*All ages

Disclaimer: These terrific characters belong to Golden Books—those lucky dogs! No money is being made off this figment of my imagination. I tried the best that I could to figure out once and for all which Bob-White is what age, but I found it was almost impossible, so if the ages don’t agree with what you have in your own mind…forgive me. This is my first attempt at FanFic, and I would appreciate any and all feedback.

 

The Storm

By Carol

 

Fifteen-year old Trixie Belden lifted the hair off the base of her neck and sighed for the fifth time in as many minutes. "Good grief! Is this heat wave ever going to break?" she complained. "If it doesn’t rain soon, I’ll just die!"

"It’s not the heat so much—but this humidity is a killer," agreed her best friend Honey Wheeler, as she shifted her position next to Trixie. The two girls had just finished swimming with their good friend Diana Lynch and were now lying on a raft in the middle of the Wheeler’s lake on a scorching late August afternoon.

All three girls lived on Glen Road just outside of Sleepyside, New York, a quiet town located in the heart of Westchester County. Fifteen-year old Honey lived with her parents and Jim Frayne, her 17-year old adopted brother, at the Manor House, a beautiful home located high on a hill overlooking both the lake and a several-hundred acre game preserve. Diana, also 15, was the daughter of another wealthy family and lived in an even larger mansion close by.

Trixie and her family however lived in a modest little farmhouse called Crabapple Farm, which was snuggled down in a hollow below the Manor House. The farm had been in the Belden family for generations, and although Trixie complained about its lack of luxuries, she was the first to admit that she would much rather live there than at either of her two friends’ homes. Mr. Belden worked at the bank in Sleepyside. Her mother, or Moms as she and her brothers affectionately called her, watched over Crabapple Farm, as well as Trixie and her three brothers—17-year old Brian, 16-year old Mart and 8-year old Bobby.

"I don’t know why we even bothered to go swimming," Trixie continued to mutter crossly. "I’m practically dry, and now I’m getting sticky all over again."

Honey and Diana glanced surreptitiously at each other behind Trixie’s back. Trixie had done nothing but complain ever since the girls met at the Wheeler’s boathouse a half-hour earlier. The fact that she was usually so good-natured—and now wasn’t—was really disconcerting to both her friends. Honey, who was especially concerned about other people’s feelings, tried to break Trixie’s sour mood. "It is miserable," she agreed, "so why don’t we jump back in for another dip before the guys come down from our house with the stuff for the cookout?"

The "guys" to whom Honey was referring consisted of Jim, Brian, Mart and Dan Mangan, 16, who lived with the Wheeler’s gamekeeper Mr. Maypenny. Together with Trixie, Honey and Diana they made up the seven members of the Bob-Whites of the Glen, a semi-secret club they had been organized two years earlier. Since most of their friends from school lived closer to town, the BWG’s relied on each other for friendship and for entertainment, but at the same time the club was dedicated to helping other people and needy organizations.

"I don’t feel much like having a cookout today," Trixie sighed yet again.

"Why Trix, how can you say that?" Diana practically gasped. Trixie watched as Di’s lavender-colored eyes opened wide with shock and thought Good grief—even in this miserable heat she still looks beautiful. Diana was considered by most to be the best-looking girl at Sleepyside Junior-Senior High School, with her shoulder-length, ebony hair and large, expressive eyes. But Trixie secretly thought that Honey was the most beautiful girl she knew—both inside and out. They didn’t nickname her Honey for nothing. Between the color of her hair and her super personality, she’s just the best! Trixie thought with pride. A little voice inside of her added Yes, if only you had half of her looks and an ounce of her personality, things might be better…

"This is the last time the BWG’s will all be together before Jim and Brian leave for college on Sunday," Diana continued. "And then we probably won’t see them again until Thanksgiving break. Don’t you want to spend all the time we can with them before then? I mean, that’s only two days away!"

"I should think she would especially want to spend the time with Jim," Honey teased. It was no secret that her brother and her best friend were crazy about each other, at least it wasn’t to the BWG’s and their families, but neither Trixie or Jim had made the first-move to really acknowledge that fact to one another or to the general public.

"Oh leave me alone," Trixie blushed furiously. "In fact, I wish everyone would just leave me alone!" She suddenly jumped up and dived into the lake. "I’ll meet you back on shore," she called over her shoulder to Honey and Diana, as she swam furiously toward the dock.

"What’s with her?" Diana asked Honey in absolute confusion.

"I’m not sure," Honey murmured, "but she’s been getting worse every day this week. I’ve asked her repeatedly, but she keeps telling me there’s nothing wrong. Let’s leave her alone for a few minute before we head to shore."

*     *     *

Trixie swam quickly to the dock and pulled herself up out of the water. Shaking the water from her short, sandy curls, she reached for a towel lying at her feet. She jumped however when a voice behind her said, "Do my orbs deceive me, or is that my sibling of the female persuasion who is so viciously dehydrating herself—in much the same manner as our good canine friend Reddy would?"

Oh no, Trixie moaned inwardly. Not Mart. I don’t think I can handle his teasing right now. Mart, who was only 11 months older than Trixie, loved nothing more than to aggravate his younger sister, especially by using a vocabulary that was more advanced than what was used by most college professors. Mostly he did it to somehow distinguish himself from Trixie, for with the same blond hair, blue eyes and freckles, they really did look like twins.

Trixie looked up to see her "almost-twin" standing next to the picnic table. She noticed that Jim, Brian and Dan were still lugging all of the food and barbecue equipment down the large hill from the Manor House.

"What’s the big idea, Mart!" Brian exclaimed as he reached the bottom and dropped a heavy cooler on the table next to where his brother was standing. "I thought we were all going to carry this stuff down from the Wheeler’s kitchen.

Mart waved his hand and pretended to sit down regally on the bench of the picnic table. "Work? I can’t be bothered with menial labor while you’re still here, my dear brother. Why that’s all I’ll be doing at home once you abscond for college on Sunday—your work plus my own drudgery."

"Oh, I’m crying big tears for you, Mart," Brian grumbled as he turned to help Jim set down a tray heaping with hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, raw vegetables, dip, and fruit salad. Giving his brother a dirty look, Brian said, "Dan, try to keep Mart in line while Jim and I are gone, will ya? Otherwise, he may very well be dead by the time we get home for Thanksgiving."

Dan gave a mock-salute. "Aye-aye, captain. I’ll do my best."

Brian glanced affectionately at Trixie and continued to joke, "I don’t think Trixie will be able to stand Mart without me around to protect her. She might just have to rid the world of one more walking encyclopedia. Isn’t that right, Trix?"

Trixie paused in the midst of pulling on cutoff blue jeans over her bathing suit and couldn’t help but to grin at Brian. "That’s right, so you better just watch your step around me, Mart Belden. Who knows what wicked torture I might come up with for you, unless you start showing me some respect."

"I’m quivering in my swimsuit," Mart replied with a feigned yawn and reached for a carrot stick.

"Hey, Trixie," Dan looked up from where he was trying to light the charcoal grill. "We just heard the weather report on the radio in the Wheeler’s kitchen. Sounds like a big storm is heading this way for later this evening. They’ve issued a thunderstorm watch for Westchester County and several of the surrounding counties as well."

"Jeepers, I’ll be glad to see this weather break," Trixie announced as she pulled a T-shirt over her head. She suddenly realized that Jim had been looking rather intently at her while she dressed. "What’s the matter, Mr. Co-president?" she asked with a glint in her eye. "You seem awfully quiet today—for you anyway. What worries could possibly be rambling around in that red head of yours?"

Jim made a half-hearted grab for Trixie as she walked past him on her way to the open cooler. "Maybe I’m just wondering how you’re ever going to survive without me around here to save your pretty little neck," he replied only half-jokingly.

The momentary playfulness that had come over Trixie quickly dissipated. "Oh, I’m sure I’ll manage somehow," she answered quietly. She opened a can of pop, took a long swallow and seemed to drift off into her own thoughts.

Honey and Diana splashed up onto shore and raced over to the others. "Food!" Diana shouted as she grabbed a piece of juicy apple. "I thought I was going to perish from starvation."

"Aagh! She’s starting to sound more and more like Mart," Dan cringed as he flailed a barbecue utensil in the air. "Not only is she talking goofy, but she’s gained his appetite too."

Everybody laughed, since Mart’s insatiable love of food was well known among the club members.

Mart looked with unabashed adoration at Diana, whom he had officially made his girlfriend earlier in the summer. "Don’t listen to these morons, angel face," he warned. "They are just jealous of our propensity—and might I add awesome ability—to use phrases of more than one syllable."

"Well, one thing is for certain," Honey, who was ever the peacemaker, broke in before more barbs could be tossed. Accepting the towel that Brian handed to her with a grateful smile, she continued, "I think we’d all better eat now while the eating’s good. Isn’t that thunder I hear?"

Sure enough a low rumble could be heard off in the distance. The Bob-Whites quickly grilled the hamburgers and hot dogs and sat down at the picnic table to eat. As they filled up on all of the great food the Wheeler’s cook had prepared, including a delicious raspberry upside- down cake, the talk naturally turned to some of their past adventures. One story led to another and soon everyone was shouting out memories and laughing at all of the good times they had experienced as a club—everyone that is except for Trixie. She kept looking down at her food, pushing it from one side of the plate to the other.

Jim, who was seated next to her on the bench, nudged her with his elbow. "What gives, Trix?" he whispered quietly in her ear. "You act like you’ve lost your best friend."

Trixie immediately jumped up from the table. "Don’t be silly," she brushed off Jim’s concern with a weak attempt at a smile. "I’m just thinking about all of the work that’s waiting for me when I start school next week. Um…I mean, I heard that sophomore geometry is wickedly hard, and, gosh, I won’t have my two best tutors around to help me now, will I? And besides, there’s so much to do before we even go back to school—what with the horses to exercise, canning to finish up, housework—"

Trixie paused and realized that she was rambling. Worse yet, the conversations around her and Jim had all ceased, and everyone was staring openly at the two of them. Pasting a bright smile on her face, she quickly turned and dumped her dishes on the empty food platter. "Well, I think I’m going to take a quick walk to try and work off all this food. I’ll be back in a little bit." Before anyone could object, she hastily headed off along the paths that led down to Crabapple Farm and then up to Mr. Maypenny’s cabin in the woods.

"What’s she talking about?" Mart was so dazed that he forgot to use his expansive vocabulary. "She hardly touched her food."

"I’m telling you she’s been acting strangely all week," Honey looked concerned. "I’ve asked her repeatedly what’s wrong, but she keeps brushing me off."

"Oh, it’s probably just as she said," Diana remarked with a slight frown. "I know I’m certainly not looking forward to starting school again next week."

"Or maybe she’s more concerned about somebody else starting school," Brian added thoughtfully, jerking his head meaningfully toward Jim.

"Well, I don’t like the thought of her wandering around in the woods alone like that," Jim declared and stood to follow her.

"Leave her be," Brian suggested. "She’s probably just going to run out and see Mr. Maypenny for a minute. You know how much she likes him. I’ll drive out later and pick her up in my jalopy."

"Mr. Maypenny isn’t home," Dan spoke up quietly. "He’s out of town for the weekend. I left the place locked up, because I’m staying with Uncle Bill tonight." Dan’s uncle, Bill Regan, was the Wheeler’s groom and a good friend to all of the Bob-Whites.

"That settles it," Jim announced grimly. "I’m going to follow her from a safe-distance and make sure she gets back okay. I don’t like the looks of this weather. See how the wind has picked up already? You guys go ahead and clean everything up. I’ll bring Trixie back to the Manor House as soon as I can." Jim headed off down the same path that Trixie had taken, while the others began clearing off the picnic table.

*     *     *

Once Jim entered the woods, it didn’t take long for him to spot Trixie walking swiftly along the trail that wound its way up a hill toward Mr. Maypenny’s. He held back in order to not disturb her, but Jim’s heart dropped to his stomach when he realized that Trixie was brushing her hands across her eyes in an agitated manner. Why, she’s crying! He said to himself in wonder. Something has got to be seriously wrong for Trixie to cry. He thought back over the past week to see if he could remember a specific incident or conversation that might have inadvertently hurt her, but nothing came to mind.

The wind was really whipping now, and it made eerie sounds as it swept through the trees. Jim could see that daylight was rapidly fading due to the clouds that were rolling into the area, but Trixie didn’t even notice as she stumbled over an exposed tree root and struggled to catch her balance. Jim had just opened his mouth to call out for her to wait for him, when suddenly a tremendous clap of thunder broke practically above the section of woods in which they were walking.

The thunder jarred Trixie back to full awareness. She turned around to go back to the Manor House, and jumped when she saw Jim standing about 500 yard in front of her. "Yikes!" she cried out and threw a hand dramatically across her chest. "You just scared the curl right out of my hair," she laughed uneasily, but then frowned when she realized that Jim had been following her. "What are you doing here?" she demanded hotly. The wind practically carried her voice away. "Exactly why did you feel the need to follow me?"

Jim hurried over to where Trixie was standing with her hands on her hips. "I got nervous when you left," he admitted self-consciously. "I could see it was getting ready to storm, and I didn’t want you out here alone."

Trixie’s blue eyes narrowed. "Jim Frayne, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself in these woods—just as well as you and the rest of the male Bob-Whites. I know you seem to feel obligated to be my personal knight in shining armor every time I turn around, but you might as well just drop that duty right now!" She took a breath in order to yell some more, but then stopped and, almost as an afterthought, added softly, "I don’t know why I’m yelling. You won’t be around to do it from now on anyway."

"Well, I’m not going to fight with you about this right now. Let’s hurry back before everyone else gets worried too." Jim reached for her hand and felt Trixie flinch slightly as another crack of thunder boomed across the sky.

At that moment the sky chose to open up with a torrent, and even though the woods were thick, it wasn’t enough to prevent the rain from pelting the young couple as they stood there and contemplated which way to turn. Trixie started to pull Jim back toward the Manor House. "Come on let’s run for it!"

"No!" Jim shouted above the wind. "We need to get under cover now. We must be under some type of thunderstorm warning. We’re closer to Maypenny’s. Let’s try there. Move!"

The rain was quickly making a mess of the bridle path, and Jim and Trixie found themselves slipping more than once as they made their way up the hill. Above them the thunder and lightening were getting more and more pronounced, and they could barely see through the sheets of wind and rain that came down around them.

When they reached Mr. Maypenny’s compound, Trixie immediately raced for the front door of his house. "It’s locked!" she shouted after pounding on the wood and trying to open the handle.

"I know, Dan said Mr. Maypenny is gone for the weekend." Jim hastily circled the house and tried to find an open window. "No luck," he panted, sweeping a lock of red hair out of his eyes. His eyes scanned the compound and eagerly rested upon Mr. Maypenny’s old barn. "Let’s try the barn!"

The pair raced through the mud to the barn, and Jim gave a brief shout of triumph, as he was able to slide the huge door open. "Hurry!" he urged Trixie through the door. Inside the barn it was amazingly quiet, except for the wild pounding of the rain on the roof. It even managed to somewhat lesson the sound of thunder. Trixie looked over her shoulder and opened her mouth to say something to Jim, but took one look at him and started to laugh uncontrollably instead. "You look like a drowned rooster!" she gasped between fits of giggles.

Jim looked annoyed. "Yeah, well you’re no beauty queen yourself, right now!" He retorted.

Trixie put an arm across her stomach to keep from laughing again. "You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually getting cold. I swear, as hot as it’s been, I never thought that would be possible again."

Jim edged his way over to the circuit breaker and tried the lights to the barn. "Shoot, the electricity must be out. I can’t see a thing." He felt his way around the building until he came across a couple of old saddle blankets of Spartan’s, the horse that Dan used to patrol the Wheeler’s game preserve. "There’s really no place to sit down here," Jim motioned around them. "We might as well try the loft. It looks as though this storm has no intention of letting up anytime soon."

"I’m sorry, Jim," Trixie bit her lip, her earlier irritation at having been followed already forgotten. "If I had been paying closer attention, I could have turned around and gotten back before the storm hit. I don’t want everyone to be worried about us."

"Don’t sweat it. They know I went after you, so they’ll assume we’re together. Come on, let’s try the loft." He urged her toward the stairs.

Up in the loft, Jim and Trixie found there was plenty of hay and that it was quite a bit warmer up there. They both dropped down in the middle of a particularly large pile. Trixie used one of Spartan’s blankets to wipe off the worst of the rain and handed it to Jim. When they had both done the best they could, she tossed the other dry blanket across their legs.

"Now what to we do?" she wondered aloud.

"We wait the storm out. Hopefully it’ll let up here in another half-hour or so." Jim glanced down and couldn’t help but notice that despite her bedraggled appearance, Trixie looked absolutely beautiful to him. Without thinking, he reached out to tug on one of her sandy curls, "I suppose while we wait, you could tell me what it is exactly that has you so torn up inside." He held up his hand when Trixie started to object. "And don’t tell me there isn’t anything, because I saw you crying back there on the bridle path."

Trixie looked as though she was about to deny the charge, but then dropped her shoulders. "It’s really nothing, Jim," she dismissed him with a half-hearted attempt at a smile. "I’m just a little sad about school starting next week. The Bob-Whites have had such a great summer, and well—it’s going to seem strange without you and Brian around anymore."

Jim looked around thoughtfully. So Brian was right! This does have something to do with me leaving. Oh, Trix, if you only knew…He was brought back to the present, when Trixie continued, "It’s just that I get kind of scared when I think about a future without all the Bob-Whites together. It seems like everything is changing so fast, and, well, I’m not sure I’m quite ready for them to change."

Trixie paused and looked down at her wet tennis shoes. "I know this must be hard for you to understand, Jim," she mumbled. "You’re never scared."

Jim whipped his head around to look at her face. "What makes you think I don’t get scared?" he asked with a quizzical look on his face.

"Oh come on, Jim!" Trixie rolled her eyes. "Why would you get scared when you’ve got everything in the world going for you—good looks, money, brains, talent. You’re kind to everyone. You follow the rules. You’re honorable—heck, even your dreams are honorable."

"Exactly what is that supposed to mean?" Jim had the impression that he was being insulted somehow, and the color on his face began to rise in response.

"I mean look at what you want to do for a living. You’re building a school for orphan boys. How much more honorable can you get?" Trixie hastily added, "Don’t get me wrong. I think your idea for the school is absolutely the best. It’s just not many people who are as selfless as you are sometimes."

"No offense, Trixie, but that’s just plain stupid," Jim made an impatient gesture. I get plenty scared—everybody does. In fact, I’m pretty much scared to death right this minute." Jim suddenly looked away, and his face got even redder.

Trixie glanced outside the small window of the loft at the wind and rain, which continued to pour down in sheets. Another clap of thunder burst over the barn, and she shivered without thinking. "What aren’t you telling me?" she asked immediately. "Is it the weather? Is it a lot worse than you’ve been saying? What’s going on—?!" she broke off when Jim suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders.

"This has nothing to do with the weather," his voice rose slightly. "Forget the weather, will you? This about you and me!"

The drop that Trixie’s jaw took was almost comical. "You and me?" she repeated weakly. Instinctively, she tried to scoot away, but Jim’s grip on her shoulders remained firm.

"Yes, you and me," he repeated emphatically. He opened his mouth to yell at her in frustration, but then he suddenly stopped. Taking Trixie’s hand, he clasped it firmly between his own two hands. "Listen to me, Trix," he said gently. "I’ve got plenty of things to be scared about. Do you realize that I leave for college the day after tomorrow?"

Trixie dropped her gaze again. "Of course I know that Jim," she answered. "It’s going to be such an exciting time for you and Brian—new experiences, parties…new friends." Trixie found herself choking over those last words. "Y-you know I-I’m really happy for you."

"Well, I’m not sure if I am." Jim’s confession hung in the air. "Trixie, I just turned seventeen last month. How is it possible that I could be heading off to college? I keep wondering if I’m going to be mature enough to handle the pressures?" Still holding her hand, he flopped back against a hay bale. "I’ve barely gotten used to having a family again—a real home and good friends, and now I’m supposed to pick up and start all over yet again."

"You’ll have Brian," Trixie reminded him. "And of course you’re mature enough to handle it, silly. You both are. It won’t be long, and you’ll both be knee-deep in activities and fun."

Jim blew out a long breath of air and, with one hand, lightly touched the skin around the silver identification bracelet on Trixie’s wrist. He saw his own name staring up at him from the trinket he had purchased for her two years ago. At the time he had told Trixie that she was his "special girl", but now he wondered what exactly that meant. They had never really spoken of their feelings, and now Jim was regretting that mistake more than ever.

How should I go about this? Jim wondered nervously. The last thing I want to do is scare her. What if she doesn’t feel the same way that I do? "Trixie—back to the part about you and me. There is something I have to tell you before I leave for college. It’s the biggest reason why I’m scared to leave." Jim took another deep breath and touched the bracelet again. "When I gave you this bracelet out in Iowa, I told you that you were my special girl—"

"Jim, you don’t need to say another word," Trixie hastily interrupted and tried hard to put a smile on her face as she gently tugged her hand away. "I know that everything is different now that you’re going away. I mean soon you’ll be surrounded by tons of girls—pretty girls that are your age and who are as mature as you are. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to hold you to some silly, childhood friendship—special though it was."

Silly, childhood friendship! Is that what she thinks of me? Jim’s flushed face grew even darker. He thought to himself, You are a fool to pursue this, Frayne. In another minute, she’s going to laugh in your face. Jim shook his head to clear his thoughts, and repeated with more force than he felt, "When I gave you this bracelet, I told you that you were my special girl." He held up a hand to stop another interruption by Trixie. "Let me finish! Since then neither one of us has really taken the time to acknowledge what that really means to either of us. We’ve been close, but not necessarily in a way most would consider normal for a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship."

Now Trixie was blushing. "Jim, you really don’t have to do this. I understand—"

"Do you, Trix?" Jim interrupted with a sigh. "Do you understand that the biggest reason why I’m scared to leave on Sunday is because I’m in love with you? And I’m afraid that when I leave, some other guy is going to snatch you up before I ever get the courage to do something about how I feel."

"What!" Trixie’s voice was nothing more than a squeak. "What did you just say?"

Jim ran a nervous hand through his hair. "You heard me the first time, but I’ll say it again. I love you Trixie Belden—" He practically glared at her, "and not in some "silly, childhood friendship" way either. I think I’ve loved you since that first day, two years ago, when you practically tripped over me lying on the mattress at Ten Acres."

"I just don’t understand," Trixie finally recovered the use of her voice. "Why are you telling me this now? Don’t misunderstand me. That’s the most wonderful thing anybody has ever told me." She blushed, "And believe me, Jim, I—I love you too, but why are you telling me this when you’re about to head out of town?"

Jim looked shyly into Trixie’s eyes and confessed. "I just told you why, because my greatest fear is that I’m going to leave, and you’re going to forget all about me."

"Oh, Jim," Trixie breathed. "How can you possibly think such a thing! Don’t you know that would be impossible? Your friendship—and now your love—mean everything to me. Why, I can’t imagine my life without you. That’s why I’ve been so miserable this past week. I’ve been trying to force myself to realize that you are truly leaving, but every time I think about it, I feel practically sick."

"Do you really feel the same way about me?" Jim asked. "I’ve been waiting and waiting for a sign these past two years. I’ve kept telling myself that you’re too young—that I shouldn’t pressure you into any kind of commitment. Heck, you’re not even old enough to date, and here I am already thinking about spending the rest of my life with you!"

Trixie’s cheeks turned even pinker, but she looked Jim squarely in the eye and responded, "I may be young, but I’m not incapable of knowing how I feel. It’s just that I don’t want to deny you the chance to date all those girls that are waiting for you at college. This "being in love thing" sounds terrific now, but you’re going to feel pretty darn silly when you aren’t entering into all the fun at school, just because you’ve got a high school girlfriend waiting at home."

Jim shook his head, "What about you, Trix? As soon as I’m gone, there’s going to be a line of guys circling around you like a bunch of sharks. What’s to say you’re not going to want to be with them?"

Trixie hooted with laughter, "It’s true—love must be blind! Name me one boy, other than you, that’s ever given me the time of day?"

"What about Dan?" Jim asked quietly.

"Dan…Danny Mangan!" Trixie couldn’t help but laugh again. "Dan’s great, but trust me, Jim, neither one of us has an eye out for the other."

"I wouldn’t be so sure of that," Jim answered, the doubt apparent in his green eyes. "But getting back to what you said about me, I’m going to be so busy trying to keep up with my course load that there’s no way I’m going to want or have time to be playing the field as you’ve envisioned it." He paused thoughtfully and then continued, "I’ll make you a deal. Let’s try things my way. Say you’ll be my girl, Trix. Let me leave on Sunday knowing that we have more than just a good friendship between us. If by the time Brian and I come home for Thanksgiving, either one of us has second thoughts, we’ll go back to being friends. Deal?"

"Thanksgiving," Trixie replied dully. "How are we supposed to have a relationship if we don’t even see one another? No, Jim, I think it’s best if you’re free to do as you please."

"Good grief, haven’t you heard of e-mail? What about good old Ma Bell? And who knows, maybe Brian and I will make it back for a long weekend sometime this fall." Jim practically tripped over the words in his haste to convince Trixie of his sincerity.

Trixie sat without speaking for a long time. Here’s the chance you’ve been waiting for, you dummy! The ever-present voice inside her chided her indecision.

Trixie, you’re killing me! Just hurry up and say yes…Jim thought anxiously.

Finally, Trixie turned to him. "Do you really think this will work, Jim. Can I trust my heart to you?"

Jim put his arm around Trixie and pulled her into his embrace. Leaning over, he whispered in her ear, "Schoolgirl Shamus, I’d do anything for your love. Yes, you can trust me with your heart."

Suddenly Trixie’s whole face blazed with a brilliant smile. "In that case, can we make it official?" she asked wriggling her eyebrows up and down.

"Yes, it’s official," Jim promised. With love in his eyes, he pulled Trixie closer and brought his lips down to hers for their first kiss.

*     *     *

Honk! Honk!

Jim and Trixie both jumped as they heard the horn to Brian’s jalopy blaring out in the clearing around Mr. Maypenny’s house. They could also hear the other Bob-Whites out there shouting, "Jim! Trixie!"

Trixie smiled as she started to stand up. She and Jim had been so engrossed in each other the past few minutes that neither had noticed that the storm had passed. "I guess our chariot awaits." Trixie giggled.

Jim helped her stand and brushed the hay off of her legs. "Before we go, Trix, there’s just one more thing. How do you want to handle this with the others? I mean, I don’t care anymore who knows how I feel about you, but maybe you’d prefer to keep this quiet for now."

Trixie brushed her palm across the curve of Jim’s jaw. "Jim Frayne, you’ve just made me the happiest girl in the world today. Of course I want the whole world to know how great I feel!"

Jim grinned back. "That sounds good to me, my sweet new girlfriend." He glanced at his watch. "You know, I can hardly believe it, but it’s only been about an hour since we left the boathouse. That storm was powerful, but it sure didn’t last long."

Girlfriend! A delicious shiver went through Trixie’s sturdy frame as she began the descent down the ladder. She wasn’t even listening to Jim anymore. That sounds soooo good…

When the two finally left the barn, the rest of the Bob-Whites quickly gathered around them and all began talking at once: "Thank goodness you’re both okay," Brian slapped a hand across his best friend’s back.

"I was hoping you’d head for the barn," Dan said with a relieved look on his face. "I kept kicking myself back at the Manor House when I realized that I had locked the house."

"Oh Trixie, Diana and I were so worried about you," Honey’s features were pinched with concern. "As soon as the rain let up, we raced over to Crabapple Farm to get Brian’s jalopy. We knew it would be the only thing that could get through this mud. Are you sure you’re okay?"

With an affectionate glance at Jim, Trixie turned to her best friend and smiled. "I’m fine, Honey. Better than you can possibly imagine!" Grabbing a hold of Jim’s hand, she pulled him toward the car. "Come along, boyfriend dear, let’s get back to the Manor House where we can put on some dry clothes."

Five pairs of eyebrows went up in shock. Five voices shouted in chorus, "Boyfriend!"

"Just what exactly went on in that barn?" Brian’s eyes narrowed dangerously as he looked at Jim.

"Yes, what did happen, Trixie?" Honey echoed with a ghost of a smile on her face.

Trixie’s bright blue eyes sparkled as she looked at her family and friends, "We rode out the storm, Honey," she answered truthfully. She reached up and gave Jim a kiss on the cheek. "And from now on, I think it’s going to be smooth sailing!"

The End

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