A/N: This is another story I had worked on during college that I found sitting in the "Rejects" folder in my hard drive. Fixing it up and posting it here for your amusement—uh, that is, reading enjoyment. Also, please note that the "present day" apparently takes place in 2011.


- I -


Roger Cedars watched, frowning, as his five-year-old angel Beatrix indulged in very unangel-like behavior, pushing over the chubby form of three-year-old Tristan. The boy let out a surprised "Oof!" as he hit the ground. Beatrix crossed her arms and glared down at him, unappreciative of his toddler curiosity toward the mysterious area that was located underneath her skirt.

"Bea, that wasn't very nice," Roger chided, silently questioning his ex-wife Bridget's child-rearing methods. "Tell Tristan you're sorry."

"No!" came the indignant retort. "He tried to peek under my skirt!" The little girl's angry gaze had now swung to her father, her big brown eyes accusing him of taking the other child's side.

"He doesn't any know better, sweetheart. You shouldn't push others around like that."

Beatrix responded by lightly kicking Tristan in the shin.


She only stuck her tongue out at him and ran away toward the waves lapping on the shore of Pensacola Beach, ignoring the questioning stares of Tristan's seven-year-old twin sisters, Elisa and Irene.

Good grief, Roger thought as he stood from his seat and hurried over to help the toddler up. Bridget must be raising her to be a violent Amazon.

Tristan, however, was proving to be a sturdy, mild-mannered boy. He brushed off his clothes and looked up to flash Roger a wide grin, seeming to tell him there were no hard feelings. Then he took off in pursuit of the girl who had shoved him into the dirt, obviously not yet learning his lesson.

Roger shook his head to himself, hoping this summer vacation wouldn't be as disastrous as last year's. A year ago Beatrix had just completed pre-school, and apparently she'd believed that that qualified her as a prospective teaching figure. Imagine Roger's surprise when, upon entering Tristan's room, he found the boy tied to a chair, being taught the alphabet against his will by the stick-wielding Beatrix, who had utilized old fashioned teaching procedures that involved an arsenal of classroom weapons used for disciplining misbehaving students. Needless to say, Roger had put a premature end to their vacation and towed Beatrix home after apologizing profusely to Tristan's parents.

Please let this summer go smoothly, Roger prayed.

"Quite a pair, aren't they?" Harold Norgaard remarked as he came to stand beside his old friend.

Roger frowned again as he watched Beatrix run away from Tristan, screaming for him to go away or else she would throw him into the water. "I'm so sorry about Bea's behavior. Honestly, I don't know what on earth Bridget's teaching her—"

Tristan's father only chuckled good-naturedly. "Don't worry about it. She's just playing around, that all."

"I don't know," Roger said doubtfully as Beatrix threw a seashell at Tristan. "She's displaying irrational, domineering tendencies. You think I should take her to a child psychologist? What if something's going wrong with her developmental health?"

"Oh, come on. She's a kid. They're not supposed to be rational," Harold laughed. "I know you're a first time father and all, but you really worry too much."

The other man shot him a dark look. "Well, your daughters don't seem to be a handful."

Harold glanced at his twin girls—quietly playing a game of cards—and shrugged. "Hannah is the one who does all the disciplining. But Elisa and Irene have been pretty reserved from birth, so we didn't have much trouble there."

Roger sighed. Must be genes, then. Well, Beatrix certainly didn't get that temperament from me. That's all Bridget right there, he thought as Beatrix changed tactics and was now actively attempting to lure Tristan into the crashing waves.

"Crap. I'd better get over there. My daughter is trying to drown your son."

Harold gazed toward the shore and shook his head, smiling. "Give Tristan a little more credit. He's smart enough not to fall for it. See, he's coming right back."

Indeed, Tristan was toddling back toward them, leaving a disappointed Beatrix standing in the water by herself.

"Besides," Harold continued, his expression turning serious, "Tristan needs to know for himself what's safe and what's dangerous, what's good and what's bad, what's right and what's wrong… if he's going to marry Beatrix someday."

Those last words caused Roger to stiffen, and he pressed his lips together in a thin line. It wasn't that he objected to Harold's dynamic efforts in trying to pair their children together; he thought of Harold as a brother, and he knew he would prefer the Norgaards over anyone else to be his child's in-laws in the future. But still… with fatherhood came the instinct to oppose all prospects of his daughter partnering with a potential male.


Roger glanced down and immediately broke out into a smile as his daughter came running toward him excitedly with open arms. He caught her as soon as her little body leaped at him, and he spun around in circles with her, loving the sound of her joyful giggles. Harold had reached down to pick Tristan up, and they watched the father and daughter pair bond in a moment of jubilance.

"You know, Bea," Roger said once they stopped spinning. He tapped a finger on her nose. "You should be a lot nicer to Tristan. One of these days he's going to get bigger than you and he'll be able to fight back."

Beatrix turned to stare at the toddler, who blew her a kiss. She wrinkled her nose at him. "No, he won't," she concluded with utmost certainty.

Harold laughed heartily as Beatrix's father sighed again. "Don't worry, Roger. They'll be crazy in love with each other before we know it. You just wait and see."



"I hate Tristan Norgaard!" Beatrix yelled, stomping into the house.

Roger turned around from his seat on the couch, about to scold her for making such a ruckus and for making such an impolite declaration about her soon-to-be-betrothed. Once he saw her, however, the words caught on his tongue.

Beatrix was covered from head to toe in what appeared to be whipped cream. Wiping off a large chunk from her cheek, she flicked it to the floor and glared furiously at her father.

"Look what he and his stupid friends did!" she screamed. "I never want to go to Gulf Breeze ever again! I don't care if I don't get to see the beach!"

Gulf Breeze and Pace, Harold's and Roger's hometowns respectively, were about forty-five minutes apart on the Florida panhandle and separated by two bridges, with the city of Pensacola sandwiched in between.

"Uh… what happened?" Roger asked, still stunned at the sight.

"Tristan and those other jerks attacked me with whipped cream cans. Stupid fourth graders," she seethed, as if the two-year variation between their class groups was such a vast difference.

Roger, having determined that it was just a childish quarrel, was now fighting back a smile. "I'm sure they didn't mean it, honey—"

"Forget it! There's no way you're ever going to get me back to Gulf Breeze, and that's final!" the ten-year-old exclaimed dramatically, turning to fly up the stairs. Several white footprints were left behind after her departure.

A knock sounded on the partially opened door, and it swung wider as Harold poked his head in to grin at Roger apologetically.

"I heard the tirade from the driveway… I was out there cleaning the rest of the cream off the passenger seat of my truck. Sorry about that, by the way," he said, looking quite sheepish.

Roger just laughed. "It's okay. She'll get over it."

"Will she be over it by dinner tonight?"

Roger glanced up toward the ceiling as he heard several loud thumps and crashes coming from Beatrix's room. "Probably not, but I guarantee you she'll have little choice."

Three hours later, Beatrix was sitting at the dining table in the Norgaards' home, fuming silently. Even though she'd vowed never to step foot in Gulf Breeze again, her father had dragged her unwilling rear end back over there for dinner. And to make things worse, she had the ill fortune of sitting right across from her nemesis. Tristan was seated at the other side of the table, smirking at her in childlike mischief.

Stupid Dad, Beatrix thought angrily, pausing in her glowering at Tristan to glare at her father.

Roger felt her irate gaze on him and chose to ignore it. It appeared that the dislike had become mutual between Beatrix and Tristan over the years. Summers were worse than ever, for the two now played prank after prank on each other, even going so far as to formulate elaborate schemes and trickery. Such as a few days ago when Beatrix had bribed Elisa and Irene to turn against their brother and help her nail every single pair of underwear he had to the tree in their front yard. He had retaliated by ruining her new clothes earlier this afternoon. From the look of things, it seemed like the two were more likely to start a war than to eventually get together.

Admittedly, the arrangement was an archaic practice. Roger and Harold both hailed from distinguished families—full of doctors, lawyers, and other white collar professionals—and had been friends since childhood. Their fervent hope that their own children would unite to bring together the family fortunes was often criticized by Beatrix and Tristan's mothers, who were of the opinion that parental matchmaking in modern days was absurd.

"So how are things in Indianapolis, Beatrix?" Hannah asked kindly, breaking the tension between her son and his fiancée-to-be.

"Fine, thanks," Beatrix replied, her anger dissipating as she smiled genuinely at Hannah. There was something about the woman that had always calmed her down. "It's been pretty nice weather all season, so I've spent a lot of time outdoors."

"Oh? Doing what?"

"Killing people and burying them in the forest," Tristan muttered, pushing his peas around distastefully with his fork.

"Tristan!" his mother chastised. "Behave yourself at the table. And eat your peas."

He scowled at the offensive vegetation.

"Actually," Beatrix said heatedly, shooting a dirty look toward him before continuing, "I've started learning how to play tennis with my friends."

"HA!" Tristan laughed out loud, jabbing his fork in her direction. "Do they wear helmets and protective padding? You with a racket is dangerous!"

"Tristan Norgaard!" Hannah exclaimed sharply. "That's enough!"

Detecting the warning note in her voice, he immediately retracted his utensil and returned to scowling at his peas.

Beatrix was glaring at him openly. "It's okay, Hannah. He's right about one thing… I am dangerous with a racket. Too bad I don't have one at hand."

Tristan's head shot up and he narrowed his eyes at her unspoken threat. Elisa and Irene exchanged amused glances, enjoying the entertainment.

The adults all sighed inwardly and wondered whether their children would indeed end up assassinating each other after all.


A/N: The original first chapter was exceedingly long so I chopped it in half. I'm pretty sure I had written this while procrastinating on one of my actual story assignments for a creative writing class I took during my junior year of college, so this is the product of a lot of caffeine and possibly class-related disgruntlement. I'll have the next part up shortly after some extensive (and much needed) revisions.