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Title: Of Autos and Chocolate Cake
Fandom: Betsy-Tacy books
Characters: Tacy Kelly, Carney Sibley, Katie Kelly
Rating: G
Word Count: 1145
Summary: Conversations, plans, and chocolate cake.
Notes: Set during Betsy & Tacy's junior year. Written for [archiveofourown.org profile] spyglass in the 2013 Exchange at [community profile] fic_corner.
----

The October wind swirled through the houses, carrying with it the smell of wood smoke and frost. Tacy buried her hands deeper into her muff and wished longingly for the warm days of just a few weeks prior, when the golden fall seemed to stretch on forever.

It was one of the rare afternoons when the Crowd had scattered, and Tacy found herself walking home alone. She missed Betsy and Tib's cheerful company, which always helped drive away the cold, or Winona's impish humor. Even some of the boys would be welcome, as they would inevitably carry her books, which would allow her to snuggle deeper into her coat.

The sound of an auto behind her caught Tacy's attention, and she automatically stepped to the side of the road. They were becoming common enough, now, that pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles alike were adapting to their presence on the roads.

But instead of rumbling past her with a friendly wave from the driver, the sounds of the auto slowed down as it drew near.

"Yoo-hoo! Tacy!" a familiar voice called out, and Tacy turned towards the auto.

"Carney! My goodness, what are you doing?" Tacy asked her friend, who was sitting proudly behind the wheel of the Buick, that had now come to a clanking halt.

"Can you keep a secret, even from the Crowd?"

Tacy tilted her head in curiosity. Taking this as agreement, Carney continued breathlessly. "Papa has been teaching me how to drive! He's promised that if I practice enough, I can drive us all for the St. John game."

"How thrilling!"

"But I don't want to say anything yet, and get everyone's hopes up. Papa still has to agree to it." She paused and then her impish dimple made an appearance. "Would you like a ride home?" Carney asked, and Tacy gratefully climbed in. Carney set the auto moving again.

"Gee, it's cold," Tacy said. "I can believe we were wearing summer dresses just a few weeks ago."

"I know. But Mama won't let me put away my summer dresses yet. She says there's likely to be a warm snap again soon, and I'll be glad of them."

"I sure hope so. Fall never seems to last long enough." The girls paused in their conversation as Carney maneuvered the auto around a particularly tricky ditch.

"We looked for you after school," Carney said, "but Betsy and Tib had vanished, so we all thought you were with them."

Tacy shook her head, careful not to dislodge her hat. "Miss Clarke wanted to speak with me. She asked me to sing at the Christmas Rhetoricals."

"Oh, will you? You sang so beautifully last year."

Tacy could feel her cheeks heating up, despite the cold, and she ducked her head a little. "I told her I would think about it. Without - "

" - without Julia?" Carney asked gently. She remembered all too well the terror on Tacy's face when she stood before the school the previous spring. It had only been Julia's unwavering presence at the piano that had prevented Tacy from bolting.

Tacy mumbled "Yes," and stared down at her lap.

"Would it help if I played for you? I'm nowhere near as good as Julia, but if it would help you, I'll play my fingers into knots," Carney offered earnestly.

"Oh, would you? I think it would help eversomuch."

"Of course I will! We shall choose some carols, some pretty, some fun. Why, we can lead the school in a regular sing-a-long!"

"Let's!" Tacy agreed, her blue eyes sparkling once more.

The Big Hill loomed before them, and Carney smoothly pulled the auto up to the hitching post outside the Kelly's home.

"Won't you come in?" Tacy invited as she bounced down from the seat.

"Well. . ." Carney hesitated, and looked longingly at the cheerful warmth coming from Tacy's rambling white house.

"Katie's made her chocolate cake," Tacy teased, knowing it was a great weakness of Carney's.

"Oh very well. But I can't stay for very long. I promised Mama I would be home before dark. There are lamps on the auto, but Papa doesn't want me driving with them. Can't say I'm very eager to try."

"Your sister must be an angel," Carney said rapturously, a short while later. "I don't know what she does differently, but it is better than any cake I've ever had. It's just divine!"

Tacy laughed. "We'll be sure to send you some next year, when you're at Vassar."

Carney groaned. "If I can pass the exams."

"Don't think like that," said Tacy. "You'll pass them. You must!"

"I do hope so. Though I shall miss you all terribly."

"We shall write you loads of letters," said Katie, joining them at the table with her own piece of cake.

"We will, the whole Crowd" Tacy promised.

"Betsy certainly will!" said Carney with a laugh. "I know that Herbert always looks forward to her letters." The mention of the Humphreys immediately sobered the girls, and Carney got a far away look in her eyes.

"Okto Delta is meeting at your house next week, isn't it, Carney?" Katie asked, changing the subject.

"Oh yes! The pins were a brilliant idea, I can't wait to see them!"

"Yes," agreed Tacy, but then her face fell. "You know that Winona is going to keep pushing for the boys to join us, don't you?"

Carney nodded and Katie gave her sister a brief hug. "I know, but I won't let them do anything that will make you uncomfortable."

"It's not that I don't like the boys, but everyone is so mad about them now. I like having a time when it's just us girls."

"I wonder," Katie said speculatively.

"What? What?"

"Let me go ask Mama something, I'll be back in a jiff."

Carney and Tacy looked at each other in puzzlement, as Katie hurried out of the room.

"I wonder what she's thinking of," said Carney.

"Katie's like that sometimes. When she and Julia started scheming, wild horses couldn't drag it out of either of them!"

Katie bustled back into the room with a broad smile on her face. "Girls, what do you think about giving a party here after the St. John game? We could invite the boys and either celebrate or console them, depending on how the game goes."

Tacy nodded a little hesitantly, but the corners of her mouth quirked upwards. Giving a party! With boys! It sounded very grown-up and a little scary. But Katie would be there with her, and Carney and Betsy and all the rest.

"Yes, let's," she said eventually.

Carney attempted to look grave. "I'll only agree to it if Katie makes another cake," she said seriously, but her dimple gave her away.

Laughter spilled out of the Kelly's kitchen and into the cold fall afternoon, carrying with it joy and the smell of chocolate cake.

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