“Trixie,” her mother called out the kitchen door. Trixie looked up from the row of beans she was weeding. “I need you to run to Lytell’s store and pick up some milk and bread.”

Trixie slowly stood up, stretching her aching back. The afternoon had been spent weeding the garden and she was ready to quit. Ten minutes ago she would have given anything to go inside and relax. Now she had to head over to the little store located on Glen Road.

“Okay,” she replied to her mother. “I just want to change out of these old clothes.”

Her mother chuckled. Over the past few months her sixteen-year-old daughter had begun to take notice of what she looked like when she left the house. She suspected it was because she was now old enough to date and Trixie was trying to catch a certain boy’s attention. She smiled at that thought.

It was more than a few minutes before Trixie made her way back downstairs. She had managed a quick shower, combed out her curls, and applied lipstick and mascara. As she passed her mother, a cloud of overpowering scent followed her.

Moms tried not to choke. Oh, to be sixteen and in love again, she thought.

Trixie grabbed the money from the table and headed out of the house. She hopped on her bike and headed up the trail to the Manor House. She decided to ride through the preserve instead of along Glen Road. She hoped the shade of the trees would keep her from perspiring.

She had to look perfect in case she ran into him. He was so handsome. When she would run into him in the preserve riding his noble steed she could barely contain herself. His supple chest and handsome face took her breath away. So what if he was a few years older than she was? There was a lot to be said for an older man. He would say she was too young and needed to wait. He was just so honorable.

So deep in thought, she was surprised when she realized she had ridden through the preserve. As she approached the store she slowed, her nerves getting the better of her. Would he be there or off doing something else?

As she opened the door the bell jingled above her. She quickly found the bread and milk and walked to the register just as he came out from the back room. A smile broke over her face. He was so handsome with his greying mustache and weathered face. How had she missed this?

“Good afternoon, Miss Belden,” he said in that wonderfully gruff voice. “Will that be all today?”

For a minute she could barely speak, then she squeaked out, “Do you have any strawberry soda?”

He walked over to the cooler to pull a can out for her. As he handed it to her their fingers brushed and she could barely contain herself.

Trixie sat up in bed, sweat running down her face. She looked around trying to orient herself. That had been one bad nightmare. Imagine having a crush on Mr. Lytell! That was just wrong in so many ways. She needed brain Brillo to scrub the idea from her mind.

She was confused for a few minutes and didn’t know where she was. Then she remembered that she had stayed at Honey’s that night. They had been working on writing up their Chemistry lab that was due on Monday. They had both decided to get it done right after school today so they wouldn’t have to worry about it the entire weekend.

There would be so much to do this weekend. Brian and Jim were due home tomorrow for their Christmas break. Dan and Mart had arrived late that evening. She, Honey and Diana had made big plans for the holidays. There would be horseback riding, ice skating, sledding and Christmas caroling. She couldn’t wait.

She sighed and for a moment she realized she had forgotten about her nightmare. “Oh, nuts,” she thought. “Why did I have to think about that again? And why did I have the dream in the first place?”

She hadn’t been to Lytell’s store in over a week. It’s not like she was best friends with the man. He barely tolerated her, even though she had saved him from losing a bunch of money when that Laura Ramsey tried to con him. He’d even stopped stocking strawberry pop last month. Claimed the supplier had quit providing it.

She tried to go back to sleep but she kept picturing her and Mr. Lytell together. She tried counting sheep and she thought of the sheep rustlers at Uncle Andrew’s farm. Then she tried counting backwards from 100 and she remembered she had an Algebra 2 assignment to finish that she was completely lost on. She tried to relax every muscle, starting with her toes and working her way up to her head, but all she ended up with was leg cramps. She tossed and turned for what seemed like hours.

She didn’t realize that Honey got up until she came back into the room with a cup of hot cocoa.

“What’s gotten you all worked up?” Honey asked as she handed the cup to Trixie. “You’ve been restless all night.”

Trixie gratefully accepted the cup and took a sip. Then she replied, “I’m not sure what prompted it but I had this horrible nightmare. It was the worst.”

“Oh, no,” Honey gasped. “Did it involve headless horsemen or monsters?”

“Much worse,” Trixie said. “I dreamed I had a crush on Mr. Lytell.”

It took Honey a few minutes for it to sink in and then she rubbed her eyes as if to erase the image. “Ew,” she exclaimed. “That is a nightmare. I don’t think I could fall asleep after that either. That’s just so wrong.” She shuddered violently.

“I’ve been trying to figure out why I would dream something so horrible,” Trixie said. “Usually if I do have a nightmare, it’s after we’ve been in a dangerous situation or Jim and Brian have read us the riot act for something we’ve done. I haven’t even been to Mr. Lytell’s store in weeks. Bobby has been going for Moms and now that he doesn’t stock strawberry pop I don’t have a reason to stop by.”

She yawned as she looked at the clock. It said five a.m. The hot chocolate seemed to be doing the trick. Maybe she could get a couple more hours of sleep.

This time when her head hit the pillow she fell into a deep sleep. Her dreams were much more enjoyable and centered around the most wonderful boy in the whole world, and it wasn’t Mr. Lytell.

The sun shone through the window and onto Trixie’s face several hours later. Slowly, she awoke, stretching out her body before sitting up. She looked over to see Honey had started to stir as well. She quickly got out of bed and made her way to the bathroom. She and Honey wanted to put the finishing touches on their chemistry lab before going down to the stable to help Regan exercise the horses.

Jim and Brian were expected in the early afternoon. They didn’t have travel far. Normally, they would take the train from the city but since they would be home for almost a month Tom was going to drive in and pick them up. Plans for the evening were for the Bob-Whites to have dinner at Crabapple Farm, followed by an evening of fun led by Peter Belden. Both sets of Lynch twins would be joining them as well.

It didn’t take as long as they had anticipated to finish the chemistry lab. That left time for Honey and Trixie to giggle and gab. Honey was in the same boat with Brian as Trixie was with Jim. He seemed to be interested in her but never made any effort to make a move.

Despite the fact that they each had a major crush on each other’s brother, they plotted like many teenage girls did.

“What should I wear today?” Honey asked. “I could wear my new jeans with the Columbia University sweatshirt Jim gave me for my birthday. Or maybe that pretty red turtleneck I got at Crimper’s last week.”

“I like the sweatshirt. It’s more casual. Don’t want to be too obvious,” Trixie said.

“I don’t know, Trix,” Honey said. “Subtlety has gotten us nowhere.”

“I’m wearing my favorite worn jeans and a Sleepyside High sweatshirt. After all, we’re going riding. It’s not too cold so maybe I’ll just wear one of those wool sweaters Aunt Alicia made me. For once her sweaters were actually stylish. They are perfect for riding, especially if I wear a turtleneck underneath.”

Honey thought for a second. “Well, we’re not really doing anything different. How are we going to get those boys to notice us?”

Trixie started to giggle. “I did give some thought to getting my hair cut like Mart’s. Jim would have to notice for sure.”

“He’d notice,” Honey said, “but he wouldn’t be very happy. He wouldn’t have his special curl to tug.”

“He hasn’t tugged that curl in almost six months. I swear he has another girlfriend and is afraid to tell me.”

“He does not have a girlfriend,” Honey insisted. “He’d tell me if he did.”

“So what are we going to do to attract those boys’ attention?” Trixie said. “I think I’m going to pull my hair back into a ponytail. I’m so glad I decided to let my hair grow out. I never would have thought it would be easier to take care of.”

“You just like that you can run your brush through your hair and pull it into a ponytail most days,” Honey said. “You don’t have to go through the whole blow dryer/curling iron bit.”

Trixie smiled wickedly. “I just hope that I don’t make a complete fool of myself. Mart and Dan will never let me live it down.”

“For some reason, I don’t think Mart or Dan will say anything. Diana told me that those two are so sick of listening to Brian and Jim moaning and groaning about school and us.”

Trixie blushed. “I hope she’s right.”

They dressed and headed down to the dining room for breakfast. When they had finished they headed over to the stables. They hoped that Brian and Jim would show up before they were all ready to go on their ride. Diana was going to ride over on Sunny. She hadn’t been able to stay overnight as her family had gone to see The Nutcracker in the city the night before.

Dan had spent the night at Crabapple Farm. He and Mart were going to try and get the Christmas tree in the stand so it could be decorated the next day. It was the one tradition that Brian insisted the family wait on until he was home. Moms didn’t mind because it meant the tree wasn’t up for the entire month.

Regan was cleaning out Jupiter’s stall when Honey and Trixie came in. They were giggling about Trixie’s dream.

“Every time I think of it I want to just scrub my brain,” Trixie said. “I mean, really, of all the people to have a crush on, Mr. Lytell? Why that’s even worse than Sergeant Molinson or Mr. Stratton.”

“No, no, no,” Honey said. “Don’t put those ideas in my head. I’ll start having daymares like Petey did when we were in Arizona.”

Trixie couldn’t help teasing Honey. “I know, you could have a crush on Grandpa Crimper.”

They both burst out laughing at the thought. “Oh, that would be terrible. He’d be asking me every other minute what my name was.”

“It would be like a first date every time you went out,” Trixie said. They both were laughing so hard tears were running down their cheeks.

“Stop,” Honey insisted. “I can’t take it anymore.”

Regan looked up from what he was doing. What are you girls up to?” he asked.

The two girls looked at each other and started to giggle all over again.

“Have you been sipping the strawberry pop again?” he asked.

“No,” Trixie tried to explain. “Just discussing a nightmare I had.”

Regan shook his head. “I don’t think I want to know.”

“I know you don’t want to know,” Honey said.

“Any word from Tom or the guys?” Trixie asked casually.

“They just called and said they were on their way down to the stables. They dropped off Brian’s bags and then had to drop off Jim’s,” Regan replied.

“It could be hours before they get down here,” Trixie said. “Both of them will have to unpack all of their clothes and hang them up. And not just hang them up. They have to be categorized by color, style and material. I swear they have the worst case OCD around.”

Regan laughed. “I think today is different. Dan told me those two were so burnt out from finals and they couldn’t wait to get their feet into stirrups.”

Just then they heard voices approaching the stables. Mart walked in and said, “You haven’t gotten those horses saddled yet, squaws? What have you been doing all morning?”

Trixie and Honey quickly made their way to the tack room to get the saddles. Trixie reached into her pocket and pulled out a carrot for Susie. Honey did the same for Lady.

They both ignored Dan and Mart as they worked at getting their horses ready. A few minutes later, Diana rode up on Sunny. Dan, Mart, Trixie and Honey led their mounts outside and greeted Diana.

“Are Brian and Jim home yet?” she asked.

“Rumor has it they are,” said Trixie. “Regan said they were going to head down to the stables right away but I think they got waylaid unpacking their bags.”

“Well, we might as well not wait for them,” Dan said. “It could be days before Frayne gets his underwear alphabetized.”

“I resemble that remark,” Jim said, making his way down the hill with Brian. Both Trixie and Honey sat up straighter on their mounts. Diana laughed as she saw Trixie run her hand over her hair trying to smooth her errant curls.

“Welcome home,” Honey said. “I bet you’re glad to be done with classes.”

“It was a rough semester,” Brian admitted. Honey couldn’t miss the look of appreciation he gave her. She filled out her Columbia University sweatshirt nicely.

Brian and Jim started to head into the stables when Regan came out leading Starlight and Jupiter.

“Contrary to popular belief,” he said. “I will on occasion saddle horses for people other than Trixie and Honey.”

Jim and Brian nodded their thanks as they mounted the horses.

“Where are we going to ride today?” Jim asked.

“Moms wants us to take this package of crabapple jelly and homemade pickles to Mrs. Vanderpoel,” Mart said.

As they rode, there was a lot of teasing between the friends. They were excited to be together and each competed to be heard above the next person. They chose to ride in the preserve exiting onto Glen Road just before Mr. Lytell’s store.

As they rode by the store, Trixie shuddered remembering her nightmare. She looked over at Honey and the two began to giggle.

Mart who was riding just behind them called out,” So what’s the big secret? Did Mr. Lytell buy stock in strawberry soda?”

Trixie and Honey continued to laugh. Then Trixie’s eyes widened as they rode past the store. She couldn’t believe her eyes. There was Miss Trask coming out of the rear door of the store. That wasn’t that strange, but her usually neat hair was a tangled mess and her clothes looked rumpled. Despite the cool crisp December air, she didn’t have a coat on. When she noticed the Bob-Whites riding by she quickly looked the other way, then headed to the Estate wagon that was parked in back next to Mr. Lytell’s old beater car.

Trixie looked over at Honey, but Honey’s gaze was on Brian and she didn’t appear to see Miss Trask.

When they arrived at Mrs. Vanderpoel’s, everyone dismounted. They carefully tied the horses so they wouldn’t get away and knocked on the front door. Within minutes the door opened and Mrs. Vanderpoel greeted them with a warm smile. “This is a surprise, and you couldn’t have arrived at a better time. I have fresh baked windmill cookies and yesterday I made a batch of Christmas fudge.”

Mart practically drooled at the thought.

“Hey,” Dan said as they all traipsed into the living room. “Close your mouth, Mart, or the drool will freeze.”

Mart started to sputter but stopped when Mrs. Vanderpoel handed him a cookie and piece of fudge.

The Bob-Whites stayed for about a half hour. Mrs. Vanderpoel wanted to know what everyone had been doing and how classes were going. Reluctantly, they left knowing that they would be in big trouble with Regan if they let the horses stand much longer.

The ride back to the stables was uneventful. When they rode past Mr. Lytell’s store the Estate wagon was gone and it didn’t appear that anyone was in the store.

Regan wasn’t around when they returned to the stables but everyone knew what to do. Diana was going to leave Sunny at the Manor House for the rest of the weekend. Plans were for everyone to stay at the Manor House that evening and then ride again sometime on Sunday.

As the group groomed the horses and cleaned the tack, they continued to make plans for the holiday break. Trixie had originally planned to do something to get Jim’s attention. Instead, her thoughts were on Miss Trask and why she appeared to be sneaking out of Mr. Lytell’s store.

“Earth to Trixie,” Brian called out.

Trixie shook her head, realizing she had been rubbing the same piece of tack for five minutes. “Sorry,” she said as she stood up to hang it up in its proper place. “Did you say something?”

“Jim wanted to know if we wanted go to a movie tonight,” Honey said.

Trixie blushed and then said, “I’m game for whatever everyone else wants to do.”

“We could stay in and watch a movie on TV,” suggested Diana. “It might be fun, a movie and popcorn.”

“That’s a good idea,” Jim said. “Dad just put a 72-inch flat screen TV in the den.”

As they finished up their chores in the stables, they discussed what movie they wanted to watch. Mart volunteered to take Diana back to her house to get her suitcase. Mr. Maypenny needed Dan to help fix a feeding station so Brian and Jim went along to help. Trixie decided she should check in with her parents to see if they needed anything done this afternoon.

As she and Honey walked down to Crabapple Farm, Trixie could hardly contain herself. “Did you see Miss Trask?”

“At the house?” Honey asked innocently.

“You didn’t see her at Mr. Lytell’s store?”

Honey shook her head, confused. “I didn’t see anything.”

“You didn’t see her come out the back door as we rode by on our way to Mrs. Vanderpoel’s?”

“No, what happened?” Honey asked.

Trixie explained what she saw.

“I didn’t see it,” Honey reiterated and then blushed. “Of course I was trying to get Brian’s attention. Are you sure you weren’t imagining things? You know you had that nightmare.”

Trixie shook her head emphatically. “I double checked. And when we came home I noticed a set of tire tracks next to Mr. Lytell’s car.”

Reluctantly, Honey agreed, “Well, I’m not going to doubt what you saw. Your observation skills always amaze me.”

They walked up the steps to the kitchen door. “I keep imagining all these different scenarios,” Trixie said. “And each one is a bigger nightmare than mine from last night.”

Honey started to giggle as they opened the door. She didn’t comment however, but called out “Yoo-hoo, anybody home?”

She had been doing that for years, ever since Trixie had explained that was what everyone did.

“What are you doing here?” Moms asked as she came into the kitchen. “I didn’t expect to see you until tomorrow night.”

Trixie gave her mom a hug and then said, “We just wanted to check in and see if you needed anything. We’re going to have a movie night up at Manor House.”

“Thanks for stopping down. It was good to see you. I’m good though. Your father took Bobby into town. He needed to get some things from the hardware store. That’s allowed me to get most of the housework done. You’re welcome to stay for lunch if you want.”

The girls decided to stay and went upstairs to wash up. As they were cleaning up, Honey said, “I just can’t get over Miss Trask and Mr. Lytell. I wonder what happened.”

“I keep trying to picture what could have happened and everything I think of is just wrong. It makes me wonder what happens when Miss Trask goes over to watch wrestling matches with him.”

Honey almost choked when she heard that. “I can just see it now. In this corner, weighing in at 150 pounds is Flying Frank Lytell and in that corner is Mighty Marge Trask weighing in at 135 pounds.”

Trixie started to giggle uncontrollably, “I wonder who won the match?”

“Stop,” Honey finally got out. “I can’t take it anymore. I’m never going to be able to look at Miss Trask or Mr. Lytell again without laughing.”

Moms called up the stairs that lunch was ready. The two friends made their way down the stairs.

They had an enjoyable lunch with Moms. Plans were made for decorating the Christmas tree, finishing up the holiday baking and shopping. Trixie and Honey helped clean up the kitchen and then headed back to Manor House.

When they entered the foyer, Miss Trask was coming down the main stairs. She looked as neat and trim as always, not a hair was out of place. Honey and Trixie tried not to giggle.

They raced up to Honey’s room and burst into uncontrolled giggles as they fell onto the bed. “I can’t do it,” Trixie said. “I’ll never be able to look at Miss Trask again.”

“You think you have it bad, I live in the same house as her. You can go home tomorrow and hopefully with enough brain cleansing you can put the thought out of your mind,” Honey replied.

Trixie was trying to put the wrestling scene out of her mind when suddenly she sat up and said, “Oh, no, I thought of something even worse. I bet Miss Trask and Mr. Lytell were making out in the back room and when they heard the horses approaching she tried to sneak out the back door.”

“No, no, no,” Honey yelled. “Now I’ll never be able to go into the store and not wonder who is hiding in the back room and what they were doing before we came in.”

“I can’t help it,” Trixie said. “I keep imagining all of these different scenarios. I know that Miss Trask is good friends with Mr. Lytell, but I just can’t see them as a couple.”

Honey very matter-of-factly replied, “That’s because you want Mr. Lytell all to yourself.”

Trixie scrubbed her eyes and said, “You had to remind me. The only good thing about seeing Miss Trask leave the store like she did was that it made me forget about my nightmare.”

“I still have a hard time believing there’s anything going on between them,” Honey said.

“Stop,” Trixie yelled. “We’ve got to quit talking about this or we’re not going to be able to sleep for a week.”

Just then there was a knock on the door. Jim and Brian poked their heads in. “What’s going on in here?” Jim asked. “It sounds like something horrible has happened.”

The two girls looked at one another, each wondering if they should say anything about what they saw. Honey shook her head slightly and Trixie replied, “We were just talking about something that happened to Ruthie Kettner.”

“That’s right,” Honey covered up quickly, “Ruthie Kettner, she got a new dog and was telling us about all of the things it was getting into.”

Brian and Jim looked at each other, shaking their heads in disbelief. Without commenting, they suggested helping Miss Trask put the finishing touches on the Christmas decorations in the living room.

Pretty soon all of the Bob-Whites were in the living room helping with the decorations. There wasn’t a lot to do. Garland needed to be hung on the banister in the foyer and red bows attached to it. A large spruce tree was placed in the picture window at the front of the house. White twinkle lights and red hand blown glass ornaments would adorn that tree. There was already a tree in the den where all of the sentimental and homemade ornaments were displayed.

Jim and Trixie worked on getting the garland hung while Brian and Honey decorated the tree. Mart tried to act as supervisor, but Miss Trask quickly put him, Dan and Diana to work setting up the nativity on the mantel of the fireplace. Red and white poinsettias would be placed on either side of the fireplace, as well as at the base of the staircase.

Miss Trask supervised the activities, checking on the group of young people while also ensuring the holiday baking was progressing. When they were finished with the decorating, she invited the Bob-Whites into the den where she had set out pitchers of cold milk and various Christmas confections.

Mart was in heaven, but all of the Bob-Whites enjoyed the tasty desserts. They were teasing each other about holiday traditions. Dan had managed to sneak a sprig of mistletoe into the den and hang it over the entryway. He not so subtly tried to get Jim to stand under it. All Trixie could do was blush.

Miss Trask stepped into the doorway, not realizing what was hanging over her head. All of a sudden Trixie and Honey were overtaken by a fit of the giggles. The rest of the Bob-Whites looked at them like they had lost their marbles.

“What is wrong with you two today?” Miss Trask asked. “You’re acting like two fifth graders with all of your giggling.”

Trixie and Honey just continued to giggle.

Miss Trask threw up her hands. “It’s just been one of those days,” she said. “It all started when I went to Lytell’s store this morning to pick up a few things for Cook. Tom didn’t have time to run me into town and help with the weekly shopping until tomorrow and we needed a few things. I was in a hurry and slipped and fell on the ice as I got out of the car. Frank rushed out and helped but it was a comedy of errors.”

Honey caught Trixie’s eye and mouthed “Frank?”

“The more he helped, the more I slipped,” Miss Trask continued. “By the time I made it to the store I looked like I had been in a fight.”

Honey regained her composure and asked, “Are you okay?”

“Oh, yes,” Miss Trask replied. “The only injury was my ego.”

What really happened…

Miss Trask entered the kitchen of the Manor House. Cook was muttering about needing some butter for the sandwich spread she was planning for lunch. Immediately, Miss Trask volunteered to run over to Lytell’s store to pick some up.

Instead of heading directly out the door she returned to her room and freshened up. She even was so bold as to put on a light lipstick and a spray of perfume. She rushed out the front door before anyone could notice the additional care she had taken.

As she drove over to the store, she kept up a dialogue of self-talk. “What is wrong with you, Margery? You’re just going over to see Frank. You’ve known him for years. Just because he seemed to be more interested in you than the wrestling matches last week doesn’t mean a thing.” All the way over the short distance to the store she kept up the dialogue of self-doubt.

When she arrived she parked behind the store next to Frank’s well-worn car. After checking the mirror one last time to make sure her hair was in place, she got out of the car and walked in through the back door. She had been doing that for several years now.

As she entered, Frank was entering the back room from the store. Without any words he pulled her into his arms and gave her a passionate kiss. “This is a pleasant surprise,” he said when he came up for air.

“I couldn’t wait,” she said. “After watching the wrestling matches last night I couldn’t get some of those moves out of my mind. All I could think of was trying them out.”

“I know,” he replied. “That one move was so cool; you know, where Pat “Grizzly” Bear took down his evil twin Bonstance “Stink Eye” Holderus.”

“Yes, that’s the one,” she agreed. Then she proceeded to snake her leg around his and knock him to the floor, falling on top of him. As she tried to pin him down she looked into his eyes and moved her hands to his face, planting a passionate kiss on his lips. For several minutes they were lost in their passion.

Slowly, Margery became aware of hoof beats approaching the store. Quickly, she pushed herself to a standing position. Frank pulled her back into his embrace

“I’ve got to go,” she insisted. “If that’s the Bob-Whites and they stop by, I will never live it down.”

For once, Frank did not care if he became fodder for gossip on Glen Road. He placed one last passionate kiss on her lips and said, “Hopefully, that will hold you until next week’s wrestling matches.”

Finally, she broke away from his embrace and raced out the back door. As she approached the car she looked up to see Trixie staring at her in shock.

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Author Notes

I had the pleasure of writing for TrishB this year. She didn’t ask for much. She said that she would be happy with any pairings except that Jim and Trixie belong together. This year Trish has been the prompt queen, organizing daily writing prompts for the year. The dream sequence was a snippet from one of those prompts. I think it was an unlikely pairing. Then one day she mentioned she would like to have been a fly on the wall when Miss Trask and Mr. Lytell were watching the wrestling matches. And so we have this story.

Thanks to BonnieH and PatK for patiently editing for me. You make my stories so much better.

Mal as always rocks the graphics.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Word count, 5,047

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