“It’s just a fantasy.
It’s not the real thing.
But sometimes a fantasy
Is all you need.”
Honey opened the door to Crabapple Farm, pausing just long enough to repress the “yoo-hoo” that hovered on her lips. She and Trixie had used it as a joke between them for a while now, and it definitely had begun to feel old. She stepped into the kitchen.
“Hi!” As a greeting, it didn’t have much spark, but it got the job done.
“Hi!” Diana echoed back at her.
“How’s it going?” Dan chimed in.
“Hey, Honey,” Mart said with a quick wave.
Trixie didn’t comment. Her eyes remained glued to the board game that the four friends were gathered around at the kitchen table.
“No Trivial Pursuit today?” Honey observed with a smile.
“No, I lost the coin toss,” Mart answered with obvious chagrin. “Trixie won,” he added unnecessarily.
Honey giggled. “I figured when I saw the Clue board set up.”
“Colonel Mustard, at your service.” Mart adjusted an invisible monocle, gave a mock bow, and almost fell off his chair for his troubles. It only took him a few seconds, though, to recover his powers of speech. “This, of course, is the lovely Miss Scarlet.” He motioned to Diana on his right, and then to Dan on his left. “And may I introduce Mr. Green?”
“We’ve met.” Honey rolled her eyes. “Many times, considering how often I’ve played this game with you. Are you Mrs. White again, Trix?”
“Of course.” Trixie looked up long enough to flash a grin at her friend.
“I can never quite figure out why you choose to be the maid in this game,” Dan said with a puzzled frown. “Especially considering how much you…um…dislike…”
“Spit it out!” Mart interrupted. “Although we know how much my sleuthing sibling abhors household chores,” he intoned, “why she chooses such a highly domestic character in this competition is truly a mystery to us all. About the only one she’s made no effort to solve, I might add.”
“I just like being Mrs. White, that’s all.” Trixie reached across to give her brother a good-natured slug on the arm. “It’s only a white peg, after all. So if I ignore the photo on the card, I can pretend Mrs. White looks like whatever I want her to look like. And it’s her detective abilities that really matter. Just because she’s the maid doesn’t mean she has to be all fuddy-duddy.”
“I agree,” Diana chimed in. “Mrs. White is probably a real knockout. And think how much more interesting it would make the game to have her that way. Maybe she could have an affair with Mr. Green or Professor Plum.”
Trixie blushed as Dan gave her an exaggerated leer. “Especially if you give Mrs. White a hot French maid uniform,” he suggested.
Diana laughed. “I think Professor Plum would go for that idea, too,” she teased. It went without saying that Jim usually chose the purple playing piece that represented the good professor.
“Could we please get on with the game?” Trixie begged as the red in her cheeks deepened. “This game has nothing to do with who’s getting it on with who…or whom,” she added quickly as Mart opened his mouth to correct her. “And could we also please not forget that Brian is sometimes Mr. Green?” The thought silenced the others enough so that they turned back to the Clue board.
“Would you like to join the game, Honey?” Mart asked. “The role of Mrs. Peacock is still available.”
“And Professor Plum, too,” Dan put in, “if you can drag your brother away from studying for a while.”
“I don’t know if I’d dare join this game,” Honey answered. “After all your plans for Mrs. White, I’d hate to think what you’d dream up for Mrs. Peacock.”
“Mrs. Peacock,” Mart began promptly, “in the secret passage to the study with Colonel…” He broke off with a laugh at Diana’s raised eyebrows and Dan’s quick cough. “I was going to say Mr. Green all along,” he assured them.
“Sure you were,” Dan said, his cough turning into full-blown choking at Mart’s words.
Honey shook her head. “Despite the temptations of the secret passage,” she said, “I’ll have to take a rain check. Jim is dragging himself away from his books just long enough to help me with my chemistry. I just came down here to get my notebook. You remember I left it in the den when we were studying here the other day, Trixie?”
Trixie gave an absentminded nod, her mind back on the game. “Help yourself,” she mumbled as she moved her white playing piece toward the conservatory.
With a quick wave, Honey continued down the hall to the door of the den, but Mart jumped up from the table and planted himself in front of the door, almost knocking her over in the process. He shook his head as he took her elbow and steered her back to the kitchen. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to go in there right now,” he warned.
Back in the kitchen, he turned to his sister. “Are you crazy, Trix?” he hissed in a low voice. Trixie looked up from the game board, her blue eyes puzzled.
“Oh yeah,” she said as understanding slowly dawned across her face. “Brian’s studying, and he doesn’t want to be disturbed.”
“Surely he wouldn’t mind if Honey just grabbed her notebook,” Diana put in. “It’ll only take a minute.”
“Doesn’t want to be disturbed is putting it mildly,” Mart disagreed. “He’s at the computer surrounded by several oversized scientific-type tomes. And the language coming from that direction is about the worst I’ve ever heard my older brother mutter.”
Honey and Diana’s eyes widened at Mart’s statement, but Dan let out a whoop. “You mean he’s actually saying damn and hell?”
“Much worse than that,” Mart answered, his face solemn in response. “And he said that if Trixie or Bobby or I so much as darkened the doorstep of the den again, he’d personally take us up to Martin’s Marsh and…”
“Oh, Mart, stop exaggerating,” Trixie put in. “You’re making it sound a lot worse than it actually is.” She paused as another expletive emanated from the direction of the den. “And it’s a different ballgame to have Honey darkening the door of the den rather than you or Bobby or me.”
“True.” Mart’s answer was unusually brief, but he couldn’t resist adding with a flourish toward the den door, “Enter if you dare, Mrs. Peacock, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. You may be looking for the secret passage back to the kitchen before you’re through.”
Honey’s giggle was a little nervous as she once again made her way down the hallway to the den. At the door, she took a deep breath before giving a tentative knock. When there was no answer, she gave the door a gentle push, thinking it might better to grab her notebook and run without disturbing Brian’s studying. As she tiptoed toward the side table where she had left her notebook, though, he spun around in his chair.
“For crying out loud, Trixie,” he fumed, pulling at his hair in desperation as he spoke. “How many times do I have to ask you to please…” His voice tapered off as he realized it was his sister’s friend standing in front of him, not his sister. His face darkened in embarrassment. “Honey,” he began, “I am so sorry.”
“Don’t even give it a thought,” Honey said, making a beeline for her notebook as she spoke. “I just need to grab my chemistry notes,” she added, picking them up from the table, “and I’ll be out of your hair.” She hurried toward the door.
“No, wait!” Brian, obviously flustered, stood up and faced Honey, a look of appeal in his dark eyes. She paused, hesitating, and he glanced at the notebook she was clutching. “Do you need any help with your chemistry?” he asked, sounding hopeful.
Honey’s face relaxed into a smile. “No, Jim is going to help me,” she said. “Besides, don’t you kind of have your hands full here?” Her gaze traveled from Brian to Mr. Belden’s desk behind him, where the family computer was set up. As Mart had mentioned, there were several large textbooks sitting next to it. The keyboard had been pushed to one side, and in its place was an open binder. The wastebasket next to the desk was filled to overflowing with crumpled-up papers. There were even balls of paper on the floor around the wastebasket.
Brian followed her glance, and the look of discomfiture on his face increased. “I guess things got a little out of hand here.” He bent to retrieve the stray trash and pushed it with a vengeance into the wastebasket.
Honey nodded. “Must be a pretty hard problem,” she sympathized, having been in that situation more than a few times herself.
“Yeah,” Brian agreed. “A really tough one to solve.”
“Is it for physics?” she asked, trying to remember what courses he’d said he was taking this semester. “Or for anatomy and physiology?” she hazarded. Were there even problems for that?
“Not exactly,” Brian answered.
“Must be some kind of math, then,” Honey decided. “Way over my head, I’m sure.”
“No, it’s not math, either,” Brian admitted, his tone reluctant.
Honey’s brow furrowed in confusion. What other problem could it be besides math or science…and even more important, why was Brian being so evasive about it? Well, there was only one way to find out.
“What’s it for, then?” she asked.
Brian frowned as his eyes traveled to the ceiling. He reached a hand over his head to scratch the back of his neck before turning toward the desk, fiddling with the binder on top of it. “It’s for English,” he mumbled.
“English?” Honey repeated to his back, not sure if she had heard him right.
He turned back to face her and nodded. “English,” he echoed sheepishly.
Now Honey was really curious. She knew English wasn’t Brian’s favorite subject, but he’d always managed to bring home As in it. What was making it so difficult now?
“Why is English suddenly a problem?”
“Well, it’s an assignment for my English Comp class,” Brian explained, dropping into the computer chair as he spoke, and motioning Honey to sit in his father’s leather recliner. Honey perched on the arm, leaning forward so she could hear him better. “We started out writing essays,” he continued. “That was no problem. And we’ve read some short stories and a couple of novels. No difficulty there.”
Honey nodded, silently urging him to go on.
“Well, this current unit is one on creative writing,” he said. “It turns out it’s just not my forte.”
Honey’s eyes widened as understanding dawned. She wanted to smile but was careful to keep her expression neutral.
“Go ahead and laugh,” Brian told her. “I know what you’re thinking. Of course old boring Brian doesn’t have it in him to be creative enough to write a story.”
“That’s not one bit what I was thinking!” Honey protested. She paused before offering, “I don’t think you’re boring at all.” To her disappointment, Brian didn’t address her sentiment.
“Thanks, Honey,” he said instead, his tone sarcastic. “I always knew you were the most tactful member of the Bob-Whites.” He gave the wastebasket a swift kick. “I really need to get a good grade in this course so I can keep my G.P.A. up to get into a decent med school. Why would a doctor need to know how to write a short story, anyway?”
Honey gave a slight shrug. “Bedside manner?” she speculated.
Brian laughed. “If story-writing is a necessary part of bedside manner, I might as well give up on med school right now.”
“Don’t even say that!” Honey’s eyes flashed at the thought. “Besides, writing a story can’t be that hard. What kind of a story is it supposed to be?”
“That’s part of the problem,” Brian admitted. “It can’t be just any old story. It has to be a fantasy.”
“A fantasy?” Honey paused, thinking she might not have trouble coming up with a fantasy involving Brian that wasn’t one bit boring. She glanced at him and noticed that he was watching her with a puzzled expression on his handsome face. “What have you written so far?” she asked hurriedly, trying to will away the blush that she strongly suspected was coming up on her cheeks.
“Well, I’ve come up with two drafts,” he stated. “That is, two drafts that I thought were decent enough to show to the teaching assistant to see what he thought.”
“But that’s great, Brian,” Honey began, but her voice tapered off when she saw him shake his head. “What happened?”
“It turns out the first one wasn’t a fantasy at all; it was science fiction.”
A giggle bubbled up in Honey’s throat and she couldn’t quite keep it from escaping. Brian threw her a pained look. “Well, you have to admit, that’s not really too surprising,” she defended herself. “And at least you wrote something.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he conceded. “Anyway, I found out that sometimes fantasy and science fiction aren’t really all that different, except that in fantasy, no logical explanation is given for the scientifically impossible events that occur.” He paused to brush a speck of dust from his shirt. “You can see why I might have a problem with that,” he finished in a wry tone.
Honey nodded understandingly. “What happened with the second draft?”
Brian spun his chair sideways and picked up a pencil from the desk, slowly turning it over and studying it as if it were a new medical tool that held the key to the curing of a life-threatening disease. “Turns out that one wasn’t a fantasy, either.”
“What was it, then?” Honey asked, trying hard but failing to keep the intense curiosity she felt out of her voice.
“A fairy tale,” Brian answered, his eyes still on the pencil.
“A fairy tale?” Honey asked, her disbelief evident. “You wrote a fairy tale?”
“Yeah, it turns out I can write a fairy tale but not a fantasy,” Brian stated sardonically. “Go figure.”
“Brian Belden! You’re sitting there complaining about being boring, and you actually wrote a fairy tale?” Honey leaned forward and gave him a quick, playful tap on the arm. “I don’t think I could write a fairy tale.”
Brian met her gaze, a pleased smile in his rich brown eyes. “Sure you could, Honey,” he said. “It really isn’t that difficult. I just took a traditional fairy tale and made it more of a modern day story with a few twists.”
“You did?” Honey was captivated. “Which traditional fairy tale did you use?”
Brian’s eyes fell once again to the pencil he held. “Er, I’m not sure of the name of it,” he replied. “You know, that one with the princess in the tower.”
“Rapunzel?” she demanded, wanting to grab the pencil away from him so he’d look at her, but not quite daring.
“Yeah, I think that’s the one,” he agreed, his tone sheepish.
Honey studied his reddened face and wondered at his sudden embarrassment. “Oh!” she cried with quick understanding. “So maybe it really was more of a fantasy. The prince chases after the beautiful girl with the long blond hair and all that.”
Brian looked up. “What do you mean?” he asked. “The T.A. said it was definitely a fairy tale. And who said the girl had blond hair?”
Honey gave a toss to her own golden-brown hair. “Nobody had to,” she said. “I’m all too familiar with that storyline. Voluptuous blonde bombshell seduces tall, dark, and handsome prince. It’s every guy’s fantasy.”
Brian studied her, confused by her sudden change in attitude. “Well, it’s not mine.”
“Not your fantasy?” Honey questioned, her vexation making her temporarily bold.
“Not my fairy tale,” Brian responded, neatly avoiding her question and flashing her a grin. “I told you; it’s not a fantasy.”
“Well, what was it then?” Honey asked, her curiosity getting the better of her annoyance. A sudden thought occurred to her. “Do you still have a copy of it?”
Brian shook his head, but his eyes fell to the binder in front of him, and he pulled it protectively closer to him.
Amused, Honey resisted rolling her eyes at him. He’ll never make a poker player, she thought, that’s for sure. Still, she was dying to know what was in that story, but couldn’t see any way of reading it if he didn’t want her to. Reluctantly, she decided to let the subject drop. “So, you haven’t had any luck with the fantasy since then?” she asked, once again eyeing the crumpled paper in the wastebasket. “Maybe I can help.”
Brian’s dark eyes studied her for a long moment, and Honey was sure he was going to refuse.
“Sure,” he determined. “I could use a collaborator.”
Honey smiled as he got up from his chair and motioned her into it. “Here,” he offered, placing the keyboard back in front of the monitor. “You can type.”
“Do you have anything yet?” Honey queried.
“Not really,” he answered. “Anything I came up with so far was only fit for the circular file.”
“Okay,” she said agreeably, “I’ll open a new document. Now, do you have any ideas?”
“Well, not anything specific,” Brian admitted. “But I was thinking of a magic spell. To me, that’s better than vampires or werewolves or any of that stuff.”
Honey raised her eyebrows at this but didn’t comment as she opened a new Word document. “Do you have any idea of a main character?” she asked. “A witch, a wood sprite, maybe a leprechaun?”
Brian pondered this for a minute, stroking his strong chin as he did so. “I’d rather have an ordinary guy,” he decided. “Maybe he doesn’t know he has secret powers or he doesn’t know how to use them?” He paused. “Or is that too cartoonish?” he worried.
Honey giggled. “Well, I have seen stuff like that happen in cartoons,” she admitted, “but I think it depends on how you write it.” She thought for a few seconds, and then typed several sentences. “How about something like this to start off with?”
Brian leaned over her shoulder to read what she had written. Honey, turning slightly to see his face, noticed that he was squinting. “Why don’t you put your glasses on?” she suggested.
Brian made a face. “Yeah, I guess I should.” He picked them up from the desk with some reluctance.
“What’s wrong with your glasses?” Honey asked.
Brian gave a self-conscious laugh. “Oh, they’re okay, I guess. They definitely help me see better, that’s for sure.”
“But?” Honey prompted, noticing he still wasn’t making any move to put them on.
“But…they’re kind of dorky-looking,” he admitted with a sigh.
shook her head. “I don’t think so at
“You don’t?” Brian asked, his expression suddenly hopeful.
“Not at all,” Honey stated. “Put them on,” she urged.
Brian did as she asked, and she pushed back her chair to get a better look. Since he only needed the glasses for reading, she’d only seen them a few fleeting times. “They look very nice,” she told him truthfully. “You look a little like Clark Kent in them.”
Brian frowned. “Oh, great,” he said sarcastically.
“What’s wrong with Clark Kent?” Honey asked.
“Well, for starters, he’s a dork, a geek, boring…” Brian started, pulling the glasses off as he spoke. “Do I even need to go on? Let’s face it. He’s only exciting when he’s Superman.”
“That’s not true at all,” Honey objected. “I find Clark Kent much more interesting than Superman.” She paused before adding in a quieter tone, “And sexier, too.”
“You do?” Brian was incredulous. “But Superman is strong, powerful, muscular,” he argued. “And he always saves the day. Clark Kent is a dork.”
Honey shook her head decisively. “You don’t understand,” she said softly. “Clark Kent is all those same things that Superman is, too. But he doesn’t flaunt it. You just know that it’s there underneath.” Taking the glasses from Brian’s hand, she stood up and gently replaced them on his face. She took a step back to study him. “Sexy as hell,” she pronounced.
Brian’s eyes widened as he took in her words and the sudden huskiness in her voice. His arms encircled her and pulled her closer. As he leaned in to kiss her, though, the glasses got between them. “Guess I better take these off after all,” he said with a laugh.
Honey nodded as he leaned in again, this time his lips meeting hers in a gentle kiss. “For now,” she granted generously as she placed her hands on either side of his face and pulled it down so his lips once again met hers. There was nothing gentle about the kiss she bestowed on him in return.
“Where’s Honey?” Mart asked. “Did she escape through the secret passageway?”
“What secret passageway?” Brian asked, studying his brother in confusion. He shrugged his shoulders. After all, this was Mart. “Have you been reading Trixie’s Lucy Radcliffe books again?” The others laughed at the distraught look on Mart’s face. Brian’s eyes roamed around the table. “Hey, Jim! I didn’t know you were here,” he greeted his friend.
“I got tired of waiting for Honey, so I came over to find her,” Jim explained. “We didn’t want to disturb you, so Trixie talked me into playing a round of Clue to pass the time.”
“Yeah, she really twisted your arm,” Dan chuckled. “You sat down and picked up the game piece before Trix even asked you.”
Jim just grinned. “I never could resist Mrs. White,” he said, reaching over to pull on one of Trixie’s errant curls. “And I hear she frequents the secret passageway.”
Diana smiled. “I told you it would make the game more interesting to have a hot French maid in it,” she said sweetly.
Jim burst out laughing. “Much more interesting,” he agreed. As the laughter subsided, he turned to Brian. “Are you helping Honey with her homework?” he asked.
“Nope,” Brian stated. “She’s helping me with my fantasy. Just came in to get a chair.” He picked up said chair and left the room, whistling off-key as he did so.
The others stared after him speechless for several seconds.
Dan found his voice first. “Did he just say what I think he said?”
“I think so,” Trixie said, pulling a face. “I kind of wish I’d heard him wrong, though.”
“Me, too,” Mart said, pulling a face remarkably similar to Trixie’s. “How come no one helps me with my fantasies?” he added plaintively.
Trixie covered her ears. “Please don’t say another word about your fantasies…or Brian’s, either, for that matter.”
Jim grinned. “What about yours, Trixie?”
Mart held up a hand as Trixie blushed. “Please don’t answer that question,” he begged his sister.
“I didn’t intend to,” she huffed.
Again there was a silence around the table, and once again, it was Dan who broke it. “Who would have thought it of Brian?” he mused. “I guess it’s true what they say; it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.” A sudden thought occurred to him. “I wonder what they wanted the chair for?
Groans emanated from all around him. “Do not answer that question,” Jim implored. “This is my sister we’re talking about.”
Brian whistled some more as he set up the kitchen chair next to the computer one. “By the way, Jim is here.” Honey started to get up, but he gave her a gentle push back into the chair. “He’s playing Clue with Trixie and the others.”
“Did you tell him I was helping you right now?” Honey asked.
“Um, yeah, about that,” Brian said. “I think I may have given him the wrong impression…the others, too.”
“What did you tell them?” Honey asked, rolling her eyes. “That you were helping me with my homework?”
“What? No.” Brian shook his head. He gave a little cough. “I kind of told them you were helping me with my fantasy.”
Honey’s eyebrows shot up. “Brian!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll sort it out later,” he assured her. “Just let them think that for a while.”
Honey was silent for a minute, not quite liking the idea. Still, there wasn’t any real harm in it. Let him be Superman for a bit if he wants, she thought. She turned toward him, resting her hand on his knee. “I’ll help you anytime, Brian,” she said.
A warm smile spread across Brian’s face, and he leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “Thanks, Honey,” he said, “but right now we need to work on this fantasy.” He gestured toward the computer screen.
Honey nodded and withdrew her hand. “Okay,” she agreed, “but put on your glasses.”
Brian did as he was told. “Now, where were we?”
Honey reluctantly dragged her eyes away from Brian’s face. “Sexy as hell,” she mumbled to herself as she turned her attention back to his assignment.
Notes: This story was considerably improved with the excellent editing skills of Susan, Beverly (Kiernan), and Kelly (kellykath). Thanks so much for your help!
I also owe big thanks to Wendy for giving me the little spark that helped me get over my writer’s block. As I was reading her wonderful “Of Dogs and Men” story, I noticed she had one of the BWG guys helping one of the girls with their homework. I thought what a common scenario this is in fanfic (I know I’ve written it that way myself a few times.) But it got me thinking about how one of the girls could help one of the guys with his homework, and this story was born. Before I wrote this, I had no inkling of giving Brian reading glasses. Who knew? *g*
Photos courtesy of Photobucket