Diana Lynch burrowed deeper under her thick down comforter, languorously stretching her arms and legs while still cocooned in the warmth of her bed. A dreamy smile graced her face as she recalled that not only was it still Christmas vacation, it was also her birthday! Her sixteenth birthday, to be exact. And, since she finally had mustered the courage to inform the Bob Whites that they were mistaken in their belief that she had a summer birthday, she could even depend on a Bob White celebration!

She yawned, wincing at the sudden pain in her throat. With a frown, she sat up too quickly and found herself fighting a wave of dizziness. Three sneezes and five tissues later, Diana came to the reluctant realization that she was sick, miserably sick. With a groan, she collapsed back onto her lilac comforter.

After what felt like only a few moments later, a knock on the door penetrated her consciousness. “Go away,” she mumbled, but the words were muffled in her pillow.

“Miss Diana.”

Diana raised a hand to her throbbing temple. “What is it, Harrison?”

“I'm sorry to disturb you, Miss Diana. Your mother is on the telephone.”

Hastily straightening her oversized tailored night shirt, Diana opened her door and accepted the cordless phone in Harrison's proffered hand.

“Hello, Mummy!”

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear Diana, happy birthday to you!” Ed and Elaine Lynch's hearty singing voices carried cleanly across the miles.

Diana grinned in delight. “Mummy, Daddy, thank you! Are you on your way home? When will you be here?”

There was a slight pause. “Diana, are you feeling quite well? Your voice sounds a little scratchy.”

Diana shook her head in disbelief. “How do you do that?”

Elaine laughed. “Eyes in the back of my head?” she suggested.

“It's just a cold,” Diana assured her parents, delicately wiping her nose with a tissue. “It certainly won't keep me from enjoying my special birthday supper!”

There was a second silence.

“Diana, sweetheart...”

Ed's voice was too tender, too serious. Diana's heart sank.

“You know we'd come home if we could, sweetheart.”

Diana's eyes began to drip in concert with her nose.

“We're snowed in.” Elaine sounded close to tears herself. “The airport is closed, and the streets are blocked.”

“We'll be home as soon as we possibly can, Diana, maybe even tonight. We just don't know for sure,” Ed concluded.

“It's okay,” Diana said, knowing that only an emergency could keep her parents from coming home. “We'll celebrate whenever you get home.”

“Get some rest, and drink plenty of fluids,” her mother advised.

“Yes, Mummy. We'll all see you soon, I hope!”

When the call was finished, Diana sank back into her luxurious bed, but a sinus headache made it impossible to sleep. After throwing on a thick eggplant-coloured robe and running a brush through her sleep-tousled hair, Diana headed downstairs in search of hot tea. She found the kitchen in a state of happy confusion as both sets of twins and one nanny assisted the cook in preparing a mid-morning snack.

“Candy!” one of her little sisters begged, pointing to a dish of gumdrops on the counter.

“Barbie, you know you're not allowed to have candy before lunch,” Di reminded her. “How about a Christmas orange, instead?”

All four of the twins nodded enthusiastically, and Diana quickly peeled her sisters' oranges before plugging in the kettle to make herself a cup of tea. She sneezed and wiped her red nose. “Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.

The cook looked up from the carrots she was chopping in preparation for vegetable soup. “Not with that cold, you don't!” she said sternly. “You sit right there and drink your tea.” She paused. “But if you wouldn't mind keeping an eye on the children, I could really use Maureen's help, just for a few minutes.”

With the children occupied by separating, playing with, and eating the orange segments, the kitchen ran like clockwork. The children had just been sent to wash their hands when Maureen gave a sharp cry and dropped the knife she held.

“I've cut myself,” she said in disbelief. “Quite badly.”

Both the cook and Diana rushed to the nanny's side and found that she had a deep cut on one finger, and was bleeding profusely. While the cook administered first aid, Diana ran to find Harrison. Within minutes, Harrison had whisked Maureen away to the emergency room at Sleepyside Hospital.

Diana stared blankly as both sets of twins trooped back to the kitchen from washing their hands. “Where's Miss Maureen?” they demanded to know. “We were going to build snowmen before lunch.”

Diana blew her nose and took a sip of cold tea. “Miss Maureen had a small accident and had to go to the hospital,” she explained, not wanting to scare her siblings, but not wanting to lie to them, either. “Maybe you could build snowmen another day,” she suggested, her body aching at the very thought of going out in the cold. She coughed.

“But Di-Di,” her sisters wailed, “it's an emergency! We have to go back to school in a few days, and our snowman family isn't finished!”

Larry and Terry, equally eager to be outside in the snow, added their protests. Diana's sinus headache doubled. Before she could calm the twins, the phone rang. “Thank goodness,” Diana breathed, and hastened to answer it in lieu of the absent Harrison.

“Happy Birthday, Di!”

“Mart!” Diana squealed, flipping her raven hair over her shoulder and promptly forgetting about her cold, her siblings, and her absent parents.

“How's the birthday girl?” Mart continued. “Are you currently engaged in a celebration of your natal day?”

“No,” Diana admitted. She hurriedly held the phone away from her as she sneezed into a tissue. “Mummy and Daddy have been delayed by a storm,” she lamented.

“Then come down to the Farm! Moms would be happy to have you.”

“I can't. The twins' nanny cut herself this morning, and Harrison took her to the hospital. I have to stay here and look after the twins.”

“Why not bring them with you? I'll get the Bob White station wagon, pick you up, and bring you all back here,” Mart offered.

“Both sets of twins? I don't think so. I know Crabapple Farm has stretchy walls, but I don't think you want to have all the Bob Whites and the twins at your place. Besides, I wouldn't want everyone to get this awful cold.” She sniffed softly.

Mart was silent for a moment. “You sit tight, Di. Don't worry about a thing. I'll have reinforcements at your place by one o'clock.”

“What are you talking about? We don't need reinforcements.”

“It's your birthday, you're sick, and you need help with the twins. One o'clock,” he repeated, and hung up.

Diana sneezed violently three times, then went to find the twins. She found them in the entertainment room, bickering over what video to watch.

“You know the rules—only one video a day. Let's find something else to do.”

With the girls colouring and the boys reading comic books, Diana sank into an easy chair and dozed fitfully. She woke fully only when a maid came to announce that lunch was served.

The five Lynch children enjoyed a hearty lunch of vegetable soup accompanied by home-made brown bread. The hot broth soothed Diana's throat, and by the time the twins had finished eating and washing up, she was feeling much better.

At promptly one o'clock the doorbell rang, and Diana opened the front door to find Mart, Trixie, and Honey.

“I come with reinforcements,” Mart proclaimed, but was interrupted by Diana's spasm of coughing as she breathed in the cold winter air.

“Diana! You look awful!” Trixie said frankly.

Too late, Diana realized that she was still in pyjamas and a robe, and hadn't showered. Her face flamed as she continued to cough and motioned for her guests to enter.

“What Trixie means is that it sounds like you have a terrible cold,” said Honey sympathetically. “Mart and Trixie will take the twins outside to play, and I'll help you get back into bed. A good long rest will do you a world of good.”

Her protests covered by a persistent cough, Diana stayed downstairs only long enough to ensure that Mart and Trixie knew where to find the twins' winter clothes. By the time she reached the top of the wide and winding staircase, she was exhausted.

“The first thing you need is a good, hot shower,” Honey stated firmly, and took her by the arm.

Twenty minutes later, Diana slipped into a fresh pair of elegant silk pyjamas. The hot water and steam had done wonders for her sinuses. With Honey comfortably settled on a couch with a book in the adjoining parlour, Diana crawled back into bed, and slept.

She was awakened several hours later by the opening and closing of doors, the scraping of chairs, and furtive whispers. She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her bleary eyes. She was shocked to find her room full to bursting with the Bob Whites and her family.

“Happy Birthday!” they all chorused.

Diana blinked her eyes.

“Mummy? Daddy? What are you doing home?”

Elaine enveloped her oldest daughter in a tight hug. “Ed kept at the airline until they put us on the first available flight. We couldn't stand to be away from you on your birthday.”

Recovering gradually from the surprise, Di tucked her hair behind her ears and sat up straighter in bed. “But what are you all doing here?” she asked, looking at the happy faces of her friends.

“We didn't know when your parents would be back, and we couldn't let you spend your birthday alone, so we decided to come to you. Did we surprise you?” Trixie asked, her blue eyes sparkling with excitement.

Diana laughed, and considered how she never dreamed she would have a birthday celebration in her pyjamas, sick with a cold in her own bed. “You could blow me over with a feather,” she replied with complete honesty.

“Good!” Trixie clapped her hands. “Are you ready for your birthday supper?”

For the first time, Diana noticed the tall stack of pizza boxes on a table.

“We couldn't remember if we were supposed to feed a fever and starve a cold, or feed a cold and starve a fever, and Brian wouldn't say one way or the other...”

“So we opted for food. Are you feeling well enough to eat?” Mart asked anxiously.

Diana barely noticed her runny nose and sore throat. “I've never felt better,” she replied, her eyes glowing with happiness at the thoughtfulness of her friends.

It didn't take long for the Lynches and Bob Whites to make short work of the pizza. To Diana's delight, when they were finished, the Cook and Maureen (with one bandaged finger) wheeled a huge birthday cake in the shape of a purple pansy into the room. Amidst oohs and ahhs, each person enjoyed a generous slice of the delicious cake.

“Thank you, all,” Diana said, when the festivities were complete. “It's been a wonderful birthday!”

One by one, the guests said good-bye and left, knowing that Diana needed more rest. Mart was the last of the lingering guests. Throwing on a robe, Diana walked with him to her bedroom door.

“Thank you, Mart,” she said shyly. “I know this was your idea.”

A red flush crept up Mart's neck and reached to the tip of his ears as Diana touched his hand. “I couldn't have done it without the rest of the Bob Whites,” he stammered. After starring into Diana's bewitching violet eyes for a long moment, he continued. “Happy sixteenth birthday, Di,” he said, squeezing her hand.

Diana's breath caught as she comprehended the meaning behind Mart's words. Over a year ago, her father had told Mart that under no circumstances would he allow Diana to date before she turned sixteen.

“I was wondering if, maybe, when you're feeling better, we could, could...”

Diana's heart did a tiny flip as she watched the normally confident and verbose young man trip over his words. “I'd be happy to go on a date with you,” she said quietly, looking up at him through lowered lashes.

Mart's face turned even redder, but he beamed with relief. He leaned towards Diana, but she backed away, placing a hand on his chest.

“I don't want to give you my germs,” she said with regret.

His confidence restored, Mart moved closer anyway. “It's a risk I'm willing to take,” he murmured, and kissed her gently.

Diana snuggled against his chest, and reflected that there were worse things than a birthday filled with emergencies.

Author's Notes

The characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used them without permission, although with great respect and affection, and I am not profiting from their appearance in this story.

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