that one girl and life is sweet
 

Chapter 2: Yet You Knew I Was Sorry

September 27, 1957

"You may as well know," Brian said, the corners of his mouth tucked down in a frown, "there's no chance that Harrison will be well enough to look after that bazaar tomorrow. I had guessed as much, and Dr. Ferris just confirmed it."

"Will they keep him in the hospital a long time?" Honey asked. There was a catch in her voice, and Dan remembered how apprehensive she had been when they had visited Miss Trask's sister in the hospital in August.

"I don't think so," Brian answered cautiously, "but I can't be sure. They'll have to take x-rays, and he may have a concussion, as you know. In that case, there's no telling when he'll be released."

Di looked as if she were about to cry. "I—I'm sorry," she faltered. "I feel as if somehow it's all my fault. Oh, if only Harrison hadn't come here last night!"

Trixie hurried to put her arm around Di's shoulders. For all they may have had a few words earlier, it was obvious they were still fast friends. "Of course it isn't your fault, Di. You mustn't take everything so seriously. You don't need to feel responsible for what happened. Don't worry." She turned to appeal to the others. "We'll think of some way we can go ahead with our plans for the bazaar, won't we?"

"Sure we will," Jim muttered, but he didn't sound convinced.

"Absolutely!" Mart tried to grin.

Brian said nothing. He scuffed at the hardwood floor with the toe of his boot.

Dan had nothing to add, either. He wondered if Regan could take Harrison's place, but he didn't want to volunteer his uncle without asking him first.

Di wasn't comforted. "I wanted everything to be so perfect tomorrow," she whispered. "With Dad away, I felt I was sort of in charge of everything. I wanted my parents to see that I could handle the responsibility. And now this has to happen—"

"Miss Trask!" Honey said suddenly.

"What about her?" Trixie asked. She appeared puzzled, but Dan knew what Honey had meant.

"Shouldn't we check with her first?" Dan gazed at her seriously.

"Yes, of course." Honey nodded. "But don't you see? She could take Harrison's place."

All at once, Di was excited again. "I think my father would agree to that. I'm almost sure he would. I'll have to call him and find out, but Dad knows how very reliable Miss Trask is. If she agrees, oh, how perfect! My goodness, she's been in charge of parties and weddings and everything."

"The question is," Brian said, "will she do it?"

"I'll ask her as soon as we get home. In fact, we'll all ask her. If we look sorrowful enough, how can she refuse?" Honey winked.

Dan shook his head. "Just ask her, but let's not guilt her into it. I'd feel bad if she already had other plans. We could also ask Uncle Bill or Mr.—Tom Delanoy, if they're okay with it and have time."

"That sounds like a great idea." Trixie smiled enthusiastically. "I'm sure out of the three, one of them can do it. Or they could take shifts."

"Brilliant!" Mart agreed. "Do you think your dad would be okay with that, Di?"

"I won't know unless I ask him, but I hope so." Di smiled gratefully at the others.

Dan looked around the room and while some of the teens started straightening up, he still felt in the way somehow. He wandered outside to wait for the others, and Di and Jim joined him shortly.

"This doesn't seem like the best start to your weekend with us, but I'm glad you're able to visit. I can't believe it's been a month since we last saw you," Di said as she approached Sunny. "Did your—Mr. Diamond drop you off or did you take the train?"

"You can call him my pop." Dan gave her a small smile. "But, no, Pops didn't drive me up. I took the train and then Mr. Del—I mean Tom—picked me up from the station."

"Neil and Harvey couldn't make it this time?" Jim asked.

Dan shook his head. "It's kind of a holiday right now—New Year's—but we celebrated last night. Anyway, on top of that, Neil had a fencing event or something. Harvey could have, I guess, but there was some club meeting from school that he didn't want to miss."

Jim stroked Jupiter's nose as he spoke. "Oh, what kind of club? Sports?"

"Naw. Something to do with his tinkering. Lately he spends all his spare time taking things apart and trying to put them back together." Dan chuckled.

"Really?" Di seemed interested. "Like what?"

Dan laughed. "He tried to get the alarm clock to play music instead of just ringing. He hooked a tape deck to a wire somehow and connected it to some gear inside the clock. He took the ringer out, so now when the bell is supposed to go off, sometimes it will pull the wire which will cause the play button to connect, and sometimes it just makes an annoying twangy sound."

"Either way, it wakes you up, right?" Jim chuckled with him.

Di puzzled over the example. "Couldn't he just get one of those clock radios? Don't those already do that?"

"He could, but what fun would that be?" Dan shook his head. "He says he wants to wake up to his music, not just whatever's on the radio. Besides, I keep trying to switch out his reels without him noticing. One of these days he'll be waking up to Johnny Smith instead of Johnny Cash."

"Oh, I like Johnny Cash! But who's Johnny Smith?" Di asked.

"Johnny Smith is jazz, Di." Dan grinned at her. "You know, Harvey's favorite type of music."

She laughed. "You're really getting this brother thing down pat."

Jim glanced at his watch. "What is keeping the others? I thought they were coming right out."

Di sniffed. "Trixie's probably searching the place for clues. Really, must she turn everything into a mystery? I mean, sure, it was a mystery when Harrison was missing, but he's been found. Mystery solved." Di frowned. "I'm just so relieved he's okay. Why does she think there's more to it?"

Dan wondered if he should share what Honey had told him in the kitchen and decided against it. Di seemed pretty sensitive about the topic, and if Honey wanted her to know, she would tell her later.

"You know how Trixie is, Di." Jim shook his head wistfully. "If she notices something that's just not quite right, it will nag at her until she can figure it out. I'm sure there isn't much more to know, but until she can determine that for herself, she's sure to examine all the details. She doesn't mean any harm by it."

"Oh, I know she doesn't. And I love Trixie, really, and her investigativing skills. I just ... I feel like I'm responsible for the staff since my parents are out of town, and I don't think it's right to question Harrison so ... aggress—aggressively? Is that the word I'm looking for?" Di frowned slightly.

Dan nodded. "I get what you're saying. Trixie was asking a lot of questions, and Harrison's entitled to his privacy."

"Exactly."

The Beldens and Honey finally emerged from the cozy home. "Sorry that took so long," Brian mumbled. "I wrote a note to Mrs. Crandall to explain what had happened."

"We just wanted to straighten everything, and I refilled Henry's food dish, too. I found some kibble in one of the cupboards, so it won't smell like the canned stuff did." Honey wrinkled her nose slightly. "I wasn't sure when or what he was supposed to eat, and none of us thought to ask Harrison before the ambulance left."

"I'm sure the kibble is fine, Honey." Mart gave her a warm smile. "And if you fed him too much, well, a little extra food isn't going to do him any harm."

Honey giggled. "True. I won't worry about it then."

"Shall we go?" Jim had already mounted Jupiter, who seemed eager to get moving again.

Trixie nodded. "We should." She glanced at Di. "Do we stop at the stables first or should we go straight to Miss Trask and see if she will be able to help out?"

"Miss Trask, first." Di smiled. "If we stop at the stables, Regan's sure to make you all clean the tack and that could take a while."

But as they approached the Wheeler home, Dan veered to the stables instead of the house. "I don't think I need to be there when you ask Miss Trask. I'll go see Uncle Bill and see if he can help out, too, just in case."

"Okay," Trixie called out to him.

At the front of the group, Mart turned part-way around in his saddle. "Sounds like a plan!"

 

Inside the stables, Dan quickly got to work on taking care of Spartan and the tack.

His uncle was shuffling papers in the cluttered office space. "Where are all the others?" he asked, not bothering to get up from the desk.

"They stopped at the house to ask Miss Trask a question. One I should ask you, too." Dan grimaced slightly.

"Oh? What's that?" A crease worried his brow. "Is everything okay? Did you find Harrison?" Dan could hear the distress in his uncle's voice.

"We did. He's fine. Or, at least, I think Harrison will be okay, but he's hurt." Dan frowned. "Not too bad, but he's not well enough to help out with the bazaar tomorrow. The Bob-Whites and I were wondering if you might be able to lend a hand?"

Regan nodded. "If I can, sure. What happened to Harrison?"

"He locked himself in a cellar and fell down the stairs." Saying it out loud, he realized even if Honey hadn't said that it couldn't have happened that way, he'd have a hard time believing it.

"Harrison?" Regan got up from the desk and walked over to the doorway, closer to Dan. "That's strange."

"Yeah, I agree. And so do Trixie and Honey." Dan gave his uncle a rueful grin, then turned serious again. "Dr. Ferris had an ambulance take him to the hospital for x-rays, to make sure there's nothing really wrong. He did have a pretty nasty gash on his forehead."

Regan looked thoughtful. "Well, I don't think it's mysterious, if that's what you mean about Trixie and Honey thinking it's strange. He just doesn't strike me as someone who would be clumsy like that. Then again, we all have our off days, don't we?"

Dan shrugged his shoulders as he continued to brush Spartan's coat.

"So, what was Harrison to do at the bazaar? Was he just chaperoning or did he have other duties to oversee?" Regan returned to the subject of the bazaar.

Dan paused from brushing the horse and glanced at his uncle. "I'm sorry. I didn't even think to ask."

"No matter. You said the rest of my riders were asking Miss Trask the same thing?" Regan grinned. "She'll be sure to help out, and she's probably the better choice. When it comes to watching over large crowds of people, I'm not exactly the best person for the job."

Dan shrugged. "Okay. It's just Di was pretty upset about the thought of anything going wrong tomorrow."

"It'll be fine," his uncle reassured him. "And if—as unlikely as it is—Miss Trask says no, then, yes, I will help out as much as possible."

"Thanks, Uncle Bill." Dan smiled over at his uncle.

"No sweat."

Dan finished grooming Spartan and then started in on cleaning the tack. It wasn't long before he heard the noise of the others approaching the stable.

"She said yes!" Di grinned. "Now we just need to make sure it's okay with my parents and with Honey's."

"That's great, Di. Dan was just filling me in. I'm relieved that I won't have to deal with that crowd." Regan winked and then turned to the other riders. "Now, get to taking care of those horses."

"Yes, sir." Honey mock saluted him and got straight to work.

Dan had nearly finished with Spartan's gear. He finished putting everything away and went to help Honey with Lady. The two of them worked together quietly. She groomed Lady while he took care of the leather.

It wasn't long before they had finished and were able to help the others. Di, who had stayed to help, too, mounted Sunny and headed home. "I need to call Mummy and Daddy right away!" she called back to them.

Mart stood watching Di as she rode back up the hill. "Maybe I should have gone with her to talk to Mr. Lynch."

"She can talk to him on her own, brother dear." Trixie chuckled. "You should worry more about starting Reddy's obedience lessons."

"What's this about Mart giving Reddy lessons?" Jim questioned.

"I'm going to train Reddy to do what we want." Mart grinned. "She doesn't think I can do it, but I can. You'll see."

Regan guffawed. "That, I will have to see to believe it. Meanwhile, there's Tom's waiting for me. We're heading over to Jed Tomlin's to pick up some things." He wandered over to where Tom was sitting behind the wheel of a pick-up truck rather than the Wheelers' sedan.

Brian shook his head, turning back to his brother. "Well, whether you're training Reddy or not, the real thing we should worry about is getting our own chores done at home. Come on, you two." He started down the path that headed to Crabapple Farm. Trixie and Mart followed him.

"Sometimes I wish I had chores to worry about." Honey sounded wistful. "On the other hand, if I did, I'd probably dislike them as much as Trixie does."

Dan suppressed a laugh. "I've never known anyone who wanted chores."

Jim started walking to the house. "Coming, Honey?"

Dan grabbed her hand and shook his head slightly, asking her with his eyes if she would stay.

"I'll be right behind you," she told her brother.

Jim cleared his throat. "Afraid not, sis."

Dan turned to look into Jim's face. He was serious. "What's going on, Jim? Can't we just talk a minute?"

Jim shook his head, his cheeks reddening slightly. "I'm under orders to chaperone you two while you're here. Consider it part of my chores."

Honey frowned. "Whose orders? And why wasn't I told this?"

Dan gazed back at him, surprised. "Miss Trask? Or my uncle?"

"Dad." He shrugged his shoulders slightly, addressing his sister. "I thought he had mentioned it to you."

Honey's eyes widened. "Did Daddy sound upset about Dan visiting?"

Jim's face relaxed into a small smile. "Not at all. He just told me not to let you two be alone together if I could help it."

"Oh." She glanced over at Dan.

Dan wasn't really upset with Jim, but he still felt a twinge of anger. He shoved his hands into his pockets, trying his hardest to keep fists from forming. "Well, can I walk with you two to the house, then?"

"Sure." Jim grinned. "I'll even walk in front of you so you have a little privacy." He turned around and headed up the path, whistling softly to himself.

Honey blushed, and Dan admired the rosy glow it gave her. "Should we talk loudly to make him uncomfortable or quietly so he can't hear how much I like you?" He waggled his brows suggestively.

She giggled. "Quietly." Then she sighed. "I'm sorry. I had no idea Daddy asked him to keep an eye on us. I think I'd rather have Miss Trask chaperoning us instead of Jim. Or even Regan."

"Miss Trask is great, isn't she?" Dan agreed. He remembered how she hadn't raised a fuss on a certain subway ride, unlike his uncle.

Honey nodded. "And I wouldn't have really, you know," she whispered to Dan.

"Wouldn't have what?" Dan tilted his head inquisitively at her.

"Guilted her into it." The corners of her mouth turned down slightly.

"Oh, I know ... but if all of us approached her together, how could she feel anything but obliged?" Dan smiled. "I know you wouldn't really expect her to drop anything on a whim for you." He walked slowly, letting Jim get further ahead of them.

Honey didn't look reassured. "I wouldn't. Really. I've gone to school with girls like that and ... no, I would never expect her to rearrange her plans just to suit me."

"No, you wouldn't." He looked up at the house and wondered if any of the other staff was watching them from the windows.

"She volunteered right away," she told him. "We didn't even have to finish explaining, and she volunteered."

Dan reached for her hand, grasping it firmly. "I'm sorry, Honey. I didn't mean to imply that you would."

"Oh, you had every right to think that. After all, I pretty much said I would." She glanced at him, a frown on her face. "I just didn't think you would think I was serious."

"I'm really sorry, Honey." Dan wished he hadn't said anything when she'd made that comment.

Honey shrugged her shoulders.

He wondered what he could say to make it up to her. It had been a pretty odd thing for Honey to suggest. "Even when you said we should look sorrowful so Miss Trask would help us, I know you were thinking of Di and how to keep her from being disappointed. And you were thinking about the bazaar and wanting to help make it a success. You're always putting other people first, Honey."

Dan sensed Honey relaxing at his words and continued. "And you know Miss Trask. You know she wants to help out, even without having to ask her. It was just a matter of whether or not she had the time free."

She turned around to face him again, her hazel eyes wide. Then she smiled. "Thank you."

He smiled back at her in relief. "I'm sorry I implied that you would try to manipulate her. I know that you would never do that."

"Thanks." She blushed slightly. "I just ... I just hoped you didn't really think I was like that."

Jim glanced back at them, still keeping an eye on the young couple.

He ignored the slightly older boy and focused on the girl beside him. "I'm really sorry if I upset you."

She giggled, somewhat nervously he thought. "You've apologized enough, and I wasn't really that upset at all. I'm sorry I made a big deal about it. I think I'm just stressed out about this whole bazaar, although not nearly as much as Di." Her hazel eyes locked with his brown ones. "I'm so glad you were able to visit this weekend."

Dan wondered exactly how much trouble he'd be in if he just kissed her the way he wanted to. It was probably a good thing they had caught up with Jim on the Wheelers' doorstep.

"Do you want to join us for supper?" Jim asked, opening the door.

"I think Regan's expecting me back. I know he's not planning on being gone very long, and we have some things to catch up on." Dan glanced behind him at the apartment above the garage. "But I'll see you bright and early tomorrow."

"Come have breakfast with us, then," Honey invited.

"I will." Dan grinned.


chapter 3: humbled and awed