Belden stepped into the kitchen at Crabapple Farm.
He inhaled deeply, savoring the tantalizing aromas from his
wife’s cooking. Helen was
standing at the sink, looking absent-mindedly out over the garden.
Peter walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist,
planting a quick kiss on her neck.
wrong?” he asked gently.
shook her head, clearing her mind. “I’m
being silly. It’s just so
quiet here tonight. Bobby is
eating at the Lynches’, Mart and Trixie stayed after school for
something and didn’t expect to be home for dinner, and with Brian
gone…” She shrugged her
shoulders. “I just feel
like they don’t need me.”
lost tone in her voice bothered Peter.
He tightened his grip on her.
“They still need you plenty, but they are growing up, and what
they need from you is changing. Besides,
I definitely still need you.”
He grinned suggestively at her.
“Just think of all the time we have to spend together.”
laughed, and turned in his arms. “I
suppose there are advantages to having no children around,” she grinned
slyly. “Of course, you had to go and schedule a poker night with
the guys tonight.”
started – he had forgotten about his plans for the evening.
then the phone rang. Thinking
about changing his plans in order to have a night alone with his wife, he
answered distractedly. “Belden
Epperly’s voice greeted him. “Hey,
Pete. We still on for
groaned internally. He wanted
to say no. He should just say
no. “Of course, John. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Helen laughed, and he made a face at her.
“Good. I’m quite certain you want to hear my version of your
daughter’s exploits for the day,” Coach Epperly stated, waiting to see
what kind of reaction that would bring from his old friend.
groaned loudly and hung his head. “Don’t
tell me. I don’t want to know.
Wait, yes, I do. No, I
don’t. I just want to know
if it involved the police.”
laughed heartily. “Calm
down, Pete. This had nothing to do with a mystery, or criminals, or
danger. You would actually be
proud of this one. The whole
town will be talking about it by Monday.”
furrowed his brow in confusion. “Trixie
did something the whole town will be talking about, that I should be proud
of? Wait, that didn’t come
out right. She’s always
doing things to make us proud. Oh,
stop laughing, and put me out of my misery.
The suspense is killing me!”
had moved over to stand next to him.
She was watching him closely, trying to judge whether she should be
control of himself, John sighed and said, “I knew it was going to be an
interesting day when Trixie came into the gym after school.
And she didn’t disappoint me.”
He grinned. “You
remember the co-ed two-on-two tournament I run every year, right?”
nodded, then realized John couldn’t see him.
“Of course I do. It’s
a great recruitment tactic. But
what does that have to do with Trixie?”
wanted to drag this out a little; he was enjoying his friend’s
confusion. “Well… my top
four teams today were quite interesting. In
fourth place I had two boys from my varsity team, Jake and Sam.
In third place, I had two boys who are not in my program. You might be vaguely familiar with them:
Dan Mangan and Mart Belden.”
exclaimed in surprise, “I didn’t even know Mart was going to sign up
for the tournament. He came
in third? That’s great!” He
interrupted his exultations. “Now
for the really interesting part. The
second place team was made up of the co-captains of my varsity squad,
Chris Zack and Paul Andrews.”
chuckled. “Your varsity
captains only made second place? Who
the heck actually beat them?” As
he contemplated this question, he remembered that this story was supposed
to be about Trixie. She
couldn’t have! Could she?
was too excited to beat around the bush any more.
“The first place team was amazing!
And get this: for the first time in the 15 years I’ve been
running a co-ed tournament, it was an all-girl team.
Merrissa Parkman and Trixie Belden wiped the floor with all my
varsity boys. They were
could hardly believe his ears. Helen
had leaned in, and John had gotten loud, so she had heard the last bit
quite clearly. They looked at
each other in astonishment. “I
didn’t know she had it in her,” Peter said lamely.
sobered a bit. “Oh, but
there is more to tell. This
is the part that should really concern you.”
shoulders sagged. “Now
witnessed the most interesting conversation after the last game,” John
said. “You may want to keep
very alert from here on out. Life
in your house is about to get very complicated.”
did not sound good at all.
continued, “Well, Paul Andrews and Merrissa Parkman have always
practiced twice a week at the Community Center, playing two-on-two against
Chris Zack and Cathy Parisi. And
as you know, Cathy graduated last year and went away to college on a
was afraid to ask, but had to know. “What
does that have to do with Trixie?”
was impressive today,” John said. “So
impressive, in fact, that Chris Zack asked her to be his practice partner. His regular practice partner. Every Tuesday and Thursday after school, for the entire
had been out of high school for a long time.
He had ceased playing that youthful level of social games years
ago. But even he knew
the significance of the handsome senior, captain of the varsity basketball
team and dream of every cheerleader, asking his 15-year-old daughter to
spend that much time with him. His
stomach clenched. His hand
gripped the phone so tightly his knuckles were white.
“Please tell me she said no,” he begged.
laughed. “Your daughter is
far too intelligent to have done that.
She said yes, of course. And
when she said yes, she smiled at him.
You know the one. Helen’s
smile…the one you fell in love with.
Chris melted. He
will be putty in her hands.”
slumped into the nearest chair. Could
this get any worse?
course,” John continued, “that’s only if he lives long enough.
Because Mart watched the entire thing, and I think he may try and
held his head in his hands. Chris,
of course, had done nothing to deserve such treatment from Mart.
sure you bring something stronger than beer tonight.
And I’m going to need you to drive.”
everyone from school was at Wimpy’s, and they had all heard about the
tournament. Trixie did not handle compliments well at any time, and the
steady stream was beginning to get wearying.
Then, of course, there were the people who had not
complimented her. It was
painfully obvious from the many stares she got from around the room that
she was the topic of conversation at every table.
And it was loud. Her
leaned closer so he could be heard without yelling.
“Are you okay, Trix?” he asked, concern evident in his deep,
smiled wanly. “I just want
to go home.”
glanced over at Mart and Di, who were lost in their own world.
Honey had wandered over to another table, where she was deep in
conversation with a couple of classmates.
The Bob-Whites had planned to see a movie tonight, but Trixie
really didn’t look up to it. He
looked at his watch. He could
make it out to Glen Road and back before it was time to leave for the
you like me to drive you home, Trix?”
looked up at him gratefully. “Would
you do that? I would really
grinned. How could he resist helping her?
Especially when his reward was a smile like the one that melted
Chris earlier. There were
guys who would kill for one of her smiles.
And she had no idea, which just made her all the more adorable.
grabbed her hand. “Come on.
Let’s get you out of here.”
they reached the front door, a couple of guys wearing jackets from nearby
Croton High were coming in. One
of them bumped into Trixie, deliberately, nearly knocking her over.
She would have fallen if Dan had not caught her.
The Croton boy leered at her and snarled, “Watch it, you clumsy
he passed them, Dan’s face got red.
Trixie grabbed his hand. “Please,
Dan, just get me out of here!” she begged.
She did not want him to confront the larger boy.
The other boy seemed to begging for a confrontation, and Trixie did
not want Dan to get hurt or in trouble on her account.
saw the pleading look in Trixie’s eyes.
He forced himself to relax, and escorted her out the door.
He would drive her home, then when he came back for the others, he
and Mart would take care of the jerk together.