large kitchen at Manor House was fairly crowded.
Madeleine Wheeler was discussing the menu for the weekend with
Cook and Miss Trask, while Matt Wheeler sat at the table with Regan and
Tom, discussing estate business. Celia
poured coffee for the men, while Honey just sat contentedly in the
corner, watching them all. There
was something so homey about a crowded kitchen, even in this spacious
mansion, which provided a comforting shelter from the storm raging just
outside the windows.
quiet chattering was interrupted by a loud pounding at the kitchen door.
Honey rushed to answer it, startled to find a drenched Mart
quivering in the roaring wind. She
quickly pulled him inside so she could shut out the storm.
immediately turned toward the men now standing at attention around the
table, panic filling his voice. “You’ve
got to help me! I can’t
find her. She’s out there somewhere!”
the answer already, Regan asked the question anyway.
“Who’s out there, Mart?”
His voice cracked, and he seemed to be on the verge of tears.
“She had a big fight with my parents, and she ran out.
She’s out there, and I can’t find her.”
green eyes met Maddie’s anxious hazel ones.
Evidently, circumstances in the Belden household were getting
worse instead of better. He
sighed before taking control of the situation.
“Margery, call Maypenny and have him and Dan meet us out there.
Regan, Tom, grab your raincoats.
Mart, stay here and dry off.”
the time her father had finished issuing orders, Honey had brought him
his own coat. Seeing the
fear in her eyes, he gave her a reassuring hug.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart.
We’ll find her.”
moved to follow the men, but Maddie took him in hand.
“Let’s get you dried off and warmed up.
Then you can explain to me what happened.”
a moment of indecision, Mart nodded reluctantly.
While his heart told him to rush back out into the storm and
search for his sister, his head told him that, right now, Maddie Wheeler
was probably the only person in whom he could confide.
The others would find his sister, but Trixie needed a lot more
help than just being pulled in out of the rain.
and Cook had scurried out of the room, having been given tasks elsewhere
by Maddie as she left the room with Mart.
Honey found herself alone in the kitchen, breathless from the
whirlwind that had just blown through.
Staring out the window at the storm, she felt so utterly
helpless. She said a quick,
heartfelt prayer for her friend’s safety and wished desperately that
she could do more.
and Chelsea sat in the car in the lonely cemetery.
The rain was not nearly as bad in Rochester as it had been for
most of the trip, but it was still coming down steadily.
At the least, the downpour made for a good excuse not to rush out
of the car.
Jim started telling Chelsea about his father.
They sat there for two hours while he told story after story from
his childhood. The longer he talked, the deeper he dug past the pain of his
father’s funeral until he was wading in visions of love and laughter.
For once, thinking about the happy times didn’t hurt.
he finally fell silent, he focused his attention on the field of graves
before him. Jim hadn’t
been here since the funeral and had never, in fact, seen the headstone.
But the memories of that day were emblazoned in his mind, and he
didn’t need to be told where to look.
Without a word, he took a deep breath before getting out of the
car and walking to his father’s resting place.
waited in the car, giving Jim some time alone with his father and his
memories. When he returned,
she graciously pretended the tears running down his face were just
set?” she asked. Her voice was subdued, bowing to the solemnity of the moment.
nodded without looking at her. His
mind was elsewhere, and he was reluctant to return to the present.
started the car and headed back to the highway that had brought them
here. Seeing that Jim was
not in a talking mood, she placed a CD of classical music in the player,
hoping the soothing sounds would ease the silence.
couple of hours down I-90, Jim turned to Chelsea.
“Thank you for this.”
welcome. Believe it or not,
driving you around was better than anything else I had planned for
chuckled, a genuine smile filling his handsome face.
“Would you mind terribly doing one more thing for me?”
Chelsea asked, “Like what?”
another detour. I’d really like to talk to Dad.
We could swing by Sleepyside, and you could at least get a good
meal and some sleep. Would
filled the air. With a twinkle in her eye, Chelsea answered, “I told you I
spent all my time in high school reading magazines about the rich and
powerful. As a business
major, Matt Wheeler is one of my idols.
Do I look dumb enough to turn down an invitation to his house?”
back at her, Jim said, “Well, you don’t look that dumb… but
looks can be deceiving. I
just had to check.”
stuck out her tongue at him, while mentally calculating the distance to
the turnoff for I-87 south. Chelsea
thought about the fact that she was teasing and joking around with this
incredible, handsome guy who was now taking her home to meet his
parents. Even with a
seven-hour detour to a cemetery, this date was turning out much better
than she could have imagined.
Trixie had rushed out of the kitchen, she had had no conscious thought
other than to get away… away from the pain, away from the pressure,
away from the nightmares, away from the guilt.
This chaos was all her fault.
She kept thinking that she had actually driven her mother crazy,
the words reverberating over and over in her mind.
With each repetition another wave of despair and agony crashed
into her, battering her heart and soul.
ran until her heart was pounding so hard that she couldn’t breathe.
She had to slow down, not because she wanted to, but because she
had no energy left. Then
she slipped on the wet leaves under her feet and went flying, crashing
to a sudden halt and landing face first in the mud.
The blood surged through her head at such a frantic pace it felt
like it would crash through her skull.
The dank, gritty taste of dirt in her mouth was the straw that
finally broke the camel’s back, and she heaved what breakfast she had
eaten all over the sodden leaves in front of her.
the walls of her stomach ceased their attempt to climb out her throat
and gradually settled back to their rightful position, she fought to
restore oxygen to her lungs. Slowly
and weakly crawling away from the mess, Trixie collapsed limply a few
yards away. A remote part
of her mind registered that she was in the same clearing by the brook
where she and Jim had sat and laughed only the previous weekend. It seemed so very long ago.
Jim seemed so far away. Laughter
seemed so foreign.
she was alone and afraid. She
felt like she was trapped inside some hideous bubble that was cutting
off her oxygen and suffocating her.
Her friends were all right there, in plain sight, but they
couldn’t see the bubble or hear her cries.
They were there, within a hand’s reach, but the bubble was too
strong. It was crushing
her, and she was going to die alone, in the middle of the crowd.
let the tears come. She was
tired of crying, but at this moment tears were all she had left.
The agony in her heart exploded in loud, racking sobs, but the
sound was lost in the raging cry of the storm around her.
had taken a quick shower and thrown on an old sweat suit of Jim’s.
Now, he was anxiously pacing the length of Mr. Wheeler’s study,
where Mrs. Wheeler had taken him for a private conversation.
At her urging, Mart told Maddie the story of this morning’s
encounter between Trixie and their parents.
When he finished relating his own explosion at the end, he was
rather red-faced, but Maddie just smiled reassuringly, giving him the
encouragement to continue. Feeling
she was someone on whom he could rely, Mart confided in Maddie about
several other things that were bothering him.
concern isn’t just about this morning, Mrs. Wheeler,” Mart began.
“Even before this latest incident, I needed to find someone I
could talk to.” He
hesitated, searching for balance. He
was so used to being fairly well grown up; going to an adult for
assistance seemed like taking the child’s way out.
The only adults he would normally consider helpful and
trustworthy were his parents; obviously they weren’t going to be any
help right now. But he
couldn’t handle this alone, and his sister was more important than his
pride. He took a deep
breath and plunged ahead. “Trixie
frowned. “What kind of
help, Mart?” she asked.
don’t know… counseling, I guess.”
Mart groaned in aggravation.
“Brian thinks she has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
He then related his conversation with Brian from the night
before, including all the details about Beth.
leaned against the desk, arms firmly folded across her chest and lips
pressed tightly together. “Medical training aside, do you agree with Brian’s
nodded. “I agreed last
night. And that was before
Trixie told me about her nightmares.”
an eyebrow, Maddie asked, “What nightmares?”
from the memory, Mart responded, “They’re awful.
She told me all about seeing every criminal she’s ever
encountered coming back for revenge.
They’re each attacking one of the Bob-Whites or our families.
She gave me vivid details, encompassing all five senses, of
graphic torture in specific ways. I’m
not sure I can even remember all she told me, but I do remember her
talking about Tilney Britten kidnapping Diana and Pierre Lontard
assaulting Honey. But the
two that were really bothering her were Dan and Jim.”
Mart stopped speaking, Maddie waited for him to continue.
Even after her gently prodding, “Go on,” he hesitated, as if
unwilling to venture into Trixie’s darkness.
Mart spoke again. “In her dreams, Luke is repeatedly stabbing Dan.
Except that Trixie has already blown his face off, so it’s a
nearly decapitated Luke that’s doing it.
Lots of blood and gore in that description.
And Jim…” His
voice trailed off, and he spent several moments clenching his jaw and
swallowing hard before he could continue.
got a detailed mental picture of Jonesy tying Jim to a bed and
horse-whipping him, all the while saying he’d have left Jim alone if
it weren’t for ‘that meddling girl’.
It’s like she believes Jonesy’ll come after Jim again, and
it’ll be all her fault.”
God!” Maddie threw her head back and moaned.
“I think Brian’s right… this is definitely going to require
professional help. Of
course, after her reaction to your mother’s announcement this morning,
I’m sure it’s going to take some serious strong-arm tactics to get
Trixie to a psychiatrist.”
leaned against the desk, relieved to have talked to someone about his
worries. Maddie took his
place pacing the room, while she tried to think of a solution for
raging clouds blackened the heavens, giving the mid-morning sky the
appearance of a dark and stormy night.
Matt Wheeler held his arm across the front of his face in a vain
attempt to protect it from the pelting rain as he squinted at the
landscape before him, the shadows of the preserve barely illuminated by
on earth would they ever find Trixie in this weather?
then, he spotted a strange coloration in one of the many puddles along
the path. Kneeling to
examine the spot, he was fairly certain it was vomit.
He grimaced, rather glad the storm was rinsing the land clean and
the wind had already whisked the scent away.
Matt also took heart from the discovery; Trixie couldn’t be
his flashlight along the ground near where he knelt, Matt looked for
some indication of Trixie’s travels.
Despite the rain, he was able to find drag marks through the
trail of leaves and follow them. About fifteen yards away, he found a muddy rise in the trail.
After a moment he realized the lump was actually a huddled human
he approached her, Matt could hear Trixie’s choking sobs.
What truly broke his heart, though, was hearing her whimper,
“Please, God, just let me die.”
a chance, Little One,” Matt said, as he gently lifted her out of the
mud. “He has much more
important things in mind for you than that.”
a weak attempt to struggle against his help, Trixie cried, “Just leave
straddled the large log that dominated the clearing, and sat Trixie down
in front of him. He held
her against his chest while he shrugged out of his raincoat to wrap it
around her. Lines of
concern creased his brow; he didn’t like her apparent mental state.
“I would never just leave you!
Don’t you know you’re as precious to me as my own
how many times have I almost gotten them killed?” she sobbed, arguing
with him even as she leaned against him, unconsciously seeking his
held her against him, trying to shelter and comfort her.
He couldn’t imagine what demons were plaguing her to cause this
line of thinking. “That
doesn’t matter. Any
trouble you’ve gotten my kids into has been far outweighed by the good
you’ve done for my family. Besides,”
he said, trying to inject some humor into his voice, “you provide the
adventure in our lives.”
d-don’t want any m-more adventure,” she sputtered, her teeth
beginning to chatter.
wave of shock washed over Matt. This
was not Trixie talking. “Well,
you could certainly use a break from it for awhile.
More importantly, you need to get out of this storm.
Now, put your arms around my neck.”
Trixie wearily obeyed, Matt easily lifted her.
In fact, as he carried her towards safety he wondered how she
could possibly, soaking wet and covered in mud, still feel so light.
He would have to mention that to Maddie, along with their
ahead, he heard Dan calling out Trixie’s name.
Matt headed for the source of the sound and whistled as he went.
Bob, bob-white. He
was once again grateful that Jim had taught them all that whistle.
hurried toward Matt. Trixie’s arms were around Matt’s neck, her head on his
shoulder and her eyes closed. She
was pale, drenched in mud, and seemingly oblivious to her surroundings.
Looking worriedly at the man carrying her, Dan asked, “Is she
nodded. “I’ve just got
to get her inside and dried off. Find
your uncle and the others and have everyone head back to Manor House.”
rushed off to do his bidding, and Matt hurried for the shelter of the
mansion on the hill.
burst through the doors of the study.
“Daddy’s back! He’s got Trixie!”
turned around and ran for the front hall, with Mart and Maddie right on
her heels. Matt had already
reached the bottom of the main staircase, tossing orders over his
shoulder as he went.
Dan was rounding up the others and bringing them back here.
Make sure Cook’s got something hot for them to drink, and help
them get dried off and warmed up. Margery,
come help get Trixie cleaned up.”
countermanded his instructions. “Honey,
Mart, go help Cook. Celia,
come upstairs with us. Matt,
please take her to the Blue Room.”
carried his shivering, sodden burden up the wide staircase, uncaring of
the water and mud he was dripping onto the plush maroon carpet.
Maddie hurried past him. “Miss
Trask and I will see to Trixie, Matt.
You need to get yourself cleaned up.”
started to follow her parents up the staircase, but Mart put out an arm
to stop her. “Maybe we should do what your mother asked.”
shocked Honey whirled on Mart, but stopped short when she saw his face.
He followed Trixie’s progress up the stairs with his eyes,
clearly struggling to contain his own desire to take charge of helping
his sister. At that moment, it dawned on Honey that she had more than one
friend in a lot of pain today.
a weak smile onto his face, Mart turned to her.
“Besides, I don’t want to give my sister a bath.
Ick factor and all, you know.”
his smile, Honey grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze.
“Come on. Let’s
go help Cook and wait for Dan.”
two reluctantly turned away from the staircase and went to the large
kitchen at the rear of the house.
after carefully setting Trixie on the bed in the guest room Maddie had
selected, Matt pulled his wife aside.
“Maddie, she asked me to leave her there to die,” he
ran a hand through her hair, groaning in frustration.
“That sounds about right.
After I take care of her, I’ll tell you about my discussion
with Mart. Go take a shower
first, darling, before you catch your death of pneumonia.”
very tense Matt exited the room, leaving the women to their
ministrations. While Celia
drew a hot bath, Miss Trask went to call Dr. Ferris. Maddie tended to Trixie herself.
The young woman stirred and wakened just as Maddie was undressing
her. Maddie soothed her,
finishing her task and helping Trixie to the tub.
She had expected a protest; Trixie was usually so independent.
When she was met by no resistance, only listless compliance,
Maddie’s worry increased.
she bathed her, Maddie asked Trixie about the incident that morning.
What little Trixie said matched the substance of Mart’s
account, except that she kept talking about everything being her fault,
and Trixie’s every word and expression was laden with the intense
guilt she was feeling. Seeing
how agitated Trixie was getting, Maddie changed the subject to
nonsensical things, trying to reassure her and calm her down.
the time Maddie was done, Celia and Miss Trask had removed all the muddy
garments, put clean linens on the bed, retrieved a warm nightgown, and
brought up some hot chocolate and some warm broth.
Once Trixie was settled in the bed, Dr. Ferris, who had rushed
right over, came in and checked her out.
After a brief visit with the distraught girl, he gave her a
sedative and ordered her to sleep.
then led Dr. Ferris to the study, where Matt was waiting for them.
The three closed themselves off for a very long discussion.
When they were done, they left the house together and headed for
Crabapple Farm. They said
nothing to anyone else, except to let Miss Trask know they were leaving.
her parents were behind closed doors, Honey tried to go upstairs to see
Trixie. Miss Trask stopped
her at the top of the stairs and sent her back down, saying Trixie was
sleeping and Mrs. Wheeler had ordered that she not be disturbed.
Thoroughly frustrated, Honey then dragged Dan and Mart into the
library. She called Di and
told her to get over to Manor House ASAP.
Then she began to interrogate Mart.
Mart shared the morning’s encounter, although he seemed
reluctant to let his friends know his mother’s troubles.
just don’t get it,” Honey sighed.
“Why is Trixie so upset? I
mean, Moms has been a basket case, but now Moms is getting help.
What’s wrong with that?”
Mart said in a tight voice, while pinching the bridge of his nose,
“Trixie thinks she caused Moms to have problems. She
walked in just then. “Now what is
Trixie blaming herself for?”
gave her a quick recap.
for Heaven’s sake!” Di exclaimed.
“Of all the crazy situations she’s ever gotten herself in,
this is the last one she should be feeling guilty about.
How can she possibly think this is her fault?”
sighed. “Because she’s
real question,” Dan interjected, “is how do we help her?”
beyond our help,” was Mart’s woebegone response.
“She needs professional help.”
paused, her shock clearly evident, before answering.
“Well, that just means she’s going to need us even more.
Knowing Trixie, she’ll take that as a sign of weakness and
failure. We have to be
there for her to convince her that getting the help she needs is a sign
the others murmured their agreement, Mrs. Lynch entered the room.
She explained that Mrs. Wheeler had left a message requesting
that she take Honey and Diana on their planned shopping trip.
While they were out, the three were to pick something out for
Trixie as well.
objected vehemently. “We can’t leave now!
Trixie needs us to be here!”
Lynch disagreed. “According to Miss Trask, Trixie has been heavily sedated
and will be unconscious for several hours.
You can be here for her when we get back.”
continued to object, but Mrs. Lynch would not be swayed.
She whisked the girls away, despite Honey’s protests.
the girls were gone, Mart and Dan were left to their own devices.
They considered escaping from the house, but Miss Trask quickly
cut them off. She informed
them in no uncertain terms that, as long as they remained in the rec
room or the library, they could do as they pleased.
If they ventured outside of the boundaries she had set, however,
she would put them to work polishing the silver.
The two boys decided that parking themselves in front of a video
game was better than getting in trouble with Miss Trask.
Besides, it was easier for guys to talk about deep things while
focused on a game, and there was much to discuss.
walked up the stairs to his dorm, returning from a morning study session
for Chemistry 101. The lobby was crowded; there was a line for the slowest
elevator known to man; and he was worried about the fact that Jim had
not come home last night. The
walk up the four flights of stairs seemed like a good way to clear his
on his floor, he noticed a figure standing by his door, and a smile lit
up his face as he recognized his girlfriend.
“To what do I owe this pleasure?”
had been watching the elevator and was startled to hear the rich, warm
voice come from behind her. She turned, but the smart retort died on her lips when she
caught sight of the smile that always made her go weak in the knees.
Instead, she returned it with a flirtatious one of her own and
said, “I couldn’t wait until tonight to see you; it’s too far
grinned. He loved her sexy
smile. He wrapped an arm
around her and pulled her close. “Oh, really?”
slid her arms slowly up his, her hands caressing his broad shoulders
before meeting each other behind his neck.
“Yeah, really,” she whispered before pulling his lips down to
were still standing there, engaged in their lip-locking, tongue-tangling
greeting when a loud “AHEM” resounded nearby.
They slowly pulled apart, Ria frowning and rolling her eyes.
strolled casually over to the couple.
“I would tell you to take it inside, but then I’d have to
worry about what was going on in there.”
at her best friend, Ria ordered, “Go away, Preacher!”
released Ria and dug in his pocket for his room key.
“Did you have a specific reason for torturing us, or is that
just how you felt like getting your jollies today?”
wide, bright white grin accented the dancing lights of amusement in his
deep brown eyes as Preacher just laughed.
“I’m actually on this floor to see someone else entirely.
I just couldn’t resist.”
He started to walk away as Brian opened the door and waved Ria
inside, but he called back over his shoulder, “Remember, Belden!
Thinking is a crime!”
Preacher’s words just before the door shut, Brian visibly cringed.
Amusement sparkled in Ria’s green eyes.
“Why is thinking a crime?”
groaned. “I told my
roommates that thinking about a girl wrong was a crime.
Jim told them I had always made that quite clear, meaning he’d
been afraid to even think about my sister in high school because
of me. Preacher then
informed me that you were like a sister to him and has been throwing the
thinking comment back in my face ever since.
In fact, I’m getting a little sick of it.”
tinkling laughter filled the room.
“Imagine how Jim felt in high school!”
gave her an ice-cold glare. “It’s
course it is!” she said, sashaying over to him with a seductive smile.
“But Preacher can only guess at your thoughts… and right now,
I’m more interested in your actions.”
giving her a mind-numbing kiss, Brian returned her smile and asked,
“Is that the kind of action you were looking for?”
Ria replied, “Oh, yeah!” and proceeded to return the favor.
minutes later, they had somehow made their way over to the couch.
Coming up for air, Brian held her close and nuzzled her ear.
“Is this why you came over?
To tempt me beyond all reason in broad daylight?”
to organize her lust-clouded thoughts, Ria stared blankly at him.
A sudden return of clarity caused a very startled, ”Oh!” She scrambled to an upright position with urgency.
“No! I came to
give you a message from Chelsea about Jim!”
was suddenly both serious and worried.
“What’s the message?”
it didn’t make any sense, really,” she began, confused.
“Chelsea called me from her cell phone and said they were on a
road trip. She said not to
look for Jim because they were going to take care of something Jim
needed to do that had to be done today, in Rochester.
Then she said something about loving cemeteries and hung up.”
looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language for a minute;
then a look of comprehension crossed his face.
He hung his head and grabbed his hair with both hands.
“Damn him!” he muttered softly.
frowned in concern and rubbed the back of Brian’s neck.
his head, Brian looked up at her. “Just
Jim and his ability to shut people out.
I was so busy worrying about Trixie last night that I completely
missed the point of what happened.”
has this ability to avoid talking to people about really important
stuff. Trixie got mad at
him for not talking to her last night and hung up on him.
I ended up worrying about all Trixie’s problems and never even
thought about what it was that he’d refused to talk about.
I should’ve known better.”
Ria asked with a raise of one quizzical eyebrow.
“Are you psychic? Or
do you just think you always have to know everything?”
gave her a wilting look. “No,
of course not. But I’m
one of his best friends. And
the only reason he could possibly need to be in a cemetery in Rochester
today is if today is an important date for his father, like a birthday
or something.” Brian
rubbed his cheeks with his palms and groaned in frustration.
“I knew they were both too upset last night.
I should’ve paid more attention to him.”
let me see if I’m following this,” Ria said, brow furrowed in
been best friends for years, and you don’t actually know if
today is his father’s birthday? If
he needs to go to Rochester that bad, isn’t it something he does every
slumped against the back of the sofa.
“No. I told you,
Jim doesn’t talk about stuff… except with Trixie.
And, if she can’t pry it out of him, then it’s
probably something he really needs to talk about.
When he was adopted, he was required to go to counseling, but he
managed to sandbag the counselor. He
won’t lie, but he won’t let you delve.
He pretends to be happy and well-adjusted when he has so many
issues you could get a doctorate in psychology just by studying him.”
he lets Trixie delve?”
slightly, Brian nodded. “He
lets Trixie do just about anything.
He’s lucky she’s oblivious.
She knows she can always count on him, but she’s so naïve and
non-manipulative that she doesn’t realize how completely wrapped
around her little finger he is.”
eyes twinkled with amusement. “A
bit smitten, is he?”
than a bit,” Brian chuckled. “But
Trixie’s too young. She
told him to stick to college girls for a while.
She’s right, too. They’re
both intense people and, together, they’re almost frightening.
He needs to learn how to relax, have fun, and loosen up.”
a thoughtful look, Ria gave a slight nod.
“He’s in the right hands, then.
Chelsea is an expert on fun, and she certainly has a way of
making people open up.”
laughed out loud. “Tell me about it! I’m
still amazed at some of the things I’ve found myself telling your
Ria asked with a smirk. “Should
I be getting the dish from her?”
fixed her with a smoldering stare and responded, “I’m sure I can be
persuaded to tell you anything you want to know.”
He then pulled her onto his lap for a long, slow kiss.
smiled that sexy smile of hers. “Does
that mean I can persuade you not to think about Jim any more until he
frowned and exhaled slowly. “Probably,
but let me make a phone call first.
I want to tell his sister what he’s doing.”
she nodded in understanding. She
got up and handed the phone to him, then went to the bathroom to give
him a moment of privacy.
dialing the familiar number to Manor House, Brian began to pace.
He was surprised when the phone wasn’t answered by the fourth
ring. He was even more surprised by the voice that answered on the
Brian’s confusion was quickly replaced by an ominous chill.
“I’d ask why you’re answering the phone at Manor House, but
I don’t think I’m going to like the answer.”
sighed. “I guarantee
you aren’t gonna like the answer, Bri, but you need to hear it.
Sit back while I regale you with the latest Trouble in Trixieland.”
His meager attempt at humor was completely sabotaged by his tone
as he started his story.
returned from the bathroom to find Brian sitting in the overstuffed
chair, pale as a ghost, and looking like he wanted to cry.
She sat down on the coffee table in front of him so she could
watch his face while he listened intently to the voice on the other end
of the phone line.
Mart finally finished, Brian cleared his throat.
His voice was thick with worry and fear for his sister when he
spoke. “You know I’m
coming home now, right?”
expected as much,” Mart said. “But
don’t go to the Farm. Come
a three hour drive,” Brian said as he nodded.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
he hung up, Ria grabbed his hands.
“You can’t go alone. I
don’t know what was said, but you’re obviously too shaken up to
looked up into her caring, gentle eyes.
“I have to go.”
can see that,” Ria conceded. “Just
let me drive.”
was surprised and not quite sure how to react.
Ria reached out a hand and let soft fingers trail down Brian’s
cheek. “Let someone else
take care of you for a change, Brian. Let
a moment’s thought, Brian realized he wanted her there.
He didn’t want to be alone.
He nodded thankfully and gave her a kiss of gratitude before
grabbing Jim’s keys and heading on their way.
Mart hung up the phone, Dan remarked while casually flipping channels,
“I assume Brian’s on his way.”
boys continued to stare vacuously at the television.
jalopy’s here. How else
would Brian get home?”
suppose getting Jim here should count as a bonus.”
closed his eyes and sighed, intentionally banging his head on the wooden
trim on the top of the sofa for good measure.
“Great. We need
another head case around here.” He
rolled his head to the side so he could look at Dan.
“What do you do on your dad’s birthday?”
muted the television and toyed with the remote.
“When I lived in the City, I’d stop by the cemetery.
Since I came here, I spend some time alone on the bluffs.
But, mostly, I just remember to be grateful for the second chance
I got and try to become a man Dad would be proud of.”
contemplated his friend’s wisdom.
Despite how angry he’d been at his parents that morning, Mart
couldn’t imagine life without them.
“Do you still miss them?”
day,” Dan stated without hesitation.
“But it’s gotten to the point where it doesn’t hurt so
much. I miss the good
times, and I…” A
wistful expression crossed his face.
“I guess I long for what might have been.”
boys heard a noise behind them and turned to find Regan standing in the
doorway. “It never goes
away,” he said.
entered the room and sat down near his nephew.
“I was seven when my parents died.
There isn’t a day when I don’t think of them.
But, if you focus on it, you miss out on life.”
Do I wish I still had my parents?
Yes. Would I trade
the Bob-Whites for anything?” He
swallowed the lump in his throat and answered his own question with a
fierce, “Not a chance.”
gave Dan an affectionate punch in the arm.
“Yeah, well, we’re pretty glad you’re here.”
unmuted the TV, and the three men sat in a comfortable silence until
Mart drifted off into an exhausted sleep.