Manhattan

Monday, April 23, 1990

Honey hung up the pay phone inside the general store. She could almost feel Roger Bellmont glaring at her, but she didn't care. She was disappointed that no one had answered the call, but at least she had left a message on Jim and Brian's answering machine. Now, the next goal was to find some decent food.

She looked up and down the aisles and was disappointed to see Di was already picking out another bag of salty, greasy potato chips. She hadn't really looked that closely yesterday, but she saw now that there was actually a little bit of fresh produce in the small store. Well, fresh might be overstating it, but not canned or boxed, anyway.

She made her way to the front of the store and decided to brave the lion in his den. "Excuse me, Mr. Bellmont? Is there any other store in town that sells fresh groceries?"

Roger Bellmont rolled his eyes. "Nope."

"So, all you have is some wilted lettuce and browning bananas?" Honey frowned. "It seems there ought to be more options than that."

"Yep."

Great. He was apparently limiting his responses to one-word answers. Where was her legendary tact when she needed it? She pasted a smile on her face. "Terrific. What other options are there?"

"Sally Flynn grows tomatoes and zucchini. If you walk down Gold Street, she's the green house on the right. The tomatoes aren't in season yet, but the zucchini should be good." Roger grinned at her. "Then, if you fancy some fruit, it's best to see Tammy Nelson. She and her husband have a couple of citrus trees. Of course, this isn't really the season for citrus either. But they also have lots of berries."

Honey stared at him blankly, but committed "Gold Street" and "green house on right" in her memory.

Roger leaned over the counter and continued talking. "If you want some nicer lettuce, and maybe even some rhubarb and some broccoli, try Dani Hickson. Now, not much really grows that well in this extreme climate, but she's got a greenhouse and does pretty well with it."

"Great. Where does Mrs. Hickson live?" Honey hoped she would remember the directions.

"Go a bit past Gold Street and turn right on Pine Nut Hill." He proceeded to give her the rest of the directions.

"Thanks!" Honey turned back to the refrigerated section to see what she could find there.

The milk wasn't expired, and the eggs and cheese looked pretty good, too. She selected a couple of items and then joined Di. "Put the chips away, my friend. Let's make some real food."

"But ... oh, fine." Di put the two bags of chips back on the shelf. She peered in Honey's basket. "What do you have there?"

"Just some basics. Let's see what else we can find." She led them down another aisle where she picked up a packet of rice and some canned cream of mushroom soup. But when she got to the meats, she frowned again. She wasn't really sure how to tell if meat was good except by the expiration date on the package. According to the date, it was good, but it looked a little gray to her. "I guess these chicken breasts look okay?"

Di looked them over and nodded. "They're still partially frozen, but they're good."

Honey stuck those in her basket and brought everything back up to Mr. Bellmont. "Will Mrs. Hickson really sell me some of her vegetables?"

"Sell? No. She'll just as likely give them to you, dearie. Just tell her Roger sent you." He started to ring up the purchases, apparently in a better mood than he had been when she first walked in. "How long are you young girls planning on staying in town?"

"Just until we can get the car fixed." Honey frowned. "Our friend, Brian, is working on that now." She thought it might be prudent to drop Brian's name so that he knew they weren't alone.

"Have you been to see Joe?" he asked, pulling the next item out of her basket.

"He found us." Di snickered. "His girlfriend, or maybe she wasn't really his girlfriend, well, Tricia, anyway, is helping us out also."

"Oh, Joe Two. Not Joe One? You want the older Joe to be looking at your car. I wouldn't trust those other two rascals too much." He finished ringing up the items and gave the total to Honey.

Honey quirked an eyebrow. "Isn't Joe Flynn the second also a mechanic? He seemed to know what he was talking about." She pulled some bills out of the small wallet she had stuffed in her jeans pocket.

"Joe Two and that crazy granddaughter of mine are certainly smart about cars, but they're more likely to steal 'em than fix 'em." Roger shook his head sadly as he handed Honey her change.

Honey glanced at Di and raised an eyebrow. "Thanks for the tip."

 

"Mr. Hickson?" Honey addressed the tall, sandy-haired man who answered the door.

He frowned at the two strangers on his doorstep. "Who's asking?"

"My name's Maddie. Roger Bellmont sent me here." She gave the man a charming smile.

"Ted, honey, who's at the door? No one knocks around here." Di could hear the woman's voice coming from inside the home.

"I'm looking for Mrs. Dani Hickson," Honey continued. "Is she in?"

"Mom!" The man moved aside and let the woman come forward.

"Hello, dears. You say Roger sent you over? Whatever for?" If this was Dani Hickson, and she was the mother of the man who answered the door, she looked very fit for her age. If it hadn't been for the gray hair pulled up into a bun, Di would never have guessed her to be old enough to have a grown man for a son.

"Vegetables." Di grinned. "My friend here insists we eat proper vegetables, and Mr. Bellmont said you might have some you'd be willing to share with us."

"We can pay for them," Honey added.

"Pay? For vegetables? Whoever heard of such a thing? But if it's vegetables you're after, you have come to the right place. Come on in, girls." Dani opened the door wider and gestured for them to enter the modern-looking home.

Honey glanced at Di and shrugged. "Thank you, Mrs. Hickson."

The two girls followed the woman through the tidy house and into the back yard. A large greenhouse building took up most of the space, and Di could see through the windows that lots of healthy plants were growing inside. Ted Hickson followed them closely, glaring at the two girls suspiciously.

Mrs. Hickson opened the door and went in. "Let's see ... the asparagus is ready, and I have lots of zucchini. There's some lettuce here, a few different kinds, and over in the corner are some early peas."

Di was glad that Mart had taught her so much about food. "Fresh peas sound wonderful! Do you think we could get some?"

"Of course, honey. How do you girls know Roger, anyway? You're not from around here." Mrs. Hickson was reaching for one of many baskets piled up by the front door, all different sizes, shapes, and colors.

"I'm so sorry," Honey was saying to her. She sounded a little startled, and Di realized that Mrs. Hickson had inadvertently addressed her by her nickname. "We didn't even introduce ourselves. My name is ... Maddie, and this is my friend Diana. We were driving through when our car broke down."

"Oh, dear." Mrs. Hickson looked worried for them. "Well I hope you can get the car fixed. Have you taken it to Joe, or had him come out to look at it?" She handed the basket to Honey.

Honey looked like she didn't know what exactly to do with the basket. Di smiled at her and grabbed it. Then she followed Mrs. Hickson to the corner where the peas were growing.

"Not exactly." Honey grimaced. "We kind of had the wrong Joe take a look at it."

"The wrong Joe?" Mrs. Hickson turned to her and frowned.

"Joe Two." Di smiled. "At least, Mr. Bellmont seemed to think that was the wrong Joe."

Mrs. Hickson suddenly laughed. "Of course he would think Joe W. Flynn the Second was the wrong Joe. Joe's dating his granddaughter. But don't you worry none. No matter what Roger said, Joe Two is just as good a mechanic, if not better, than his dad."

"Oh, that's a relief." Honey sighed. "Mr. Bellmont had me a bit worried."

Di raised an eyebrow. "He seemed to think Joe Two and his granddaughter would be more interested in stealing the car than fixing it."

Ted Hickson was still at Di's elbow. At her remark he made a growling sort of noise. Di wished she had the guts to tell him to back away from her.

"Stealing?" Mrs. Hickson held her stomach as she laughed harder. "Those two youngsters do like to have a bit of fun, and I can't really blame them. There's not much to do around here. But they have good hearts. Don't you give anything old Roger Bellmont said about them a second thought."

 

Honey dropped the peas in a bowl and tossed the pod in the pile on the table. "Are you worried about Brian?"

"Of course. But, he's only been gone a few hours. And the drive is an hour each way. I'm sure he's fine." Di expertly pulled the end of the pea pod down to split it open, revealing the neat row of peas within. "I mean, as fine as a person can be in the company of a couple of possible car thieves."

Honey watched with envy as Di shelled three pods of peas in the same amount of time it took her to do one.

"Fresh peas?"

Maureen Bellmont startled Honey. "Hello, Ms. Bellmont."

"Hello, girls." Maureen smiled at her. "Are you preparing dinner tonight?"

"Yes, if that's okay with you?" Honey just realized their hostess might not want them to cook in her kitchen.

"That's fine, dear. Just fine. I'm going to go out tonight anyway. Julie's hosting Bunco. Don't wait up for me." The older woman waved to them as she left the room.

Di breathed a sigh of relief. "I can't put my finger on why, but she gives me the willies."

"The willies?" Honey giggled. "How can that sweet old lady give you 'willies'?"

"It's probably not her. It's the way Flynn said she'd take us in for a price." Di shuddered. "And she hasn't asked for any payment, so I can't help feeling the price isn't monetary."

Honey shook her head and grabbed another pod from the dwindling pile. "Okay. Now you are giving me the 'willies'. She's just a nice old lady. Don't read anything into what that sleaze-ball, Flynn, said. He was just trying to spook us."

"Yeah? Well he succeeded." Di shuddered. "And that Ted Hickson. He's worse."

"Ted Hickson?" Honey looked at her quizzically.

"Yes. Mrs. Hickson's son? He growled at me. Growled." Di dropped the pea pod in her hand and stood up. "What kind of grown man growls at young women?"

"That is creepy. But everything in this town seems a bit ... odd." Honey frowned. "Where are you going?"

"To get my jacket. I'm freezing." Di left the room.

Honey kept working. When Di didn' t return after a couple of minutes though, she started to worry. "Di?"

No call answered her. Honey stood up and went to the front entrance where they had hung their jackets on a coat rack. Di wasn't there, and neither was her jacket. "Di! Where are you?"

The front door was unlocked, so maybe she had stepped outside for some air. Honey opened the door hesitantly. "Di?!"

Di was standing outside, her hands braced against the house. She looked like ... yes, she was vomiting, again. "Di?" Honey ran up to her.

Di stood up and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, then immediately looked like she regretted doing that.

"Di? Let's get you back inside." Honey took her friend's arm and led her back to the kitchen. The wood-burning stove had some logs in it, and she thought she could figure out how to get that going.

Di nodded, and then let out a tiny little burp, more like a release of air.

"Do you think you have the flu or something?" Honey figured she must. "I can go back to Bellmont's store and pick up some medicine for you."

Di shook her head. "No. No medicine. I can't."

Honey guided Di to the kitchen table. She found another clean towel and dampened it so she could help Di clean her face and her arm.

"I don't know why I'm so sick all of a sudden." Di frowned.

"Probably just a bug, or maybe something you ate. Are you sure you don't want any medicine? It's no trouble for me to go and get you something." Honey rummaged through the kitchen drawers and found some matches. She opened up the stove. It looked like there was already kindling there, but she was still hesitant to try to start the fire. What if something else needed to be done to get it ready?

"I'll be fine." Di laid her head down on the table. "I'll be fine."

Honey glanced over at her and saw tears streaming from her eyes. She dropped the matches on the counter and stood next to her friend. She tried to feel her forehead, but she didn't think Diana felt especially warm. "I don't think you have a fever."

Di closed her eyes. "No. No fever. Oh, Honey ... I may as well tell you now. You'll find out soon enough anyway." Her violet eyes opened and stared into Honey's hazel ones. "I'm ... I'm pregnant."

"Pregnant?" Honey stood there for a moment, shocked. That explained so much. Eventually, she came out of her stupor and pulled a chair over, sitting down next to Di. "Pregnant?" She put her arm around her friend, trying to hug her.

Di sat up and returned the hug. After a minute or two, she pulled back, smiling again. "I thought I was all through with this part of it. Until this morning, I haven't thrown up in weeks. All of a sudden, I feel sick all the time again."

Honey had no idea how pregnancy or morning sickness worked, but she did know that different climates could affect a person in all sorts of ways. "Could it be the altitude here? If I remember right from the sign driving in, we're at about 7,000 feet." Pregnant? My friend is pregnant and I'm talking about altitude.

Di shrugged. "That might be it. Hopefully that's all it is."

Honey hugged her again. Pregnant! She kept herself from repeating the word again. "Thanks for telling me. I've been wondering what was going on with you. But I never suspected." She gazed at her friend sympathetically, now that the initial shock had worn off. "Whatever I can do to help, let me know, okay?"

She sighed. "Oh, Honey, I don't know what to do. We were so careful. I don't even know how it happened."

Honey was glad to see her friend smiling and calm. She smirked. "Really? Because I'll probably never have sex with a guy, and I still have a pretty good idea how it happens."

Di blushed, but the grin Honey was hoping for appeared. "Okay, I know how it happened. But we used a condom."

Another thought occurred to Honey. "Just how far along are you?"

"About four months." Di stood up and looked at the stove. "Did you want to light this? It's getting cold already."

Honey counted backwards on her fingers. "Mart was in Sleepyside over Christmas. He is the father, right?"

Di glared at her momentarily. "Of course Mart is the father. How could you even think anything else?"

Honey stood up and joined her by the stove. "I didn't mean ... well, I couldn't imagine who else would be. I guess I was just making sure." She grabbed the matches from the counter where she had left them. "Do you know how to tell if the flue or whatever is open, so the smoke doesn't come into the room?"

Di looked at the pipe coming out of the stove. She pointed to the knob. "I think this controls the air, but I remember being told that you shouldn't have it fully open."

"Forget it." Honey laughed. "Let's just bundle up. I don't want to accidentally cause a fire in the house."

Di smiled. "One of these days, I hope we're not so hopeless about this kind of stuff."

"I know." She decided to return to the earlier conversation. "Does Mart know yet?"

"No." She frowned. "It wasn't the kind of thing I wanted to bring up over the phone. I was hoping to tell him this week, in person."

"Does anyone know?" Honey wondered if she had told her parents, yet.

Di shook her head silently. "Well, except the people at Planned Parenthood."

"Planned Parenthood?" Honey tried to remember what she knew about that place.

"Yes. I ... when I first found out, I went there to see if I could get an abortion. Just take care of this quickly and go on with life." Di sniffed back a tear.

"An abortion?" Honey felt like all she could do was echo the word back as a question. Who was she to judge her friend's choice? Anyway, apparently Di hadn't gone through with it.

"Ye ... yes. I ... I thought it would be the best solution, at first." She looked guilty at even having considered the option.

"So, you went to Planned Parenthood." Honey nodded, understanding. "What did they tell you?"

"Oh, Honey. The ladies there are so nice! I talked with one of them, Nancy, and she helped me see that while abortion might be a good solution for some people, it was not the right choice for me." Di smiled through the few tears that had spilled down her cheeks again.

"They talked you out of it?" Honey was a bit surprised by that news.

"Yes. Nancy and I talked about my beliefs, and how I might feel about myself years from now if I did go through with it." Di frowned. "I would feel so guilty, and I don't think I could ever get over that. So, once I made up my mind to have the baby, we talked about other options. We talked about the differences between an open and a closed adoption and also about me keeping the baby."

"And?" Honey prompted, when Di remained silent. She didn't even know there were different types of adoption.

"I don't know. I want to keep the baby, but I want to go to college. And I have no idea how Mart will react." The dark-haired girl sighed, and then sat up and smiled again. "Anyway, Nancy got me set up with an OB/GYN and some pre-natal vitamins. Dr. Aubry is really nice, too."

"Oh. Well that's good. Actually, that's great. So, you're taking care of yourself and the baby." Honey glanced over at the phone on the wall above the kitchen counter. "Did you call Mart yet, since we left Davis yesterday?"

"I called him from Austin, when we stopped. I left a message on his answering machine." Di smiled. "I didn't tell him about this, of course." She put her hand over her belly protectively.

Honey smiled back and then reached over and hugged her again. "It's got to be wonderful, and yet so very difficult."



Maria paced back and forth in the living room of her apartment. She was supposed to go to Brian's and Jim's for dinner, but she was nervous about meeting their sisters and friend. She knew that Jim didn't like her, not that she blamed him; she didn't consider herself a very likeable person. But Brian seemed to like her well enough. She smiled at the thought. She liked Brian, and hopefully she would get along with the New York visitors.

There were very few people she felt truly comfortable with. Brian topped that list, which seemed wrong, considering how little she knew him and he her. But there was just something about him that made her trust him completely.

Her close friend, Leah, was second. She and the older woman, a lawyer, had been friends since the day Maria had moved to Oakland. Leah had been a roommate in her first apartment, which is how they had gotten to know each other, and she had her own issues with family not accepting her.

Then there was Ken. Ken was weird, and for her to say that was saying something. He was part of her therapy group, a completely dysfunctional collection of misfits with varying issues. She couldn't stand most of those people, but she liked Ken. And he seemed to like her, but not the way Brian liked her, more like a brother likes a sister. But every time she was around Ken, she seemed to lose track of time, and she could hardly ever remember what they had done.

The first time she had woken up at Ken's place, in his bed actually, with no recollection of how she'd gotten there, she had, admittedly, freaked out. But Ken just smiled, and in his eternally calm demeanor, he assured her that nothing had happened. She had been fully dressed and completely alone when she awoke, so it was believable. Ken had succeeded in making her feel relaxed, and she had to admit that while she never seemed to remember quite how she ended up at his place so often, she felt this odd sense of security there.

When she was with Brian, there were also moments that she couldn't remember, and it worried her greatly.

She was ready to head over to Brian's now, and, as usual, she was scared to go. She wished she hadn't agreed to it, not with his sister there. What if she did something and then forgot again? It seemed to happen more and more often, and she felt like she was losing control somehow.

The new shrink wasn't helping either. She seemed to have a better idea than her last one about what was wrong with her, which actually terrified her on some levels, but also gave her hope. But in the short term, all she knew is she felt like she was getting worse, not better.

She wondered again what Brian's sister and her friends would be like. Could she actually act normal around them? She took a deep breath, grabbed her rain coat, and with a goodbye pat to her cat, Taco, who was circling around her legs in spite of the full food dish in the kitchen, she left.

 

Jim answered the door when she knocked. A girl with curly blonde hair stood behind him, glaring at her. The girl was wearing blue jeans and an oversized plaid green top. She suddenly felt overdressed in her midnight blue, knee-length dress. "Hi, Jim."

"Maria." Jim opened the door and let her in.

"Maria," the blonde girl echoed, with even more disdain and distrust in her voice.

I haven't even met this girl, and Jim's turned her against me. Maybe she's the one who's Jim's sister. Maria swallowed. She wished she'd thought to ask to see a picture of the girls when Brian told her they would be visiting. "Where's Brian?"

"Actually, I don't know." Jim looked worried, and that worry wasn't directed at her for a change.

"We're supposed to have dinner tonight, aren't we?" Maria glanced around the apartment nervously. Had she gotten things mixed up? Had dinner been called off and she'd forgotten?

"Yes, we are. But Brian, Honey, and Di haven't returned." Jim stood there, staring at Maria. "Have you heard from him?"

"From Brian? No." Maria wondered if she should just turn around and go home.

"I'm sure he'll be here soon. He would have called if he couldn't make it." The blonde girl stared at her, too.

Maria took a deep breath. Jim wasn't bothering to introduce her, so she stepped into the room and extended her hand to the curly blonde. "I'm Maria."

The girl looked at her strangely. "I know. We met yesterday."

Maria tried not to panic. "I'm sorry; I forgot your name."

"Trixie." She took Maria's hand hesitantly, but then shook it. Then she laughed and grinned. "You did say you'd meet me again today. I guess you weren't kidding."

Maria tried to smile. Trixie was Brian's sister. She should've realized this was Trixie when Jim mentioned that the other two girls were with Brian. She'd have to pay better attention. "You're Brian's sister. I remember."

Jim raised an eyebrow.

Maria went over to the couch and sat down, still wondering if she should just leave.

Trixie came and sat next to her. "So, how did you meet my brother?"

"Oh, I, uh ...." Maria suddenly became nervous. "I met him in Yosemite. We were both there over the winter break."

Jim sat down in the single chair in the room. "She cast a spell on him and we ended up following her home."

Maria glanced at him, not sure if he was joking about the spell or not. She didn't always get Jim's sense of humor.

"Hmm." Trixie smiled. "I'm sorry if I came off kind of mean yesterday."

"You weren't mean." Jim was quick to defend Brian's sister.

Maria took his lead, even though she had no idea what Trixie was referring to. "No, you weren't mean." She smiled at the blonde-haired girl. "You don't look very much like Brian."

"Brian's the odd one out, not me." Trixie's blue eyes sparkled. "My other two brothers both have curly blonde hair and blue eyes like I do, and like our mom."

"Oh." Maria smiled half-heartedly. She hated trying to make small talk. Hopefully Brian would show up soon. "When was Brian supposed to get home?"

"This afternoon." Trixie looked worried for half a second, but quickly masked it.

"Oh." Maria wished she really had just stayed home.



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