Will You Dance,

If I Ask You to Dance?




Sunday, October 22, 1995


Trixie woke up Sunday morning and headed right for the bathroom and the bottle of Tylenol.  She returned to her room to find Brian and Mart camped out on her bed.  She stood in the doorway, eyeing them suspiciously.

“I suppose I should be polite and say Happy Birthday, Brian.  But I’d rather just ask:  To what do I owe the pleasure of an ambush at this hour?” she asked wryly.

“We just want to talk,” Brian said.

Mart got up and walked over to her.  He pulled her gently by the hand into the room and shut the door behind her.  “Correction:  Brian wants to talk about Moms.”

Trixie squeezed his hand tightly and searched his face.  He read the questions in her eyes and shrugged.

“I had to give him some kind of an explanation after yesterday morning.  Since you don’t talk to me, I could only tell him what I’ve seen.”

Trixie had a sudden epiphany.

She heard the pain in Mart’s voice when he said ‘since you don’t talk to me’ and realized how completely she had shut him out.  Then she realized that he had hardly teased her at all lately.  Except for being overbearing about Chris and Tad, he’d actually been very nice to her.  Trixie thought about their conversation Friday night.  Mart had been making a real effort to change things between them, and she hadn’t even noticed.  She’d ignored him and treated him like he was her worst enemy.

She grabbed both of his hands in hers and stepped closer to him, looking intently into the blue eyes which mirrored her own.  “I’m sorry, Mart.”

She didn’t feel like the words said enough.  Trixie hoped he could understand.

He did.  Not only could he read her expressive face, he still had that almost-twin ability to catch her wavelength.  Mart smiled softly, and pulled her into a hug.

“Just remember, I’m here.”

She nodded against his shoulder and gave him a tight squeeze.  Then she turned toward Brian. 

He smiled at the almost-twins.  “I take it I won’t have to listen to quite so many complaints about Mart any more.”

Trixie snorted.  “Momentary detente.  When have we ever gotten along for more than five minutes?”  She smiled at Mart to let him know she was teasing.

He gave as good as he got.  “Momentary detente?  My goodness, she learned how to read the dictionary I gave her!” he said, hand clutched dramatically to his heart, as he sat back down on her bed.

She gave him a playful shove and sat down on the bed between her brothers.  “All right, what do you want to know?”

Brian’s eyebrows hit the top of his forehead.  Anything might be a good place to start.  In all of our very lengthy conversations, you never once even hinted that you were having problems with Moms.  Humor me; call it a birthday present; I don’t care – just tell me what’s going on!”

She played with the tie of her bathrobe and stared at her hands.  “I wish I knew where to start.  I don’t know what I did.  Lately, it just seems like she hates me.  I know I let my temper get the best of me yesterday morning, but I don’t usually.  Most days of the week I just take it, no matter what she says to me.  I just... try to spend as little time as possible at home, because, when I’m here, it’s constant.

“But then, last night, everything was normal again.  She helped me get ready for my date, and we talked, and she was normal.  Moms was back.”

Trixie sighed and ran a hand through her curls.  “I’m afraid to see her this morning.  Will she still be Moms, like last night?  Or will she be the nasty lady who has been here lately?”

“Nasty how?” Brian asked, his brow furrowed in confusion.

Mart rubbed Trixie’s back.  He’d heard some of the comments, and he knew how hard it was for her to talk about them.

“She makes snide remarks about me being irresponsible, always doing whatever I want, never doing anything I’m supposed to.  She says I’m a spoiled little princess, and anything I do is just fine because I always get whatever I want.”

Brian’s jaw dropped.  “Does she say this stuff in front of Dad?”

“Oh, no!  The one or two times he overheard her say something, he blew up.  Those fights were terrible.  She usually makes it a point to say things out of anyone else’s hearing.”  By now, Trixie was struggling to contain the tears.

Brian grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze.  “How long has this been going on?”

“Since...” Trixie’s voiced cracked.  “Since... Luke.  I think she hates me because...”

Mart heard the rest of the sentence as clearly as if she’d actually said it.  “Trixie, you didn’t kill him,” he said emphatically.

The tears rolled down her face.  “Yes, I did,” she whispered.

Brian gathered her into his arms and tucked her head under his chin.  He held her and soothed her, wishing he knew what to say.  Mart watched the pain on his sister’s face and ached for her.  The brothers were at a loss for how to help her.



Jim had spent the morning sulking in his room.  He had alternated between lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, and pacing the room restlessly.  All the while, he had struggled to organize his thoughts and sort out his feelings.  He desperately needed to figure out what to do about Trixie.

She had patiently listened to tales of him dating at school.  He didn’t seem to be able to give her the same courtesy.  He had told Brian the truth:  dating was fun, but it didn’t change his heart.  Jim knew he could go out with a girl and have a good time, and that was the end of it.  Was it the same for Trixie?

He had promised her that nothing would come between them, and he would find a way to keep that promise.  He had to get his feelings under control.  Jim could not allow his jealousy get between him and his best friend.

Finally deciding he was hungry, he wandered downstairs to find something to eat.  As he passed the study, he saw his parents having coffee with Sergeant Molinson.  Curiosity got the better of him, and he hid where he could hear the entire conversation.  Trixie must be rubbing off on me, he thought ruefully.

“Sergeant,” Madeleine Wheeler was saying, “I understand that you served in the Army, then spent two years on the NYPD, before returning to Sleepyside to join the force here.”

“Yes, ma’am, I did,” replied the gruff voice of the policeman.

Maddie gave him a piercing look, one that demanded honesty.  “In all that time, did you ever have to kill anyone in the line of duty?”

Wendell Molinson squirmed in his chair.  He didn’t want to lie, but this was not a comfortable topic.  “It’s not really something I like to talk about,” he said nervously.

Maddie’s gaze softened.  “Of course, it’s not.  That much I do understand.  But I also know that not talking about it can be a problem, as well.”

Molinson looked at her in confusion, then looked at Matthew Wheeler.  Matt shook his head.  “Don’t look at me, Wendell.  I have no idea what she’s getting at.”


“I’m not talking about you, Sergeant,” Maddie said kindly.  She got up and walked toward the french doors which looked out over the patio.  Leaning against the doors, she stared outside for a long moment.  Finally, she simply said, “Trixie won’t talk to anyone.”

Understanding dawned, and Molinson’s shoulders sagged.  “Damn.”

Maddie turned away from the window.  “She’s got so much going on right now.  Normal, fifteen-year-old-girl-type problems:  she’s not getting along with her mother, her brother, or Honey.  She’s being harassed by a girl at school.  She’s got boy problems.  These things are enough to make a normal girl her age a little nuts.  But, on top of all of that, she got this other thing.  And she won’t talk about it.  At all.

“I just thought that, if you had some words of experience you could share with her, it might help.  I’m not sure what else to try, right now.”

Matthew looked at his wife with pride.  Once upon a time, she had let everyone else take care of things for her, even leaving her own daughter’s problems up to the governess.  This time, when she was needed, Maddie was getting personally involved with the problems of the girl next door.  She had come a long way.

Wendell Molinson was quiet for a long time.  He sighed.  “Mrs. Wheeler, I’m not sure if I can help.  I have experience with death in the line of duty, but not with fifteen-year-old girls.  I don’t know if I can really help her – but I will try.  Give me a day or two, and I’ll talk to her.  I’ll let you know how it goes.”

“Thank you, Sergeant.  That’s all I can ask,” Maddie replied.

Jim felt the conversation was wrapping up, and he didn’t want to get caught eavesdropping.  Besides, he had heard plenty.

As he slipped away towards the kitchen, he pondered what he’d learned.  Jim had already known Trixie was having problems with Mart and Honey.  Yesterday, he had seen evidence of problems with Moms, bigger than he could have imagined.  But what did his mother mean about Trixie being harassed by a girl at school?  Then he remembered the scene with Beth Fleming on Friday night.  Beth really seemed to have it in for Trixie.  What else has Beth been up to?

What bothered Jim most was that he hadn’t realized there was anything wrong.  He hadn’t known about the problems with Moms, or with Beth, and, worst of all, he hadn’t realized she was bottling up bad feelings about Luke’s death.  He had been naïve enough to think that she had just bounced back quickly, like always.

How could he have missed all of those things?  Some best friend I am, the redhead thought derisively.

He was more determined than ever to fix things with her.  Trixie needed a friend right now, far more than she needed a boyfriend.  She needed someone she could talk to about anything, without any worries about relationship issues.

His best friend needed him, and Jim was going to be there for her, no matter what.





The Bob-Whites, minus Di, met at the clubhouse at noon.  Honey looked at the four boys, winking at Mart and Dan.  “Di has to do something with the twins and won’t be free until three.  Trixie and I usually go riding on Sunday afternoons.  What are you guys doing?”

Without indicating that he’d gotten the message that Di was busy with party preparations, Mart lazily waved a hand at Honey.  “You squaws go have your girl time.  We men will be happy without you for a while.  We’ll do something together when Di’s free.”

Trixie snorted.  “See?  The only girl he wants to be around is Di.”

Mart grinned.  “But of course!  What other female is worthy of basking in my glorious presence?”

“God, Honey,” Trixie groaned.  “Let’s get out of here before his ‘glorious presence’ makes me barf.”

Honey giggled, and the girls headed for the stables.

As soon as he was sure they were gone, Mart suddenly became serious.  “Now, down to business.”

Jim looked at Mart and Dan.  “What’s going on with Trixie and Beth Fleming?”

Brian looked at him in amazement.  “You left before we even had that conversation last night!  How did you know?”

Jim frowned.  “I overheard my mother talking about Trixie being harassed by a girl at school.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out who it is.  The question is:  what’s Beth doing?”

Dan’s face was grim.  “That’s just it.  The girls aren’t talking.  We don’t know what’s going on, just that Honey and Di felt that Beth deserved to have her hair dyed with blue ink.”

Jim looked at him in confusion.  “What?”

Mart took over the story.  “A few weeks ago, someone put blue ink in Beth’s hairbrush.  The prank really pissed Beth off, and she accused Trixie of doing it.  Trixie was in the clear, because she was in the school nurse’s office when it happened.  Besides, Beth refused to give a reason when asked why she accused Trixie.

“Last night, we found out the culprit was Diana.  She said she did it for Trixie’s sake and that Beth deserved it.  Honey defended Di and agreed with her.  But neither one would say what Beth had done to Trixie.  They just said the subject was off limits to males.”

Jim stroked his chin thoughtfully.  “We need to spy on Beth.  Unfortunately, Brian and I can’t do that from Boston.  The girls won’t help you.  What we need is a couple more pairs of eyes.”

Dan asked, “Did you have someone in mind?”

“It’s got to be someone who would care whether Beth messed with Trixie,” Brian observed.

“Exactly,” Jim nodded.  “Chris and Tad fit the bill perfectly.”

Brian looked at his roommate, an eyebrow raised.  He nodded slightly, in silent acknowledgement of Jim’s effort to move beyond his own feelings.  Jim returned the nod.

Mart groaned.  “I don’t want to ask for their help.  I want to threaten their lives.”

The others laughed.  Dan grinned, “Who says you can’t do both?”

Answering his grin, Jim pulled out his cell phone.  “Do we want them to meet us here or in town?”




Half an hour later, Jim pulled his car into the parking lot of a coffee shop on Elmwood Avenue.  Tad pulled in right behind him, and they could see Chris’ car already in the lot.  The boys went in together and found the booth Chris had already grabbed.

Chris and Tad sat, uncomfortably eyeing the Bob-White boys, while the group placed their orders.  They looked at each other, wondering if the other knew why they were there.  Tad finally decided to take the bull by the horns.

“So, what is this?  The Big Brother Brigade?”

Brian looked startled for a second, then chuckled.  “No, Tad,” he reassured.  “Jim and I live in Boston.  We’re long-distance friends.  Mart and Dan are the big brothers, and they’re more than capable.”

Jim nodded in agreement.  “Yes, we’re all extremely protective of our girls, especially Trixie.  But Mart and Dan are here, on the scene.  If either one of you ever need to be bloodied, they’ll take care of it.  Brian and I won’t get involved, except, perhaps, to keep them from overreacting.”

Brian continued, “The last thing I’m going to say on the subject is this:  if there is ever a need to call for reinforcements from Boston, someone will die.”  He gave Chris and Tad each a look that made it quite clear he was serious.

Then he relaxed and smiled.  “We asked to meet you for a completely different reason.  The Bob-Whites are investigating something, and we need your help.”

Tad groaned and banged his head on the table.  “Oh, no.  Not another mystery!”

The others all laughed, and then Dan started to explain, “It’s not really a mystery, per se.  We don’t believe there’s a crime taking place or anything.  We just want to know what the girls aren’t telling us.”

Chris quirked an eyebrow.  “So you want us to spy on them for you?”

“Not them,” Mart stated.  “Beth Fleming.”

Chris and Tad were instantly at attention.  “What about Beth?” Chris asked with a frown.

“The culprit in the blue-ink-in-the-hair incident was Diana,” Mart said.

Tad’s eyebrows shot skyward.  “Di ‘Sweet-As-Pie’ Lynch?” he asked in shock.

Dan nodded.  “And Honey Wheeler, of all people, says the action was fully justified.”

Chris’ jaw dropped.  He looked questioningly around the table.  “What the hell did Beth do to Trixie?”

Brian leaned forward.  “That, gentlemen, is the question.  Finding the answer is where you come in.”

“We have reason to believe Beth is harassing Trixie in some way,” Jim explained.  “We don’t know how, or what she’s doing.  We can’t stop it if we don’t know what’s happening.  And, as we said, the girls aren’t talking.”

“Mart and I intend to keep a close eye on both Beth and Trixie,” Dan said.  “We would appreciate a little help.”

“You got it,” said Tad.

“Absolutely,” Chris said.

“The last thing Trixie needs right now is Beth’s shit,” Tad went on.

Chris nodded.  “I wouldn’t wish Beth’s games on my worst enemy, let alone my girlfriend.”

The last word hung in the air.  Chris raised his chin in challenge to Tad.  Tad stared at him, eyes narrowed, jaw clenched.  The others watched, waiting to see what would happen next.

Tad fumed silently.  He wanted to punch Chris.  He wanted to challenge him.  He wanted to scream that she was his, and Chris should get the hell out of the way.  But he had told Trixie that he could deal with her going to Homecoming with Chris.  He’d made her a promise, and he would not break it.  He would stay out of Chris’ way until after Homecoming.

“Exactly.” Tad’s voice was curt.  He had conceded Chris’ point.  For now.

Mart watched the exchange with great interest.  Dan was trying to cover a smirk.  He was doing fine until Brian looked at him and raised one pinky as if to say, She’s got them wrapped around her little finger.  His attempt to choke back his laughter left him coughing and gasping for air.  Jim pounded him on the back helpfully, smiling all the while.

Dan glared at Jim.  Under his breath, he muttered, “I thought they were in your way.”

Jim leaned over to him and whispered, “They’re just gonna end up killing each other, and then I won’t have to worry about either one.”

Dan’s coughing fit returned in full force. 






Trixie rode along on Susie, enjoying the crisp air and sunshine of the beautiful fall day.  Yesterday’s rainstorm, with its accompanying wind, had blown down torrents of leaves, making the trail a colorful carpet and leaving the trees above nearly bare.  The air was cool enough to warrant a light jacket, but still felt warm.  Winter seemed light years away, instead of a mere few weeks.

Honey had been following behind on Lady but, as the trail widened, she pulled alongside her friend.  “You’re awfully quiet today, Trix.”

The smaller girl shrugged.  “My mind is spinning in so many different directions it’s giving me a headache.  I can’t seem to concentrate on any one thing.”

“How was the birthday breakfast this morning?  What was Moms like?” Honey asked softly.

“Um, okay, actually.  Last night, she was awesome – just like Moms has always been.  This morning, she wasn’t like that… but she wasn’t the way she’s been, either.  I think she was trying really hard for Brian’s sake, so she didn’t ruin his birthday.  It was like she was making a conscious effort to be nice.  It was kind of… forced.”

Honey nodded sympathetically.  “Well, that’s still better than the screaming match from yesterday.”

Trixie shrugged.  “I guess.”

“I’m really sorry, Trix,” Honey said earnestly.

Trixie looked at her in surprise.  “For what?”

“Everything.  You’ve had all these things going on, and, instead of being there for you, I’ve been selfish and whiny.  Some best friend I am!”

“Well, it’s not like I told you what was going on,” Trixie said, smiling wanly.  “You couldn’t have known.”

“Wrong,” Honey shook her head emphatically.  “I should have known something was bothering you.  If I’d bothered to really look at you, I would have been able to tell that much, at least.”

“It’s okay, Hon.  Honest.”

They continued down the trail for a few minutes, and then Honey decided to switch topics, if only slightly. “How are things with Mart?”

Trixie smiled, the first truly genuine smile Honey had seen all day.  “Good.  We had a good talk.  I wasn’t giving him enough credit.  He’s really been trying.  He just wasn’t obvious about it, and I was missing clues left and right.”  The smile faded.  “I guess I’m not much of a detective any more.”

Stifling a groan, Honey searched for the words to cheer her friend and came up empty.






The boys established their communication plan, and finished their food.  Chris and Tad both had places they were supposed to be, and, as they stood to say their good-byes to the Bob-Whites, they unconsciously puffed and postured.  Eyeing each other, they headed for the exit.

When Chris thought he was out of earshot of the other boys, he warned Tad, “Stay the hell away from my girlfriend.”

Tad glared at him.  “I’ll stay as close to Trixie as she wants me to be.”  With that, he stormed out to the parking lot and took off in his car.

Chris stared angrily after him a minute before he, too, left.

The others, meanwhile, had heard every word.  As soon as Chris was gone, they burst out laughing.

“Those two are too much,” Brian chortled.

Jim tried to catch his breath.  “I think we’re about to miss the comedy routine of the century.”

“They’re going to be so busy competing to protect Trixie from Beth, we won’t have to worry about a thing,” Dan commented.

Mart groaned.  Holding his head and grabbing his hair with his fists, he lamented, “Life was so much easier when guys were afraid to be interested in Trixie.”

Brian slapped him on the back.  “She’s a big girl, Mart.  She’s taken down crooks, kidnappers, and gun smugglers.  I think she can handle a couple of high school boys.”

Mart crooked an eyebrow at him.  “And their raging hormones?”

Brian winced.  Jim and Dan laughed out loud.

“As Big Brother Brian tries to act mature and trusting...” the redhead started.

The dark one finished, “...he slams face-first into a brick wall.”

Even Mart laughed as Brian rubbed his face with both hands.

“Okay, okay, you win!  Don’t leave either one of them alone with her for very long.”  Brian sank his head onto the table and covered it with both arms.  “But don’t ever tell her I said that!”

The boys continued to laugh and joke together as they headed back to the clubhouse to meet the girls.






Honey and Trixie groomed the horses and cleaned the tack in silence.  Several times Honey had tried to start a conversation, but Trixie had been relatively unresponsive.  Honey was frustrated and very worried.  She just didn’t know how to get through to Trixie.

When the two girls were finished, they walked in continued silence down to the clubhouse and arrived to find the boys laughing and joking with Diana, who was thoroughly enjoying being the center of attention.  Di looked up and, as soon as she saw the vacant, distant look on Trixie’s face, she sobered.  She gave Honey an inquiring look, which was answered with a faint shake of her honeyed head.

Carefully observing the communication between the girls, the boys held a silent conference of their own.  Jim gave Brian an intense green stare.  Brian finally nodded his consent.

Jim stood and walked over to Trixie.  She looked up at him as if she were just realizing where she was.

“Trixie, can we go for a walk?  I’d like to talk,” Jim quietly pleaded.

Blue eyes searched his face for a moment, before seeking Brian’s.  The look of reassurance from the warm brown eyes convinced her, and she nodded, blonde curls bouncing listlessly.

Jim took her hand gently in his and led her out the door.

As soon as they were gone, Honey raised an eyebrow at Brian.  “Do I even want to know what that’s about?”

Brian shook his head.  “He’ll be fine.  We’ve been very busy today.  I’ve reached all sorts of understandings with all sorts of males regarding my little sister.”

Di blanched.  “Chris or Tad?”

Dan grinned.

Honey winced.  “Oh, no!”

Mart smiled.  “Brian was perfect.  He informed the intrepid suitors that it is my job to protect my feminine sibling.”

Di gasped.  “Brian, are you crazy?”

Brian’s eyebrows shot skyward.  “I may have encouraged this, but did you actually think I wasn’t going to give them a warning?  If she wants to explore relationships with them, that’s fine... as long as it’s at her pace.  If anyone dares to disrespect her, there’ll be hell to pay.”

Honey folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot.  “And you think Mart is going to respect the pace that Trixie wishes to set?”

Mart sighed loudly.  “Brian’s warnings went out in many directions.  There will be respect.”  He glowered at Honey.  “There will be intense observation, but there will be respect.”

Di huffed.  “Great.  Just great.  Mart has permission to act like an ass.  I’m thrilled.”

Dan chuckled.  “Ladies, ladies.  Never fear.  There will be no more problems with the males around here.  Mart will be getting along with his sister.  Chris and Tad will respect Trixie.  They may kill each other, but that’s another story altogether.  And Jim is clearing the air with Trixie right now.

“Right now, there are more important matters at hand.  We need to figure out how to deal with the pod-person who’s masquerading as Moms.”

Honey relented.  “You’re right.  That is more important.”

Mart raised his hands in a gesture of defeat.  “I have no idea what to do about this.  I just know Trixie thinks Moms hates her because she killed Luke.”

Di rolled her eyes and sighed.  “Oh, God.  We’re back to that.”  She paced the floor briefly.  She stopped in front of Honey and looked her friend in the eye.  “We need reinforcements.”

Honey nodded.  “Mother is already aware of the situation.  Trixie was over at our house the other night, crying on her shoulder again.  She probably knows more than we do.  Plus, she’s friends with Mrs. B.  Getting her help is probably the best angle of attack.”

Brian looked back and forth between the girls, then questioned the guys with a glance.  Trixie is confiding in Mrs. Wheeler now?

Mart and Dan shrugged in answer.  Brian shook his head in wonder, before moving on to a plan of action.  “What are we waiting for, then?  Let’s go talk to Mrs. Wheeler!”






Trixie and Jim walked along through the preserve, a peaceful silence between them.  Things had been so tense yesterday; she’d been afraid to go for this walk with him, but was glad that things seemed to be comfortable between them again.  So, for the moment, she just enjoyed the quiet and waited for him to get to whatever was on his mind.

Jim knew she’d been uncomfortable, and he wanted to give her a chance to relax before he started to talk.  He knew how much Trixie loved to be out in the preserve, and how the beauty of the nature around her calmed her soul.  He waited for it to do its work.

They finally reached a small clearing near a brook that they both loved.  He sat down on a log and patted the seat beside him.  She sat down, staring at the sunlight sparkling on the ripples of the water.

Looking around at the trees with their bare branches and the leaves strewn about the ground, Jim thought about how different the clearing looked than it had the last time he’d been there.  He sighed.  “Life sure has changed a lot the last couple of months.”

She gave a wan smile.  “It certainly has.”

He shrugged.  “Although, not as much as it did two years ago.”

Her smile brightened a little, and she looked up at him.  “Not quite that much, no.”

He grinned down at her.  “Some changes are better than others.  But some are harder to adjust to than others.”

Melancholy overcame her.  “For every part of you that wants to move on to the next adventure, there is also a part that wants to stay in that happy moment you found, so you don’t ever lose that feeling.”

He grabbed her hand and lightly caressed it with his thumb.  “We don’t have to stay in the same place to keep that feeling.  We just have to stay friends.”

The little blonde stared at their joined hands and gave his a squeeze.  “I’d be lost without our phone calls, but it’s just not the same.”

“I know it’s not.  And it seems to me that you’ve got a lot to get off your chest.”

“I don’t even know where to start.”  Her eyes filled up with tears.  She got mad for a moment and swiped angrily at her eyes.  “God, I hate crying!  I feel like that’s all I do lately.”

“Maybe you just haven’t been crying on the right shoulder,” he suggested.

She smiled through her tears.  “And crying on this shoulder will make it all better?” 

He smiled back.  “Absolutely.  It was custom built for you.  That’s what best friends are for, isn’t it?”

Jim was offering friendship.  Trixie reached out and held on tight.  Smiling tenderly, she rested her head on his shoulder.  He put his arm around her, and they sat there while she drew strength from him.

“What was it I used to say to you?” Jim asked.  “Oh, yeah.  ‘Tell Uncle Jim all about it.’”

Trixie snorted.  “As if I ever thought of you as an uncle.”

They both laughed.  “What can I say?” Jim defended himself.  “Teenage boys say stupid things.”

“Boys don’t own the market on that one,” Trixie avowed.  “I think we can both safely admit we’ve said our fair share of stupid stuff.  Right, Terrence?”

“A.E. Houseman would be so proud to know you’re a fan,” Jim chuckled.

“It’s not him.  It’s that one line.  ‘Terrence, this is stupid stuff.’  I swear, that’s the best line in all of poetry.”  She grinned.  “Come on.  You know I’m right.  Admit it.”

Jim rolled his eyes.  “Okay, I’ve been known to use that line myself.  Of course, I was usually referring to one of your mysteries...”

She smacked him playfully.  “Watch it, College Man.  Always remember, you were my first mystery.”

“I always remember that.  That’s why I allow myself to be dragged into this stuff.  I can’t wait to see what you’ll find next.”

They laughed again.  She sighed and looked up at him gratefully.  “Thank you for making me smile.”

“Hey, I’m here for whatever you need.  If you need a shoulder to cry on, you’ve got it.  If you need me to kick someone’s ass, say the word.  If you want to laugh, we laugh.  Anything you want, Shamus.  I’m here.”

She smiled, remembering when he’d said almost exactly the same thing to her last month, during the stalker situation.  “You always are.  Laughing feels good.  I was beginning to think I’d forgotten how.”

Emerald lights searched her face for a moment, then he grinned.  He slid off the log onto the ground, so he could lean his back against the log.  “You want to laugh?  What else can I do to make you laugh?  Let me see...”

Trixie plunked down on the ground beside him.  She leaned her head against his shoulder, while Jim told her every funny anecdote he could remember.  They sat that way for hours.

And they laughed.





Author's Notes



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