Manhattan

Sunday, April 22, 1990

"Why did you suddenly drag us out of there?" Trixie wanted answers. They turned off the main street and walked through a residential area. She guessed he was leading her back to his apartment, but she couldn't be sure. She still got easily turned around, and she wasn't at all familiar with the city.

Jim shrugged his broad shoulders. "She's not cheating on Brian. And if we hadn't left, she would have."

"And what exactly is wrong with her leaving instead of us?" Trixie studied the man walking next to her. His green eyes were filled with something similar to fear. "What are you worried about?"

"I'm not really sure." Jim glanced at her almost nervously. "I'm sorry, Trixie. I probably shouldn't have sent you to spy on her out there. And I'm sorry she got you upset."

"No, Jim, I'm glad you did." Trixie was especially glad he had asked her to eavesdrop on Brian's new love interest. Something wasn't quite right with that woman, and Trixie was determined to find out what. "But it seems she upset you more than me. What's going on?"

"I can't really explain." He gave her an apologetic smile. "But you're right, I am worried. Tell me what exactly you heard."

He sounded so serious. Trixie laughed, trying to lighten the mood. "I thought you were sorry you sent me over there."

"Well—" He shrugged.

She could feel herself tingling with the excitement of a mystery, coupled with the realization of how much she had missed Jim and the memory of that kiss earlier. She wanted to kiss him again but didn't want to be too forward.

"Well?" Jim asked again, smiling with that lopsided grin of his.

Trixie blushed as she realized she had started daydreaming about him, and her, alone in his apartment. Maria and her mysterious conversations could wait. "Not much," Trixie admitted. "I might have found out more if you hadn't interrupted. She's worried about telling Brian something about her and Ken, but then he denied it and you seem to believe him."

"They looked pretty comfortable together." Jim's eyebrows furrowed together, concerned for his friend, her brother. "Maybe it is that."

Trixie regarded him curiously. He seemed almost relieved at the idea she might have been cheating on his best friend. "Anyway, what did she mean at the end when she said she'll meet me again? Normally someone would say 'I'll see you again,' not 'I'll meet you again.' It's very mysterious."

"She just meant she'll see you Monday." Jim rolled his eyes but laughed lightly anyway. "I've missed you, shamus." He guided her through a barrier that had been set up on the street to lessen the traffic flow in the residential section. "Let's just say tomorrow night will probably be interesting."

"Oh, that's right! When I first got close enough to hear them, she was telling Ken what a horrible idea it was to meet me and my friends and that she wished she could get out of it." Trixie laughed. She watched Jim's face for his reaction.

"That's good." He seemed very distracted.

"Why? Is it really such a horrible idea?" Trixie snorted. "I should probably be offended, but right now, I'm too curious."

"It would be good if she didn't come on Monday. I kind of hope she can get out of it." Jim frowned.

Trixie tilted her head at him. "Well, I hope she can't. And she didn't seem to think she'd be able to. She said it wasn't up to her. But you guys aren't forcing her to come, are you?" She had a hard time picturing her brother as the type of person who would bully or threaten his girlfriend. If she didn't want to come, she could just say no.

Jim didn't answer her, and she tried to recall what Maria's friend had said. "Ken seemed to think it wasn't her choice, either. He said something like 'It may not be your choice, but can't someone prevent it?' I thought that was kind of odd."

Jim's complexion paled. He grabbed her hand, almost as if he were gripping it out of fear, and led her around a corner. "Forget about her for now. Tell me about you."

She didn't know why Jim seemed to suddenly not want to talk about Maria, or her strange behavior; it was obviously causing him some kind of stress. He may have changed, but she had, too, and whereas four years ago she would have nagged at him until he stormed off, now she knew not to push him. Not here; not yet. "Hmmm. About me?" Trixie asked mischievously. "I'm from New York. I have two older brothers and one younger one."

"Ha, ha." Jim reached over and pushed one of her curls out of her eyes. "You know that's not what I meant."

They stopped walking. She was tempted to shake the curl back out of place so he would do that again. She was especially glad that her silly teasing had the desired effect. The color returned to his cheeks and he was starting to smile again. "What did you mean, then?"

Instead of answering her, he put his hand back on her cheek and then lowered his face to hers. The kiss made her knees weak, and when he started to pull away, she stood on her tiptoes and encouraged him to keep going. There was something so right about being in his arms.

A catcall and some whistles from some college boys walking by interrupted the moment. Jim pulled away from her, smiling with that lopsided grin of his. "The apartment's not far."

 

She kissed him again and slipped one of her hands under his shirt, feeling his supple chest.

"Trixie," he whispered, pulling her hand away from him.

"I'm almost eighteen," she said simply. "I'm not a little girl."

"I know. Trust me, I know." But he gently pushed her away from him.

Trixie leaned back against the comfortable sofa and stared into his deep green eyes, trying to understand. Hadn't he hinted at going further when their kiss outside had been interrupted?

"I hope this is just the start of our relationship," he said softly. "Let's not rush things." Jim looked like he wanted to keep going all the same, and Trixie consoled herself with that. He hadn't been rejecting her; he had just wanted to slow down.

She pouted slightly. "So, maybe tomorrow?" She winked at him to let him know she was just teasing. She guessed this meant they would sleep in separate rooms tonight.

Jim grinned and pulled her back to him, kissing her again. "You have no idea how much I'd love to take you up on that."

Trixie sighed. "But?"

"But if we do, when we do, I need to know it's forever." He ran his fingers through her curls.

She nodded. "I am rushing things, aren't I? I've just waited for this for so long. Okay, distract me with something else then."

"Sure." Jim stood up from the sofa, somewhat hesitantly. "Like what?"

"It's still pretty early," Trixie commented. "Maybe we can still go somewhere?"

"I wish the weather was a bit more cooperative." Jim went over to the window and peered outside. "I'd love to show you the Rose Garden and Indian Rock, but not with another downpour looming outside."

"Maybe we can just sit and watch TV or something?" Trixie would be fine with just snuggling with Jim on the couch. She didn't need to go see all the tourist attractions.

"Maybe. We could just talk." Jim looked serious. "We never really have, not face-to-face like this."

"We talk all the time." But she knew what he meant. They never talked about them, their relationship.

"We've wasted so much time being stubborn—"

"And young. Young was a large part of it." Trixie started absentmindedly picking at a loose thread in the couch.

"Okay," Jim continued. "And young. Although, we're still pretty young, aren't we?"

She shrugged. "I suppose."

"I very much want to take you to your prom next month. But, I also want to know where we're going this time around." He sighed. "Am I your long-distance boyfriend? An old flame? A current fling?"

"A fling?" Trixie's eyes sparked with anger. "Obviously you're not just a fling."

"Sorry. Really." He grabbed her hands in his as he sat back down on the couch next to her. "I want to be your boyfriend. And I wish I was in New York, closer to you. But I'm not."

"No, you're here in California." Trixie sighed. "And I'm in New York. But that's temporary, right? I could move here. Or you could move back home."

Jim nodded. He looked like he was about to say something, but then closed his mouth. He gazed at her softly before speaking again. "Where are you going to college after you graduate?"

"I've decided to do two years at the community college and then try to transfer to John Jay." She wanted to point out that she could go to a community college anywhere, and maybe she could move out here and be with him. But that did seem to be rushing things when he was clearly trying to slow down.

Jim frowned slightly. "Didnít you get accepted for next year? I was sure you would have."

"I didn't. And it's just as well. I did get accepted to Old Westbury, but my parents don't have the money and they're already stretched with Mart's and Brian's tuitions." She pulled one of her hands out of his and started picking at the couch again. "I tried to get a student loan on my own, but because of my dad's income, and me still being a minor, I didn't qualify."

"I don't suppose you'd let me just give you the money?" Jim gave her a lopsided smile.

"You know I can't do that. And you shouldn't do that." She shook her head slightly. "It's really okay, though. I think it will be good to get all the required general education courses out of the way, and I'm sure if I can work hard and get better grades, I can re-apply in a couple of years and hopefully transfer over. Everyone's been telling me it's easier to get in as a junior instead of a freshman. I just hope they're right."

"You know I'm transferring back to New York, too? I'll be starting my post-graduate work at NYU in the fall." He gazed at her thoughtfully.

"You are? That's great. We won't be that far from each other. Not like now." She smiled at him. There were only a couple of months of school left.

His eyes got a faraway look, as if he were dreaming. She hoped those dreams were similar to her own. "What are you thinking?"

"Hmm? Nothing." He smiled back at her. "But what does that mean for us? I'm not moving back to New York for a few more months, yet."

"I can wait. But can't I call you my boyfriend now, anyway?" She looked at him shyly. He grabbed her hand again, stopping her from her nervous habit of destroying his furniture. She blushed out of guilt.

"Yes. Of course." He grinned from ear to ear. "So, you won't date anyone else back in Sleepyside?"

"Nope. I will turn down every boy who asks me, no matter who he is, until you're back in New York," she promised solemnly.

"Ah-ha." He winked. "So, once I am back, you'll start accepting those dates from those other boys? That doesn't seem fair."

 

 

If she didn't think it was a big deal, then why did she think it was such a big deal? Life was too confusing. It was all good and well to laugh and joke about Brian being gay. But that was it, wasn't it? Her friends thought it was a joke. She tried her best to dismiss the thought and go on with the charade that had become her life.

Honey kept her focus on the road. The drive had been going well while they were on Interstate 80, but once they turned onto State Route 305 at Battle Mountain, they had been met with long stretches of nothing, surrounded by more nothing, and then bordered by mountains. The nothingness was broken up by patches of snow or ice along the roads. Honey had thought this was desert, but then realized they were quite high up in the mountains as she passed another sign stating the elevation was over 4,000 feet.

No small towns, no restaurants, and no gas stations broke the scenery. She wasn't too worried; they had made sure to fill up the gas tank in Winnemucca and they had certainly eaten enough, but she was starting to worry about what they would find in Manhattan, Nevada, if they even found the town.

The mountains and rock formations they passed were certainly interesting, serene even. If she had been better prepared with hiking boots and extra water, and maybe some warmer clothes judging by the snow, she wouldn't mind pulling over and exploring. But Di probably wouldn't want to go for that, and Brian was probably still too practical to do anything without being prepared. Or maybe not. He was letting them take this impromptu trip after all.

Honey sighed.

"Getting tired?" Di asked. "I could take over driving if you want."

"No, I like driving." Honey smiled reassuringly. "I was just wondering if we were ever going to pass another town."

Di looked down at the map that now rested with her. "I think we did pass some towns. At least according to the map we did."

Honey arched an eyebrow. "They must be well off the highway then. I haven't seen anything."

"I suppose." Di shrugged.

"Let me see the map, please?" Brian held out his hand to Di.

Honey heard the wrinkle of the paper as Brian smoothed out the map. "Do you know where we are exactly, Honey?"

"No idea," she admitted. "There seems to be a building up ahead."

"Hmm." Brian didn't sound too concerned at the thought that she might have gotten them lost.

Honey glanced at him in the rear-view mirror. "It looks like there are some side roads meeting the highway here, too." She pointed to a yellow and black sideways-T sign indicating a road was coming up.

"See if there's a street sign."

"There's another yellow sign ... what? Did you see that?" Honey almost laughed.

Di snickered. "School crossing. That building must be the school."

"That's good. We must be coming up on Austin." Brian handed the map back to Di. "You'll want to turn left on Highway 50."

"Austin, Texas?" Di giggled. "Manhattan, Austin, what other cities are hiding out in the middle of the desert out here?"

"Austin, Nevada." Brian leaned in between the seats to point it out on the map.

Di looked down to where he pointed. "We're still way up here? How much longer will it be to Manhattan then?"

"Maybe another hour or two." Brian looked at Honey. "How are we on gas? Austin will hopefully have a gas station."

"We still have over half a tank. Not to worry." Honey smiled back at Brian. "But if Austin has a store of some sort, we may want to get more water and some snacks, as well as fill up the tank again just to be safe."

Austin was just ahead, Honey was relieved to see. They had just passed a sign advertising the Austin Historic Museum with a picture of the Pony Express, five miles ahead according to the billboard.

The road was winding, but she could see the town around the curves. She pulled off the highway at an old-fashioned-looking gas station and store. Di and Brian went into the convenience store to stock up on snacks, sodas, and water while Honey stayed outside to fill up the tank and wipe down the windshield. She was the driver, so she felt she should be responsible for the car instead of leaving it up to Brian.

The town was small and old, almost like a ghost town. But people were around—another car had just left the gas station—and the mere fact that the gas station and convenience store were open and the numerous signs advertising various things to do in Austin reassured her. The temperature was cooler than she expected, and she wrapped her thin jacket around her. Above her, the clouds were dark gray, and she wondered if they would get caught in a rainstorm, or maybe even a snowstorm, later.

Brian and Di returned, laughing and giggling. Honey pointed up to the sky. "Do you think it will rain?"

Brian glanced upward. "It might."

"Maybe we should just stay here, instead?" Honey looked at the two of them.

"I really wanted to see Manhattan. It's only an hour and a half from here according to the cashier in the store. Even if it does rain, we should make it there." Di batted her eyelashes and gave a little pout.

Honey laughed. "You don't need to give me the puppy-dog eyes to get me to go along."

"What Di here has failed to mention were the curious stares we got from the locals when she asked about Manhattan." Brian grinned.

"Oh?" Honey wished maybe she had gone inside with them. "Did they say anything?"

"No. Just some odd stares." Brian shrugged. "I guess we look a bit too out of place around here."

 

She kept thinking about those eyes, the ones that were like a kaleidoscope: green and blue and brown and gold and oh so deep. The kisses they had shared in secret before she and Trixie and Di had left, the way her skin tingled when they held hands.

"Honey?"

"Hmm?" Honey glanced at Di and then back at the road.

"Maybe I should drive. You seem to be drifting off into la-la land." Di rolled her eyes. "At least there's nothing to hit out here."

"I'm fine. Just thinking." She smiled at Di. "And we should be there soon. I think I'm supposed to turn left on this road just ahead."

"Yes, you should." Brian had become the back-seat navigator.

"So who were you thinking about?" Di waggled her eyebrows.

Honey blushed. "What makes you think it was a 'who'?" She slowed down to make the left turn onto what she hoped was road 377.

"You had that silly smile and you got all dreamy." Di grinned. "It was definitely a 'who'."

"Well, maybe I was dreaming about donuts or something." She stuck her tongue out at Di. The road was becoming narrower and steeper as she guided the car into the mountains.

"Mm-mm. If you were Mart, I might believe you got that dreamy look over food." Di sighed. "But you're not Mart. And I do have a hunch on the 'who'."

Honey gasped. "You do?" Oh, this was not good. No, Di must be mistaken.

But Di didn't share her hunch as Honey continued over the mountain road.

"Brian? Is the car supposed to sound this loud?" Honey had noticed after leaving Austin that the engine seemed to sound louder than usual, and the volume appeared to have gradually increased. She thought it might have to do with the altitude.

"No, it shouldn't. I noticed it, too, but I didn't want to worry you while you were driving." Brian had to talk loudly to be heard over the engine noise. "I have a couple of thoughts what it might be. I'll check it out when we get to the town."

It wasn't long before they passed a small cemetery on the right. "I hope we don't wake the dead."

Di shuddered in the seat next to her. "Not funny."

As they continued up the mountain, Honey started seeing dilapidated buildings in various states of disrepair, reminding her of the game preserve when her father had first bought the land; except this was without all the trees to mask that run-down look. There were also a number of very old rusted cars falling apart at the side of the road.

"I hope our car doesn't end up like those." Brian sounded worried. "On the other hand, maybe I can salvage some parts from there."

"I don't know." Honey shook her head almost imperceptibly. "It's like a graveyard of old cars. I'd think taking parts from there would be like disturbing the dead."

"Okay, that's seriously enough talk about 'the dead'. What is with you all of a sudden?" Di glared at Honey. "I mention one little thing about your love life, and you start mentioning waking the dead and disturbing the dead."

"Why, I'm sorry, Di. I didn't even realize ... I don't know. Maybe it's this noisy car or maybe it's just this place." She looked over at Di. "Really, I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry, too. I'm sure it's just the noise getting to me." Di smiled again. "But no more mentioning the de—the ... let's keep the subject to living people."

"Oh, look at that beautiful church up there." Honey pointed to a wooden building on a hill, with stairs leading up to the pointed door frame and a thin, simple cross adorning the top. She slowed down as more buildings came into view. A long red-sided building with barred-up windows had a huge sign proclaiming it to be the Manhattan Country Store, but the letters were faded and it definitely had the air of being deserted.

Brian reached his arm between the two front seats and gestured at the buildings along the main street. "Do you want to get out and walk around? Explore these old buildings before the sun sets?"

"Sure. I'd love to." Honey happily pulled off the road and carefully parked the car in the dirt. Her ears seemed to sigh in relief as she turned the engine off and the car became quiet. She got out and stretched. "And I thought Austin looked like a gh—uh, like an old town." She took a few steps away from the car and let herself breathe in the cold mountain air, happy not to smell the gasoline fumes that seemed to have permeated the car. It was then that she realized that the car had probably been leaking some exhaust fumes into the cab. That might have attributed to some of their testiness.

The sun was already over the horizon, but it was still light enough to see without too much trouble. She turned around to see Brian closely inspecting an old abandoned vehicle that had grass growing through it.

"Hellooo?" Diana called out to the empty buildings. No answering sound came except the wind through the wreckage.

Brian tore his eyes away from the abandoned vehicle. "Yes?"

"Silly, I was calling to see if there was anyone here but us."

"Hey, look at this over here, girls." Brian had left the wrecked car and was walking toward a large stone building. "This used to be the bank, and this must have been the vault."

Di cupped her hands around her mouth and tried again. "Heeellllloooo!"

Honey giggled. "I don't think you'll get an answer, Di."

"You're right, of course. This place really is a ghos—I mean abandoned." Di grinned at nearly breaking her own rule.

"Hello?"

Honey jumped and she was sure Di was equally startled. The voice that had answered her was masculine, but most definitely not Brian.



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