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Jason Sullivan looked longingly at the farm house where Trixie Belden lived with two of her three brothers. Twice he left his bike parked against the garage and walked to the front door, then changed his mind and walked back. He started again, walking all the way past the station wagon already parked in the driveway. He was about to turn around once more, but Bobby Belden came running out of the front door, a lollipop in one hand. He jumped down from the porch right into a pile of leaves. Jason laughed good naturedly at the young Belden, who was now patiently picking bits of the dried leaves off of his wet sucker. "You're not actually going to finish that now, are you?" Jason called out.
"Yup!" Bobby answered. "Moms said we should never let food go to waist. I'm hoping this will go to my feet so they get bigger."
"Huh?" Jason was somewhat confused by Bobby's last statement, but the young boy had already put the sucker back in his mouth and was now running up the hill into the game preserve. Jason shrugged his shoulders and thought to himself, here goes nothing. He walked up the porch stairs and stood outside the screen door, listening to the voices inside.
"But, Moms, it's perfect football weather," he heard Mart yell from upstairs.
"Ok, ok. But, Trixie, you need to go change if you're going to play football. Aunt Alicia just sent you that sweater and I don't want you staining or ripping it so soon."
"We need one more person if we're going to play anyway," Trixie answered. "It's no fair to play two against three."
Mart came down the stairs at that minute and saw Jason standing on the porch. "Hey, Jason! What're you doing here?" Jason started to reply, but Mart opened the screen door for him and went on, "Anyway, can you play football with us so we have even teams?"
"Sure, if you want me to." Jason answered as he stepped into the cozy home. Trixie walked out of the kitchen and Jason admired the new powder blue sweater she was wearing.
"Hi, Jason. Why are you here? I mean, not that that's not okay and all, but it's not like you've ever stopped by before without calling," Trixie found herself blushing much to her dismay. She still remembered Jason's attempted kiss after the dance the week before, but her heart belonged to Jim, she affirmed, and nothing would change that.
"I just came by to say hi, actually," Jason replied easily, though his insides were doing sommersaults.
"Great, so now we have six for football. Three against three. Boys against girls, brawn versus beauty, and all that," Mart chimed in.
"I think I'm going to faint. I believe my brother just called me beautiful." Trixie held her hand to her forehead daintily as she started up the stairs.
"I was speaking of us guys, you girls are the brawn of course," Mart called to Trixie's retreating back as she hurried up the stairs.
"I don't think Di would care for that comment much, either, Mart!" Trixie yelled back down.
"Gleeps, foiled again! Ok, so the 'Brawn' will be you, Jason, and Dan. Di, Honey, and I will be the 'Beauty'. How's that?" Mart chuckled.
"I think we'd better stick to boys versus girls, or else draw straws," Jason commented dryly.
Trixie came back down the stairs wearing a UC Berkeley sweatshirt Brian had sent her, and the three teenagers piled out of the house. They wandered past the pumpkins Moms had planted earlier. Some of them were already quite orange, but a few of them still hadn't ripened. Trixie paused by one especially large green pumpkin to re-tie her tennis shoes. They walked quickly because of the brisk weather and exchanged friendly banter on their way to the clubhouse, where they met up with Dan, Honey, and Di. The others were a little surprised to see Jason with the two Beldens, but he soon fit in with their lively group as they divided into teams to play touch-football.
The game turned out to be quite fun, as no one could agree on the score and everyone seemed to switch teams whenever they felt like it. Jason thought it was relaxing not to take a game among friends so seriously. If his brother had been playing it would've had to be all by the rules and much too serious.
The weather worsened, the dark clouds threatening a storm, and so the six friends took Honey up on her invitation for some hot chocolate at the Manor House. Miss Trask ushered the crowd into the comfortable study and soon the stereo was going and Di and Mart were already dancing to some new song by the B-52s.
"So, Trixie," Honey said, "you never did tell me what you had thought about Mr. Farmer and that paper in his desk."
Trixie blushed, realizing she was jumping to conclusions, and yet certain that her hunch would lead her somewhere. "Well, I was really thinking of that picture that was on his desk."
"The one that you broke of the blonde girl?" Honey asked curiously.
"I know it's far-fetched, but I just realized that, even though the picture isn't of Ruthie, that girl did look a lot like Ruthie," Trixie explained.
"But what does that have to do with anything?" Dan asked, having overheard Ruthie's name and catching part of the conversation.
"I was just wondering if she's a relative of that girl, and who that girl is to Mr. Farmer," Trixie stated.
Di and Mart had wandered over, and Mart put his own two cents in now. "So you think that she's some long lost relative of Ruthie's or something like that?" he asked skeptically. "Brethren with a prolonged disappearance don't materialize fortuitously with surpassing frequency."
"Don't they, though?" Di asked innocently.
The others laughed, including Mart himself. "Ok, ok, I give in. You're right, previously unknown relations do have a tendancy to pop up in Sleepyside at the most inopportune times."
Only Jason hadn't joined in the laughter and his shrugged shoulders prompted Honey to explain to him, "Dan is Regan's long lost nephew, or Regan is his long lost uncle, depending on how you look at it. Also, Di's own Uncle Monty was a long lost relative, not to mention Jim's cousin Juliana. Jim himself could be considered a long lost relative of old Mr. Frayne, and even Mr. Maypenny had a long lost nephew that came to visit once." Honey ticked the names on her fingers, holding up her hand so everyone could see just how many long lost relatives really did show up in Sleepyside.
Just then Regan opened the door to the study, prompting Dan to run to him with his arms outstretched, "Dear, long lost Uncle Bill!"
Regan promptly closed the door and scurried out of there, muttering "crazy kids" under his breath, while the group of teenagers once again burst into laughter.