Will You Dance,

If I Ask You to Dance?




As the end credits rolled, Mart glanced at his watch.  9:15.  Brian should be calling any time.  He looked over to where Trixie sat next to Dan.  She was curled up beside him with her head on his shoulder.  Mart frowned at Dan.

Dan mouthed the words, “Sound asleep.”

While Di went to the VCR to put in the other movie they had rented, Honey leaned over and whispered to Mart, “Just let her rest.”

Mart nodded and grabbed the portable phone.  “I’ll be in the kitchen if anyone needs me.”

After twenty minutes of restless pacing and idle straightening-up of the already neat kitchen, the phone finally rang.  Mart answered immediately, hoping to prevent the sound from penetrating Trixie’s slumber.

“Crabapple Farm.”

Brian was more than a little surprised to hear his brother’s voice.  “Hey, Mart.  What are you doing home on a Friday night?”

“Just be glad I’m here,” Mart answered, a bit brusquely.

Taken aback by his brother’s tone, Brian paused.  “That bad, huh?”

Mart took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly.  “She’s just not right, Brian.  Yeah, okay, she got upset about having an argument with Jim.  Which she blew out of proportion, by the way.  She was convinced he’d never speak to her again.”

Brian chuckled.  “Jim said the same thing about her.”

With a wry grin, Mart continued.  “And we all know they’re crazy, and by tomorrow all will be well between them.  Or at least by next Friday.  But she sat here on the kitchen floor and CRIED, Brian.  Real tears, genuine sobs.  And she’s been doing that all week.  It’s just wrong.”

“All week?”

“Everything’s bothering her.  Moms, mostly.  But then there’s Beth, the Queen of all Bitches, who I’d like to strangle with my bare hands.”

“Hold on.  I got the impression that you guys had a handle on the Beth thing.”  Brian was growing frustrated with being away when his sister needed him, and Mart could hear it in his voice.  “Mart, tell me what’s really going on with Beth.”

Mart proceeded to explain, in great detail, the events of Wednesday afternoon and Trixie’s subsequent confession to Dan.  He went on to catalogue how many students at school were now aware of the situation, how they were all furious on Trixie’s behalf, and how the entire school was conspiring against Beth.  Mart talked for well over an hour, and by the time he was finished, Brian was both impressed and worried.

“Mart, I don’t want to discount the notion of revenge.  Personally, I’d like to throw Beth in some boiling oil.  But the key here is to make her stop.  If the only thing that happens is that she gets mad, life will be worse for Trixie.”

Mart nodded.  “I know.  We’ve got the whole school on guard to make sure Beth can’t get near her.”

Brian furrowed his brow in thought as he paced the length of his small dorm room.  “It’s more than that, Mart.  Based on her reaction to both the EMT and Beth’s comments, this all centers on Luke’s death.  Between that and the crying, it sounds like she’s suffering from post-traumatic stress.  She needs counseling.”

Mart leaned his weary head against a kitchen cabinet.  “And who am I supposed to say that to – Moms?  You’re kidding, right?”

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Brian sighed.  “How are things with Moms?”

“Who knows?”  Mart huffed.  “She’s barely been here all week.  She went into the City on Tuesday, and again yesterday, and didn’t come back until we were all in bed.  Tonight, she and Dad are at Manor House, and I got the distinct impression something major was up.  And when she is here, she avoids Trixie as much as possible.  I can’t get any help from her.”

“Then go to Dad, or maybe Mrs. Wheeler.  Find somebody.  Trixie needs help.”

With a deep sigh, Mart promised, “I will.  I’ll work on it tomorrow while the girls are shopping for their Homecoming dresses.”

“Good,” Brian said, relieved.  He checked his watch and realized it was eleven o’clock already.  “If she’s still asleep, don’t wake her.  I’ll check back in tomorrow or Sunday.  And, Mart… you get some rest, too.  Worrying yourself sick isn’t going to help her.”

Mart responded with sardonic amusement.  “I wonder where I learned to do that?”

“Goodnight, Smartass.”








Peter tightened his arms around his wife.  He couldn’t believe the way the evening had turned out.  His mind was reeling from the shock of Helen’s revelations regarding her inner anguish and her psychiatric counseling.  No matter how disturbing things had been in his home lately, he had never imagined this.

He had honestly assumed Helen was going through menopause.  Obviously, that had been a stupid, overly male assumption.  But at least he had dealt with a hormonal Helen before – she’d been relatively unstable every time she’d been pregnant.  It had been difficult, because she had always had such a calming effect on everyone around her.  She was his rock.  So, on those occasions, it had been really rough, but the mood swings had been temporary.  Life had eventually returned to normal.

This was completely different.  A hormonal Helen he could handle.  But a woman who truly believed she was losing her mind?

How in God’s name could he help her?

What hurt the most, however, was her fear of telling him.  She had explained that she didn’t want to hurt him, and that she knew he wouldn’t want to be married to a mad-woman.  Did she think a little emotional upset would be enough to make him think her crazy, and want to be rid of her?  Did she really have that little faith in his love?

Peter Belden loved his family.  He loved each and every one of his sons.  He adored his daughter.  But his wife was his life, the center of his universe.  Nothing else was more important than she was.  He resolved to concentrate every ounce of energy he had on doing whatever he had to do to help her.

He stroked Helen’s back and kissed the top of her head.  “It’s going to be all right, Helen,” he whispered gently.  “We’ll get through this together, no matter what.”

Helen shuddered with relief and buried her face in her husband’s chest.  She clung to him, thankful that he was standing by her, and wondered why she had ever doubted him.  She felt a huge weight lift off her shoulders.  Sharing her pain with Peter had been the right thing to do.  They could get through anything, as long as they did it together.







Jim sat outside the small bar where his friends hung out, under the awning, allowing the rain to reach his face.  Despite the fact that the majority of them were under the legal drinking age, the college crowd had no trouble with acquiring and drinking alcohol.  Most of them had a couple of drinks when they got together, and everyone treated it like it was no big deal.  Jim usually set his limit at two beers.

Tonight, though, he had allowed his friends to supply him with one drink after another.  Since it was approaching closing time they’d be going soon, but Jim needed some air first.  His head was spinning, and the wind and rain were refreshing and helping him to clear his head a little.

That was where Chelsea found him.  She stood next to where he sat and, tilting her face to catch the wind in her hair, inhaled deeply.  “I love a good storm.  It’s cleansing.”

Jim shrugged noncommittally.  “I guess.”

“You know,” Chelsea started, almost teasing, “some people believe that alcohol makes you feel good.  But all it really does is intensify whatever mood you were already in.  And you’re awfully morose this evening.”

Jim flashed her a guilty look.  “Sorry I’ve been such a rotten date this evening.”

She smiled a warm, open smile that spoke of honesty and friendliness.  “You could make it up to me by telling me what’s bothering you.”

“It’s stupid, really,” he shrugged.  “I just had a fight with my best friend.”

She raised an eyebrow.  “Brian?”

Jim shook his head and sighed.  “No.  His sister.”

Chelsea laughed lightly.  “Then obviously you can’t talk to Brian about it.  He can’t possibly be objective.  No man has ever managed to be objective about his sister.”

That earned her a small smile, but Jim disagreed.  “Brian’s pretty good, actually.  There’ve been a bunch of times when I expected him to react like a big brother, but he acted more like my friend.  He’s a really great person.”

“But perhaps he’s a little too close to the situation.  You might need to seek outside counsel,” Chelsea sagely advised.

Jim groaned.  “ ‘Et tu, Brute’?”

She grinned.  “I take it you’ve heard that before?”

“Guess what the fight was about,” he grumbled.

Laughing openly, Chelsea plopped down on the seat beside him.  “She knows you pretty well, does she?”

“Trixie knows me better than anyone,” Jim said, a wistful look washing over his face.

The look didn’t escape Chelsea’s notice.  She often had lunch with Jim and Brian, especially since Brian had started dating her roommate, Ria.  Jim was always friendly, but not very open about himself.  She couldn’t help thinking what a lucky girl this Trixie was.

“So what’s Trixie like?”

“That depends on who you ask,” Jim answered with a smile.  “There are those who would call her giving, generous, friendly, warm, sunny… you know, all the nice adjectives.  Then there are those who think she’s nothing but trouble.  Primarily, our police sergeant.”

Chelsea looked confused.  “She’s Brian’s sister, she’s your friend, and she’s in trouble with the law?”

“Not in trouble with the law, just troublesome to the sergeant.”  Jim grinned.  “Mostly because she solves all his cases for him.”

Now Chelsea was suitably impressed.  “Wow!  She sounds really smart!”

“Yeah, she is.”

Chelsea waited to see how long it took Jim to figure out what he’d just admitted.  She didn’t have to wait long for him to get the message that, if Trixie was such a smart person, he should probably follow her advice.

Jim narrowed his eyes at Chelsea in irritation.  “That was sneaky.”

She shrugged.  “I’m not above being sneaky to make a point.”

“You want me to spill my guts.”

“You can do whatever you want,” she said nonchalantly.  “If you choose to spill your guts, I’m available to listen.  That’s all.”

His shoulders sagged in defeat.  “It’s nothing, really.  It’s stupid.”

“It may be, or it may not be.  The point is that it’s bothering you.”  She took a deep breath before plunging forward.  “When I was a kid, I watched some movie too late at night, and I had nightmares about this one part – for years.  They were nonsense and really stupid.  But they bothered me.  They didn’t go away until I talked to someone about it.  Holding it in made it worse.”

Jim seemed to be pondering her words.  Chelsea waited patiently, until she heard a large group of their friends gathering near the door.  Then she nudged him.  “Look, I’m not going to think any less of you.  If it’s stupid, it’s stupid.  A lot of things in life are.”

Jim finally met her eyes.  “Can we go somewhere and talk?”

She nodded, trying not to be mesmerized by those amazing green eyes.  “Luckily for you, I drove myself here.  I have my car, and I haven’t had anything to drink.  Let’s go before the crowd comes looking for us.”  She grabbed his hand and pulled him up, leading the way towards her little black Ford Mustang.

They rode in silence as Chelsea made her way to a nice, quiet parking area overlooking the Charles River.  She turned the car off and swiveled in her seat so she was facing Jim.  He stared straight ahead, watching the raindrops pelting the windshield.

After a very long silence, Chelsea finally prodded him.  “So?”

“So.”  He sighed.  “I’m just obsessing over the fact that tomorrow is my father’s birthday.  See?  I told you it was nothing.”

She studied him for several moments before speaking, taking in the tension along his jaw and the lines of stress around his eyes.  “Everyone on the entire campus knows you’re Matthew Wheeler’s adopted son.  And I wasted way too much time in high school reading gossip rags, so I know Matt Wheeler’s birthday is in April.  I take it, then, that you mean your real father.”

Jim nodded slowly, concentrating hard on the patterns the rain was making on the glass in front of him.

“How old were you when he died?” she asked gently.

“Ten,” he answered, nearly choking on the lump in his throat.

“When was the last time you visited the cemetery where he’s buried?”  Her voice was quiet and gentle, as if she could use it to soothe away the pain her questions were causing him.

“His funeral.”  There was no mistaking the raw ache in his voice, or the agony of the open wound.

Chelsea’s mind whirled, seeking a way to comfort the distraught young man before her.  “Maybe that’s how you should mark the day this year.”

With a shuddering sigh, he shook his head.  “I can’t.  He’s buried in Rochester.”


He finally looked at her, mostly to indicate that he thought she was insane.  “So?  We’re in Boston!”

She shrugged.  “Look, I’m from Buffalo.  I live there with my mom and stepdad, but my father and stepmother live in Boston.  I’ve done the Boston-to-Buffalo commute at least one weekend a month for most of my life.  I can even do it in my sleep.  It’s no big deal, really, and Rochester is right on the way.  If we leave now, we can be there by nine in the morning.”

“What are we going to do?  Drive seven hours there to stand by a grave for a few minutes, then drive all the way back?”

“Why not?  I love a good road trip.”

Jim shook his head, amazed by this offer from this girl who barely even knew him.  “Has anyone ever told you you’re impulsive and crazy?”

“All the time!” Chelsea grinned.  “Come on; you know you want to.  I’m a total night owl, so I’m fresh as a daisy.  You sleep, I’ll drive, and we’ll be there before you know it.”

Offering a rueful grin, Jim finally nodded.  “Let’s go before I sober up and change my mind.”

Chelsea looked gleeful.  “WOOOHOOO!!  Road trip!!!  Buckle up, buddy!”

And away they went.






Saturday, October 28, 1995


Trixie woke suddenly, sweat pouring off her body, her heart pounding in fright.  Her head was spinning, and she gripped her temples, trying to crush the pain.  As the last vestiges of the nightmare faded away, she attempted to latch onto reality.

Forcing herself to breathe slowly, she focused on the LED numbers across the room.  As Trixie concentrated on the time, 4:55 a.m., the back of her mind recognized that the floating numbers were actually the clock on the VCR.  She was comforted to realize she was on the couch in the family room of her own home.  Focusing on the sound of deep breathing, she found Mart asleep in the recliner.

He must have wanted to keep an eye on me, she thought, causing tears to well in her eyes.  No matter how much they argued, Mart really loved her and would do anything to protect her or help her.  I wish you could protect me from this…

She rose slowly, fighting the waves of dizziness, and made her way to the kitchen.  She got herself a glass of water, then reached into the cupboard over the sink for some pain relievers.  When she fumbled with the childproof lid, a warm hand covered hers, and the pills were gently lifted away.  Trixie looked up into Mart’s worried blue eyes.

Smiling wanly, she said, “I just have a headache.”

He opened the bottle and poured two pills into her hand, watching her closely the entire time.  Once she had taken the medicine and returned her glass to the sink, she turned to him.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” Trixie whispered, her voice quavering.

She reached out to hug her brother, and Mart wrapped his strong arms around her.  He held her, unconsciously rocking a bit, as if comforting a small child.  He wanted to make sure she knew he was there for her.  He needn’t have worried – that was one of the few things she knew for certain right now.

When he finally broke the silence, he asked, “Do you think you can get back to sleep, or would you rather talk?”

Her first instinct was to tell him she’d be fine.  However, then he’d expect her to go back to sleep, and she knew that wasn’t going to happen.  Besides, after all her ranting and raving at Jim, it was about time she took her own advice.  Although she didn’t want to worry her brother, maybe talking to him would help somehow.

In a small, hesitant voice, Trixie asked, “Can I tell you about my nightmares?”

Mart’s heart ached to hear her sound so much like a frightened little child.  “You can tell me anything, Princess.”

They returned to the family room and settled themselves comfortably side-by-side on the sofa.  Trixie held on tightly to her brother’s hand, sometimes nearly crushing it, as she proceeded to spend the next hour explaining her nightmares in great detail.  She trembled often and frequently had to wipe away tears.  Mart listened patiently, never interrupting.  By the time Trixie finished, she was so tired and emotionally drained she could hardly keep her eyes open.

Mart placed an arm around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder.  He grabbed the bright red and yellow knitted afghan Aunt Alicia had made last Christmas and wrapped it around Trixie.  Once she was settled comfortably, he whispered, “Get some sleep now, Trix.  I’m here, and I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

He listened to the sound of her breathing as she drifted off.  Mart would be a vigilant protector this early morning, because the Lord knew he wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon.  Just listening to her story would keep him awake for days.

Brian had been more right than he had realized.  They just had to get Trixie some help.  Soon.







Matthew Wheeler was frowning at the business news in his New York Post when Honey sat down to breakfast.  Biding her time, she waited patiently for her father to move on to another part of the paper that would be less captivating to him.  He finally folded the business section just as his wife entered the room.  Madeleine placed a kiss on his cheek as she passed him on her way to her place at the table.

Before Matt had a chance to become engrossed in the local news, Honey cleared her throat.  “Daddy, is there anything special about today?”

Looking at her with a twinkle in his eyes, Matt inquired, “Is that a hint about your Homecoming dress?”

In a steady tone, Honey pointedly redirected his thoughts.  “Not that, Daddy.  The date.”

The question puzzled Matt, almost as much as Honey’s intense, serious expression.  He frowned, mentally reviewing various people’s birthdays and anniversaries.  “Nothing I can…”  His voice trailed off as his eyes focused on the date on the newspaper.

Madeleine noticed the troubled look on her husband’s face and looked bemusedly back and forth between him and Honey.  “What is it, Matt?”

“Win’s birthday,” he choked.

Maddie’s eyebrows shot up as she turned back to her daughter.  “You knew this?”

Honey nodded, never taking her eyes off her father.

“There is no way your brother told you that,” Maddie stated emphatically.

Honey shook her head.  She suddenly became fascinated with her eggs, toying with them with her fork.

“What happened?” Maddie demanded.

With a slight shrug, Honey sighed.  “He’s repressing.  Trixie prodded.  There were fireworks.  It got ugly.”

Maddie groaned.  “She’s in no shape to take on his temper or his issues.”

Matt raised his head, meeting his wife’s eyes across the table.  “Taking on his issues shouldn’t be her job.  It’s mine.”

“Ours,” Maddie corrected, holding her husband’s gaze until he nodded his agreement.

“In this case, Mom,” Honey said gently, “I really think it has to be Dad’s.”  She turned to her father.  “Who else does Jim have in his life that even knew his father?”

“I’ll call him,” Matt stated with a firm nod of his head.  Then he glanced at his watch and gave a rueful grin.  “Well, I’ll call him later… at an hour that’s more decent for a college student on a Saturday morning.”  That decided, he regarded his daughter curiously.  “When did you get to be so wise?”

Honey smiled softly at both of her parents.  “I think I inherited it.”

Maddie surreptitiously wiped away a tear.  Matt looked at Honey and Maddie, and gave them a grin filled with love and pride.  What a wonderful daughter they had!








Mart could hear his parents moving about in the kitchen, silently preparing breakfast.  It bothered him that there was nary a word spoken between them.  Tense silence was becoming the norm at Crabapple Farm.  He hardly recognized this place as home any more.  It surely wasn’t the warm, loving, happy home of his childhood.  His mother’s problems, whatever they might be, were dragging the entire family down.

Avoiding his parents, and the accompanying Saturday morning tension, as long as possible sounded like a good plan today.  Instead, Mart chose to remain in his place on the sofa, cradling his sleeping sister in his arms.  He was grateful that Bobby’s weekly sleepover at the Lynches’ provided him an escape from the expected upcoming ugliness.

Trixie began to twitch and whimper in her sleep.  Correctly assuming she was having another nightmare, Mart hastened to wake her from the dream.  Her eyes flew open in fright until she focused on her brother’s face, then she sagged against him in relief.  He held and soothed her until her trembling stopped.

When she finally felt she could breathe well enough to speak, Trixie said, “I’m sorry.”

Mart issued a frustrated sigh.  “You have nothing to be sorry for!  Please, stop feeling guilty.  Just let me help.”

Nodding listlessly, Trixie snuggled deeper into his embrace, as if her big brother’s arms could protect her from the dark and frightening corners of her mind.  This radical departure from her normal behavior was really starting to bother Mart, especially since his mother was so unavailable.

As if called by his thoughts, Helen poked her head into the room.  “Breakfast is ready,” she said and left again.

What happened to a simple “Good morning”? Mart wondered.  He felt himself get angry and tried to push his own feelings aside.  Right now, all he wanted to do was concentrate on his sister.

“That sure sounded like an order,” Trixie grumbled.

“It did; didn’t it?” Mart asked casually.

“I’m not hungry,” Trixie muttered.

“Because you don’t feel like eating, or because you don’t feel like going in there?”


“Look at it this way… you didn’t do your usual Saturday morning routine that bugs her so much.  Maybe she’ll be civil.”

That earned an inelegant snort.

Planting a quick kiss on her forehead, Mart pushed Trixie up off the couch before rising himself.  “Come on, Princess.  Let’s just get this over with quickly, then go find some chores to do.”

Trixie stared at him for a minute, as if she were trying to find the words to express something important.  She finally gave up, merely nodding and heading toward the kitchen.  Mart followed and silently slipped into his seat across the table from his sister.

Peter and Helen sat on opposite ends of the table, watching their children and each other.  Food was passed, dishes were filled, and food was eaten in eerie silence, punctuated by the howling wind and pounding rain outside.  The blackened sky only exaggerated the dreary atmosphere.  When he could no longer stand the quiet, Peter cleared his throat nervously.

“Your mother and I wanted to discuss something with you,” he said to his middle two children.  He looked from one to the other before fixing his gaze firmly on his wife’s troubled blue eyes.  “It’s about some problems she’s been having lately… health problems.”

Mart and Trixie both froze.  Mart could feel his throat constricting, making breathing difficult.  He didn’t want to hear this… he didn’t want to know… he didn’t want to think.  Looking at either of his parents right now didn’t seem like a good idea.  He finally raised his eyes from his plate to stare at his sister.  He would do the one thing he thought he could do… he would play the big brother role.  He would concentrate on helping Trixie through what was about to come, because she was sure as hell not strong enough to take whatever was being thrown at her next.

Trixie very carefully and deliberately laid her fork down beside her plate and folded her hands tightly in her lap.  She pulled her cloak of control about her, forcibly hiding her desperate battle to quell the violent churnings in her head and stomach.  There was a cannonball blasting her behind each eye, pounding so hard she expected her skull to shatter into thousands of little bits any second.  If she considered even touching her fork, the tsunami crashing through her stomach would cause her breakfast to immediately return to the plate from whence it had come moments ago.  The hurricane raging outside their window had nothing on the forces of nature Trixie was struggling to contain.

“I’m not sure ‘health problems’ is accurate,” Helen countered, flustered.  She floundered nervously before continuing.  “Well, I suppose it is… mental health, that is.”

Trixie’s heart stopped beating.  A nanosecond seemed to last a lifetime, and she analyzed the experience with detached interest.  The lack of heartbeat actually felt good, because the pulsing, pounding rush of blood was gone.  The blood couldn’t surge through her veins if there was nothing to push it, could it?  And then her heart beat again.  Once.  That single beat was like a 50-megaton bomb, detonating inside her chest and coursing throughout her body, exploding in her brain with a cloud of thunder. 

She felt the need to physically remind her heart to beat again and her lungs to draw breath.  At the same time, she felt the overwhelming desire not to bother.  Couldn’t she just die now?  It would be so much simpler.

Helen focused on Peter.  She could feel the familiar terror building.  There was a darkness in the room, threatening to envelope her, and it was emanating from Trixie.  Once again, her daughter’s mere presence was more than she could bear.  The fact that she could sense an imminent explosion from the young woman only made matters worse.  Trixie was not going to take this well.  Helen couldn’t even force herself to look at her.

“I… I’ve been having some… problems,” Helen fumbled in her attempt to explain.

Peter picked up the ball.  “Your mother is seeing a doctor in the City to help her through this.”

Mart stared at Trixie.  His parents’ words were barely registering.  They were frightening him, but more frightening still was his sister’s reaction.  She was deathly still, a cold mask of illusory calm settling over her features.  Either she was about to bury this latest problem, or she was about to explode.  Neither prospect was appealing.

The long silence was broken when Trixie asked, “Since when?” 

She remained so still, and her voice was so quiet, that at first no one realized she had spoken.  When her question eventually registered in Helen’s brain, she answered in a trembling quaver.  “I started seeing her on Tuesday…”

“Not the doctor,” Trixie cut her off sharply, demanding, “The problems.  When did they start?”

The real question hung in the air.

Did I cause this?

Helen could have lied.  She could have said anything else, given some kind of answer that would point to some other conclusion.  But she didn’t.

“The end of September.”

Peter was focused on Helen.  He saw the fear in her eyes, the rising panic threatening to overtake her.  He was struggling to figure out how to extricate her from this situation and failed to recognize the impact of her words.  Until Trixie spoke again, that is.

“So this time, I’ve really done it.  I’ve literally driven my mother crazy.”

Peter turned to stare at her in amazement.  “Trixie, your mother didn’t say that.”

“She most certainly did!” Trixie screamed, jumping up from her seat so quickly that her chair flew backwards and crashed to the ground.  She continued ranting wildly at the top of her lungs.  “What the hell else happened at the end of September to make her crazy, except my latest adventure?  Who else has she hated since then?  Face it:  I make her crazy, and she doesn’t want me around.  You’d all be better off if I wasn’t around!”

On that note, Trixie turned and ran from the house into the pouring rain and howling wind, slamming the door behind her.  Mart jumped up to follow.

“Mart, wait!” Peter demanded, rising to his feet.

The young man turned to his father in shock.  “You want me to let her run out, alone and hysterical, into the middle of a hurricane?  Are you crazy, too?”

“Martin, don’t you dare speak to your father like that!” Helen reprimanded, also rising.  Now that Trixie was gone, she was fully in control once again.

“You have no right to tell me how to speak to anyone!” Mart whirled on his mother in righteous indignation.  Pouring all the hurt and frustration of the past few weeks into every syllable, Mart threw his words at his mother like flaming arrows trying to engulf her in the fires of destruction she had rained down upon their once-happy home.  “For weeks, you’ve been rude and hurtful, and you want to lecture me on respect?  Forget it!  Figure out what your problem is and fix it.  When you start acting like yourself again, I’ll start listening again.  For the time being, all bets are off!”

Chest heaving, Mart’s bright blue eyes were blazing with fury as he stared his parents down.  “Right now, I’m going to try to stop my little sister from getting herself hurt in the storm... the one outside anyway.  It’s obvious nothing can stop her from getting hurt by the storm in here.”

After the second door slam in as many minutes, Helen sank heavily to her chair and clutched her hair in her hands, resting her elbows on the table.  “Believe it or not, that went better than I expected it to.”

Peter frowned at her while he paced the kitchen.  “I would have thought they’d have acted worried about you.”

Helen peeked one blue eye out from behind her hands.  “After the way I’ve been acting lately?  They were probably hoping you were going to send me away to the funny farm.”

“That’s not going to happen!” Peter affirmed.

Helen sighed.  Sometimes, her husband was just so single-minded.  In her rather unsteady state, she craved his attention and was rather glad he was focused on her.  But that also meant the children were about to lose his attention completely.  Who would take care of them now?








Mart made a beeline for the clubhouse.  It would provide shelter from the storm, and it was Trixie’s usual place for seeking solitude.  He was sure he would find her there. 

He was very surprised to find the little building empty.

Lightning flashed and thunder crashed, obviously quite nearby.  Mart turned toward the storm, worry creasing his brow.  Trixie was out there, somewhere.





Author Notes



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