Monday, April 23, 1990

The silence stretched out unbearably long. Maria obviously wasn't comfortable, and Trixie realized it was probably because of her, because she had accused her of cheating on her brother at the restaurant. "I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions yesterday. I tend to do that. Jump to conclusions." She smiled in what she hoped was a friendly manner.

"She does do that." Jim winked at her. "But often enough, those conclusions are correct."

Maria bit her lower lip. "That's okay."

Trixie was still curious. She wanted to know more about this girl that had captured her brother's heart. "So, how do you know Ken?"

"Ken?" Maria's brown eyes darted around the room from Trixie to Jim and then to the door. "I know him."

Trixie rolled her eyes. "Yes, obviously. But how did you meet him?"

"Through some mutual friends." Maria's answer was vague.

Trixie grew suspicious again. "You were saying to Ken that you should tell Brian about 'us'. What did you mean?"

Maria sat on the couch, quietly, ignoring her.

"Right, none of my business." Trixie shook her head. She couldn't entirely blame the other girl; she was the one who had started grilling her for information again.

"Who did you mean when you said 'us'?" Jim's tone was much calmer than Trixie's had been. Trixie smiled at him gratefully.

But Maria still sat there, seemingly unwilling to answer. Then she turned to stare at the door. "Maybe I should just go. Brian's not here."

"Stay." She would feel bad if Maria left before her brother got home. She could sense Maria was uncomfortable and wished that Honey was there already. Honey would know exactly what to say to make the tension in the room dissipate. "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" Trixie tried to make friendly small talk.

"No." Maria shook her head.

"I think I'll go check on the food." Jim got up and left the room and Trixie wished she could follow him, but that would be too rude.

"Are you from California?" she asked, hoping to draw Maria into some kind of conversation.

"No," Maria replied.

Trixie wrinkled her brow in consternation. Did Brian's girlfriend already dislike her so much she didn't even want to talk to her? "So, where are you from?"

"Oh. France." Maria started picking at a loose thread from the couch.

Trixie noticed, with a twinge of guilt, it was the same thread she had pulled on the previous night. "You don't have much of an accent. How long have you been in the States?"

Maria started counting on her fingers. "Nine years."

Trixie sighed. Neither of them spoke; eventually she got up and went to the kitchen, rude or not. She thought she heard a sigh of relief from the other girl and had to stifle a laugh.

Jim was staring at the oven where pieces of stuffed chicken were staying warm.

"What's with her?" She pointed back to the other room.

Jim glanced through the door to see Maria still sitting quietly on the couch. "I should have warned you, but I didn't know how. She's a little ... I don't know ... crazy." He twirled a finger at the side of his head.

"Really?" Trixie's voice dripped with sarcasm.

"Sorry for leaving you alone with her out there." Jim glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall. "Should we just go ahead and eat instead of waiting for the others?"

"I suppose. I do hope they make it home soon, though." Trixie looked at the table, six places already set. She jumped when the phone suddenly rang.

Jim took two quick strides to reach it. "Brian?"

Trixie moved closer, trying to hear the voice on the other end.

Jim covered the mouthpiece. "It's Honey," he mouthed. Then he spoke into the phone. "No, I didn't get your message." Jim smiled at Trixie as he spoke to his sister. "Oh." He placed his hand over the mouthpiece again and whispered, "Car trouble."

But as the conversation continued, Trixie could tell Jim was getting worried about something. She waited as patiently as she could while he talked to Honey.

"You are? ... In Manhattan?" Jim reached for a pen and a pad of paper on the kitchen counter. He scribbled down some information. "Okay, thanks. Call me as soon as he's back. I don't care how late."

Trixie peered at him quizzically after he hung up the phone. "Did you say Honey's in Manhattan?"

Jim nodded. "Yes, she and Di are. But Brian's not with them. His car broke down. He went to Tonopah to try to find a part for it. It looks like they're not making it back home tonight."

"Wait. What? They went all the way back to New York, and left Brian where?" She was having a hard time making sense of his statements.

"Manhattan, Nevada." He looked at her and she could see he was worried although he was trying to conceal it. "I've never heard of it, either." He looked over at the food and the table again. "Shall we?"

Trixie nodded. At least it was just car trouble. Brian was always good with cars; she was sure he'd have it fixed and they'd be home tomorrow. She went back to the living room. "Let's go ahead and eat before the food gets cold," she invited.

Maria stood up, but instead of walking toward Trixie in the kitchen, she headed for the front door. "It was nice to meet—to see you, again, Trixie."

She exited so quickly, Trixie was left staring at the closed door. "What did I say?"

Jim shrugged his shoulder, his green eyes filled with worry. "I doubt it was just you. We were probably asking her too many questions. She doesn't like that."

"Crazy?" Trixie grinned.

Jim came over to her and put his arms around her waist, pulling her close to him.

"Hmmm." Trixie moved her head to look around Jim and at the door again, but then shifted her gaze to stare into those intense green eyes. "You know, even with you trying to distract me, all I can think about is why she wouldn't want to tell us where she met Ken, and what they were talking about."

"Maybe she doesn't remember," Jim whispered. "Don't worry about it."

"Not remember what?" Trixie looked at Jim curiously.

Jim shrugged. "Where she met Ken and what they were talking about."

Trixie shook her head. "Why wouldn't she remember? No, I don't buy that."

Jim put a finger under her chin and lifted her face close to his, pulling her even closer to him. "Does it matter?"

"Does what matter?" she asked, standing on her tiptoes so her lips could reach his.

Di sat nervously in the upstairs bedroom. It was after ten o'clock at night, and Brian still hadn't returned. He hadn't called, either. Something was terribly wrong. She just felt it.

She and Honey had talked to Mr. Bellmont and to Mr. Joe Flynn. Neither of them seemed to be worried that Tricia and Joe Two weren't back.

"They probably couldn't find the part they needed in Tonopah and drove on to Vegas." Joe Flynn had been reasonable, rational.

"They often go off and don't come back for a few days. I wouldn't worry," Mr. Bellmont had added.

But Di knew that Brian would have called if he could. Honey was worried, too. Di was sure of that, in spite of her friend's efforts to act calm.

"After all, Brian's changed from when we last really hung out with him. Maybe he didn't think to call," Honey had reasoned.

But Di didn't think Brian had really changed, not that much. He would have called.

Honey lay on the bed, one of Maureen Bellmont's romance novels in her hands. But she seldom turned a page, revealing to Di that her friend wasn't actually reading the book.

And then they both heard it: the knock on the door.

"Do you think it could be him?" Di asked nervously.

"Well, we won't exactly know unless we go downstairs and see." Honey slowly stood up and stretched. "I just hope he doesn't wake Miss Bellmont."

"I just hope it isn't Ted Hickson. Or Flynn." Di wrapped her jacket around her, tightly.

Honey glanced at her. "If they're as creepy as we both seem to think, I don't think they'd bother to knock."

Di followed the other girl down the stairs, wishing she was as brave as Honey. The two girls stood behind the solid oak door. Honey peered through the peephole. Apparently she couldn't make out whoever was standing on the porch. "Who is it?" she called out, trying not to shout too loudly.

"It's me." Di thought she recognized the voice, but she was pretty sure it wasn't Brian. Who else could it be, though?

The two girls looked at each other. "Me, who?" Honey finally asked.

"Honey? Di? It's me, Mart."

Honey quickly opened the door, letting the blond-haired boy into the house. He smiled briefly at Honey, and then somewhat shyly at Di.

"Ma ... Mart?" Di couldn't believe her eyes. What was he doing here? How did he know where they were?

Mart stepped toward her and engulfed her in a warm embrace. "Di, I'm sorry. I know how it must have looked, but believe me, there's only you. It's always been only you."

Di held him tightly. "Oh, Mart! I'm sorry. I completely overreacted. I know you were just helping her."

Honey stepped quietly away from the couple, not even seeming that startled to see Mart. Di was sure that was a satisfied smirk she saw on her friend's face when she'd first opened the door. Di peered over Mart's shoulder, still hugging him, and narrowed her eyes at her friend. "Did you tell him?" she mouthed.

Honey shook her head. "I called him, yes. I told him that he needed to see you. This week."

Mart pulled back, nodding. "She's right. I had to see you this week. I didn't want you to go back home thinking ...." He sighed.

Diana lifted her head off his shoulder so she could gaze into his eyes. "I never thought you were cheating on me. I didn't. I just ... I got overwhelmed. I wanted to be alone with you."

Mart smiled and then glanced back at Honey. Di followed his gaze to see her friend trying to creep up the stairs. "Anyway, Honey told me it would be a very good idea to make sure I saw you this week. She told me where you three were staying, and I couldn't wait even one more minute." He planted another quick kiss on her lips.

"I am so glad you're here." Di led Mart to the couch. "I can't believe you just dropped everything and drove eight hours to come see me. What if we were already heading back to Berkeley? What if ... wait ... that means you left Davis around two this afternoon, didn't you?"

"Actually, it was around four. It's only a six hour drive." He settled onto the couch and pulled her down next to him. "What does it matter what time I left?"

"It doesn't." She had been thinking for a moment that Honey had called him before she had told her she was pregnant. But if he left around four, she had probably called him when she had snuck away for a quick walk in the afternoon. "It doesn't," she repeated. "I'm just really glad you're here."

She snuggled up against him on the couch but then pulled away. Now that he was here, she wasn't sure what she should say, but she wanted to get it over with. And then there was the added worry about Brian. The longer she put off talking to him, the harder it would be. "Mart, I need to tell you something."

A pained look clouded his blue eyes. He put a finger to her lips. "Di, I know this long-distance thing has been hard, but we can make it work. We've been making it work for over a year."

He must have thought she was planning on dumping him. "It's not that. It's just ... I have some difficult news to tell you, and I don't know how to say it. There are two things, really."

Mart's gaze comforted her. "Whatever it is, we'll get through it."

She nodded. "Should I tell you about me first, or about Brian?"

"Brian? Where is he, anyway?" Mart looked around the dark room and then glanced up the stairs. "Is he okay?"

"That's the thing. We don't know." She felt her eyes brimming with tears.

"Don't know if he's okay? Let me talk to him." He stood up and started to head toward the stairs.

Di touched his arm and shook her head. "We don't know where he is. Or if he's okay." The tears started streaming down her face.

"What do you mean? He's not here with you two?" He turned back around, peering at her, apparently trying to understand.

Di filled him in on the broken down car and Brian's trip to Tonopah with the two locals.

"I agree with you," Mart said, finally, as he sat back down. "He would have called, if he could. I have to believe they're okay. Maybe they can't find a working payphone. Maybe they didn't have any coins." He rubbed her arm, trying to comfort her. "Now that I'm here, we could drive to Tonopah and see if we can figure out what happened."

Di glanced toward the window, as if she could see outside through the thick gold drapes that Miss Bellmont had pulled closed earlier in the evening. "That would be good."

Mart put a hand on Di's cheek, causing her to turn and face him again. "What about you? You said there was something you wanted to tell me about you."

"Right." Di took a deep breath. She just had to say it. She stared into his eyes, and then averted her gaze. His hand was warm where it still rested on her cheek. "I'm ...." She avoided looking at him as she took another breath and tried again. "I'm pregnant, Mart."

He didn’t say anything.

Di lifted her eyes. He was staring at her, open-mouthed. "Mart? Say something, please."

He complied. "Pregnant." He lowered his hand from her cheek to her shoulder. "Pregnant? With a baby? An actual baby?"

Di bit her lip and nodded.

"You're pregnant with my baby." Mart gazed at her. Somewhere in his head he must have been figuring out events and dates. "Four months pregnant?"

She nodded again.

He blinked. And then he leaned in and kissed her, a kiss full of love and desire. She returned the kiss, passionately.

He ended the kiss. "Due in September?" He didn't wait for her to answer. He dropped to the floor, kneeling before her. "Will you marry me? Do you want to marry me? We could get married in the summer, if you like. Or maybe you don't want to get married right away?"

Di started to cry. She didn't want him to marry her just because she was pregnant. She shook her head.

His blue eyes were moist with unshed tears. He clasped one of her hands. "I love you, Diana Lynch. I always envisioned spending the rest of my life with you and having a family with you. I want to marry you, pregnant or not. But, if you'll have me at all, it's up to you when."

Di wiped at her eyes with the back of her free hand. "I love you, Mart. I do want to marry you. But we have so much to figure out first. You're here in California. I got accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design. I still want to go to college, but I don't know how I'll manage with a baby. And I don't want you to give up your scholarship, and you obviously like the agricultural program at Davis."

"You're right. There is a lot to figure out." He sighed, and then sat back down on the couch next to her. "My semester finishes at the end of May. I'll come back to Sleepyside so I can be with you over the summer. I was going to do that anyway." He tentatively put his hand on her belly. "Meanwhile, I'll look into the schools in Rhode Island. I'm sure I can transfer. And we can figure out a schedule where one of us can be in class and the other at home with ... our baby." He swallowed audibly. "Our baby!" The grin on his face showed her that he was going to welcome this new life, even if they were too young or not quite prepared.

Di frowned. "But that's not fair to you, Mart. Why should you have to switch schools when you like Davis so much? Maybe I can find a good art school out here."

Mart kissed her again, and then rested his forehead against hers. "How about we research schools and find a town or city that has both art and agricultural programs that we would like?"

Maria stood outside Brian's door, poised to knock. She hesitated and almost turned to leave. It was pretty early in the morning, but she was worried about Brian. It wasn't like him not to be where he was expected when he was expected. She hoped he had made it home the previous night. I'll just find out if Jim's heard from him yet. She raised her hand again.

The door opened before she could knock. "Jim. Trixie. Hi."

"Maria." Jim peered at her curiously. "What are you doing here?"

She tried to gaze past the two into the apartment, hoping to see Brian somewhere behind them. "I just stopped by to see if Brian ever made it home, or if you at least heard from him."

Jim glanced at Trixie and then back at her. "No. We're actually about to head to Nevada to see if we can find him."

"Oh." She looked at the large duffle bag Jim had slung over his shoulder. "Find him? In Nevada?" This wasn't good.

Trixie's blue eyes were filled with worry. "The last time anyone heard from him, he had been heading to Tonopah with a couple of strangers."

"Oh." Maria felt as if the world was fading. Brian was missing.

"We need to get going, the sooner the better. It will take us around eight hours to get to Tonopah." Jim ushered Trixie out the door and then turned to lock it.

Catherine stepped backward off the porch steps and onto the sidewalk, thinking quickly. She was off work for the next three days. "Could I help?"

Jim looked at her in surprise. "You mean come to Nevada with us?" She saw his face was filled with dread at the thought.

But Trixie beamed. "That's a great idea. Can you? You don't have to work or anything?"

Cat was torn. Jim didn't want her along, but Brian's sister obviously did. And she wanted to go. "I don't have to go back to work until Friday. Will you be back by then?"

Jim shook his head. "I can't say for sure. If we find him right away, we may be back tomorrow. But if it takes a while ...."

"If it takes longer than that, I'll explain the situation to my boss." Cat frowned. "I know you don't like me much, Jim, but I'm worried about Brian, too."

"Please, Jim?" Trixie turned to him, her hands clasped together in a pleading gesture.

"Fine." Jim started heading towards his car. "How long will it take you to get ready to go?"

"Five minutes. I need to leave a note for my neighbor so she can check on Taco. Then I'll just fill the food and water dishes and grab a few things. It won't take long." She followed them to the car.

Jim looked up and down the street. "Did you drive here?"

"No, I walked." Luckily, they had walked. She couldn't exactly admit that she had no idea how to drive the car they owned.

Trixie opened the passenger door. "Hop in."


Maria opened her eyes slowly. She was in a car, a moving car, in the back seat, but it was comfortable. She must have dozed off. She glanced at the driver and the girl in the passenger seat. Jim and Trixie. Must be Jim's car—she'd never been in his car before. She looked next to her, hoping to see Brian. He wasn't there. What had they said at Jim's house? They were headed to Nevada to find him. Did that mean she was also headed there with them?

She gazed out the window at the passing scenery, trying to place where they were. Large green fields were on either side of the freeway, with a small grove of trees or a gaudy billboard advertisement breaking up the expanse every once in a while. They finally passed an exit sign for Highway 113, but she had never heard of that road. She kept her eyes peeled for one of the small mile-marker posts, and soon discovered they were on Interstate 80, somewhere in Yolo County.

"Well?" Trixie asked from the front seat.

Maria panicked. Maybe she hadn't been dozing off. Trixie seemed to be expecting her to say something, but what? "I don't know." It was a good standard answer when she had no clue what had even been asked.

Trixie sighed. Maria saw the glance she gave Jim. "You don't know if you currently go to U.C. Berkeley? Do you know if you even go to school?"

"She doesn't." Jim answered the question for her.

Maria thought quickly. "I misheard. I thought you asked if I would want to go to Berkeley." She hated this, hated not knowing what had just happened.

Trixie seemed satisfied though. "You don't go to college? Did you already graduate?"

"No." She wondered if she should elaborate. "I never went to college."

"Oh." The curly-haired blond twisted in her seat to face her. "Did you want to?"

"It just didn't work out." Maria sighed. "There were too many other things going on after high school. College just wasn't really an option then."

Trixie raised an eyebrow. "What kind of things?"

She didn't want to explain what things, so Maria tried switching the focus of the conversation onto Brian's sister. "What about you? Do you want to go to college?"

Trixie's mouth dropped open, but she didn't answer.

The silence in the car seemed almost unbearable. Jim must have felt it, too. "Trixie just finished telling you all about her college plans." She couldn't see his face, but he sounded more amused than upset.

"Oh. Sorry." She wondered what excuse she could come up with for not knowing that.

Trixie sighed. "It's okay. I'm worried about Brian, too. And I was babbling. I probably would've tuned myself out, too, if I were in your shoes. I'm only blabbering on so that I can try to keep my mind off my brother."

Jim reached a hand over and grabbed one of Trixie's, squeezing it gently.

Maria glanced over the seat and could see the knuckles on the hand clasping the steering wheel were white. I guess we're all really worried about Brian. "How long will it take to get there, again?" The last thing she could remember was being on their doorstep and Trixie saying Brian had been heading to Tonopah with some strangers. That didn't sound like something Brian would do, and, on top of that, she had no idea where Tonopah was.

Jim glanced at the clock on the dashboard. "According to what I could figure from the map we picked up at the gas station, it's probably a seven to eight hour drive. We've only been on the road an hour, so we still have a long way to go."

Trixie nodded and passed a folded map back to her. It wasn't folded properly but in such a way that the middle of Nevada was visible. She pointed to a spot marked "Tonopah". It looked to be a very small town. Maria wondered what in the world Brian was doing out there. "Why was Brian in Nevada, again? And heading to Tonopah of all places?"

Trixie shrugged. Maria met her eyes and could see that the other girl had been crying earlier. "I wish I knew," his sister mumbled.

"When we get to Reno, I'm going to see if I can find a more detailed map of the state," Jim stated. "They actually went to a town called Manhattan, but we can't even find it on that map."

Maria unfolded the map and turned it around to look at the index on the back. It didn't list all that many towns or cities. She started to count them, going through them name-by-name, trying to find Manhattan. It wasn't there. After a few more minutes of silence she handed the map back to Trixie. "One hundred forty towns, none of them named Manhattan."

Trixie frowned. "Which is why we need a better map."

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