there's a gleam in your eye
 

Chapter 6: Honey's Sweet. But...

August 11, 1957

They left the apartment the same way they had come in, and Dan made sure to pull the window down completely behind them and to replace the torn screen. As he jumped from the fire escape, he saw a young couple staring at them. He glared back at them and the two turned their faces away and quickened their pace. Dan reached down to pick up the fancy sport coat he had left on the ground. He brushed it off a bit, started to pull it on, and then decided it was too warm out to be wearing it.

Regan jumped down beside him. "How far back to the Wheelers'?"

"From here, about an hour and a half walking. But is it okay if we walk all the same?" Dan slung the jacket over his shoulder. "At least for a little while?"

His uncle nodded. "Sure. I prefer walking, anyway."

They headed back to Eighth Avenue. Dan, ever aware of his surroundings, made note of every sound and of the other people on the street at each block. A car was honking its horn as someone crossed the intersection. A monotonous bopping noise came from three tall boys bouncing a basketball between them as they walked down the sidewalk ahead of them. Two kids on bicycles sped past them. The girl across the street walking the big dog struggled a bit to keep the dog in step with her. So far no one represented any kind of threat to Dan; no one knew him.

When he and his uncle had walked to his old apartment, they shared a silence that had been heavy with sadness. Now, there was a sense of comfort in their silence. Dan let himself leave the past behind with every step that took him further from his childhood neighborhood. He thought about his current life, his sheer luck at finding a friend in Neil and a family in the Diamonds. They knew he had done awful things and they loved him anyway. They showed him he still deserved happiness. He didn't always believe it, but they did, and he trusted them.

The boys with the basketball veered off the avenue and Dan knew they were headed to the basketball courts just behind the group of buildings on their side of the street. A barber shop's red and white pole neighbored a blue awning advertising sea food, and the smell of fresh fish floated across the avenue. A group of kids wearing matching jackets was walking towards them. When they passed by each other, Dan turned to see the logo on the back; a sea of green snakes looked back at him. The symbol was unfamiliar and he wondered who this new gang was.

"Hey, Uncle Bill?"

"Hm?"

Dan took a few more steps in silence. He wasn't sure if he wanted an answer to his question. "Uncle Bill?" he repeated.

Regan smiled at him. "Dan?"

"Do you think the Bob-Whites would still like me if they knew I had been in a gang?" Dan glanced sideways at his uncle.

Regan took a few steps, thinking carefully before he answered. "Those kids are your friends. They like you and that won't change. They aren't going to judge you for your past."

Another block was passed in silence.

"So you haven't even told Mart yet?" Regan asked. "I was a bit surprised he didn't know anything about the Cowhands last night. I thought you and he were pretty close with your love of words and writing."

Dan shook his head. "I'm not exactly proud of what I've done. And the way they talk about other kids, kids like me, like I used to be – I can tell they have no respect for people who behave that way."

"That may be true, and if they had met you while you were still in the gang, they probably wouldn't have liked you." Regan looked at him for a second. "But even if they had known you then, and saw how you've changed, they would still like you now. The past wouldn't matter to them."

Dan nodded thoughtfully. Neil had befriended him while he was still in the gang. He'd made it clear he didn't care for any of his gang-related actions, but that he was willing to see past that and get to really know him. It helped that they had met at a jazz show, but it was true all the same. He had a feeling that Mart and Di would both have accepted him the way Neil had, but Brian, Trixie, Jim, and Honey — especially Honey — would have shunned him because of the jacket.

"Honey wouldn't like me if she knew."

Regan shook his head. "You don't know her, then. She always gives people a chance." Regan whistled softly. "How that girl doesn't act spoiled rotten is a real surprise. But she is a good girl and she'd never be mean to anyone."

Dan raised an eyebrow. "Spoiled? Why would you say that?"

"I shouldn't have. And I'm saying she doesn't act spoiled." Regan ran his fingers through his hair.

Dan wasn't going to let him say something like that and just let it go. "But you're implying that she is spoiled."

Regan looked at Dan curiously before responding. "The estate up in Sleepyside, Mr. Wheeler bought it for her. Just for her. He moved his family to the country for her. His wife didn’t want to move, and he has to commute now. But he knew she was unhappy here in the city. Thing is, Honey didn't really want to move. She just hated going to boarding school and summer camps."

Regan took a breath. "The house was for Honey. Then he hired Miss Trask just for her, to be her governess. Miss Trask had been her favorite school teacher and when Honey mentioned how much she liked Miss Trask, the old governess was gone and Miss Trask was there."

Dan remembered Honey telling him how Miss Trask had been a former teacher of hers. He waited for his uncle to say more.

"When she and Trixie found Jim in that abandoned mansion, she wrote her dad asking him to please adopt him because she wanted a brother. Next thing I know, he's calling his lawyer and filling out adoption papers, and he hadn't ever even met Jim. He just did it all on her word. Just to make her happy." Regan smiled. "Not that I'm complaining. Jim's great and I'm real glad Mr. Wheeler did adopt him. And if the Wheelers hadn't taken him in… well, I hate to think what would've happened to him."

"He adopted Jim without even meeting him?" Dan couldn't believe that.

"Well, it turns out he knew Jim's father from school or something, and he did meet him for all of five minutes before signing anything, but yeah, basically." Regan grinned impishly. "Besides, we needed another red-headed run-away orphan in the household."

Dan sniffed sarcastically. "So if I moved in and dyed my hair red, would I help up the quota?"

Regan didn't laugh. He took a few more steps in silence before continuing. "Then when Honey met Trixie and her brothers, and Mr. Wheeler found out they didn't have their own horses, that they couldn't afford to buy and keep horses, he asked me to go out to a horse show and pick out a few more so that her friends could ride with her." Regan glanced at Dan again. "Even Mr. Maypenny, if it hadn't been for Honey, Mr. Wheeler would probably still be arguing with him over that little plot of land instead of employing him as a gamekeeper. Honey asked him to do that, too.

"Everything he does, it's all for her. If she told him tomorrow that she wants me fired, he'd do it." Regan shook his head again.

Dan took all this in. It wasn't stuff he didn't already know at some level, but he hadn't quite seen it this way. "You're saying anything Honey asks for, he gets her, no matter how outrageous or expensive."

"In a nutshell."

Dan shook his head. His uncle was wrong. "But she didn't ask for the house. And all the other things you've mentioned… It sounds like the things she asks for are always to benefit other people. She's certainly not selfish."

"Honey is the most selfless person I know," Regan agreed. "She always puts others before herself. And she'd give everything she had to help someone else." He glanced at Dan.

"Right. So who's to say that Mr. Wheeler only gives her what she wants because he knows it's not really for her? It seems to me he's one of those wealthy guys that like to actually help people, you know?" The two of them stopped at a corner and waited for the light to change.

"You're right," Regan said. "He is a philanthropist. And I really shouldn't have said what I did. If he wants to make her happy by making her friends happy, that's not such a bad thing."

The light changed and the two of them crossed the street. "I remember when I first met her," Regan continued. "She was a frail little thing — she had been so sick — I was scared to let her ride at first. But she assured me she knew how to handle a horse."

Danny pictured Honey when he had first met her, skating across the ice, spinning and jumping. And then in later visits, he saw how she rode horse-back and how quickly and strongly she swam. She was very athletic and had a lot of strength in her legs. Frail was the last word he would ever associate with Honey. "I just can't picture her as being frail."

"She's made a complete turnaround. I think a lot of it was from her being sad and stressed." Regan thought for a few seconds. "Although I have to say, Honey getting sick like that made Mr. Wheeler take notice of her; before that, Honey was pretty much ignored. After she got sick though, that's when her father started giving her anything and everything she asked for, as if he was trying to make up for all those earlier years. And he does actually make more of an effort to spend time with her, to get involved in her life. He goes riding with her — I'm rambling."

Dan thought he could listen to stories about Honey all day long. "No, go on. I like hearing your view point on them. After all, you've known her — them — longer than I have."

Regan smirked. "And you'd like to know her more. I should let her tell you. It's not fair of me to reveal all her secrets. I probably shouldn't even have said as much as I did."

Dan shrugged. He knew he wouldn't get more out of his uncle on the subject. Uncle Bill was right, anyway; if he wanted to know more about Honey he should ask her. "We've been walking for a while and we still have about an hour to go, but we can catch a bus any time."

Regan glanced at his watch. "I know Miss Trask isn't expecting us at any particular time, but we have been gone a long while, so it might be a good idea to ride the rest of the way."

 

When Dan and Regan got back to the apartments, no one seemed concerned at their late arrival.

The first thing Dan noticed was Trixie's knee and the cloth bandage wrapped around it. "I didn't realize you'd been hurt in that fiasco in the park." He knew Trixie and Brian had gone back to the apartment to attend to her knee, while the others had gone ahead to the zoo, but he had thought it was just a scrape.

Trixie nodded. "Not bad. Just a cut on my knee." She held up the offending appendage and then grimaced slightly. "I'm all right," Trixie said reassuringly.

"Now that you two are back," Miss Trask announced from the kitchen doorway, "the casserole I have in the oven is just about finished cooking. I thought we'd eat in tonight."

Mart let out a whoop. "Food! At last!" He clutched his stomach dramatically. "After today's events, I really need some nourishment."

"Quit clowning," Brian admonished.

Miss Trask laughed lightly. "Well, when I say soon, I really mean about thirty minutes. Will you make it that long?"

Mart pretended to faint as he flopped down onto the couch.

Ned, who was already sitting on the couch, shook his head at Mart's antics and punched him lightly on the arm. "Of course, he will."

Dan spotted Honey sitting on the large armchair and headed over to sit near to her on the ottoman in front of it.

"Hi. How was the visit to …" Honey's voice trailed off seemingly unsure how to phrase the question.

"To the cemetery?" Dan finished for her. "It was hard, but somehow I feel better."

"Oh, that's good. I mean, not that it was hard, but I'm glad you feel better." Honey pulled on a strand of her hair.

Dan felt like he was making her uncomfortable. He was pretty sure he usually did, although he tried not to. Maybe he should go sit somewhere else for awhile, like his room in the other apartment.

He heard snippets of other conversations from around the room. His friends were amicably chatting about food or the zoo, but he and Honey sat quietly, and the silence between them started to feel uncomfortable. "How did you like the zoo?" he finally asked.

"Oh, it was nice. But I do wish you could have come with us." Her cheeks flushed. "Although I understand why you didn't. I didn't mean you shouldn't have gone to the cemetery."

He smiled at her, hoping to reassure her. "I know what you meant." He remembered back to when he had first met her. Talking to her had seemed easier then and he wasn't sure what had changed. She didn't seem that interested in talking about the zoo, though, and he started to worry that Tony had bothered them there, too. "Hopefully no more misadventures with T – with the two guys that attacked you earlier?"

"Why, no. But that was strange." Her hazel eyes grew wide and Dan could see the flecks of gold in them. "I don't know why they were after Trixie's purse unless it was the idol she bought yesterday. They were the same two guys that followed us home from the antique store."

He cocked an eyebrow. "Strange? Not scary or anything?"

"Well, no, not in comparison to being threatened by a man with a gun while trapped in a barn. And that wasn't even as scary as being caught in a flood, and then waiting to be rescued from the roof of a barn." Honey shuddered.

Dan swallowed. "Jim told me the story. You were so brave; all three of you."

"I wasn't brave at all. I was ready to give up entirely." Tears started to form in her eyes. "The water kept rising and rising and we couldn't climb any higher. If we hadn't been rescued when we were..."

"I know. I had nightmares myself after I'd heard about it." Dan wished he could put his arm around her, both for her comfort and for his.

Honey wiped at her eyes, even though the tears had never actually fallen.

They sat in silence again. Dan wasn't sure what else to say.

He thought maybe he had somehow upset her, when she smiled at him. "So, we thought we'd go to the United Nations tomorrow. Have you ever been there?"

"Me? No." Dan's lips turned down in to a slight frown. "How about you?"

"Yes, I've been a few times. It's a really nice tour and they always have such interesting displays in the main room." She fidgeted a bit on the armchair. "I hope you like it."

"I'm sure I will." He smiled back at her.


chapter 7: everywhere around the world