Will You Dance,

If I Ask You to Dance?




Thursday, October 26, 1995

As Trixie boarded the bus Thursday morning, she thought about the fact that she was feeling well for a change.  Two good mornings in a row.  Maybe things are looking up.

When she reached the back of the bus, she plunked down in the seat beside Honey.  Startled, the hazel-eyed beauty asked, “To what do I owe this honor?  Or is this just until Tad arrives?”

Trixie grinned.  “Nope.  I’m ignoring all members of the opposite sex today.”

Honey giggled while Di, sitting in front of the other girls, turned with an inquiring look.  “Really?  What about basketball this afternoon?”

With a shrug, Trixie answered, “If my demands haven’t been met by dismissal, then I’m not going.”

Mart, seated beside Di, just had to know:  “What demands?”

Trixie looked innocently at Diana.  “Did you hear something?”

Honey nodded, “I did.  It sounded kind of male to me.  You know, a member of the opposite sex who is to be ignored.”

Di giggled and gave Mart a gentle shove.  “Sweetie, go join that other male there, Daniel, across the aisle.  That can be the ‘Male Zone’ for today.  I don’t want your overwhelmingly masculine presence to interfere with my information-gathering.”

With a grumble, Mart complied.  As he slid into the seat next to Dan, he muttered, “I will never understand the female mind.  Do they actually think I can’t hear them just because I moved one seat over?”

Dan chuckled.  “Give them the illusion of privacy, and you give them the feeling of respect.”  He leaned closer and whispered, “Besides, that way you get the dirt without having to pry it out of Di later.”

Mart looked at his friend suspiciously.  “This is why you’re so popular with the girls, isn’t it?  You pretend to respect them.”

Shaking his head, Dan corrected him.  “No.  I actually give them respect by pretending to give them privacy.  They accept that I trust them; therefore, they’ll spill everything to me eventually.”

“Everything?” Mart snorted.  “Yeah, right.”

“Don’t you remember our phone conversation last night?” Dan asked pointedly.

Remembering what he’d been told about Dan’s conversation with Trixie after the athletic department meeting, Mart nodded.  “That’s right!  You managed to get my sister to spill her guts, even without red hair and green eyes.”

Dan laughed out loud.  “And you always thought that was his secret.  You need to take lessons on the female mind, son.”

Tad, who had just boarded the bus, reached their seats.  He stared at the pretty blonde who, instead of saving him a seat as she usually did, was seated beside her best girlfriend.

After ignoring him purposefully for a long moment, Trixie finally glanced his way.  “Did you need something?”

Recalling their conversation of the previous evening, where Trixie had told him to work things out with Chris or pretend he’d never met her, Tad stared at her with narrowed eyes.  “Is this a threat?” he asked.

Smiling winningly, she responded, “No, just a promise.  Now remove yourself to the ‘Male Zone’, if you don’t mind.”

With a roll of his eyes and a deep sigh, Tad plopped himself heavily into the seat behind Mart and Dan.

Dan turned to him, amused curiosity written all over his face.  “I thought you had all kinds of brownie points last night.”

A secret smile played at the corners of Tad’s mouth, earning a frown from Mart.  “Oh, I definitely did.”  His face suddenly transforming into a deep scowl, Tad continued, “But Chris messed that up, too.”

Curiosity overcoming his brotherly protectiveness, Mart asked, “How did he manage that?”

Tad took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly.  “You remember me telling you about my church choir, right?”

Dan nodded.  “Yeah, last year you traveled with them to sing in some kind of competition somewhere.”

“Remember what I said about my friends in the choir?”

Mart answered this time.  “Sure.  You have all kinds of girl friends, because the choir’s heavily female.  There’s only one other guy your age, so you two have been close since you were small.”

Suddenly completing the picture in his mind, Dan’s eyes widened in amazement.  “No way!”

Seeing Tad’s miserable nod, and looking back and forth between him and Dan, comprehension finally dawned on Mart.  “Ouch.  My sister isn’t willing to come between two best friends, is she?”

Tad shook his head glumly.  “The thing is, he started this.  I was gracious, and I said I was fine with her going to Homecoming with him.  He was the one who started spouting this ‘stay the hell away from my girlfriend’ crap!  I have no problem swallowing my pride for Trixie’s sake; I’d do more than that for her.  But, when I think about him, and our friendship, I just don’t see why I should have to make the first move.”

“Because he won’t,” Mart answered.  “He’s nice to my sister and all, but he still has a huge ego.  Mr. Popularity likes being the King of Sleepyside High.  He’s not going to grovel.”

“Maybe he will if you give him the right opening,” Dan said thoughtfully.  The other two boys gave him questioning looks, and he continued.  “If you go to him, but about something else, you give the appearance of making the first move.  But you mention only the other subject, waiting for him to bring up this topic.”  He shrugged.  “It’s worth a try.”

The bus was pulling up in front of the school, so Tad hurriedly asked, “What other subject?”

Dan grinned.  “Give him the report from the Big Brother Brigade about our findings last night.  I think the bitch is a safe topic, don’t you?”

Tad answered his grin.  “Thanks, Dan.  You’re a life-saver.”

As Tad rushed off the bus to find Chris, Mart turned to Dan.  “Why did we just help him?”

“Because we have more control over him than Chris.  We need to keep him involved with Trixie so that we can continue to influence the situation.”

Mart was dumbstruck.  “I am in awe, my friend.  You are the master.”

Dan smirked.  “Remember that.  And start taking lessons.”





The Bob-White girls walked towards their lockers.  Once out of hearing distance of the boys, Di whirled on Trixie.  “Enough, already!  Distracting me on the bus with uncharacteristic talk about shopping for Homecoming dresses was downright underhanded, Miss Belden.  I want to know what’s up with you and your anti-male mood today.”

The catty voice behind them startled the three girls.  “Don’t tell me you’re sick to death of them already!”

Trixie stopped on a dime and turned so fast it made her head spin dangerously.  She ignored this, though, and focused on the anger and righteous indignation that were oozing out of every pore.  “I have had enough of you, Beth!  Take your taunts and your mean streak and move to Siberia.  It’s almost as cold there as you are!”

Trixie stormed away, followed closely by her two best friends.  Beth Fleming remained, smirking in satisfaction and preening herself in the mirror of her compact.  She turned toward her right and the gathering of students outside the senior door, fully intending to approach Chris Zack – until she noticed Mart Belden and Dan Mangan glowering at her with murderous eyes.  She decided that it might be more prudent to exit stage left and retreated in the direction of the nearest entrance to the building.

Dan leaned casually against a tree, his grip on Mart’s arm firm.  “Leave it be for now, Mart.  Trixie’s temper is back, and that’s a good thing.”

Mart gave a short nod.  “For now.  But not for much longer.”




Tad walked across the front lawn of the school to the area around the senior door, knowing he would find Chris there somewhere.  He saw him sitting on a stone wall to the side of the entrance, chatting with Paul and Merrissa.  He approached the trio cautiously.

Chris looked up and noticed him coming.  With wary eyes he gave a nod of acknowledgement.  “Tad,” he said, greeting the younger boy quietly.

Tad looked Chris directly in the eye.  “I bring an update from the Big Brother Brigade on the Bitch of the Year.”

The unspoken message was clear:  I’m here.  I’m giving you an opening, but are you man enough to take it?

Chris eyed his rival for a long moment, indecision apparent on his face.  Finally, he gave Tad a wry grin.  “Really?  I thought you were still trying to get me to sing that duet with you at church on Sunday.”

While Paul and Merrissa’s faces reflected shock, the spark of surprise in Tad’s eyes was quickly replaced by warmth.  Tad smiled and teased, “Nah, I figured I’d leave that to Sarah.  She’s always been better at talking you into things than I am.”

Eyes widened in feigned horror, Chris gasped.  “You’re siccing Sarah on me?  Good Lord, you must be really mad at me.”

Tad gave him a meaningful look.  “You could say that.”

Chris looked sincerely apologetic.  “I guess I’d better figure out how to apologize before Sunday, huh?”

Tad smiled mischievously.  “Rumor has it you’d better figure out how by 3:00, if you want a practice partner today.”

Grimacing, Chris asked, “How was she last night?”

Tad shrugged.  “Fine.  But that was before she issued her instructions.  The ultimatum is in full effect today, and she was quite cool this morning.”

“How cool?”

“I was sentenced to the ‘Male Zone’.”

Running a hand through his hair and thinking once again about the pros and cons of a cut, Chris sighed.  Ruefully, he asked, “Why do we put up with this crap?”

Tad laughed.  “Sparkling blue eyes, smile brighter than sunshine… wanting her attention.  Is that reason enough?”

Clear gray eyes shone with honesty and friendship.  “Not reason enough for some things.  She’s right about that.”

The aquamarine eyes returned the light of longstanding friendship.  “Yeah.”

Chris asked, “We cool?”

“Yeah, we’re cool.”

Paul, who had been observing the entire exchange in rapt fascination, decided to butt in before the emotional moment became awkward.  “Okay, now that you’re cool… what was the report from the Big Brother Brigade?”

Tad’s countenance shifted to reflect his anger at Beth.  “Oh, yeah, that.  Beth needs to die.”

Chris raised an eyebrow.  “I thought the goal was to figure out why, first.”

“You know that conversation you almost overheard between Trixie and Dan last night?”

Chris flushed.  “Must you remind me?”

Tad grinned wickedly.  “Of course.  Anyway, she finally cracked.  Dan got her to spill her guts.”

Riss finally spoke.  “You mean something’s going on between Trixie and Beth?”

Chris nodded.  “Beth’s been harassing Trixie, but we weren’t sure how.  Apparently, Dan found out.”

Riss narrowed her eyes at Tad.  “You’d better not be about to say what I think you are, or I’ll have to murder Beth myself, and deny you he-men the pleasure.  I warned her once.  I don’t warn a second time.”

Chris looked at Riss in surprise.  “What are you talking about, Riss?”

Ignoring Chris, Riss commanded Tad.  “Finish your report.”

Tad glanced nervously at Riss, but Chris nodded reassuringly.  “Well, Dan started to figure things out at the meeting yesterday.  Remember when the EMT started talking about that kid who collapsed, and he said the other students were upset about watching someone die?”

Riss gasped loudly.  “Oh, God!  I wasn’t even thinking of Trix when he said that!”

Tad’s lips tightened in a grim line.  “Dan was the only one who happened to be looking her way.  He said she got real pale, and he thought she was going to throw up right there.”

“Shit,” was Paul’s succinct comment.

Frowning in concern, Chris asked, “But what does that have to do with Beth?”

“As soon as we were done, Trixie tried to bolt,” Tad told him.  “Beth caught her and complimented her on her presentation.  But, when she said she thought the joke was funny, she said ‘you simply slay me’.”

“That BITCH!” Riss spat.  “I’ll kill her!”

Before she could storm off in search of her intended prey, Paul grabbed her arm.  “Slow down, my love.  The rest of us would like a little enlightenment.”

Fuming, Riss explained what she knew.  “Trixie’s first day back after the shooting, she bumped Beth with her bookbag.  Beth told her she could kill someone with it.  Get it?  Kill.  Slay.”

Chris and Paul looked at Tad, who nodded in confirmation.  “Apparently, she’s made some remark with a death-related word at least once every day since the shooting.  And, with Trix’s not-so-stable state of mind about what happened, Beth might as well have been dropping anvils on Trixie’s head.”

An expression of icy determination settling on his face, Chris proclaimed, “Beth needs to pay.”

Paul commented, “Life isn’t fair.  Why is it that the person who most wanted to hurt Trixie had such an easy time figuring out how to get to her, but her friends couldn’t piece it together?”

Riss snorted.  “Because it takes an evil mind.”

Tad nodded.  “But here’s the thing:  Trixie didn’t tell anyone because she didn’t want her friends retaliating on her behalf.  She doesn’t want anyone getting themselves in trouble for her sake.”

Riss stamped her foot in frustration.  “Let me beat the shit out of Beth!  Half the guys in the school would get a thrill out of it – they love cat fights.”

Paul grinned and, wrapping an arm around her, kissed her lightly.  “As much as we’d all enjoy a good cat fight, love, please don’t.  I’d hate for you to get all scratched up, and you never know what sort of poison her claws might contain.”

Riss giggled.  “Any better suggestions, Gorgeous?”

Paul waggled his eyebrows deviously.  “But of course!  We take the rug right out from under Beth and have the revenge come from the most unlikely source:  the cheerleaders.”

Tad frowned.  “And how are we supposed to accomplish that?”

Chris laughed.  “The second-in-command of the squad is Paul’s younger sister, Sally.  And she hates Beth.”

Paul nodded.  “Sally would love to put Beth in her place.  In fact, very few of the cheerleaders like her.  She was only elected captain of the squad because her mom’s the coach and her dad bought the uniforms.  I’m sure, between the three of us, we can manage to encourage a whole bunch of cheerleaders to side with Sally.  Add the charms of Mangan and Belden to our ranks, and we could sway them all.”

“A little harmless flirting won’t hurt anyone,” Riss nodded.  “And I can take care of the youngest members of the squad.”  At the startled looks from the three boys, the young woman smacked Chris.  “Not like that, you idiot.  I’ll have Dane persuade them.  My little brother is quite charming when he wants to be.”

Paul breathed a sigh of relief.  “You had me worried for a moment there.”

Tad chuckled.  Hearing the bell ring, he said, “I’ll report back to Dan in homeroom.  Let’s see how much progress we can make by lunchtime.”

Riss nodded.  “I’m going to try to catch Dane right now.”

Tad and Riss hurried off.  As Chris also started to walk away, Paul stopped him.

“You know, Chris, when I first started hanging out with you I did it because I felt honored that I was allowed into your circle.  It wasn’t until I got to know you outside of school that I figured out I actually liked you.  You spend all your time maintaining your cool rep and don’t bother to let people here get to know you.  I thought Riss and I were the only people here who knew the real you.”

Chris shifted uncomfortably.  He wasn’t sure he liked where this was going.

Paul continued.  “I knew about your best friend in choir.  I assumed he knew you better than anyone and probably was closer to you than anyone.  I also assumed he went to Croton or Central, since your church has people from all over the area.

“Even though I’ve watched the way you snub people around here for years, I never imagined that that friend was part of this crowd.  I can’t believe the way you’ve treated Tad.”

Chris avoided Paul’s disgusted glare by staring dejectedly at his oversized feet.

“In one fell swoop, Trixie Belden has managed to knock you clean off your high horse.”  Paul smiled.  “That girl is good for you.  Don’t screw this up!”

Chris looked up at his friend, relieved that he wasn’t mad.  “Believe me, I know.  I’m not going to let her get away.”

“Better not, or I’ll kick your ass.”  Paul accompanied Chris into the school building, contemplating his renewed respect for the spunky little blonde who’d brought his friend to his knees.





By lunchtime, word had spread throughout the school.  The currents that normally fueled the Gossip Mill were flowing in a positive direction this particular day, all aimed at shutting down one arrogant girl’s reign of terror.  Paul and Merrissa were rather pleased with themselves.

Trixie was just coming out of the lunch line with Honey when she saw Chris wave Tad over to sit with him.  She stopped, her jaw crashing to the general vicinity of the floor.  Honey gently closed her mouth for her.

“Don’t stare; you’ll make a spectacle of yourself,” Honey whispered.

“But Chris invited Tad to sit with him.  Chris never lets anyone but Riss and Paul sit with him!”

“He lets you sit there,” Honey smirked, earning a withering glare from Trixie.  “Besides, didn’t you want them to make up?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Trixie answered uncertainly.  “But now they’re all buddy-buddy… in public.  Do I want to be in the middle of that?”

Honey offered a look of sympathy.  “Sweetie, that’s something you’re going to have to decide for yourself.”

Nodding in resignation, Trixie replied, “I’m still sitting with you today.  I don’t care if I usually sit with Chris on Thursdays... I’m not ready to face that yet.”

“No problem,” Honey smiled.  “You’re always welcome at the Bob-White table.  You are a Bob-White, after all.”

Trixie smiled back.  “Always will be!”

When Trixie placed her tray on the table next to Diana’s, Mart looked up in surprise.  “What are you doing here?”

Trixie nodded toward Chris’s table.  “Wondering what to make of that.”

Mart looked over his shoulder to see what she meant.  Spying Tad, he turned back to his sister.  “I’ll go check it out for you.”

Mart jumped up and was gone in a flash.  Trixie blanched.  “Someone stop him!”

Dan smiled gallantly.  “I’ll take care of it.”  He disappeared just as quickly.

Trixie’s temples began to throb.  She pushed her tray away and buried her head under her arms.  “Can this day get any worse?” she lamented.

Mart sat beside Tad.  “Hi, guys!”

Chris gave him a cold once over, appearing every bit the cool jock offended by a mere mortal daring to sit at his table.  The twinkle in his eyes belied his expression, however, and Mart relaxed.  “What are you doing, Belden?”

“Investigating.  It seems you’re scaring the hell out of my sister,” Mart replied with a grin.

Dan sat down across the table, beside Paul.  “It’s just occurred to our girl that dating two guys who are close friends leaves her open to be the topic of all sorts of strange conversations.”

Paul laughed out loud.  “Let her stew for a while; it’ll be good for her.  You guys are wrapped around her little finger a bit too tightly.”

Riss snorted in disgust.  “There is definitely too much testosterone at this table.  I think I’ll head for the ‘Female Zone’.”

Watching Riss leave the table, Chris looked at Tad.  “We’re in trouble.”

Tad rolled his eyes.  “Are you just now figuring this out?”

Chris held his head in his hands.  “How did I get myself into this?”

Paul threw a potato chip at him.  “First, Trixie kicked your ass on the court; then, she smiled at you.  You fell.  Hard.  Remember?”

Dan laughed.  “She does have a tendency to bowl people over, doesn’t she?”

Mart nodded.  “She makes friends quickly.  Guys especially.  Dan, did you know that she still corresponds with Tenney?”

Dan shook his head.  “No, but I knew she still writes to Pete, Bob, Ned, Eric, and Pat.”

Tad glared at them.  “You two just enjoy being comedians, don’t you?”

Mart grinned.  “Every word is truth, my friend.  Every word.”

Chris elbowed Tad.  “I think it’s time to start bringing Sarah around.”

Tad grinned conspiratorially.  “Definitely.”

Riss plopped herself in the seat across from Trixie and knocked on the table by her friend’s head.  “Hey, Trix, you in there?”

“No,” came the muffled reply.  “I tapped my ruby slippers together so I could get out of here.”

“What brings you over here, Merrissa?” Diana asked.

“Searching for a testosterone-free zone,” came the laughing response.

“Actually, Merrissa,” Honey began shyly.  “I could use your advice.”

Surprised, Riss quirked a brow at the hazel-eyed beauty.  “With what?”

“A date for Homecoming,” Honey replied ruefully.

Trixie finally raised her head to look at her friend.  “You mean you’ve finally narrowed down the list?”

Honey grimaced.  “I told you, most of the invitations weren’t worth considering.”

Di nodded, “Yes, but you said there were two or three that were.”

Riss was dying of curiosity.  “So what do you need help with?”

“Well…” Honey hedged.  “The invitation that looks most promising to me came from a freshman.  How bad will it look for a sophomore to go with a freshman?”

“That depends,” Riss contemplated the situation.  “Some freshmen look young for their age and are immature.  But some look older.  Some are mature.  Some are cool.  If you pick the right one, it won’t have a negative impact.”

“So who is the intriguing prospect?” Di wanted to know.

Honey hesitated and glanced nervously at Riss.  Trixie grinned and said, “Let me guess:  Dane Parkman.”

Honey blushed furiously and nodded.  Riss grinned.  “Sisterly bias aside, that’s a safe choice.  Dane is almost as tall as I am, so most people don’t think of him as a freshman.  He’s bound for the varsity team, even though he’s a frosh, so he’s cool.  And, if he doesn’t behave himself, I’ll pummel him.”

“Besides,” Trixie added, “he’s great to talk to, and he certainly knows how to provide entertaining dinner conversation.”

Honey laughed, finally relaxing.  “Thanks, girls.  I feel much better now.  I think I’ll go find him.”

Honey leaped from the table and hurried toward the freshman end of the cafeteria, running headlong into Beth Fleming.  After glaring at the older girl, Honey hurried off, not even bothering to apologize.  Beth smoothed her hair and skirt, then continued on her way.  She stopped at Chris’ table, sliding into the seat Riss had vacated.

Paul glared at her.  “Beth, you’d better get your ass outta here before I lose my temper,” he snarled.

Beth ignored him and fixed her plastic smile, which never quite reached her eyes, on Tad.  “Mr. Webster, I understand that you’ve been turned down for the Homecoming Dance.  Are you still looking for a date?”

All five boys stared at her in shock.  Tad’s dumbfounded expression was quickly replaced by cold fury.  “You’ve got to be kidding me!” he shouted.

Chris placed a firm hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “Tad is bringing his friend Sarah, from Croton.  He has no problem finding a date – unlike you, apparently.  Why don’t you take a walk down Hawthorne Street?  You might be able to find something there for you.”

Her face twisting viciously, Beth stood.  Her eyes shooting daggers at Chris, she hissed, “You’re gonna pay for this, Zack.”

As soon as she stalked off, Paul burst out laughing.  “That was a beautiful burn, buddy.”

Tad glared at Paul.  “Says you.  You don’t have to try to convince Sarah to wear a dress.”  He directed his irritation at Chris.  “You got me into this; now, get me out of it.”

Mart asked, “What’s the problem with getting this Sarah person into a dress?”

Chris snorted.  “She’s the biggest tomboy I’ve ever met.”

Dan smirked.  “I doubt that.”

Tad shook his head.  “No, you don’t understand.  Sarah would make Trixie look frilly and frail.”

Chris frowned.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Paul waved airily at Dan and Mart.  “Ignore him.  He’s so completely enamored that he doesn’t realize Trixie’s a tomboy.  Of course, he’s the only one in the school…”

Chris launched a peach slice at Paul’s face.  Paul picked up his barbeque sauce and aimed.  “Don’t start something you don’t want to finish.”

“Cut it out,” Tad demanded.  “Chris, are you gonna fix this?”

Chris sighed.  “I’ll take care of Sarah, okay?  I promise.”

“You’d better,” Tad issued a final warning before rising from his seat.  “I’m going to see if Trixie will allow me into her presence, or if we’re gonna have to tail her to French class.”

Once Tad left the table, the other boys fanned out to continue winning over cheerleaders to their team.


Trixie heard Tad’s shout of, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

She looked over at the boys and paled when she saw Beth sitting with them.  “Oh, God.  What now?”

Riss turned around to see what was worrying her.  She saw Chris hold Tad down in his seat and say something, then watched Beth storm off.  Turning back to Trixie, Riss commented, “Looks like Chris pissed her off.”

“Lovely,” Trixie drawled.   “So now she hates us both.  I’m thrilled, can’t you tell?”

Riss grinned teasingly.  “Would you rather she thought she was your best friend?”

Di snorted inelegantly.  “Like that would ever happen!”

Trixie’s response was typically self-deprecating.  “It’s not like I’m exactly cheerleader material, so I’m just not in her league.”

Riss slammed her hand on the table loudly, causing every tray to bounce and making both girls blink.  “If I ever hear you say something like that again, Belden, I’ll knock your block off,” she said angrily.  “That snot isn’t fit to eat the dirt under your shoes.  Maybe if you’d quit putting yourself down, it wouldn’t be so easy for others to do it!”

While Trixie sat in stunned silence, Diana struggled to keep the grin off her face.  If any of the Bob-Whites had taken that tone with Trixie, she’d be furious, but Merrissa Parkman had an air of authority about her.  Her big-sister approach towards Trixie just might work.  Way to go, Merrissa!

Fortunately for Trixie, at that moment, Tad appeared at her side.  “Trix, you wouldn’t happen to be interested in getting the hell out of here, would you?”

“I think that sounds grand,” Trixie responded quietly, rising and gathering her things.

“What was the shouting all about?” Riss asked Tad.

Tad shuffled his feet and ran an agitated hand through his hair.  Jaw clenched tightly, he answered, “The Bitch asked me to Homecoming.”

Trixie dropped her lunch tray, startled eyes flying to Tad’s face.  “Oh, dear Lord.  What did you say?”

“Chris made sure I didn’t get a chance to say anything,” he said in irritation.

“It looked like she hated whatever Chris said,” Riss snickered.

“He told her she’d have better luck on Hawthorne Street.”

Riss howled with laughter.  Di quickly moved her apple juice away from her face and battled in vain to keep from choking on the small sip she’d managed to inhale.  Trixie sank weakly back into her seat and placed the palms of her hands over her eyes.

Tad motioned impatiently.  “Trix, can we just get the hell outta here?”

The tense pair made a quick exit.  Di and Riss examined the completely untouched lunch tray Trixie had left behind.

Riss raised an eyebrow at Di.  “You don’t seem surprised,” she challenged.

“Neither do you,” Di returned.

“Does she ever actually eat her lunch?”

“Not in the last couple of weeks.”

Riss mouth formed a grim line.  “That’s not good.”

Di scowled.  “It’s worse than you think.  I’ve never met a Belden who couldn’t put away twice as much food as anyone else without ever gaining an ounce.  Of course, she thinks she’s fat…”

Riss’ concern was evident.  “Mom has been asking me an awful lot of questions about Trixie.  She’s worried about something.  If she knew Trixie weren’t eating…”

“The question is:  Why?” Di mused.  “Is she stupidly trying to lose weight?  Or is she just so stressed she can’t eat?  And, if it is stress, would dragging your mom into it only make it worse?”

Worrying her bottom lip, Riss cautioned, “I’m not ready to go there yet.  Let’s just keep an eye on her for now.”

Their pact made, Merrissa and Diana appointed themselves Trixie’s guardians.





Having left the cafeteria several minutes too early for class, Tad and Trixie took a roundabout route through a fairly deserted stretch of corridor near the music rooms.

Tad sighed.  “Trix, I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“Look, you and I both know Beth wouldn’t have asked me unless she thought it would somehow upset you.”

Trixie stopped near an empty practice room.  “Why not?  You’re captain of a sports team, you’re mighty fine looking, and a lot of girls around here would love to go out with you.”

Tad stopped and faced her, then began backing her into the empty room.  “Mighty fine looking?” he repeated in amusement.

Smiling slyly, Trixie whispered, “Mighty fine.”

A hungry look in his eye, Tad kept going until she was pressed against the far wall of the tiny room before leaning down to capture her lips with his.  He slowly and languorously plundered her mouth.

Coming up briefly for air, Trixie breathed, “Thank God I don’t have to forget we’ve met.”

“There was no way in hell I was going to let that happen,” Tad growled, before returning to his favorite pastime.




Chris met Trixie at her locker at the end of the day.  “Ready for practice, Blue Eyes?”

Trixie grabbed the last of her things and slammed the locker.  Assessing the throbbing behind her eyes, she decided it was mild at the moment, and she could probably get through basketball without a double round of painkillers.

“All set,” she answered Chris with a smile.

They walked out of school, arms around each other, talking quietly.  As they headed for Chris’ blue Taurus in the parking lot, they passed Beth Fleming.  They focused on each other and made a point of ignoring her, while she followed their every movement with hateful eyes.

Once they were safely in the car, Trixie breathed a sigh of relief and rested her head wearily against the seat back.  “This is going to be a long year.”

“No, it won’t,” Chris said with determination.  “We’ll find a way to deal with her, so you don’t have to put up with this crap.  I’ll make sure she leaves you alone.”

Trixie’s eyes shone with gratitude, despite the warning in her voice.  “Just don’t do something stupid and get yourself in trouble.”

“I won’t do anything that would get me in trouble with you.”  Chris gently brushed a curl off her face.  “I really need to thank you.”

Eyes widening in surprise, Trixie asked, “For what?”

With a rueful chuckle, Chris answered, “For giving me a kick in the pants and getting me to do something I should have done years ago.”

“What was that?  Allowing Tad to eat lunch with you?” she asked with a grin.

“Yeah.  I really have treated him like shit, and I consider him my best friend.  Something tells me I have a lot to learn about friendship.”  The look he gave her was beseeching.  “I think I could learn a lot from you, if you’ll teach me.”

Giving him a soft, gentle smile, Trixie reached up and stroked Chris’ jaw.  “I think I can handle that job.”

After sealing their agreement with a sweet kiss, Chris drove to the community center.  They went inside and separated at the locker rooms.  Joining Riss in the girls’ room, Trixie flopped on the bench with a dreamy look in her eyes.  Riss threw an energy bar at her.

Trixie came out of her fog and looked at the food bar in her lap.  “What’s this for?”

Riss snorted.  “Between the silly grin on your face and the fact that you didn’t eat lunch, you need some kind of help if you’re gonna be any kind of challenge for me today.”

Munching on the power bar, Trixie narrowed her eyes.  “Is that a challenge, Riss?  Don’t you know what happens when you challenge me?”

Riss grinned.  “Yeah, but I want a good workout today.  I’d like to have to work to beat your butt.”

A glint of determination in her eyes, Trixie vowed, “You’re goin’ down, Parkman!”

“Prove it, Belden!”

The girls emerged from the locker room ready for battle, still slinging good-natured taunts at each other.  Chris and Paul exchanged amused glances.

“Looks like we’re going to have fun today,” Paul said.

“As long as you call losing fun,” Chris scoffed.

Paul’s eyebrows shot skyward.  “You, too?”

The foursome proceeded to spend the next two hours in a friendly, but hard-fought, contest of skills.  When they were through, Trixie and Chris had won, but very narrowly.  They were all tired, sore, and feeling great.

Paul’s parting comment for the evening summed up what they were all thinking:  “Wouldn’t it be great if every day ended like this?”




Author's Notes




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