Are We There Yet?

The sun was starting to set as the white mini-van pulled out of the Manor House driveway and turned onto Glen Road.

“Wasn’t it just wonderful of your parents to loan us their mini-van to drive to Virginia to visit Jim?” Honey, as usual, was speaking too quickly to be readily understood. “I mean, the station wagon broke down yesterday, and Tom’s on vacation, and Brian took apart his jalopy for an overhaul - not that we would have fit in it anyway,” Honey stopped to take a breath and Mart interjected with a pompous accent.

“Yes, yes, our parental unit was in fine form this morn when they were appraised of the nature of our difficulties. Of course, the generous decision of the Lord and Lady of the Manor House to temporarily bequeath their new BMW to said parents did help.” Mart’s speech was abruptly cut off as Diana elbowed him in the ribs. “Hey, watch it! I am driving, you know. Keep your weapons to yourself!” Diana rolled her eyes at his antics and settled back in the front passenger seat.

Trixie, sitting beside Honey on the middle bench, nodded vigorously and responded to her statement as if Mart had never spoken. “I couldn’t believe it when the station wagon broke down and we couldn’t fix it. I thought for sure we’d have to cancel our trip to see the university! But then Moms and Dad were so nice about the mini-van, and your parents let them use the BMW while they’re out or town, and everything is perfectly perfect!” Trixie was so excited that she couldn’t sit still. She turned to face Dan in the backseat. “How long do you think it will take us to get to Brian’s dorm room and back on the road?” As a native New Yorker, Dan knew the city better than any of the other Bob Whites, except perhaps Honey. And since Honey’s sense of direction was spotty at best, Dan was often called upon to navigate.

Dan smiled at Trixie’s enthusiasm and replied, “It’s really not that far out of our way. If Brian’s ready to go, we’ll have lost only half an hour.”

It was the third weekend of October, and all of the Bob Whites were travelling to visit Jim at the University of Virginia. UVA was hosting a weekend for high school students to come and see what campus life had to offer. The Bob Whites’ primary purpose, however, was to see Jim. Brian, a first year student at NYU, had been home several times since the semester began, but Jim hadn’t been in Sleepyside since the end of August, and all of the Bob Whites were anxious to see him.

Dan sat silently in the back seat and watched his friends with amusement. In the front, Mart and Di were acting like an old married couple. He shook his head and promised himself that he would never, ever, own a mini-van as long as he lived. Not if it could convert a normal teenage couple into two bickering people! Trixie and Honey were whispering and giggling. Both of them were very excited about the weekend, for reasons that were painfully obvious to anyone who knew them at all. Honey and Brian had been dating for a few months, but still were in the very lovey-dovey stage of their relationship. Honey missed Brian terribly when he was away at school and was very anxious to spend time with him. And then there was Trixie. Dan paused. Although neither Trixie nor Jim would admit it, everyone knew that they were crazy about each other. Sighing, Dan settled back in his seat and wondered how he was going to make it through the weekend.

As soon as Mart found a parking spot, everyone raced to Brian’s dorm room. Trixie was the first through the door and rushed to hug Brian as he bent over his suitcase. Brian let out an “OOMPH” as Trixie knocked the air out him with her exuberant hug. “Careful, Trix,” Brian smiled as he regained his equilibrium, “Someone might think you missed me!”

Trixie swatted his arm playfully and moved to pick up his bag. “Are you ready? We should help!” Trixie looked up to find Brian and Honey smiling timidly at each other. “Oh, please. You can do that in the car, can’t you? Let’s go!” Honey blushed delicately and Brian turned back to his sister with an exasperated glare. At the sight of Trixie hopping from one leg to the other, Brian relented and took his bag from her.

“Okay, okay! Let’s go, already!” Brian smiled at the rest of the group and led the way to the van. “Mart, you don’t mind driving a little more, do you? I think I’d like to rest for a bit, if you don’t mind.”

Mart rolled his eyes, but chose not to tease his brother. Who was he to poke fun at a man in love?

They piled into the mini-van again; this time with Trixie in the back with Dan as Honey and Brian claimed the middle seat. “Geez, you’d think they would just sit in the back.” Dan whispered to Trixie as they settled in.

Trixie held up a hand warningly. “Don’t you dare. It’s your job to distract me so that I don’t see anything that will permanently scar me.” She sighed. “The last thing I need is images of Honey and Brian in my sleep tonight!”

Dan couldn’t help but laugh. “I’ll do my best, Trix, I’ll do my best.” But shortly after they left the university campus, Dan fell silent and stared moodily out the window at the darkening city.

Gazing at Dan sympathetically, Trixie wasn’t sure what to do. She, alone of all the Bob Whites, knew how troubled he still was by his past. While he had come to terms with his involvement in the Cowhands, Dan still couldn’t help but be melancholy whenever he was visually reminded of his past. Finally, Trixie reached over and patted Dan’s leg. “You’re in here, with us, you know.” Trixie spoke softly so that no one would overhear. “You don’t live out there anymore, and you’re not that person anymore. And your friends wouldn’t change a single thing about you.”

Dan slowly turned from the window and faced Trixie. She was looking up at him with her expressive blue eyes, and right at that moment they were full of concern for him. Unable to look away, Dan felt as if she could see all the way into his soul. All his pain, self-consciousness, and love seemed to be on display for her, and he felt naked. How could she know everything there was to know about him, and still be his friend? Did she realize ... Dan bit back on the thought before it could fully form and said the words that were completely inadequate, and yet were all he had. “Thanks, Trix.”

Trixie smiled and nodded decisively, pleased that what she said seemed to help him. Deciding that distraction would be the best route to take in making Dan more comfortable, she asked, “Well, do you want to play the licence plate game, or I spy with my little eye?”

Dan raised his eyebrows. “In the dark? From the backseat?”

Trixie raised both hands and stated, “Hey, I’m just trying to help you out. It’s your job to distract me from whatever is going on in the seat ahead of us. And now, since I had to say that out loud, your job is twice as hard.” Trixie shrugged. “I’d get started on distracting me before I start screaming or trying to gouge out my own eyes.”

With a mischievous glint in his eye, Dan responded by sneaking a wary look at Brian and Honey. “Shhh,” he whispered. “I think I can make out what Brian is saying. Something about how much he loves it when Honey wears those low cut jeans and a short tee-shirt ...”

Trixie blanched and gave Dan a non-too-gentle punch in the stomach.

Undeterred, Dan continued. “Now Honey is saying something about his piercing dark eyes and how she wishes he needed glasses so no one else could see them. Oh, wait! It’s getting good! Brian just put his arm around Honey and I think he’s going to - ” The sudden sight and sound of Trixie covering her ears and singing at the top of her voice filled the van.

Brian’s head popped up as he spun to glare at Trixie. “What do you think you’re doing? Some of us are trying to -” Brian paused and the entire van burst into laughter.

“What, exactly, is it that you were trying to do, Brian?” Diana asked innocently from the front seat.

“Oh, never mind.” Brian scowled, his normally dark face flushed. “Let’s just pretend that Trixie never had her little moment of vocal exuberance and move on, shall we?”

Still laughing, Trixie and Dan settled back in their seats. “That was a mean, low-down, dirty trick you just pulled, Mr. Mangan,” Trixie managed to gasp in between her fits of giggling. ”You were supposed to distract me so that I didn’t have to think about Brian and Honey and their all-too-public displays of affection!”

Dan raised his eyebrows. “And what do you think I just did? Do you really think that either Brian or Honey will be in the mood to, shall we say, provide nightmares for you, after that little scene?”

Trixie’s jaw gaped open. “How did you ...?”

Dan smirked. “Learn from the master, small one. Learn from the master.”

“Have you been watching the Karate Kid again? Or maybe Mystery Men?” Dan’s, in fact all of the BWG men’s, choices in movies were frequently ridiculed by the female contingent of the group.

“Ah, yes,” Dan adopted the intensely irritating affectation of pausing after almost every syllable. “To go right, you must first go left.”

Trixie batted her eyelashes vigorously in Dan’s direction. “Teach me more, sensei! What must I do to become wise like you?”

“Well, you could start by watching the right movies. I’m surprised a crime fighter like you doesn’t place more stock in watching the classics of your trade. I refer you to The Maltese Falcon, Lethal Weapons 1, 2, and 3, and Shaft, with emphasis on the Richard Roundtree Shaft and not the Samuel L. Jackson Shaft, of course. Then there’s Bond, Segal, Chan ...” Dan paused as he noticed Trixie’s tell-tale blush even in the dark. He raised his eyebrows and waited.

Trixie rolled her eyes. “Okay, but you have to promise not to tell anyone. I’d never hear the end of it from either Honey or Di.”

Dan rubbed his hands together in eager anticipation.

Trixie sighed. “I’m addicted to James Bond movies. There, I said it. Are you happy?”

Dan nodded thoughtfully. “A Bond girl, eh? I never would have pegged you for one of those bimbos that falls into bed with an “Oh, James”, but ...”

Dan was once again rewarded for his efforts with a punch to the mid-section. “I don’t want to be a Bond girl, you idiot! I want to be Bond!” Trixie ground out through clenched teeth.

Dan shook his head and commented, “You still can’t take a joke, Trixie. Of course you want to be Bond! And, just so you know, you being a spy is a whole lot more probable than you being a vacuous airhead. I really don’t think you could be that dumb if you tried.”

Her good humour restored, Trixie smiled. “I’m sorry I hit you, Dan. I should know better already. You’ve always been one of the first to take my hunches seriously.”

Dan waved a hand airily. “All is forgiven, grasshopper. Just remember, I’m on your side. Say, are you ready for a pop?” Dan reached into the cooler at their feet and chose Cherry Cokes for both Trixie and himself. “Do you think it’s safe to pass this up to Brian and Honey?”

Trixie risked a furtive look and reported with relief, “They’re just talking. You were right - I don’t think I have to worry about any more nightmares. All the same, I’ll let you do the dirty work, thank you very much.”

Dan rolled his eyes but generously obliged by asking Brian and Honey what they wanted. Mart immediately piped up from the front seat and asked for a drink, sandwich, bag of chips, and an apple. Diana raised her eyebrows, asking, “Is that all? Are you sure you don’t want a slice of cake, too?”

Mart looked intrigued. “Is there cake?”

Diana just laughed and called back, “You better send up a few napkins with that order. I can see where this is going!”

The van gradually grew quiet as people prepared for the long road trip ahead of them. As the initial excitement of the trip wore off, Trixie was surprised to find that she was sleepy. Realizing that there would be no conversation forthcoming from Honey and Brian, Trixie turned to Dan and saw that he was asleep with his head against the window. Shaking her head, she struggled to make herself comfortable. Wishing she could get at her travel pillow, which was currently squished under a million suitcases, Trixie tried to find a position that didn’t send shooting pains through her neck or require her to contort her body in other unbecoming ways. Giving up, she finally settled herself against Dan’s chest and arm and put her head on his shoulder. Dan awoke just enough to put his arm around her and settle her more comfortably against him before they both fell into peaceful slumber.

When Mart gave up the driver’s seat to Brian an hour or two outside of New York, both brothers were surprised to see Dan and Trixie so comfortably arranged. Eyebrows raised, Mart asked Brian, “Well, do we beat the crap out of Dan?”

Brian turned to Mart. “Somehow, I don’t think that will be necessary. Jim would be more than willing to teach Dan a lesson if he needed it, if he ever found out about this. Which he won’t from me. Besides, it looks pretty innocent to me.” With that, Brian headed to the driver’s seat and closed the door on the conversation.

After shaking his head at Brian’s uncharacteristic Honey-speak, Mart took another look at the sleeping pair. He knew it was innocent on Trixie’s part. She didn’t have eyes for anyone but Jim. But Dan?

As Mart and Diana took over the middle bench, Di began massaging Mart’s neck. “Well, how does the Man of the Van feel?”

Mart looked up in surprise and smiled. “I guess I am a little tense. This is my first real road trip as a driver, and it was a little intimidating having both Brian and Dan in the van. I kept expecting one of them to order me to pull over and stop endangering all our lives.”

Diana smiled sympathetically and continued rubbing his neck. “First of all, you’re a great driver. You even managed to put two hands on the steering wheel some of the time!” she joked. “Second, I really don’t think either Dan or Brian was paying all that much attention to your driving. They seem to have,“ she paused, “other things on their minds, shall we say?”

Mart snorted and glanced to the back seat where Dan and Trixie were still comfortably sleeping.

Diana followed his gaze, and said quietly, “I really don’t think you need to worry. Dan knows that Trixie and Jim are meant for each other. And he cares about Trixie enough to stand aside. I just wish ...” Diana left the thought unspoken as she watched Dan sleep.

“I know.” Mart replied. “I wish things were different for him, too. He’s been through so much; it would be nice if he could find someone that could return his love.”

Diana nodded and went back to soothing Mart’s sore neck.

Some time later, Dan awoke and was surprised to find Trixie asleep against him. As the initial surprise wore off, Dan sighed. Why did the one girl he really cared about have to be in love with the most wonderful boy in the world? Although he knew it would only make his own personal torment worse, Dan settled back and allowed Trixie to continue to sleep. “Might as well make the most of the moment.” Dan thought. At least he would have one memory of holding her in his arms.

By the time the mini-van pulled into UVA at about two in the morning, all were ready to stretch their legs. Honey groaned. “Why didn’t someone tell me we wouldn’t be making any stops? I never would have had that diet Coke if I’d known I would be carrying it all the way here!”

Brian shrugged sheepishly. “Sorry, Hon. Everyone was sleeping, and the van did a lot better on mileage than I expected. If I had known ...”

“Oh, forget it! Let’s just find Jim.” Honey smiled at Brian to show she wasn’t really mad, but also moved quite quickly in the direction of what she took to be the dormitories.

As Brian rapidly moved to catch up to Honey, Mart called from the back of the mini-van, “Hey! Isn’t anybody going to help with the luggage?”

Dan reluctantly detangled himself from Trixie, stretched, and moved to help Mart with the astonishing volume of overnight bags. Slinging several bags over his shoulder and holding a few in his hands, Dan joked, “Does this help, O inadequate one?”

Relieved that Dan seemed to be acting like himself, Mart tried to forget the look of utter contentment he had seen on Dan’s face as he slept. “That should just about do it. Let’s get the show on the road!”

Is This Stall Taken?

Dan, Mart, Trixie, and Diana slowly followed in the wake of Honey and Brian. “Jim is staying in the McCormick Dormitory, right?” Trixie was now fully awake and regaining her enthusiasm for the weekend at Jim’s college. “He said it was red brick with white trim ... Of course, at night it could be green brick with purple trim for all we could tell. Do you think that’s it?” Trixie pointed to a nearby building that seemed to fit the general description Jim had given them.

Mart shrugged. “Only one way to find out!” He sprinted ahead to read the sign on the building. “This is it, guys. Come on!”

As the rest of the group hurried towards Mart and the McCormick Dormitory, they were surprised to see Honey fling open the door and run down the steps. Both Brian and Jim, who were laughing hysterically, closely followed her.

“Really, Honey,” Jim finally gasped as they reached the others. “It’s not that embarrassing. I’m sure Chad didn’t mind in the least!”

Honey turned to Jim and hissed, “Why didn’t you tell me that it’s not just women who use the women’s washroom?”

Brian tried to placate Honey between his own fits of laughter. “Honey, it’s not as if you gave him time to say much of anything! You barely even said hello to Jim before you asked where the washrooms were and took off.”

Honey expanded her glare to include Brian as the rest of the Bob Whites exchanged furtive looks. What had happened to reduce Honey to a tactless, red-faced spitfire?

Trixie, of course, was the first to recover and tentatively ask, “Um, Honey, what exactly happened? Did you have trouble finding the washroom?”

Honey whirled toward Trixie and sighed. “Not exactly. I found the washroom, no problem. It was when I went to open the door to a stall that ...” Honey’s face turned even redder and she bit her bottom lip.

Trixie put her arm around Honey and urged her to continue. “Come on, Honey, it can’t be that bad. What happened?”

“Well, I really had to go, and the door wasn’t closed all the way, and I just sort of barged in, and ...” Honey’s anger was spent, but her embarrassment was only getting more acute. She looked helplessly at Brian and Jim.

As Brian put his arm around Honey, Jim continued the story. “Apparently the stall was already occupied. By my roommate Chad. Let’s just say Honey saw a lot more than she bargained for when she picked that stall.” Jim’s lips inadvertently twitched.

Honey covered her face with her hands. “I am so embarrassed. How am I ever going to face your roommate?”

Brian and Jim had mostly controlled their laughter, but Mart, Diana, Dan, and Trixie were having a harder time.

“You mean you actually saw ...” Diana started out seriously enough, but dissolved into giggles as she searched for the right word.

Honey, face still hidden, interrupted. “I am never drinking pop on a road trip again. Ever. Now, could we please talk about something else?”

“Like food?” Mart stopped laughing long enough to ask hopefully.

Jim smiled and shook his head. “I guess not much has changed, has it?” Pausing to think for a moment, he continued. “There’s a greasy spoon that stays open late. Would you like to try it?”

All of the Bob Whites nodded. Pausing to take Trixie by the hand, Jim led the group on the short walk to the restaurant located across from the Rotunda on the Corner.

Dan fell into step with Mart and Diana and grinned as he asked, “Have you ever seen Honey that embarrassed?”

Mart and Diana couldn’t help laughing. “No, usually it’s Trixie who barges into places and gets in trouble. Maybe they’re spending too much time together. Trixie seems to be rubbing off on her.” Diana, while sympathetic, was still thoroughly enjoying Honey’s uncharacteristic behaviour.

“Ah, yes. The inner workings of the female mind are mysterious, indeed. For instance, why do members of the female persuasion usually invade washrooms en masse, as it were? Is it a left over defence mechanism from prehistoric times when safety in numbers was paramount to survival? And why did Honey choose to deviate from this well-known practice?” Mart shook his head. “Alas, I fear the complete comprehension of the mind female is beyond my limited scope.”

Dan nodded sagely. “Yes, Horatio, I’m afraid there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Mart groaned. “How could you, Dan? Using Shakespeare against me?”

Diana interrupted. “Okay, that’s enough, you two. If you’re not careful, I’ll break out the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and none of us want that.”

Mart paused to look at Diana with a glint in his eye. “Well, as long as I get to be Romeo ...”

Dan interrupted. “Save it for later, guys. I think we’ve arrived.”

The Bob Whites entered the crowded restaurant and managed to secure a booth. They quickly read through the extremely limited menu and waited to be served. Dan carefully took note of his surroundings as the others talked amongst themselves. The diner had definitely seen better days. In contrast to the sparkling clean Wimpy’s in Sleepyside, this greasy spoon could only be described as, well, greasy. The vinyl booths sported rips with stuffing (and food stuffs) poking out. The Formica tabletops were scratched with countless hearts, initials, and phone numbers. After handling the menu, Dan was tempted to wash his hands, but settled for using a napkin. He’d been in worse places, after all. The paint on the walls appeared to have been hospital green at one point, but had since faded to an even less appealing shade, and the laminate flooring was curled and broken. “Well,” he thought optimistically, “if the place looks this bad, the food is bound to make up for it.”

And so it proved. The Bob Whites were soon devouring huge servings of fries, burgers, and chocolate milkshakes. The meal was frequently interrupted by friends of Jim stopping by to talk, and it was very late by the time they left to return to Jim’s dorm.

Since Jim’s dorm was not co-ed, Trixie, Honey, and Diana had been billeted in the next student housing building. The guys escorted them to the front door of their building, where a student representative met them and showed them to the room in which they would be staying. Hasty goodbyes were said, as everyone was anxious to get some sleep.

An hour later, Dan lay on the floor of Jim’s room in a worn sleeping bag, and tried to drown out the sound of snoring. As tired as his body was from the six-hour drive and late hour, his mind would not slow down. He could almost feel Trixie sleeping in his arms, as she had only a few hours earlier in the van. He groaned silently. The smell of her hair, the way her mouth opened slightly as she slept, her long eyelashes, the way she fit perfectly in his arms ... She didn’t just fit perfectly in his arms; she was perfect. Perfect for him. Dan sighed. This train of thought certainly wasn’t helping him get to sleep. But how could he stop thinking about the one person who occupied nearly all his waking thoughts? Turning over, Dan tried to make himself comfortable and calculated the few hours remaining until he could stop pretending to sleep.

Would You Like Fries With That, Sir?

Saturday morning dawned crisp and clear. The Bob Whites, however, were anything but. As they all met at the outdoor pancake breakfast, Trixie was the only one with even the faintest appearance of energy. While Honey and Diana stood quietly in line, Trixie cornered Jim and began asking questions about the campus, or Lawn, as she soon learned it was called. Mart and Brian exchanged amused glances as Jim very quickly became more alert and animated in response to Trixie’s queries.

As soon as they had finished breakfast, the Bob Whites made their way to the school’s football stadium. The home team was warming up as they took their seats, and the group settled back to enjoy the show. They all groaned in one voice when Mart appeared with an extra large, extra greasy container of fried cheese curds.

“Mart!” Diana exclaimed. “It’s ten in the morning!”

Brian interrupted her. “Didn’t we just come from a huge pancake breakfast?”

Not even Dan could let the cheese curds pass. “That’s disgusting, man.” He shook his head. “Random pieces of unaged cheddar cheese fried in totally hydrogenated oil. Are you sure you don’t have a cast iron stomach? I don’t know how you do it.”

Mart’s face turned red, but he stuck to his guns. “It’s stadium food. There’s no wrong time for stadium food. It’s a rule, right Jim?”

Jim shook his head. “There is no way I’m backing you up on this one. Personally, I’m of the elevenses rule. No pop or junk food before eleven. But that’s just a personal choice. If you think you can stomach it,“ Jim left the sentence hanging.

Surprisingly, it was Trixie who came to Mart’s defence. “Well, are you going to share, or were you planning to hog them all?” Trixie casually took the spot next to Mart and helped herself to the snack. Five pairs of Bob White eyes looked on in varying degrees of horror, shock, and amusement.

Mart quickly recovered. “Far be it from me to deprive an obviously starving young woman of sustenance. Please, partake of this humble nourishment.”

Trixie discreetly kicked his outstretched feet and muttered under her breath. “Watch it, buddy. I’m being nice.”

Mart’s mouth was too full of the fried cheese curds to answer.

As the game wore on, the Bob Whites became more and more animated. The filled-to-capacity stadium erupted every time the Wahoos completed a pass, carried the ball, or scored points. The visiting Bob Whites eagerly joined in the singing of the Good Old Song at the end of each successful drive. Dan found himself carried away by the excitement of the game. When it ended with the Wahoos winning by ten points, the Bob Whites cheered and exchanged hugs all around. Jim, the most exuberant of the group, planted a kiss on Trixie’s forehead, and Dan was brought back to earth with a jolt. The weekend simply was not getting any easier.

As the group walked back to Jim’s dorm, they were approached by a group of college students. Jim quickly introduced them and the two groups walked together to the dormitory. Dan was walking silently beside Brian when Mart came up beside him and surreptitiously nudged him, nodding toward two girls walking on the other side of Brian.

“What is this? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge?” Dan feebly flubbed his way through the Monty Python sketch under his breath.

Mart rolled his eyes and gestured discreetly to the two girls again. “Apparently, a wink is as good as a nod to a blind man. What is wrong with you? There are two hot girls checking you out and you’re walking beside Brian and me? Look alive, man! These are college girls!”

Dan raised his eyebrows and took a second look at the girls. Sure enough, both were giggling and glancing frequently in his direction. One of them was quite pretty, with long blond hair and brown eyes. Dan smiled tentatively at the girls, wishing he felt more flattered by their attentions. Most high school guys would kill for two college women to be flirting with them, right? Resisting the urge to run ahead of the group and swear off women for the rest of his life, Dan continued to walk quietly beside Brian and Mart and was relieved when they arrived at the dorm.

As they parted ways, the blonde girl stopped to ask Jim, “You will come to the party tonight and bring all your friends, right?”

Jim shrugged his shoulders. “We’ll probably stop by for a little while, Kate, We still have a lot of catching up to do, so we’ll see what happens.”

Kate looked mildly disappointed, but smiled and left with her friends. “Hope to see you there!” she called back over her shoulder.

The Bob Whites gathered in the common room of Jim’s dorm and relaxed as they spread out on couches, chairs, and the floor. They were soon swapping stories and bickering good-naturedly. The younger Bob Whites, of course, were anxious to hear tales of college life. Jim gave in gracefully and offered to tell a story that had happened to his second-year roommate. Noticing that Trixie listened to Jim with rapt attention, Dan was suddenly overcome by a feeling of claustrophobia.

“I’m going to go for a short walk.” Dan managed to choke out before he abruptly left the room. The rest of the Bob Whites looked after him in astonishment, but let him go. Mart caught Brian’s eye and raised his eyebrows. Brian shook his head, and helped the rest of the group return to their conversation.

Dan ran out of the dormitory and made his way down one of the many paths. When he was out of breath, he was surprised to find himself close to a park. He slowed his pace and entered the wooded area. If only I had an axe, he thought wryly to himself. Soon after moving to Sleepyside, Dan had discovered that chopping wood was wonderful therapy. The outdoors soothed his nerves, while the physical labour helped to expend anger and frustration. Deciding that, even if he did have an axe, the city would probably not be pleased that some of their most beautiful trees were being cut down for the sole purpose of soothing his temper, Dan settled for throwing himself down beside a tree and lying down.

Completely alone with his thoughts, Dan allowed himself to think about Trixie and why it was that he couldn’t seem to think about anyone else. Why was Trixie the first person he thought of in the morning, and the last person he thought of at night? Dan smiled. Of course he knew why. There were the obvious reasons, of course. She was beautiful, intelligent, vibrant, loving, and sensitive. Who else understood him? She knew pretty much everything there was to know about him, and she still trusted him completely. She understood his moods, and was even able to make him feel better. Was there anybody else in the world that could do that for him? And why bother trying to find someone else when the perfect girl was right next door?

Because she’s not in love with you. The thought came suddenly and with a finality Dan had never felt before. It was as if a door in his consciousness had slammed and the air around him was left reverberating in its wake. He had always known that she and Jim had feelings for each other, but at that moment it became crystal clear to him that those circumstances would probably never change. Dan felt a sudden constriction of his chest. Was this what it felt like to have a broken heart? What was he supposed to do now? He couldn’t spend his whole life pining for a girl who only loved him as a friend. Could they still be friends? How could he continue to be friends with Trixie when he dreamed of so much more?

Sitting up and moving to lean against the tree, Dan knew that he needed to take charge of his situation. He concentrated on easing all the tension from his toes, then feet, lower legs, and so on until his body was totally relaxed. With his eyes closed, Dan felt his thoughts become clearer. Even though he knew he loved Trixie, he realized that life without her would be liveable. He had no choice. His only decision lay in how he would live his life. As painful as it might be, he knew that he couldn’t just avoid Trixie. He needed her friendship, and, he hoped, she needed his, too. The key, he decided, was to be able to look beyond Trixie and see other possibilities for his life. He smiled to himself. He didn’t need to look for another soul mate; that would be hoping for too much. He could, however, start dating and getting to know other people. And what better time to start than a weekend at a college with hundreds of college and high school girls to choose from?

Dan forced himself to keep his body completely relaxed and in control. He concentrated on the feel of the grass under his legs and the trunk of the tree pressing into his back. Refusing to dwell on the negative, Dan determined to change his loneliness to independent strength. As he came to peace with his situation, Dan suddenly saw an image of himself sitting not against a tree, but on a rock on a rugged beach while waves crashed and the wind howled. He was fully aware of the forces of nature around him, but they had no power to harm him. He was like the rock itself - steadfast, enduring, strong. Deep down, he knew he was strong enough to do what needed to be done.

Dan was waiting at the dining hall when the rest of the Bob Whites arrived for supper. Trixie, of course, was the first to spot him and immediately ran ahead of the others to greet him. Shaking his arm, she proceeded to lecture him. “I was worried about you! Where were you?” She paused and studied his face intently as she asked, “Are you okay?”

Having prepared himself for the barrage of questions, Dan responded by smiling gently and looking Trixie in the eye. “I’m fine, Trixie. I just needed some time ...” Dan’s voice trailed off, but Trixie accepted his statement.

“Well, don’t do it again any time soon. Like I said, I was worried about you.” She smiled to take the sting out of her words and turned to the rest of the group. “Look who showed up for supper?”

The others caught up and looked at Dan quizzically, but refrained from asking any questions. If Trixie wasn’t giving him the third degree, they certainly wouldn’t.

Do You Live Around Here Often?

After “enjoying” their cafeteria supper, the Bob Whites slowly walked to the sorority house where Kate was hosting a party. Jim cautioned them before they entered. “It’s going to be a little crazy in there. Since there are high school students on campus, the administration is watching pretty carefully for alcohol, but people still manage to sneak it in. Don’t drink anything you didn’t get yourself. And girls,” he paused, “don’t wander too far by yourselves, okay?”

“Okay, okay, big brother.” Mart laughed at Jim. “Now that the warning is out of the way, let’s go have some fun!”

Jim laughed too, but also made eye contact with Brian. By mutual agreement, they would stick together as a group as much as possible.

Ten minutes later, Dan was almost beside himself with laughter as he watched Trixie, standing with Jim and drinking in all the sights. Her round blue eyes opened wider as she watched guys crushing cans on their foreheads and acting like idiots in other ways. Jim was looking a little nervous and staying very close to Trixie. Brian and Mart were starting to get flustered as almost every male in the room tried to engage Honey and Diana’s attention. Honey and Diana looked slightly uncomfortable, but mostly flattered by the attention they were receiving. Dan shook his head. It looked like he was on his own for the evening.

Quietly helping himself to a can of Coke, Dan found a deserted corner and tried to blend in inconspicuously. While he hadn’t seen any alcohol, the actions of some of the partiers led him to believe that it was flowing freely.

Dan couldn’t help thinking back to the last time he had been drunk. It had been only a few days before he had been caught and sent to live with his Uncle Bill, but it seemed like much longer. He couldn’t remember many details of the party. In fact, he couldn’t even recall where it had been. His only clear memory was of Penny. Or, rather, Penny’s eyes. Beautiful green eyes that stayed completely expressionless whether she was teasing, ranting, or just talking. Dan shivered and wondered if it was true that eyes were windows to a person’s soul. In that case, Penny had already been dead when he met her that night.

Vacant green eyes were quickly replaced with suspicious blue eyes, as Dan recalled the first time he had laid eyes on Trixie Belden. He smiled gently and recalled how nervous he had been his first day of school at the Sleepyside Junior-Senior High School. Trixie certainly hadn’t helped; studying him intently as he boarded the bus. She had managed to completely unnerve a tough city kid, just by looking at him.

Dan sobered as he recalled the pain of seeing the disbelief in Trixie’s eyes as he denied stealing Honey’s watch. Even then, he had desperately wanted her to trust him, to believe in him.

His smile grew as he remembered the moment that the disbelief and suspicion had turned to heart-felt gratitude. When Trixie had realized that Dan was going to help her free Bobby from the cave instead of staying with Luke, her eyes had spoken volumes. From that moment, Dan knew that he would do anything to keep her trust.

And he had. Dan knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trixie had never looked back to the rocky start of their friendship. She had complete faith in him as a person, and as a Bob White. Dan closed his eyes and savoured the vision of Trixie defending him to her family after saving Bobby. When he opened his eyes, the first person he saw was Trixie, watching him intently with bright and inquisitive eyes from the other side of the room. She smiled encouragingly and even winked at him.

Dan couldn’t help smiling back at her. How did she know what he was thinking? As Trixie turned back to talk to Jim and his friends, Dan continued to watch the partygoers. When he checked his watch, he realized an hour had passed. He hadn’t moved from his spot once, and he had no idea where the other Bob Whites were. Sighing, he decided to start looking for them when he noticed a girl a few feet away. She was tall with long dark hair and dark eyes, and she, too, was quietly observing the party. She was dressed simply in jeans and a well-fitting sweater. Deciding that this was as good a time as any to meet new girls, Dan quickly approached her before he could change his mind.

“Hi,” he began. “You don’t know me, but my name is Dan.”

Across the room, Trixie watched and smiled slowly. She was a detective, after all.

Sunday morning found the Bob Whites back in the mini-van. In a slightly edited replay of the trip down, Brian and Mart shared driving duties in the front, Honey and Diana talked quietly in the middle seat, and Trixie, Dan, and miscellaneous luggage were squeezed onto the backbench.

Dan turned to Trixie as he shoved a bag under the middle bench and asked in exasperation, “How can there possibly be this much more luggage? We were on a university campus, for Pete’s sake. Do they even sell things other than books?”

Trixie eyed his new navy and orange UVA sweatshirt. “Not all of us could wear our souvenirs home, Dan.”

Dan shrugged and used his long legs to casually push the bag even further under the middle bench. “I suppose so. Say, did you find anything for Bobby?”

Trixie’s eyes brightened at the mention of her eight year old brother. “Well, you remember the small footballs the cheerleaders were throwing into the crowd at half time, right?” At Dan’s nod, Trixie continued. “Mart said we could give the one he caught to Bobby.”

Dan snorted. “Mart never would have caught that football if it hadn’t ricocheted off my hand.”

“Was that before or after it knocked over Honey’s drink?”

“It was before that, but after the football caused Diana to jump and drop her hotdog.” Trixie and Dan both paused to smile as they remembered the mayhem caused by the inanimate object.

Honey and Di turned to face them from the middle seat. “I’ll thank you not to bring that up again,“ Honey said in a monk-stern voice. “I’ve never looked so ridiculous in my life!”

Mart called back from the front passenger seat, “Of course you have, Honey. Have you forgotten the instance in which you, overcome with the exuberance of a sporting event but distracted by a strained relationship, called out with amplified volume, ‘touchdown’, at a baseball game? And did it not, I ask since I was not present, did it not involve the spilling of a certain carbonated beverage onto a relative’s head?”

Honey sank back in her seat. “It’s the pop, I tell you. Apparently, I can’t be trusted in public with it.”

Reaching forward, Trixie gave Honey a quick hug. “That’s okay, Hon. You can drink pop around me anytime you want.” Eyes twinkling, she continued. “Moms can get stains out of almost anything. Shall we just tell Bobby the football is from everybody?”

“I don’t know,” said Brian. “I don’t think Jim or I have actually touched the football. How do we warrant getting in on this?”

“Fine!” Trixie spoke tartly. “The football can be from the non-college members of the Bob Whites.”

Brian rolled his eyes. “I was just teasing, Trixie. And frankly, Bobby’s not going to care whom it’s from. As soon as he sees it he’s going to be begging to have Larry and Terry over so they can try it out.”

Trixie wore a triumphant smile as she leaned back in her seat. They soon stopped at a restaurant for lunch. After listening longingly to the boys order burgers, fries, and malts, the girls decided on chicken Caesar salads. Eyeing the diet Coke, Honey sighed. “Water, please.”

Trixie and Diana smiled, but didn’t join her in a show of solidarity. As they left the restaurant, they were surprised at how cold it was. The sun had disappeared and the wind had picked up. Trixie wrapped her arms around herself and grumbled about the change in weather. Dan rolled his eyes as he opened the sliding van door and shooed her in.

“Weren’t you the one who wouldn’t complain about the cold when you and Bobby were lost in the woods?”

Knowing exactly the time to which Dan was referring, Trixie responded, “That was in the middle of winter, Dan. I was used to the cold by then. It’s only in fall that it bothers me. Acclimatization, or something. Hey!” Trixie paused and narrowed her eyes. “As I recall, you made some horridly chauvinistic remark back then. Something along the line of, ‘boys can take it better than girls’.”

Dan smiled. “It didn’t stop you from wearing my jacket, now did it?”

Trixie had to smile, too. “No, it didn’t.” Her voice became serious as she continued. “I’m sure glad you were there that day, Dan. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

Dan looked Trixie straight in the eyes. “You would have been fine. You and Bobby. I have no doubt that you would have found a way to get Bobby out of the cave before the catamount got there.” Taking a closer look at Trixie, Dan asked incredulously, “Are your teeth actually chattering?”

Trixie glared at him. “I told you I was cold.”

Shaking his head, Dan called up to the front. “Hey, Brian, turn on the heat, would you?”

Mart turned around with his eyebrows raised. “Are you crazy? It’s plenty warm in here. Suck it up, Mangan!”

Laughing, Dan turned back to Trixie. “It looks like you’re stuck with my jacket, again.” Dan started to remove his sweatshirt as Trixie protested.

“You really don’t need -”

Dan eyed Trixie’s long sleeved but thin cotton shirt. “I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. I’m pretty sure I can take the cold better than you. Not that it’s actually cold in here.”

Trixie rolled her eyes, but allowed Dan to help her into his sweatshirt. As she put her arm in the sleeve, Dan paused. “Wait a minute. Am I going to have to go into hiding if Jim hears about this?”

Trixie looked up in surprise. “What are you talking about? Why would you ... Oh.” She blushed and looked down. “No, I don’t think you have to worry about Jim hunting you down.”

“Are you sure? Because I don’t have any other relatives I know of that I could hide out with.” Dan tried to keep his tone light, but couldn’t help wondering if Jim and Trixie’s relationship had changed over the weekend.

Trixie looked up and smiled. In a teasing tone, she asked, “So, do you want to tell me about the girl you were talking with last night at the party, or am I going to have to torture the information out of you?” Dan recognized Trixie’s need to change the topic and went along good-naturedly.

“I don’t know. I suppose first you would have to specify to which girl you were referring.”

Trixie raised her eyebrows. “There was more than one? Dan! You fox!”

Dan smiled and settled back in his seat. Trixie pulled the fleecy shirt around her more comfortably. The sleeves were several inches too long and almost covered her hands. Instead of zipping the jacket, she had gathered it around her body to close in the warmth. To anyone else she would look comical. He couldn’t help thinking his jacket had never looked better. Turning his attention back to Trixie’s question, Dan was surprised to find that he wasn’t uncomfortable talking to Trixie about the girls he met at the party.

“Well, the first girl I talked to was Anna. She’s a senior from Chicago. Then there was Nikki from New Hampshire, Tara from North Carolina, and Suzy from ... Okay; I can’t remember where Suzy was from. Does that answer your question?”

Trixie leaned back and studied Dan as she turned her body to face him. “So, are you going to call any of them?”

Dan shook his head. “Nah. I was just being friendly. I’m not interested in anything long distance. Besides, I talked to them for what, maybe a half hour?” He shrugged. “It just seemed like a better way to spend the evening than holding up the wall.” His lips twitched as he added, “And before you ask - No, none of them seemed mysterious.”

Trixie gave Dan a dirty look. “Very funny, mister. Very funny.”

“That’s sensei to you, grasshopper.”

As Trixie leaned forward to talk to Honey, Dan leaned back and closed his eyes. Surprisingly, he found that the tight ache in his chest had subsided. In its place he was left with a strange sensation of calm detachment. It was hard to believe that he was sitting with Trixie and talking about girls he chatted up at a party. As he half listened to the conversations around him, Dan again felt as if he was alone on a rock with the wind and waves buffeting him, but it lacked the intensity of the previous afternoon. Drifting off to sleep, Dan somehow knew that the loneliness was only for a season. With friends like Trixie and Bob Whites of the Glen, he had all he needed.

Author’s Notes

1. This universe, entitled “Standards”, is based on the CD “It’s Time” by Michael Buble. ”You Don’t Know Me” is based on the song of the same title. I highly recommend it. The CD, not my universe. You know what I mean.

2. Huge thanks to Dianafan for editing. She was incredibly patient and helpful, and made my first attempt at fan fiction much more enjoyable. Thanks!

3. Thank you to Pat K for willingly providing me with information on UVA. I did use some writer’s licence, so any inconsistencies are my own.

4. Thanks to my friend Scott, who helped me choose movies that the Bob White males watch.

5. “To go right, you must first go left,” is from Mystery Men, and is often quoted in our house when someone says something that makes no sense whatsoever. The movie is used withoutpermission.

6. The Karate Kid, The Maltese Falcon, Lethal Weapons 1, 2, and 3, and Shaft are all movies used without permission.

7. James Bond movies are some of my favourite movies. They are also definitely used without permission.

8. Unfortunately, the fried cheese curd experience is based partly on personal experience. Several years ago I attended a Minnesota Vikings game with my husband, his sister, and her boyfriend. My husband appeared with fried cheese curds at about 10:30 am. My sister-in-law’s boyfriend and I looked on in horror as they ate. I mean, cheese can never be all bad, but 10:30 am? Come on. On the upside, the Vikings went almost undefeated that season.

9. I have horribly and unforgivably plagiarized Monty Python in Dan and Mart’s conversation. My only excuse is, my husband recently forced me to watch it. Again, used without permission.

10. “Do you live around here often?” is a pick-up line from my husband’s favourite comedian, Steven Wright. Used without permission.

11. Diet Coke and Cherry Coke and trademark products used without permission. Although, I choose to believe I personally have kept them in business for several years.

12. Originally posted January 17, 2006 at Misty's awesome site.

13. I have made reference to a few Trixie Belden books. I’m sure you found them!

14. Last, but not least, these characters are the property of Random House and are used lovingly, but without permission. No profit is being made!

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