The measure of a man is the worth of his words.

He didn't know if it was true or not, but the words wouldn't stop repeating themselves in his mind. Especially as he stared at the blank card in front of him. It was a beautiful card, or so the lady in the gift shop had told him. Something about weight. Thickness, maybe. He wasn't sure. All he knew was that even though it wasn't purple, it had reminded him of Diana. And that was more than enough reason to buy it.

He rubbed the edge of the card between his thumb and forefinger, avoiding the deliberately frayed and thinned edge. It had cost extra, he was sure. And he had no idea what the appeal was. Maybe it was like factory-ripped jeans. He didn't understand those either, and certainly couldn't fathom why anyone would pay extra money for what he could accomplish in the course of one week of chores at Crabapple Farm.

But none of this was helping him to write a message in the card. Worth of words, indeed. More like a dearth of words. A veritable bastion of blank space.

Dear Diana, he mentally composed.

While browsing in my favourite used book store, perusing the many titles available for purchase, I happened upon—

Wow. He always told his students that any writing was a triumph over a blank page, but in this case, he would have to disagree with himself. Strenuously.

Hey Di,

Saw these old, musty, out-dated books and thought of you.

Right. That was loads better.

It should not be this hard. He worked with words for a living. And this was Di! Someone who had inspired him to compose sonnets. Sonnets! A simple card should not be such an ordeal. But it wasn't a simple card. And Di was many things, but simple was not one of them.

Setting aside the evil card which continued to mock him with its blankness, he picked up the top book from a small stack and traced his finger over the cover art. Di had never been into Lucy Radcliffe books the way Trixie had been, but the moment he'd seen the books he'd known that he had to buy them. Had to buy them and give them to Diana.

He grimaced, staring at the period artwork. As a teenager, he'd devoured the Cosmo McNaught books, studying the pictures for hours. At the time, he hadn't realized that not only did the Cosmo McNaught books and the Lucy Radcliffe books share an author, they also shared an illustrator. It was obvious, now that he knew what to look for. He should have noticed it years ago, but he'd been so preoccupied, so caught up in himself and in teasing his sister that he missed what was right in front of him. In the bookshop, though, it was like a light had been flicked on and all he could see was even more connections between the sets of books. He thought it was beyond cool, but would Di agree with him? Would she laugh at him for thinking she'd be interested in the books? Or, worse yet, would she be coolly polite?

No. Even when things were most awkward after his less than stellar moment of breaking up with her, Di had continued to treat him kindly.

Even if she seemed slightly confused by the way he had backed off from his dogged pursuit of her.

Heck. He'd been confused by it, too.

No, Di would appreciate the books. Hopefully they would even mean something to her.

But even if the books didn't strike a chord somewhere in her the way they had in him, it didn't matter. He simply wanted to give them to her.

It was up to her what she did with them.

When the set of his shoulders relaxed, he knew that the time was right. Before he could over think it, he stripped the top page of a post-it note off and poised his pen over it.

Same illustrator, he scrawled, and slapped it onto the top book of the pile.

Two words. If they were a measure of his worth, it was obvious he was living below the poverty line. But somehow, he knew, they were the right words.

Author’s Notes

The Right Words is written for Jix's CWE #11 Honoring Mary (MCarey). It seems to me that there are no "right words" when we lose a member of our community. Mary, you are missed.

The Right Words is a sort of prequel to Epiphany and explores Mart's thinking behind the birthday gift he sends Diana.

Special thanks to BonnieH for editing and to MaryN (Dianafan) for all she does.

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. Copyright by Ryl, June 2015.

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