The Basketball Quartet


Tuesday, October 3, 1995


As Trixie emerged from the lunch line, she was nudged in the back with a tray.

“Hey, come sit with us,” Riss Parkman grinned.

Trixie grinned back, “Sure.”

As the girls made their way over to Riss’ special table, the boys waiting there looked up.  Noticing Riss’ companion, they both smiled.  Chris’ smile was brighter than Paul’s, and his gray eyes lit up upon seeing Trixie.

Paul snickered, “Man, you’ve got it so bad.”

Chris nonchalantly picked up a french fry from his tray and threw it at Paul’s face.  Paul laughed and thanked him for not dipping it into his ketchup first.

Riss set her tray of tuna salad and potato chips next to Paul’s, kissing him on the cheek as she sat down.  “I see you two are getting along smashingly, as usual.”

Trixie giggled as she set her cheeseburger-laden tray down and sat beside Chris.  “It’s nice to know there are some constants in the universe.”

Paul threw his arm around Riss’ shoulder and pulled her close.  “My love, you can’t leave me alone with Mr. Perfect and expect me to behave.”

Chris snorted.  “You can’t expect him to behave, anywhere, ever.”

Trixie laughed.  She was always amazed at how easily she seemed to fit into this tight-knit group, and how she felt as comfortable with their bantering as she did with the Bob-Whites'.

Paul looked pointedly across the table at Trixie.  “So, Short Stuff, are you joining us for practice today?”

Trixie’s jaw dropped.  She looked at Paul like he was crazy, then looked down at her left arm resting on the table.  After staring at the multitude of colorful signatures on her cast for a moment, she looked up at Chris.  “Is he kidding?” she asked him.

Chris smiled the slow, sexy smile that had half of the females in the school swooning.  “Blue Eyes, even with your arm in a cast, you could probably beat the pants off that clown.”

Trixie basked in the compliment and stared into his eyes.  She returned the smile with one equally as slow, and unwittingly, equally as sexy.

“Do you think so?” she asked in a low, sultry voice.

“Oh, I know so,” he replied, practically purring.

Paul cleared his throat loudly and theatrically.  “Um, still here, folks.  Just in case you forgot you weren’t completely alone in a cafeteria full of roughly 200 other people.”

Riss smacked him hard on the arm, and spoke as if he hadn’t said a word.  “Actually, that’s not a bad idea.  We’ll tie Paul’s arm behind his back and see if Trixie can beat him.”

Chris and Trixie were so busy staring at each other and smiling that it took a moment for her words to register.  Paul rolled his eyes.

Finally Trixie realized what Riss had said, and turned to look at Paul appraisingly.  “Sounds like a plan,” she said at last.  “I’ll mop the floor with you.”

Paul hooted.  “You’re getting too cocky, Belden.  I’m gonna enjoy putting you in your place.”

Chris grinned at Riss.  “This is going to be a whole lot of fun to watch.”

Riss grinned back.  “Definitely.”

When lunch was over, Trixie bid farewell to the group of seniors and promised to meet them after school.  Heading in the opposite direction down the hallway, she found herself face-to-face with Beth Fleming.

“Some day soon, Belden, your flirting will be the death of you,” Beth taunted coldly, before turning and heading back the way from whence she had come.

Trixie stood staring after her for a minute.  I won’t let her get to me, she told herself, forcing her face into a mask of composure.  She took a deep breath, tried to force all thoughts of Beth Fleming from her mind, and headed off for class.

As she slid into her seat next to Tad, he looked up and smiled at her.  She smiled back, but it was stiff and forced, her mind still on Beth's taunts.  He immediately frowned and leaned closer to her.  Resting an arm on the back of her chair, he asked her, “Is something wrong?”

Trixie saw the concern clouding the turquoise-blue eyes, and was warmed by it.  She relaxed, and her face softened into a gentle smile.  “Nothing’s wrong.  Thank you for caring.”

Tad studied her for a moment.  He observed how she had relaxed, and he saw the warmth in the pools of sapphire shining back at him.  Apparently satisfied that she was okay, he nodded and smiled.  He rubbed her back for a second and said, “Just remember, I’m always here if you need to talk or anything.”

She smiled wider and said, “Thanks.”  Then they both settled back in their seats for class.




True to their word, when the four practice partners arrived at the Community Center, Riss tied Paul’s arm behind his back and handed him the ball.  She and Chris sat down to enjoy the show.

Paul and Trixie passed the ball back and forth a few times, and practiced dribbling.  Then they started to play.  It was slow going, and they both played terribly at first.  Even as they grew more comfortable with the one-armed play, it was still difficult.  After quite a while they had each only scored three baskets.  Then Trixie stopped where she was and took a wild shot from half-court that swished into the basket with poetic form.

Chris and Riss cheered, and Trixie grinned.  Paul grabbed the rebound and tossed the ball back to her.  “I dare you to do that again,” he taunted.

Trixie and Riss exchanged a knowing glance.  Trixie Belden wouldn’t back down from a challenge.  Trixie grabbed the ball and tossed it again.  And again.  And again.  After she’d made the seventh straight basket, she called to Paul, “Quit yet?”

Paul tucked the ball under his free arm and walked over to her.  “Before you made the first basket, I was all ready to quit.  I was going to tell you that I can’t believe how hard it is to work without an arm, and I give you a lot of credit for seeming to function normally all day at school with that cast on.  Now, I may actually have to bow to your basketball prowess.”  With that he winked and bent into a deep, deep bow.

“Looks like you’re out of excuses for skipping practice, Trix,” Riss teased.

“Good,” Chris piped up.  “I just can’t play without my partner anymore.”

Trixie laughed and shook her head.  “You’re all nuts!  All right, fine.  You want me to play, I’ll play.  Let’s get the game on!”

The foursome proceeded to play a light scrimmage.  They gave some consideration to Trixie’s cast, but not much.  She didn’t really need it.  By the time they were done, she was feeling exhilarated.  The high from playing and doing so well completely made up for the exhaustion and headache the workout had caused.

Chris rested an arm around her shoulders.  “That was great.  You definitely need me to treat you to dinner, Blue Eyes.”

She laughed at him.  “Oh, really?”

“Really.  I need to thank you for bringing the life back into this practice group.  It was so dull without you.”  He gave her that smile of his.

She smiled back.  “Well, I do have to get Bobby, you know.”

“So?  I’ll treat Bobby, too.”

She nodded.  “Okay, fine.  That sounds like fun.”

“Are you guys coming to Wimpy’s?” Paul asked.

Chris turned to him.  “Yeah.  It’s about time we took you up on that raincheck.”

“Cool,” Riss said.  “Come on, Trix.  Let’s get freshened up while we let the manly-men retrieve your brother.”

As she was herding Trixie to the locker room, she leaned down and asked, “So?  Did you miss us?”

Trixie laughed and shook her head.  “You know, I didn’t realize how much until now.”

Riss nodded knowingly.  “See?  We’ve sucked you in.  Come, join the Dark Side…”

The guys shook their heads at the laughter coming from the girls.  Paul laughed ruefully.  “I just don’t understand.”

Chris looked at him questioningly.  “Understand what?”

“I have a girlfriend.  I am not at all interested in Trixie, unlike some people I know.  And yet, I can feel it happening… I’m falling under her spell.”

Chris laughed.  “See, I told you.  She’s amazing.”

Paul groaned when he saw the look on his friend’s face.  “Okay, okay, stop mooning over her.  Let’s go get ready so you can take her to dinner, complete with the ultimate chaperone: Bobby Belden.”

Chris stopped short and looked at Paul in amazement.  “Wow.  They are complete geniuses.”

Paul was confused.  “Who?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Belden.  Most of the time when she is around me outside of school, and when she’s around Tad, too, Bobby is with her.  Mart and Brian would be way too obvious, but Bobby isn't.  She thinks she’s babysitting.  She’s completely fooled.  The question is, does Bobby know his real purpose?”

Paul’s eyes narrowed.  “I don’t think anyone gives that boy enough credit.  He's a heck of a lot smarter than he lets on.”

Chris nodded thoughtfully.  “I think I would be well-advised to become good friends with young Robert.  Good friends indeed.”

“In that case,” Paul grinned, “Wimpy’s is a good place to start.”

The friends laughed, and headed off to get ready for what had suddenly become a very important dinner.



Author's Notes:

Once again, without the faithful April and Kathy I would be completely lost.  Thank you both!  And yes, April, Chris is completely dreamy here just for you!




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