August 25, 1995


The 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.

Trixie 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.

Trixie 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.

Honey 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.

Trixie 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.

The 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.

And 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.

These 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.

But 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.

Trixie 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. 

Mart, 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.

But 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.

How could she go through life without Brian?

This 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.

But 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.

Trixie 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.

Knowing 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 woods.



Brian 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.

Brian 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.

So why am I so nervous? he asked himself.  But he knew the answer.  Trixie.

His 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.

No.  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?

Because it feels like it’s for forever, Brian answered himself.

He 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 couldn’t.

This 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.

But 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.

But 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.

But 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?

No, 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?

Just 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.

Instead 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 chance.

He 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.

Brian 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.

When 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.

Concern 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.

Brian stopped.  He needed to reassure her before he got any closer.  He softly whistled, bob, bob-white.

Trixie visibly calmed.  Okay, there was another Bob-White following her.  But which one?

Brian 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.”

After 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 leaving me.”

Brian 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.

Trixie 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?

Brian 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.

“Trix, 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 feelings.

Trixie 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.

Brian 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…”

She 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.”

Brian 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.

She 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.”

“I 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.”

Trixie looked thoughtful for a moment.  “I needed you to.”

Brian 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.

“Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.

Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.

Walk beside me, and just be my friend.”

He 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.”

Trixie’s eyes glistened.  She smiled, and felt the weight of the world lift off her shoulders.  “Promise?” she whispered.

Brian smiled back, ignoring the moisture in his own eyes.  He put his arm around her and hugged her tight.  “Promise.”







Author's Notes:

When I first posted this at Zap's, I screwed up BIG TIME.   I neglected to add my thanks to my wonderful, fantastic, marvelous, tremendous, brilliant, encouraging, supportive, persuasive, helpful, kind and caring editors and life-lines:
April W
Kathy W (KayRenee)

I couldn't have done it without them. You guys are the best, and I love you dearly.

And I will never forget to add this very important note again. I PROMISE!!!!

Also, the "old saying" is a famous quote from Albert Camus.  I borrowed this with the same amount of permission I have from Random House to use the Trixie Belden characters - none!  Quotation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?




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