Manhattan

Monday, April 23, 1990

Brian wondered how they were going to get the car fixed. He hadn't said anything, but Honey was sure he was worried about it. And so was she.

After visiting the convenience store last night, Brian had found them and suggested they secure a room before the next clouds unleashed another ice storm on them. They had gone to the large blue house and spoke to Maureen Bellmont. She was very friendly and said she would be happy to let them stay in her home. Honey had remembered what Pajama-Flynn had told them about her wanting some kind of a price, but when she asked about payment, Maureen had responded with, "Whatever you feel is right, Dearie."

They had a nice home-cooked meal of a simple beef stew. And they had all had to share the room. That had been interesting. Honey had worried no one would want to share the bed with her and had offered to sleep on the floor. Brian had offered to take the floor as well. But the temperatures at night were very low, and the floor was very cold. In the end, they all three had slept in the same king-size bed. It felt like being squished in with a bunch of campers from summer camp, and she had slept rather restlessly.

She wandered down to the kitchen where she had been told she could make some coffee and help herself to some toast or cereal. The old lady letting them stay in her house was really very sweet. But when Honey opened the fridge, there were no eggs, no bacon, no sausage. The cupboards held no oatmeal. It was rather bleak. So coffee and cereal, with a small piece of toast, really were the only choices for breakfast.

Di was still asleep—she always had been a late sleeper—and Brian had left earlier to see about the car, of course. She knew he was anxious to get back to Berkeley as well. He had told her he was going to try to find Joe Flynn and see if he knew the best and fastest way to get an exhaust something-or-other.

Honey waited for Di to join her. She was looking forward to getting out and exploring more of the town. She really didn't want to eat all their meals here, so she was hoping to find a restaurant or café in the town somewhere, as unlikely as that seemed to be. Surely the 37 people who lived here liked to go out now and then?

Di stumbled down the stairs looking rather pale. She had her hand on her stomach as if it was aching.

"You okay, Di?" Honey stood up from the table and went to meet her at the bottom of the stairs.

Di managed a small smile. "Too much junk food yesterday, I guess."

She made it almost halfway to the table before covering her mouth and running to the sink.

"Far too much junk food," Honey agreed with a small laugh. She rummaged through a couple of kitchen drawers until she found some clean towels. She waited until the other girl had completely emptied her stomach. Hoping they weren't Maureen's good linens, she helped Di clean herself up and then tackled the kitchen floor and counter.

Di sank into one of the kitchen chairs. "I thought I was through with this part."

"What?" Honey was sure she must have misheard her. She spotted a washer and dryer in a small room off to the side and brought the towels there.

"Oh, it's nothing. Just the stomach flu or some bad food or something." Di smiled at her in what was probably meant to be a reassuring way.

"Right." Honey raised an eyebrow. It could be the flu, but she recalled all the chips and French fries her friend had eaten in the last twenty-four hours. Maybe it really was nothing but a case of too much greasy food. "Speaking of food, I thought maybe we could explore a bit more today and see what other food options we have here, and maybe find a real grocery store."

 

The two girls were just about to leave when the front door opened with a bang, startling them both.

Brian stood there looking dejected. "The car's gone."

"What?" Honey gazed at Brian nervously. "What do you mean 'gone'?"

"Gone. Disappeared. Vamoose. Vanished." Brian scowled. "Stolen, I suppose. Though who would want to steal that old clunker?"

"Our mysterious man from yesterday, maybe?" Honey went to the open door and glanced up and down the small street.

"Maybe we shouldn't have left it parked on that side street. Could it have been towed?" Di asked.

Brian shook his head. "I did see a tow truck at Flynn's Auto Body Shop, just down the road. But I looked all through that place and it wasn't there. I couldn't find anyone who works there, either."

"The car has to be somewhere." Lines creased Honey's forehead as she frowned in worry. "Let's all go and look."

Brian nodded and then looked over the two girls. "Do you have any heavy sweaters or warmer jackets? It's pretty cold out there."

Honey rolled her eyes. "And just where would we get those from?"

He shrugged. "Well, I guess it's not so bad in the sunshine."

"We'll be fine," Di said, even as she rubbed her arms with her hands as if to warm them.

 

They hadn't walked far when the sound of a very loud car could be heard coming up behind them.

"That's my car!" Brian was incredulous. He turned to look down the street at the direction it was coming from. He stepped into the middle of the street, hoping to make the driver stop.

As the car approached, Di could see that a curly-haired blonde girl was behind the wheel.

Brian held out his hand, and Di watched, hoping he wouldn't get hit.

"Yee haw!" the driver cried out, even as she hit the brakes. She stuck her head out the window. "Need a lift?"

"That's my car!" Brian repeated.

"It is?" She pulled on the parking brake and opened the door. "Well, now, that's a bit of a pickle for me, then. Name's Tricia." She held out her hand to shake.

"What did you do to my car?" Brian ignored her hand and strode over to the car to look inside. "You hot-wired it? You better not have damaged the panels."

Tricia turned to the other two girls. "This handsome guy belong to either of you?"

Di snickered. "Well, I guess so. We're with him, but we're not with him."

"Well, all right, then. I guess he's fair game." She winked. "Although Joe won't care much for that."

"Joe Flynn?" Honey ventured. Di gathered she must have remembered the name from the convenience store.

Tricia seemed about to say something when another car drove up the street and pulled up beside her. Di nearly fainted, but she regained her composure to look over at Honey. The other girl was clearly just as shocked.

Tricia walked up to the jeep with custom plates that spelled out 'JWF II'. "Hey there, Joe!" she called to the red-haired driver.

"Y-y-you're Joe Flynn?" Honey stammered out.

The young man turned off his car and jumped out quite gracefully. "Joseph William Flynn, number two. At your service." He bowed to her and then to Di, winking at them both.

"Joseph William Flynn, the Second?" Di repeated the name, still a bit nonplussed herself.

Joseph stepped closer to her. "Yes'm. That's my name. And what might yours be?"

"Di ... Diana." She managed a small smile.

"A fitting name for such a beautiful goddess." He winked. "But don't let Trish overhear that."

Di giggled. "Trish? Almost like Trix. Seriously?"

Tricia was already coming up to them and put an arm possessively around one of Joe's. "He flirts with all the pretty girls, but he knows he's mine. Don't you, babe?"

"Di?" Honey was staring at her friend, an odd expression on her face. "You see and hear them, too, right?"

"Who? Jim and Trixie ... I mean Joe and Tricia?" Di nodded solemnly, although her violet eyes twinkled merrily.

Honey nodded with her, merely mimicking her movements. "Are we in an episode of the Twilight Zone or what?"

"Or what," Brian answered, sitting halfway inside his car.

Di grabbed Honey's arm and helped her walk over to the one person she was sure was still sane. Brian was fiddling with some wires, apparently trying to repair the ignition. "Don't you find that couple over there just a bit odd?"

Brian glanced at the two, who were now standing right behind Di and Honey. "Yes. And annoying." He turned to the girl. "I can't believe you hot-wired my car. For what? It barely runs. Couldn't you tell by the sound?"

Tricia put her hands on her hips. ”Well, now, how was I supposed to hear that there was a problem before I actually started her up?"

"Sounded like the exhaust manifold cracked," Joe supplied. He leaned an elbow on the door. "Any idea where you can get a new one of those around here?" He peered around at the car. "For a 1982 Ford Escort?"

"No, of course not." Brian glowered. He dug his keys out of his pocket and put them in the ignition, turning over the car to make sure it would start again.

The loud noise from the engine startled Di, even though she was expecting it.

"I don't suppose you would know where I can get one, do you?" Brian looked at the tall, muscular red-head expectantly.

Joe reached into the car and popped the hood up. "You could try Tonopah. They have a pretty decent junk yard, there. Or they can order the part for you."

Brian almost smiled. "Great. How far is that?" He got out of the car and stood next to Joe. Both of them gazed under the hood.

"Just about an hour down the road." Joe grinned. "That's close by our standards."

"Driving, I suppose." Brian frowned.

"I don't think this thing'll make it that far, though. That looks pretty bad." He pointed something out to Brian.

"I know." Brian moved Joe's arm out of the way and slammed the hood back down.

"Testy." Joe grinned again. "Maybe you should just get a new car. I could use this one down at the shop for parts."

Brian glared at him. "This is my car. I'll get the parts I need, fix it, and be on my way. In my car."

"Okay, okay." Joe held his hands up in a defensive posture.

"I can give you a lift down to Tonopah, handsome." Tricia winked at him. "Unless you were thinking of trying to drive that thing all the way there?"

Brian looked at Di and then Honey and then shrugged. "Do we have a choice?"

Honey shook her head. "It is only an hour away. Why don't you go, and Di and I will stay here; explore the town some more. Is that okay with you, Di?"

Di nodded hesitantly. "You want to catch a ride, with strangers—the same stranger who stole your car?"

"Aw, now, I gave it right back. I'll go get my truck, and Joe and ...?" Tricia looked at Brian expectantly.

"Brian." He reached out to shake her hand. "And thanks. For offering me a ride; not for stealing my car."

Tricia grinned. "No problem. Joe and Brian and I will run down to Tonopah and see if we can't get what we need to fix her right back up." She turned around and walked off quickly.

"Try to cut us a little slack." Joe gave them all a charming smile. "It's a small town, and there's not much to do around here. We'll be glad to drive you to town and help you out."

Di looked around them and had to concur. There really wasn't much to the town. But she and Honey could explore the bit there was while Brian took care of the Ford. "Is there a payphone anywhere?"

"That's a good idea." Brian smiled at her. "You should call Jim and Trixie and let them know where we are."

"Do you have Mrs. Bellmont's number, so you can reach us?" Di tried not to look too worried. "You know. Just in case."



Trixie awoke and sat up in bed. She peered around the unfamiliar room. Her brother's things were all neatly organized, not a thing out of place, but her own belongings were strewn about, half in and half out of the carry-on case on the floor. She sighed and wondered if she should try to straighten up before he and her friends returned home later that day.

A rap on the door startled her momentarily. "Jim?"

"Who else?" came the reply.

Trixie snorted. "Brian, home early? Come on in."

Jim opened the door a crack. "Are you decent?"

Trixie looked down at her old t-shirt and the sweatpants she was wearing. "I don't know. I'm in my pajamas, not naked."

He opened the door wider, and then poked his head in. He glanced at her and then waggled his brows. "I'm a bit disappointed."

"Are you?" Trixie winked at him. "I could get naked, if you want."

"Trixie!" Jim feigned shock and then winked back at her. "I meant I was hoping for sexier pajamas. Like one of those tiny little nightgowns with the thin straps. Naked would leave nothing to the imagination."

Trixie suddenly felt shy, even though she was the one who had started the flirting. After swallowing quietly, she found her voice. "I'll keep that in mind and see what I can do for tonight."

That seemed to leave Jim flustered. His cheeks flamed, but he took a couple of steps toward the bed. "I ... You know I was just teasing, right?"

She relaxed and patted a spot on the bed, implying he should sit down. "So, what should we do today?"

Jim sat in the offered spot. "It's sunny and dry. We could go up to Tilden, if you want."

 

Trixie sat in the passenger seat of Jim's Suburban, watching the scenery as they drove into the hills. It really was quite lovely. But it seemed like they hadn't gone that far when Jim started to pull over. "Are we there already?"

"No, not really. I just remembered something here that I wanted to show you." He parked the car in the parking lot on the side of the road.

There were some large buildings nearby, and Trixie assumed he would take her to one of those. "Are we going to the Lawrence Hall of Science? Doesn't Brian work there?"

"Yeah, he works there. We can come back here later in the week with him." Jim held her hand as they walked toward the science museum, confusing her. But then, instead of heading towards the front entrance, he pulled her off onto a path that led around the back of the building.

She wondered just where they were going. "Are we allowed to be back here?"

He nodded. "Allowed and encouraged." He glanced around them. "It's a nice windy day."

Windy? Yes. Nice? She wasn't so sure about that. The wind tended to wreak havoc with her already easily tangled hair. But she didn't mind that as much as most girls might. She followed him happily, just enjoying the outdoors. Everything was so green and beautiful. And then she heard something, almost like music.

"Hear that?" Jim smiled at her and led her off the path and up a small hill. "We're almost there."

The music was getting louder. It was an almost eerie kind of music, and yet still sounded beautiful. With every gust of wind, more musical notes sounded in the air. "What is making the music?"

Jim pointed to a large pipe sticking out of the ground, and then another one. "Some artist or musician put these here. It's a wind organ." He found a clear spot on the ground, and because it was still damp from yesterday's rain, he took off his jacket and laid it down on the ground. He sat on one edge of it and pulled her down to sit next to him.

"It's beautiful. Imagine making a musical instrument out of the wind like this." She gazed at him.

He nodded quietly. "I like to come here on windy days and just listen. This place reminds me of my mom."

"She liked music, didn't she? Yesterday, it was the bells at the Campanile and, today, this." She gestured with her hand, waving at the pipes around them.

"She did. And it helps me remember the good things about her." He frowned slightly.

Trixie sighed. She had always held a grudge against Katje Frayne-Jones for marrying that evil man, but she imagined there had to be some good in the woman.

Jim must have been reading her mind. "I know. I hate her for marrying him, too. But I'm trying to forgive her."

Trixie gazed up at him, surprised. "I thought you had already forgiven her."

He shook his head. "I haven't. Some days, I'm not sure I ever will. But it's not her fault that he was so mean to me."

"And it's not your fault either," Trixie pointed out.

"I know." He closed his eyes.

Trixie gazed at him for a while, and then leaned against him, closing her own eyes, listening to the melodic tune created by the wind through the pipes.

Trixie was almost sad to leave the spot when Jim finally seemed ready to go. But once they were back on the road, she could see why he wanted to show her more of the park; it was really beautiful. "Where are we going, now?"

He gave her a half-grin. "The stables. I thought it would be better to show you around on horseback."

"That sounds perfect!" She smiled as she looked out her window. It had been a very long time since she had gone riding with Jim. She was glad they would have an opportunity to do that today.

 

"What about that Italian place we almost went to yesterday?" They had worked up quite an appetite on the ride through the park. The trails wound around almost as much as the ones back home, and he had even led them to a small lake that reminded her of the lake on the Wheelers' property. Now they were back in the car, trying to decide where to have lunch.

"Where Ken and Maria were eating?" Jim shook his head. "Don't you want to try something different? Besides, we should keep lunch light since we're having dinner at our place tonight."

"I liked that restaurant. It seemed cozy." Trixie sat in his passenger seat and twirled an errant curl around her finger. "And would it be wrong of me to say that I'm half hoping to run into Maria again?"

Jim nodded, his green eyes twinkling. He flipped his turn signal on and guided the car into the turn lane, slowly coming to a stop. "It would be wrong. And she's coming over to our place for dinner later, anyway."

Trixie pouted. "I suppose. But there's something very mysterious about her."

"Mysterious Maria ...." Jim smirked, creating that adorable lopsided grin.

"She is, isn't she? And if Brian was going to fall for someone, I always figured it would be someone kind of ... I don't know ... boring." Trixie shrugged, giving Jim a sheepish grin.

"We can go to that restaurant if you really want to, but she's not likely to be there two days in a row, you know?" Jim frowned slightly. "And I really shouldn't encourage you to spy on her."

"No, I suppose you shouldn't. But you know there's something not quite right with her, either, don’t you? Otherwise you wouldn't have asked me to eavesdrop yesterday. And if it's not that she's cheating on my brother with that Ken person, well, what could it be?" Trixie looked at Jim, determined to find out the truth. Whatever was going on, it had upset him, and that worried her. "Do you know?"

Jim turned a bit red. "I have my suspicions, and I've told them to Brian. He continues to ignore me."

"Will you tell them to me?" she asked.

He stared at her for a few seconds, as if contemplating his answer. "No, I won't. Not just yet, anyway."

Trixie frowned, disappointed. "But what you heard yesterday, it upset you, right?"

He sighed. "Yes. It upset me." The light turned green, and he steered the car onto the busier road. "Let's just grab a quick sandwich and then head back to the apartment."

"Okay." She watched him as he drove, wondering just why he wouldn't tell her what he suspected. "Your Tilden Park is beautiful, by the way. Thanks for showing me around there."

He glanced over at her. "I'm glad you liked it. And once you get off the main paths, it's really quiet and serene."

She nodded. "I can see that. And I'm happy that you have a place like that to center yourself. I know how much you like the outdoors, and I wondered how you were managing without the preserve to go to when you just needed to think. Now I understand."

He raised an eyebrow in her direction. "I'm not sure I understand. Am I that unbalanced?"

She flushed. "No. No, that's not what I meant. I meant you sometimes would get in your head too much, and whenever you'd go riding in the preserve, it seemed to help you. And I didn't know if you still had someplace like that to go to."

"You always were very observant. I didn't even know you had realized that." He frowned slightly.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply anything bad." She wondered how she could better explain herself.

"Yes, I know. And you're right. I do need a place to center myself sometimes." He pulled the car over to the side of the road into a parking spot in front of a delicatessen and then turned the engine off. "And I appreciate that you know that about me. It's ... I'm glad you know me well enough to realize that."

She smiled shyly at him. "I didn't mean that you were ... well ... crazy."

He nodded. "I know." He leaned over the seat and kissed her.



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