August 25, 1995
moon was just a sliver in the summer sky, its last little wink before the
new moon. And tomorrow it
will be gone, Trixie thought, just like Brian and Jim.
Belden sat on the window seat in her room, gazing out at the clear
midnight sky, contemplating how the next day would turn her entire world
upside-down. Tomorrow her
oldest brother, Brian, and one of her best friends, Jim Frayne, would
leave for college. By noon
they would be gone. Even
though they would only be a few hours away, she felt like this was an all
too permanent departure from her life.
was 15, and entering her sophomore year of high school in just over a
week. She had eons to go
before college. She would go
about the same life she had led last year, attending Sleepyside
Junior-Senior High School with her closest friends, the Bob-Whites.
The Bob-Whites of the Glen were a club she had formed with her
neighbor and best friend, Honey Wheeler, her older brothers, Brian and
Mart, and Jim Frayne, who was now Honey’s adopted brother.
The two other members were also neighbors on isolated Glen Road,
Diana Lynch and Dan Mangan.
and Diana were in Trixie’s grade, while Mart and Dan were entering their
junior year. They would all
still ride the same bus together that they had last year and eat lunch
together at the same table. But
Brian and Jim won’t be there.
had kept that thought firmly out of her mind all summer.
They had had a great summer, enjoying their friendships, swimming,
riding, traveling, working on a couple of charity fundraisers, and solving
mysteries, which was Trixie’s favorite pastime.
But now it was over, and Trixie could no longer pretend it wasn’t
going to happen.
petite blonde sat at the window and gazed up the hill to Manor House, where
Honey and Jim lived. She
could hardly bear the thought of Jim being gone, for several reasons.
First and foremost, he was her friend and she couldn’t stand for
her friends to be unhappy. And Jim was afraid to leave home. He had only been adopted by the Wheelers two years ago.
He had come to their care from an abusive stepfather, and it had
taken him quite a while to become comfortable in the mansion on the hill
and to really feel like he was part of a family.
And leaving home felt, to him, as if he was losing this new family,
and he was terrified. Not
that anyone knew he felt that way. He
was too strong a person to admit such weakness to anyone…except Trixie.
that was another thing. How
could Jim confide in her the way he did if she wasn’t there? How was Jim going to cope with all the changes college would
bring without his closest friends to help him?
These worries plagued Trixie as she thought about Jim’s first
days at school.
worries for her friend overshadowed her own feelings of impending
loneliness, without her best guy friend around.
Even though she would never admit this, even to herself, she had a
deep, deep crush on Jim Frayne. Add
to that the closeness of his friendship, and she just knew that she was
going to be lost without him during the upcoming year.
what surprised Trixie was that, even though she was miserable at the
thought of Jim leaving tomorrow, his departure was not the most
frightening part of tomorrow for her.
Trixie was surprised by the strength of the despair she felt over
the thought that tomorrow, Brian would also be going away.
adored her big brother. But
honestly, she was closer to her brother, Mart, than to Brian. Brian was almost three years older than Trixie, and had
skipped a grade in school. He
was the eldest child, and very mature and serious.
He had always seemed so much older than she was.
on the other hand, was only 11 months older than Trixie.
They looked almost identical, and for one month of the year they
were the same age, so she called him her almost-twin.
Besides their age and looks, they also seemed to share a special
bond; there were times it seemed they could read each other’s minds.
And even though they teased each other horribly, God help the
person that tried to get between them or hurt the other.
If someone had told Trixie that Mart would be gone from her life,
she would have understood the empty feeling.
tonight, it was Brian’s departure she contemplating. Brian, the calm, restrained, level-headed, mature, dependable
one who always tried to reign in Trixie’s impulsive nature and keep her
out of trouble. Most of the
time Trixie considered Brian a bore who was always trying to spoil her
fun. But the more she thought
about it now, she realized that Brian was so much more than that to her.
He was her rock. He was her lifeline. He
was, well, he was BRIAN.
could she go through life without Brian?
is stupid, Trixie thought to herself.
After all, Brian had spent time away from home at summer camps
before. And she had gone on a
couple of trips with Honey when Brian had stayed home.
It’s not like you’ve never been away from him before.
this was different. This felt
different. This felt like he
was never coming back. Because
even when he did come back, from this day forward, he would be visiting.
He would be a guest. And
college changes people. He
would also become a stranger.
could feel the panic rising. She
couldn’t breathe. Her heart
beat faster. Her pulse
pounded so hard it made her head hurt.
She wanted to wake him up and beg him not to leave.
Tell him he couldn’t go. Make
him stay with her.
that would be even more ridiculous than it sounded, she decided she needed
a way to calm down. She
looked out the window again, and knew that the only way to fight this
feeling was to go for a walk. She
quietly threw on a pair of Capri pants under the long t-shirt she was
wearing for bed and slid into her canvas sneakers.
Then she opened her bedroom door silently, and snuck down the
stairs. Once she had made it past the creaky stair without making a
sound, she checked the kitchen. Good.
No one else is having trouble sleeping, she thought, when she
had determined that the kitchen was empty.
She noiselessly slipped out the back door and headed off into the
lay sleeplessly on his twin bed, listening to Mart snore.
He was excited to be leaving for college tomorrow, but also
nervous. He was glad he and
Jim were going to be roommates. They
were already the best of friends. They
also had the camaraderie of being at least a year younger than their
classmates. Going from such a
small town as Sleepyside to such a big city as Boston was intimidating.
Boston University was a great school, but it was also huge.
At least they would have each other to lean on.
was honestly looking forward to college.
Besides getting to study for his intended career, and being an
important step forward in life, he also was looking forward to a little
bit of freedom. He wanted a
chance to just be Brian. He
worked very hard to be a good son, and a good older brother, and a good
example. And he was proud of these things. But he placed a lot of pressure on himself.
And he felt a lot of pressure from others.
He wanted to be somewhere where no one knew him, except Jim.
Having Jim there would be kind of a life preserver.
If he got too far away from himself, Jim would remind him whom he
really was. They had talked
about it. They would be there
for each other, letting out just enough rope to allow freedom, but not
enough for the other to hang himself.
why am I so nervous? he asked himself.
But he knew the answer. Trixie.
little sister worried him. That
was to be expected; after all, who was going to keep her out of trouble
when he and Jim were gone? Certainly
not Mart or Dan. They
actually seemed to encourage her wild flights of fancy.
But even that wasn’t what worried him.
In fact, he had decided this was a good thing.
Mart and Dan would look out for the little bird, but without
clipping her wings. She would
learn to soar, and he trusted them with her life.
This was more about Brian missing Trixie.
He had gone away before, and missed her then, but it was no big
deal. And he would miss
everyone. So why was this
time so different?
it feels like it’s for forever, Brian answered himself.
got up out of his bed and walked over to the window. He looked out at the night sky and tried to picture life
without Trixie. And
is stupid, he told himself. She
will be here, and I will be home often, and I shouldn’t miss her any
more than I will miss Moms and Dad, or Mart, or Bobby. Brian smiled at the thought of their youngest brother,
seven-year-old Bobby. In
fact, I should be more worried about missing Bobby growing up.
that reasoning and logic did nothing to ease his mind.
He was ready to leave his parents.
They would always be there for him, but it was time for him to be
on his own as well. He had
always known since he was born that Bobby would still be a little boy when
he left home, so he had resigned himself to that fact years ago.
And Mart was ready to be the big brother.
He and Mart were close enough and strong enough in their
friendship, as well as brotherhood, that he knew leaving would not change
much between them.
leaving would change everything with Trixie.
She was just on the verge of blossoming into a young adult.
She relied on him so, but if he weren’t there when she did her
growing up, she would learn to live without him.
She wouldn’t need him anymore, and he would not be close to her.
She would leave him behind.
wasn’t he leaving her behind tomorrow?
Did she even know how much she meant to him? Could he explain to her that she was so much more than just a
little sister to him? She was
a blinding flash of sunlight that brightened the world of everyone around
her. She was the force of
nature that dragged him into living life, instead of just watching.
She was a loyal and trusted friend, a courageous and generous young
woman, and he admired her. Did
she know that?
of course not, you idiot, Brian thought to himself.
She thinks you consider her just a little kid to be watched over
and lectured. You don’t
tell her, so how could she possibly know?
then, Brian saw a flash of white on the lawn below. Focusing his attention, he saw a figure darting across the
yard, headed for the woods. He
was momentarily surprised to recognize his little sister sneaking out at
1:00 a.m. Then his surprise
vanished as he realized that going out into the woods alone in the middle
of the night was exactly something she would do.
of worrying about what could possess her to be wandering in the woods at
this hour, like he would normally do, Brian instead found himself thinking
that this was a sign. As
long as we’re both up, I should make the most of it and REALLY talk to
her. This is probably my last
grabbed a t-shirt to throw on over the shorts he had worn to bed, and his
sneakers, and slipped downstairs and out the back door.
hurried down the trail Trixie had taken, not wanting her to get far enough
ahead that he could lose track of her.
He didn’t want to catch up with her too soon, however.
This was a conversation he wanted to have in private, not within
sight of the farmhouse.
he caught up enough that he could easily track her, he slowed his pace.
She was wandering slowly, aimlessly, as if she didn’t know where
to go or what to do. Brian
began to wonder if there was something wrong.
As she reached a clearing and stopped, Brian drew closer.
He heard her sob.
caused Brian to move quickly down the path.
He stepped on a twig, and the resulting snap echoed through the
silent night. Trixie jumped
and swung around. She
searched the darkness of the woods, wondering if she should be worried.
stopped. He needed to
reassure her before he got any closer.
He softly whistled, bob, bob-white.
visibly calmed. Okay, there
was another Bob-White following her.
But which one?
stepped out into the clearing. She
took one look at him and lost it. She
threw herself at him, hugging him tightly and crying. Brian wrapped his arms around her and held her tight.
He leaned his cheek against her curls and whispered, soothingly,
“It’s okay, Trix. Everything
is going to be okay.”
a few minutes, Trixie calmed slightly.
Then she shook her head and said, “No, it’s not.
It will never be okay again. You’re
tried to organize his thoughts. He
was pleasantly surprised that this outburst was about his leaving.
He had assumed it would have been about Jim’s imminent departure
– he honestly figured she would miss her favorite guy more than her
overprotective big brother. He
tried to sort out his own feelings, enough to put them in words, so he
could explain to her what he had been feeling.
felt terrible about what she had just said.
It sounded so accusatory to her ears.
Brian should not be made to feel guilty about growing up and going
away to college. That was
part of life, and she did not begrudge him that.
She didn’t mind that he was leaving Sleepyside; she just didn’t
want him to leave her. How
could she explain that?
stepped back a bit and gently lifted her chin so that he could see her
eyes. Even in the darkness of
the woods, with little moonlight, he could clearly make out the despair in
those big blue eyes. He
smiled softly, reassuringly.
I will never leave you. I
will always be here for you. I
want to always be a part of your heart, just as you will always be a part
of mine. I love you,
Trixie,” he spoke quietly, but his voice was raw with the depth of his
stopped crying. She looked
into the deep dark brown eyes, and saw that he actually understood what
she had meant, rather than just what she had said.
continued to speak softly, “I want you to know just how much you mean to
me. You are a bright spot in
any dreary day. You are a
wonderful friend and confidante. You
are love and laughter. I
admire you. I look up to
you.” He grinned then, trying to lighten the mood a little.
“Well, not literally, of course…”
burbled a short, watery laugh before becoming serious again.
“Brian, I understand the difference between physical distance and
emotional distance. And I am
not afraid of the miles between here and Boston.
But I am terrified of how far away you’re going.”
took her hands in his and pulled her down to sit next to him on a nearby
tree stump. He stared out
over the clearing for a long moment, then turned back to look at his
sister. “Don’t allow
it,” he said simply.
looked at him intensely for a moment.
Then she shook her head. “You
have a lot of places to go, and I can’t hold you back.”
don’t want to be held back. You
have a lot of places to go, too, you know.
And I need to get out of your way.
I have been holding you back.”
looked thoughtful for a moment. “I
needed you to.”
nodded. Then he continued,
“But you don’t anymore. It’s
time for you to go on ahead.” His
eyes seemed to focus on something far away, and then he spoke again.
“I remember an old saying that I think is rather appropriate for
us right now.
walk in front of me, I may not follow.
walk behind me, I may not lead.
Walk beside me, and
just be my friend.”
looked back into her china blue eyes.
“I think you are beyond needing an overprotective big brother.
But I would very much like to be your friend.”
eyes glistened. She smiled,
and felt the weight of the world lift off her shoulders. “Promise?” she whispered.
smiled back, ignoring the moisture in his own eyes. He put his arm around her and hugged her tight.