Now Let Me Show A Brother's Love to Thee

December, 1998


It had been a long, exhausting week for Mart.  Thoughts of his sister had tormented him night and day, disrupting his sleep and consuming every waking moment.

Two days after Christmas, Mart had had a long talk with Bobby.  Ever since Trixie had moved to New York for college, Bobby had gone into the City once a month to see her.  At first, it had been a big adventure for the then-eleven-year-old to take the train to the City alone.  Now it was no longer an adventure for the thirteen-year-old boy, but a vital lifeline.  No matter her schedule or her moods, Bobby never missed a trip.  She would take him out to dinner, even though she didn’t want to, simply because he’d gone to the trouble of showing up.

Bobby related to Mart how difficult it had been lately to engage her in even simple conversation.  She didn’t greet him with a hug anymore; it was like she couldn’t stand to be touched.  During dinner, she would sit and stare off into space with a sad, haunted look on her face, practically ignoring Bobby the entire time.  But in the end, she always, always thanked him for coming.

Mart had been deeply disturbed by his conversation with Bobby, but what disturbed him more was Brian’s continued refusal to discuss Trixie, or even be present near those discussing her.  Julie Weston had persisted in gently prodding him, but that only made him angry.  The more Julie pushed, the more sullen and withdrawn Brian became, until Renee finally begged her mother to just drop the subject for the rest of the visit.

By Tuesday, Mart couldn’t take any more.  The plane ticket his parents had purchased for his trip had an open-ended return so he could stay for as long as he wanted.  Mart took advantage of this loophole to leave early, and arranged for a late afternoon flight.

Charlie Weston, Renee’s cousin, had been easily convinced to give him a ride to the airport.  Luck was with him when he arrived in Chicago, and he was able to hitch a ride home from the airport with a neighbor he happened to spot at the baggage claim.

Once home, however, he was at a loss.  The apartment building in which Mart lived was across Wabash Avenue from the campus of Columbia College Chicago, and the vast majority of the residents were students there.  Since this was only the midpoint of the winter break, most of them were away.  The entire building was unsettlingly quiet.

On one hand, that helped Mart to be able to think.  Of course, there were no distractions to interrupt his thinking, which left him free to obsess about his sister.  He spent most of the night and the next day pacing his living room, wondering what she was doing, even what she was thinking.  Several times, he started to pick up the phone, but each time his hand froze.  He concentrated on how far away she seemed, and how little he knew her any more.  He needed to be able to look into her eyes.

Mart needed to see Trixie.

No matter how many ways he looked at the situation, he always reached the same conclusion: he had to see her, in person.

But how to get there?  He’d had to have his parents buy his plane ticket to Texas.  He hadn’t held a job for more than three months since starting school, and he’d quit the latest in order to get the time off to go to Texas.  He already owed half his friends money – more money than he even wanted to think about.

Jim or Dan would probably help him out, but neither one were expected back in Chicago for at least two weeks.  Besides, for some reason Mart couldn’t explain, he really didn’t want to tell anyone what he was doing.

Which certainly left his parents out.  Asking them would involve several lectures about fiscal responsibility, plus they would probably want to come with him.  No, they were not the answer.

Finally, Mart thought of a friend who could help him.  Bruce knew enough about Mart’s family that he could understand a desire to get to New York.  Plus, Mart only owed him a couple of dollars, so he could probably hit him up for bus fare.  And Bruce had a good job with little time off, so he had not planned on traveling over the break.

Mart was in luck again.  Bruce was home when Mart called in the early evening, and was willing to buy him a one-way bus ticket to New York City.  He even drove him to the bus station.  The only moment of discomfort for Mart was Bruce’s parting shot:  “Maybe straightening things out with your sister will help you get your own head screwed on right.”

Sleeping fitfully on the long bus ride, Mart spent a great deal of brainpower reliving every brief contact he’d had with Trixie since the day she started college.  It pained him to realize how few and far between they were.  The worst was Madeleine Wheeler’s wake and funeral.

Trixie had seemed so cold and formal.  He’d been focusing on Jim’s grief, and was shocked by his sister’s attitude.  He remembered being annoyed by how standoffish she’d been.  Over the course of several days, the only tear he had seen had been when she read Mrs. Wheeler’s goodbye letter.

Trixie.  The warmest, most giving person he’d ever known, who could be moved to tears by any sad story of someone in need.  And he’d just let it go that she hadn’t cried over the death of someone who was family?  What the hell was he thinking?

Tears of sympathy for someone else’s troubles, tears of compassion, had never bothered her.  But showing her own pain, displaying weakness, always had.  She wouldn’t have wanted to show her own grief over Maddie Wheeler’s death.  But she should certainly have shown compassion for the others around her grieving their loss.

Even her anger towards Honey and Jim could not explain her stone-faced demeanor.  She clearly was not angry with Matt Wheeler, and she did everything she could for him.  Yet her face never seemed to soften in his presence, either.

There was only one explanation for her behavior.  How stupid for him not to have seen it earlier!  She was building a wall to keep in her own pain.  And since the funeral, the wall had only grown higher.

Mart had to get through that wall.  He had to touch her, really see her, not the façade she held out to the world.  Maybe, if he found the real Trixie, Mart would find the missing part of his life.

The bus had been scheduled to arrive in New York at 11:15 p.m. Thursday night, just in time for the New Year’s Eve revelers.  Unfortunately, there were several traffic and weather-related delays along the usual 25-hour journey, resulting in an arrival time of nearly four a.m.  The driver and passengers were all cranky, especially about ringing in the New Year aboard the rumbling bus with a group of total strangers.

No matter how generous the person, Mart figured that no one would appreciate a knock on their door at four-thirty in the morning.  With this thought in mind, Mart found his way to an all-night diner and ordered a hearty breakfast.  By the time he paid for his meal and left a tip, he would have used up all the money he had on him, but that was all right; he was near the end of his journey.  Where he went from there depended on what happened when he met with Trixie.

What would he say to her?  Would she even agree to see him?  How could he get past two years of silence?

Mart ate slowly, contemplating the upcoming meeting and killing time.  After several hours, he could no longer ignore the pointed look of the waitress; she needed his table for other customers.  Out on the streets once more, he dawdled, wondering what was a good time to show up on someone’s doorstep on New Year’s Day.  If Mr. Wheeler had attended some high-society function the night before he might have been out quite late.  Not wanting to make a nuisance of himself, Mart decided a walk through Central Park should while away sufficient time to bring him to the Wheeler penthouse at a decent hour.

The stillness of the time just before dawn covered the park in a peaceful quiet, most soothing to a troubled soul.  Mart let the peace seep into him, wishing it would last for a long while.  As the sun rose, he enjoyed the sparkling lights all around him when the morning rays struck the crystals in the snow and ice world through which he wandered.

He noticed two people sitting on a bench by the lake, watching the sunrise.  He altered his course to give them a wide berth, not wanting to disturb their privacy.  He was nearly past them when he glanced their way again.  The man’s red hair caught his eye and he took a second look.

This time Mart was close enough to recognize Matt Wheeler as he rose from the bench.  Mart changed course again, this time heading straight for the still-seated young woman.  As the older gentleman turned to offer his companion a hand, he glanced up and noticed the nervous young man approaching them.

A look of surprise crossed Matt’s face, but only for a brief second before he smiled.  He nodded his head, silently urging the visitor forward.

Mart was walking up from behind the bench, and Trixie’s eyes were still focused on the sun rising above the trees.  In fact, she had not even acknowledged Matt’s proffered hand.

Matt crouched in front of her and grabbed both of her hands.  “Do you know what I’ve heard?”

He waited patiently for her to turn her attention to him, an act that seemed to Mart to take a great deal of time and energy.  When Trixie’s eyes finally met Matt’s, he gave her a soft smile and continued speaking as if there had never been a pause.  “I’ve heard that God works in mysterious ways.”

Taking Trixie’s puzzled frown as a good sign, a sign that she was paying attention and trying to make sense of his words, Matt’s smile grew.  “Sometimes, He sends you an unsuspecting angel just when you need it most.”

With that he stood again, still holding both her hands, and pulled her to her feet.  He turned her to face Mart just as her brother rounded the end of the park bench.

Mart didn’t know exactly what he’d been expecting to see, but somehow this wasn’t it.  His careful eye took in every detail, from the tear-streaked face to the listless manner.  Trixie’s signature curls were pulled back severely into a tight braid underneath the soft, powder-blue knitted hat.  Her face was pale and sallow, her eyes highlighted by the dark shadows beneath them, her features pinched.  But it was the look in her eyes that Mart would remember all his life.  The emotions that flittered through, one after the other, surprised and saddened him.  He saw feelings of worthlessness, undeserving of love or forgiveness.  There was self-condemnation, and an expectation of rejection.  But behind it all, barely detectable, was the tiniest, faintest glimmer of hope.

For days, Mart had been trying to put his vast vocabulary to good use, writing and re-writing speeches in his head, attempting to formulate coherent thoughts and to figure out what to say to his sister when he finally saw her.  Now, when he stood before her, the words all fled his mind.  As he stared at the face that had always so mirrored his own, watching the hesitation, uncertainty, and fear flooding the deep blue eyes, he suddenly knew exactly what to say.

Stepping forward, Mart opened his arms.  “I just came because I realized how long it had been since I told you that I love you.”

Mart barely had time to see the brilliant light of joy flare in Trixie’s eyes before she threw herself into his arms.  He picked her up and swung her around, then set her down and held her close.  In that moment, Mart felt a warmth flood his being, a healing he hadn’t even realized he needed.  He hoped the same warmth and healing was engulfing Trixie.  When she started to cry, face buried in his neck, he stroked her hair and crooned, “It’s okay, Princess.  I’m here.  I’ll always be here, I promise.”

After allowing a suitable few minutes for the joyful reunion, Matt tactfully cleared his throat.  “How about if we head back to the penthouse?  You two can catch up with each other while we all warm up.”

When the siblings turned towards him, Matt put his hand on Mart’s shoulder.  “When do you have to be back at school?”

“Not until the 17th,” Mart answered.

“Why don’t you stay with us until then?” Matt invited.  “I’m sure Trixie would love it.”

“Please, Mart?” Trixie pleaded.

Mart nodded.  “I’d really like that.”

He was rewarded with Trixie’s smile – a real, genuine, warm smile.  It wasn’t her old thousand-watt smile, but it was the best Matt had seen in a very long time.  The brilliant sun over the horizon reflected the surge of joy in his heart as he prodded the almost-twins gently down the path towards home.




Author's Notes:

This is part of my submission for my first Jixaversary.  My how time has flown!  I have a long list of thank yous mentioned elsewhere (Author's Notes for Dance, Chapters 17 & 18), but I want to mention how grateful I am to be a part of Jixemitri.  It's an amazing community, and I love you all.

As always, this story would not have come together without the love, support and patience of April, Kathy and Wendy.  Given the main character here, this one is especially dedicated to April.  Every once in a while, I have to be nice to her beloved Mart.

The title is from Titus Andronicus, Act III, Scene I, line 182




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