Will You Dance,

If I Ask You to Dance?




Saturday, October 21, 1995


Trixie groaned and rolled over to look at her clock.  4:45 A.M.   Great.  Just great.  She gingerly sat up, fighting the throbbing at her temples.  Every time she’d woken up at this time of night – or morning, actually - with a headache like this, she hadn’t been able to get back to sleep for hours.  There didn’t seem to be much point in trying.

She got up and moved to her window seat.  The moon had already set, and it was still two hours before sunrise, yet it was bright outside, and crisp and clear.  Making a hasty decision, Trixie pulled on a pair of sweatpants and a heavy sweatshirt over her light nightie.  She grabbed her shoes, tiptoed across the hall to the bathroom to grab a couple of painkillers, then headed down the stairs and out the back door.

A couple of years ago, her parents had planted some new trees in the crabapple orchard.  In addition to the crabapples, they now had a few each of cherry, peach, pear, and Empire State apple trees.  This was the best time of year for the Empires, and there were still a few late fruits on the other trees.  Trixie stopped in the barn for a bushel basket, then headed out into the orchard.

Forty-five minutes later, she set a nearly full basket of fresh fruit on the step outside the back door.  Knowing it was too early to make noise in the house, and hearing stirrings from the chicken coop, she headed in that direction.  She cleaned out the coop, spread the feed, filled the mash hoppers, emptied and refilled the water, and gathered the eggs.

When she had finished all that, she proceeded into the house.  As she carried the eggs to the kitchen, she noticed that Brian had dropped his duffle bag of dirty laundry by the washing machine.  She sorted it and put a load in, before returning to the back step for the bushel basket of fresh fruit.  Once she had lugged that into the kitchen, she set about preparing breakfast.

First, she washed, peeled, and chopped the apples.  She mixed a triple batch of cinnamon-apple coffee cake and stuck it into the oven to bake.  Then, she washed and cut up the peaches and pears and set them in the fridge.  Next, she started chopping up ingredients for omelets.  When she was done, she started cracking the fresh eggs into a large bowl and mixing them.

By seven o’clock, she had the kitchen table set neatly for nine and had fresh coffee brewing.  She had also placed a bowl of fresh fruit at each place and had whipped up some fresh cream to top them.  The coffee cake was warm, sliced, and on a platter in the center of the table.  On the stove, she had a good omelet pan going on each of the four burners.  While the eggs cooked, she squeezed oranges to make fresh juice and poured it into the glasses at the table.

As the smells of breakfast permeated the house, the others started to waken.  Rumblings were heard in the living room.

“Coffee,” Dan croaked.

“Something smells yummy,” Honey mumbled.

“What time is it?” Jim groaned.

“Seven o’clock on the dot,” Di grumbled.

“Is that cinnamon-apple coffee cake I smell?” Brian’s muffled voice came from beneath his pillow.

“Oh, crap!” Mart issued wearily.  Surprised, the others looked to see what his problem was, as he sat up and held his head in his hands.  Rubbing his hands over his cheeks to waken up, he heaved himself to his feet.  Shuffling to the kitchen, he muttered, “Here comes the rest of the iceberg.”

Five sets of confused eyes followed him.

Meanwhile, Trixie had managed to change the loads in the washer and dryer, and wash her cooking dishes, after flipping the eggs.  By the time the others entered the kitchen, there was a perfect omelet at each place.  Trixie set two carafes of coffee on the table, then retrieved the pitcher of milk from the fridge.  As everyone found a seat, she moved to the sink and finished washing the last of the omelet pans.

Peter entered the kitchen happily, looked around, and smiled.  He walked over to Trixie with a chipper, “Good morning, Princess!” and dropped a kiss on her cheek.

Trixie smiled brightly.  “Good morning, Daddy.”

He proceeded to his place and grabbed a piece of coffee cake.  After taking a bite, he said, “Mmmm.  I love this cake.  Don’t tell your mother, but you make it better than she does.”

Drying her hands on a dishtowel, Trixie flushed with pleasure.  “Thanks, Daddy.”

The sleepy Bob-Whites were digging in, with murmurs of appreciation, when Helen arrived in the kitchen.  Her ears and eyes carefully inspected the room.  She could hear both the washer and the dryer.  She saw the coffee cake, knowing there had been no apples in the house when she went to bed.  She saw the omelets, knowing the eggs were fresh.  She looked at the bowls of fresh fruit with fresh cream.  She mentally calculated the time required to accomplish everything.

“Beatrix!” Helen called sharply.

Trixie rolled her eyes and spit out through gritted teeth, “Yes, Mother?”

“I want to speak with you.  Upstairs.  Now.”  Helen was seething.

Trixie’s anger matched her mother’s.  She stomped across the kitchen and up the stairs.  Helen followed and, a moment later, Trixie’s bedroom door slammed shut.  Angry voices, rising louder and louder, drifted down the stairs.

Peter acted like he couldn’t hear anything and calmly asked Jim about his life at college.  Not knowing what else to do, Jim politely answered all his questions.  Brian looked at Mart with questions in his eyes.  Mart stared at his plate, eating mechanically, never looking up.  The others looked around in confusion.

More doors slammed upstairs, and footsteps pounded down the stairs.  Trixie stormed through the kitchen.  Helen followed, yelling, “Where do you think you’re going, young lady?”

OUT!” Trixie shouted, slamming the back door.

“Helen!” Peter interjected loudly.  He narrowed his eyes at his wife.  “Leave her be!”

Helen turned on him, blue eyes blazing with fury and fire.  “Of course!” she yelled.  “Your perfect little princess can do no wrong!”  With that, she stormed back up the stairs and another door slammed.

Peter closed his eyes and sighed.  He then calmly wiped his mouth, set his napkin on the table, rose, and headed upstairs.

As soon as he was sure both parents were out of earshot, Brian whirled on Mart.  “What in the HELL was that?!”

“Saturday morning at Crabapple Farm,” Mart answered without looking up.


Mart sighed and looked at Brian.  There was a soul-weariness in his eyes.  He sat back and ran a hand distractedly through his hair.  “For the last few weeks, Trixie can do no wrong in Dad’s eyes.  It seems like that drives Moms crazy, and she looks for things to pick on Trixie for. 

“It’s like this every Saturday morning.  For some reason, Trixie just doesn’t sleep on Fridays.  No matter how late she goes to bed, she's up well before dawn.  By the time the rest of us get up, she’s cleaned the chicken coop, done a ton of housework, and made a really great breakfast.  And the fact that Dad thinks that Trixie makes a better coffee cake than Moms is really getting on Moms’ nerves.  So Moms lights into Trixie about what time she got up, Trixie gets her hackles up, and the fireworks go off.  She and Trixie have it out, Dad sides with Trixie, then she and Dad have it out.”

Mart closed his eyes, and his shoulders sagged.  “Frankly, it’s exhausting.”

The Bob-Whites stared at him in shock.  They could hear loud, muffled voices drifting down the stairs.  Clearly, Mr. and Mrs. Belden were arguing.  Brian frowned.  “How come I knew nothing about this?”

“Because you don’t live here,” Mart responded quietly.

Brian looked stricken.  “This is still my home, Mart.  This is still my family.”

“Of course it is.  But you don’t live here.”  Mart picked up his plate.  “Come on.  Let’s clean up the dishes and the living room, then get the heck out of here.  It’s stifling in here right now.”





The Bob-Whites, minus Trixie, cleaned up quickly and then headed out for a ride on the horses.  Regan was happy to see them, and if he noticed they were subdued, he didn’t say anything.  Mart and Brian rode ahead and went off on their own.  The others respected the brothers’ need for a private conversation, and left them alone.

By the time they met back up at the stables, everyone seemed in much better spirits.  They laughed and joked as they groomed the horses and cleaned the tack.  They made plans to spend the rest of the day together, but first, they would each go to their respective homes for a shower and change of clothes.  They agreed to meet back at Crabapple Farm at ten forty-five, hoping to catch Trixie before she left with Tad.

Jim got ready quickly and decided not to wait for his sister.  He let her know he was going ahead, and he’d see her at the Farm.  He wanted to look for a book he was pretty sure he’d left at the clubhouse before leaving for college, so he stopped there on his way.

Overhead, the clouds were churning.  The expected rain had not yet come, but it clearly would be arriving soon.  The sky was a dismal shade of gray-green.  The overcast sky allowed for little light in the cozy clubhouse.  Knowing where he’d left the book, Jim didn’t bother to grab a flashlight or light a lamp.  He headed right for the storage shelf and grabbed it.  He started to leave, until he spied the still figure on the sofa.

Trixie was lying there, sound asleep.  Kneeling beside her, Jim gazed upon her, transfixed.  Her golden curls, longer now than he was used to, tumbled around her face and shoulders like waves of sunlight.  Her face was peaceful, softened by sleep.  Her long eyelashes gently brushed her cheeks.  Her full lips curled slightly into a whisper of a smile.  She was beautiful sleeping there… Sleeping Beauty.

Sleeping Beauty, the princess who could only be wakened by true love’s kiss.

Jim leaned down and ever so softly brushed her lips with his own.  He pulled back slightly and found himself staring into startled pools of vibrant blue.  He reached out and gently brushed a curl off her face, then ran his finger tenderly down her cheek, and softly traced her lips.

She was still half-asleep.  Entranced by the romance of being awakened by her prince’s kiss, she succumbed to the feelings of the moment.  She trembled at his touch.  When he reached her lips, she remembered their first kiss.  She wanted very much to feel that way again.

He saw it in her eyes.  He knew she wanted it, just as much as he did.  He cupped her face with his left hand as his lips descended upon hers.  As he gradually deepened the kiss, he dropped the book and wrapped his right arm around her waist, pulling her to a sitting position.  He knelt in front of her, holding her to him.  Their bodies melted together, as she wrapped her arms around him.  He ran his tongue along her lips and they parted slightly.  He gently explored her mouth, their tongues dancing together.

For Jim, all the planets aligned in that moment.  His heart beat fast and furiously, and his soul sang.  Every fiber of his being came alive with the feel of her in his arms.  This was right.  This was home.  This was heaven.

For Trixie, the world became a dizzying confusion of overwhelming waves.  Kissing Jim was the most amazing feeling she’d ever had, but it was too much for her.  Every cell in her body was sizzling with electricity.  The power of the passion she felt completely overwhelmed her.  The strength of it frightened her.  A single tear slid down her cheek.

The tear fell on his thumb where it caressed her cheek, penetrating the haze of his passion.  He slowly, sensuously, released her from his kiss.  Eyes closed, he leaned his forehead against hers while they caught their breath.  After a moment, he pulled back slightly to study her.

She looked up at him; she couldn’t help it.  She felt compelled to meet his gaze, even though part of her wanted to run and hide.  But she couldn’t hide – not anything.  She felt like an open book… or perhaps more like an open, gaping, raw wound.  Her heart was in her eyes.

He stared down into the bottomless ocean of crystal blue, and read every expression there.  He saw the passion there, but also the terror, and, finally, he understood what she had been trying to tell him all along.

In many ways, this fifteen-year-old girl was still a child.  She was young and innocent.  She needed time to dip her toes in the wading pool; she was not ready to ride this tidal wave.  She needed to learn to swim before she dove into the ocean.

Closing his eyes against the pain in his heart, Jim pulled Trixie into a gentle, comforting embrace.  He leaned his cheek against her head and softly stroked her hair.  He whispered in her ear, “I’m sorry, Trix.  I am so sorry.  I know you didn’t want me to do that.”

She shook her head slightly.  “No, uh, I… a part of me did want that.”

“I know,” he crooned.  “I know.  But you tried to tell me you weren’t ready for this, and I didn’t listen.  I should have left you alone.”

Her arms tightened around him, and she buried her face in the crook of his neck.  “How alone?” she asked, tears choking the sound of her voice.

He stroked her back and kissed her curls.  “Never truly alone, babe.  We’re best friends and always will be.  Nothing will ever get in the way of that.  Not even this.”


“I promise,” he said emphatically.

She sighed, and relaxed a little.  “Will you always be here?”


They simply held each other for several minutes.  Finally, Jim kissed her forehead.  “I promise, I won’t pressure you.  I will never bring this up again.  When you’re ready, you let me know.”

“What if I’m never ready?”

“What if you’re never ready to be a detective?”

She pulled back and looked up at him sharply.  “I am meant to be a detective!”

He smiled softly.  “Exactly my point.”

She studied him before speaking.  “You have a lot of faith, don’t you?”

“Enough to move mountains.”

She raised an eyebrow.  “Now I’m a mountain?”  Her eyes twinkled, and her lips twitched.

He grinned.  “Nah.  Just my destiny.”

She sobered and stared intently into his emerald eyes.  “In your eyes I can see forever.  I don’t see tomorrow, but I see forever.”

“I can live with forever.”  He smiled a soft, gentle smile, one of love and patience.

“There will be a time for us, Jim.  I promise.”

“I know, babe.  I know.”  He tugged on the curl that persisted in falling in her face.  He sighed deeply and glanced at his watch.  With a groan, he said, “Unfortunately, right now I need to tell my best friend that she’s late for her date with another guy.”

Trixie’s face crinkled with worry.  He smiled to reassure her.  “It’s okay.  Hurry up and get out of here.  You don’t want to keep Tad waiting.”

“James Winthrop Frayne the Second, you are by far and away the best friend anyone could ever have.  I don’t deserve you.”

“Too bad.  You’re stuck with me.  Now go, Shamus.  Get.”

She jumped up from the couch and ran out of the clubhouse.  He leaned wearily against the sofa, and allowed the tears to come.

Outside, she leaned against a tree, tears streaming down her face.  Please, God, don’t let me be blowing the only chance I’ll ever have.  Let me be doing the right thing.

The sky opened up, and the rain came pouring down.




Author's Notes


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