Monday, October 16, 1995
Diana stood in the niche between the large column and the lockers. She had seen Beth Fleming coming down the hall, and simply didn’t want to have to look at the girl.
How bad is that? She asked herself. She’s such a jerk I don’t even want to see her face!
Just then Trixie walked out of the nearest classroom. No one else was in the hallway that Beth could see, so she seized the opportunity.
“Trixie, there’s something I’ve been dying to know… how do you keep from killing that brother of yours?”
Beth smiled her sickenly-sweet smile, and walked away without waiting for a reply.
Trixie blanched, and closed her eyes tightly. Di ducked her head around the corner so she could see Trixie’s face. She was clenching her jaw and fighting back tears. She looked pained, and tortured.
Di knew that this was not the first time Beth had made such a remark. Since the incident with Luke, where Trixie’s stalker had ended up dead, Diana knew that Beth had made a couple such smart-aleck comments about killing and dying. Diana began to wonder exactly how many comments had been made.
“Trix,” Di said softly as she walked up to the shorter girl and put her arm around her shoulder. “Don’t let her get to you.”
Trixie opened her eyes and looked at her friend, struggling mightily to maintain her composure. “I’m trying, Di. I really am.”
She rested her head on Di’s shoulder wearily. She lost her battle as the tears rolled down her cheeks. “She just makes it so hard.”
Resting her black hair on top of the blonde curls, Di asked gently, “How often does she make comments like that?”
“Every day,” Trixie sobbed.
A violet bookbag dropped to the floor with a thud. Di wrapped both arms around her friend and hugged her tightly. Trixie cried with all the pent-up frustration of the past three weeks.
“Sweetie, don’t listen to Beth,” Di soothed. “You have friends who love you and know the truth. You didn’t kill anybody.” She rubbed Trixie’s back and tried to calm the tortured girl.
Honey was coming down the hall looking for Di and Trixie. She turned the corner just in time to hear Di’s last remarks to Trixie. She walked over to her friends and looked questioningly at Di.
Trixie heard the footsteps and jumped. She turned to see who was there, and sighed in relief that it was just Honey.
Di remained on Trixie’s left side, rubbing her back. Honey stood to her right and rested a hand on her shoulder. Softly, Honey asked, “Trixie, what’s wrong?”
Trixie closed her eyes, unsuccessfully fighting back fresh waves of tears. Di answered quietly, “Beth has been making snide remarks about killing and dying every day since… since Trixie came back to school.”
Honey shot Di a look of horror, then turned concerned hazel eyes on her best friend. She brushed a curl out of Trixie’s face and questioned her gently. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Gulping air and struggling to speak through her tears, Trixie said, “I thought I was being oversensitive… I know I shouldn’t listen to that witch… I try to ignore her… But it still hurts!”
At that she fell apart into a fresh onslaught of tears, and rested her head on Honey’s shoulder. The taller girl wrapped her arm around her and gently stroked her curls. The head of honey rested on that of golden sand. Hazel eyes met violet, and held a silent conversation about how to help their friend.
Di broke the silence. “I’m going to go call us a ride, and leave a note for the boys that we decided not to wait for them.” With that she hurried down the hall towards the phone.
Honey reassured Trixie. “We’ll just go back to my place and have a good, old-fashioned crying session. You’ll feel better, honest.”
Trixie shook her head. “Moms was rather insistent that I be home in time to help with dinner.”
Honey hesitated. “Would you rather talk to Moms about this?”
“Oh, God, no,” Trixie groaned. “I can’t talk to Moms about anything lately. She’s so… Well, I just can’t talk to her.”
Frowning, Honey asked, “Is something wrong at home, Trix?”
Trixie shrugged. “Not really. It’s just that Moms and I are… rubbing each other the wrong way, I guess. Talking to her is just not an option with this.”
“Well, you have to talk to someone. Bottling this up is hurting you. Let’s just go back to my house, let Miss Trask take care of Moms, and let’s talk. Let me help you, Trixie. Please.”
Trixie turned to the other girl and hugged her tightly. “Thanks, Honey. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“That’s what best friends are for, Trix,” Honey replied, smiling softly.
Di returned and announced, “Tom will be here any minute. Miss Trask is already taking care of calling the Farm. Let’s get our stuff and get out of here before the boys show up.”
Honey and Di started to head for their lockers, but Trixie didn’t move. “Wait!”
The girls turned and looked at her inquiringly.
“This is just between us. Under no circumstances does this get repeated to any member of the male population. None of them!” She looked pleadingly back and forth between the other two girls.
Reluctantly, they nodded. “No boys allowed,” Di said. “Got it.”
Trixie sighed in relief. “Thanks.” She smiled tremulously. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”
When the girls arrived at Manor House, they went directly to Honey’s room. After getting themselves comfortable, Honey left to retrieve some refreshments. In the kitchen, she found Miss Trask speaking with Madeleine Wheeler. They looked up at her arrival.
“There you are,” Miss Trask said. “Are the girls all settled?”
“Yeah. I was just looking for some snacks,” Honey replied.
“I have a tray ready in the pantry. I’ll get it,” Miss Trask said, and stepped away.
Madeleine turned to her daughter. “Helen was reluctant to agree to a giggle-and-gab fest on a school night. It took all my diplomatic skill to arrange this.”
“This isn’t a giggle-and-gab fest. More like a crying jag.” Honey frowned. “I just don’t understand, Mother. Trixie said she and Moms aren’t getting along, and she couldn’t talk to her about her problem. I always thought she could talk to her mother about anything.”
Maddie winced inwardly. Gently brushing a strand of golden honey out of her daughter’s face, she replied, “Even the best relationship isn’t perfect. There are always rocky times. You and Trixie have been having your own rough spot lately, haven’t you?”
Honey nodded slowly, a thoughtful look on her face. “You know, I’ve been missing Jim terribly. Everything is so lonely here without him. And I guess I was feeling like it was so hard for me because I had only had a brother for two years, and now he’s gone.
“But Trixie has always had Brian. I miss him a lot, and he’s not even my brother. He’s always been her rock. She must feel like she’s white-water rafting without a life preserver. To be having trouble with both Moms and me on top of that? No wonder she cries so easily lately.”
Frowning, Maddie asked, “Was she crying over something trivial today?”
“Actually, no,” Honey replied. She looked at her mother for a moment, then grinned conspiratorially. “She told me I couldn’t tell anyone male. Since you’re not…”
Maddie answered with an identical grin and leaned an elbow on the top of the island by which she stood. “Tell away, my daughter.”
Honey rested both elbows on the island and set her chin on one palm. “Okay. See, the head cheerleader, one Beth Fleming, despises Trixie, primarily because the star basketball player, one Chris Zack, is interested in Trixie.”
Maddie’s eyebrows shot up. This was going to be good – and her daughter was actually sharing normal high school life with her. “Stereotypes are based in reality – head cheerleaders are frequently bitches.”
Honey laughed. “Exactly. So, on the surface, this would seem to be a problem of cattiness and normal girl stuff. But that’s just the surface.”
The expression on Honey’s face shifted to one of concern. Maddie prodded gently, “So, what’s running in the depths of the waters?”
“Beth’s cattiness lately has had a theme. For example, when Trixie bumped her with her bookbag, she said, ‘You could kill someone with that.’ They’re all remarks about killing and dying.” Honey looked glumly at her mother. “Trixie tries so hard to pretend she’s okay, but…”
“But she’s not.” Maddie looked sadly at her daughter. “We should have realized she wouldn’t be. For all her crazy adventures, no one has ever died before.”
Shaking her head, Maddie continued. “I was so overprotective and stifling when I had no reason to be, and Helen was so accepting and tolerant when she had every reason not to be. I’ve finally learned acceptance and tolerance, but I think Helen is fresh out. If Trixie tried to talk to her about this, I think Helen would lock her in her room until she turns 21.”
“Aren’t you exaggerating just a bit, Mom?” Honey asked, surprise written all over her face.
Grimly, Maddie replied, “No, I don’t think so. Lately, Helen’s been… Well, take tonight for example. In the past, when she has tried to say no to any of her kids staying over, it’s always been about them taking advantage of our hospitality or shirking their duties at home. Tonight her denial was more vehement, almost like she didn’t think Trixie should ever be allowed out of the house.”
“Wow,” was all Honey could think to say for the longest moment.
Miss Trask returned, without the tray. Honey quirked an eyebrow at her. She smiled. “I took the tray up, and told the girls your mother wanted you and you’d be up in a minute.”
Smiling gratefully, Honey said, “Thanks, Miss Trask. You’re the best.”
Turning to Madeleine, Miss Trask noted with a twinkle in her eye, “Cook will be back from her break any minute, and I think she needs this space.”
Madeleine smiled. “That’s okay. Since Matt won’t be here for dinner, I think I’ll have a picnic with the girls in Honey’s room.”
The sensible woman frowned. “Beef Wellington? In Honey’s room?”
“So? I’ve eaten champagne and caviar in a muddy field, too. The menu is not the point.”
“Mom?” Honey asked in surprise, not even able to find the words for her question.
Maddie turned to her daughter with a grin. “What? Why am I picnicking? Why do I want to chat with the girls?”
Flustered, the younger girl said, “It’s not that we don’t want you…”
“It’s just not normally my style,” Maddie finished for her. “True. But how often has Helen been there for you, when I haven’t been?”
“You’re not going to hurt my feelings, Honey,” Maddie reassured her. “The answer is: a lot. Well, since dependable, understanding Moms Belden seems to have gone A.W.O.L., the least I can do is fill in with some girl-talk, don’t you think?”
Honey searched the matching hazel eyes in amazement. Slowly, a smile spread across her face. “Thanks, Mom.” She hesitated, ever so slightly, as if walking in unfamiliar territory. “I love you, Mom.”
Maddie smiled and wrapped her arms around her beloved daughter, eyes watering slightly. “I love you, too, my Honey-girl. More than I let on, I’m afraid.”
Honey returned the hug tightly. “Thanks for being here tonight. You have no idea how much it means to me.”
That’s all she really wants. For me to just be here.
Maddie pulled back, brushing golden hair away from the young face, and was awed by the love she saw there. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she said, “Come on. We need to go cheer up that extra daughter of mine.”
Honey laughed happily. Once she’d been a ‘lonely only’, and now she had not only a brother, but a best friend that her family considered her sister. Once upon a time, she hardly knew her mother, and now Mom was going to picnic with the girls. Life was good.
Maddie and the girls had talked for hours. They had chatted about everything, especially snotty cheerleaders. Some of Maddie’s stories from high school had left the girls howling with laughter.
Dinner had been delicious. Honey’s room was now littered with dirty dishes and tired females.
Maddie looked at Trixie. “Okay, the one thing I haven’t quite gotten out of this conversation is where Chris stands in all of this.”
Trixie frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Does he like Beth?” Maddie asked.
Di snorted. “He likes Trixie, so clearly he has better taste than that.”
Trixie threw a pillow at her.
“What’s he like?” Maddie asked. “I remember seeing him play last year, so I know he’s athletic and gorgeous, but is he nice?”
Trixie smiled. “He’s really nice. He’s sweet and thoughtful. And really smart. He’s tutoring me in Spanish because he got a perfect score on the state Regents exam.”
Honey chuckled. “Yeah, right. He’s tutoring you in Spanish because Merrissa Parkman is trying to play matchmaker.”
Trixie threw the pillow at her this time.
Maddie laughed. “Is the next pillow headed my way?” she asked.
“That all depends on what smart-aleck comment you make,” Trixie smirked impudently.
“No smart-aleck comments. Just a question: what does Chris think of Beth’s attacks on you?”
Trixie’s face shuttered quickly. “He doesn’t know,” she answered tightly.
“Mom,” Honey drawled, “he’s male. I told you – no males allowed.”
Maddie smacked her forehead. “How stupid of me!”
The three girls burst out laughing.
Matt Wheeler chose that moment to stick his head into the room. Surveying the carnage, he raised an eyebrow at his wife. “Slumber party on a school night?”
Maddie waved a hand airily at him. “Yes, dear. I’m staying here. Why don’t you phone the other parents and tell them they can have their daughters back when I decide to grow up again.”
The girls giggled. Matt shook his head, green eyes twinkling in amusement. “I think I’ll make a strategic retreat. It’s obviously not safe in here for testosterone,” he said, ducking out of the room.
“I meant it about calling the other parents,” Maddie yelled after him.
“Aye, aye, admiral,” Matt yelled back.
Honey’s grin nearly split her face in two. She just adored it when her parents were normal and fun-loving.
Maddie returned the focus of her attention to Trixie. “Now, back to Chris.”
“Seriously, Trixie. If he’s that nice, he can’t possibly like her.”
“He doesn’t,” Trixie answered. “He thinks she’s rude and obnoxious.”
“Then he’s too good for her. He might even be almost good enough for you.”
Trixie blushed furiously. Di and Honey giggled. Maddie grinned.
“The answer is simple: just thrust you nose a little higher in the air, and refuse to even look down it at her.”
Trixie looked at Maddie doubtfully. “It’s worth a try, I suppose.”
Maddie started cleaning up the dishes around her. “Trust me on this, Trixie. I have more experience thrusting my nose in the air than anyone else you know.”
Trixie stared at her in amazement, until Maddie winked. Then she burst out laughing. Honey and Di joined her.
As they picked up their mess and piled it on trays, Trixie crawled over to Maddie. She shyly approached her. “Thank you, Mrs. Wheeler.”
Maddie smiled and cupped her cheek. “Trixie, I know I’m nothing like your own mother. Sometimes it’s good to get a totally different perspective on things, especially at your age. You can talk to me any time.”
Trixie impulsively threw her arms around Maddie. The older woman returned the embrace forcefully and whispered against the golden curls, “I love you, Trixie.”
Tears filling her eyes, Trixie looked at her. “When I first met you, I was afraid of you. Thank you for letting me get to know you. You’re the greatest.”
Maddie smiled, then winked. “In that case, let’s ditch the ‘Mrs. Wheeler’. It is much too formal for friends as close as you and I, don’t you think?”
Trixie smiled agreeably. “What would you rather be called?”
Maddie narrowed her eyes thoughtfully for a moment. “Well, I’m not exactly the ‘Moms’ type.” Inspired, she grinned. “I know. You like French, right? Well, how about ‘mére’? It’s not obvious; it sounds like a nickname for Mary. But you and I will know.”
Smiling through her tears, Trixie answered, “I would be honored to call you mére.” She hugged Maddie again, and whispered, “I love you, too.”
Maddie smiled happily while embracing this light in her life, then released her.
“Okay, gang. Let’s get this cleaned up. As much fun as this has been, we still have to get up in the morning.”
Honey and Di each grabbed a tray of dirty dishes and walked toward the door. Trixie walked up between them and put an arm around each of them, carefully avoiding bonking Honey in the head with her cast.
“Hey, you two. This day turned out a whole lot better than I thought it would. Thanks for being there for me.”
The other girls leaned their heads in to hers. “That’s what friends are for!” they said in unison.
Laughing, the girls contentedly set about cleaning up so they could get ready for bed.
April and Kathy have given me the go-ahead for this version of Maddie (so very different from April's *snort*). Where would we be without giving, caring editors?