Mart Belden pulled up into the semicircular driveway in front of his girlfriend’s house. Hopping out of the car, he whistled the tune of “Jingle Bells” as he trotted to the front porch and rang the doorbell. The door wreath of baby blue, pale pink, and lavender frosted ball ornaments and shiny silver tinsel gave him pause, but didn’t stop his whistling.

But his cheerful whistle stopped abruptly as he remembered the news he was going to have to break to Diana, and by the time Harrison opened the door, he had to force a pleasant smile to his lips.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Mart,” the butler greeted him. At least Harrison had stopped calling him Mr. Belden. Mart supposed it was too much to expect the formal English butler to address him by his given name only.

“Miss Diana is in the enclosed terrace,” Harrison continued. “She did not wish to be surpised by her younger brothers and sisters.”

Mart knew that Diana wasn’t allowed to entertain guests of the opposite sex in her bedroom, and the indoor terrace had doors that enabled it to be closed off. So he wasn’t unduly surprised that she was taking it over for her “last-minute” gift-wrapping marathon. After handing his coat to Harrison, he made his own way to the room, where he found his girlfriend seated cross-legged on the floor in the midst of a pile of gifts and a large box of gift wrap and ribbons. The movie, White Christmas, was playing on the large-screen television mounted on the wall.

“You said you were doing some last-minute gift wrapping,” he observed after bending down to greet her with a kiss. “In what universe is wrapping presents on the 18th of December considered last-minute?”

“Mart Belden! Have you met me?” she exclaimed. “You know perfectly well that I always do most of my shopping on Black Friday, and try to have everything wrapped by St. Nicholas’s Day.”

Mart hadn’t even begun his Christmas shopping. For that matter, he was well aware that his sister Trixie hadn’t, either. “We all have our little idiosyncrasies,” he assured her. “But why are you almost two weeks behind?” He joined her on the floor.

“It’s the decorator Mummy hired to do the tree and house decorations this year.” Diana sighed. “She wanted to have all of the paper and bows match the Christmas decorations, so I had to wait until she delivered the right paper.” Diana put down the scissors and tape she was holding and stared at the TV screen, where Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen were performing their song, “Sisters.”

“This is my absolute favorite Christmas movie of all time,” she said with a happy sigh.

“Sisters, schmisters!” Mart snorted as the two actresses, who played sisters although they didn’t resemble each other in the least, took a bow at the end of the song.

“Mart! What do you know about it? You’re not a girl and you only have one sister.” Diana frowned at him.

“An accurate observation, my dear little taco.” Mart bowed an apology.

“Taco!” Violet fire shot from her eyes and and she wrinkled her pert nose at him. “I know you love tacos, but I draw the line at being called a taco.”

“All right!” He raised his hands in surrender. “I’ll strike that one from my list of acceptable terms of endearment for you. But you were saying...?”

“Now I’ve completely forgotten what I was going to say.” Diana frowned at her boyfriend. “Will you please hand me that box with Skating Barbie inside? And the roll of pink paper with silver foil wreaths?”

“Blue, pink and purple paper! Is this some kind of parallel dimension where those are Christmas colors?” Mart reached for the doll and paper and handed both to his girlfriend.

“Don’t look at me!” Diana rolled her eyes. “It’s the decorator! She chose a blue, pink and purple color scheme, with silver accents, for all of the Christmas decorations. All of the colors are frosty and I’ll grant you, it looks pretty, but I wouldn’t have chosen them. I can’t believe you didn’t notice the tree and stockings in the front living room.” She measured the paper needed to cover the Barbie box and started cutting it to size. “When you called, you said you had something to tell me. What is it?”

Mart cleared his throat. “Well, what I was going to tell you is that Dan, Tad and I were recruited to wait tables at Sleepyside Hospital’s Under the Christmas Tree charity auction. I tried to say I couldn’t do it, because it’s the same weekend as the Senior High Christmas Dance. But Mrs. Stevens, the student advisor, said that participating in the auction would buff up my scholarship application.”

“Oh, Mart!” Diana wailed as she put the scissors down. “Trixie, Honey and I have been on the dance committee, working on the decorations, designing the dance programs, coordinating our dresses, everything, since September.”

“Well, I didn’t say yes—yet.” Mart shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

“But it will look good on your scholarship application to have such a good service project, and it’s such a Bob-White-ish thing to do,” Diana said in the voice of one determined to accept a punishment for advancement of the greater good. She stared at the television screen, where Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen were now dancing as they sang “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing.” Despite her rapid blinking, a tear rolled down her cheek.

“I feel like a total loser!” Mart groaned. He tried not to look at Diana’s tearful face. “I’m going to tell Mrs. Stevens I can’t do it because of a prior commitment.”

“And then what will Dan and Tad decide to do? Honey—and believe it or not, Trixie—have been looking forward to the dance as much as I have. If all three of you tell Mrs. Stevens you have a conflict because of the dance, will they have enough waiters for the auction? And I bet you’re not the only guys who already have dates.”

“It is the most important fundraiser the hospital puts on. And this year’s benefit will help fund the cancer unit expansion.” Mart sighed. “I’d rather go to the dance with you, but the fundraiser is really important and it’s such a worthy cause.”

“What if we girls helped with the fundraising auction, too?” Diana suggested. “We couldn’t skip the dance altogether, since we’re on the committee, but we could probably arrange to leave as soon as the band starts playing.”

“I don't know, Di.” Mart sighed. “Mrs. Stevens said we would be making a four-hour commitment."

1118 words

Author’s Notes

Random House owns the rights to characters from the Trixie Belden series. We are receiving no profit from writing this story, although we hope its intended audience will enjoy it!

As always, I want to thank my hardworking editor, Trish. She had several inspired suggestions. Thanks, Trish!

December Dilemmas is a submission for CWE #20: Finishing Unfinished Trixe Business. Read Julie (JStar8)'s conclusion: December Dances.

Copyright 2019 by MaryN.


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