Will You Dance,

If I Ask You to Dance?




Sergeant Molinson dropped Trixie off at Crabapple Farm just before five o’clock.  Mart was setting the kitchen table while his mother stirred a pot of bubbling spaghetti sauce at the stove.  Helen focused on the good feelings she had been having all afternoon since her talk with Maddie and pushed back the dark foreboding that enveloped her when Trixie entered the room.

Carefully keeping her voice neutral, Helen glanced up at her daughter in what she hoped passed for a casual manner.  “Where were you?”

Trixie stopped in the doorway and eyed her mother warily.  “Sergeant Molinson wanted to talk to me,” she answered hesitantly.

“About what?” Helen inquired, again striving for a level tone.

Eyes flitting here, there, and everywhere, Trixie stammered nervously, “Um… just stuff.”

Helen observed the nervousness in her eyes and saw the quick shadow of pain that briefly crossed her face.  Somewhere deep within, the motherly side of Helen understood what she was seeing.  Her beloved baby girl was hurting inside, and the friendly policeman was trying to help because he was more familiar with her pain than her family was.  At the same time, though, the recurring fear hit her with a thundering force.  Her heart longed to take Trixie in her arms, and comfort and soothe her troubled soul – yet the pounding fear screamed that she should warn her child to stay as far away from the policeman as possible, because a friendship with Molinson could only encourage the detective in her that would someday get her killed.

With the war raging deep inside, Helen was lucky she could manage to calmly walk across the room.  She gave Trixie an awkward pat on the shoulder and said, “He can probably help you.”  Then she made a hasty run for the bathroom.

After setting the table, Mart had retreated to a lounging position against the wall to silently watch the exchange.  When Helen left the room, he didn’t say a word, but pushed himself off the wall and walked over to his sister.

At Helen’s exit, Trixie watched in confusion and anger.  She was tired of trying to understand the problem with her mother.  No matter what she did, it was wrong.  She turned tearful eyes to Mart.  Seeing the sympathy reflected in his eyes, she stepped into the circle of his open arms, drawing strength and comfort from the love offered there.






Helen closed the bathroom door behind her and locked it.  Sinking slowly to the floor, she took several deep breaths.  She leaned against the wall, cheek to the cool enamel tiles, and struggled to regain the composure she had achieved earlier.  Trying to find some sane thought upon which to focus, she began to count the minutes until she left with Maddie in the morning.  Knowing Maddie was trying to help her calmed her and gave her a sliver of hope.  She desperately clung to that hope.  Somehow, she had to find her way out of this horrible haze of fear.





Tuesday, October 24, 1995


The morning dawned dreary and cool.  The weather suited Trixie’s mood perfectly.  As she sat down to breakfast, Mart gave her an understanding look of compassion.  He knew he was exhausted, so she must feel even worse.  The previous evening had been spent in Mart’s room, discussing the “Moms situation” until well past midnight.  Trixie had gone to bed with a splitting headache and tear-swollen eyes, but with a peace about having Mart as a confidante.

Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Trixie tried to pretend she hadn’t woken up with a headache worse than the one with which she had gone to bed.  The throbbing pain was making her feel nauseated, however, and the last thing she wanted to do was try to eat anything.  She toyed with her food, waiting to see what her mother would be like this morning.

As Helen bustled around the kitchen, her eyes darted nervously from one face to another.  Finally feeling like she could speak with a steady voice, Helen asked, “Trixie, will you and Bobby be eating at Wimpy’s tonight?”

Trixie looked up, startled.  “Um...” she stammered.  “I guess.”

“Good,” Helen nodded, her voice tight with strain.  “Peter, you and Mart are on your own.  Maddie and I are going in to the City today, and we won’t be back ‘til late.”

Four pair of surprised eyes followed her as she hastily left the room.  Looks were passed back and forth around the breakfast table, but no one dared to comment.  Trixie gave up pretending to eat, pushed back her chair, and left to finish getting ready for school.

Bobby cleared his throat, breaking the silence.  “Do you think Mrs. Wheeler is going to help Moms act normal again?”

Peter looked sadly at his youngest son and issued a weary sigh.  “I hope so, Bobby.  I sincerely hope so.”





Mart and Trixie walked side-by-side down the driveway to catch the bus.  A good, stiff breeze rattled the trees, shaking the leaves from their branches.  The leaves already on the ground crunched loudly.  The dreary morning resounded loudly with the sounds of fall making its presence known.

Staring at the ground as she shuffled along, Trixie muttered, “This is all my fault.”

Mart sighed loudly.  They had argued this point endlessly the previous night, but, apparently, nothing he’d said had sunk in.  “How do you figure that?”

“I don’t know!” she wailed.  “I have absolutely no idea.  All I know is that somehow, someway, this is all because of me.  And I can’t fix it because I don’t know what I did,” her voice broke, choking on her tears.

Mart turned to face her as they reached the bus stop.  Seeing his sister crying, again, was killing him.  There was nothing he could do at this point, except to comfort her.  He pulled her into his arms, and she buried her face in the crook of his neck.  She sobbed in earnest.

“This isn’t your fault, Princess,” Mart comforted.  “Whatever is up with Moms may be connected to you somehow, but it’s not your fault.  Moms is the only one who knows what’s bothering her.  Hopefully, Mrs. Wheeler can help her work out her problem.  But, sweetheart, it’s her problem.  Not yours.”

“How can you be sure?” she cried.

“Because there was nothing you did, Trix.  And if there was, Mrs. Wheeler would have locked the two of you in a room together last night until this was all worked out.”

She nodded.  She understood what he was saying, but it still hurt badly.  “I swear, her cold politeness is more painful than the screaming matches.  I’d rather she just stuck a knife through my heart,” she sobbed.

As the bus rumbled to a stop, Trixie stepped back from his embrace and reached into her pocket for a tissue.  Mart grabbed her backpack from where she’d set it on the ground and carried it onto the bus, while she followed, wiping away her tears and blowing her nose.  By the time they reached their seats at the back of the bus, she was fairly composed.  She slipped into her seat and turned to stare out the window without greeting the other Bob-Whites.

Mart set her bag on the seat beside her, hesitated for a moment, then joined Diana in the seat behind his sister.  He watched her solemnly for a long moment, before turning to greet his girlfriend.  She arched her brow in question.  He mouthed, “Moms.”  She nodded briefly before shooting a meaningful look at Honey and Dan, across the aisle.

A couple of minutes later, Tad arrived.  Sitting down beside Trixie, he carefully studied her demeanor.  “Good morning, Trix.  Is something wrong?” he asked softly.

She shook her head without turning to look at him.  He took her hand in his.  “Sure you don’t want to talk?”

“Not now,” she answered, so quietly he had to strain to hear her.

“Come on,” he cajoled.  “I need to earn those brownie points.”

She finally turned, a faint smile gracing her face.  “You’ll find a way.”

Sensing that he shouldn’t push, Tad decided to change tactics.  “Did you have any trouble with your vocabulary?”

Trixie paled.  “Shit.”

Mart looked up sharply at his sister’s unusually strong language, while Tad asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I completely forgot to do any homework last night,” Trixie answered frantically.  She raked her hand through her curls as she mentally reviewed her assignments.  “I had Spanish, French, and Math.”

Tad eyed her cautiously.  He wanted to help, but he didn’t want to be pushy.  “If you want, I can help you with the French and Math at lunchtime.”

Trixie threw him a grateful look.  “That would be wonderful.  Can I meet you in the library?”

“Sure,” he smiled.  “Don’t worry, we’ll whip right through it.”

“Calm down, Trix,” Mart cautioned.  “Don’t panic.”

Turning to smile tightly at her brother, Trixie said, “I’m not.  I just need to do something about Spanish quickly.”  The bus was stopping in front of school, so she jumped out of her seat and hurried off.  “I’ll see you later, Tad.”

Tad turned to Mart.  “What could make her forget homework?”

“My mother,” Mart answered bitterly.  “Our house is a veritable bastion of suffocating tension.”

Honey quietly inserted her meager information into the conversation.  “Mother would only say that they had a good talk, she has some idea of the problem, and they’re spending the day together to try and work on it.”

Mart worked his jaw angrily.  “I’ve always been protective of my sister.  I just never thought I’d have to protect her from our own mother!”

Watching Mart storm off the bus, the others exchanged worried looks.  The warmth and love of the Belden home was the rock in their lives, as well.  The walls of their world were crumbling around them.






Trixie jumped off the bus and ran straight for Merrissa Parkman.  Riss was leaning against a large oak tree in front of the school, talking to Paul.  Although Trixie noticed Chris heading for her out the corner of her eye, she didn’t stop.  She ran up to Riss and grabbed her arm.

“I need to talk to you right away,” Trixie said, pulling her towards the school.  She looked at Paul and gestured toward Chris.  “Go keep your compatriot busy.”

As Trixie rushed her into the building, Riss tried to find out what was going on.  “Trix, what’s the problem?”

Once they were safely out of sight in a corner of the entrance, Trixie asked quietly, “Do you think your mom would excuse me from gym today?”

Riss frowned in puzzlement.  “Why?”

Holding a shaking hand to her forehead, Trixie struggled to explain.  “Life sucks at home, I didn’t sleep at all last night, I have a splitting headache, I didn’t get any homework done, I desperately need a study hall second period, and, if I get hit in the head with a volleyball, I’m sure I’ll pass out.”

Narrowing her eyes and studying her friend’s face, Riss said, “If she does excuse you, she won’t let you play ball after school either.”

Trixie sighed in frustration and fought back a fresh wave of tears.  Surprised to see how close to crying the younger girl was, Riss put her arm around her shoulder.  “Oh, well.  It can’t hurt to try.  Let’s go see my mom.”

When they reached the clinic, Mrs. Parkman greeted them warmly.  “Hello, girls.  To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” 

Then she noticed Trixie’s drawn, tear-streaked face.  She arched her brow at Riss, who shrugged helplessly.  “Let’s step into my office, Trixie, so we can talk.”

Leaving Riss to wait, Mrs. Parkman led Trixie away.  After closing the door separating the small, private office from the main area of the clinic, the school nurse gently pushed Trixie down into a chair and sat facing her.  “What’s up, Trixie?”

Trixie shuddered, struggling to find her normal reserves of strength and determination.  “I just don’t think I can deal with this today,” she offered in a shaky voice, tears in her eyes.

“With what?” Mrs. Parkman asked kindly.

Trixie didn’t answer for the longest time.  Finally, she looked at the nurse, pleading with her eyes.  “Please, Mrs. Parkman, could you just excuse me from gym?  I just need a study hall instead.”

Studying her carefully, the woman probed gently.  “Is there a problem in gym class?”

Trixie shook her head and was instantly sorry.  Clamping down on the dizziness that threatened to knock her from her seat, she gritted her teeth.  “No,” she answered shortly.  “No, the problem is at home.  I didn’t do my homework, I didn’t sleep, and I don’t feel well.  Please let me have a study hall, so I can sit and do homework.  If I have to go to gym, I’ll probably throw up and fail Spanish.”

Hiding her concern for one of her favorite students, Mrs. Parkman smiled and patted her hand.  “I doubt you’ll fail Spanish for having one bad day, my dear.  But I think I can handle your request.  You don’t look good, though… maybe you should just go home.  Should I call your mother?”

Trixie’s blue eyes flew wide in horror.  “NO!  I… I mean… she’s going in to the City today, so she won’t be there.”

Shocked by Trixie’s obvious fear of involving Helen Belden, the nurse frowned.  She turned to her desk and silently wrote out the excusal slip.  Turning back to Trixie, she said, “This will take care of gym.  I definitely want to see you at the end of the day, or come earlier if you need to.”

Smiling tremulously, Trixie thanked her and left.  Once she was sure the girls were gone, the determined woman grabbed the phone.  She dialed the number quickly, from memory.  When the line was answered, she spoke in clipped tones.  “Harrison, this is Faith Parkman.  I need to speak to Sherry right away.”

Sherry came on the phone a scant moment later, out of breath.  “Faith, what’s wrong?”

Realizing what she’d done, Mrs. Parkman apologized.  “I’m sorry, Sherry.  I didn’t mean to panic you or make you think there’s something wrong with Diana.  The problem is Trixie – or Helen.”

Sherry sighed deeply, a combination of relief that Di was fine and frustration over the question.  “Faith, I keep overhearing things about some problem with Helen.  But she acts perfectly normal whenever I see her or talk to her.  I do know that’s she’s been avoiding Maddie Wheeler.”

The nurse shook her head impatiently.  “There’s more to it than that.  Trixie was in here this morning crying.”

Sherry was shocked.  “Real tears?  Trixie?”

“Uh-huh.  She said there were problems at home.  She hadn’t slept, she looked like hell, and she absolutely did not want me to call Helen.”

Sherry furrowed her brow in worry.  “It must be bad to reduce Trixie to tears.”

Faith nodded.  “Trixie did mention that Helen’s going into the City today.”

Sherry chewed her lip.  “So is Maddie.  Maybe they’re going together.  I’m going to call Maddie quickly before she leaves.”

“Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.  Helen has been a friend since grade school, and Trixie… well, that poor kid is falling apart at the seams.”

“I’ll see what I can find out and get back to you.”






Trixie and Merrissa walked together down the hallway.  Trixie was quiet, but she appeared to be feeling a little better.  Paul and Chris were waiting for them at Riss’ locker.

Trixie gave Chris a winning smile.  “Hey, Handsome.  Would you be interested in doing me a favor?”

“You blow me off outside, and now you want a favor?” he asked with a quirk of his brow and a distinct twinkle in his eye.

Trixie sidled up to him and put her arm around his waist.  “I blew you off so I could arrange for a study hall second period.  Now I have the time and the Spanish homework.  All I need is some help.”  She batted her eyelashes rather effectively.

Chris slipped his arm around her shoulder and leaned down to give her a quick kiss.  “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do during second period.”

Paul snorted.  “Am I ever that nauseating?”

Without missing a beat, Chris and Trixie chorused, “Yes!”

Riss laughed.  “Give it up, honey.  Just because we have two years on them doesn’t make them any different than we were in the beginning.”

Paul sighed.  Then, with an evil grin, he retorted.  “Wrong.  At least I can look you in the eye without hurting my neck.”

Trixie stepped away from Chris and headed down the hall, nonchalantly stomping on Paul’s foot as she passed him.  “I’ll see you later, Chris.  Try not to bring the Center of the Universe with you.”

“Later, Blue Eyes,” Chris called after her before turning to Paul with a grin.  “Give it up, man.  She can take anything you dish out and throw it right back at you.”

“Of course she can,” Paul grinned back.  “It wouldn’t be any fun if she couldn’t.”

Riss laughed at the boys’ antics as she watched Trixie go.  At least her friend seemed to be in a better mood now.






The phone was answered on the second ring.  “Wheeler residence, Miss Trask speaking.”

“Margery, it’s Sherry.  Is Maddie still home?”

“She’s just getting ready to leave.”

“I’d like to speak with her before she goes, please.  It’s about Helen.”

Margery Trask sighed.  She hadn’t been privy to Helen’s confidences yesterday, but she had had to deal with Madeleine all evening.  Maddie was beside herself with worry over Helen, and Margery seriously doubted that whatever Sherry Lynch had to say was going to improve the situation.

“Hold on a moment, Mrs. Lynch.  I’ll get her right away.”

Mrs. Lynch?  Do I even want to know why Marge is being so formal? Sherry thought while she waited for Maddie to come to the line.

“Sherry, is there a problem?” Maddie asked.

“Actually, I was hoping you could tell me that,” Sherry replied.

Maddie sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.  “Sherry… I hope you’re not just fishing for information.”

Sherry was momentarily put off by Maddie’s tone.  They were close friends – in fact, Maddie, Sherry, and Helen had grown nearly as close as Honey, Diana, and Trixie.  To have Maddie accusing her of prying was offensive.  In the same split second, however, Sherry realized that such a tone could only be coming from the Queen of Tact if she were under intense stress.

“I’m not fishing, Maddie.  Well, I suppose I am, but for a reason.”  Sherry proceeded to relate her phone conversation with Faith Parkman.  “I’m worried.  What’s going on?  Is there anything I can do?”

Maddie was quiet for a long time.  When she finally spoke, she chose her words carefully.  “Sherry, I would love to tell you everything I know.  I would love to hand the problem over to you, because you’re better at dealing with these things than I am.  But I’ve been taken into several people’s confidences, and I can’t break them.  All I can say is… things are not well in the Belden household.  The crux of the problem is between Helen and Trixie, and I’m working on it.”

She stopped, and Sherry waited for her to say more.  When the silence wore on, Sherry pushed a little.  “How can I help?”

“The only thing I can ask you to do right now is to pray that today goes well.  As soon as I can tell you more, I will.”

Sherry could hear the strain in Maddie’s voice.  She also instinctively knew that Maddie needed to be the one to help in the trenches this time.  “Okay, Maddie.  You’ve got my prayers.  And anything else you ask for.  You know where to find me.”

“Thanks, Sherry.  I’ll call you tomorrow.”

After hanging up the phone, Maddie leaned against the wall, trying to regroup.  A simple phone call had thrown her off balance; how on earth was she going to handle Helen all day?  Hopefully, a day of shopping and girl talk would relax her friend a little.  Maddie only prayed that the session with her therapist friend would help Helen somehow.






Trixie and Tad met in the library and worked diligently through the lunch period to finish all Trixie’s homework.  When the last math problem was finished, she closed her book with a sigh of relief.  “Thanks so much, Tad.  I’d be lost without you.”

He smiled at her, his intense eyes holding her gaze.  “Remember that.”

Her answering smile was playful.  “I won’t forget; I promise.”

“So, how am I doing on the brownie points?”

She pondered for a moment.  “Well, you’re off to a good start.  But one homework session hardly covers it.”

Tad covered her hand with his and gave her a serious look.  “I would hope not.  I wouldn’t want you to be done with me after one homework session.”

Staring into his eyes, Trixie’s heart skipped a beat.  Breathlessly, she whispered, “No, not by a long shot.”


He leaned in and gave her a long, lingering kiss.  They broke apart when the librarian loudly cleared her throat at them.  Trixie blushed and got busy packing up her books.  Glancing at her watch, she said, “The bell’s going to ring any minute.”

Tad threw his bag over his shoulder and grabbed hers in his hand.  With his free hand, he grabbed her hand and held it tightly as they walked out of the library.  When Trixie felt that her face had returned to its normal color, she looked up at the boy beside her.  His mouth was curved ever so slightly at the corners, and he looked pleased.

“What are you so happy about?”

He smiled and whispered in her ear, “Kissing you does that to me.”

Despite her best effort to be serious, her face split in a wide grin.  Why his admission pleased her so, she just couldn’t say.  But it did.

Tad dropped his pen and bent to retrieve it.  Just then, Beth Fleming happened round the corner.  Seeing Trixie, and not noticing Tad, Beth issued her sickeningly sweet, phony smile.  “Well, hello, Trixie.”

Trixie stiffened and glared at the cheerleader.  “Beth,” she acknowledged coldly.

Tad stood, pen in hand.  Beth’s expression changed quickly from vicious hatred to cool indifference.  “Tad,” she said with a nod.

Beth looked Trixie up and down.  “Afraid to walk the hallways alone, Trixie?”

Tad glared.  “Why, Beth?  Should she be?”

Beth tossed her hair over her shoulder.  “One never knows.”  Then she sauntered away.

Still holding herself stiffly, Trixie proceeded down the corridor.  Tad hurried to keep up with her.  “What was that about?”


“Trix, please don’t lie to me,” Tad pleaded with her, gentle but insistent.

She stopped.  Staring at her shoes, she huffed, “Just don’t think about it.  She’s not worth the waste of brain cells.”

Trixie stormed down the hall.  Tad followed at a slower pace, making mental notes.  He definitely needed to report this to Mart.






As ordered, Trixie reported to the nurse’s office at dismissal.  Walking through the door, she thought about the headache from the morning.  The pain had only diminished slightly, but concentrating on school had enabled her to forget about it for most of the day.  Burying the pain was becoming easier and easier by the day.

Mrs. Parkman looked Trixie over carefully, trying to judge if she was feeling better or just putting on a good show.  Apparently convinced by Trixie’s performance, she decided it would be okay for the girl to play basketball today.

When Riss, Chris, and Paul arrived at the health office looking to round out their quartet, the nurse greeted them warmly.

“Here’s the deal, gang.  You go, you play ball, and then you all report to our house for dinner.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  Got it?”

Riss grinned at her mother.  “I love the way you try to make it sound like a punishment when you invite my friends for dinner.”

Faith made a face at her daughter.

Chris threw an arm around Trixie.  “So what do you think, Blue Eyes?  Mrs. Parkman making us a home-cooked meal, or burgers from Wimpy’s?”

Trixie smiled.  “That’s a tough call, you know,” she teased.  “However, I got the distinct impression I wasn’t being given a choice.”

The nurse quirked her brow.  “How perceptive.  Glad you caught that.  Yes, dear, that was directed specifically at you.”  Narrowing her eyes, she continued.  “I want to see you after practice.”

Trixie avoided her eyes.  She grabbed Chris’ hand and pulled him along.  “Come on, we have to go get Bobby.”

Chris followed willingly.  Paul made faces behind his back, implying he was worse than a puppy dog.  Riss shoved her boyfriend good-naturedly and waved goodbye to her mother.

Faith watched them go, deep in thought.  She hadn’t been satisfied with the little amount of information Sherry Lynch had been able to get.  She wanted to know what was going on with Helen, but, in the meantime, she would be keeping a careful eye on Trixie.






Brian Belden walked into his dorm suite and looked around the common room with a sense of déjà vu.  John was stretched out on the couch, Preacher was ensconced in the chair by his feet, Nathan was sprawled on the floor beside Preacher, Clay was scrunched into the chair by John’s head, and Jim was entrenched at the desk in the corner behind Clay.

Brian quirked an eyebrow at his friends.  “What’s with you guys?  Do you have assigned seats or something?”

He was greeted by a moment of silence, followed by the lightning-speed launch of five water balloons with perfect aim.


The five pranksters burst into laughter while Brian swore.

“Belden, you’re just so easy!” John exclaimed.

Giving in to the good-natured teasing, Brian chuckled.  “Fine.  But be on your guard.  To quote my baby brother:  Revenge is sweet, saccharine sweet.”

Clay grabbed the phone as it rang.  “Boston Asylum… Yeah, hang on.”  Tossing the phone at Jim’s head, he called out, “Frayne, it’s for you.”

Jim never turned from his computer screen.  Still typing with his right hand, he stretched out his left hand and plucked the phone from the air.  He tucked it between his shoulder and his ear and returned both hands to the keyboard.  Still mostly paying attention to his work, he answered distractedly, “Yeah, Frayne here.”

Upon hearing the voice on the other end of the line, his typing stopped abruptly, and his eyes flew wide in shock.

“Hello, James, dear.  I was hoping we could do each other a favor,” the voice purred.

Not trusting his own ears, Jim gripped the phone tightly and asked, “Who is this?”

The ripple of laughter in response sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard to his ears.  “Surely you haven’t forgotten me so soon?  We just saw each other Friday night.  This is Beth.  Beth Fleming.”

Jim swiveled in his chair and looked right at Brian, his face turning red.  “Why are you calling me, Beth?”

Brian’s jaw dropped.  Completely forgetting his sodden clothing, he hurried over and perched on the arm of Clay’s chair, facing Jim.

“Well, I’m sure you’re not thrilled with Trixie’s plans for Homecoming.  I know I’m not very happy with Chris right now.  And their evening is destined for failure.  So, I thought you could accompany me to the dance.  That way, when their date blows up, they can each leave with the right person.”

Jim could hear the evil smile in her voice.  He was furious, and saw little incentive for keeping his temper in check.  Green eyes blazing, he let loose with both barrels.

“Listen, you uppity little bitch!  Stay out of it – leave Chris and Trixie alone.  I have no desire to interfere with their evening, and hell will freeze over before I help you do so!  If I find out that you so much as sneezed wrong in Trixie’s direction, you’ll find out that I’m not nearly as nice as people think I am!”  With that, he slapped the off button on the portable handset and threw it across the room.

The phone shattered against the far wall after narrowly missing Preacher’s head.  The others sat staring at Jim, stunned.   Jim and Brian had shared stories about their friends back home with the guys, including what little they knew of the Beth-and-Trixie situation, so the friends were easily able to interpret the meaning of the conversation.

Jim was seething.  He launched himself from his chair and moved to the window.  Brian winced, wondering if Jim’s fist would be going through the glass any second.

Preacher dared to risk the redhead’s wrath.  “You do know you’ve just made trouble for Trixie, right?”

Jim turned to stare at him, worry breaking through the fury on his face. 

Nathan nodded in agreement.  “If she’s the stuck-up snot you’ve described, she’ll be insulted that you turned her down.”

John threw in his two cents.  “If she’s a vicious wench like you’ve said, she’ll take it out on Trixie.”

“You’ve got to warn her,” Clay said.

Brian shook his head.  “Tell Trix that Beth asked Jim?  Are you nuts?  She’ll freak!”

“You can’t let her get blind-sided,” Clay retorted.

Jim sighed.  “They’re right, Bri.  I’ve got to warn her, at least.  This is my fault.”

“No, it’s not,” Brian argued.  “You could’ve been more polite, but you definitely had to say no.  And even a polite no would’ve pissed Beth off.  I think she asked you just to have an excuse to be mad at Trixie.”

“Brian’s right,” Preacher agreed.  “And telling her off felt better than a polite no, didn’t it?”

Jim reluctantly smiled.  “Yeah, it felt good.  Some people just rub you the wrong way, you know?  I’ve wanted to slap the smirk off her face since I met her.”

Brian laughed.  “I started school in her class, remember?  I’ve wanted to smack her since the first day of kindergarten.”

“Well, look at it this way,” Nathan said.  “When she goes after Trixie, you’ll both have your excuse.”

Jim and Brian both whipped their heads around to glare at him.  Preacher, being within arm’s reach, whacked him in the head with a large textbook.

Nathan blinked innocently.  “What?  What did I say?”

John threw an empty pop can at him.  “You’re the youngest in your family, aren’t you?”

Nathan looked puzzled.  “Yeah.  What’s that got to do with anything?”

Clay rolled his eyes.  “It’s the only explanation for that statement, other than pure stupidity.”


Preacher explained patiently, as if speaking to a small child.  “You don’t ever let anyone go after your little sister, no matter how much you want an excuse to take them out.”

Finally, understanding dawned on Nathan’s face.  Sheepishly, he looked at Brian and Jim.  “Oh.  Sorry.”

Brian waved his hand at Nathan, as if to say, Don’t worry about it.  Jim ran a hand roughly through his hair before checking his watch.

“Well, I can’t call her now,” the redhead announced.  “I’m going to get some air and mentally practice groveling.”  He looked at the mess in the corner.  “And go buy a new phone.”

He walked out the door of the suite, grabbing his jacket from its nearby hook on his way.

Brian grabbed his hair with both hands.  “Trixie doesn’t need this.”

Clay pushed him off the chair arm and calmly watched Brian crash onto the floor.  He leaned over to look down at his roommate.  “You said you were going to step back and let her grow up.  Life’s a bitch.  Deal with it.”

Brian lay back to stare at the ceiling with a deep sigh.  Growing up sucks!






Author's Notes



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