else would I do at this hour?”
“I have to admit, I watched a gorgeous sunrise myself.”
“Did you and Di enjoy it?”
“Di was still asleep. I watched it alone.” And wished you were here. She didn’t speak the words out loud, but she felt them so strongly she wondered if she had.
“How is the vacation going?”
“Believe it or not,” she snickered, “I shopped yesterday… and enjoyed it.”
That made him laugh out loud. “What will you give me not to repeat that?”
She laughed as well. “No one would believe you, anyway.”
“So, you’re having a good time?”
“Yeah, I am. How are your meetings going?”
“Fine. You get no more details than that. You’re not supposed to be thinking about business, remember?”
“I remember, I remember. But don’t you forget: Don’t meet with Gates until after the package from Farnsworth arrives.”
“Trixie, you told me that over a thousand times. I promised Farnsworth he’d be fired if I didn’t get the package in time. You don’t need to hold my hand to get me through this meeting.”
No, I just need you to hold my hand to get me through the day. Again, she refrained from saying what she was thinking. “I know. You’re a grown man. You can take care of yourself.”
“Don’t worry about me, Trixie. You just have fun.”
“I will, I promise.”
“Take care of yourself.”
She heard worry in his voice. Instead of feeling guilty for worrying him, it made her feel better to know he cared. “I will, Matt. And I’ll tell you all about it when we get home.”
“I’ll look forward to it. Look, Trix… you can call me at any time if you want to talk. But please don’t worry about my meetings, and don’t think about business. Just come home happy and relaxed.”
Trixie knew the conversation was over, yet she was reluctant to say goodbye. She just wanted to hear his voice. Instead, she heard Di returning to the room. “Okay. Don’t work too hard, Matt. I’ll see you Sunday.”
“See you Sunday.”
Slowly closing the phone and stowing it in her purse, Trixie savored the warm feeling she had gotten from the call. She took her time before turning to Di. Inspecting Di’s outfit, she nodded in approval.
“Ready for some exercise?”
There was a response muttered beneath her breath before Di smiled too brightly and said, “Sure! Let’s go!”
Trixie figured she was better off not knowing what Di had really wanted to say. She grinned and shoved her friend out the door.
When Trixie plopped herself down on the large rock near the water’s edge, Di eagerly collapsed beside her.
“You’re a cruel woman, Trixie,” Di panted.
“Nonsense,” Trixie said, annoyed to find she was also slightly winded. “We’re just ridiculously out of shape.”
The two relaxed in companionable silence, contemplating the rushing water of the rapids and the deceptively tranquil surface of the whirlpool basin. The river made a ninety-degree turn here, creating a powerful whirlpool. Compared to the speed and force of the rapids both before and after the turn, the swirl of the eddy seemed slow and lazy. It would be foolish to ignore the strength of the undertow, however, and both girls were careful to heed the warning signs about remaining a cautious distance from the water’s edge.
Her eyes focused on the water, Trixie broke the silence. “Do you ever go walking in the preserve?”
“Yeah,” Di said. “I mean, most of the time I’m following the direct path from my house to Maypenny’s cabin. Sometimes Dan and I will go for a long walk. It’s just not that often anymore that we’re both home. And when we are… we’re the only ones.”
“It’s still peaceful.”
It was a statement of fact, not a question, and Di didn’t dispute her. When Trixie had been home a few weeks before, she had felt the healing power of those beautiful woods reaching out to her, but she barely paid attention.
“Sometimes I walk in Central Park. Most of the time, though, I use the treadmill in the employee gym. It keeps me in shape, sort of, but it’s not the same.” Trixie closed her eyes and drew in a deep, cleansing breath. “There’s just something about nature.”
Di chuckled. “That’s because you’re the country mouse.”
She was rewarded with a smile as Trixie caught the happy memory. When they were little, before Di’s family had changed and moved out to Glen Road, they used to refer to each other as the country mouse and the city mouse. After meeting Honey, Di had amended the description. She had decided that Trixie was still the country mouse, but Honey was the city mouse, and Di was more of a town mouse.
“Seriously, though,” Di continued, “I may want to claim I grew up in town, but that’s what it was: a small, friendly town. The city will eat you alive. Sometimes you have to just get out in order to feel human again.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Trixie agreed. She leaned back on her arms and turned her face to the sun.
Di studied her profile. “How often do you get out, Trix?”
“I went to Sleepyside for the day last month.”
Narrowing her eyes at the purposely-vague answer, Di pressed. “And before that?”
There was a long, long silence. Just when Di was sure she wasn’t going to answer at all, Trixie said quietly, “Before Maddie died.”
Di was sure there was a thud when her jaw hit the ground. Although she’d known Trixie had been avoiding Sleepyside, she hadn’t realized the extent to which she’d succeeded. Every time she learned something new about her friend, she was more amazed by how deeply troubled she was. Then she found the moments of normalcy more amazing, because she realized more clearly how difficult they’d been to reach.
Unable to formulate a response, Di allowed the silence to continue until Trixie spoke again.
“I’d forgotten what it was like to feel human.”
Rolling her eyes and looking skyward, Di fought a brief inner battle. She’d been planning on talking Trixie out of any more walking, so she was mildly irritated. However, it was obvious to her that a lot more walking was exactly what Trixie needed. More than that, Trixie needed a friend; Di would never let her own comfort get in the way of being that… no matter how out of shape she was. Instead, she stood up, brushed herself off, and reached out her hand.
“Come on, Trix. We’ve got a lot more trail to cover.”
Trixie opened her eyes and looked up at the girl standing over her. “You don’t really want to do any more walking.”
Di shook her head. “You still don’t get it, do you?”
At Trixie’s raised eyebrow, Di grinned, struck by inspiration. “For you, my friend… ‘Oh, I would walk five hundred miles, and I would walk five hundred more.’”
Laughing at Di’s attempt to sing the Proclaimers’ song, Trixe took the offered hand and hauled herself up. Arm in arm, they set off on a different trail than the one they’d come down.
The girls walked every inch of seven trails. The tour guides claimed there was only a total of four kilometers of trails, but based on the way they crossed each other and doubled back, Diana and Trixie were pretty sure they’d walked more than twenty kilometers. The trails had varying degrees of difficulty, and extended from water level to the rim of the gorge, more than 60 meters above. After five hours they were completely exhausted. By the time they trudged back to their car, they abandoned their lunch plans and headed back to the hotel.
Hot showers and a room service lunch did much to revive them, but Trixie could tell Di really wanted a nap. Grateful to her friend for being such a good sport all morning, Trixie encouraged her to take one. Unfortunately, Di caught Trixie eyeing her laptop.
“And what will you be doing while I sleep the afternoon away?” Di crossed her arms and tapped her foot, attempting to look very stern.
Amused, Trixie asked, “What should I be doing?”
“Not work! Unless…” The cheshire grin which spread across Di’s face worried Trixie. “Why don’t you work on the report about this hotel? Go out, check out the amenities, speak to real, live people, and then formulate your report.”
Ignoring the jibe about speaking to people instead of staring at a computer screen, Trixie considered. “That’s not a bad idea. I think I’ll do that.”
The two went their separate ways. Three hours later, Di entered their living area looking for Trixie, only to find her staring at the laptop. Fighting aggravation, Di walked to her side and began reading over her shoulder. She was relieved to see the beginnings of the hotel report and skimmed it through. Then she actually looked at Trixie’s face.
“What’s wrong, Trix?”
“Nothing,” Trixie replied absently, her mind obviously elsewhere.
Di sat down on the chair next to her. “You look bewildered. Who did you talk to that’s got you so confused?”
Trixie shrugged. “This guy I was talking to about the hotel’s fitness room.”
“Nothing,” Trixie said, as she turned to look at Di. That was her big mistake.
Di’s eyes grew wide. “Oh my God! I know that look! You… I haven’t seen that look since high school. But I know that look! He asked you out, didn’t he?”
Trixie rolled her eyes and huffed out an annoyed breath. “Why do you always do this?”
“Because you’re always so clueless!” Di was just as annoyed. “You can never accept that anyone would see anything valuable in you!”
“I’m plenty valuable,” Trixie retorted, “in a business meeting. This guy would get his ass handed to him if he were on the other side of a conference table from me.”
Di laughed. “You know, not every guy has major manliness issues with women in business. Believe it or not, there are some men who would find the ability to kick their ass in a boardroom to be sexy.”
“Sexy?” Trixie shrieked. “Are you crazy? Maybe if I looked like you, but…”
“That’s it!” Di slammed her hands on the table. “It’s time to get ready for our dinner reservations, anyway. Time to gussy you up.”
“No!” Trixie was horrified.
Di dragged a struggling Trixie and practically threw her into the bedroom. After being forced into a chair by a mirror, Trixie gave up the physical struggle. She knew how forceful Di could be on one of these missions of hers. It wasn’t worth the fight. She wasn’t about to cooperate, however. She sat with a pout on her face and arms crossed over her chest, glaring at her friend the entire time.
Meanwhile, Di stormed about the room. She rifled through Trixie’s things, choosing jewelry and hair accessories. She picked the little black dress out of the closet, as well as the black pumps with the killer heels. She grabbed her own hair and makeup tools, knowing Trixie would be woefully undersupplied. And then she set to work.
When Di took a break from her torture a half-hour later, she ordered Trixie to dress herself while she did her own hair and makeup. Trixie grumbled, but complied. In a short while the two young women stood side-by-side before the large mirror.
Trixie carefully inspected her appearance from all angles, including the way Di had managed to put her hair up without pulling it tight. It was piled on top of her head, with skillfully selected ringlets cascading down in strategic places. She couldn’t find a flaw, no matter how hard she tried. Even when she studied Di’s reflection and compared the two images, she didn’t shudder.
“Not bad,” she conceded.
It didn’t sound like much, but Di knew better. That was tremendous praise from Trixie. Di then drew a $50 bill out of her purse and laid it on the dresser.
Trixie frowned. “What’s that?”
“A little wager: you’ll get hit on first.”
“Not a chance,” Trixie snorted. “Even if I get hit on, you’ll beat me four to one, at least.”
Di examined her handiwork again, then shook her head. “Nope. You first, and you more often.”
“Fine.” Trixie reached for her own purse. “You’re on. You’re a miracle worker, I’ll admit, but you’ve still got limited raw materials.” She slapped her own fifty down beside Di’s.
“Perfect,” Di said with an evil grin. “Let’s go!”
Diana grabbed her coat and flounced prettily out of the room. Trixie rolled her eyes, grabbed her own coat, and stalked after her. She would have been shocked to realize her own movements were just as graceful as her friend’s.
The Revolving Dining Room lived up to its reputation. The view was breathtaking and the food exquisite. Diana chose the Seared Sea Scallops St. Jacques for an appetizer, and Filet Mignon Béarnaise for her meal, while Trixie opted for a Caesar salad and prime rib, although both were sorely tempted by the seafood medley. After their meal, they sat back to relax with their dessert and coffee. Diana wanted the baked praline cheesecake with the amaretto espresso, while Trixie ordered Irish coffee and crème brulee.
Di shook her head. “Didn’t you tell me you had crème brulee at my parents’ house two days ago?”
“There is no such thing as too much crème brulee,” Trixie grinned. “It’s a terrible weakness, I know, but I don’t care.”
Just then, a gentleman they had met in the elevator on the way up to the restaurant stopped by their table. “Enjoy your evening, ladies. Perhaps we will see each other again?”
Trixie was polite, but kindly refused an offer to make plans later in the week. Di said nothing, for she was too busy choking back her laughter. When the man was gone, Di grinned.
“What does that make? Six?”
Trixie glowered. “Shut up.”
“Well, I was asked out once. Twice, if you count the waiter.”
“Shut up.” The response was little more than a growl.
“What’s the matter? It’s only fifty bucks!”
“I really hate you right now.”
Diana laughed out loud. Trixie couldn’t hold onto her anger, and she joined in. Several heads turned to enjoy the sight of two beautiful young women, happy and laughing, their faces lit by candlelight and their profiles highlighted by the waterfall behind them. It was surely a beautiful sight.
Wednesday, April 8, 1999
Deciding to try the dining room rather than room service, the girls awoke earlier than previous days, dressed, and went downstairs. They were seated at a window table which provided a pleasing view despite the gray and gloomy morning. After placing their orders, Trixie turned her attention to the rest of the day.
“So, any preferences for today’s activities?”
“Well, actually,” Di avoided her gaze and drew designs on the table with her finger. “You picked yesterday, so I already made plans for today.”
Trixie stared at her, suspicion clouding her features. “More shopping?”
“Maybe. But we start with sessions at a day spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake.” Di dared to glance up just in time to see the color drain from Trixie’s face. Amused, Di said, “It won’t kill you, you know.”
“You’ve already made plans?” Trixie’s mind was hard at work, trying to figure out how to get out of Di’s plans.
Di grinned. “You’re stuck, Trix. I had Derek make reservations two days ago. We have appointments at the day spa, and then appointments at a salon afterwards. Then time for shopping before dinner reservations.”
Temper sparking, Trixie queried, “A salon?”
Di raised her hands defensively. “No cut, I promise. Just a hot oil treatment. If you’re not going to cut your hair, you should at least take care of it.”
“Spa, salon, shopping?” Trixie stared at Di for a long time, trying to work up some anger. Instead, she gave in gracefully. “Sounds like a perfect girls’ day out.”
Di’s face lit up in delight. She refrained from actually clapping her hands gleefully, but she felt like dancing. “Yes!”
When they arrived at the White Oaks Resort, Trixie had no idea what to expect. Di had booked them a package called “The Journey”, which would take over four hours but included a gourmet lunch. Muttering something to the effect that lunch had better not consist of the ingredients of the facials, Trixie played along. She was much relieved to find they would be together in a private treatment suite. Trixie figured that if Di had to drag her into this, she had to stay at her side during the torture.
Sometime during the hydrotherapy bath, Trixie gave in to the concept of relaxation. The full body massage and the facial left her quiet and contemplative. There really wasn’t much chance for the girls to talk during these treatments. Once the manicure and pedicure sessions started, however, there was ample opportunity for gab.
Having spent enough time on the receiving end of Diana’s probing, Trixie decided it was time to turn the tables on her friend. “Have you talked to Dan at all about his plans for after graduation?”
Di colored slightly and looked away. “Not really.”
“So you have no idea what’s going through his head?”
Squirming under the slight censure in Trixie’s voice, Di huffed. “He needs to make his own choices.”
One blonde eyebrow rose slowly. “Do you want to be a part of his future?”
“Of course I do!” Di took a deep breath, trying not to lose her temper.
“Then at least act interested.”
Di frowned. “I’m interested. I just don’t want to unduly influence his decisions.”
“How is he supposed to know that?” Trixie was neither condescending nor critical. “If you don’t even ask, is he sure you want to know? Or is he wondering whether it matters to you?”
Chewing her lip, Di hesitated. “He should know by now.”
Trixie shook her head. “You told me that every transition has been hard. Don’t you think it might be a little easier if you talked about it ahead of time? Or at least explained how you feel about asking?”
“You mean, maybe he hasn’t said anything because he doesn’t understand why I haven’t asked.”
“Exactly.” Trixie was glad they were sitting close enough that she could put her free hand on her friend’s arm. “Let me ask you something: If he suddenly decided to join the LAPD, what would you do after graduation?”
“There are museums in L.A.,” Di’s answer was quick and without hesitation.
“So you don’t want to influence his decision, but it’s okay for his decision to radically alter your career plans?”
Di cringed. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
“But maybe that’s how Dan is thinking. Maybe he’s worrying about that, and the worry is influencing his decision. The point is, you don’t even know.”
“Oh, boy,” Di sounded dejected. “I’ve screwed up big time, haven’t I?”
“Not at all,” Trixie disagreed. “First of all, it’s easy enough to fix; just talk to Dan. Second of all, you two have such a good relationship that it would take a lot more than this to destroy it. I just don’t see why you should let an unnecessary problem cause any damage. And third, I set a pretty high bar for screwing up big time. You only screwed up a little.”
“Trixie!” Di scolded with a frown.
“I’m just being honest,” Trixie said with a fatalistic shrug. “It’s going to take a lot to repair the damage I did, and I don’t think we’ll ever be back to where we were before.”
“Yeah, but straightening this out with Dan won’t put us where we were before.”
“True,” Trixie agreed. “You’ll be better and stronger.”
Trixie blinked startled blue eyes and stared at Di. The idea slowly took root, and a shadow of a smile teased the corners of her mouth. “There’s such a long way to go that I just can’t expect that,” she said. With a nod, she added, “But I have to admit, with the Bob-Whites… stranger things have happened.”
After their spa lunch, the girls moved on to a hair salon where they received some intense hair care. Just sitting in the chair made Trixie sick to her stomach, feeling like she’d broken a promise to Maddie. Di had warned the stylist ahead of time, however, and the woman never even mentioned a trim. After a shampoo and a honey-based hair mask, the woman gently tamed Trixie’s curls and put her hair in an elegant upsweep.
Feeling glamorous, the girls moved on to shopping. Although not any more excited about shopping than she had been about a spa, Trixie was feeling good and enjoying her day. She was intrigued by a little Irish shop, while Di was fascinated by a little art boutique. They were amused by the Beau Chapeau Hat Shop, and delighted with Just Christmas. The best moment of the afternoon came when they entered the Silly Old Bear Shop. They absolutely fell in love with the little store themed completely in the original Winnie-the-Pooh. Fortunately, no girl is too old for a teddy bear, and neither one walked out empty-handed.
They crowned the day with traditional French cuisine in the Tiara Restaurant, overlooking the historic Niagara-on-the-Lake Harbour. Everything was exquisite, from the lobster and mascarpone ravioli to the roasted loin of lamb to the white chocolate Irish cream cheesecake. By the time they drove back up the Niagara Escarpment to their own hotel, they were fully sated and pleasantly tired. All in all, it had been a very fine day.
Thursday, April 9, 1999
After breakfast at Tim Horton’s, Trixie and Di walked across the Rainbow Bridge to the American side of the Falls. They spent the morning visiting the best viewing points in the Niagara Reservation State Park, including Prospect Point, the Bridal Veil platform, and Terrapin Point. A walk over the bridges to the Three Sisters Islands left them breathless with their proximity to the rushing waters of the upper rapids. Returning to Prospect Point, they walked out onto the viewing platform, where they could see several areas where ice still covered the rocks at the base of the American Falls.
They ate lunch at the Red Coach Inn, a historic inn and restaurant overlooking the rapids. The weather was still a bit brisk for the patio, but there was a decent weekday lunch crowd in the dining room.
After lunch, they toured the Schoellkopf Geological Museum and the Aquarium of Niagara. Then they journeyed back across the border to Canada and headed for their hotel. They needed to change before dinner; the one part of the hotel they hadn’t seen yet was the elegant restaurant on one of the uppermost floors, touted for both its view and good food. Trixie wanted to be sure to include it in her report for Matt.
Kicking off her shoes and massaging her tired feet, Di asked, “Why did we leave the car at the hotel today?”
“Because we needed the exercise,” Trixie mumbled before heading to the shower.
Di frowned. Trixie had been unusually quiet today. Or at least quieter than she’d been through this particular trip. Something was definitely bothering her, and Di had every intention of figuring out what.
A while later, dressed and refreshed, they made their way to the restaurant. They kibitzed while waiting for their orders, critiquing the service and menu.
When they started eating, Di thought she should open the conversation gently. “What should we do tomorrow?”
Trixie didn’t answer at first, using her fork to play with her food. “I’ve been thinking…” Then she hesitated.
Di waited. She could give Trixie all the time she needed, because her voice had been stilled by the shock of Trixie moving the conversation right where Di wanted it.
“… about Jim.”
Blinking rapidly, Di’s eyes grew bigger and bigger. Whoa, baby! she thought with a gulp. Hoping she could find the right responses, Di opened the door for Trixie to tell her what was on her mind.
“In what way?”
Sighing, Trixie said, “About what you said the other night about Brian. And about Jim and Honey.”
Di wanted Trixie to keep talking, but she could see her friend was having a hard time. She grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Tell me what you’re thinking, sweetie.”
Trixie dropped her fork onto her plate and reached for her water glass, her other hand holding onto Di’s for dear life. “I still can’t wrap my head around the thought of talking to Honey.” With a deep, fortifying breath, Trixie continued, “But I know exactly what I want to say to Jim. Correction: what I need to say to Jim.”
Knowing full well it was easier said than done, Di encouraged, “Then say it.”
Pulling both hands back, Trixie slumped in her chair and began playing with the napkin in her lap. It was fortunate that it was linen, or it might have been shred into a thousand pieces. As it was, the napkin would be lucky to survive the encounter.
“It’s not exactly a telephone-appropriate conversation.”
Di pursed her lips. “True.”
Trixie stared off into the night through the plate glass window. When she spoke again, it was little more than a whisper. “He who hesitates is lost.”
“That is often true, as well,” Di said gently.
Still staring through unfocused eyes, Trixie chewed her bottom lip. “A lot of the fun things to do around here that we haven’t gotten to yet would be more fun with a bigger group… like an old-fashioned Bob-White trip.”
“Also true.” Di contained her reaction, with only the happiness shining in her lavender eyes an indication of how pleased she was.
When Trixie finally tore her gaze from the window and looked at Di, her eyes were bright with both trepidation and determination. “How would you feel about ditching this place and heading to Chicago?”
This time Di grinned openly. “When do we leave?”
Trixie almost smiled. “It’s like a nine-hour drive from here, I think. Could we be on the road by midnight?”
Amused, Di’s eyes crinkled. “It’s a good thing that rental car is charged to an unlimited expense account.”
“Smartass,” Trixie rolled her eyes.
“We’ll never leave if we don’t finish eating,” Di observed.
Trixie looked at her plate and realized with a start that she had yet to eat a thing. “I guess you’re right,” she said as she retrieved her fork and took her first bite.
Eating with intent, Di mused, “Nine hours is probably long enough to figure out what I need to say to Dan.”
“Oh good,” Trixie snorted. “You think about Dan, I’ll think about Jim, and it’ll feel just like high school.”
Di laughed so hard she choked on her food. After a soothing drink of water to clear her throat, she lifted her glass. “To old times.”
Trixie slowly raised her own glass, feeling hope blossoming. As their glasses clinked, she said, “And to better times.”
Thanks again to Bonnie and PatK for editing.
Also being published in honor of my seventh Jixaversary.
I hope this brought back some pleasant memories for attendees of Trixie Camp 2007.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel yet? Only time will tell.
The title is from Titus Andronicus, Act II, Scene i, lines 110-111.