Her face burning, Di jerked her head to the side to look out the bus window. Pretending to be fascinated with the passing scenery, she didn’t turn back to look in Honey’s direction again. It was a relief when the bus rumbled to a stop and the Beldens, Honey, and her brother disembarked in front of the Wheelers’ long, curving driveway. She dared to steal a glimpse of the house where she’d dreamed of living, only to meet Honey’s glance once more. This time, the other girl wore a puzzled expression, but although Diana pulled a book from her backpack as if she was going to read it, she covertly watched as Honey turned back to Trixie and bent her head to say something to the shorter girl. The three boys passed the pair of girls and Di could see them gesturing as they carried on a conversation.

As the bus pulled away, she replaced her book in the backpack. Her own stop was just a quarter-mile down the road. She didn’t want to spend even a few seconds gathering up her things when it was her turn to get off.

Diana’s stop was one of the last ones on the bus route, and she was thankful she didn’t have to make her way past any of the whispering girls from Sleepyside Junior-Senior High School. Often, the older girls would mimic a snooty society lady from the movies by pretending to lift a teacup to their lips, pinky finger extended. Or else they would brush imaginary dust from their skirt, saying “Oh, this old thing? It’s a little number I found at Saks, don’t you know, dah-ling? It’s just like the one Princess Diana Lynch has.”

I never talk like that, or act so snooty, Di fumed silently. But she never knew what to do or say in response. And Mother doesn’t understand why I just want to dress like everyone else. She’s so happy to be able to buy nice things for me, and I don’t want them. I just want to be like my friends. That’s if I have any friends left. She felt her chin quiver as a tear threatened to overflow.

“Miss Lynch!” The bus driver turned his head as he called her name. She jumped up, mortified that she’d been so caught up in her pity party that she hadn’t even noticed the bus stopping. She hurried up the narrow aisle, backpack slung over one shoulder, and made her way down the steps. She had to cross the road to get to her driveway, so she made sure to look both ways before running across in front of the bus. The driver retracted the stop signs on the bus and turned off its flashing lights as he pulled away again.

Once on her own driveway, Diana’s pace slowed. The drive was almost a mile long and uphill most of the way. That was the main reason she often allowed Charles, the Lynch chauffeur, to pick her up after school instead of riding the bus. But today, Charles had to go into the city to pick up her Uncle Monty at the airport.

As she trudged up the hill, Di thought about how excited her mom had been to receive a letter from her long-lost, much older brother. Mrs. Lynch was an orphan who had been raised by foster parents, who were now dead. She’d never had any family except her in-laws, and the in-laws now lived far away in Virginia.

“Look at this, Eddie!” Mrs. Lynch waved the letter in front of her husband and oldest daughter. “My very own brother!” She blotted tears from her face with a much-abused tissue.

Dear Margaret, I hesitated to write you because I was afraid you’d think I was only after your money, but when I read the People Magazine article about your family and saw that you were an orphan, I put my own feelings aside. I’ve made a good life for myself out here in Arizona but now that I’m getting older I’d like to reconnect with my roots. When my mama died from the Asian flu and my daddy started seeing a new woman, I decided to seek my fortune and like a rolling stone I just kept rolling. Never gathered any moss—no wife or children. Now that I know I have a sister, I’d like to meet you and your family.

Mrs. Lynch had written back immediately, inviting her newfound brother to visit the family. Diana had been almost as excited as her mom. Although her dad was part of a large family, she had no cousins and her aunts had jobs that involved a lot of traveling, so she had always wanted to know her extended family better. Finally, Uncle Monty had written that his business obligations would allow him to travel to New York for an extended visit. She wondered what he would look like. Would he wear chaps, a bandana, and cowboy boots?

Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t hear the car coming up slowly behind her until it pulled up next to her and stopped.

“Miss Diana!” It was Charles, calling her through the window he’d rolled down. “Would you like a ride the rest of the way home?”

“Oh, yes! Thank you, Charles.” She opened the back door before the chauffeur could jump out and do it for her. It was silly and embarrassing the way the Lynch staff jumped to wait on her when she could do things for herself. But as she prepared to climb into the plush upholstered back seat, she noticed the man already sitting there, and pulled down one of the jump seats in the center instead. Although she’d looked forward to meeting her uncle, she felt suddenly shy and dropped her gaze after a single startled look.

“Howdy, Miss Diana,” the man said. “I’m your Uncle Monty.” He stuck out a hand to shake.

Shyly, she placed her hand in his and smiled. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“You’re a right purty little heifer,” he replied. “I guess you take after your mama?”

“People say we look alike,” she managed to admit, while wondering what a heifer might be. She withdrew her hand from his grip and tried not to stare at her uncle, but it was hard. He was a wiry man with skin like tanned leather, and rather beady dark eyes, set deeply in his face on either side of a beaky nose. He wore cowboy boots and one of those little string ties. She’d never seen a man dressed like that before, at least not in real life. He was even wearing a cowboy hat inside the car. It was hard to tell since he was sitting, but he seemed short. Her mother was tall, slightly plump, with eyes like blue delphiniums. She was very young-looking compared to this man. In fact, Diana couldn’t see any resemblance at all between them.

“I can tell you’re thinking I don’t favor your mama much,” he broke into her thoughts. “I look like our daddy and she takes after our mama, that’s probably why.”

“Oh, that makes sense.” She felt she must say something in order to be polite. But she wished he wouldn’t keep trying to start a conversation with her. Thankfully, she saw that the car was pulling into the circular drive in front of her house.

Before Charles could come around and open the car door for her, Diana jumped out. “I’ll let Mother know you’re here,” she said to her newfound uncle, and hurried into the house.

But her mother was waiting just inside the front door. “Hello, darling!” she greeted her daughter with a hug. “Did you have a good day at school?”

“It was all right.” Diana held her books in front of her and hoped her mother wouldn’t notice the alterations she’d made to her dress. It was a vain attempt.

“Diana, darling!” Mrs. Lynch exclaimed, throwing up her hands. “What happened to your lovely dress?”

“Mother, I’m sorry but I picked out the lace. I love the color, but the style was too fancy for school. I felt like everyone was staring at me.”

“Nonsense.” Her uncle had stepped inside the front door and was shaking a finger at Diana. “Your mama went to a lot of trouble to make sure you had beautiful clothing for school. You should be grateful to her instead of bellyachin’ ’cause it’s not what you wanted.”

Diana felt steam coming out of her ears. What business of her uncle’s was it to say how she should be dressed for school? But her parents had always taught her to be polite to adults, so she bit back the retort she’d like to make. “Mother, I’m going to go up and start on my homework,” she said instead. No one could object to that.

As she climbed the front stairs, she could hear the newcomer greeting her mother. “Sister, dear! Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes! I never seen nothing like it in a month of Sundays! You’re pretty as a picture and that little girl is the spit and image of you.”

“Monty, it’s so good to finally meet you!” Mrs. Lynch gushed. “After the letters we’ve exchanged, I feel like I know you already, but seeing you in person... well, I just don’t know how to say how happy I am!”

“Sister dear, I should have come back East a long time ago to find you! After Mama died, Daddy brought in a woman to run the house and take care of you. But she tried to boss me, and I was as wild as any ornery bull calf. I lit out for freedom and knocked the Eastern dust off my feet. All these years I never knew Daddy had passed on and left my baby sister an orphan.”

Their voices floated up to Diana as she stood in the upstairs hallway. Something about her uncle gave her the creeps, although she felt sure there was really no reason for that reaction. Okay, he had no business talking about what kind of clothes she should wear, but at his first meeting with his long-lost sister, he probably wanted to get on her good side. She tried to put him out of her mind, a task made easier as she heard the voices moving farther down the hall. Mother was probably going to show him the art gallery and her parents’ portraits. Heading on to her own room, she changed out of her school dress and into something more casual.

When it was time for supper, Diana was surprised to find that her uncle was seated across the table from her. Her dad was at one end and her mother at the other. Of course, the twinnies were up in their shared nursery, eating with their nurses. She had almost started to accept that situation as normal, but the realization made her a little sad.

“Diana, dear, have you been able to meet Honey Wheeler yet?” her mother asked. “School’s been in session for a few weeks now, and I know she’s in the same grade as you are. Her mother is a lovely person. Maddie Wheeler said she’d like to have you and Honey get together now that they are living out here.”

“Well, she’s best friends with Trixie Belden, Mother. They live next door to each other and they are so busy doing things together, they don’t have time for me, I guess.” Diana pushed some peas around on her plate as she spoke.

“It’s not like you to be so glum, Di,” her father commented with a frown. “Surely you can speak to Trixie and Honey, when you and Trixie have been friends ever since kindergarten.”

“It would be the most natural thing in the world to introduce yourself,” her mother suggested. “Invite both of them here if you like.”

“Oh, Mother!” Diana put her fork down. “Trixie was miserable when she came here for that lunch last year, and so was I.” Just then, Harrison appeared with the dessert course, a beautifully arranged Pavlova on a silver tray. Diana pressed her lips together. Although Harrison intimidated her and made her nervous about her manners, she would never want him to feel she was complaining about him.

“What in the Sam Hill is that?” Uncle Monty asked. He’d been surprisingly quiet while they ate, although Di had noticed he could put away the food, asking for seconds on everything. “Looks like a fancy baked Alaska.”

“It’s called a Pavlova, and it’s an Australian dessert made with meringue and fresh summer fruit, like strawberries and kiwis,” Mrs. Lynch explained. “I had never heard of it until a couple of years ago, but it looks so fancy, I just love to have it for company.” She blushed. “Not that you’re company, Monty! You’re family, and I want you to always be comfortable here.”

“Well, well, well! The grub around here is as fine as fine could be,” he replied, stretching his back and hastily covering his mouth with a napkin. Diana didn’t know if her parents heard it, but he released a long belch behind the napkin. She struggled to keep a straight face.

The Pavlova was delicious. Janet, the Lynches’ cook, had outdone herself again, but Di thought about the moist chocolate cakes her mom used to make, with fluffy vanilla frosting. She wished she could travel back in time. Chocolate cake and no Uncle Monty. That would be wonderful!

“Now, this little lady should be dressing for dinner,” he was saying as she emerged from the brief daydream. He pointed across the table with his fork. “Some nice formal gowns would set her up right. Especially if she’s going to be visiting Matthew Wheeler’s spread.”

Mr. Lynch frowned. “Diana’s only just turned thirteen,” he said. “She has plenty of time before she needs to dress up for dinner.”

“I don’t want my girl to grow up too fast,” agreed Mrs. Lynch. “But Monty, surely the Wheelers don’t dress formally for a regular family dinner.”

“I don’t reckon one of the richest men in America throws a fancy shindig wearing overalls, with a broomstraw ’tween his lips and his lady in an old calico.”

“Of course not, but Monty dear, for a regular family dinner?” Mrs. Lynch’s forehead creased in doubt.

“I don’t suspect they ever line up for the chow wagon dressed like that little lady.” He pointed his fork at Diana again and this time she scowled. He continued. “I’ve seen Mrs. Wheeler in the papers, and she’s a prime article. Very prime.”

“Monty, please don’t call anyone a prime article in my house.” Mr. Lynch dropped his napkin on the table. His normally jolly smile was nowhere in evidence. “I don’t want my children thinking it’s all right to use that kind of slang.”

“Eddie! I’m sure Monty didn’t mean anything by it. Did you, Monty?” she appealed to her brother.

“My apologies, Ed,” Monty said with a smile. “I guess I was forgettin’ I wasn’t associatin’ with my old bronco-bustin pals.”

“Don’t apologize to me,” Di’s father said. “Apologize to my wife and daughter. And don’t talk like that again.” He pushed his chair away from the table and stood up.

“I’m sorry, Sister.” Monty inclined his head in his sister’s direction, and then in Diana’s. “No offense meant.”

“It’s all right, Monty,” Mrs. Lynch said. “I’m sure you’re used to being with a rougher crowd.”

“Monty, I’ll be outside on the terrace if you’d like to join me for a cigar after dinner.” Mr. Lynch gripped the back of his chair, although his voice was perfectly hospitable. Diana forced herself to smile at her uncle. If her parents could be polite to this man, so could she. She just hoped she wouldn’t have to see much of him.

Uncle Monty also stood and followed his brother-in-law out of the dining room, and Diana heaved a sigh of relief.

“Darling, you mustn’t mind too much if Monty is a little rough around the edges,” her mother said. “He spent years on the rodeo circuit, helping to develop Arizona tourism, and then he had the bad luck to get hurt. He’s lived almost hand to mouth for the past ten years or so. I’d love to be able to give him some financial security, now that we’ve found each other.” Her blue eyes filled with tears. “All these years, and I never knew I had a brother.” A tear rolled down her cheek and she dabbed at her face with her napkin.

Diana jumped up and ran to the end of the table, throwing her arms around her mother. “I’m probably being too touchy,” she said. “I’ll try to be more understanding.”

“I really appreciate that, darling.” Her mother hugged her tightly. “It means so much to find out I have a brother. I was always dreaming of having a real family when I was a child, so it’s like a dream come true.”

“I understand.” Diana looked up at her mother with tears in her own eyes. She certainly knew what it was like to be lonely. “I have plenty of homework to do tonight,” she said. “I’d better go up and get started on it.”

“Run along, then. I’ll be up to check on all of you children in a little while, but right now I should check on the men outside.”

Diana had never looked forward to doing homework so much, but she knew this was a perfect excuse not to speak to her uncle again tonight. She headed for her room and tried to forget about him.

What a Monday! It was definitely one for the record books.

The next morning when she came down to breakfast, Uncle Monty was seated at the breakfast table, tucking into a plate piled with fried eggs, toast, and sausage links.

“Good morning, Uncle Monty,” she said politely. Today he was dressed in a Western plaid cowboy shirt, tight-fitting jeans, and fancy tooled cowboy boots with pointed toes and high heels. He gulped some black coffee to wash down his food before raking her up and down with his beady eyes.

“Good morning, Missy,” he replied with a smile that revealed slightly yellowed teeth. The smile made her feel vaguely uncomfortable, even dirty, but she wasn’t sure why. “You’re a sight for sore eyes, so innocent and fresh faced.”

Ew, she thought. I think he’d like to see me in a bikini. That’s a wish I’ll make sure never comes true.

Mrs. Lynch came bustling into the family dining room. “Monty! I’m glad to see Janet has taken care of you. Diana dear, you’d better hurry with your breakfast. Your dad just found out he has to leave a little early today, to prepare for an important meeting with a client from California.”

Diana helped herself to a vanilla and cinnamon-scented slice of golden brown French toast and two slices of crispy bacon as her mother continued.

“The client won’t arrive in the city until sometime this afternoon, and then your dad and his partners are taking him to dinner, and afterward there’s a meeting of the firm’s partners... well, anyway, I told him to stay over in our city apartment. Who knows how late that meeting could drag on?” She wrung her hands.

“You’re right as rain, Sister. No sense in Ed draggin’ back here after such a long day. Your cocinera fixed me up fine as cream gravy; these here cackleberries are top notch.”

Diana saw her mother’s face take on a bewildered expression. Uncle Monty’s words were almost like gobbledygook, and Mrs. Lynch was obviously trying to puzzle out his meaning. She didn’t understand any more than her mom did, but she wasn’t interested in piecing out a translation.

Monty took another gulp of Janet’s coffee and smacked his lips. “Yessir, this here bellywash is some of the best I’ve ever had.”

Diana pushed her chair back and jumped up. “I’d better brush my teeth, Mother. I’ll be ready in five minutes.” She hurried upstairs, holding in her laughter as she mounted the steps. Uncle Monty was so over the top with his Western cowboy slang that it almost felt like a cartoon.

At the top of the stairs, she heard the low rumble of her dad’s voice. Her parents had a telephone in their bedroom, but it was unusual for her dad to make phone calls early in the morning. While she wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, she couldn’t help overhearing a snatch of her dad’s side of the conversation.

“Yes, if you don’t find anything in Phoenix, let me know.” He paused for a moment. “Thank you, Marlowe. I appreciate it.”

Diana heard the faint sound of the receiver being replaced on the phone’s cradle. She hurried on to her own suite and brushed her teeth quickly before grabbing her backpack and galloping back down the front stairs, where she almost collided with Harrison at the bottom of the steps. Harrison neatly avoided a collision and moved to open the front door for her dad, who was dressed in one of his best suits. Mrs. Lynch stood in front of him, adjusting the four-in-hand knot of his tie. Wearing a tie every day was one thing that still didn’t come easily to him.

Fortunately, she saw no sign of Uncle Monty in the foyer.

“Keep an extra eye out tonight, Harrison,” her dad said. “I don’t like to be away overnight, but this is an important investor and I need to be there.”

“Yes, sir.” The dignified butler gave no sign that anything unusual was going on.

“Oh, Eddie! Monty will be here, so I won’t be afraid.” Mrs. Lynch embraced her husband and gave him an affectionate kiss.

“Right, Margie-girl. And so will Harrison and Charles. Everything will be fine, I’m sure. I just hate to be away from my family.” He smiled, but Diana didn’t think the smile went all the way to his eyes.

At school, Diana drifted through her classes. It was hard to pay attention when she couldn’t stop wondering what her dad’s mysterious phone call had been about, and why he’d been worried about being away overnight. In science class, when the teacher asked her to name the noble elements in the periodic table, she was so startled that she recited rapidly, “King, queen, prince, princess, duke, duchess, baron, baroness, knight, and lady.” Everyone in class laughed, and after a moment, she did, too. Even though she wasn’t sure what she’d said that was funny. Of course, what did kings and queens have to do with science?

“Diana, I think your mind was elsewhere. You may want to review the lesson tonight. Class, please open your book to page thirty-seven.” Snickers continued to erupt in scattered spots throughout the classroom, and Diana wished she could sink through the floor.

Between classes, she almost ran into Honey Wheeler in the hallway. “Excuse me, I wasn’t watching where I was going,” she said, her face heating. She knew it had to be as red as a beet.

“It’s all right, no damage done.” The taller girl giggled and touched her arm in a friendly way. “Di! I’ve been wanting to talk to you ever since school started,” Honey said. Diana noticed she wore a short plaid skirt and a simple yellow tunic sweater, with leggings and black ballet flats. So much more school-appropriate than Di’s own lavender Gunne Sax dress with big puffy sleeves, lace insets and a wide bow in back.

She was embarrassed at the comparison, although her dress today was less objectionable than some of the other overly fancy clothing her mother liked her to wear. “Well, I need to get to class,” she said. “I don’t want to be late.”

“It’s okay,” Honey replied. “We have a study hall today right after lunch, because the teacher is out today. I think that’s the only class we’re in together. Won’t you sit with me then? I’d like to know you a little better. My mother says your mother is a lovely person and they’ve been trying to get us together, but my parents travel so much it just hasn’t happened.”

“I guess I could.” Diana shrugged, trying to act casual, although she felt her heart beat faster. Was it possible the new girl could become a friend after all? This was almost the first time she’d seen Honey without Trixie. Any time she saw Trixie, she couldn’t help remembering the disastrous lunch back in the spring. It was so embarrassing that she generally tried to avoid her old friend.

During the study period, Diana didn’t get to talk to Honey as much as she’d hoped. The substitute who was monitoring the study hall swooped down any time two students seemed to be talking more than they were studying. But she did get to tell Honey how much she’d wanted her parents to buy Manor House, and ask how it was working out for the Wheeler family.

“The best thing about it was finding new friends,” Honey told her. “First, meeting Trixie. She changed my whole life! And she was the reason I have my brother, Jim. He had run away from his cruel stepfather and we found him when Trixie decided to check on old Mr. Frayne’s house after he was taken to the hospital. Jim was asleep on a mattress in the old dining room.”

“Weren’t you scared to go inside?” Diana could feel her eyes widening in fright at the very idea.

“Oh, yes! But I couldn’t let Trixie go in alone.”

“Shhh! Girls, eyes on your work. I don’t want to have to say it again.” The mousy substitute frowned at both of them.

After that, it was impossible for the girls to talk until the bell rang to change classes.

“It was so nice getting to talk to you,” Honey said with a warm smile.

“Yes, maybe we can talk again,” Diana agreed, although not optimistically.

That afternoon, Diana had a piano lesson right after school, and then Charles picked her up from the lesson. When she arrived home, her mother and uncle were seated in the front living room, surrounded by boxes and bags. She wasn’t left in doubt for long about their purchases.

“Di, darling, Monty and I went shopping today. He needed some suits, and suggested we look at Teen Town for some nice formal dresses for you to wear for dinner. It’s never too early to start practicing for the time when you’ll be out in society, and you can wear them when you go to the Wheelers’.” Mrs. Lynch drew her daughter to her with an affectionate embrace.

“I decided if I was going to live like a fancy Eastern dude, I’d better start dressing like one. Not that I’m hanging up my western duds, but I’ll be able to mix in with the top-drawer folks around these parts.” Monty smiled, too, but Diana thought his talk was a little too smooth. Just as his Western cowboy patter seemed put on, so did his newfound desire for conventional clothing. Why? What was he really doing and thinking?

“Why don’t you put on some of these new duds, so your mama can make sure everything fits?” he invited.

Diana could think of nothing she’d less like to do than parade before him in a formal dress. But she tried to conceal her distaste when her mother clapped her hands.

“Oh, yes, darling! Here’s a really lovely dress, in your favorite color.” She reached into one of the boxes and pulled out a long dress in a deep plum color. It had a sweetheart neckline, puffy sleeves with bows at each shoulder, and a fitted bodice that came to a point at the waist.

“She should try this one.” Monty held up another long dress. This one was white and strapless, with a fold of white organza similar to a stand out collar across the top of it, and a cummerbund of violet satin.

Neither of the dresses was really to her taste, but she especially didn’t want to wear a strapless gown in front of her uncle. “Mother, I couldn’t possibly try on that strapless gown.”

“Of course you can. I’ll help you.” Mrs. Lynch stood, and draped her own favored dress over one arm while she took the strapless one from her brother. “Let’s go to your room and see how they look.”

Sighing, Diana followed her mother up the steps to her room. If she had to choose one of the dresses, the one with sleeves and shoulder bows would have been her preference. At least it didn’t make her feel exposed. But that dress was a bit too long and while the bust was right, the neckline was too loose. The strapless dress, however, fit like it had been custom-made for her. It made her look very old and sophisticated, too—at least eighteen. She wasn’t sure if she liked that, but she couldn’t deny it was flattering.

“You should wear this one for dinner tonight, dear,” her mother said. “I love the plum-colored dress, but it just doesn’t fit right. I’m not crazy about my little girl growing up, but your uncle put up with a lot of shopping today to help me, and it would be a nice way to thank him.”

Diana cringed inwardly. Was her mother so excited about connecting with family that she couldn’t see her brother was creepy? “Mother, I just don’t want to wear something strapless. I don’t even have a strapless bra, and I feel so exposed.”

Mrs. Lynch snapped her fingers. “I almost forgot! I found a strapless bra for you. Once you have that on, I think you’ll feel much better about the dress.”

Seeing that she was not going to win, Diana gave in. “I’ll wear it if I can wear the bra with it.”

The bra did help, but Diana still felt she was on display at the table that night, although her mother also wore a long formal dress and Uncle Monty wore one of his new suits. She kept her eyes on her plate, answered Monty’s questions in mumbled monosyllables, and devoutly hoped her father would be home the next night.

Finally, Tuesday was over. She marked it off in her diary, adding the question: How much longer is Uncle Monty going to stay? If only she knew the answer to that question!

Wednesday, her fourth period teacher was still out, but there was a different substitute, who was not so strict about talking during study hall. Honey Wheeler made a point to sit next to her, but they had to put on a show of studying before they could start talking. Diana knew her mother and Honey’s mother were friendly, but she’d started to feel the two women weren’t really close. Although Mrs. Lynch had expected Mrs. Wheeler to invite Diana over, that hadn’t happened and the Wheelers had been living on Glen Road for almost three months. Surely Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler hadn’t been traveling all that time!

“I wish we could visit each other,” Honey said now. “You don’t live that far away. I know Mother intended to call your mom and get us together. But my parents have been traveling so much, and when they have been at home, the adoption proceedings with Jim have taken up a lot of their time. Everyone’s been so busy and the time has just flown by ever since we moved out here.”

“I wish I could say we’ve been busy, but it just seems like since we moved into our house, I never see my own family. Oh, I eat dinner with my parents, but Mother’s a wonderful cook and now she never goes into the kitchen. I think she’s afraid of our cook. And really, Mother is so busy with the Garden Club and the hospital auxiliary that half the time, she’s not home when I come home from school.”

“That must be a lonely feeling.” Honey’s hazel eyes welled with tears.

“It is. I used to have friends over when we lived in town, but now we live so far out in the country no one can walk, and the girls who were my friends think I’m stuck-up because we live in such a big, fancy house.” Diana felt her own eyes filling, and she blinked, trying to stop the tears from falling. “I thought it would be so much fun to have my own room! I guess that’s nice, but I hardly see my little brothers and sisters any more. They have two nurses that keep them in their nursery all the time; they eat there and everything. They may have pestered me a little before, but they’re so cute and sweet, and I always had fun being a big sister to them.”

“I know what you mean,” Honey agreed. “Trixie complains about her little brother, but he is really a sweetheart, and so cute! She would be heartbroken if she didn’t get to see him every day.”

Diana saw the sub heading their way and picked up a pencil. “So, say two trains were heading in opposite directions on the same track... ” she said in a slightly louder voice. The sub headed the other way as Honey shivered and made a face.

“Nothing good can happen with those trains!” she said with a soft giggle.

Wednesday night, Diana had to wear another new formal dress that was also strapless. Her mother, instead of Uncle Monty, had chosen it, but it was very similar to the white one he’d picked, and the same brand, so the fit was also similar. Her dad had called to say he’d be home but would be on the last train, so he wasn’t at dinner again. She sat glumly in her place, not even making the effort to contribute to the conversation.

“What’s wrong tonight, sweetheart?” her mother asked after Diana had given one-word answers to three questions in a row about her day.

“Nothing,” she lied. “Just tired and getting a headache.” It was a relief when she was excused from the table.

“Why don’t you go on upstairs and make it an early night?” Mrs. Lynch suggested. “We can’t have you getting sick. Your dad and I want to take Monty to see the Statue of Liberty this weekend, and we thought you’d like to go, too.”

“Oh.” The single word felt rude, but Diana couldn’t think of anything better to say. “I’ve been there before, but you know I don’t want to go up to the observation deck.”

“Afraid of heights, are you?” Uncle Monty interjected with a hearty chuckle. “Only one way to get over that, just have to climb back up on the bull that threw you.”

“I don’t see why.” Diana forced herself to stay calm, although she wanted to shout at him. “Good night, Mother. Good night, Uncle Monty.” She walked around to her mother’s end of the table to kiss her good night, but stood an arm’s length from her uncle and offered her hand to shake.

“Good night, sleep tight, and feel better tomorrow,” her mother said as she left the dining room. “We’ll talk about the weekend with your dad. No need to decide right now.”

Finally, it was Friday. All day, Diana dreaded arriving home to hear her parents’ decision about the sightseeing trip into the city. She didn’t think her dad would insist that she go. It was true that she’d visited the Statue of Liberty before, and she sensed that he didn’t really like Uncle Monty. But would he take his daughter’s side against what his wife obviously wanted? She didn’t want to find out, somehow.

As she waited by herself for the school bus to pull into its boarding spot, Diana felt that a week had never passed so slowly. Her eyes welled and she felt like crying at the prospect of a whole weekend with Uncle Monty. She felt trapped and helpless to change the situation. If only she could get away from home and hang out with friends for part of the weekend, it would be a break from his unwelcome attentions. If only she had friends to hang out with! Monty had indicated he planned to stay for a month, getting to know his sister and her family.

Suddenly, she felt a light touch on her arm, and turned to meet a pair of kind hazel eyes, and a welcoming smile. Honey Wheeler drew her into the group composed of the Beldens and her brother, Jim.

“I was just thinking, Di, that it would be wonderful if you could spend the weekend with me and Jim.”

Diana stared at her in shock, but Honey continued. “Here comes the bus now, but there’s plenty of time for you to go back into the school and telephone your mother.”

back   next


Author’s Notes

6200 words

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

As always, I want to thank my hardworking editors! Bonnie and Janice graciously helped me when I felt Ronda and Trish were hammered by RL, and Ryl gave me a fantastic edit, although I’m afraid she was also getting hammered. They had several inspired suggestions. Bonnie, especially caught something that would have violated a major plot point of Mysterious Visitor. It was hard to kill my darling, but she was right. Thanks, ladies!

Thank you to our lovely and creative CWE team, Vivian, MaryC, and Deanna (cestmoi1). True Colors is a submission for CWE #20: Finishing Unfinished Trixe Business. Read Vivian’s beginning: Violet Hazel.

I chose the title True Colors for my conclusion for several reasons. It seemed to honor Vivian’s color-tinted title and was also emblematic of the 80s, during which time I felt like Vivian’s piece naturally fell (I had originally wanted to set it in my own universe, but no eighth-grade girl in 1969 would have carried a backpack, as her Diana did). The following lines of Cyndi Lauper’s iconic 1986 hit seemed perfectly suited to Diana Lynch at the time the story begins:

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged, oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
The darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

In addition, during the story I felt like Honey Wheeler and the fake Uncle Monty both showed their true colors. Thank you to my daughter, Andrea, for suggesting it.

Uncle Monty uses a lot of supposedly cowboy slang. I consulted numerous websites to find examples, but am not vouching for the authenticity of any of them myself! A couple of the more interesting and different ones (to me, at least) were cocinera (cook), and cackleberries (eggs), and bellywash (coffee).

One more note: The Lynches’ cook serves Pavlova for dessert as a special treat, and Mrs. Lynch explains it’s an Australian dessert. Janice reminded me there is a controversy between Australians and New Zealanders about the origin of the dish. Both countries claim it. October may be a little late for summer fruits like strawberries and kiwis, but even when my children were small (in the 80s) fruits imported from Mexico and even South America might be available almost year-round. So, I’m using them!

Who was Mr. Lynch talking to on the phone? Remember in Mysterious Visitor he had been paying a private investigator to check out the fake Monty? In my story, that’s the person who was on the other end of the line. The name, Marlowe, is in honor of Raymond Chandler’s famous detective, Philip Marlowe.

Copyright 2019 by MaryN. Background created by me in Photoshop Elements. Banner graphic made using the eyes from the models for Diana and Trixie from my Cast Pages: Emily Rudd as Diana and Chloe Grace Moretz as Honey. They’re used without permission but I’m making no profit from their appearance, either.


Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional