October 26, 1995
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.
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?”
I’m ignoring all members of the opposite sex today.”
giggled while Di, sitting in front of the other girls, turned with an
inquiring look. “Really?
What about basketball this afternoon?”
a shrug, Trixie answered, “If my demands haven’t been met by
dismissal, then I’m not going.”
seated beside Di, just had to know:
looked innocently at Diana. “Did
you hear something?”
nodded, “I did. It
sounded kind of male to me. You
know, a member of the opposite sex who is to be ignored.”
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.”
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
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.”
looked at his friend suspiciously.
“This is why you’re so popular with the girls, isn’t it?
You pretend to respect them.”
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
Mart snorted. “Yeah,
you remember our phone conversation last night?” Dan asked pointedly.
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
laughed out loud. “And
you always thought that was his secret.
You need to take lessons on the female mind, son.”
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.
ignoring him purposefully for a long moment, Trixie finally glanced his
way. “Did you need
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.
winningly, she responded, “No, just a promise.
Now remove yourself to the ‘Male Zone’, if you don’t
a roll of his eyes and a deep sigh, Tad plopped himself heavily into the
seat behind Mart and Dan.
turned to him, amused curiosity written all over his face. “I thought you had all kinds of brownie points last
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.”
overcoming his brotherly protectiveness, Mart asked, “How did he
took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly.
“You remember me telling you about my church choir, right?”
nodded. “Yeah, last year
you traveled with them to sing in some kind of competition somewhere.”
what I said about my friends in the choir?”
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.”
completing the picture in his mind, Dan’s eyes widened in amazement.
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?”
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.”
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.”
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.”
bus was pulling up in front of the school, so Tad hurriedly asked,
“What other subject?”
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?”
answered his grin. “Thanks,
Dan. You’re a
Tad rushed off the bus to find Chris, Mart turned to Dan.
“Why did we just help him?”
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.”
was dumbstruck. “I am in
awe, my friend. You are the
smirked. “Remember that.
And start taking lessons.”
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
catty voice behind them startled the three girls.
“Don’t tell me you’re sick to death of them
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!”
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.
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.”
gave a short nod. “For
now. But not for much
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.
looked up and noticed him coming. With
wary eyes he gave a nod of acknowledgement.
“Tad,” he said, greeting the younger boy quietly.
looked Chris directly in the eye. “I
bring an update from the Big Brother Brigade on the Bitch of the
unspoken message was clear: I’m
here. I’m giving you an
opening, but are you man enough to take it?
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
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
widened in feigned horror, Chris gasped.
“You’re siccing Sarah on me?
Good Lord, you must be really mad at me.”
gave him a meaningful look. “You
could say that.”
looked sincerely apologetic. “I
guess I’d better figure out how to apologize before Sunday, huh?”
smiled mischievously. “Rumor
has it you’d better figure out how by 3:00, if you want a practice
Chris asked, “How was she last night?”
But that was before she issued her instructions.
The ultimatum is in full effect today, and she was quite
cool this morning.”
was sentenced to the ‘Male Zone’.”
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?”
laughed. “Sparkling blue
eyes, smile brighter than sunshine… wanting her attention.
Is that reason enough?”
gray eyes shone with honesty and friendship.
“Not reason enough for some things.
She’s right about that.”
aquamarine eyes returned the light of longstanding friendship. “Yeah.”
asked, “We cool?”
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?”
countenance shifted to reflect his anger at Beth. “Oh, yeah, that. Beth
needs to die.”
raised an eyebrow. “I
thought the goal was to figure out why, first.”
know that conversation you almost overheard between Trixie and Dan last
flushed. “Must you remind
grinned wickedly. “Of
course. Anyway, she finally
cracked. Dan got her to
spill her guts.”
finally spoke. “You mean
something’s going on between Trixie and Beth?”
nodded. “Beth’s been
harassing Trixie, but we weren’t sure how.
Apparently, Dan found out.”
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.”
looked at Riss in surprise. “What
are you talking about, Riss?”
Chris, Riss commanded Tad. “Finish
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?”
gasped loudly. “Oh, God! I
wasn’t even thinking of Trix when he said that!”
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.”
was Paul’s succinct comment.
in concern, Chris asked, “But what does that have to do with Beth?”
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’.”
BITCH!” Riss spat. “I’ll
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.”
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.”
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
expression of icy determination settling on his face, Chris proclaimed,
“Beth needs to pay.”
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
snorted. “Because it
takes an evil mind.”
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
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.”
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.”
giggled. “Any better
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
frowned. “And how are we
supposed to accomplish that?”
second-in-command of the squad is Paul’s younger sister, Sally.
And she hates Beth.”
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.”
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.”
breathed a sigh of relief. “You
had me worried for a moment there.”
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.”
nodded. “I’m going to
try to catch Dane right now.”
and Riss hurried off. As
Chris also started to walk away, Paul stopped him.
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.”
shifted uncomfortably. He
wasn’t sure he liked where this was going.
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
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.”
avoided Paul’s disgusted glare by staring dejectedly at his oversized
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!”
looked up at his friend, relieved that he wasn’t mad.
“Believe me, I know. I’m
not going to let her get away.”
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
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.
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.
stare; you’ll make a spectacle of yourself,” Honey whispered.
Chris invited Tad to sit with him.
Chris never lets anyone but Riss and Paul sit with him!”
lets you sit there,” Honey smirked, earning a withering glare
from Trixie. “Besides,
didn’t you want them to make up?”
I guess,” Trixie answered uncertainly. “But now they’re all buddy-buddy… in public.
Do I want to be in the middle of that?”
offered a look of sympathy. “Sweetie,
that’s something you’re going to have to decide for yourself.”
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.”
problem,” Honey smiled. “You’re
always welcome at the Bob-White table.
You are a Bob-White, after all.”
smiled back. “Always will
Trixie placed her tray on the table next to Diana’s, Mart looked up in
surprise. “What are you
nodded toward Chris’s table. “Wondering
what to make of that.”
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.”
jumped up and was gone in a flash.
Trixie blanched. “Someone
smiled gallantly. “I’ll
take care of it.” He
disappeared just as quickly.
temples began to throb. She
pushed her tray away and buried her head under her arms.
“Can this day get any worse?” she lamented.
sat beside Tad. “Hi,
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
It seems you’re scaring the hell out of my sister,” Mart
replied with a grin.
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
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
snorted in disgust. “There
is definitely too much testosterone at this table.
I think I’ll head for the ‘Female Zone’.”
Riss leave the table, Chris looked at Tad.
“We’re in trouble.”
rolled his eyes. “Are you
just now figuring this out?”
held his head in his hands. “How
did I get myself into this?”
threw a potato chip at him. “First,
Trixie kicked your ass on the court; then, she smiled at you.
You fell. Hard.
laughed. “She does have a
tendency to bowl people over, doesn’t she?”
nodded. “She makes
friends quickly. Guys
especially. Dan, did you
know that she still corresponds with Tenney?”
shook his head. “No, but
I knew she still writes to Pete, Bob, Ned, Eric, and Pat.”
glared at them. “You two
just enjoy being comedians, don’t you?”
grinned. “Every word is
truth, my friend. Every
elbowed Tad. “I think
it’s time to start bringing Sarah around.”
grinned conspiratorially. “Definitely.”
plopped herself in the seat across from Trixie and knocked on the table
by her friend’s head. “Hey,
Trix, you in there?”
came the muffled reply. “I
tapped my ruby slippers together so I could get out of here.”
brings you over here, Merrissa?” Diana asked.
for a testosterone-free zone,” came the laughing response.
Merrissa,” Honey began shyly. “I
could use your advice.”
Riss quirked a brow at the hazel-eyed beauty.
date for Homecoming,” Honey replied ruefully.
finally raised her head to look at her friend.
“You mean you’ve finally narrowed down the list?”
grimaced. “I told you,
most of the invitations weren’t worth considering.”
nodded, “Yes, but you said there were two or three that were.”
was dying of curiosity. “So
what do you need help with?”
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?”
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.”
who is the intriguing prospect?” Di wanted to know.
hesitated and glanced nervously at Riss.
Trixie grinned and said, “Let me guess:
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.”
Trixie added, “he’s great to talk to, and he certainly knows how to
provide entertaining dinner conversation.”
laughed, finally relaxing. “Thanks,
girls. I feel much better
now. I think I’ll go find him.”
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
glared at her. “Beth,
you’d better get your ass outta here before I lose my temper,” he
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?”
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.
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.”
face twisting viciously, Beth stood.
Her eyes shooting daggers at Chris, she hissed, “You’re gonna
pay for this, Zack.”
soon as she stalked off, Paul burst out laughing.
“That was a beautiful burn, buddy.”
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.”
asked, “What’s the problem with getting this Sarah person into a
snorted. “She’s the
biggest tomboy I’ve ever met.”
smirked. “I doubt
shook his head. “No, you
don’t understand. Sarah
would make Trixie look frilly and frail.”
frowned. “What’s that
supposed to mean?”
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…”
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.”
it out,” Tad demanded. “Chris,
are you gonna fix this?”
sighed. “I’ll take care
of Sarah, okay? I
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.”
Tad left the table, the other boys fanned out to continue winning over
cheerleaders to their team.
heard Tad’s shout of, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
looked over at the boys and paled when she saw Beth sitting with them.
“Oh, God. What
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.”
Trixie drawled. “So
now she hates us both. I’m
thrilled, can’t you tell?”
grinned teasingly. “Would
you rather she thought she was your best friend?”
snorted inelegantly. “Like
that would ever happen!”
response was typically self-deprecating.
“It’s not like I’m exactly cheerleader material, so I’m
just not in her league.”
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!”
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!
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?”
think that sounds grand,” Trixie responded quietly, rising and
gathering her things.
was the shouting all about?” Riss asked Tad.
shuffled his feet and ran an agitated hand through his hair. Jaw clenched tightly, he answered, “The Bitch asked me to
dropped her lunch tray, startled eyes flying to Tad’s face. “Oh, dear Lord. What
did you say?”
made sure I didn’t get a chance to say anything,” he said in
looked like she hated whatever Chris said,” Riss snickered.
told her she’d have better luck on Hawthorne Street.”
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.
motioned impatiently. “Trix,
can we just get the hell outta here?”
tense pair made a quick exit. Di
and Riss examined the completely untouched lunch tray Trixie had left
raised an eyebrow at Di. “You
don’t seem surprised,” she challenged.
do you,” Di returned.
she ever actually eat her lunch?”
in the last couple of weeks.”
mouth formed a grim line. “That’s
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…”
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…”
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?”
her bottom lip, Riss cautioned, “I’m not ready to go there yet.
Let’s just keep an eye on her for now.”
pact made, Merrissa and Diana appointed themselves Trixie’s guardians.
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.
sighed. “Trix, I’m
you and I both know Beth wouldn’t have asked me unless she thought it
would somehow upset you.”
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.”
stopped and faced her, then began backing her into the empty room.
“Mighty fine looking?” he repeated in amusement.
slyly, Trixie whispered, “Mighty fine.”
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.
up briefly for air, Trixie breathed, “Thank God I don’t have to
forget we’ve met.”
was no way in hell I was going to let that happen,” Tad growled,
before returning to his favorite pastime.
met Trixie at her locker at the end of the day.
“Ready for practice, Blue Eyes?”
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.
set,” she answered Chris with a smile.
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.
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.”
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.”
eyes shone with gratitude, despite the warning in her voice.
“Just don’t do something stupid and get yourself in
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.”
widening in surprise, Trixie asked, “For what?”
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.”
was that? Allowing Tad to eat lunch with you?” she asked with a
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
him a soft, gentle smile, Trixie reached up and stroked Chris’ jaw.
“I think I can handle that job.”
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.
came out of her fog and looked at the food bar in her lap. “What’s this for?”
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
on the power bar, Trixie narrowed her eyes.
“Is that a challenge, Riss?
Don’t you know what happens when you challenge me?”
grinned. “Yeah, but I
want a good workout today. I’d
like to have to work to beat your butt.”
glint of determination in her eyes, Trixie vowed, “You’re goin’
girls emerged from the locker room ready for battle, still slinging
good-natured taunts at each other.
Chris and Paul exchanged amused glances.
like we’re going to have fun today,” Paul said.
long as you call losing fun,” Chris scoffed.
eyebrows shot skyward. “You,
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.
parting comment for the evening summed up what they were all thinking:
“Wouldn’t it be great if every day ended like this?”