The Dance

Music played as many of the students of Sleepyside Junior-Senior High School danced the night away. The Lynch mansion was decorated with cellophane hearts and Japanese lanterns, much as it had been a few years earlier, when Diana had held her first Valentine’s Day party. The celebration had become an annual tradition, and most of Diana’s classmates were present.

Sixteen-year-old Trixie Belden was sitting on a divan facing the window. Her boyfriend, Jim Frayne, sat next to her. Trixie stared out the window, hoping that Jim wouldn’t comment on her latest case. The subject had been between them all evening, as Trixie hoped against hope that he wouldn’t bring it up. Two days earlier, she and Honey had helped capture a man wanted by police for a string of robberies in the area. Knowing that Jim disapproved of her sleuthing, she had decided not to tell him about it until the case was solved and she could tell him in person. She knew that if she didn’t tell him, he would hear about it from someone else. She had told him the night before, soon after he arrived home from college.

Jim had not complimented her on a case well solved; instead, he had proceeded to lecture her about her safety. Trixie knew solving mysteries was dangerous. As she grew older, she had become much more cautious about potentially dangerous situations. Trixie had turned a deaf ear to Jim’s monologue; she had heard it so often that she could have repeated it word for word.

Deep down, Trixie knew that Jim cared deeply for her. She recognized that his lectures came out of concern for her safety and well-being. She knew he worried about her when he wasn’t there to protect her, as he was fond of saying. Of course, when he was home, he still tried to dissuade her from solving mysteries. She often wondered how he would react when she and Honey opened their own detective agency.

Trixie was startled from her reverie when Tad Webster stopped to speak to them. He congratulated her on another successful case, then led his date to the dance floor. Trixie saw the expression that crossed Jim’s face. She tried to change the subject before he could speak. “Jim, are you…”

“Trixie.” Jim interrupted, stopping her with that one word. After a long, silent moment, he said, “Trixie, I….”

When he stopped, Trixie began, “Jim, I….”

Not wanting to say the words they both knew needed to be said, both took a deep breath. “We need to talk,” they said together.

Trixie and Jim both knew what needed to be said, both realized what was about to happen. Jim took her hand, leading her to the relative privacy of the terrace. Trixie saw Brian watching her as they slipped outside. She imperceptibly shook her head, warning her brother not to interfere.

“Jim, we can’t go on like this!” Trixie whispered once the door had closed behind them.

“I know, Trixie. I can’t keep hurting you.”

“I’ve tried, Jim! I can’t give up my dreams. I can’t be who you need me to be!”

“Shh,” he whispered, pulling her into an embrace. “Trixie, as much as I love you, I know. I’ve tried not to lecture you. I can’t…, sweetheart, please don’t cry!”

Trixie pulled away, futilely wiping her eyes. As she did so, the orchid she wore on her wrist caught her eye. “Remember the first one you ever gave me? You really made me feel like Cinderella.”

Jim smiled sadly. “You were so beautiful that night. I’ll never forget that first dance, holding you in my arms. At that moment, I felt like I had everything I could ever want! Then, in Iowa, I was so jealous of Ned!”

Trixie returned his smile. She remembered the bracelet she still wore on her wrist. Fresh tears fell as she recalled that trip home.

Trixie opened the box. She stared at the dainty silver identification bracelet that nestled there. “It has your name on it, Jim,” she said and smiled shyly at him. “Put it on for me, will you?”

“You know what it means, don’t you?” Jim asked.

“Tell me,” Trixie answered.

“It means that you’re my special girl, Trixie,” Jim said. “As if you didn’t know that already.”

“I do,” Trixie murmured. “Oh, Jim!”

Trixie slowly unclasped it, handing it to Jim. He took it, slowly looking at it. He handed it back to her, saying, “No. I want you to keep it. Keep it to remember what wasn’t meant to be.”

She put it in her pocket, struck by a horrible thought.

“Jim, I don’t want to lose your friendship.”

“You won’t. We’ll always be friends, no matter what happens.”

“Promise?” she asked wistfully.

“I promise,” he answered firmly.

They stood there, not knowing where to go from there. They looked out into the yard, neither wanting to speak or move. Jim suddenly said, “Trixie, did I ever thank you for my life here?”

“You didn’t have to. You’ve helped me in so many ways that I need to thank you!” she managed a small, wry chuckle.

“What do you mean?” he asked bewilderedly.

“Remember Tom and Celia’s wedding? You were there to pick me up when I was down.” She paused, before continuing, “literally, I mean. Besides, I have to admit that you’ve saved my life more than once.”

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she wished she could call them back. He lectured her about her safety precisely because he had rescued her so many times. He knew how likely she was to get into situations that she was unprepared to handle.

“Trixie,” Jim whispered. “May I have one last dance with you?”

“I’d like that,” she agreed.

Music from the party flowed onto the terrace. Diana had chosen the songs for the evening; now, the song that began to play was ironically appropriate. Taking her in his arms, Jim began to sing to Trixie as the song played:

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared ‘neath the stars above
For a moment, all the world was right

Memories flooded through her mind as tears ran down both their faces. Memories of happier times, of other shared dances. She remembered the last dance of his senior prom almost two years earlier.

“Trixie, you look so pretty tonight. I’m glad you came with me,” Jim said.

“I’m glad, too, Jim,” she answered shyly.

Lowering his head to hers, he kissed her briefly. He said, “I love you, Beatrix Belden!”

She looked up at him with a look he had never seen before. He hoped he hadn’t scared her by revealing his feelings.

“I love you, too, James Winthrop Frayne,” she finally replied.

She forced herself back to the present, hearing the words,

How could I have known that you’d ever say goodbye
And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go

Trixie looked into his eyes, seeing the pain reflected in them. She would never doubt the sincerity he felt as he sang to her.

Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance

Jim tightened his hold on her, leading her about the floor.

Holding you, I held everything
For a moment, wasn’t I a king
But if I’d only known how the king would fall
Hey, who’s to say, you know I might have chanced it all

Trixie knew that given the chance, she wouldn’t have changed a thing. She was thankful for the time they had had together, the love that they had once shared. She sang along as the song entered the final chorus:

And now, I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance
Yes, my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance

Jim kissed Trixie softly for the last time before letting go of her. He turned and walked back into the mansion. Trixie took a moment to compose herself before going back inside. She walked through the door, hoping no one would notice that she had been crying.

She found Brian waiting for her beside the door. “Are you all right?” he asked with concern.

She nodded, then shook her head. “I don’t know. Brian, would you take me home? I know you’re here with Honey, but….”

He interrupted. “It’s okay, Trixie. Honey has a way home.”

She made it to Brian’s car before completely breaking down. “Brian, we…, we broke up!” she choked.

Brian tried to comfort his sister as he let her cry on his shoulder. “Trixie, if you want to talk about it, I’ll be glad to listen.”

“I…, he…, I…,” Trixie couldn’t bring herself to talk about it yet. She pulled away from him, accepting the handkerchief he handed her. Brian started the car and began the short drive home.

Epilogue –three days later

“Helen, you’re not helping anyone this way!”

“Peter! Can’t you understand? If she would just apologize for whatever she did or said, I know he’ll take her back!”

“Have you thought that maybe it wasn’t Trixie’s fault? We still haven’t heard exactly what happened, so how can you be so certain that it was her fault?”

“I know my daughter, Peter. I’ve warned her several times that her detectiving would drive him away. He could offer her so much, it seems like she’s not even concerned with her future. We both know she will never be able to be a real detective, anyway. It’s just not possible!”

“She’s only sixteen, Helen! She’s still got plenty of time to worry about her future. Besides, I’m not so certain that Jim is the man I want for her, anyway.”

Helen Belden gasped. “How can you say that? She couldn’t dream of making a better match! After all, it’s not like she has any other prospects! You wouldn’t want her to marry Dan, would you? A hoodlum for our daughter?”

“You know I don’t want that, but…” he stopped. She continued as if he hadn’t even spoken.

“Because that’s who she will probably wind up marrying if she doesn’t reconcile with Jim. You know full well that none of the boys in Sleepyside have ever given her a second glance. She’s scared them all away by chasing criminals.”

“Or the fact that the entire town has thought that she was Jim’s girlfriend since she turned fourteen!”

“Do you want her to wind up like Alicia? An old maid, alone in the world? Forced to work just to make ends meet? Peter, she’s got a chance to marry money! If she marries Jim, she will be set for life! She won’t have to spend her life doing housework and breaking her back in a vegetable garden, only to slave over a hot stove canning! She won’t have to make her own clothes or knit endless sweaters for her children!”

“Like you do, you mean! Helen, you knew when you married me that I would never be rich! Well, I’m sorry that you don’t have servants to do all of the housework! I’m sorry that I can’t buy you fur coats like the one that Matthew just bought Madeleine!”

Across the hall, with her door firmly closed, Trixie sat on her bed trying not to listen to her parents’ raised voices. As the shouting continued, she thought about the days since her break-up with Jim, almost wishing she could appease her mother. Yet, she knew that she had to do what was right for herself. She couldn’t spend the rest of her life with Jim just to make her mother happy. Not if it meant giving up her dreams, even her identity, to become someone she wasn’t.

Trixie wished desperately for someone to talk to. For the first time in years, she couldn’t talk to Honey, just as she knew Brian didn’t discuss it with Jim. Di had offered to listen, but Trixie realized that it was important for the Bob-Whites to remain neutral if they wanted any hope of remaining friends well into adulthood. She supposed she could call Brian at school, but knew that he was worried about her already. She didn’t want to make it worse. She didn’t want to worry Mart, either.

Trixie brightened somewhat as a thought came into her mind. She could still talk to Susie. Granted, the little black mare wouldn’t answer her, but she would listen. Trixie knew it would seem odd to some, but she had always found comfort in talking to the little black mare. She decided to go for a long ride through the preserve the next day.

Crossing her room, she turned on her record player. She placed the record she had borrowed from Di on the turntable, adjusting the volume to try to muffle her parents’ raised voices. Strains of “The Dance” flooded the room as she dissolved in fresh tears. The pain was still too fresh, her grief too new. Covering her head with a pillow, she cried herself to sleep.

Disclaimer: Comments made by characters in this story do not express my own opinions. They simply show insight into the minds of the characters. Therefore, I must ask all of you Dan fans to please don’t hate me! You may hate Mrs. Belden, if you like. I’m not too fond of her myself at this point!

Author’s Note: The song I have used in this story is “The Dance” by Garth Brooks. I want to thank my sister for editing this story and all of you for reading it!