Peter and Helen


Friday, September 22, 1995


Helen Belden stared morosely at the leftover food she was packing away into the refrigerator.  She thought back to the previous weekend.  Although she’d been upset and tense over her daughter’s latest trouble with criminals, she hadn’t had any time to dwell on it.  She’d had a large houseful, with mouths to feed, dishes to wash, ruffled feathers to sooth and lots of people to love.  She’d been in her element.

The contrast with this weekend was painful.  Brian was back at school; Bobby had gone to spend the night with the Lynch twins, like he did every Friday; and Mart had gone to Wimpy’s with the other Bob-Whites, like he did every Friday.  Even Trixie, who preferred to stay home on Friday nights, hadn’t been at dinner.  She’d had a horribly exhausting week and had fallen asleep as soon as she arrived home from school.  Peter had insisted on letting her sleep, so it had been just the two of them for dinner.

Helen loved her husband dearly.  She loved to have dinner alone with him – when he took her out for the evening.  Not at home.  Not when she’d worked at cooking a good meal for her family.  A family meal was not meant to be for just the two of them.

She just couldn’t understand how her house had gotten so quiet.  She had expected to feel bad about Brian going away to college; what mother wouldn’t?  But she had three other children still at home, and Crabapple Farm was the favorite hangout for their friends.  So how did her house get so empty?

Taking one last swipe at her too-clean kitchen counter, she wandered into the living room.  Peter was kneeling on the floor, reaching under the end table.  He appeared to be playing with the wires to the phone cord, an instruction booklet opened beside him.

Leaning on the doorframe, she quirked an eyebrow at him.  “Dare I ask what you are doing?”

Peter jumped, banging his head on the table.  “Ow!  Don’t sneak up on me like that.”  He extricated himself from the table and the wires.  “I am installing the cordless phone, if you must know.”

Helen stared at him.  “I can’t believe you did that!  Your little princess does not need a cordless phone.”

“Of course she does.  We all do.  When you have to take a call while making dinner or doing laundry, it will make your life easier.”  He smiled at her.  “Did you really doubt me when I said I was going to do this?”

Helen shrugged, a look of consternation on her face.  “I guess I didn’t take you seriously.  We’ve made comments about these things in the past, but never given in before.  We have worked really hard at not spoiling our children.”

Peter nodded in understanding as he stood up and adjusted the phone base on the table.  “A task you consider all the more difficult because of their circle of friends with their overly-indulgent parents.  I know.  But, I also know that children of different ages require different forms of discipline.”

“A cordless phone is discipline?” Helen snorted.  “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Peter’s eyes twinkled merrily.  “Of course it is.  Boyfriend discipline.”

His wife looked at him like he had grown another eye in the middle of his forehead.  “And how exactly is letting her take calls privately in her room 'boyfriend discipline'?”

“This facilitates Friday nights.”

“She talks to Brian on Friday nights.”

“Now, my love, that is not the whole story,” Peter walked over to his wife and leaned in conspiratorially.  “She spends large portions of those phone calls to Boston talking to Jim.”

Helen sighed in frustration.  “I still don’t follow your logic.  You used to wish you could keep those two apart.”

Peter chuckled.  “That’s not humanly possible.  And I only wished that because they were so young.  However, I have known since the first time I ever saw them together that they were meant to be.”

He walked across the room and sat on the couch.  Patting the seat beside him, he continued, “Right now, Jim is safe.  He is hundreds of miles away.  If they were to start dating, I would only have to worry during the holidays.  Jim is not my main concern.”

Helen plopped into the seat next to him.  “Something tells me this explanation is going to get more and more devious.”

“But of course,” he said, stroking his mustache.  “The real problems here are Tad Webster and Chris Zack.  She spends a great deal of time with those boys, and I’m betting they are both very interested in my daughter.  I’m only guessing about Chris, because I haven’t spent any time with the two of them.  But I watched Tad all last weekend.  He adores her.  He’s a good kid, but he’s also a hormonal teen-aged boy.  His thoughts about my daughter are not entirely pure.”

“And how does giving her a portable phone to talk to Jim take care of them?”

“It’s simple.  Even if she spends all her time with Chris and Tad, and Jim dates every girl in Boston, they still have a hold on each other.  As long as she spends every Friday on the phone with Jim, no other boy will ever get too far with her.  It will be better protection than sending a brother as a chaperone.”  He placed his hands behind his head and grinned triumphantly.   “Jim Frayne will always be in the way, even if she doesn’t realize it.” 

Helen closed her eyes and shook her head.  “That is the most ridiculous theory I have ever heard.  You are just not normal.”

Peter snorted.  “Oh, and Trixie is?  Are you seriously trying to tell me that we have an average, ordinary fifteen-year-old girl on our hands?”

Groaning in exasperation, she replied, “Obviously not, or she wouldn’t get herself nearly killed every other week.”

“Exactly.  She’s not normal.  She’s extraordinary.  Dealing with an extraordinary child calls for extraordinary measures.  Normal tactics simply will not work.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Helen said with resignation.

Just then the phone rang.  Peter looked at his watch.  “Seven-thirty on Friday.  I guarantee you that’s Jim.”  He reached over and picked up the new portable phone off its base.  “Crabapple Farm.”

“Hello, Mr. Belden,” Jim’s voice replied.

Peter looked at Helen victoriously.  “Good evening, Jim.  How are you tonight?”

“Just fine, sir.  Is Trixie around?”

“Hold on while I get her.”  Peter pushed the hold button on the phone.

Helen looked at the phone cynically.  “Top-of-the-line model, I take it.”

“Of course.  Nothing but the best for my Princess.”

Helen glared at him.  “You wouldn’t let me wake her for dinner, but you’re going to wake her to talk to Jim?”

“Yup.  She’s had a nice, long nap, and now it's time to socialize.  Besides, she’s probably hungry.  You go fix her a tray and I’ll bring it up to her in a few minutes.”  With that, Peter hurried up the stairs with the portable phone in hand.

Helen rose and went to the kitchen to fix her daughter a dinner tray, grumbling all the way about spoiled little princesses and daddies who were wrapped around little girls’ fingers.




Author's Notes:

Thanks, of course, to April and Kathy, editors extraordinaire.  Most of all, thanks to Peter Belden.  I just love the way he speaks to me!




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