What Reproachful Words Are These?
Sunday, April 5, 1999
Sleepyside-on-Hudson, New York
Friday and Saturday had been spent in a flurry of activity. Both Matt and Trixie had preparations to be made for their trips. Additionally, they were both going to be out of the office for a full week. Decisions had to be made regarding what work to delegate, what could wait for their return, and what would warrant an interruption to their schedules. Matt would be working, and on the phone with his office several times a day, so he made certain there would be no crisis that would require disturbing Trixie’s vacation.
By the time they left the apartment on Sunday, they were both exhausted. Matt was almost sorry he had agreed to Easter dinner at the Lynch estate. Almost.
Trixie dozed briefly in the back of the limo as they wound their way out of Manhattan traffic. The nearer they got to their destination, however, the more antsy she became. She alternated between nervous anxiety and eager anticipation. Matt watched the quicksilver changes of mood dance across her face with amusement.
“You’ll have a great time.”
Trixie gave him a sardonic glance. “In Niagara Falls, or at dinner?”
He grabbed her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Both.”
She breathed deeply. “Then why do I feel like this dinner is a chore I have to get through in order to be free to enjoy my vacation?”
“Because,” Matt shrugged, “you’re thinking of spending time with your parents as an obligation.”
Trixie felt like she’d been kicked in the chest. She inhaled gingerly, expecting her ribs to crack with the force. She exhaled slowly, all the blood draining from her face as the air left her body. The strangled, hoarse sound she made was barely discernible as a whispered, “Oh, my God.”
Matt was surprised and confused by her reaction. Her pallor worried him, as did the look of horror on her face. “Trix…”
She turned toward him, but moved her body farther away on the seat and put her hands up as a wall between them. “Don’t!”
Her hands trembled. She breathed slowly, struggling to recover from the staggering blow she’d just received. Tears welled in her eyes. Matt eyed her warily, wondering what in hell had upset her so greatly.
When she could finally make her lips move, she spoke slowly, every syllable etched in pain. “After everything I said to Honey and to Jim…”
Suddenly seeing the light, Matt’s temper flared. “That is not the same!”
Trixie’s temper sparked right back. “How is it not? If my mother got hit by a bus tomorrow and died, how would it be any different?”
They glared at each other, fuming. Matt’s relief at the way temper brought the color back to her pale face barely made a dent in his anger. He was furious that she would compare her relationship with her mother to the way his children had treated their mother prior to her death. He was also rational enough to see where she would see a comparison.
Finally, teeth clenched and jaw tight, Matt ground out, “Then do something about it. Do what they didn’t have the guts to do, and fix it.”
Trixie’s expression never changed. Her own anger was still palpable. Another part of her, however, bled for him. Never once had he blamed his children for their actions; never had he gotten mad at them for their failure. That one tiny admission, for no one’s ears but hers, had cost him so much. And even that, he’d turned into a gift, for he’d said he believed she could do better. Despite being witness to her lowest moments, despite watching her crumble before his eyes, he still thought she was stronger than they were. He believed she was strong enough to succeed where they had failed.
He had faith in her.
That meant everything to her, and she wouldn’t let him down. She would overcome her fears, where his children hadn’t and never could. The anger in her face was replaced by determination. As the limo turned into the drive of the Lynch Estate, Trixie sat up straight and squared her shoulders. With a perfunctory nod, she said forcefully, “I will.”
While Trixie regally allowed Steven to assist her with disembarking from the limousine, Matt took a moment to compose himself. He hadn’t meant to get angry, but no one could set off his temper quite the way she could. And he hadn’t meant to pick on his own kids, but it appeared to be having the desired effect. If she followed through, she’d be one more step closer to healthy. If this day could have that result, he could forgive himself his momentary weakness. As long as he never allowed it to happen again.
Harrison, the long-time, faithful butler to the Lynch family, opened the door before Trixie could even reach for the bell. The formal, stern gentleman’s gentleman actually smiled in greeting. “Happy Easter, Miss Trixie. Welcome.”
Trixie stopped a moment, as if shocked that she would be welcomed. Recovering quickly, she tentatively returned the smile. “Happy Easter, Harrison.”
Sherri Lynch and Helen Belden stood together in the grand foyer, apparently having a private conference away from the rest of the crowd. They turned to greet the new arrival.
Stepping past Harrison, Trixie saw the way her mother looked her over carefully. It was hard to miss the worry she tried to hide. Trixie surprised even herself when she rushed forward and greeted her mother with a warm hug. “Hi, Moms.”
Helen’s arms enfolded her child while she tried to blink back the tears of joy. Trixie could actually feel the love flowing from her mother and seeping deep into her bones. She sighed and rested her head on her mother’s shoulder for a long moment. Matt’s favorite analogy that she reflected the love she absorbed flashed through her mind, and she concentrated on absorbing all she could.
When Matt finally crossed the threshold, Harrison dutifully closed the door behind him while Sherri greeted him. “You look tired, Matt.”
He offered a half-smile. “Just working too hard, I guess.”
Trixie stepped back from her mother and glanced over her shoulder. “Maybe you’re the one who needs a vacation.”
Matt snorted. “I can wait my turn.”
“Good,” she shot back at him as she turned to their hostess and planted a kiss on her cheek. “Thanks for having us, Mrs. Lynch.”
Sherri hugged her. “You’re always welcome, sweetie.”
Trixie flashed her a quick smile before turning towards the sounds of a crowd. “Is Daddy that way?”
Helen nodded mutely and watched her hurry off. She and Sherri turned identically dumbfounded faces to Matt. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets and shrugged.
“A little progress every day,” was all he offered.
The ladies each grabbed an arm and escorted him down the hall in time to witness Trixie being passed from one Lynch youth to another and ending with her own youngest brother. Rob hugged her tight and then settled her firmly at his side.
Ted Lynch approached Matt, hand outstretched. “So glad you could join us!”
“So are we,” Matt replied, firmly clasping his hand.
Peter Belden had stepped forward to greet his friend as well, but he hesitated. He was uncomfortable with the way Matt had said “we”, as if he and Trixie were a unit. Stepping forward with a subdued, “Happy Easter,” he searched Matt’s face. He remained unsatisfied; even if Matt knew the answer to the unasked question, it would never be readily visible on his countenance.
Throughout the afternoon and into the meal, conversation flowed smoothly. Each of the teenagers related tales of school and extracurriculars. Ted and Sherri told of a recent vacation to a new Caribbean resort. There was mention of a recent award Peter had received, and an upcoming Garden Club event Helen was chairing. Talk even touched briefly on plans for Brian and Renee’s upcoming wedding.
Finally Ted turned to Trixie. “Since I was denied the pleasure of my daughter’s company this holiday, tell me what’s new with you, Trixie.”
“As a matter of fact,” Trixie replied, “I’ll be seeing your daughter tonight.”
Helen’s fork clattered to her plate. “You’re going to Chicago?” she asked incredulously.
Trixie looked at her in shock, as if such a thought had never occurred to her. “No!” she said, a little too vehemently. Reaching for control, she turned to Sherri. “Everyone in Chicago has school this week, but Di and I are both off.” Mischief twinkling in her blue eyes, she said. “We decided to take a honeymoon.”
Everyone else looked at her strangely, but Sherri clapped her hands in delight. “You two always told me you’d go to Niagara Falls together. I’m so excited for you!”
Rob looked pleased for his sister. “That sounds like fun. What do you have planned?”
Trixie shrugged. “To be honest, I don’t know. The weather is unpredictable this time of year, but there’s no shortage of things to do. We know a couple of things we’d like to do, and we’re going to play the rest by ear. We’re just going to… relax.” Another shrug. “Have fun.”
The room was filled with happy smiles. Larry and Terry asked a few more questions about what sights they planned to see, while Helen fought back tears of joy. Every soul present took the prospect of this trip as a very good sign that long-neglected friendships might survive.
Reluctantly, Matt interrupted. “Actually, that’s why we can’t stay late. Trixie’s flight leaves Westchester at seven.”
“What about you, Matt?” Peter asked. He wondered when he could talk to Matt alone, privately.
“I’m flying out at the same time. I have business in Seattle all week.”
Trixie looked at her watch. “Oh, my! I didn’t realize how late it was.”
“You don’t need to leave yet,” Ted cajoled. “Surely you have time for dessert. The lamb cake and hot cross buns are for tradition’s sake, but the crème brulee and tiramisu are for dessert connoisseurs like you and me.”
Gazing at his beloved, jolly face, Trixie smiled. “You don’t have to twist my arm too hard for crème brulee.”
“Atta girl!” Ted laughed heartily, and signaled for the next course.
Trixie looked around at these wonderful people who were family, and felt a kernel of joy that had long been missing. Just as quickly, a shadow covered her heart. These people had become family because of the Bob-Whites, and the Bob-Whites were spread far and wide. It was time to start doing something about that.
Thanks to Bonnie and PatK for editing. Your willingness to help me out is a godsend!
This is being published in honor of my seventh Jixaversary. I am very grateful to be a member of this fantastic group of talented authors and this very supportive community. You rock!
The title is from Titus Andronicus, Act I, Scene i, line 308.