August 26, 1995
particular Saturday was a bright, sunny summer day. It was a good omen for new beginnings. Brian Belden and Jim Frayne prepared to leave for college
that morning, ready to head off on a grand adventure.
things were loaded into one car and Brian’s into another.
The parents wanted to spend time with their boys, so Mr. and Mrs.
Wheeler were driving Jim, and Mr. and Mrs. Belden were driving Brian.
No one else would be making the trip to Boston University.
everything was loaded and everyone ready to go, the Wheelers drove over to
Crabapple Farm. The round of
hugs and kisses and well-wishes seemed to last forever, as there were so
many people there. All the
Bob-Whites, as well as Bobby Belden, Miss Trask, Regan, and the Lynch
family, had gathered there to say their final goodbyes.
Honey stuck by Jim’s side, like she could not bear to let him
leave. Trixie, however, sat
in the shade of a Crabapple tree and watched from a distance, the tears
Wheeler finally tried to get everyone to quiet down. “Folks, we really need to wrap this up and get on the road,
or we’ll never get there,” he said.
“Boys, have you said goodbye to everyone?”
spoke quickly, “No! Has
anyone seen Trixie?” He
looked anxiously around at the group surrounding the cars, but didn’t
had spotted his sister several minutes earlier. He knew just what she was doing; she hated to let anyone see
her cry and she wouldn’t come anywhere near them until she had stopped.
But time was running out. “I’ll
go get her,” he volunteered.
the group of tight-knit family and friends had looked concerned when they
realized Trixie wasn’t with them. Brian’s
tone reassured them, but they were still puzzled.
Why would Trixie not be there to say goodbye to her brother and her
best friend? Watching Brian
leave to get her didn’t calm their confusion any; they had expected him
to head for the house, but instead he wandered off into the orchard.
What was Trixie up to now?
walked slowly towards Trixie. She
was sitting with her knees drawn up to her chest, and her head down on her
knees, hiding her face. Brian
crouched in front of her and silently offered her his handkerchief.
He waited a moment while she wiped her face and tried to compose
got to go now, Trix,” he said softly.
“Jim wants to say goodbye.”
choked back a sob. “I
reached down and lifted her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes.
“Remember what I said last night.
Don’t allow the distance.”
stared into her brother’s deep, dark eyes and drew strength from him.
She smiled tremulously and whispered, “You promise you won’t
smiled. “I promise.”
She drew a deep breath. “Let’s
get this over with and get you two out of my hair,” she said, flashing
him one of her brightest smiles.
grabbed her hands and pulled her to her feet.
Then he wrapped his arms around her tightly. “I think I’ll say my goodbyes here, in private,” he
stood together, hugging tightly for a long moment. Then they stepped apart and walked in silence, hand in hand,
towards the end of the driveway where everyone else waited.
approached the cars, Peter and Helen Belden watched their children and
looked at each other. They
both saw the same vision of six-year-old Brian dragging three-year-old
Trixie along behind him towards the house.
The elder Beldens’ eyes locked for a moment, before Helen turned
away to dab hers with a tissue. Where
did the time go? This day was
going to be so hard.
Trixie reached the group, she let go of Brian’s hand and walked over to
Jim. He grabbed her hands and
looked down at her. She took
a deep breath, then looked up at him mischievously.
“Remember your scales, Frayne,” she told him sternly, eyes
knitted his brows in confusion. He
knew she was teasing, but had no idea where she was going with this.
“Care to explain that statement, Belden?”
face softened, and she spoke gently.
“Balance the scales, Jim. Work
hard and have fun. Leave
only a part of your heart here. Enjoy
where you are going. Live
your life, don’t just exist.”
stood there for the longest moment, lost in her eyes. Then he hugged her to him, and whispered in her ear, “Take
care of yourself, Shamus.”
nodded her head, and leaned up to kiss his cheek. She then turned and ran into the little white farmhouse,
allowing the screen door to slam behind her.
stared after her for a moment. Then
he cleared his throat and looked at his parents.
“I guess we’re ready to go now,” he said, then walked over to
the Town Car and slid into the back seat.
Wheeler looked at her husband with a question in her eyes.
Any chance that was the hardest part of today?
Is there any possibility it gets easier from here?
expression told her exactly what he thought of that idea.
You’ve got to be kidding me!
He hugged his wife and smiled reassuringly.
had gotten into his parents’ mini-van as soon as Trixie had stepped away
from him. Peter and Helen
looked at Matthew and Madeleine. They
nodded quickly to each other, got in, and started both cars.
crowd waved and called goodbye until the cars were out of sight.
Then Ted Lynch requested everyone’s attention.
“The plan for the rest of the day was lunch and a pool party at
our house, if I recall correctly,” he smiled at the group.
He and his wife had made a point of planning a day of fun to cheer
Trask piped up. “Everyone
run along and grab your swimsuits. Rendezvous
at the Lynches’ in one-half hour.”
With that she shooed them off.
Bobby’s hand, Sherry Lynch instructed Mart, “Bobby’s already got
stuff at our house, so I’ll take him with me.
You just get your things and your sister.”
She gave him a pointed look.
nodded and looked up at Trixie’s bedroom window. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Lynch.
Even I know better than to tease her today.”
everyone had gone on their way, Mart walked into the farmhouse and up the
stairs to his room. It seemed
so empty. A wave of
loneliness hit him. Oh,
great! He’s not gone half
an hour and I miss him already. This
gets easier, right?
quickly changed into his tight swimsuit, then threw a pair of baggy shorts
on over it. Once he had put
on a shirt, he went across the hall.
Trixie’s door was open. Just
as he expected, she was sitting on the window seat, staring, unseeingly,
out the window.
sitting in the middle of the seat, so there was enough room between her
back and the wall for Mart to sit down behind her. He leaned forward and rested his chin on her shoulder.
“It looks like it’s just you and me, kid,” he whispered.
in a shaky breath, Trixie gave him a wan smile. “Is that a promise or a threat?”
see his sister’s sense of humor wasn’t completely gone, he waggled his
eyebrows and grinned evilly. “A
threat. Most definitely a
laughed out loud. She turned
around and threw her arms around his neck.
Hugging him tightly, she said, “Just don’t you go
anywhere, you hear?”
hugged her back. “The only
place I’m going right now is the Lynches’ pool party.
And I’m dragging you with me, you hear?”
With that he pushed her back and said, “Now hurry up and get
ready. I’ll wait
Lynches kept everyone occupied all day Saturday. They followed the pool party with a barbecue, a movie
marathon in their home theater room, and a sleepover.
On Sunday they organized a volleyball tournament and a trip to the
mall in White Plains, keeping all the kids too busy to miss anyone.
The Wheelers and the Beldens returned home late Sunday night.
The rest of the week went by in a flash.
Wheeler and Mrs. Belden attempted to cope with their birds leaving the
nest by spending every waking moment of that week with their other
children. They organized
three shopping trips for school clothes with their own girls and Sherry
and Di Lynch. Madeleine
Wheeler directed her mother-henning toward Dan Mangan, as well.
On Friday, she and Helen took Dan and Mart on their own school
the mothers were so engaged Friday afternoon, the Bob-White girls met up
at the lake for a swim. Honey
swam several laps of the entire lake before collapsing on a towel next to
Diana and Trixie.
looked at her in amazement. “How
do you have the energy to swim that far?” Di asked.
groaned. “I was just trying
to work off my frustrations. My
mother is suffocating me!”
snorted. “Before you moved
here she never spent any time with you.
Now she’s suffocating you. Aren’t
you ever happy, Miss Wheeler?” She
arched her brow in Honey’s direction, a teasing glint in her eye.
laughed. “I guess I should
be grateful for her attention, huh?”
shrugged her shoulders. “I
think they’ll get past this smothering stage in a couple of weeks.
They’ll get used to Jim and Brian being away, and life will go
back to normal.”
sobered suddenly and looked at her mournfully.
“No, it won’t. It
can’t be normal when Jim and Brian aren’t here.”
stared off into the distance. She
spoke thoughtfully. “Two
years ago, normal didn’t involve any of us being together.
We change, we grow, we adapt.
If we stayed frozen in time at fourteen forever, we’d never get
the chance to accomplish any of our dreams.”
girls were quiet for a long moment. Trixie
continued, still in that far away voice.
“The Bob-Whites have had the opportunity of a lifetime: to become
the great friends we are. Now we have the challenge of a lifetime: to stay that way.
Nothing worth having is ever easy.”
very long silence, she shook her head to refocus her attention.
Then she turned to her friends with an impish grin. “Now
I have a real mystery to solve.” At
their puzzled looks she continued, “Why am I looking forward to school
and Di groaned loudly, then pushed Trixie back into the water.
She surfaced, splashing, and the Honey and Di jumped in after her.
The three friends resumed their playful swim, relishing the last
days of summer vacation.
them noticed the figure hidden in the woods, intently watching their every
Monday, the entire Wheeler, Belden and Lynch families gathered at the
Wheeler’s lake for the annual Labor Day picnic.
The extended families included everyone who was “like family,”
such as Miss Trask, Mr. Maypenny, Regan and Dan, Tom and Celia Delanoy,
and Mr. Lytell. It was a
large gathering, with lots of laughter and playful good spirits.
young people spent some part of the day playing tag in the lake, or
getting involved in a volleyball or softball game.
The adults either joined in or sat by the lake, chatting and
bemoaning that youth is wasted on the young.
Trixie, usually the most energetic competitor in such sporting
events, instead spent the entire day in a lounge chair reading a book.
Finally, during a break between games, Di plopped down in the chair
next to her. “Whatcha doin’?”
never looked up. “What does
it look like?”
rolled her eyes. “Obviously,
you’re reading. Why now?
Is the book really that good?”
concentrated on finishing the paragraph she was reading.
After a moment she looked up at Di.
“Actually, it is. I was supposed to have read the first four chapters before
school starts Wednesday for English Lit.
But when I started, I couldn’t put it down.
I’ve only got two chapters left.
I just want to finish it.”
was evident in Diana’s expression.
“You mean you’re doing homework?” she fairly shrieked.
looked startled, then chuckled ruefully.
“Yeah, I guess I am.” Then
she turned back to her book and became deeply absorbed once again.
overheard this exchange from their position manning the grill, Mart and
Mr. Belden stood and stared at her. Peter
turned and raised an eyebrow at Helen where she was setting out the
condiments. She gave him a
sharp look that said very clearly: Don’t mess with a good thing.
Leave her alone!
later, Trixie finally closed the book.
She stared off into space for a few long minutes.
Then she reached under her chair and pulled out a notebook and pen.
She furrowed her brow in concentration, and began to write.
Her hand flew over the paper for another hour. Ten pages later, she put down her pen and closed the
swam up to the dock in front of her.
“Okay, oh scholarly one. Be
done with school for the day and have a swim.”
smiled at him. “I just had
to organize my thoughts before they left my head.
I know I’d never catch them if I lost them.
Thoughts are much harder to retrieve than jewel thieves,” she
giggled as she put away the notebook.
laughed with her. “Well,
now that your thoughts are caught, catch up on the fun.
Come on in!” With
that he grabbed her hand and pulled her into the water.
swam and played for a while longer before it was time to start cleaning
up. Trixie was the first one
out of the lake to help clean up, without any complaints.
looked at Helen and whispered, “Trixie working hard is normal, but when
she’s supposed to be having fun instead?
Not to mention skipping the fun in favor of schoolwork?”
shrugged. “Maybe she’s
trying to fill in Brian’s footsteps.
Someone around here has to be serious and studious.”
eyebrows shot up. “But Trixie?!
If that happens, it’s going to be much too quiet around
here.” And the mothers