October 27, 1995
enough, the school day turned out to be uneventful.
The Bob-Whites attributed the calm to Beth’s absence and were
grateful for whatever “ailment” had caused her to stay home sick.
The many friends involved in the effort to sway the cheerleaders
had been very convincing, and the squad was all on their side.
The actual form of punishment, however, had been left completely
in the hands of Sally Andrews – just to be sure none of Trixie’s
friends could be blamed.
school that day, everyone was feeling good.
They were looking forward to the weekend and laughing and joking
around. Mart was so wrapped
up in having fun that he almost missed Trixie trying to sneak away.
When they left the building to head for the bus, she turned in
the opposite direction. Catching
this out of the corner of his eye, Mart stopped short.
he called after her. “Where
are you going?”
she heard her name, Trixie cringed.
She had hoped to slip away unnoticed.
She turned to face Mart and answered vaguely, “I just have an
errand to run. I’ll be
tried to walk away again, but Mart wasn’t going to let it drop that
easily. He caught her by
the arm. “What kind of
to raise her eyes to meet his, Trixie shuffled her feet. “I just… I need to go see the Sarge, okay?”
both her objective and her reluctance to discuss it, Mart was
sympathetic. He gave her
arm a squeeze before letting go. “Do
you want me to come back to town and pick you up later?”
finally looked up at her brother and saw the compassion on his face.
She offered a tentative smile.
“No, I’ll be fine.”
I’ll cover for you at home.
Just call if you need me.”
Mart.” This time the
smile was genuine, and then she hurried down the street.
first stop was at Crimper’s Department Store.
She went into the men’s department and purchased a package of
handkerchiefs similar to the one Sergeant Molinson had loaned her
earlier in the week and had them gift-wrapped.
Then she went to the police station and asked to see the man she
formerly had considered her worst nightmare.
he greeted her, Wendell Molinson was gruff and grumbly as always.
“Belden, what kind of trouble are you bringing me today?”
too bad, Sarge,” she replied off-handedly.
“I was just hoping to walk safely through the park.”
a barely perceptible softening of his features, Molinson nodded.
He grabbed his radio and his hat, then gave instructions to
another officer. “Warren,
keep an eye on things here ‘til I get back,” he said brusquely,
before escorting Trixie out the door.
driving in his squad car to the park, the big policeman and the little
detective walked for a while, talking about nothing in particular. Although they were supposed to be getting heavy squalls from
the remnants of a hurricane that weekend, there was no sign of it yet.
The weather was cloudy and cool, but still nice.
Eventually, Trixie plopped down on a bench and stared off into
space. Molinson sat down
beside her, waiting patiently for her to work up the nerve to say what
she really wanted to say.
what happened…” she began softly.
She didn’t really want to bring up the painful story he’d
told her, but she needed to ask him something.
He nodded, indicating he understood and that it was okay.
She took a deep breath and continued, “Were there people who
treated you like you’d done something horrible?”
narrowed his eyes as he heard Madeleine Wheeler’s voice in his mind. “She’s
being harassed by a girl at school.”
What was he supposed to say to that?
How about, tell me who it is and I’ll haul them away, a
voice in his head suggested.
he chose a more diplomatic angle of attack.
“Any time anyone dies, there will be someone who’ll cause
problems. Even if you shot
Hitler himself while in the act of actually throwing the switch on a gas
chamber full of innocents, someone would have a problem with your
actions. The question is
whether or not that person’s opinion really matters.”
stroked his chin thoughtfully for a moment.
“When I shot Eric, I felt horrible.
I didn’t want to come home to Sleepyside for a very long time. And, when I finally did, the first person I ran into was his
eyes widened, anxiously waiting to hear what had happened.
went on, his voice rough with barely suppressed emotion. “She gave me a big hug.
She thanked me for all I had tried to do for her son and
apologized that his last acts had hurt me so much.
After that, it really didn’t matter what anyone else said.”
welled up in Trixie’s eyes. She
could just imagine a young Wendell’s face upon hearing those words.
turned to her and took her hand. “Trixie,
I can’t tell you that Luke’s mother would react the same way, but I
think you understand my point.”
nodded and wiped her tears with the back if her other hand.
He reached for his hankie, and she started to laugh.
She reached into her backpack and pulled out a wrapped package. “I almost forgot. I
brought something for you.”
didn’t have to do that,” he said as he opened the gift. When he saw the package of handkerchiefs, he laughed too.
figured I owed you, after slobbering all over the last one,” Trixie
said with a grin. “It
occurred to me that a chivalrous gentleman with a job like yours
probably loses a lot of those.”
a grin, he admitted, “Actually, I do.
shining with gratitude, she said, “It doesn’t begin to cover what
you’ve done for me.”
her his best stern look, but not even attempting to hide the twinkle in
his eye, he huffed, “I have to do something to keep you on my side of
the law. I’d hate to be
working against you.”
laughed together as they walked back to the car.
While he was driving her home, Wendell Molinson made a mental
note to pay a long-overdue visit to Eric Zack’s mother.
arrived home to find the other Bob-Whites in the kitchen. She gave Mart a look of inquiry as she hung up her jacket.
walked over to her, so the others wouldn’t overhear.
“I just wanted to check with you… We don’t really want to
see the movie that’s up at the Cameo, and we don’t want to hang
around at the Lynches’ house. Moms
and Dad are up at Manor House for the evening.
If you don’t mind, we’d like to rent a movie and hang out
here to watch it. We
won’t bother you, and you can just take the phone upstairs.”
broadly, because she was touched by his consideration, Trixie said
gently, “It’s your house, Mart.
Of course, you can hang out here.”
grinned in relief. Studying
her for a moment, he asked, “How did your errand go?”
she answered. She looked up
at him. When did he get
so tall? she wondered. With
a look of reassurance, she said, “Things are getting better.”
he nodded. “Hey, look…
we’re going to go get dinner and pick up the videos.
Do you want to come with us?
Or do you want us to get you anything?”
thanks. I’m just going to
go lay down for a while.” She
grinned impishly. “Fridays
are usually late nights.”
laughed. “Watch it,
Princess. I might not stay
stuck out her tongue at him, waved to the others, and ran up the stairs.
turned to Honey, Di, and Dan. “We’re
a go! Let’s make haste
with our preparations!”
settled comfortably into the window seat in her room, phone in hand,
promptly at seven-thirty. She
could hear the Bob-Whites downstairs, but she had no desire to join
them. Instead, she waited
for the phone to ring.
only had to wait thirty seconds. On
the first ring, she answered, “Crabapple Farm.”
laughed. “The first ring?
Are you anxious to speak with me, Miss Belden?”
smiled. Just hearing
Jim’s voice brightened her day. “Actually,
I was. I wanted to
apologize for my ridiculous behavior on Tuesday.”
worries, Trix. I wasn’t
on my best behavior that day, myself.”
I understand,” she grinned. “I’m
so proud of you!”
smarty, just because she deserves a lot worse doesn’t mean I should
lower myself to her level. I
prefer to think I’m better than she is.”
better, College Man. Much
that,” he said gently.
she whispered in response.
the lump from his throat, Jim asked, “So, anything new? Do anything exciting today?”
hesitated for a moment. “I…
I talked to Molinson.”
to keep his tone light, Jim prodded, “I heard you talked to him Monday
too. How did that go?”
He had some really helpful things to say, and he’s a lot more
understanding than I ever gave him credit for.
He really made himself available when I wanted to talk more.
It’s actually been good, knowing he’s there to help if I need
felt a wave of relief wash over him.
Maybe this was what she needed.
Maybe she really would get through this okay.
Unconsciously comparing himself to her, he said,
“Sometimes, it helps to talk about the tough things.”
thought she heard a slight catch in his voice.
Suddenly, her eyes flew to her wall calendar, and her heart
stopped. Oh, God, Jim…
She had to do something, say something, but he probably
wouldn’t like it.
with a teasing tone, she said, “Throwing my own words back at me, huh?
laughed. “I know good
advice when I hear it.”
why don’t you follow it?”
was a tense moment of silence. “Don’t
start, Trix,” he said tersely.
a soft and gentle voice, she pleaded, “You aren’t going to get
through tomorrow if you don’t talk about it.
voice was harsh and raw. “Cut
it out, Trixie. You don’t
understand.” With those
few words, he slammed the door shut on the topic so hard the sound
reverberated all the way to Sleepyside.
the echo started an avalanche. It
was probably the result of her own ragged emotional state, but Trixie
immediately lost her temper. She
started ranting, “Of course not!
How can anyone with two living parents ever understand anything
about you? Not that you’d
ever talk to anyone! God
forbid the great James Frayne should allow anyone into his mind or seek
help for his problems. No,
that would make too much sense! And
you have the gall to say I don’t understand you?
There isn’t anyone else in this world that does!
All I’m trying to do is help you, but if you don’t want my
help, fine! I won’t
bother ever again! Find
someone else willing to put up with your stubborn, mule-headed refusal
to let anyone get close to you!”
hung up on him, wishing she could slam a receiver down hard instead of
merely pushing a button. She
had to fight the urge to throw the phone across the room.
Trixie was instantly sorry for yelling at Jim, but she wasn’t
about to call him back. She
had meant what she said, even if the delivery had been poor.
Maybe this would be a kick in the pants for him, and he’d talk
to someone. If not, he was
going to be miserable. She
had so many problems of her own; she couldn’t deal with Jim’s
particular brand of misery right now.
But how can I not be there when he needs me?
What kind of best friend am I?
feeling claustrophobic, she ran down the stairs fully intending to run
out into the preserve, into the dark night, to hunt for the peaceful
heart she used to have. As
she reached the back door, a large clap of thunder alerted her to the
sounds of the wind and rain. The
hurricane had arrived, just in time to prevent her from escaping
outside. She slumped
against the door, leaning her forehead on the window, with one hand
still clutching her jacket and the other still resting on the doorknob.
and Diana entered the kitchen to retrieve more napkins and another
2-liter of pop, stopping short when they saw Trixie.
After exchanging a few concerned glances, Diana cautiously
I thought you were upstairs on the phone,” she began.
was,” Trixie sobbed.
then did Diana realize Trixie was crying.
She put an arm around her friend, who turned into her embrace and
wept. Mart bit back a groan
of frustration. His sister
had spent more time crying in the last two months than she had in the
entire rest of her life put together.
A weepy female was one thing… if it was Di, or Honey, or just
about anyone else. But,
when it was Trixie, the entire order of the universe was out of whack.
a few minutes of soothing from Di, Trixie was able to regain control.
Trying to understand why Trixie was so upset, Diana probed
gently, “What happened?”
released a shuddering sigh. “I
lost my temper. I said
awful, hateful things and hung up on him, and he’ll never speak to me
again,” she lamented.
threw Mart a puzzled glance, thinking she was talking about Brian. Mart stepped over and rested a comforting hand on Trixie’s
shoulder. “If your temper
was enough to make Jim stop talking to you, your friendship never
would’ve survived day one.”
now, Di nodded. “You’ll
both calm down, it’ll all blow over, and everything will go back to
shook her head emphatically. “No,
it won’t! I was only
trying to help, but he’s there and I’m here, and he’s stubborn and
I’m hot-tempered, and the stupid phone is not the way to do this…”
She stamped her foot in frustration.
poked her head into the kitchen. “Hey,
guys, what’s taking so long?” Her
eyes widened when she saw Trixie. “What’s
shrugged. “She’s mad at
your brother,” he said nonchalantly.
grinned. “Oh, is that
is NOT funny!” Trixie yelled.
appeared behind Honey. “What’s
the screaming for?”
answered with a twinkle in her eye.
“Trixie thinks we’re not taking her seriously.
She also thinks Jim will never speak to her again.”
snorted. “Oh, that’s
likely,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
IT!!” Trixie screamed, arms waving wildly.
The strength of her outburst silenced the group.
Trixie clutched her hair in her hands, leaned her back against
the door, and sank slowly to the floor.
Keeping her eyes down, her voice barely above a whisper, she
tried to explain, “Everyone around here wants to lecture me about
talking about stuff that’s bothering me. You’re all the biggest bunch of hypocrites I’ve ever met,
and he’s at the top of the list!”
struggled to control the trembling in her hands, evidence of both her
harsh anger and the explosive pain in her head.
Taking a ragged breath, she went on, “Don’t you remember how
tense and withdrawn he was last year during Homecoming week?
Well, tomorrow is his father’s birthday.
I’m sure he’s never bothered to tell any of you that, not
even his own sister. And
he’s shutting down again, and he’s out there, with people who
don’t know him well enough to even figure out something’s bothering
him. He’s just gonna
ignore it and bottle it all up even more. And he had the nerve to tell me that I couldn’t
Honey’s eyes filled with tears. Mart
shifted uncomfortably, while Di exchanged a meaningful glance with Dan.
Nodding to Diana, Dan moved to sit on the floor in front of
Trixie. “Did you give him
Trixie nodded listlessly.
grabbed one of her hands and gave it a gentle tug, willing her to look
at him. “What did you
finally looked up at him, a pained expression on her face. “I started out with rude remarks about how he thinks
someone with two living parents could never understand the mind of the
great James Frayne, and I went straight downhill from there.”
struggled to contain a smile. “You’re
right; he’s probably furious with you at the moment.
But, darlin’, I think he needed to hear what you said.
Besides, don’t you owe him a lecture or two… or twelve?”
managed a rueful chuckle. “At
you ever stopped speaking to him permanently just because he lectured
you?” Dan asked.
a wan smile, Trixie answered, “No, of course not.”
right then,” Dan said with a nod, as if closing the subject.
“He’ll get over it.”
snorted. ”Yeah, right
after he kills me for telling you all of this.”
he won’t,” Honey said, kneeling down beside her friend.
“We aren’t going to say a word.
I’m taking this to a higher authority.”
At Trixie’s quizzical look, Honey smiled. “Who’s the one person around here who might actually know
Winthrop Frayne’s birthday?”
smiled at her friend, as Honey nodded decisively.
“I’ll have Daddy call him tomorrow while we’re out
shopping. He’ll take care
of him, Trix.”
in a sea of relief, Trixie visibly relaxed.
Dan stood, then grabbed her hands and pulled her to her feet.
“Come on, Freckles. Sit
and visit with us until Brian calls, and don’t worry about Jim any
gave grateful hugs to both Dan and Honey and allowed herself to be led
into the family room. Di
turned to Mart, who had said very little throughout the exchange with
his sister and had followed her exit from the room with a worried frown.
waved a hand in front of his face.
“Earth to Mart.”
his arms across his chest, he glared at her.
“That was not a normal reaction to a fight with Jim.
Hell, that wasn’t a normal reaction to anything.”
Di said, “I know. But has
anything been normal around here lately?”
Mart acknowledged, clenching his jaw.
“I’m just worried about her.”
smiled and playfully tried to distract him by running her fingers up and
down his arm. “That‘s
‘cause you’re such a good big brother,” she purred.
knew he was done. He was
putty in Diana’s hands when she got like this.
Deciding to enjoy the moment, he wrapped his arms around her and
nuzzled her neck. She felt
his tension ease as she toyed with the hair on the back of his neck and
was glad to see him relax.
you keep your lines of communication open, don’t smother her, and be
there when she needs you, you’ll both be fine,” she reassured him. “I have faith in you.”
took a moment to bask in the glow of the love shining in her eyes.
How he got lucky enough to capture her heart, he’d never know,
but he was eternally grateful. He
claimed her lips with his, thanking her in his own way.
A long moment later, she reluctantly ended the kiss.
should join the others,” she whispered.
He nodded, stealing one more kiss before leading her to the
arrived at church a good fifteen minutes early for choir practice and
looked around to see if Chris or Sarah had arrived yet.
He found them in a corner, engaged in a heated discussion.
walked up and casually draped an arm around Sarah’s shoulder. “Let me guess: You’re
shredding him to pieces for setting us both up.”
somehow managed to give Tad a welcoming smile while still glaring at
sighed in exasperation. “Look,
doing this would help both Tad and Trixie, not to mention saving my
butt. If I had let Tad get
stuck going with Beth, Trixie would’ve killed me.”
grinned. “Don’t you
just love it when he gets flustered?”
laughed. “Mr. Perfect is
a little off-balance tonight, isn’t he?”
glared at them both. “Laugh
it up, fuzzballs.” After
several more moments, he gave in and laughed with them.
questioned Tad. “He’s
got it bad, doesn’t he?”
nodded. “She’s worth
it, though. And very easy
to fall for.” He and
Chris exchanged a look of understanding.
shook her head ruefully. “Leave
it to you two to be stupid enough to fall for the same girl.
You’re going to be impossible to live with.”
was Chris’ turn to grin. “Well,
we have impeccable taste. We’re
both friends with you, remember?”
her eyes, Sarah asked, “I walked right into that one, didn’t I?”
Tad said, “Yes, you did. Now,
what’s the verdict?”
gave him a mischievous smile. “I
have a better idea. Allow
me to make you an offer you can’t refuse…”
Wheeler pulled the door of the library closed behind him, leaving Helen
and Peter to continue their conversation in private.
He grabbed his wife by the elbow and dragged her down the hall,
not saying a word until they were in the study with that door closed as
at Madeleine, Matt huffed, “You could have warned me!”
shrugged helplessly. “It
wasn’t my story to tell, Matthew.”
husband paced restlessly before her, running a large hand roughly
through his red hair. “Did
you see the look on Pete’s face?
You could’ve knocked him over with a feather.”
Maddie said, “Helen was afraid of that.”
stopped in front of her. “You
don’t get it, Maddie! He’s
not bothered by what she said, as much as the fact that he didn’t know
what was going on. Talking
to you before him is one thing; going to a psychiatrist without ever
talking to him about the problem is a whole other matter!”
grabbed her arms and stared intently into her eyes.
“Promise me, Maddie. Promise
me you’d never do that. If
something’s bothering you, talk to me first.
gave him a tender smile and reached up to stroke his cheek. “I promise, my love. I
will always go to you first.”
crushed her in a fierce embrace, burying his face in her hair. “We’ve had to work too hard to get where we are, darling.
We can’t afford to let anything come between us.”
shuddered, remembering the stiff formality and cool indifference that
had plagued their relationship in years gone by.
She clung to him and reassured him, “I couldn’t bear to go
back to that place, Matt. I
won’t take any chances on that.”
relaxed his hold on her a little and kissed her forehead. “This has been hard on you, hasn’t it?”
sighed. “Not as bad as
you think. It’s just
been… strange. When we
first moved here, I was actually intimidated by Helen.
I thought she was the perfect mother.
I wanted to be like her, but knew I’d never be.
I have spent the last two years leaning on her, learning from
her, and relying on her advice. We’re
friends, but I’ve always felt like the student or the younger
giving her husband an embarrassed look, Maddie grimaced. “This is horrible of me, but having the chance to help her
has felt good. I finally
feel like I have something to offer besides money.
Like our friendship is a mutual thing, instead of just Helen
taking pity on me.”
caressed his wife’s cheek. “You
should tell her that some time. Knowing
Helen, she probably feels horrible about being a burden to you.”
nodded and smiled up at him. “Thank
you for being here.”
her smile, Matt said, “You said you needed me.
That’s reason enough.” He
ran his hand lovingly through her hair.
“Besides, I was here for Peter too.
Pete Belden is the one friend I really trust.”
a rueful shake of his head, he continued, “It’s funny, but the only
person I believe isn’t interested in my money is the one who could
most benefit from having some. I
guess that’s why I trust Pete: He
could ask me for so much, but he doesn’t.
All he asks for is a friend.
That’s why he’ll always get at least that much from me.”
laid her head on his shoulder and snuggled in closer.
“I know I’ve said it before, but buying this house was the
smartest thing you’ve ever done.”
his cheek against her soft, honey-colored hair, he had to agree.
“I’ve never regretted it – no matter how many grey hairs
Trixie has given me.”
unlocked the door of his suite, fully expecting to find Jim sprawled on
the sofa, phone in hand. The
emptiness of the room surprised him, as did the phone sitting on its
base on the end table. Noticing
Jim’s jacket on the hook by the door, Brian wandered down the hall to
their shared bedroom.
lay flat on his back, staring at the ceiling.
If Brian wasn’t mistaken, there actually seemed to be streaks
of dried tears on his cheeks. This
can’t be good…
a purposefully casual pose, Brian leaned a shoulder on the doorjamb,
hands in the front pockets of his jeans.
Opting for a light manner but a direct question, he asked,
“Which one of you lost their temper?”
Jim jumped up before focusing on the figure in the doorway.
Scowling, he sat back against the headboard and ran a hand
through his disheveled hair. “She
did,” he snapped.
you deserve it?”
didn’t answer for the longest time.
He was hoping Brian would just go away.
However, while Brian might not have had red hair, he certainly
had a stubborn streak a mile wide.
He had to have, in order to survive growing up with Mart and
Trixie. Ignoring the set of
Jim’s jaw, Brian finally repeated the question.
you deserve it?” he asked again, this time drawing out every word
in exasperation, Jim growled, “Yes, Big Brother, I deserved it!”
an eyebrow, Brian contemplated the situation.
Jim was obviously annoyed with himself for pushing her to the
edge of her temper. Of
course, Trixie was historically almost as short-tempered as Jim himself,
so that didn’t really mean much.
Without moving from his position, Brian decided to dig deeper.
expecting the protective-of-Trixie routine, Jim looked up at his
roommate in surprise. He
answered hesitantly, “Maybe.”
uncertainty heightened Brian’s curiosity.
It also made him more cautious about what to say next.
“Who hung up on whom?”
hung up on me, after basically telling me she was never speaking to me
on earth did you do to deserve that?” Brian couldn’t contain his
Jim answered, “I sort of told her she didn’t understand me.”
snorted in disgust. “Son,
she’s the only one who does.”
rolled his eyes, while Brian chewed his lip thoughtfully for a few
minutes. Finally, Brian
offered a tentative opinion. “Maybe
that’s your problem.”
you, too!” Jim buried his
face in his hands.
Brian asked, “You mean she told you to find someone else in whom to
Jim took forever to answer, Brian wondered how long his friend thought
he could drag out this conversation.
He almost missed Jim’s faint answer.
“After I refused to talk to her.”
all the pieces fell into place. Brian
shook his head at the redhead’s hypocrisy.
“Right before this discussion, what were you talking about?”
great conversation she had with Molinson.”
an idiot, you know that?”
only answer was a bleak nod.
suite door slammed behind Brian, and John’s voice rumbled down the
Where the hell are you?”
turned toward the sound. “He’s
in here sulking. What do
in their direction, John poked his head in the doorway. “Dude! The
gang’s waiting for you. Preacher
and Angie are ready to leave without you, Clay wants to come back up
here and smack you, and Chelsea thinks she’s being stood up.”
Brian turned to Jim. “Chelsea?
Haven’t you gone out with her before?”
looking up, Jim gave a weak nod. “Yeah.”
my God!” John exclaimed, placing one hand dramatically over his heart.
“A girl made it to second-date status?”
glared. “Go to hell.”
sighed. “Jim, just go
out. Have a few drinks. Chill. Let me
try to straighten things out with Trixie.”
rolled his eyes. Trixie
again? Does Jim EVER have a
problem that doesn’t involve Trixie?
Trying to be helpful, John encouraged his friend to take
Brian’s advice and join the party.
“Come on, Jimbo. Patty
Barber is tending bar tonight. She’ll
take GOOD care of you!”
finally stood and proceeded towards the exit with a listless shamble.
Brian looked at John. “Make
sure he has plenty. That
boy seriously needs to tie one on.”
nodded and grinned. “Don’t
worry. I can handle it.”
they left, Brian sighed with relief.
He still had to call Trixie, which would be a chore and a half,
but he was used to dealing with her.
When the hell did I become big brother to Jim too?
He decided that, before calling Sleepyside, it might be a good
idea to have a beer himself.