This story takes place the same weekend as The Straight Arrow, and one week after A Valentine's Day to Remember.

Chapter One

And so, it is imperative that the teacher find a way to work with each student, beginning at that student’s current level of proficiency. Only after the student’s level of proficiency has been determined is it possible to move forward and build on knowledge base. Although this will certainly involve challenges in the classroom setting, it is essential for the continued systematic and successful learning process.

Jim Frayne hit the “save” button and heaved a heavy sigh of relief. Finished! The paper that had been hanging over his head for the last two weeks was complete. His lips quirked in a satisfied grin as he thought about the topic, and he felt a rush of excitement as he pictured himself putting into practice the principles he had outlined in his paper. The very idea of spending time with students, exploring their strengths and weaknesses, and working with them to build on those strengths and reduce the weaknesses was exhilarating. And there was no need to limit it to academic learning! Jim closed his eyes, lost in a fantasy about opening his own school for boys. The idea of working with the youths to build their emotional, mental, and social skills was almost more exciting than working with their academic skills. With time and patience, he would be able to help those children. Give them the means to a happy and productive future. Give them hope and the skills to make their dreams come true.


The quiet knock on the door interrupted his reverie. He blinked, and the monitor in front of him came back into focus.

“Jim, shouldn’t you be getting ready? You’re supposed to pick up Trixie in half an hour!”

Jim’s eyes widened at his sister’s words. Half an hour? Where had the afternoon gone? A quick glance at the clock in the lower corner of the computer monitor verified his sister’s claim.

“Thanks, Honey,” he called. Shaking his head at the uncharacteristic way he had lost track of time, he quickly saved his document and shut down the computer. There were only two things that had the power to cause him to lose all track of time. One was thinking about his dream of starting a school for troubled boys. The second was a feisty girl who lived just down the hollow, who he just happened to have a kind of, almost date with this evening. And right now, there was absolutely no contest between the two. With a happy whistle, Jim hurried into the shower, all thoughts of schools, papers, and troubled youths put on hold for another day.


“So, what will it be?” Jim asked, staring up at the leader board displaying the movies showing at the Cameo. “Do you want to go for the double feature and have a really late supper, or just one movie?”

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Trixie worry her bottom lip as she contemplated her choices. “Well, I’m certainly not watching a chick flick,” she told him, blue eyes sparkling. “So no double feature tonight. Unless you really wanted to see Meryl Streep?”

Jim raised a ginger brow.

“Never mind,” Trixie giggled. “How about the action movie?”

“Sounds good,” Jim agreed. “So, not in the mood for a chick flick?” he asked as he took her arm and led her out of the theatre.

“If I never see a chick flick again, it will be too soon,” she told him with a theatrical groan.

“Oh?” Jim questioned indulgently.

“It’s four against two on video nights,” Trixie explained. “Mart and Brian go along with whatever Honey and Di choose.” She shivered and shoved her hands into her pockets to protect them from the cold February breeze.

“And it’s totally not fair!” Trixie continued as Jim removed his red scarf and settled it on her shoulders. “It’s not as if they even really watch the movies. Dan and I are the only ones paying attention.”

“Why are you and Dan the only ones watching the movie?” Jim asked, his tone deceptively mild.

Trixie rolled her eyes. “You know how it is.”

Jim shook his head. “No, Trixie, I’m not there. Tell me how it is.”

A faint flush crept up her face, despite the cold. “Uh, well…”

“Do I need to have a talk with Brian?” Jim asked, his tone serious.

“No, no, nothing like that,” Trixie assured him. “Well, not nothing. But only kind of. A little bit.”

Jim pressed a finger to his temple.

“If anything were happening that shouldn’t, Dan would have already said something to Brian. And Mart. Especially Mart,” she muttered. “Don’t worry, Big Brother. They just cuddle and coo at each other,” she assured him with a shudder.

“Coo?” Jim asked, grasping Trixie’s elbow as they encountered a slippery patch on the sidewalk.

“Yes, coo,” Trixie replied. “It’s sickening. You should be glad you’re a million miles away and don’t have to listen to it.” Trixie clapped a hand over her mouth. “That’s not what I meant!” she exclaimed in a rush. “I mean, you should be glad you don’t have to see it, but you shouldn’t be glad that you’re a million miles away. I mean, you should be happy at school, not miserable, but…”

Jim laughed. “Exactly how much time have you been spending with my sister?” he asked, pausing to tap her on her nose. “I’m going to have to look into that ‘Miss Nonsense of America’ badge for you.”

Trixie wrinkled her nose. “Very funny, mister. Think about this. You knew exactly what I meant. Doesn’t that make you even more pathetic than me?”

Jim held his sides as he laughed. “Maybe it’s practice for when I’m a teacher,” he offered. “Probably UVA even offers a minor in Nonsensical Speech. I’m a shoe-in!”

“Yeah, and Mart can help you earn the Big Words Nobody Can Spell or Use credit. Or is it a merit badge?” Trixie gibed. “Us Beldens are all about being helpful.”

Jim tugged a curl as he held open the door to Wimpy’s diner. “Yeah,” he agreed. “That’s probably why I like you all so much.” He smiled at the rosy flush his words caused.


With a broad yawn, Jim tossed a text book on his bed and flopped down beside it. As exhilarating as an evening with Trixie always proved to be, he was now exhausted. The dinner, the action movie, and the non-stop chattering had been perfectly perfect. He smiled to himself as he reluctantly picked up the heavy tome and arranged a pillow against the headboard. Only three chapters. Don’t blow your schedule now, he told himself sternly.

He concentrated diligently for three paragraphs before his mind drifted back to his date. No! Not a date. Trixie Belden is off limits, at least for the next few years, he reminded himself sternly. Even though her hand had fit perfectly in his. And even though she had looked at him with perfect trust and admiration. And even though he couldn’t imagine any kind of a life without her in it as his partner. No. Trixie didn’t deserve to be tied down to an over-achieving long-distance college student with a troubled past.

She deserved better.

But what would be better? He asked himself. For her to be alone for the next few years, ignorant of his feelings? For her to stop waiting for him and move on with someone else? Would that be better?

Just read the stupid book! he told himself, cursing his unproductive meanderings. He forced his eyes back to the book in his hands. The “gifted” student requires an even greater level of attention of planning on the part of the teacher. It is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that the student’s talents are encouraged and given the opportunity to grow.

Jim grinned, thinking of Sleepyside Junior/Senior High. Maybe Trixie would be a better student if they offered a class in mystery solving? As long as it didn’t involve math…

Wherever possible, the teacher should work in conjunction with the student’s parents to ensure consistent reinforcement of ideas and expectations.

Jim surprised himself with the vehemence of his snort. Had this author actually done any teaching? Wherever possible. How many parents took active interest in their children’s academic careers? When living with Jonesy, he had been lucky to have permission granted to work on assignments. Even at the Manor House, neither Matthew nor Madeleine Wheeler had expressed any interest in his studies beyond making sure that he didn’t spend all his time buried in text books. But you’re different, Jim reminded himself. Most students aren’t nearly as self-motivated as you are. He glanced down at the extra reading he was forcing himself to do. Point proven.

But what about the average student? Try as he might, he could not recall the Wheelers, Lynches, or Beldens expressing any interest in academics other than to make sure that their children were completing assignments and trying their best. Maybe that was enough? And, really, there were other factors much more important than academics. Like teaching children to grow into responsible adults. Surely all three sets of parents had succeeded there.

And really, how much was the responsibility of the parent or teacher, and how much was the responsibility of the student? Jim himself had excelled under three different parenting techniques. And what about students like Ben Riker? The best private schools and tutors in the world had been unsuccessful in motivating him to learn, even though he was highly intelligent. Did sole responsibility lie with the student, then?

And why had Trixie been so insistent on making sure that Dan attended Bobby’s ice carnival?

Running a hand roughly through his crisp red hair in frustration at his lack of attention, Jim gave up. The important thing was that he was the one who had taken Trixie out for a date after the ice carnival. Of course, Dan took her to the movies last weekend. On Valentine’s Day. Because Jim had stayed at UVA to study. Not that Trixie had feelings for Dan. Trixie wasn’t very good at hiding what she was feeling, and surely he would have noticed if she were falling for another member of the Bob-Whites. Right?

With a groan, he tossed aside the book and opted for a shower. Probably it was best not to spend quite so much time thinking about Trixie and his relationship with her. Or lack of a relationship. Twenty minutes and a cold shower later, Jim settled back on the bed and slid the bookmark out of the text book.

Every student has a gift. It is the teacher’s responsibility, duty, and privilege to help uncover the gift and utilize it to its full potential.

Jim blinked his eyes, even as they grew heavy. Every student has a gift? Every student? It was a broad claim, but an interesting one. Thinking back to some of his classmates in high school, he had to wonder if it was accurate, though. But what if the gift wasn’t restricted to academics? If he took the statement to mean that every person had a special ability in some area of life, perhaps the statement wasn’t so ludicrous. But did these giftings necessarily have an impact on the average classroom? If a student’s gift was making others feel welcome, how did that affect the classroom? Was it still the teacher’s responsibility to nurture this gift? Or was it the primary responsibility of the parent? Or student?

And why was it so damn frustrating to think about all the movies that Trixie watched with the Bob-Whites, kept company by Dan?

Read the stupid book, Frayne!

Once a student’s gift has been determined, a path will become clear.

Jim frowned. Was this book seriously on the recommended reading list? A path would become clear? It seemed a little… weird. Thought provoking, but weird. He tucked the bookmark back in place and flipped it closed to check the title and author.

Gifted, by Dr. Charles X.

With a shake of his head, Jim set the book on his bedside table and changed the alarm setting to a half hour earlier, knowing that the same three chapters would be waiting for him when he woke. He closed his eyes, the words of the unusual book still running through his mind even as he recalled the feel of his arm around Trixie’s shoulder.


“Mr. Frayne! Mr. Frayne! I finished the assignment! Can I still hand it in?”

Jim jerked to full wakefulness, realizing that he must have fallen asleep while reading at his desk. Again.

“Mr. Frayne! Can I still get full credit, even though it’s an hour late?”

Jim opened his mouth to reply, but was stopped by the rich chuckle of a man only a few feet away.

“That depends, Neil,” he heard the voice say. “I think you’ll owe us an hour in the lab. Does that sound fair?”

Neil nodded vigorously, his messy blond hair bouncing. “Sure! Thank you, Mr. Frayne.” The young boy handed Jim the paper before high-tailing it out of the room.

“Stay up late reading again last night?” the same voice asked, and Jim detected more than a hint of amusement. “Or maybe you were dreaming about a certain little blonde spit-fire?”

Jim finally looked to the side, and saw a mirror-image of himself, or, at least, a mirror of what he would look like in another twenty-five years. “Dad.”

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Author's Notes

I figured, in the interest of keeping Jim happy, that it was definitely time to give him his own dream sequence story. He's been waiting, more or less patiently, ever since The Straight Arrow. And by waiting patiently, I mean stalking around his room and muttering things like, "A pirate? Seriously? Why on earth—it makes no sense! I'll show Trixie who the straight arrow really is." Probably Dan's self-satisfied smirk didn't help the situation much, either... *wink* In any case, I'm hopeful that Jim will enjoy this dream. *grin*

Thank you to Dianafan for editing and coming up with these amazing graphics. Most of the time, I at least have an inkling of what I want the page to look like. This time, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Did that stop Mary? Of course not! *grin* Thank you for all your hard work, my friend. *hugs*

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. Story copyright by Ryl, January 2012. Graphics copyright 2012 by Mary N.

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