usual, dinner at the Parkmans’ was a fun, family-oriented event.
Throughout the meal, as the young people laughed and teased each
other, Faith Parkman kept a careful watch on Trixie.
The young girl could feel the older woman’s eyes upon her, and made a point of
acting as normally as possible.
her mother’s intense observation of Trixie caught Merrissa’s notice.
The longer Mrs. Parkman watched her, the more forced Trixie’s
smiles became. Finally Riss
kicked Chris under the table and, when
he unobtrusively looked at her, she gave a barely perceptible nod toward
Trixie. Chris turned to look at the beauty by his side and noticed
the forced smile and the pinched, tired look about her eyes. Since they were actually done eating and had merely been
sitting around the dinner table having a fun conversation, Chris decided
it was time to leave. He
made up an excuse about homework and said he needed to get Trixie and
Bobby home. By the time
they escaped, Trixie was exhausted from the show she had put on for Mrs.
Parkman’s benefit. And
Faith Parkman had not been fooled by any of it.
the ride to Crabapple Farm, Bobby bounced with excitement, still telling
Chris about his basketball achievements.
Trixie said nothing; she was tired, she still had a headache, and
all she wanted was to shut her bedroom door and bury her head under
a pillow. She could feel Chris
watching her out of the corner of his eye while he pretended to be very
interested in Bobby’s story, but she couldn’t muster up the energy
to pretend she was okay.
he walked Trixie and Bobby to the door, Chris grabbed her hand and
pulled her back a little so her brother could go on ahead.
“Are you all right, Blue Eyes?” he asked with concern.
gave him a wan smile. “I’m
just really, really tired. I’m
sorry – I didn’t mean to be ignoring you or anything.”
cupped her face in one hand and gently turned her to look at him.
“Don’t be silly. I
just missed your smile and wondered if something was wrong.”
earned him the smile he sought. “Thanks
care a lot,” he said, as he leaned down for a kiss.
the open back door of the house, the couple could hear Bobby greeting the
occupants of the kitchen. “Hi,
Mart. Hey, Tad.
What’re you doin’ here?”
and Trixie both froze. Then
she turned with narrowed eyes and stormed into the house.
“Good question!” she fumed.
followed her inside and shut the door.
He gave Tad a suspicious glare, until he caught the looks being
exchanged between Tad and Mart. Realizing
they must have been discussing Beth, he sought a way to distract
Trixie’s attention. “Don’t tell me you two got partnered for Bellinger’s
science project,” he said with a rich chuckle.
threw him a grateful look. “Well,
someone had to get stuck with Belden.
Apparently Bellinger-the-Psycho-Physicist was tired of torturing
looked around the room skeptically.
Just as she was about to say something, the phone rang.
As she turned to answer it, Mart sighed in relief.
Hiding the truth from his sister was not his strong point.
Shamus, how are you?” Jim’s voice sounded tense to her ears.
College Man. Don’t you
realize it’s only Tuesday?”
three boys shifted nervously, wondering if they could just leave the
kitchen without Trixie noticing, as Bobby had just done.
I know it’s Tuesday. Unfortunately,
I don’t think my apology can wait until Friday,” Jim replied
one for whatever shit Beth gives you because of me.”
Trixie spoke slowly, through gritted teeth.
“Why, exactly, would Beth give me shit because of you?”
the boys focused all their attention on her conversation.
a voice filled with both fury and disgust, Jim answered, “She called
and asked me to go to Homecoming with her.”
did WHAT?!?!?” The pain in her head exploded behind her eyes, and
waves of nausea rolled over her. “Do I even want to know what you said to her?”
was actually rather rude about telling her no.
I believe I used the phrase ‘when hell freezes over’.”
leaned her back against the wall and sank slowly to the floor.
really sorry, Trix,” Jim
apologized, almost pleadingly. “Somehow,
I know she’s gonna take this out on you.”
roiling in her stomach was reaching epic proportions.
“I don’t want to hear any more.
Talk to Mart.” She
jumped up, tossed the phone at her brother, and ran for the upstairs
and locking the door behind her, she collapsed by the toilet and emptied
the contents of her stomach, shards of white-hot glass ripping through
her head with each convulsive spasm.
She panted and pleaded with God for the pounding pain in her
skull to recede, at least enough so that she could move without feeling
like she was going to die.
Mart was gripping the phone tightly. He
motioned for Tad and Chris to stay.
“Jim, what the hell was that about?”
Fleming called me today and asked me to Homecoming.
I lost my temper and told her off.
And so I called Trixie to apologize in advance for whatever evil form of
retaliation Beth devises.”
asked you to Homecoming?” Mart repeated in disbelief.
He exchanged worried looks with Chris and Tad.
“What do you mean you told her off?”
called her an uppity bitch and told her hell would freeze over before
I’d help her mess with Chris and Trixie’s evening.”
There was no mistaking the raging fury in Jim’s voice.
“That was right before I hung up on her by throwing the phone
at the wall.”
blinked. Was this Jim
Frayne talking? “You
actually called her an uppity bitch?”
couldn’t help himself – he started laughing.
Tad grinned and called out, “Way to go, Jim!”
and Tad are both standing here, believe it or not.
Tad and I were discussing our least favorite cheerleader when
Chris escorted Trixie through the door.
I assume we three gentlemen will be prolonging our discussion
upon the completion of this telephonic conversation.”
chuckled. “I must have
stressed you out. You’ve
reverted to ‘Mart-speak’.”
sighed. “Yes, you’ve
stressed me out. But this
isn’t your fault; it’s Beth’s.
I just wish Trixie could have one decent, stress-free day.”
new. She was just stressing
all day about forgetting to do her homework last night, because she and
I spent the entire night discussing Moms.
After she had a talk with Molinson, that is.
Yesterday was just bad.”
the talk with Molinson do her any good?”
you think she actually told me anything about that?”
me.” Jim sighed.
“But she did talk to you about Moms?”
Things are actually okay between us for a change.”
“Good. Just keep an eye on her.
And watch out for Beth.”
do. I’ll talk to you
hung up the phone and frowned. He
motioned for the other boys to have a seat at the kitchen table and
offered them something to drink. When
the three were seated comfortably with glasses of Cherry Coke before
them, he opened the discussion by bringing Chris up to speed with what
he and Tad knew.
I walked Trixie from lunch to French class and, when we passed Beth, Trixie looked a little nervous.
Today, Tad and Trixie spent the lunch period in the library
studying and walked to French class together.
They ran into Beth in the hall… she started to say something to
Trix until she realized Tad was with her.”
continued the tale. “There’ve been several days when Trixie has come into
French class extremely tense, when she seemed fine in the cafeteria.
So our theory is that Beth has been catching her in the hall
between lunch and French. We
just don’t know what she’s doing or saying at those times.”
nodded. “The question now
is: Do we walk Trixie to
French class to prevent it? Or do we follow her so we can observe their
looked thoughtful. “If we prevent it, we won’t figure out what’s been
happening. On the other
hand, I really don’t think Trixie should be left to deal with the
fallout from Beth’s rejection by Jim Frayne.”
Tad said, “if she suddenly has a bodyguard everyday, she’ll get
confused, Chris said, “She doesn’t mind being walked down the
snorted. “Depends on who,
when, and why. Yesterday, I
needed to talk to her. Today,
she and Tad were together anyway and going to the same place.
But, if we all start rearranging our lives so she never walks
alone, she’ll hit the roof. For
example, your class right after lunch is in the exact opposite
looked at Tad, and acknowledged grudgingly, “Then maybe Tad should
start waiting for her after lunch.”
looked pleased. “I usually leave lunch early so I can go to my locker
first. All I have to do is
go on the way to lunch, so I have my stuff already.
If I leave lunch at the same time, there’s no reason for her
not to walk with me.”
a hand through his short curls, Mart sighed.
“I would really love to know what Beth’s been doing.
But, for the time being, I think this is a better plan.
She’s probably pretty pissed at Jim and plotting how to make
Trixie pay for it.”
boys discussed the situation a little longer.
They decided that, since Tad and Dan shared a homeroom, Tad would
fill him in the next morning. Shortly thereafter, Chris and Tad bid Mart goodnight and
poked his head into the family room and saw his father helping Bobby
with his homework. The
house felt weird without Moms there, although it was more peaceful than
it had been in a while. He
proceeded upstairs to finish his homework.
Trixie’s room, he saw she was in bed.
When he peeked inside, he noticed she was sound asleep already, with a cold
washcloth on her forehead. She
also appeared to have fallen into bed fully clothed.
Even asleep, her face was a mask of tension.
Mart shook his head, thinking that she looked rather frail.
He made a mental note to wake her up early in the morning and ask
if she’d done her homework, so she didn’t go through the same panic
attack she’d had today.
October 25, 1995
the bus in the morning, Tad greeted Trixie warily. “Hey, Trixie. How
you doin’ this morning?”
smiled brightly. “Fine.
I think today might actually be a good day, for a change.”
relaxed. “That’s good.
You certainly look happier than yesterday.”
am,” she nodded. “Sorry
if I was obnoxious last night.”
think it was justified,” Tad shrugged.
“I think we should all be questioning Beth’s sanity.”
hadn’t had a chance to speak to the other Bob-Whites yet, so that
comment piqued their curiosity. Completely
missing Mart’s frantic shake of the head, Honey asked, “Why should
we be questioning her sanity now?”
turned in her seat. “Beth
is proving her stupidity and desperation, that’s all.
Guess who she asked to Homecoming?”
winced, while the others made noises of inquiry.
impishly, Trixie teased her audience for a moment before answering them.
“She called Boston Asylum.”
eyebrows shot up. “She
blanched. “Oh, God.
My brother’s too polite for his own good.”
chuckled. “Well, not
do you mean?” Honey asked.
Frayne, model of polite honorability, actually told her off!” Trixie
exclaimed. “What else did
he say, Mart?”
sighed in resignation. “He
called her a bitch and said something about hell freezing over.”
Honey and Di cheered, Dan caught Mart’s pointed look. He read the message therein and anxiously awaited getting
the scoop in homeroom, wondering all the while when the heck Tad had
become so well-informed.
wait!” Di suddenly interrupted. “Sometimes
I have to say these things when they pop into my head or I forget,”
she giggled. “Last night
I got some news I thought we should mention at the meeting
looked at her like she had three heads.
“The athletic department meeting.
You know, the one where we present your idea for the fundraiser
at the tournament?”
dear Lord in Heaven,” Trixie groaned.
“I completely forgot.”
you handle this today?” Mart asked worriedly.
gave him a confident look. “Actually,
Brother Dear, I can. I
outlined an entire speech over a month ago, and I’ve done several
edits and re-writes since. I
just forgot to look it over last night.
But it’s here in my bag, and I’m sure I can find a few
minutes sometime during the day. I’ll
smiled. Trixie’s relaxed
attitude and her confidence this morning were probably the most
encouraging signs he’d seen in weeks.
smile faded a few minutes later as they approached the school building.
Beth Fleming appeared to be waiting for Trixie.
Tad was walking with Trix, and Mart moved in to flank her
eyed them derisively. “Really,
Trixie. Every guy in the
school seems to be at your beck-and-call.
Would it kill you to share with the rest of us?” she
asked with a sneer.
stepped between Beth and Trixie. Issuing
her sweetest smile and using her kindest voice, she said, “Beth, drop
that, Trixie, Honey, and Di lined up, purposefully thrust their noses in
the air, and marched into the building arm in arm.
They actually managed to get inside before they burst into
hugged the other girls. “Thanks,
you guys. She’s so much
easier to face when you’re around.”
thought you did great Friday night,” Honey offered.
I said, you were right there.”
we’ll be right there all the time,” Di said.
smiled. “That’s a
little impractical, but the offer is wonderful.
turned and looked over her shoulder.
“Let’s scram before the boys catch up.”
the boys were glaring at Beth. Before
they, too, entered the building, Mart spoke softly but menacingly.
“Remember what I
inside they turned a corner to avoid running into the girls.
“Alright, already,” Dan said.
“I hate being out of the loop.
What the hell is going on?”
and Tad brought Dan up to date, stopping at their lockers along the way.
By the time they reached the door to Mart’s homeroom, Dan was
worried. “The fact that
Beth was lying in wait outside is not a good sign.
This is just the beginning.”
Mart nodded. “Keep your
eyes and ears sharp today. If
you see or hear anything in the hallways, pass the word along
bell rang, and the students turned their attention to their schoolwork.
Their concentration lapsed often that day, however.
Belden answered the knock on her back door late that morning to find
Maddie Wheeler eyeing her anxiously.
Maddie asked as she followed her friend into the kitchen.
sighed and set about making them tea while Maddie sat down.
“Progress, I guess. Talking
to you is helping. Talking
to Dr. Bennett helped some. But
it’s not like turning a light bulb on and off.”
know that,” Maddie waved at her impatiently.
“Even if you were suddenly okay overnight, damage has been done
around here. Repairing
relationships takes time. But
how did it go this morning? Did
you manage to hold yourself together?”
the tea to the table, Helen sat beside her.
“Yeah, I did. But
it really hurt to watch Trixie. She’s
so wary around me; it’s like a long-tailed cat that’s gotten caught
by the rocking chair a few too many times.
And I was fighting off the stupid fears the whole time she was in
the room. It’s going to take forever to get past this.”
nodded sympathetically. “What
about Peter? Did you talk
hesitated, then shook her head. “Not
yet. We got back so late
last night. It would’ve
been rushed this morning. I
really don’t want the kids around, and I don’t want to be
Maddie said, “You can’t avoid telling him what’s going on forever.
Especially since we’re spending the day in the City again
tomorrow. He has a right to
know, I know,” Helen cried in frustration.
“I’m scared, okay? He’s
not going to understand.”
doesn’t understand right now. He
just might understand if you talked to him.”
blue eyes sought supportive hazel ones.
“I’d just… I’ll feel better if I discuss this with Dr.
Bennett tomorrow. Maybe she
can help me figure out how to approach him.”
Helen’s hand a comforting squeeze, Maddie said, “Okay.
Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”
smiled. “You already are.
More than you could ever know.”
the Bob-Whites gathered for lunch, Trixie sat with a sheaf of papers
covered with notes about the athletic department fundraiser.
saw the papers and grabbed her arm excitedly.
“Oh my gosh! You
distracted me this morning, and I almost forgot to tell you… I got a
call last night from the captain of the basketball team at Central
eyebrows rocketed skyward. “What?!
Why is that presumptuous, vertically-endowed stripling
telephoning my radiant, violet-eyed amour?”
Mart an amused smile, Di replied, “Cool your jets, Handsome.
He wanted to contact the Bob-Whites, and his mother is on some
committee with Mummy, so he had my number.
He was calling about the tournament.”
and Honey were trying to contain their laughter at Mart’s agitation
when Di turned back to Trixie. “Anyway…
Mark had an idea that we should mention this afternoon.
Since the basketball players won’t be available to work and
the proceeds benefit the entire department, a lot of baseball players
are volunteering. There is
a similar baseball tournament in April, so… the basketball players at
Central offered to coordinate the same type of fundraiser for that
event. They figured it was
only fair. Isn’t that
shared Di’s enthusiasm. “That’s
terrific! I bet that
encourages more of our baseball players to help out.”
snorted. “Tad’s the
captain of the team. I
doubt if they’ll need a lot of arm-twisting to be convinced to help
face turned a very becoming shade of pink.
Turning to the pages before her, she grabbed her pencil and jotted down some details about Di’s
news and nervously cleared her throat. “I think I’d
better concentrate on these notes, so I’m ready for the meeting,”
rolled his eyes. “Personally,
I’m more interested in spending my lunch period eating.” He then shoved nearly an entire slice of pizza in his mouth.
at the girls, Dan announced, “Apparently, hell has thawed.”
school, the majority of the athletes from the schools’ various sports
teams assembled in the gym. The
Bob-Whites positioned themselves in the front row of the bleachers.
While they waited for the meeting to start, Trixie pulled out her
math homework and worked on it.
finger appeared on her paper, indicating a notation in her problem
three steps back. Trixie
realized that it was Tad’s finger, then looked where he was pointing. She saw her mistake right away and started erasing.
up at him, she said, “I think I’d fail math without you.”
smiled and sat down beside her. “I
doubt that, but I’m more than happy to help you improve your
Explain problem number three to me.”
continued to help her until Coach Epperly called the meeting to order.
Trixie smiled triumphantly.
“Finished in the nick of time!
Now I don’t have to do any math homework tonight.”
Tad said, “But what will we do when you come over later?”
Trixie looked up and caught the gleam in his eye. Blushing, she answered, “I’m sure we’ll think of
got up as Coach Epperly introduced her, and she addressed the
assemblage. She started off
with a joke, then proceeded to outline the Bob-Whites’ plans for
setting up refreshment stands at the annual basketball tournament, to
raise funds for both the athletic department and the American Cancer Society.
She explained how they were coordinating things with Round Point
and Central High Schools and then mentioned the offer from the Central
basketball team to reciprocate at the baseball tournament in the spring.
When she was done with her prepared remarks, she fielded
questions for several minutes.
Trixie was done, Coach Epperly thanked her, and the students in attendance gave an enthusiastic round of
applause. Wishing her face
had not turned quite so red, Trixie hurried to sit in the nearest seat,
which was a couple of sections away from the Bob-Whites.
then announced that, since he had nearly all the student athletes together, there would be
another short presentation. He
introduced a local EMT who proceeded to explain the value of having a
defibrillator kit on hand in the schools.
The athletic department planned to use the proceeds of the
tournament to acquire one, so Coach thought the kids should appreciate
the value of the purchase.
EMT related a story of a student who had collapsed and died from an
undiagnosed heart condition during a basketball game, who might have
lived if there had been a defibrillator on hand.
During his story, he made the comment, “Most of the students
found it traumatic to see someone die right in front of them.”
never heard anything else that was said, as her mind started replaying the scene of Luke’s death in graphic
happened to be looking Trixie’s way when the EMT made that statement.
He saw her stiffen and go pale, her jaw clenched and her hands
shaking, and knew where her mind had gone.
Frustrated over being so far away from her, he watched her
soon as Coach Epperly finished thanking the EMT for his presentation,
Trixie jumped up, hoping to make a quick escape from the crowded gym.
Beth Fleming caught her before she could leave.
“That joke you told was hysterical, Belden.
You slay me!” She
tittered annoyingly and waltzed off on her merry way.
set her chin and willed the tears not to come. Knowing she fought a losing battle, she ran out of the room
and down the hall. She
wanted to get as far away from the throng of students coming out of the
meeting as possible.
had nearly reached Trixie when Beth stopped her, so he had heard the
exchange. As Trixie ran
away, he followed her with his eyes, wondering why Beth’s compliment
had bothered her. Then he
realized what Beth had said.
His mind started replaying every remark he had heard Beth make.
sure you’ve been dying for that to happen.
simply to die for.
it kill you to share with the rest of us?
realizing what had been happening all along, Dan fought back a wave of
cold, hard fury. He balled
his fist, really wishing he could just walk over to Beth and punch her
in the teeth right now. However,
he would deal with Beth later. First,
he needed to find Trixie.
down the hall, he turned the corner where he had last seen her.
Realizing she would have headed in the opposite direction from
everyone else, he turned away from the locker area.
Wandering down the hallway, he found her in an alcove near the
cafeteria, leaning her head on the cool, enamel-coated brick wall.
Trixie struggled to regain her composure, Dan walked up behind her and
placed his hand on her shoulder.
When she didn’t flinch or pull away, he turned her around to
face him and then pulled her
into his arms to hold her.
She rested her head on his shoulder, and he rested his cheek on
her curls. She trembled and tightened her arms around him.
didn’t you tell me? I’d
have taken care of Beth for you a long time ago.”
hiccupped and replied in a voice so quiet he had to strain to hear her.
“And gotten yourself in plenty of trouble?
No thanks. You’ve
come too far to let your ‘bad boy’ reputation catch up with you.
She’s not worth getting you in trouble.”
frowned. Is she serious?
She kept quiet to protect me?
Aloud, he said, “She’s not, but you are.”
her head, she stepped back to look him in the eye. “No! I’m not
worth it either. You have
too much going for you to waste your future on something like this.”
deep, dark eyes flashed with frustration.
“I’m not stupid enough to destroy my entire future over a
bitchy cheerleader. I know
ways to take care of things without getting myself in trouble.
You shouldn’t try to deal with stuff alone just to protect me
from something you imagine might happen.”
just don’t want you getting hurt because of my stupid problems,” she
responded, the blue of her eyes awash in worry.
“Or feeling guilty about them, either.”
expression softened, and he took her face gently in his hands.
“The only thing I feel guilty about is not protecting you from
Beth. And your problems are
not stupid. Your
problems are my problems. When
you hurt, I hurt. I love
you, you know.”
single tear ran down her face. “I
love you too, Danny,” she whispered.
placed a soft kiss on her forehead and drew her back into his arms.
She wrapped her arms around him, held on tight, and let the tears
Chris and Tad had each been wandering the halls of the school looking
for Trixie. They had seen
her bolt from the gym, but neither was sure why.
Coming from opposite directions, they each turned a corner near
the cafeteria in time to hear the pronouncements of love between Dan and
felt a sharp pang somewhere in the vicinity of his heart.
Eyes flashing a sense of betrayal, he turned and stalked away.
watched Chris go. He knew
what Chris was thinking. He
also knew Trixie and Dan better than that; they were more like brother
and sister. An ‘I love
you’ from Dan was about as threatening to Chris as one from Mart.
part of him wanted to just let Chris go off and sulk, but he remembered
Dan’s warning about Trixie being caught in the crossfire. He did not
want to see Trixie hurt. And
she would have no idea why Chris was upset.
Not unless you tell
groaned inwardly. The last thing he wanted to do was spend time fixing problems
between Chris and Trixie. But
Chris was jumping to all kinds of wrong conclusions, and Trixie would be
clueless … Damn.
There’s no way around it.
Either I tell her, or I’m a complete ass. He leaned back against the wall, giving it a hard bang with
his head for good measure, and waited for Trixie and Dan.
twenty minutes later, the two Bob-Whites ambled towards him arm in arm,
talking quietly. Trixie’s eyes were red from crying, but she felt much
better for having confided in Dan.
Her heart felt lighter than it had in weeks.
These pleasant thoughts screeched to a halt when she saw the
young man holding up the wall, face turned to the ceiling, eyes closed,
looking like he was in pain.
is something wrong?” Trixie asked in concern.
tightly clenched teeth, Tad responded without opening his eyes.
“You need to go find Chris and talk to him.”
and Dan exchanged a look of amusement before she turned a raised eyebrow
towards Tad. “Why, pray
sighed loudly. “Because…
I know the Bob-Whites better than he does.”
he didn’t say anything else, Trixie asked, “What does that have to
do with anything?”
Tad explained. “I was
looking for you. He was
looking for you. We each
turned corners just in time to hear the two of you exchange ‘I love
you’s. I know that the
only threat I should fear from Dan is the bodily harm he’d do to me
if I ever hurt you. Chris,
on the other hand, knows shit.”
winced. “Oh, boy.
I need to go find him.” She
started to walk away, but then stopped in front of Tad and waited until
he opened his eyes and looked at her.
Finally, she asked, “Did you wait here just to tell me that?”
nodded without speaking. Trixie
smiled and looked meaningfully into the deep seas of aquamarine.
“I think you just went over the top with the brownie points.” With that, she gave him a quick kiss full of promise and ran
leaned a shoulder casually against the same wall Tad was still holding
up. “Smooth move.”
snorted. “Try stupid.
I‘d have been very happy to let him remain in the dark, all put
out over nothing.”
Trixie would’ve been upset.
It wouldn’t have been worth it.”
was an act of honor.” Dan
nodded in approval. “You
may win this game yet.”
glared at him. “This
isn’t a game. This is
about her heart.”
grinned. “Good answer.
Congratulations for realizing that.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Trixie’s heart… Guess
what Beth’s been up to?”
found Chris in the gym shooting baskets.
She ran up behind him, stole the ball, and took off towards the
other basket for a lay-up. Chris
followed her and tried to block the shot, but she had a good head start
and made a perfect shot. As
she came down, though, she was hit by a wave of dizziness and lost her balance.
Chris caught her and, while she fought back the dizziness, she clung
to his arm.
heaving from his exertions, Chris pulled her to him and managed to puff
out, “Are you okay?”
rested her head on his chest and listened to the rapid beating of his
heart. “Yeah, I just got
dizzy. Probably from being
mad at you.”
concern disappeared in a flash of irritation.
“Why the heck are you
mad at me?”
world had stabilized enough for Trixie to be able to look up at him.
Pulling her well-practiced mask of control firmly into place, she
gave him a cool look with a well-arched brow.
“Do you remember what they say about people who make
turned away from her. “Don’t
tell me I’m ‘making an ass out of you and me’,” he spat out.
“I’m not making assumptions.”
really?” she argued back. “Just
how much do you think you know about Dan Mangan, anyway?”
know you two love each other,” he
said with a cruel, hurtful sneer and a flash of pain in his eyes.
narrowed her eyes and shot sparks of blue fire, but didn’t raise her
turned back towards her, fighting the urge to stamp his foot like a
two-year-old. He ran a hand
through his hair in exasperation. Too
long, needs a cut… but I love the way she runs her fingers through
Groaning inwardly, he refocused his attention.
“What do I know about Mangan?
His rep is a bad-boy-gone-good thing, he’s cool as hell, and
he’s a Bob-White, which carries a helluva lot of respect around
not really.” He had no
idea where she was going with this, but he knew she had a point.
He didn’t need this aggravation, but he always seemed to come
back for more. He would
wait. He could always storm
off in a huff if he didn’t like her point.
advanced on him until she was right in front of him, staring up at him
in a way that made him feel like she was staring down
at him. Chris had a sudden
urge to sit, if only so he didn’t feel so stupid about being
intimidated by the pint-sized, pissed-off princess before him.
quietly, and very coolly, Trixie
explained her point. “When
Dan Mangan came to this town, he knew no one – not even the uncle into
whose custody he had been placed. He
was an orphan and was completely alone in the world.
When he became a Bob-White, my family adopted him into our
hearts. He is every bit as
much a brother to me as Brian and Mart and Bobby.”
She stood, arms folded across her chest, glaring at him and
waiting for her message to sink into his thick skull.
the message was received, Chris winced deeply.
“I am an ass, aren’t I?”
held her silence a full, incredibly long sixty seconds, which felt to Chris like several
hours. When she finally
answered, it was with regal authority. “Don’t ever
presume that you know how I think or feel about anyone or anything
unless you hear it from me.
Do I make myself clear?”
couldn’t help but give a rueful smile.
“Crystal. Are you
mad at me?”
fought back a smile of her own. “Actually,
I’m kind of flattered that it bothered you so much.”
smile turned into that smile as he set his
hands gently on her shoulders. “Oh,
smile won the battle and Trixie gave in, wrapping her arms around his
kissed her. Suddenly, a thought struck him, and he gave her a quizzical look.
“How did you know I was upset, or why I was upset?”
rolled her eyes. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
raised his eyebrows. “Try me.”
irritated look flashed across his face briefly, and Chris sighed
heavily. Trixie studied the
emotions warring for control in his eyes and tried to guess what he was
thinking. She softly
prodded, “He’s a good guy, you know.”
turned and walked away, plunking himself with force on the bottom row of
the bleachers. “I know, I
basketball they had played with earlier had rolled to a rest near where
he sat. He grabbed it and
twirled it in his hands, intensely studying the pattern of the black
lines on the bright orange surface.
Trixie walked over and sat beside him.
Finally, he looked up at her, his troubled thoughts clouding his
been in my church choir with Tad since he was five years old.
The kids’ choir gradually got smaller before they merged it
with the adult choir. For a
couple of years, we were the only two boys in it.
He went through a couple of rough years after his parents died,
but he came through them and turned himself around.
I’m proud of him. He’s
a really good guy. We’ve
always gotten along fine. Until
was frowning at him in surprise. “So
you’re letting your interest in one girl come between you and one of
your oldest friends? That’s stupid, Chris.”
hung his head. “Believe
me, I know.”
reached up and rubbed the back of his neck, running her fingers through
the hair at the nape. He fought back the shiver her touch always gave him.
She sought to understand. “I
didn’t know you two were friends.”
never hung around each other outside of church.
But church was always a safety zone, where school issues and the
outside world didn’t come into play.
There really aren’t any boys our age in our church, so we only
had each other. In choir,
at youth activities, at church picnics, we always hung together.
We were tight. We could go all week without having any relationship at
school at all and still be best buds on Sunday.
Up ‘til now, we’ve been more like strangers at school.
But we’ve never been rivals before.”
have things been the last couple of Sundays?” she asked.
Very tense.” He
looked back up at her, focusing all his attention on those beautiful
blue eyes that were now filled with worry.
“If I was unselfish, I’d say ‘let him have her’.
If I was smart, I’d say ‘no girl’s worth it’ and walk
away.” His gaze intensified, burning with a fire that surprised her.
“Trixie, I don’t want
to walk away!”
eyes pulled her to him. Completely
unable to break contact, she leaned toward him.
He leaned forward, slowly closing his eyes as he claimed her lips
with his own. She closed
her eyes and gave herself up to his kiss.
He touched her soul, even as he gave her his heart.
pulled back and tried to breathe normally.
“Chris, I don’t want you to walk away.
But I refuse to come between you and your best friend.
You need to talk to him.”
leaned his forehead against hers and closed his eyes.
“I know.” He
pulled himself together. “I
will; I promise.”
returned to their positions side-by-side, her right arm around his waist
and his left arm around her shoulder.
She smiled slyly and looked up at him with an impish twinkle in
her eyes. “I didn’t
know you sing.”
was instantly on guard. He
knew that twinkle, and he wasn’t getting caught.
“I only sing in church,” he
grinned mischievously. She
was going to milk this for all it was worth.
“Tad sings to me all the time.”
glared. “Tad also does
solos in church. I only
sing in the choir. Background.
Voices blend. No one
can hear just me.”
grin grew wider. “He’s gorgeous, athletic, intelligent, and he can sing.
Can a girl do any better than that?”
narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Uh-huh,
and which one of us are you talking about?”
batted her eyes. “Can you sing?”
jaw set stubbornly. “You
aren’t winning this one. I’m
not singing for you.”
sighed dramatically. “Such a pity.”
gave him her most innocent look. “Stop
trying to work your feminine wiles on me.”
wiles? I have those?”
cupped her cheek in his right hand and looked her in the eye.
His voice dropped to a husky whisper.
“Oh, you have them, all right.
You’re completely irresistible, and you know it.”
whole demeanor changed. Suddenly
she wasn’t teasing. Her
expression changed to amazement and doubt.
She searched his face. “Irresistible?”
he lost himself in her eyes, his face softened, and he donned his usual
look of complete adoration. “Absolutely. I
seriously doubt I could deny you anything.”
He gave her a light kiss, then sighed.
“All right, Blue Eyes, how ‘bout I sing to you in the car
while I drive you home?”
answering smile held the light of a thousand suns.
changed her clothes quickly and rushed out of the house.
Her main goal was simply to get out before she ran into her
mother. Although things
seemed slightly better this morning, it was still easier to just avoid
rushed through the woods towards Mrs. Vanderpoel’s house.
As she hurried, the blood pumping through her veins, which would
normally feel invigorating, made her pulse beat feel like a bass drum
pounding through her brain. By
the time she reached Mrs. Vanderpoel’s driveway, she had to stop and
lean against a tree to regain her equilibrium and fight back the
blinding pain. After
several minutes of rest, she finally had the pain back under control.
just in time for dinner at Mrs. Vanderpoel’s was normally a treat.
Tonight the mere smell of food made Trixie’s stomach
churn. She forced a smile
on her face, however, and warmly greeted both Mrs. V and Spider.
into Tad’s welcoming embrace, she felt a soft whisper in her ear.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
nodded. “I’m just
dinner, she tried to eat without allowing the constant nausea to show on
her face. She managed to act normally enough to fool Spider and Mrs. V,
but was having a really hard time eating anything.
Tad watched silently. Finally,
he made a show of checking his watch.
“Trixie, we’d really better get a move on if we’re going to
finish your math homework tonight.”
looked at him blankly for a moment.
What’s he talking
about? He helped me finish my math while we waited for the athletic
department meeting to start.
Then she realized the window of escape he was providing her. Her gratitude shining in her eyes, she smiled and rose from
her seat. “Yeah, let’s
get going. Thank you so
much for dinner, Mrs. V.”
and Trixie hurried off to his room.
Once there, he turned her to face him and searched her face.
“Are you okay? You
look like you don’t feel well.”
up into his concerned eyes, Trixie was overcome by a sudden desire to
talk to someone. Tad always seems
to understand, she
thought. She sighed.
“This emotional roller coaster is making me crazy.
I want someone to stop the ride so I can get off.”
stepped a little closer and reached out to brush a curl off her
forehead. “Is this about
Chris? Or about Beth?”
her eyes, Trixie struggled in vain to fight back tears.
Luke. All of it…
everything. It’s not even
like I have good days and bad days… I might have good hours
and bad hours. I can’t
stand it anymore.” She
opened her bright blue eyes and allowed her pain to show through her
tears. “I don’t know
what to do.”
pulled her close and held her. “For
one thing, stop trying to do it alone.
Stop trying to protect everyone around you from your pain.
The best friendships are about sharing everything, good and
my friends have all been through so much.
This is nothing compared to what they’ve survived.”
his eyes, Tad snorted in disbelief.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.
Besides, you shared their pain and helped them through.”
nodded wordlessly. Tad’s embrace was warm and comforting; she snuggled in
closer, seeking the solace he offered.
Tad tightened his grip, wanting to wrap her in a protective
blanket to keep her safe.
spoke again, gently, “Would you mind if I offered you my two cents?”
shook her head, still not speaking, and settled her cheek against his
shoulder. Tad rubbed her
back soothingly as he continued. “I think you’re afraid to share
your weaknesses with the Bob-Whites because it disturbs the natural
order of things.”
felt her stiffen in protest. “Let
me finish,” he said, holding her tightly until she relaxed again.
“Some relationships just have a natural flow.
In the Bob-Whites, you’re the strong one, the leader.
You’re impulsive, exciting, happy, and tough.
You pull everyone else along.
You don’t lean.
around you is more than happy to let you have your turn leaning on them,
but it’s not natural to you. And
when you’re trying find your equilibrium, upsetting the apple cart
isn’t a comfortable option.”
leaned back and looked at him in relief.
“Somehow, I knew you’d understand.”
smiled, then began singing to her.
in our lives
we all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
we know that there's always tomorrow.
returned his smile, tentatively.
on me, when you're not strong
I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on,
it won't be long 'til I'm gonna need
to lean on.
smile grew wider, and they began to sway in time with the music.
swallow your pride,
you have things you need to borrow.
no one can fill
needs that you won't let show.
joined her voice with his, growing stronger as they blended smoothly
just call on me brother when you need a hand.
all need somebody to lean on.
just might have a problem that you'll understand.
all need somebody to lean on.
on me when you're not strong,
I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on,
it won't be long 'til I'm gonna' need
to lean on.
on me when you're not strong,
I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on,
it won't be long 'til I'm gonna' need
to lean on.
love it when you sing to me,” Trixie said by way of thanks.
love it when you sing with me,” Tad responded.
eyes grew wide with dawning memory.
“OH! Speaking of singing…”
raised his brows in query. “What?”
narrowed her eyes in accusation. “Just
when were you going to mention that you and Chris have been in choir
together since you were five?”
nonchalance, Tad shrugged. “Whenever
my church choir happened to come up in conversation. It just hasn’t.”
merely stared at him, one eyebrow quirked.
He sighed in resignation. “Which
it hasn’t because I was avoiding mentioning Chris.”
her eyes, he said, “I just don’t want to talk about him.”
Finally turning to look at her, Tad fixed Trixie with a fiercely
possessive aquamarine stare, rasping, “I don’t want him in the room
heart did a funny dance, and her breath caught in her throat.
Some part of her brain said she should be offended by the
possessiveness in his look, but she responded instead with primitive
excitement. She tightened
her arms around him and leaned closer.
That was all the encouragement Tad needed.
He kissed her hungrily, passionately, thoroughly.
the young couple finally came up for air, they clung to each other
weakly. Tad trailed kisses
down her neck and whispered in her ear, “Trixie.”
shivered. She couldn’t
believe that her own name could send such a delicious tingle down her
spine. She leaned back so
she could look up into those gorgeous eyes.
held her gaze with burning intensity.
“This is about us, Trix.
her heart to beat normally, she forced her thoughts to focus.
She shook her head. “It’s
about each of us – the entire person.
You were just giving me advice about the Bob-Whites… my
friendships with them are an integral part of who I am.
Just as your friendship with Chris is for you.
I will not come between you and your best friend.”
willing to make that sacrifice.”
I’m not,” she said emphatically.
“It changes who you are, Tad.
And right now, I’m awfully fond of who you are.”
She felt a flutter of satisfaction at the fiery look in his eyes
caused by her words. “You
two need to work this out or forget you ever met me.”
looked her in disbelief. “That’s
just not possible.” He
gave her a soft, tender kiss.
work it out,” Trixie responded. She
kissed him back. “I need
you to.” She kissed him
heard the aching tremble in her voice and felt the fervor of her kiss.
He murmured words of promise in between his own kisses.
He would do what she asked.
He’d do anything she asked.
Tad would do whatever it took to make Trixie happy.