Diana thought hard as she drove the mile and a half to the driveway of Crabapple Farm. Just exactly what was she going to say to Mart when she saw him? She tried to imagine the conversation.

“What was that word you called me—diapnosoffist or whatever it was?” Oh, yeah! That was a reason to drive over to his house in the middle of the night. Start over, Diana!

“What was the idea of giving me a box of Hershey Kisses? You couldn’t come up with anything more imaginative, romantic or special than that?” The accusatory tone she was thinking was not one that invited an apology. Probably.

Oops! She’d just passed the Beldens’ mailbox. Diana pulled into the next driveway and turned around. This time she didn’t miss the driveway. Once she was up close to the house she noticed all of the lights were out. She pulled out her phone and checked the time. Well, 12:30 a.m. was a little late to be visiting. She pulled her cell phone from her purse and entered Mart’s number. On the other end she could hear it ring. After the fourth ring, Mart’s voice answered.

“Hi! This is Mart.” Before he could continue, Diana interrupted him.

“Oh, Mart! I’m—”

“I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now. Please leave a message—” Diana huffed in annoyance and pressed the button to end the call. Mart’s voicemail message! Of all things. She replaced the phone in her purse and sat for a few seconds, trying to decide what to do. If Mart had gone to sleep already after seeing how upset she was, he must be a cold, heartless person who didn’t deserve any more of her emotional investment. She should just go home now.

On the other hand, if the ringing had awakened him, he’d probably call her back when her number came up on his screen. She needed to have this conversation face-to-face, so she didn’t want to have to drive back. Waiting a few minutes couldn’t hurt anything.

But what if he had his ringer set to silent? Surely he wouldn’t do that to her. But after all, she’d never called at such a crazy time before. Most people her age did put their phones on silent when they went to bed, except for a select few contacts. She should go home.

It wouldn’t hurt to wait just a few more minutes, though. Would it?

While she sat there trying to decide what to do, the side porch light came on. The door opened. Could it be Mart? Quickly, she checked her hair and face in the visor mirror. She didn’t look too bad. But no! It was Brian, not Mart, who approached her car. She rolled down her window.

“Di! What are you doing here?” Brian’s expression was quizzical.

“I came to talk to Mart,” she explained. “Is he asleep?”

“Actually, no. He’s not in his bed and I don’t think he’s anywhere in the house.” Now Brian looked a little worried. “You didn’t see him on your way over?”

She shook her head, starting to worry as well. “What in the world would he be doing? I see your car and your parents’ car, so he hasn’t driven anywhere.”

“Di, he was knocked for a loop. He knew you were upset with him for some reason at dinner, but he didn’t have any idea what he’d done. I know, because he asked me about it in the car. He went straight upstairs and when I went up to bed he was just sitting on his bed, with his journal in his lap. He wanted me to tell him what you were mad about, but I said I didn’t know.” Brian shrugged.

“Anyone would be upset after being called a dinosaurfist!” Diana felt hot tears pressing against her eyelids and took a deep breath to calm herself. “Wait—there was a p in there somewhere. Anyway, who knows what that is? And then... I hope I’m not so shallow that I wouldn’t like a simple gift, but we’ve been dating for two years. And he gives me a dozen Hershey’s Kisses for a birthday gift? Honestly, it doesn’t seem very romantic, and it’s not like Mart.” She managed a watery smile. “He’s more about the grand gesture.”

“As far as the word...” Brian paused and ran a hand through his dark hair. “I don’t know what it means, either.” He laughed. “But you can bet it’s something good, if he was using it to describe you, Di. I don’t know about the Kisses, but you’re right, something more elaborate is Mart’s usual style. Are you sure there wasn’t something else in the box?”

Diana scowled for a second, thinking of the purple box she’d hurled into her decorative tin wastebasket. Then, remembering that frowning led to wrinkles, she rubbed her forehead.

“It would have to be something like a piece of paper taped to the bottom of the box,” she replied. “Now, I have to admit I can see Mart coming up with a surprise like that.” As soon as that thought occurred to her, she felt a stab of guilt for not passing the candy around at the restaurant. If Brian was right, and there was a surprise in the bottom, she’d have already found out what the real gift was. Immediately, she felt a rush of gratitude that the box was still safely in her own private sanctuary. She’d have to investigate it when she got back home. “You don’t have any idea where he could be now?” she asked, tilting her head back to see Brian’s face better.

“Sometimes when he wants to have some privacy, he likes to climb up in Bobby’s tree house and sit up there alone. Want to see if that’s where he is now?” Brian seemed glad to have thought of an explanation for Mart’s absence from their shared room.

“Sure.” Diana climbed out of the car and followed Brian around to the back yard, past the Beldens’ terrace and all the way to a large maple tree a dozen yards behind the terrace. She could see the platform of the tree house, but couldn’t tell if anyone was up there or not.

“Mart!” she called softly. “Mart!” She shined the flashlight of her phone up into the tree. But there was no answer. Brian called his brother’s name, too, and started up the wooden slats nailed to the tree for footholds. But in a moment he was back on the ground.

“He’s not up there.” Brian shook his head. “I don’t know where he could be, but I’m sure he’ll be back soon. I’ll tell him you were here and ask him to call you tomorrow.”

“All right, I guess there’s nothing else to do.” Discouraged, Diana turned and started back to the driveway and her car. Brian walked with her and stood outside until she turned around and started back down the driveway.

Back at home, she let herself into the house and laid the car keys in their usual spot on the front hall table. The house was quiet; apparently even her dad had gone to bed. Her parents trusted her; the only thing she had to do was to sign in on a paper next to the spot where the keys should go.

Diana removed her shoes and tiptoed up the stairs to her room. Although she tried not to let herself get too excited, she couldn’t help wondering if Brian was right—had Mart taped something to the bottom of the gift box so that she’d have a surprise when the candy was gone? She hurried as quickly as she could to reach her room. For the first time, she regretted that her mom had had the carpet removed from the upstairs hall last year and put down hardwood flooring instead. It was a little trickier to move silently on the hard floor, and she didn’t want to awaken any of the younger kids. She wanted privacy when she inspected the box.

Mart trudged past the Wheeler lake and across the meadow where the horses had the run of a fenced-in pasture, until he approached the tree line separating the Wheeler property from the old Ten Acres land. Periodically he checked the GPS on his phone to ensure he was still heading toward the Lynch estate in a relatively straight line. Traversing the distance cross-country wasn’t as easy in the dark as he’d anticipated; it was a moonless night, and the meadow was dotted with horse droppings—something else he hadn’t anticipated. His flashlight cast only a dim light; the battery must be getting weak.

He’d climbed the fence at the edge of the meadow, and while the manure piles were no longer a problem, the ground was more uneven and more than once, he’d been startled by a bat or owl out hunting. One of the preserve trails came out somewhere in this area, and he was pretty sure it was the one that led to a clearing across from Lytell’s store. Diana’s driveway wasn’t too far from there. He stopped to check the GPS and his phone went dark.

“Damn!” He couldn’t help speaking out loud. It was hard to get his bearings in the dark, with the normal landmarks obscured. He pocketed the useless electronic device and shone the flashlight in a semicircle, hoping to see the trail. But, evidently, he hadn’t climbed the fence at the right spot to be close by. As he sighed and started off to his right, hoping to come upon the small clearing soon, his light flickered and went out.

All right, genius, he told himself, next time you get a brilliant idea like this, just say no. Why didn’t I ask to borrow Brian’s car? He would have let me. Why did I think this would be quicker than walking along the road? Why didn’t I just wait until daylight? His eyes were becoming accustomed to the dark, but he was no longer sure where he was. He’d found a small clearing with a trail that led into the woods, but within a few steps, he could tell that the trail petered out to a path too narrow for horseback riding within a dozen yards.

When a small animal darted across the path in front of him, he stopped. However bright or stupid his idea had been—of cutting across country to get to the Lynches’ house more quickly than driving—he was now close to being lost, and no one knew where he’d gone. If he sprained an ankle or encountered a catamount out here, he would be helpless. Reluctantly, he turned around and retraced his steps. Although he thought it might have made for easier walking if he could reach the road, he couldn’t find a spot where there was no fence separating the Wheeler property from Glen Road. Damn, forgot about all this fencing, he thought in disgust. Although he knew there were a couple of gates, he didn’t know exactly where they were, and didn’t feel like taking the time to check every few yards.

By the time he arrived back at Crabapple Farm he was tired, sweaty, and had grass clippings all over his shoes and his bare legs, almost up to his knees. Carefully, he stole up the stairs, skipping the third and seventh treads that always squeaked. He needed a shower, but decided to skip it in favor of getting into bed. He’d get up early and shower in the morning. Wondering what Diana was doing right then, he quickly brushed his teeth, stripped down to his boxers, and rinsed the grass off his legs. Before crawling into his own bed, he checked to see if Brian was asleep. Light snoring reassured him that his brother was dead to the world. He checked the luminous face of his bedside alarm clock and groaned silently. Two a.m. Morning would come too early. Thank goodness, at least it was Sunday.

Mart awakened to the sound of cheerful whistling from his older brother, and Brian snapped a well-aimed damp towel at his shoulder as the morning sun streamed through their bedroom window. He squeezed his eyes shut and attempted to burrow under his pillow, but the sheet which covered him provided minimal protection from another snap.

“Rise and shine, brother mine!” Brian chanted as he snapped the towel again. “Remember, you invited Dan, Jim and Honey to breakfast for homemade blueberry pancakes a la Mart this morning.” Trixie had spent the night with Honey, and the Belden parents were gone with Bobby for a week at the seashore. The three older Belden siblings, who all had summer jobs, had been keeping house while their parents were away.

“All right, all right!” Mart sat up and rubbed his eyes. “What time is it, anyway?”

“Seven-forty-five,” Brian said. “I’ve already been out to pick the garden. And you know Dan will be over any time now, since he and Mr. Maypenny always go to the earliest service at Our Lady of the Foothills, so he can patrol before it gets too hot.”

“I know, I know.” Mart jumped up and pulled clean clothes from his dresser. He’d intended to take a shower this morning but now realized he wouldn’t have time before the others arrived. Diana was the only Bob-White not expected; the early breakfast didn’t fit with her family’s schedule for church. Diana! With a start he remembered the previous evening’s fiasco, and groaned again. Brian had already gone clattering down the steps, and he followed his brother down to the kitchen.

Twenty minutes later, he had an aromatic stack of blueberry pancakes keeping warm in the oven, and next to him, Brian was frying a pound of bacon. Mart checked to see that there was plenty of juice, butter, and maple syrup, and pulled down a stack of plates from the cabinet. Brian had started a pot of fresh coffee, too. Still feeling tired from his late night, Mart found himself staring at the pot, but he valiantly resolved not to take any until the other Bob-Whites arrived.

“Where’d you go last night?” Brian asked suddenly. “Di came over here looking for you, and you weren’t anywhere in the house or yard.”

“Well... ah... I was going over to her house. Thought I’d take a shortcut across the Wheeler property, but must have missed the trail, and then my phone died, so I lost my GPS, and ended up coming back home. Um, did she say why she came over?” He hoped his voice sounded more casual than he felt.

“I thought it was late for her to be visiting, too. But she was really upset, I think. What was the idea of calling her a dynophosphotest?”

“Deipnosophist! It was a compliment!” Mart felt his face heating and knew he must be blushing as furiously as Trixie had ever done.

“I didn’t think you were trying to insult her,” Brian reassured him, starting to lift the strips of bacon from the sizzling skillet onto a plate covered with paper towels. “But she had no idea what you meant.”

Mart didn’t have time to respond before a knock at the screen door heralded Dan Mangan’s entrance. “Mart, my man! Have you got that foot out of your mouth yet? And will Diana ever forgive you?”

“Why would she need to forgive me?” Mart asked, although he was starting to understand the problem.

“Dude, you called her a diapernoceros. Who wouldn’t be insulted?”

“Deipnosophist, not diapernoceros,” Mart tried to explain. “It means someone who is skilled at dinner conversation. It was a compliment!”

The words had hardly left his mouth, and Dan was still giving him a skeptical stare, when Trixie burst into the kitchen, Honey right behind her and Jim catching the screen door before it could slam shut.

“Trix, explain to your brother why Di is upset with him.” Dan moved to the kitchen table and started setting the six plates around it. Honey and Jim quickly grabbed flatware and glasses to complete the job.

Trixie planted her feet shoulder-width apart and placed her hands on her hips. “First, you called her a dypenofossilist—whatever that is. Then, you guys have been dating for two years and you gave her a box of a dozen Hershey’s Kisses? Really?”

“Trixie, I think it was more like diapnofaucetist,” Honey protested.

“What’s the diff?” Trixie threw up her hands. “Obviously, none of us knows what the word is, but worse than that, no one has any idea what it means.”

“It’s deipnosophist, not whatever crazy thing you said.” To cover the fact that his face was flaming both in temperature and color, he opened the oven door and lifted out the platter of fluffy pancakes. “It means someone who is skilled at dinner conversation.”

“Whatever!” Trixie looked as skeptical as Dan had.

Carrying the hot platter to the table, he set it down with a flourish. “And the real gift was taped to the inside bottom of the box—two tickets to the End of Summer Romance Extravaganza at the new Cameo Quadriplex Cinemas outside of town. Any five of the seven most romantic movies in film history over Labor Day weekend!” Mart knew he was still blushing, but he felt a little better at seeing Honey nodding in approval. Even Jim and Dan looked impressed. Brian was busy fishing out the rest of the bacon from the skillet.

“Well, you’d better hope she didn’t toss that box into the garbage can!” Trixie retorted. “First you hurt her feelings by calling her a word no one here has ever heard of, and then you give her a gift that could have come from Bobby!”

“I hate to admit it, Mart,” tactful Honey broke into Trixie’s tirade. “But I think you did hurt her feelings.”

“Everyone, sit down so we can eat while the food’s hot,” Jim suggested, holding Trixie’s chair for her. Brian moved to do the same for Honey, but Mart and Dan quickly sat down and helped themselves to pancakes and bacon while the others were getting settled.

“Dan, maybe you’d like to say grace,” Brian suggested, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

Dan gulped down the bite he’d taken while Mart snickered, but he folded his hands and said a short grace as everyone else listened. Then Brian stood and snapped his fingers.

“I almost forgot the great coffee I just made,” he said. “Who wants some Vitamin C?”

Honey wrinkled her nose at him. “I don’t think coffee’s a good source of vitamin C,” she said to a hearty chuckle from her brother.

“Caffeine, the vitamin supplement used by every college student, especially the ones taking a second semester of organic chemistry,” Jim explained. “You’ll find out all too soon, little sis.”

“Ugh!” Trixie shuddered. “I don’t know about that, but I remember the time I took a big gulp of Celia’s coffee to stay awake when we were trying to catch Dick the Dip. It was awful!”

“Well, Celia does drink her coffee black, and since you’d never had it I’m sure it was bitter, but if you’d fixed your own cup you could have doctored it up a little,” Honey reminded her. “I do like coffee when it’s fixed with enough milk and sugar, but I mean I’m never going to take even one semester of organic chemistry, that is, I hope I don’t ever have to!”

“If I found out I’d need organic chemistry in college, I’d change my major. No ifs, ands, or buts.” Trixie nodded forcefully enough to make her curls bounce.

Mart accepted a cup of coffee and fell to the delicious breakfast as if he hadn’t eaten a meal for the past week. Everyone else was eating, too, and the conversation died down to “please pass the syrup,” and “may I have the juice, please” for several minutes. As he ate, he pondered how to approach his girlfriend and ask her forgiveness. He’d been overcome with the exuberance of his own verbosity when he paid her the compliment of being a deipnosophist. That’s what I get for being in love with words. I’m a lexicolator, he thought wryly. Like an idolator, but with words. I forget that everyone doesn’t take the same interest.

In short order, the pancakes, bacon, coffee, and juice disappeared. Dan stood and stretched.

“Sorry, guys, but I need to get going on the trails before it gets too hot out there. Thanks for inviting me, and the grub was out of this world. Mr. M’s a good cook, but we don’t eat this fancy.”

“I’ll join you as soon as KP duty is done,” Mart offered. “Might be able to finish up early and go for a swim.”

“I should really stay and help with the KP,” Dan demurred, reaching for a plate.

“Go on,” Jim told him. “I’m out of my summer class and don’t have anything else on the agenda today. I’ll do your share.” He grinned and gave Dan a high-five.

“All right, you talked me into it. Thanks again, Mart and Brian.” He was careful not to let the door slam shut behind him.

Trixie and Honey looked at each other and both pushed back their chairs and stood at the same time. “We’d better head back to the Manor House,” Trixie said. “We need to take the horses out before it gets too hot, and then we’re supposed to drive over to White Plains to shop for school supplies.”

“We hate to leave you boys with all of the dishes,” Honey apologized. “We’d really love to stay and help, but you know how Regan is, that is, even though he’s mellowed out after all these years, he does like to grumble, and anyway Daddy has been making noises about downsizing the stable if none of us are going to ride every day.”

Mart decided Honey did look sorry, although Trixie did not. “Say, Di wasn’t going to White Plains with you, was she?” he asked.

“She actually told us her mom wants to go college shopping with her one day this week,” Honey replied. “You know how the Lynches are about family time on Sunday. Poor Mrs. Lynch looks like she’s lost her dearest friend whenever she thinks no one’s looking. I don’t know what she’s going to do when Diana actually leaves for Chicago.”

“Come on, Honey,” Trixie urged. “As if Di would give Mart the time of day today. He’s going to have to come up with something good for her to speak to him after last night. Dypenofossilist!” She opened the screen door and waved Honey through, then let it slam behind her as she joined her friend outside.

Brian had grabbed the broom and was busy sweeping the floor free of crumbs, and Jim had stacked the empty plates and flatware and set them in the sink, which he was filling with hot sudsy water. Mart sighed and collected the empty mugs and glasses, and dropped the crumpled paper napkins into the trash. After Jim washed each dish, he rinsed it and arranged it in the dish drain until the receptacle couldn’t hold another item. Then he pulled a dishtowel from the drawer and dried until a good-sized stack was ready to be put away. He worked in silence, unusual for him.

Brian had finished sweeping and washed his hands, and now returned to the kitchen to help. He started putting the dry dishes away in the cupboard.

“You know, Mart, Di didn’t act mad when she was here last night,” he said after a couple of moments of silence. “She was puzzled, and she didn’t understand what you were doing. But I think she’d speak to you if you called and apologized.”

“Yes, I think Trixie was just teasing,” Jim agreed. “Dinopastafist? Wasn’t that it?”

“For the umpteenth time, deipnosophist! It means someone who is skilled at table talk,” Mart explained. He felt the heat rising up from his neck again. “All right, I was intoxicated with the chimerical attributes of the pulchritudinous Diana. I went too far with my word idolatry.”

“Whatever you do, don’t use any of those words to Di when you apologize,” Brian said, obviously struggling not to break forth with a guffaw.

Jim didn’t struggle. He was bent double with laughter, barely able to breathe between whoops. “What he said!” he finally managed to gasp.

“All right, I promise I won’t use any of those words. Now, let’s get this show on the road so I can meet Dan. I think it’s supposed to be over ninety degrees before noon today and I want to cool off in the lake before I try to talk to Diana.”

Brian and Jim made heroic efforts to get their hilarity under control, and the Belden kitchen was soon pristine again. “I’m going to stay in and get some laundry done,” Brian said. “Jim, did you want to borrow my notes from organic?”

“Yes, I don’t know why I ever signed up to take it this coming semester, but I did, and now I’m determined to pass,” Jim replied.

“Good luck reading his notes,” Mart advised with a chuckle. “I think he already passed the doctor-handwriting class with flying colors.” He galloped upstairs and came back down with a clean pair of socks and his riding boots. Quickly donning both, he told the others, “I’m out of here. I’ll be back before noon.”

With both of them along to patrol and fill the feeding stations, Dan and Mart finished up by ten thirty. By the time they got Spartan and Strawberry back to their respective stalls, watered them, and cleaned their hooves and the tack, the sun was high in the sky.

“This day is flying by,” Mart exclaimed. He was wearing his trunks under his riding clothes, and Dan had picked his up at the cabin. They were missing towels, but both were hot and sweaty, and felt no lack. “Race you to the lake, Mangan.”

The two of them took off for the water. Dan won, but only by a hair. The water felt ice-cold after the hot morning’s work, and Mart and Dan raced each other out to the floating dock before swimming back to the boathouse, where a half dozen large inner tubes were kept for the convenience of those who preferred to lounge rather than exert themselves. They spent the next twenty minutes lazily floating along.

The gently moving water lulled Mart into a tranquil daze. His thoughts drifted back toward his girlfriend. What was Diana doing right now? That is, what was she thinking about? He knew the Lynches attended the late Mass at Our Lady of the Foothills, and had a big Sunday family dinner afterward, cooked by Mrs. Lynch herself. His mouth watered just thinking about it. Since he’d been dating Di, he’d often met them at the church, even attending Mass with them, and eaten dinner with them at home afterward. No one—not even Moms—could make fried chicken as good as Mrs. Lynch’s. Her mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans were just as good, and she’d been justifiably proud of the tomatoes she’d grown this year in a raised bed out past the outdoor terrace.

The longer he thought about the Lynches’ Sunday dinner, the hungrier he felt. His stomach even rumbled. He should go home, shower and dress, and head over to Diana’s house. But then, he remembered the disaster of the previous evening. How could he ever have forgotten her face when he called her a deipnosophist? And her distinct lack of excitement over the prettily wrapped box of Hershey’s Kisses? Maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea to go over there while her parents were right in the same room. Especially her dad. Jolly Mr. Lynch wouldn’t seem so jolly if he thought Mart had hurt his little princess. No, he should text her and try to arrange to meet her outside. Maybe even go for a ride.

“Earth to Mart!” Cool water splashed on his face and chest, and Mart jumped, startled out of his thoughts. He reached over the tube and splashed Dan back.

“What, Mangan? A guy can’t have a couple of minutes to rest out here?”

“Love is a beautiful thing, Belden. You really want to make it up to the fair Diana. Go home and get ready to grovel.” Dan smacked the water in Mart’s direction again. “I need to mow around the cabin this afternoon, anyway.”

“Right, I don’t need to put it off.” Mart sighed. How had he messed it up so badly? He and Dan both used their tubes as floats in front of them and frog-kicked their way back to the boathouse. After making sure everything inside was just as shipshape as it was when they arrived, they set out for their respective homes.

“Good luck, man!” Dan told him with a light shoulder punch as they separated.

“Thanks! I need it.” Mart trotted the last hundred yards or so back to Crabapple Farm. By the time he reached the farmhouse, even his trunks were nearly dry. Brian wasn’t making any noise, and he found a note from his brother on the table, letting him know Brian and Jim had gone into Sleepypside to run some errands. They might meet up with Trixie and Honey later and see a movie, so Mart should help himself to whatever he wanted to eat for lunch and supper, but Brian didn’t expect to be home again until after supper.

Mart shrugged. He was hungry. Definitely, he would need sustenance before heading over to the Lynches’ house. He decided to text Diana before getting into the shower, just to test the waters to see if she was willing to talk to him. Taking the stairs two at a time, he bounded up to his room. Unfortunately, as soon as he saw his discarded shorts from last night, he remembered the phone had died.

“Crap!” he muttered. But he dug the phone out of his pocket and plugged it into the charging cable dangling from the wall outlet next to his bed. Next, he went to his dresser and pulled out a clean polo shirt, socks, and boxers, and grabbed a freshly ironed pair of khakis from the closet. About the time he turned on the water in the shower, he heard multiple chimes from his phone, signaling that he’d missed several text messages.

He turned off the water and dashed back to check his messages.

From Diana, late last night: Mart I don’t know what that word was that you called me. But we should talk. Message me back!

Another message from Diana, early this morning: Mart, I hope you’re not mad at me. But if you are, you need to let me know what’s wrong.

Yet another message, received an hour earlier: Mart, is your phone dead? Call me please.

He sighed. Why hadn’t he made sure to charge his phone last night? As soon as it powered up enough for his to use it, he sent his girlfriend a quick message: If it’s OK I’ll be over in about 30 min. Need to get cleaned up.

Seconds later the phone chimed with an incoming message. OK I’ll be home.

Although he wanted nothing more than to see Diana as quickly as possible, he took the time to shave and apply the cologne she’d given him for his birthday. Next, since he was now ravenous, he slapped together a Crabapple Farm Special and poured himself a glass of milk. If he was too hungry, he’d probably get flustered and immediately let loose with one of the big words Di was always complaining about.

When the glass was drained, the last bite of the sandwich gone, and he was brushing his teeth, he discovered a blob of peanut butter and jelly down the front of his shirt. Muttering under his breath, he changed into another shirt and checked himself in the mirror. At least he looked presentable and he wouldn’t be distracted by hunger when he saw Diana now.

His parents had left the station wagon at home, and taken his dad’s sedan for their beach vacation. That was all right. Mart didn’t want to be responsible for anything that might happen to the new sedan while he was driving it, anyway. He fetched the keys to the station wagon, locked up the house, and headed for the Lynch estate.

Diana leaned toward the mirror over her sink to check on the tiny blemish she’d been hiding for several days with concealer. Hopefully it wasn’t too noticeable. Then she checked her hair and made sure there were no spills on her clothing. Satisfied, she hurried downstairs to check the indoor terrace. Sometimes the twins left toys down there, even though they weren’t supposed to. She wasn’t allowed to have Mart visit in her room because her parents were living in the Dark Ages, so the indoor terrace would have to do.

Seeing that she still had another ten minutes before she could expect him to arrive, she pulled out her phone to check her Snapchat. But just as the page loaded, she remembered she’d wanted to Google that crazy word. Sometimes even if you misspelled a word, Google could still figure it out.

Diapnosoffist, she typed into the search bar, not expecting much. With no delay at all, the screen popped up with:phone

Showing results for deipnosophist. No results found for diapnosoffist

Search Results:

Definition of deipnosophist: a person skilled in table talk.

So Mart really was trying to pay me a compliment, she thought, flushing. Between that and the gift, he was really very thoughtful.

The chime of the doorbell startled her, although she’d been expecting it. She jumped up and ran to answer the door, since Harrison was off on Sunday afternoons.

Sure enough, it was Mart, looking fresh and scrubbed in his polo and khakis. She beckoned him inside and took his hand to lead him back to the enclosed terrace.

“Diana, before you say anything, I need to apologize,” he said as soon as they reached the relative privacy of the room she’d chosen.

“Well, you should apologize for using such a crazy word,” she told him. Although she did her best to frown at him, she felt a smile tugging at her lips.

“I was intoxicated by your proximity and by the delectable, ambrosial crème brûlée.”

“There you go again!” Her smile broadened, and she snickered.

“That’s just what I was going to say. I get so flustered around you that I fall into lexicolatry, just like I used to do before we were dating.”

She stared. “What in the world is lexicolatry?”

“A love of big words, like idolatry, only with language,” he replied, blushing.

“I guess that makes you a lexicolator, or maybe a lexicolatrist,” she said, plopping down on the large sectional sofa that faced the fireplace. “If I’m a deipnosophist, we should probably be compatible in the long run. I googled it, you know!”

He sat down next to her and took her hand, leaning in close enough to stare into her eyes. “I’m so glad you weren’t mad. Last night I really thought I’d done it.”

“Oh, I was mad at first! I never heard that word before, I didn’t know how to spell it, and I was so upset I barely looked at the box of Hershey’s Kisses. I couldn’t believe that after two years of dating you’d give me such a generic gift. But Brian said something that made me think you could have used the Kisses to cover up the real gift, and when I came home from your house, I checked, and he was right.” Now she was embarrassed to feel tears prickling at her eyelids. Taking a deep breath, she asked, “Where did you go last night, Mart? I came to your house to talk, and to try to find out what you meant. But you weren’t there and Brian had no idea where you were!”

“Great minds think alike. I knew I messed up somehow with you, and decided to head over to your house to apologize, but on foot, cutting across the Wheelers’ property. I thought it would be quicker than driving but that didn’t work out so well, especially when my phone died and I couldn’t use GPS. No moon last night, you know.”

“Oh, Mart!” Diana flung her arms around him and kissed him soundly.

Mart returned her embrace, but shook his head. “I’m such a lamebrained doofus!”

“I haven’t even thanked you for the amazing birthday gift,” she exclaimed as they broke apart, both breathing heavily. “Any five of the seven most romantic films ever made! How will we ever eliminate two of them?”

“I foresee that we’ll have to do some strategic planning,” Mart said. “It could take a month of Sundays.”

“Mart! We don’t have a month of Sundays! Labor Day weekend will be here in just a couple of weeks!”

“In that case, we must not deliberate, but must make our selections with celerity and all alacrity.” Mart clasped her hand in his and winked at her, even as he chuckled.

“Can I just call you a lexicolator?” She stuck her tongue out at her longtime boyfriend and wrinkled her nose at him. “Hurry up and tell me your top three. We’ll go from there.”

“Whatever your heart desires, my lovely deipnosophist.”

Author’s Notes

6294 words

What were the seven most romantic films in movie history, according to the Cameo's Romance Extravaganza? It Happened One Night, Casablanca, Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, Dirty Dancing, The Princess Bride, Pride and Prejudice, A Star is Born (newest remake).

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 editors, Ronda, Ryl, and Trish. They had several inspired suggestions. Thanks, ladies!

While researching for this story, I discovered a great blog, Lexicolatry, that discusses words and vocabulary. I think Mart would love it! It's still online but apparently the author hasn't updated for several years, and the most recent post has received a lot of spam in the comment section, so I'm not posting an active link: http://www.lexicolatry.com/2014/09/deipnosophist-conversationalist-to-dine.html

Images in the public domain, and manipulated by me in Photoshop.

The Lexicolator and the Deipnosophist is a submission for CWE #20: Finishing Unfinished Trixe Business. Read the first part of the story, by Bonnie: Dear Diary.

Copyright 2019 by MaryN.


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