Will You Dance,

If I Ask You to Dance?




As 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. 

Eventually, 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.

During 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.

As 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.

Trixie gave him a wan smile.  “I’m just really, really tired.  I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to be ignoring you or anything.”

Chris 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.”

That earned him the smile he sought.  “Thanks for caring.”

“I care a lot,” he said, as he leaned down for a kiss.

Through 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?”

Chris and Trixie both froze.  Then she turned with narrowed eyes and stormed into the house.  “Good question!” she fumed.

Chris 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.

Tad threw him a grateful look.  “Well, someone had to get stuck with Belden.  Apparently Bellinger-the-Psycho-Physicist was tired of torturing Mangan.”

Trixie 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.

“Crabapple Farm.”

“Hey, Shamus, how are you?” Jim’s voice sounded tense to her ears.

“Hey, College Man.  Don’t you realize it’s only Tuesday?”

The three boys shifted nervously, wondering if they could just leave the kitchen without Trixie noticing, as Bobby had just done.

“Yeah, I know it’s Tuesday.  Unfortunately, I don’t think my apology can wait until Friday,” Jim replied mournfully.

Trixie frowned.  “What apology?”

“The one for whatever shit Beth gives you because of me.”

Tensing, Trixie spoke slowly, through gritted teeth.  “Why, exactly, would Beth give me shit because of you?”

Instantly, the boys focused all their attention on her conversation.

In a voice filled with both fury and disgust, Jim answered, “She called and asked me to go to Homecoming with her.”

“She 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?”

“I was actually rather rude about telling her no.  I believe I used the phrase ‘when hell freezes over’.”

Trixie leaned her back against the wall and sank slowly to the floor.  “Oh.  My.  God.”

“I’m really sorry, Trix,” Jim apologized, almost pleadingly.  “Somehow, I know she’s gonna take this out on you.”

The 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 bathroom.

Slamming 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.

Meanwhile, Mart was gripping the phone tightly.  He motioned for Tad and Chris to stay.  “Jim, what the hell was that about?”

“Beth 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.”

“Beth asked you to Homecoming?” Mart repeated in disbelief.  He exchanged worried looks with Chris and Tad.  “What do you mean you told her off?”

“I 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.”

Mart blinked.  Was this Jim Frayne talking?  You actually called her an uppity bitch?”

Chris couldn’t help himself – he started laughing.  Tad grinned and called out, “Way to go, Jim!”

“Who’s there?”

“Chris 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.”

Jim chuckled.  “I must have stressed you out.  You’ve reverted to ‘Mart-speak’.”

Mart 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.”

“What’s wrong now?”

“Nothing 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.”

“Did the talk with Molinson do her any good?”

“Do you think she actually told me anything about that?”

“How stupid of me.”  Jim sighed.  “But she did talk to you about Moms?”

“Yeah.  Things are actually okay between us for a change.”

“Good.  Just keep an eye on her.  And watch out for Beth.”

“Will do.  I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

“Bye, Mart.”

Mart 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.

“Yesterday, 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.”

Tad 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.”

Mart 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 encounters?”

Chris 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.”

“But,” Tad said, “if she suddenly has a bodyguard everyday, she’ll get suspicious.”

Looking confused, Chris said, “She doesn’t mind being walked down the halls.”

Mart 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 direction.”

Chris looked at Tad, and acknowledged grudgingly, “Then maybe Tad should start waiting for her after lunch.”

Tad 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.”

Running 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.”

The 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 left.

Mart 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.

Passing 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.




Wednesday, October 25, 1995


On the bus in the morning, Tad greeted Trixie warily.  “Hey, Trixie.  How you doin’ this morning?”

Trixie smiled brightly.  “Fine.  I think today might actually be a good day, for a change.”

Tad relaxed.  “That’s good.  You certainly look happier than yesterday.”

“I am,” she nodded.  “Sorry if I was obnoxious last night.”

“I think it was justified,” Tad shrugged.  “I think we should all be questioning Beth’s sanity.”

Mart 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?”

Trixie turned in her seat.  “Beth is proving her stupidity and desperation, that’s all.  Guess who she asked to Homecoming?”

Mart winced, while the others made noises of inquiry.

Grinning impishly, Trixie teased her audience for a moment before answering them.  “She called Boston Asylum.”

Di’s eyebrows shot up.  “She asked Brian?”

Trixie giggled.  “Nope.”

Honey blanched.  “Oh, God.  My brother’s too polite for his own good.”

Tad chuckled.  “Well, not exactly…”

“What do you mean?” Honey asked.

 “Jim Frayne, model of polite honorability, actually told her off!” Trixie exclaimed.  “What else did he say, Mart?”

Mart sighed in resignation.  “He called her a bitch and said something about hell freezing over.”

While 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.

“Oh, 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 today.”

Trixie frowned.  “What meeting?”

Honey 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?”

“Oh, dear Lord in Heaven,” Trixie groaned.  “I completely forgot.”

“Can you handle this today?” Mart asked worriedly.

Trixie 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 survive, honest.”

Mart smiled.  Trixie’s relaxed attitude and her confidence this morning were probably the most encouraging signs he’d seen in weeks.

His 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 protectively.

Beth 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.

Di stepped between Beth and Trixie.  Issuing her sweetest smile and using her kindest voice, she said, “Beth, drop dead.”

With 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 giggles.

Trixie hugged the other girls.  “Thanks, you guys.  She’s so much easier to face when you’re around.”

“I thought you did great Friday night,” Honey offered.

“Like I said, you were right there.”

“So, we’ll be right there all the time,” Di said.

Trixie smiled.  “That’s a little impractical, but the offer is wonderful.  Thanks.”  She turned and looked over her shoulder.  “Let’s scram before the boys catch up.”

Outside, the boys were glaring at Beth.  Before they, too, entered the building, Mart spoke softly but menacingly.  “Remember what I said, Beth.”

Once 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?”

Mart 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.”

“Exactly,” Mart nodded.  “Keep your eyes and ears sharp today.  If you see or hear anything in the hallways, pass the word along quickly.”

The bell rang, and the students turned their attention to their schoolwork.  Their concentration lapsed often that day, however.





Helen Belden answered the knock on her back door late that morning to find Maddie Wheeler eyeing her anxiously.

“Well?”  Maddie asked as she followed her friend into the kitchen.

Helen 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.”

“I 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?”

Bringing 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.”

Maddie nodded sympathetically.  “What about Peter?  Did you talk to him?”

Helen 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 interrupted.”

Frowning, 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, I know,” Helen cried in frustration.  “I’m scared, okay?  He’s not going to understand.”

“He doesn’t understand right now.  He just might understand if you talked to him.”

Anxious 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.”

Giving Helen’s hand a comforting squeeze, Maddie said, “Okay.  Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

Helen smiled.  “You already are.  More than you could ever know.”




When the Bob-Whites gathered for lunch, Trixie sat with a sheaf of papers covered with notes about the athletic department fundraiser.

Di 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 High.”

Mart’s eyebrows rocketed skyward.  “What?!  Why is that presumptuous, vertically-endowed stripling telephoning my radiant, violet-eyed amour?”

Giving 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.”

Trixie 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 great?”

Honey shared Di’s enthusiasm.  “That’s terrific!  I bet that encourages more of our baseball players to help out.”

Dan snorted.  “Tad’s the captain of the team.  I doubt if they’ll need a lot of arm-twisting to be convinced to help Trixie.”

Trixie’s 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,” she mumbled.

Mart 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.

Smirking at the girls, Dan announced, “Apparently, hell has thawed.”




After 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.

A 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.

Grinning up at him, she said, “I think I’d fail math without you.”

Tad smiled and sat down beside her.  “I doubt that, but I’m more than happy to help you improve your grades.”

“Good.  Explain problem number three to me.”

Tad 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.”

Pouting, Tad said, “But what will we do when you come over later?”

Startled, Trixie looked up and caught the gleam in his eye.  Blushing, she answered, “I’m sure we’ll think of something.”

She 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.

When 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.

Coach 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.

The 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.”

Trixie never heard anything else that was said, as her mind started replaying the scene of Luke’s death in graphic detail.  Dan 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 carefully.

As 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.

Trixie 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.

Dan 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.

I’m sure you’ve been dying for that to happen.

It’s simply to die for.

Would it kill you to share with the rest of us?

You slay me!

Suddenly 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.

Hurrying 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.

As 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.

“Why didn’t you tell me?  I’d have taken care of Beth for you a long time ago.”

Trixie 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.”

Dan frowned.  Is she serious?  She kept quiet to protect me?  Aloud, he said, “She’s not, but you are.”

Shaking 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.”

The 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.”

“I 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.”

Dan’s 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.”

A single tear ran down her face.  “I love you too, Danny,” she whispered.

He 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 come.


Meanwhile, 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 Trixie.

Chris felt a sharp pang somewhere in the vicinity of his heart.  Eyes flashing a sense of betrayal, he turned and stalked away.

Tad 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.

A 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 her.

Tad 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.

Nearly 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.

“Tad, is something wrong?” Trixie asked in concern.

Through tightly clenched teeth, Tad responded without opening his eyes.  “You need to go find Chris and talk to him.”

Trixie and Dan exchanged a look of amusement before she turned a raised eyebrow towards Tad.  “Why, pray tell?”

Tad sighed loudly.  “Because… I know the Bob-Whites better than he does.”

When he didn’t say anything else, Trixie asked, “What does that have to do with anything?”

Reluctantly, 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.”

Trixie 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?”

Tad 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 off.

Dan leaned a shoulder casually against the same wall Tad was still holding up.  “Smooth move.”

Tad snorted.  “Try stupid.  I‘d have been very happy to let him remain in the dark, all put out over nothing.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No.  Trixie would’ve been upset.  It wouldn’t have been worth it.”

“That was an act of honor.”  Dan nodded in approval.  “You may win this game yet.”

Tad glared at him.  “This isn’t a game.  This is about her heart.”

Dan 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?”





Trixie 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.

Chest heaving from his exertions, Chris pulled her to him and managed to puff out, “Are you okay?”

She 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.”

Chris’ concern disappeared in a flash of irritation.  “Why the heck are you mad at me?”

The 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 assumptions?”

Chris 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.”

“Oh really?” she argued back.  “Just how much do you think you know about Dan Mangan, anyway?”

“I know you two love each other,” he said with a cruel, hurtful sneer and a flash of pain in his eyes.

Trixie narrowed her eyes and shot sparks of blue fire, but didn’t raise her voice.  “And?”

He 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 it…  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 here.”

“Anything else?”

“No, 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. 

Trixie 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.

Calmly, 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.

As the message was received, Chris winced deeply.  “I am an ass, aren’t I?”

Trixie 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?”

He couldn’t help but give a rueful smile.  “Crystal.  Are you mad at me?” 

Trixie fought back a smile of her own.  “Actually, I’m kind of flattered that it bothered you so much.”

His smile turned into that smile as he set his hands gently on her shoulders.  “Oh, really?”

The smile won the battle and Trixie gave in, wrapping her arms around his waist.  “Yeah.”

He 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?”

She rolled her eyes.  “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

He raised his eyebrows.  “Try me.”

“Tad told me.”

An 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.”

Chris turned and walked away, plunking himself with force on the bottom row of the bleachers.  “I know, I know!”

The 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 gray eyes.

“I’ve 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 now…”

Trixie 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.”

He hung his head.  “Believe me, I know.”

She 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.”

“We’ve 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.”

“How have things been the last couple of Sundays?” she asked.

“Tense.  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!”

His 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. 

She 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.”

He leaned his forehead against hers and closed his eyes.  “I know.”  He pulled himself together.  “I will; I promise.”

They 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.”

Chris was instantly on guard.  He knew that twinkle, and he wasn’t getting caught.  “I only sing in church,” he stated firmly.

She grinned mischievously.  She was going to milk this for all it was worth.  “Tad sings to me all the time.”

He glared.  “Tad also does solos in church.  I only sing in the choir.  Background.  Voices blend.  No one can hear just me.”

Her grin grew wider.  “He’s gorgeous, athletic, intelligent, and he can sing.  Can a girl do any better than that?”

Chris narrowed his eyes suspiciously.  “Uh-huh, and which one of us are you talking about?”

Trixie batted her eyes.  “Can you sing?”

“In the choir.”

“Prove it.”

Chris’ jaw set stubbornly.  “You aren’t winning this one.  I’m not singing for you.”

She sighed dramatically.  “Such a pity.”

“Stop it.”

She gave him her most innocent look.  “Stop what?”

“Stop trying to work your feminine wiles on me.”

“Feminine wiles?  I have those?”

He 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.”

Her whole demeanor changed.  Suddenly she wasn’t teasing.  Her expression changed to amazement and doubt.  She searched his face.  “Irresistible?”

As 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?”

Her answering smile held the light of a thousand suns.





Trixie 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 Moms.

She 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.

Arriving 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.

Stepping into Tad’s welcoming embrace, she felt a soft whisper in her ear.  “Are you okay?” he asked.

She nodded.  “I’m just fine.”

Throughout 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.”

Trixie 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.”

Tad 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.”

Looking 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.”

Tad stepped a little closer and reached out to brush a curl off her forehead.  “Is this about Chris?  Or about Beth?”

Closing her eyes, Trixie struggled in vain to fight back tears.  “Chris.  Beth.  You.  Moms.  Brian.  Jim.  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.”

Tad 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 bad.”

“But my friends have all been through so much.  This is nothing compared to what they’ve survived.”

Rolling his eyes, Tad snorted in disbelief.  “You’ve got to be kidding me.  Besides, you shared their pain and helped them through.”

Trixie 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.

Tad spoke again, gently, “Would you mind if I offered you my two cents?”

She 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.”

He 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.

“Everyone 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.”

Trixie leaned back and looked at him in relief.  “Somehow, I knew you’d understand.”

Tad smiled, then began singing to her.

Sometimes in our lives
we all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
we know that there's always tomorrow.

Trixie returned his smile, tentatively.

Lean on me, when you're not strong

and I'll be your friend.  I'll help you carry on,

for it won't be long 'til I'm gonna need

somebody to lean on.

Her smile grew wider, and they began to sway in time with the music.

Please swallow your pride, 

if you have things you need to borrow.

For no one can fill

those needs that you won't let show.

She joined her voice with his, growing stronger as they blended smoothly together.

You just call on me brother when you need a hand.

We all need somebody to lean on.

I just might have a problem that you'll understand.

We all need somebody to lean on.

Lean on me when you're not strong,

and I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on,

for it won't be long 'til I'm gonna' need

somebody to lean on.

Lean on me when you're not strong,

and I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on,

for it won't be long 'til I'm gonna' need

somebody to lean on.

“I love it when you sing to me,” Trixie said by way of thanks.

“I love it when you sing with me,” Tad responded.

Her eyes grew wide with dawning memory.  “OH! Speaking of singing…”

Tad raised his brows in query.  “What?”

Trixie 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?”

Maintaining nonchalance, Tad shrugged.  “Whenever my church choir happened to come up in conversation.  It just hasn’t.”

She merely stared at him, one eyebrow quirked.  He sighed in resignation.  “Which it hasn’t because I was avoiding mentioning Chris.”


Avoiding 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 with us.”

Trixie’s 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.

When 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.”

She 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.

He held her gaze with burning intensity.  “This is about us, Trix.  Just us.”

Willing 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.”

“I’m willing to make that sacrifice.”

“But 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.”

Tad looked her in disbelief.  “That’s just not possible.”  He gave her a soft, tender kiss.

“Then work it out,” Trixie responded.  She kissed him back.  “I need you to.”  She kissed him again.

He 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.





Author's Notes




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