Friends Should Associate Friends in Grief and Woe

Thursday, February 11, 1999

Sleepyside, New York


After the long, emotional discussion on the flight from Chicago, the friends had parted ways at the train as Mart headed into the city and Dan traveled to Westchester County.  Throughout the ride, Dan brooded about the things Mart had told him.  They bothered him, but what bothered him more was his own ignorance.  He had always been a careful observer of those around him.  When his friends griped about one another, sought his help for a problem with each other, or just told him a story, he had always been able to weigh the perspective he was hearing against his own analysis of what he had seen and heard to come up with a more complete interpretation of the situation.  It was the primary reason his friends valued his advice; it was always fair and balanced, never slanted to one viewpoint.

This time, however, he had no independent observations upon which to judge.  He literally hadn’t seen Trixie since Mrs. Wheeler’s funeral.  He hadn’t spoken to Mr. Wheeler since then, and everyone else who had told him something about Trixie was griping and giving second and third-hand information.  Mart’s story was the closest Dan had been to Trixie’s side of the situation.  For someone who had once considered her to be his best friend, that was just wrong.

It might explain some of Jim’s brooding since Christmas, though.  Dan knew he hadn’t seen Trixie, but his father had talked about her.  Ever since Christmas Jim had been edgy whenever she was mentioned, especially when Brian griped about her.  For the last couple of years, Dan had taken to tuning out Brian’s tirades and Jim’s silent condemnation.  Because of that, he hadn’t been paying attention to the fact that Jim’s silences had taken on a different vibe.  Now he wished he’d asked his redheaded roommate what had changed.  He was sure a recount of whatever Matt Wheeler had said about his Girl Friday would be very useful at the moment.

Dan had been so lost in his reverie that he hadn’t been consciously aware of the train’s arrival at Sleepyside Station.  Automatic reflexes had caused him to alight at his stop without thinking, and he was walking along the platform before he knew it.  He was therefore surprised to hear a familiar, melodic voice beside him.

“What, exactly, has put such a frown on your handsome face?”

Dan turned, a wide grin erasing the lines and lighting his eyes.  He grabbed his girlfriend and hugged her close.  “Diana!  God I’ve missed you!”

Giggling, Di responded, “Much better.  I was beginning to think you weren’t happy to see me.”

With a gleam in his eye, Dan told her, “You can’t imagine how happy I am to see you.”  Then he gave her the welcoming kiss she had been expecting.

When she could breathe again, Di looked up to study him.  Still detecting a certain sorrow in his eyes, she began to worry.  “Dan, what’s wrong?”

He sighed.  “It’s a long story, and I’m freezing my tail off out here.  Let’s get somewhere warm, okay?”

Not one to be put off, Di wasn’t going to let the subject drop.  Warm sounded good, though.  Grabbing his arm and walking toward the parking area, she said, “How about hot cocoa by the fire in my den?  Will that warm you up enough to tell me about it?”

“That sounds good,” Dan replied.  “Mart’ll be sorry he missed it.”

“Mart?  You talked to him?” Di asked in amazement.  “Did you get anything out of him?  About the money or the girl or anything?”

Thinking back to the old days of Trixie and Honey’s detectiving, Dan had to laugh.  They should have hired Diana on as an interrogator.  “Which question should I answer first?”

Di stuck out her tongue.  “Any would be a good start.”

“Yes, I talked to him.  We rode together on the plane.”  Dan reached out to open Di’s door for her, a shuttered expression on his face.

Di looked back toward the train station.  “Is he here?”

“No,” he said.  “There’s a one-word answer to all the rest of your questions:  Trixie.”

“Oh.  Oh, boy.”

“Yeah.”  He ran a frustrated hand through his hair before looking at her pleadingly.  “Can we just go back to your place?  Please?”

Taking in the pinched look of his features, and the worry and sorrow lurking in his eyes, Di could tell whatever Mart had said about his sister was really bothering Dan.  Which probably meant it would bother her, too.  And Dan always tried to avoid bothering her.

She reached up to stroke his cheek with the back of her fingers.  Her violet eyes bore into his.  “I’ll agree that this isn’t the place for this.  But once we’re cuddled up on my couch, you’re going to tell me.  I hate it when you keep things to yourself, because I don’t like walls between us.”

He kissed her tenderly.  “I promise.  Walls are a big part of the problem, and they need to go away.”  Then he smiled as he rubbed her nose with his.  “Besides, I don’t even like your sweater to get between us.”

Di laughed and gave him a playful smack.  “Okay, brat.  Now get in the car so we can get warm.”

Grinning wickedly as he walked around to his own door, Dan said, “We’re getting warm in the car?  Won’t that steam up the windows?”

Grateful to see the playfulness he usually exhibited with her, Di grinned and returned an appropriately smart-aleck remark.  She’d let him have his fun until they got home.  Hopefully that would help him relax enough that it would be easier to tell her what was on his mind.





Di snuggled up to Dan, her head resting on his chest, as she contemplated all he had told her.  His conversation with Mart had shocked him, but it actually made sense to her.  She could see a great deal more of the picture being painted with those few brush strokes.

She sighed sadly.  “The world will never be the same.”

Dan frowned against her raven locks as he held her close.  “Huh?”

“Oh, I’m not saying we can’t get the Bob-Whites back together again,” Di hastily reassured him.  “I’m just saying things will never be the same.”

“I know that,” Dan said.  “There’s too much water under the bridge.”

“It’s not that.”  Di took a deep breath, and let it out as another sad, resigned sigh.  “She’ll never be able to see you, Brian and Jim as her knights in shining armor again.”

While he agreed, the thought saddened him.  Grumbling, he asked, “And what about Mart?”

Di looked up and arched a delicate, shaped eyebrow at him.  “Who the heck do you think rode in on the heroic horse this time?”

Dan snorted.  “I guess.”

“It’s okay, though,” Di said with a thoughtful nod.  “Those two are just not complete without each other.  They’re a lot more like twins than people realize.”

“I used to think so,” Dan conceded.  “I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I thought that.”

Di smiled.  “So the foundation’s been laid, and it’s our job to begin the rebuilding, huh?”

“That about sums it up.”

“This sounds like a great way to spend Saturday,” she said.  “Maybe we can even ditch you guys for a while to go shopping.”

Dan looked at her incredulously.  “Just because the world will never be the same doesn’t mean that hell has frozen over!”

Di laughed gaily.  “Do you forget my amazing powers of persuasion?”

The smoldering look Dan gave her in response took her breath away.  “Not at all.  Persuade me.”

She moved to sit in his lap, a sexy smile caressing her lips.  “Have I thanked you yet for coming home this weekend?”

“Not nearly enough,” Dan complained before giving himself up willingly to her special brand of thanks.





Friday, February 12, 1999

6:00 a.m.


Diana Lynch scrunched down further beneath the warm, creamy white comforter.  At some point she had decided the purple had been overdone in her room, and had purchased the blanket as a relief from color; now she just enjoyed the fact that it was the warmest, coziest blanket she owned.

She had promised to have breakfast with the twins, but glancing at the clock she realized she still had plenty of time.  That was good, because she was reluctant to leave the warmth of her bed on this chilly morning, and she wanted some time alone to think.

Although she’d only been back to school for a month, winter break seemed like forever ago.  She was exhausted, irritable, and miserable.  She had been longing for this weekend, and had been elated when Dan had agreed to come home.  She had just wanted some time for the two of them, away from everyone else.  But mostly, she wanted time away from Honey.

Honey was driving her crazy.

Di had not taken the time to make a ton of friends at school, because over the last three years she had spent most of her free time hosting Honey or running up to New Hampshire to visit her.  Honey was one of her closest friends in the world, and had so desperately needed someone to lean on when her mother fell ill.  And Di had been more than happy to be there for her.

She hadn’t always agreed with Honey, but she’d made sure that the distraught young woman always knew that she would support her, no matter what.  And Di was just now realizing what that support had cost her.

God, she missed Trixie.

When she had first joined the Bob-Whites, she’d been a little uncomfortable around both girls.  Trixie was her oldest friend, but Diana’s wealth had changed things between them.  Honey was an unknown, but she seemed to be everything Diana was expected to be and wasn’t.  She was sophisticated, polished, elegant, and perfectly at ease in the opulent trappings of her parents’ fortune.

Over time, Di had become more comfortable around Honey.  She was sensitive, and eager to help Di adjust to her new life.  She was perceptive, and realized when Di was feeling left out or awkward.  Honey had always tried to smooth things over, include Di, and watch out for her feelings.  It was easier to be close to Honey.

But Trixie… Once upon a time, Trixie had been the kind of person that everyone just loved to be around.  She was bright, she was bubbly, she was exciting, and she made things happen.  But she was more than that to Di.  As her oldest friend, Trixie was the one constant that transcended her two different worlds.  Trixie was her lifeline, her proof that not everything had to go away when something changed.

Except that Trixie was gone now.

The last time Trixie and Di had been separated, they had been reunited by the hands of the Bob-Whites reaching across the divide and pulling Di to them.  This time, Trixie was the one who needed to be pulled back.

Not that all the Bob-Whites would be there to do the pulling.  Mart was already yanking on the rope.  Dan and Di were ready, willing and able.  The others were a different story.

Di sighed.  She just had to trust that she and Dan would be strong enough to get close to her on their own.  And quite frankly, Di needed Trixie’s help with Honey.

Honey had seemed to rely more and more on her formal upbringing to enable her to present the face of grace and composure throughout her trials.  Even as she had done so, she had closed off her heart.  She hung around with the young women she’d known in her boarding school days, and she spent all her free time socializing with the “right” people and doing all the “right” things.  She demanded all she could get of Diana’s time, and pouted like a lost child if Di wasn’t available.  At the same time, Honey didn’t seem to want Di to be a shoulder or a sounding board anymore; she just wanted her to be an appropriate companion.

Di was getting really tired of it.  She was tired of the phony people and the stuffy atmosphere of Honey’s current world.  She was tired of Honey’s refusal to step foot in Sleepyside.  She was tired of Honey resisting Diana’s every effort to open up and talk about how she felt about all the changes in her life.

She was tired of walls.  Diana meant what she’d said to Dan the day before:  she was not going to allow any walls between the two of them.  Remembering Dan’s response to that made her smile.

Sometimes it was hard for Di to believe she and Dan were so happy together, even after four years.  At one time everyone had expected her and Mart to be the perfect couple.  They had even dated briefly in high school; however their feelings for each other were more like those of a brother and sister, and they had gone their separate ways.

When she and Dan had started spending more and more time together, Diana had been afraid she was going through the same thing all over again with the next Bob-White “big brother”.  But the more time they spent together, the more obsessed she’d become with thoughts of her dark and handsome friend.  Ever inscrutable, however, Dan had not given her any indication of how he’d felt about her.  Trying to figure out the puzzle without coming straight out and asking him had driven Di mad for weeks.  Consumed by frustration, one evening she had given in to a moment of rash insanity and told him that she was having a hard time keeping her hands off his hot body, so if he thought of her platonically he’d better stay the hell away from her.

She had been extremely embarrassed by her outburst, and certain that she’d ruined a dear friendship.  Instead, Dan had taken her into his arms and given her a kiss so tender and thorough that she could still feel it.

That had been just before his senior year of high school.  They had instantly fallen into being the sappy, happy couple.  When Dan went away to college, they had suffered through growing pains.  Those had been compounded by the complications of Di going away to school in the opposite direction, and then the situation surrounding Maddie Wheeler’s illness.

But they had survived, and had grown stronger for it.  They had clung to each other, had worked hard at keeping the lines of communication open, and had fallen ever more deeply in love.  While the friendships that had originally joined them together had fallen apart around them, they had become more united.  Once upon a time, they had bonded over being left out of Bob-White adventures.  Now they were the glue that held together what little was left of the Bob-Whites.

Thoughts of Dan always lightened Diana’s mood.  Tired of her morose musings, she threw off the covers and set about getting ready for breakfast with her siblings.  She would contemplate how to approach Trixie later.




Friday, February 12, 1999

11:00 a.m.


Dan trudged the last few feet of the snow-covered path to reach the edge of the woods.  When he moved past the last of the trees and into the open he stood still for a long moment, drinking in the beautiful sight before him.  Diana stood staring out over the frozen lake, a gentle breeze caressing the loose strands of her flowing black hair, brushing it back from her face and leaving it fluttering behind her.  Her designer black leather boots were planted in the snow and sand at the shore, the high heels digging in and providing firm purchase on the slippery surface, while accentuating the well-toned legs showcased in the skin-tight black jeans.  The short white jacket provided the perfect contrast, while blending smoothly with the wintery background to the picture of loveliness.

Dan caught his breath, overcome as always with amazement that this gorgeous creature had chosen him.  Silently he moved behind her and wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling the exposed skin on her neck and inhaling her intoxicating scent.  As soon as she felt his presence, Di leaned into him, welcoming him and wrapping herself in his warmth.

“So,” Dan whispered in her ear, “while your body was standing here waiting for me, where was your mind?”

Di smiled ruefully.  “Can’t fool you, can I?”


Sighing, Di said, “I was eight years old and working on a jigsaw puzzle with Trixie.”

Dan frowned and turned her to face him.  Searching her face, he tried to gauge her mood.  It was his impression that he couldn’t figure out what she was feeling because she wasn’t sure of what she was feeling.  “Wanna walk and talk?”

Di looked up at the sky, then restlessly glanced around at the lake and the trees.  She shrugged and then nodded.  “Yeah, I think so.”

Tucking her gloved hand in the crook of his arm, Dan guided her toward a different path than the one from which he had come.  He thought a more circuitous route to their destination would give them more time to discuss whatever was bothering Di.  They strolled through the archway of branches back into the forest.  Di sighed again and laid her head on his shoulder.

“Whenever we did puzzles together, it was always the same.  When I was little, it used to bug me, because it always felt like Trixie would goof off, let me do half the puzzle, then whip through the rest of it and insist on putting in the last piece, like she’d done the whole thing.

“One night in high school, the Bob-Whites were all sitting around my rec room.  I think some of us were playing pool, but Jim and Trixie were off in the corner working on a jigsaw puzzle.  I wandered over to see if she did to him what she’d always done to me.  It wasn’t until I watched her that night that I finally understood what she’d been doing all along.”

Dan’s curiosity was piqued, and he was disheartened when she fell silent.  He tried to be patient while they continued their journey, but he didn’t last very long.  “What was she doing?”

“Hmm?”  Diana drew herself back to the present with some effort.  “Oh.  See, we’d always dump all the pieces, look at the picture on the box, and then hide the box away.  I would always start right away, picking a piece near me and studying its color and shape.  The nuances of the colors along the edge would fascinate me, and I would search every other piece until I found the one that fit with my chosen first piece.  I would keep building on my start.

“While I was working methodically, Trixie would chat and shuffle pieces around forever.  Eventually she’d start putting pieces together, and then it was like her fingers were flying.  I could take hours to get through the third of the puzzle I’d done so far, and she’d seem to finish the rest of it in mere minutes.  I always felt like a kid playing a game with an adult, where you can tell the adult is giving you a huge head start so the finish seems more fair, even if they always win.”

Again, Dan waited for Di to continue.  They reached a fallen limb, and he stopped to move it off the trail.  Di just hugged her arms to herself while she stood and waited.  When the path was cleared, Dan wrapped her in a bear hug to warm her.  Then he prodded her to continue her story.

“So what was it that Trixie was really doing?”

Di snorted.  “Working intently the entire time.  I watched her face that night she was working with Jim.  She was visualizing the picture on the box, and shuffling the pieces around into sections of the puzzle.  She sort of divided it into quadrants in her head.  Jim was working a lot like the way I used to, and the pieces that fit near where he was working she shuffled over his way.  It was never obvious that she was feeding him pieces, but she was.  Just like I had, he kept working steadily on his section of the puzzle while she rearranged all the pieces into a manageable system.

“I think the difference was that by this time Jim had figured out how she operated.  He never really looked beyond his immediate area for the next piece.  He expected that it would be right there, and it always was.  They had fun together, because they understood each other.”

“So you’re saying you couldn’t understand her?” Dan asked.

When Di shook her head her hair fell over her face, hiding her lovely eyes in shadow.  “Not couldn’t.  Didn’t.  About a year later I sat down to do a puzzle with her, purposely shoving aside all the feelings from my childhood and remembering that night with Jim.  And I had fun.  We laughed and talked, and I had a really good time.”

Dan smiled, picturing the two girls together in the days when their lives were fun and carefree.  “So do you want to bring a puzzle to lunch tomorrow?”

Di gave him a considering look.  “That’s not a half-bad idea.  But that’s not where I was going with this.”

“Okay, I’ll bite.  Where were you going with this?”

“She lives like she does puzzles.  She keeps looking at the big picture, and helps the people around her to get the detail work done while she arranges the pieces to make the job easier.”

“Huh?”  Although he thought he’d been following the conversation, Dan was lost now.

Di stopped and turned to face her boyfriend, an intense look in her violet eyes.  “Don’t you see?  The whole picture is the Bob-Whites.  We’re the pieces.  She shoved the Honey section at me, and she shoved the Jim section at you guys.  And we’re pushing those two sections together.  But there are still a lot of pieces that are just beyond our reach.  Right now Trixie isn’t strong enough to get them to us, and we can’t see what she sees.  We need to move around to her side of the table.”

Pondering her words, Dan shook his head in amazement.  “The next time anyone calls you dumb, I’m going to get mad if you stop me from punching them.  You are so deep.  I feel like I’ve taken an entire psyche course this morning.”

A brilliant smile lit her face at his compliment.  “Thanks, love,” she said as hugged him.  “We need to figure out how to help her put the puzzle together.”

“With you on her side, I’m sure it’ll take no time at all.”  He kissed the top of her head.  “Now let’s go warm up, shall we?”

“You only take me for walks in the woods so you have an excuse to warm me up,” Di pouted playfully.

“As if I need an excuse,” Dan growled.  He then swept her up in his arms, tromping down the trail and grunting like a caveman.  Diana’s merry laughter echoed through the trees and bought joy to the ears of the forest’s inhabitants.



Author's Notes:

This posting is a little different for me.  For the first time, I have new editors for this universe.  I admit to being nervous about that, because I have trouble leaving my comfort zones.  Nonetheless, I offer my deep thanks to Trish and Bonnie.  Not only were you most helpful, but your friendship and support has helped to keep this universe going.

To be honest, I had considered saving this for the Jixaversary, since so much of this universe has been posted during such celebrations.  Since it was ready, I decided to go ahead and post as an act of faith that I will be able to write enough during the February challenge to have something for March.  Keep your fingers crossed!

The title is from Titus Andronicus, Act V, Scene iii.




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