CHAPTER 1

There was laughter and music surrounding the two women sitting in the booth of the old-fashioned diner.

"So, what did he give you today?" Honey asked her best friend with a smile.

"Today was so silly. I got a six-pack of strawberry pop. It was on the passenger seat of my car," Trixie answered with a grin. "He sure is keeping me guessing."

The two friends were sitting in a booth at their favorite spot for lunch, Wimpy's. They had been friends since they were thirteen years old and Honey Wheeler's father had purchased the enormous mansion high on the hill overlooking Trixie Belden's family farm. Eleven years later, they were still best friends, even though Honey was currently attending Law School at Cornell University.

Honey swiped a French fry through the puddle of ketchup on her plate. "I can't believe my brother has turned out to be so romantic. Who would have thought he could be so creative, giving you his version of the 'Twelve Days of Christmas'. So what's been your favorite so far?"

Trixie sipped her strawberry shake and smiled broadly at her friend. "Well, Tuesday's turtle slippers are comfy. And I can't wait to plant the miniature flowering crabapple he sent on Monday. Oh, I don't know…" Trixie reached into her blue cowl neck sweater and pulled out a necklace. "This was yesterday's surprise." The necklace was a delicate charm made of different sized of golden circles set inside one another, with diamonds set at random.

"Oh my goodness, Trixie! That is stunning," Honey said sliding over to get a closer look. "This is WAY better than a six-pack of pop."

"I know; I almost refused this. But Jim's been so sweet. Everything else has been so personal and little. I mean, Wednesday he took me out for French toast. I have no idea what he'll do next. Gosh, Honey look at the time. We've got to get moving if we want to meet Di to talk about New Year's Eve," Trixie said looking at her watch.

"Let's go then." Honey balled up her napkin and tossed it into the basket of half-eaten fries. "Do we want to ride together or take two cars?"

"Let's take your Mini; it's just so darn cute. You don't mind driving me back to the duplex, do you?" Trixie answered holding open the door to the diner for Honey.

"I'm sure we'll be able to get you back to your place, somehow," Honey said, with a huge grin on her face. She knew Jim would love to drive Trixie back to her home. He'd do anything for them to spend time together. The trio of friends had been inseparable since Trixie had helped find Jim and brought him back to Sleepyside to be adopted by Honey's parents, Matthew and Madeline Wheeler. But since Trixie and Jim both had moved back to Sleepyside, and finally admitted they had feelings for one another, they wore dreamy grins and more often than not were joined at the lip.

"So what did Mart give Di for Christmas?" Honey asked climbing into the cherry red convertible and starting the car. She pulled out of the parking space and headed out of town towards the Lynch estate.

"Mart got her a really pretty lavender nightgown and robe from Victoria's. I was surprised at what a good job he did by himself! He didn't ask me for help this year. Why he started asking my help in the first place always amazed me. How could anyone think I'm a fount of fashion knowledge?" Trixie said waving her hand down her outfit, as if to say, 'see I'm a shlub.'

"Trixie, one of these days you're going to look in the mirror and finally see the beautiful woman we all see," Honey replied. "You sell yourself short."

"OK, OK, got it. I'm not a tomboy anymore, and I finally know how to use mascara without poking myself in the eye." Trixie sighed. "But I'm still so far out of Jim's league, I worry that he's going to wake up and realize I'm still me."

Honey pulled her car over, put it in park, and turned toward her friend. "Seriously? Trixie, have you talked to Jim about this? About what he did during college? What you did, or actually didn't do, during college? I knew we'd talk about Jim, but you never really wanted to talk about him. Trixie, you didn't date in college and Jim didn't either. You both had lots of opportunities, but neither of you did. Do you ever stop and think about that? You two need to talk to each other about why."

"You're right, Honey, but when I saw him by Sally at the car, I felt so far from them. I mean, I'm jeans and t-shirts, not fundraisers and charity functions." Trixie ran her fingers through her curls in frustration. "How am I ever supposed to fit into his world?"

"Trixie Belden, are you saying that you've been uncomfortable at my parents' house for the past eleven years? Because Jim's world is my world. Have I ever made you feel less than you are? Have my parents? Don't let some silly self-centered snob like Sally Wellington affect you." Honey, gesturing with her hands, continued, "Jim came from nothing. Maybe he feels like things in his past make him not worthy of you. Have you ever thought about that?" Honey sat back again the heated leather seat and took a deep breath.
 
"Oh, Honey!" Trixie sobbed. "I'm just so scared. He's all I've ever wanted. I keep thinking, 'What if I mess this up? What if Jim expects me to know more than I know? What if he wants someone who's more experienced? Honey, I can't mess this up. It's too important." Trixie wiped away a tear with her hand.

Honey patted Trixie's back and handed her a tissue. "Sweetie, would you please stop worrying so much. You two have been back in town for a month. There is no rush here. You can take it slow. But I do think you need to be honest with Jim about how you feel. OK? Promise me you'll talk to him."

"Madeline Wheeler, what would I do without you?" Trixie dried her eyes and wiped her nose. "I promise to calm down and not worry so much."

"Good! Let's go meet Di and finish planning our New Year's Eve." Honey started the car and pulled back on to the road.

~~~

Trixie poked the doorbell of the Lynch house and heard the melodious sound followed by a girlish squeal and running feet. Grinning broadly and hooking her arm with Honey's, she turned to the door just in time to see it thrown open and Di bounce in the doorway.

"I have been waiting forever for you two to get here. Come in," she commanded grabbing them by the arms and dragging them into the house. "Let's go into the den and get to planning."

As the three friends made themselves comfortable, Honey pulled a small notebook out of her purse.

Trixie and Di looked at each other and rolled their eyes before giggling. "What research have you done?" Trixie asked with a snicker.

Honey blushed lightly and fussed with her notepad. Looking nervous she said, "Well, when I was talking with Brian at our Bob-White Christmas party, he mentioned that he'd like to be low key this year." Honey looked at her friends with a plea in her hazel eyes. "He is so focused on his residency and doesn't do anything relaxing. He works very hard and we hardly get to see him right now, so I thought maybe we could just have a nice evening with just the ten of us."

Trixie glanced at Di and got a nod of confirmation. "Honey, you know any time that I don't have to get dressed up fancy and wear make-up, that I am all for it. I'm sure the others will agree." Trixie kicked off her shoes and moved to sit cross-legged on the couch. "However," she paused with a lift of her brow, "who are the other two?"

"Yes, Honey," Di agreed taking a sip of tea, "who are the other two?"

Honey looked at her lap for several moments before lifting her head. Looking between Trixie and Di, she fidgeted nervously with the notepad. Honey spoke softly, "I don't know any way around asking Ben and Sally since they are staying at the Manor House. Mother asked me specifically to include them."

Honey looked sadly at Trixie's unhappy face. Then cast an appealing look toward Di.

Di immediately came to her rescue saying brightly, "I don't see a problem with it since Dan will be bringing Bonnie. It's not like it will be Bob-Whites only."

Trixie, who had been staring at her lap, finally looked up with a weak smile. "I think that's fine. Where will we have our party?" she asked as she picked up her tea to hide her frown.

"Mummy and Daddy are having all the parents and some of their friends here for a party," Di announced. "What about the Manor House?" she asked Honey.

"That would be perfectly perfect," Honey clapped her hands. "We can have a house party just like old times."

Trixie sat quietly as Honey and Di talked about decorations and the food to be served. She contributed little to the discussion, until Di suggested dressing up for New Year's anyway.
 
"Wait a minute!" Trixie objected. "I thought you said this would be casual," she demanded, sitting up straight.

Di and Honey looked at each other then back at Trixie before Di responded, "Don't you want to dress up for Jim? I'd like to look my best for Mart and I know that Honey, Bonnie and Sally would all probably like to dress up."

Honey's gentle eyes grew worried as she looked at Trixie. "I just want Brian to be happy and comfy, Di. He did ask for relaxed," Honey tried to appease both her friends.

"Well, I don't see why we can't dress up a little," Di continued without noticing the undercurrents in the conversation. "I have a new dress that I'd love to wear."

Trixie stood up from the couch and said sullenly, "Of course, you want to dress up because you always look your best, even in ratty clothes. Not that you own any ratty clothes. You, Honey, Bonnie and Sally would all look good and graceful in a potato sack." Tearing up, she turned away from her friends.

Disregarding Honey's head shake; Di stood and said, "What is the matter with you, Trixie? You are just as pretty as any of us. Prettier, actually."

Trixie turned swiftly to face Di. "Di, please, can we just have a casual evening? My relationship with Jim is so new that I don't want the added pressure of a dress-up evening, especially in front of Sally and Bonnie."

Honey stepped between her two friends. Looking at Trixie she said, "Trix, can I tell her?"

Wrapping her arms around her waist, Trixie nodded.

"Di, Trixie is feeling the newness of her relationship with Jim. She is concerned he will suddenly change his mind about loving her and decide she doesn't fit in with him and he'll let her go."

Di's jaw dropped open and she gaped at Trixie and Honey. "Are you kidding me?" Di demanded with her hands on her hips. "Jim Frayne has been in love with you since the day he met you. All the man talks about is 'Trixie said this' and 'Shamus did that'." Her voice rose as she talked. "Good heavens, girl! It has always been you for him and him for you. Are you trying to tell me that he's been with you almost every waking hour, doing all these sweet things for you, and you still have doubts that the man loves you?"

Di collapsed into a chair and glared at Trixie. "Trixie Belden, I have known you for my entire life and I cannot believe you are so dumb that you do not believe and trust Jim to be honest with you. If that man says he loves you, then you can damn well believe it. Jim is honorable and he wouldn't lie about love. All he has looked for in his entire life is family and love."

Trixie was shocked by Di's outburst but also hoping she was correct. She looked anxiously at Honey who was still sitting on the couch watching avidly. Trixie nervously licked her lips.

"I love Jim with every breath in my body, and I don't want to do anything to make him think I am wrong or won't be a good partner for him." Looking at her friends for encouragement, she stood tall and said with firmness in her voice, "I know I'm being childish and silly, but I don't have much experience with dating or being in a relationship. When I see you two and Bonnie, heck even Sally, then I know I'll feel inadequate. I will do my best to do better about it but…" Trixie paused as she nervously drew a pattern on the rug with the toe of her shoe. "Well, I may need advice and I don't trust anyone to help me but you two. At least you know me and will help me be the best me I can be." Grinning at her lapse into Honey-speak, Trixie rushed over and hugged her two friends.

Smiling at her friends, Honey picked up her notepad to verify with them that she had her notes correct. Honey read aloud, "The Manor House, dressy casual wear, all our favorite foods including chocolate cake, wine, beer, soda and, of course, champagne, music for dancing, our favorite board games and finally, movies." As her friends nodded in agreement, she gave a satisfied smile and nod while snapping the notepad shut.

Quietly drumming her fingers on the arm of the chair, Di's eyes developed a devilish twinkle. "You know," she mused, tapping a finger on her lips, "I think we can prove to Trixie that Jim only has eyes for her. Trix, don't you have a dinner date with Jim tonight?"

"What are you up to, Diana Lynch-soon-to-be-Belden?" Honey questioned with a quirk of her brow.

"Well…" Di started telling her dearest friends her delightfully evil plan.

~~~

Jim pulled his overcoat closed as he stepped out of his SUV. Anxious to see Trixie after her day with Honey and Di, he walked quickly to her door and rang the bell. Stamping his feet to get the dusting of snow off them, he waited, looking at the neighbors' Christmas lights.

Hearing the door open, Jim turned, feeling his heart go into overdrive and his mouth go dry.

Trixie stood at the open door in a navy blue halter dress with a floating pleated skirt. She looked at Jim with all the love in her heart showing in her eyes. On her beautiful face was a hint of a smile and her golden curls fell around her bare creamy shoulders.

"Hi, Jim. Won't you come in?" Trixie said shyly, stepping back so Jim could enter.

Jim finally shook free of the daze and fantasies that had overcome him on seeing Trixie in a blue Marilyn Monroe dress. "Shamus, you look gorgeous, beautiful, stunning," Jim murmured as he took her into his arms, kissing her deeply. The feel of her bare back made Jim's fingers itch to untie the bow at her neck.

Nibbling the side of her neck, he whispered between kisses, "I don't know if we should go out. I'd much rather stay here and admire your dress, than have to beat up all the men in the restaurant that will be staring at you."

Trixie smiled at his words and praise. "And you don't think that I'll have to beat up all the women who see how handsome and supple you are?"

Stepping away from her reluctantly and picking up her coat, Jim commented with a waggle of his eyebrows, "Beautiful, we'd better go now or I won't be responsible for my actions."

Laughing, Trixie donned the coat, grabbed her purse, took Jim's arm and headed for his SUV.

They talked about their day on the way to the Italian restaurant where they had reservations. Trixie told Jim about their plans for New Year's.

As they were seated at their table, Trixie took Jim's hand. "Thanks for the six-pack of strawberry pop." She smiled and winked at him.

Jim squeezed her hand and said, "My true love would rather have six cans of her favorite pop than 'six geese a-laying' any time." He smiled.

After placing their orders for lasagna for her and chicken parmesan for him, they sat holding hands and smiling sweetly at one another until someone walked up to their table.

"Well, I'll be. Trixie Belden, you look absolutely fantastic. When did you get back to town?" Tad Webster asked as his eyes roamed over the neckline of Trixie's dress.

Glancing at Jim briefly, he commented, "Hey, Frayne. How did you get so lucky to have the most beautiful woman in Sleepyside to have dinner with you?"

Looking at Jim, Trixie noticed his jaw tense up and a muscle tick from him clenching his teeth. Wow! Jim sure looks mad about Tad showing up. I wonder if he's jealous, she marveled to herself.

"Hi, Tad. Jim and I have been back to town for about a month now. How have you been?" Trixie said politely while moving her thumb across the back of Jim's hand.

"I've been great, working in the city. Did you say that you two are really together?" Tad inquired with a surprised look. Turning to Jim, he slapped him on the back. "Damn, Frayne, I didn't think you'd ever get around to it and finally ask Trixie out. She's been hot since way back. Congratulations for using your brain for something other than books. There are at least ten guys in town who would have asked her out when she came home if you didn't."

Glowering at Tad, Jim growled out, "Well, you can pass the word to forget all about Trixie. She is with me." Feeling her thumb make a circle on the back of his hand again, Jim slowly relaxed. He turned his hand over and laced his fingers with hers. Looking across the table at her, he saw Trixie's loving smile and returned it with his own.

Tad smiled to himself before quickly saying to the couple before him, "Well, it's good to see you so happy. Congratulations to you both." After kissing Trixie on the cheek, which got him another dirty look and shaking Jim's hand, Tad sauntered away to the bar.

As Tad moved to a dark corner and sat in the booth, he lifted an eyebrow to his companion before saying, "You're up, my dear."

Tad's girlfriend stood up by the table and smoothed the short skirt of her strapless dress over her very long and lovely legs. Leaning over so he got an eyeful of cleavage, she kissed him on the lips. "I'll be outside in about ten minutes. Go warm up the car, love. I'll be out shortly."

She straightened and walked toward the table where her quarry sat waiting.

After Tad had left the table, Jim had pulled Trixie's hand to his lips and kissed her palm. "He's right, you know," Jim said softly. "You are the most beautiful woman in the world and I am so lucky to be with you. The fact that we love each other is a wondrous thing. I do love you, Trixie."

"I love you, too, Jim," Trixie said quietly with stars in her eyes.

The waiter arrived, delivering their salads and bread to the table. After refilling their water glasses, he left them to their meal.

Trixie picked up her fork to begin eating when she realized Jim had frozen in place with a fork full of salad almost to his mouth and his eyes focused over her shoulder. Trixie looked to her left at the bottom half of a very short, green spandex dress. Looking up, her eyes widened in shock.

"Hi, Jim. I can't believe it's you here in White Plains. You certainly have matured into a handsome man. Hey, Trixie. Long time no see."

Trixie gritted her teeth as the slim fingers with pale-colored French nails belonging to Dot Murray skimmed over Jim's shoulder.

Jim flinched away from her grip and stuck out his hand to shake. "Dot, it has been a long time. Trixie and I come to White Plains for the excellent Italian food. What are you doing in New York?" he replied politely after taking Trixie's hand in his again.

Dot smiled a predatory smile at Jim. "If I'd known you were around, I'd have looked you up." Flipping her white-blonde hair over her shoulder, she took a card out of her clutch purse then leaned forward and said huskily, "Why don't I give you my number and you can come to the city to see me."

Jim had shifted his gaze to Trixie to let her know he wasn't interested in Dot before she had even got the card out. Still with his eyes on the woman he loved, he said firmly, "Dot, Trixie is all the woman I need. She has been since I met her. You were polite to me in Iowa, but I have had and always will have eyes only for Trixie. I'm not interested in contacting you. We think it was nice to see you, but this evening is about Trixie and me. Please don't let us keep you."

The shocked look on Trixie's face was the most beautiful thing Jim had ever seen in his life.

Dot stood looking between Trixie and Jim. A genuine smile broke on her face. Patting each of them on the shoulder, Dot said kindly, "I always knew it was going to be the two of you for real someday. Congratulations to you both."

Trixie glanced quickly at Dot before returning her eyes to Jim. "Thanks, Dot. It was good seeing you. I hope someday you find your true love."

Dot walked toward the coat check, requested her coat and hurried out to the car where her own true love, of the moment, waited.

Back inside the restaurant, Trixie and Jim held hands and shared their meal with a new understanding of their feelings for each other. They talked of the strange visitors to their table and the conversations they'd had with them.

After their meal, they made their way back to Trixie's duplex.

As they cuddled on Trixie's couch, talking, laughing and whispering about their past and present, Jim pulled Trixie into his lap to hold her closer and kiss her. The kisses and the soft, smooth skin of Trixie's back made Jim want more than they were ready to handle. Drawing away from Trixie slowly with increasingly softer kisses, Jim placed his forehead against hers as they both tried to catch their breath. "Sweetheart, I'd better go before we get in over our heads," Jim murmured against her lips.

"I know," Trixie sighed, "but I don't want you to go."

Her sweet mouth in a pout made Jim press another kiss to her lips.

Standing her up gently, Jim waited until she turned to pick up his coat before he got up and crossed to her.

Trixie helped Jim on with his coat and hugged him from behind, pressing her face against his back.

Turning in her arms, Jim kissed her and slowly walked her backwards toward the door with his lips still on hers.

Opening the door, Jim hugged her tightly and placed sweet, light kisses on her face. "Shamus sweetheart, I will see you tomorrow on the eve of our first full year as a couple." Cupping her face in his strong, freckled hands, he kissed her deeply before saying, "I love you, Shamus."

Trixie gently touched his face with her fingertips. "I love you, too, Jim. I always will. See you tomorrow."

After one last kiss, Jim walked out to his vehicle and drove away waving at her.

Trixie closed and locked the door. "Tomorrow," she whispered to herself.

~~~

After changing out of her dress and carefully hanging it up, Trixie put on her flannel pajamas and called Diana. "Hello, Harrison, it's Trixie. Is Diana there?" Trixie asked the Lynch's overly polite butler.

"Yes, Miss Belden, she is. Please hold while I locate her." Harrison said and Trixie heard footsteps heading down a marble hallway.

A few moments later, Diana picked up the phone. "Hello, Trixie. How did the evening go?"

"Well, Jim's eyes almost dropped out of his head when he saw the dress. I can't believe I let the two of you talk me into buying that dress last summer, let alone wear it tonight. But it was worth it!" Trixie chuckled. "Um, Di, was there anything else about tonight you forgot to tell me about? Anything at all?"

"What do you mean, Trix?" Diana said, trying to avoid the question. She wasn't too sure how Trixie felt about the Dot surprise. "Something special happen? Anything come up?" Diana burst into a fit of giggles with the last question.

"Diana Lynch, I am absolutely shocked by..." Trixie started but was interrupted by a chirping 'bob-bob-white, bob-bob-white.' "Hold on, it's Jim, let me get that."

"Hello. You made it home. Thanks for calling. I had a great time tonight. Yeah, neither can I. Talk to you tomorrow. Sweet dreams. I love you. Bye."

"I'm back," Trixie said with a sigh.

"So, I take it that was Jim on your cell phone? Love the ring tone." Diana said with a delighted laugh.

"Day four's surprise from Jim, and don't think I forgot about your little shocker tonight." Trixie tried to sound firm, but truthfully she found Diana's bombshell funny, now that it was over. "You told me you were going to call Tad Webster to spur Jim along, but how did I miss the Dot Murray detail, Miss Lynch?"

"Oh, you saw Dot?" Diana squeaked, in what she hoped was an innocent voice. "How was she?"

"Nice try. She was a white-blond bombshell. Same as 10 years ago, but more ammo if you know what I mean," Trixie snickered. "Jim nearly choked on his tongue. I thought I might have to do CPR."

"Well, that would have worked, too," Diana snorted.

"Diana, I think you've been hanging out with some seedy characters. You've turned quite devious. But I suppose I should say thank you. Jim basically kicked the blond-bombshell out the door and across the river. You and Honey are right. He loves me, I know that. I need to remember that and I'm working on it," Trixie admitted.

"I have to tell you the truth, Trixie. I didn't even know Tad was dating Dot. But when I called him up and asked him to drop by your date, he asked if he could bring a date. I couldn't believe it when told me I knew his new girlfriend. Turns out they met on MeetMate.com. How weird is that?" Di queried her friend.

"I am never going to question the universe again, ever. Well, Miss Lynch-soon-to-be-Belden, I'm going to check some email and go to bed. I'll see you tomorrow around 3:00 to set up for the party. You sure Ben and Sally have to come?" Trixie whined.

"You'll be fine, promise. Good night, Trixie!" Diana said. "Bye."

~~~

Trixie woke up bright and early Sunday morning. She was due to meet her family for morning church services and breakfast afterward at Crabapple Farm. She laid back and looked at her pressed ceiling tiles; they reminded her of the tin ceilings the BWGs saw in the old buildings during their trip to Twin Oaks. It was the little details that made her duplex perfectly perfect. Trixie had no idea that Jim had recommended many of the little details she loved so much to the architect.

"Time to get up. Gotta get moving," Trixie said out loud, talking to herself as she walked to the master bathroom to get ready. "OK, mental list of everything I need to do: Get up - check; shower, hair, make-up - in process; Church and breakfast with Moms and Dad; then meet Honey." Trixie made quick work of getting ready, light make-up, blow-dry her curls, and then she stood in the doorway of her walk-in closet wondering what to wear. Looking at her watch, she realized she didn't have time to waste. Quickly, she grabbed a forest green sweater twinset and soft grey wool trousers. She put on her dark grey suede Mary Jane pumps. It surprised her how she actually liked shopping for shoes. Shoes were her dark secret. She had half dozen reasonable shoes for work, but she had twice as many shoes for fun. Trixie grabbed her purse and was on her way out the door, totally forgetting she was going to bring her party and overnight things with her so she wouldn't have to come back before meeting Honey and Di.

It wasn't until sitting down to breakfast with her family that she remembered her missing bag. "Drat! I left my bag," Trixie moaned.

"Why don't you call Honey and see if she can stop by and get it on her way back. She was going into town for a pedicure," Brian said, munching on bacon.

"Squaw, that's where an esthetician applies creams and salves to the terminal part of the leg, below the ankle joint, usually concluding in the painting of the digits of the foot," Mart said smugly.

"Sorry, boy-o, but an esthetician is someone who does facials, a pedicurist does the feet," Bobby corrected. Seeing Mart's opened mouth shock, he added, "What? I read. Cosmo has lots of useful information on women. Most important thing I learned from Dan, know your prey," Bobby said, pointing with his fork for emphasis.

"And on that note, Moms, may I be excused? I'd like to call Honey before Mart recovers from his shock," Trixie asked with a smirk. She cleared her dishes to the counter, "I'll be back to help with the dishes."

Trixie walked to the den and picked up the extension and dialed the number she knew by heart. "Morning, my love, how are you this morning?" Jim crooned.

"Man, I hope you tell me it's caller ID, because if not, I'm really going to worry about your relationship with my brother," Trixie said with a laugh.

"I'd like to tell you it's all instinct, but honestly caller ID was at least 90% of it," Jim replied honestly. "So, ready for tonight?"

"Actually, I'm not. That's why I was calling. Is Honey there?" Trixie answered.

"She's in the dining room, let me get her," Jim replied. "Hold on, love you."

Trixie blushed as she waited for Honey to pick up the phone. "Hey, Trix, what's up?"

"Hey, Honey, I need a favor," Trixie said after her friend picked up the phone. "Brian said you had an appointment in town and I was going to ask you to stop by my place and pick up my bag."

"Sure, no problem," Honey interrupted.

"Well, I think I have a different favor to ask. Could I go with you?" Trixie said covering the phone, very unsure of herself.

"You want to get a pedicure?" Honey whispered.

"Yes, no, oh I don't know. I thought it might be nice and I'm sorry, this is stupid. Forget I said anything. I'll talk to you later. Bye," Trixie said breathlessly and hung up the phone. She collapsed backward over the arm of her father's huge reading chair. "I'm such a twit! I can't even ask my best friend if I can go with her to get my feet massaged. UGH!" Trixie put a pillow over then face and let out a small scream.

She was sitting with the pillow over her face when the phone rang and was picked up in the kitchen. She heard Brian enter the den and say into the cordless phone, "Yes, she's here trying to smother herself. Hold on. It's for you. It's Honey," Brian said removing the pillow from his sister's face and handing her the phone. Rolling his eyes at Trixie, Brian tossed the pillow onto the couch on his way out of the room.

"Sorry, I'm a dolt," Trixie started to apologize.

"I'm in my car. I'm coming to get you. Get your purse and get out here. I'm pulling up to your driveway. Now! Scoot," Honey said hanging up before her friend could disagree.

Trixie stared at the phone for a second or two, then got up and went into the kitchen. "Moms, I'm sorry, I know I said I'd help with the dishes…"

"We've got it under control. Go with Honey and have fun," Brian said with his hands deep in the sink.

"I like how he decides you can leave. When was my vote?" Mart asked drying a plate and putting it in the glass-fronted cabinet. He turned to grumble at his almost twin, "Seriously, go have fun. I'll come up with some way for you make it up to me."

Trixie got her things and rushed out to the car. As she opened the door, she said, "Honey, this is silly. I can go back to my place and pick up my bag on my own. You go get your nails done and I'll meet you later."

"Get in, Belden. We're going. You and I have an 11:00 appointment for your first pedicure," Honey said, putting the car in reverse. "Get in, or you're going to get squished."

"OK, sensei, I'm in," Trixie said, closing the door and buckling her seat belt.

"I can't believe you've never been for a pedicure. I've seen your shoes, you love your feet, you're going to love this, I promise," Honey assured her friend. They pulled up in front of pretty store front, called BLISS.

"Hey, this is the same building we had our antique show in, isn't it?" Trixie realized.

"That's how I found them. Let's go, greenhorn. Your toes are begging for attention." Honey held open the door and pushed Trixie inside.

Forty-five minutes later, Trixie and Honey were sitting back with their feet propped up, letting the polish dry. "Pink. I can't believe you picked pink," Honey said in disbelief, taking a drink of water from the bottle the nail tech handed her.

"It's not pink, exactly. I read the bottle, it's 'Rose at Dawn'. It's dark pink," Trixie admitted, looking at her newly polished toes.

"So, what did you think?" Honey asked.

"Different, it was different. I kinda liked it. But it's a little weird having someone sit at your feet and lavish attention on your toes. Before you ask, 'cause I know you're going to, yes - I'd do it again." Trixie smiled.

"Grasshopper, I'm so proud." Honey toasted Trixie with her plastic water bottle. "As soon as we're dry, we'll stop and get your bag. You're spending the night right?"

"Of course, it wouldn't be one of your old fashioned house parties if I didn't," Trixie said.

~~~

"OK, Diana, what's next?" Trixie asked her raven-haired friend, who was holding a clipboard and checking items off. Trixie collapsed on the floor and flung her hands above her head. "If we don't take a break soon, I'm just going to die."

"There's my best friend!" Honey laughed at Trixie's familiar behavior and she lay on the floor next to her friend. "Di, we're going to die here!" Honey snorted.

"Funny, very funny, ladies. We are all done. Everything is all ready. Dinner will be served at 6:00, so the only thing left to do is make ourselves stunning." Diana flung herself dramatically across her two friends on the floor. The three friends were laying there laughing when Jim came in the room.

"Mart, Brian, I found them. Looks like they've died again," Jim called over his shoulder. The three men stood in the doorway, arms crossed over their chests looking down at the heap.

"Should we help them up or let them rot?" Mart asked, nudging Trixie with the toe of his shoe.

"Rug's new. Let's help them up." Jim replied, reaching down to grab Trixie's hand.

The three friends were soon up and everyone was on their way upstairs to get ready for their evening. Jim pulled Honey aside and whispered something in her ear.

"OK, let's get organized here. Jim and I can use our rooms to get ready. Diana, Ms. Trask had your bag put in the Violet room. Brian and Mart, if you two can share, you'll be in the Forest room. Dan is picking Bonnie up, so they'll come ready and only need a place to sleep. Ben is in the Iris room and Sally is in the Marigold room. That's everyone, right? OK, see you at 6:00 for dinner." Honey turned and continued up the stairs.

"Honey, I'll just get ready with you then?" Trixie asked.

"Sorry, Trix. You're in the Rose room. Let me know if you need anything everyone. Happy primping!" She walked into her room and closed the door.

"Here's your hat, what's your hurry?" Trixie mutter the idiom under her breath. She turned to Jim. "She's sure excited to get ready for a relaxed dinner party."

"You know she just wants everything perfectly perfect," Jim said, kissing Trixie on the nose. "I'll walk you to your room, my lady." Jim took Trixie by the hand and led her down the hallway. He stopped at the end of the hallway and opened the door. Jim pulled Trixie into the room and continued across the rose-colored carpet. He kept walking until he came to the closed door to the attached bathroom. He opened the door and waited for Trixie to walk inside, "Happy seventh day of Christmas, baby."

Trixie stood in shock as she looked around the room. Throughout the generous-sized room, dozens of candles were lit and in the soaking tub, a bath was drawn, full of fluffy white bubbles. Nestled in the bubbles floated seven rubber ducks. "Jim, what am I going to do with you?" Trixie turned and wrapped her arms around him. She reached up and placed her hand on his cheek, pulling him toward her for a passionate kiss.

Jim leaned back and looked at the beautiful woman in his arms and said, "You can do that any time you want. And, even though the tub's big enough, I'm leaving before I'm tempted to try and embarrass the ducks."

Giggling, Trixie gave him a playful push out the bathroom and then scampered across the room to wait for him by the door.

Laughing quietly, Jim walked up to Trixie and lifted her until her face was even with his. "Trixie, you little minx," he looked into her smiling blue eyes before tightening his arms around her. "What am I going to do with you?" he said.

Trixie looked at Jim tenderly. "Mr. Frayne, I hope you will love me forever, because I most certainly love you," she said softly as she kissed him.

Jim let her slide down to put her feet on the floor. Raining soft kisses all over her face, he murmured, "Miss Belden, I will always love you."

Stepping away toward the door, Jim's eyes had a mischievous twinkle. "Trix, I had better go. The ducks are waiting for you."

Trixie's delighted laughter could still be heard when he closed the door.


NEXT

HOME

Author's Notes

Part 1: 6,630 words

Smush Sisters notes:

Thanks to our editors, Pam, Donnis, WendyM, and BonnieH. Any typos, runs, hits or errors are all by the Smush Sisters and not these lovely ladies who try to save us from ourselves. We are comma illiterate. We apologize for ahead of time for using them incorrectly.

Extra special thanks to BonnieH.  She hosted us, posted our stories, and made the pages on her site look absolutely fantastic. We wouldn't have been able to play like writers without all her wonderful assistance.
 
Story Stuff:

We have no idea if there's a salon called Bliss in New York, but ours is imaginary and we're happy to sell the rights to it.

We also made up MeetMate.com, if it really exists, we apologize.

These things are fact:

Cornell is an institution of higher learning.

Mini Cooper is a cool little car manufactured by MiniUSA. (Even though Honey's is red, SmushSister Jenny
J has a green one)

Victoria's is a nickname for Victoria's Secret and they have pretty, sexy stuff that doesn't fit full-figured us.

Rubber Duckies are just plain cute bathtub toys.


Things that inspired us. We are getting no money from them, but they nudged us and you are welcome to check them out!

Trixie's
necklace and blue halter dress

Background tile is from Hellas Multimedia.