Chapter 5

June, 1950

Katie shaded her eyes with one hand.  In the shimmery distance she could see a dark green convertible approaching Hot Dog Heaven.  Something about it seemed familiar, but it took her a moment to remember that Win’s friend Matthew Wheeler had a similar car.  Was it possible Win could be in the car that was heading her way?  Quickly, she skated inside and to the break room, where she checked her hair and applied some fresh lipstick.  Just in case...! 

When the dark green car pulled into the lot and flashed its lights, she could see two redheaded men inside, but also two blonde girls.  She drew a deep breath and skated over to the driver’s side.  “Welcome to Hot Dog Heaven,” she said automatically.  “May I take your order?”

It was Matthew Wheeler.  She’d never forget his face, although it had been a year since she’d seen Win’s roommate and best friend.

“Hi Katie!”  It was Win, speaking from the back seat, next to a beautiful blonde young woman wearing a sundress Katie had seen in a magazine.  The magazine ad listed the dress’s price at $50.00—totally out of Katie’s budget. 

Her smile felt frozen, but she responded to his greeting.  “Hello, Win!  It’s good to see you again.”

“Katie, you remember my buddy Matt Wheeler, don’t you?  This is his girl, Celeste Langford—” he waved toward the blonde in the front seat.  “And this is Natalie Hart, Celeste’s sorority sister.  Celeste and Natalie, this is a friend of mine, Katie Vanderheiden.  Matt, you remember Katie, don’t you?  We’re headed to Matt’s house for a house party, but spending the night at my uncle’s first.”   

“Nice to meet you.”  Katie flashed a smile to include all of the occupants, and added, “And so, would you like to order or do you need time to read the menu?”

“I’m ready,” Matt said.  “I’ll have a chocolate shake, burger with everything, and fries.  I’ll take another burger and a small Coke for the lady.”  He nodded toward Celeste.

“Let me have one of your chili dogs and a Coke, with chips.  And a plain burger and small Coke for this lady.”  Win gave his order, and Katie jotted it down, staring at her order pad through a haze of tears.

“All right, I’ve got it.”  She read back the orders in a voice that didn’t shake at all, and then skated off with a flip of her ponytail after they confirmed the orders.

She was in the break room when Sally found her, blotting tears and trying not to smear her mascara.  “What’s wrong, hon?” asked her dark-haired friend, placing a solicitous hand on her shoulder.

“N-n-nothing.”  Katie blew her nose on the tissue she’d been blotting her face with.  “Nothing at all.”

“Hey, I saw those boys in the green convertible.”  Sally sat down in the other chair.  “I know one of them was that Win Frayne you were gaga over last summer.  You two weren’t going steady, were you?”

“No!  No, of course not.  But it was a shock to see him with another girl.  Of course, she’s much prettier and richer than I am.”  Katie blew her nose again.  “My mom told me we could never really be together, and I don’t know if I really thought we could…  I just wasn’t ready for this today.”

“Hey, you two!”  Arnie’s voice crackled over the intercom into the break room.  “Customers are outside, not inside.”

“I’ll go on out,” Sally offered with a pat on Katie’s back.  “Splash some cold water on your face and come on.  It’ll be okay.”

Katie nodded dumbly and made her way to the sink.

Outside again, she waited on two other cars while keeping her ears open for the buzzer that would signal her order was ready for Win and his friends.  By the time their food was cooked, she had regained control over her emotions as well as her features.  She maintained a cool demeanor and mounted the trays efficiently on each side of the convertible.

“Will you be here tomorrow?” Win asked as she hooked his tray up.  “I’d like to come out and see you before we head for Connecticut.”  

“Sorry, no.  I won’t be here.”  She couldn’t believe he was saying such things in front of his girlfriend.  He’d always seemed like such an honorable boy, too.

“Well, maybe afterwards, when I get back to Sleepyside.”  It was obvious Win was unaware of her tone and feelings.

“Sure, whatever you want.”  She waved and went on to her next customer. 

It was part of her job to constantly scan all cars on the lot, so she could be prepared to retrieve each tray as soon as customers finished eating.  Ten minutes later, she returned to the green convertible and detached the trays from the car doors. 

“Nice seeing you again, Katie,” Matt said as she started to turn away.

“Nice seeing you, too,” she responded automatically.  Win waved and smiled at her in that kind way he had, but she did her best not to fall for it. 

The car backed out and headed on toward Sleepyside, and Katie returned to her work, berating herself for being a fool.

“Win, is that little carhop your girlfriend?”  Celeste, Matt’s girlfriend, twisted around in her seat to ask the question.

“No, we’re just friends,” Win replied.  “Why?”

“Because it was obvious she’s gone on you.  Really bad.”  She nodded decisively.

“What do you mean?  We’ve talked, and we write, but we’re just friends.  She’s a sweet kid who’s had a hard life, and I try to encourage her.  She’s hoping to get an education and help her widowed mother.”

“You obviously didn’t see her face when she brought our food out.  She’d been crying.”  She twisted even farther to look at Natalie.  “You saw it too, didn’t you, Nat?”

“Yes, anyone could see it,” Natalie agreed.  “She clearly thought you and I were an item, and I think it upset her.”

“Win, from what you told me, you spent a lot of time with her last summer, and even at Christmas,” Matt interjected.   “You even took her on a date when your uncle had made plans to meet up with Alice Rainsford.”   Matt lit a cigarette and tossed the pack to the back seat, in case anyone else wanted a smoke.  Inhaling deeply, he expelled the smoke in a thin stream before speaking again.  “You’ve got a wonderful girl like Alice, all ready to step into the place of Mrs. Winthrop Frayne.  She’ll know the things she needs to know to help you maintain the Frayne image and serve as a hostess for the president of Frayne Enterprises.  All that, and she’s smart and beautiful to boot.” 

“What’s your point, Matt?”  Win took a cigarette and held the package out to Natalie, who shook her head.  He wasn’t entirely sure where his friend was going with this line of talk, but he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to like it.  His ears started getting hot and he handed the pack up to Celeste.

Matt drew another pull on his cigarette and exhaled.  “All I’m saying is, think hard about what these girls mean to you and how you feel about them.  You might end up in a place you don’t want to be, with a wife you weren’t looking for.”

Win lit his own cigarette.  “I’m not looking to marry anyone for at least five years.  And I haven’t led anyone to think they’ve got a future with me yet.”

“Are you sure about that?”  Matt flicked his cigarette butt outside.   “Maybe you are.  I’m just saying, think about it, because you might have a surprise waiting for you one of these days.  If I wasn’t your friend I wouldn’t say anything.” 

Over the next several days Katie found herself tearful at odd moments, and she was more subdued around the house.  But she forced herself to whistle as she dusted and ran the sweeper while her mother sewed.  Juliana seemed to sense something was wrong with her daughter.

“What is wrong, Katje-mijn-schatje?” she asked when the two sat down to supper on Sunday night.

“Nothing, Mamma.”  The tears that had threatened all day were welling again, though.  And she could feel her nose turning red and her chin quivering.

“I know better, my dear heart.”  Juliana looked at her with such love that Katie couldn’t stop her face from crumpling.  The tears overflowed and a choked sob escaped. 

“It’s Win Frayne.”  She finally said the words that had been going through her mind on a well-worn track.  “He and his friend Matt Wheeler stopped at hot Dog Heaven the other day with their girlfriends.”  She paused for a moment, drawing a deep, shuddering breath to get her emotions under control.  Her mother waited in silence for her to continue.  “Mamma, I know he wasn’t my boyfriend, but I never thought he’d parade another girl in front of me like that.  I thought he was different.”

“My darling!”  Juliana stood up and made her way around the small table, dragging her lame leg in its heavy brace.  “He doesn’t deserve you.  Don’t worry, a nice boy will come along.  One who will treat you right and whose family will accept you.”  She patted her daughter’s shoulder and then put her arms around Katie, who let loose with a torrent of sobs that shook her entire body.  Somehow her arms wound around her mother’s waist, and Juliana smoothed her hair as she murmured, “Shhhhh!  It will be all right.  Don’t be sad, my dear heart.  Don’t be sad.”

For the first time ever, Katie was thankful that her mother still treated her as a little girl.  She clung to Juliana and buried her face in her mother’s apron, crying until she could cry no more.  Finally, she drew a deep, shuddering breath and stood up.

“Thank you, Mamma.  Thank you for not saying ‘I told you so’.  I’m going to wash up now and put that boy out of my mind.” 

“Go on to bed,” her mother suggested.  “You’re worn out with your heartache.  I’ll wash up the dishes and you get ready for bed so you can be refreshed for work in the morning.”  She smoothed Katie’s hair away from her blotched face and swollen eyes.

“No, Mamma.  It won’t take me long to wash up, and I’ll go straight to bed afterward.  You’ve been up all day sewing and you need to rest more than I do.”  Katie forced a smile to her lips and gave her mother a gentle push toward the living room.  “Go turn on the radio so we can listen to Beulah while I clean up in here.

“All right, my dear.  If you’re really sure.”  Juliana turned and made her halting way into the small living room, settling into her chair with a sigh of relief after tuning the radio to the station that would broadcast her favorite program.   

The green convertible pulled into the wide circular drive at the front of the Wheeler home, a sprawling but dignified mansion of white marble, with a generous portico sheltering the front entry. 

“Here we are,” Matt said, jumping out and going around the car to open Celeste’s door.  “The staff will collect your luggage, ladies.  Come on inside and our housekeeper will show you to your rooms.  You can freshen up or take a rest before dinner, if you like.”

Win followed his friend’s lead and offered a hand to Natalie as she climbed out of the back seat.  Once the ladies were out, the two men retrieved their bags from the trunk, and escorted them into the front hallway.  A silver-haired woman in a dark gray uniform greeted the foursome.

“Welcome home, Mr. Matthew,” she said formally.  “May I show the ladies to their room?”

“Hello, Mrs. Thompson.  It’s good to see you again.”  Matt took the housekeeper into a tight hug before introducing his guests.  “You’ve met Celeste before, and my friend, Win Frayne.  This is Natalie Hart, Celeste’s sorority sister.”

“Certainly.”  The woman looked at each guest in turn with a pleasant smile.  “I hope you will enjoy your stay at The Haven.  If you will come with me, ladies, I’ll show you to your room.  The staff will fetch your luggage and deliver it to you in a few minutes.”

“Win and I will bunk together, Mrs. Thompson,” Matt said.  “I know there will be extra guests this weekend.”

“Yes, sir.”  The housekeeper nodded and moved toward the staircase.  The two girls followed her, and Win and Matt fell in behind.  

The two friends had unpacked their bags and the Wheelers’ butler had picked up their dinner jackets to be pressed and ready for dinner later in the evening.  They wandered down to the Wheeler stables, with the intention of riding over the estate for an hour or so.  Matt’s gelding, Mercury, was an unusually spirited animal and its stable mate and sibling, My Venus, was a mare that had won numerous prizes at the New York Horse Show.  Win was one of the few people allowed to mount My Venus, and he always enjoyed the mare’s responsiveness to his lightest touch.  “She acts like she’s an extension of you,” Matt had told him the last time he’d visited.

“She looks a little different,” Win said as they approached the paddock where several horses were pastured.  “Didn’t you say she’d been bred a few months ago?”   

“Yes, she was bred to Solar System in April.  He’s a champion jumper and eventer.  With any luck, the foal will be a champion, too.”

“Is it okay to ride her while she’s carrying?” Win asked doubtfully.

“Farley, our trainer, says it’s still perfectly fine to ride her,” replied Matt.  “In fact, he says it’s a good way to help her keep her muscle tone.  She’s not to jump, though.”

Mercury was galloping around the paddock, tossing his head and flicking his tail.  When Matt whistled for him, he immediately approached the fence and began to prance with impatience.

“Hold on, fella!  We’ll give you a good workout in a few minutes,” Matt said, rubbing the animal’s nose.

Win and Matt continued on into the stable and found Farley in his office.  “Is it all right if we ride Mercury and My Venus?” Matt asked.

“Sure it is.”  The trainer was a compact, wiry man with a leathery face and hands.  He immediately went to call the two horses and led them to their stalls for saddling.  Matt and Win fetched the saddle blankets and selected the bits and bridles they would use.  For My Venus, Win chose the lightest snaffle bit for the mare’s tender mouth.  Matt, however, picked a heavy curb bit for the spirited Mercury.

Within minutes, the two friends were mounted and heading along a riding trail that wound from the stables past a training track and on down a tree-lined path to the Wheeler lake.  Win felt himself relax, melding his movements with those of the responsive mare.  He inhaled deeply of the fresh air.  The rolling countryside, where hunts were held during the autumn, was tame and cultivated, but still filled with the sights and smells of the country.  My Venus picked her way along the well-traveled trail with confidence and he could enjoy the sights.  Thoughts of women were far from his mind.

Matt galloped on ahead to let Mercury work out some pent-up energy.  Win admired his form as a rider, without feeling any jealousy.  His friend was a skilled rider, having won many prizes in competition as well as leading his cavalry troop in military school in Arizona—where Win had first met him.  Despite all of his entrepreneurial activities at school and his attention to the Wheeler businesses, Matt still loved to ride and enjoyed the outlet it gave him from the business of business.  It connected him with something outside of that world.

Now Matt had turned Mercury around and they were cantering back to meet Win and his mount.  Once the two horses were face to face, he turned so they could ride side-by-side.

“Win, don’t take what I said earlier as criticism,” Matt started.

“What?”  Win asked, surprised.

“You know, about being careful with women.”

“Don’t worry.  I’m not serious about anyone,” he protested.

“Well, that girl might be serious about you.  If you keep seeing her, she might get ideas that you don’t mean to give her.”  Matt didn’t look at him, but kept his eyes straight ahead.  “I thought you were serious about Alice.  You certainly saw enough of her during the past semester.  And you know your uncle is planning for you to marry her.”

“I do like Alice and we have good times together.  But she’s spending the whole summer in Europe with her uncle, and she herself told me she hopes to study in Rome next semester.  She’s not ready for marriage yet, either.  Anyway, Uncle James isn’t going to tell me who to marry, even if I was ready to get married now.”

“Just be careful.  You can bet Katie Vanderheiden knows you’re your uncle’s heir.  Girls like her can sometimes spin a web to trap you, and before you know it, you’re hooked up for keeps.”

“Don’t worry about me, Matt.  I’ve got my eyes open.”  Win was starting to get tired of the conversation.  He had every confidence he could avoid becoming entangled in any kind of entrapment scheme.  Besides, Katie wasn’t like that.   

The rest of the weekend was filled with dancing, swimming, and riding.  A dozen young people filled the property with laughter and Win gave no further thought to either Katie or Alice.  Natalie Hart was a beautiful girl and a good dancer, and he spent his time entertaining her and being entertained by her.  There was no spark of romance between them, though.  Natalie attended a college that was far from Boston, and she confided that she had a boyfriend already.  So for each of them, the weekend was a time of no pressure, only fun together.      

By Tuesday morning, Katie believed she was over Win Frayne.  She whistled as she pulled out the ironing board and heated up the iron.  A basketful of damp, starched garments awaited her, and she started on the chore of turning them into crisp, fresh-looking dresses, pedal-pushers, and blouses.  Only a few of the items belonged to her and her mother; Juliana also took in ironing for several local women.

The fragrance of freshly starched and pressed clothing perfumed the air as Katie ironed one garment after another, hanging them up on a line stretched across the living room as they were finished.  She was so intent on her task, performed to the background hum of her mother’s sewing machine, that she jumped in surprise as the doorbell chimed.  Neighbors generally came to the back door, and it wasn’t the right time of the month for the Fuller brush man.  She set down the iron and took the few steps to the front door, wondering who in the world could be calling on them.

When she opened it and saw Win standing there, she closed it right back again and stood with her back to the door, leaning on it in shock.  Maybe I’m not over him after all, she realized.

“Katie!  Please open the door and talk to me,” she could hear him pleading.

“Go away!”  She couldn’t say any more.  Not with her mother in the next room.

“Please!  I think there’s been a misunderstanding.” 

“I said, go away.  I don’t want to talk to you.”  The words stabbed at her heart but she said them anyway.

“If you don’t open the door and come out, I’ll come to Hot Dog Heaven every day until you talk to me.”

She let several seconds pass while she considered how much trouble it would be to keep avoiding him until he went back to school  Probably a lot of trouble, she realized.  Finally she made up her mind.

“Wait a minute, I’ve got to turn off the iron.  And I can only talk for a few minutes.”

It was mid-August, and Katie blotted the sweat from her forehead with a paper napkin.  She and Sally were taking advantage of a lull in traffic at Hot Dog Heaven in the mid-afternoon.  Each girl sipped from a refreshing, ice-cold soft drink as they sat together under one of the small umbrella-topped tables Arnie had installed across the front sidewalk of Hot Dog Heaven.

“So, when do you leave for nursing school?” Katie asked her friend.  “It’s hard to believe it’s almost that time.”

“Two more weeks,” Sally replied.  “I’m so excited I just can’t stand it.”  She laughed before continuing.  “At the same time, I’m so scared I won’t be able to handle the work!”

“You’ll be fine,” Katie reassured her.  “You’re so smart, and you’re always cool, calm, and collected any time someone is hurt or ill.  You always know just what to do.”  She reached out to clasp Sally’s hand.  “I know you’ll be a great nurse.”

“What are you going to do, Katie?” Sally asked with a little frown of concern.  “You don’t have a car, so how will you get back and forth to work if you stay here?”

“You’re right, it’s a problem.”  Katie sighed.  “I’d really hoped I’d be able to save enough money to board in White Plains and enroll in the community college, but it’s not looking that way.  The money I’ve saved is just not enough to cover tuition and take a room nearby on my own.  And Mamma would be awfully lonely if I left.”

“You ought to check in town and see if any of the stores are hiring.  If you worked at Crimpers, you could buy your clothing at a discount,” Sally suggested.

“Yes, I know.  I also know Crimpers doesn’t hire anyone who lives on Hawthorne.  We’re not classy enough for them.” 

“True.”  Sally sat for a moment and sipped her Coke.  “What about Clayton’s Drug Store?  Or maybe you could find a job in an office.  My aunt worked at the city utility office, you know.”

“I could do secretarial work, I suppose,” Katie agreed.  “My typing is pretty good and I got good grades in my other business classes.  But I always thought that would be a boring job.  I never wanted to be stuck in Sleepyside for the rest of my life.”

A car pulled into the parking lot and flashed its lights, and Katie rose from her chair and skated out to greet the driver.  “Welcome to Hot Dog Heaven,” she said with a bright smile.

For the rest of her day, however, she couldn’t get the conversation out of her mind.  Yes, she’d have to find another job; there was no way she could walk back and forth from Hot Dog Heaven to her home, particularly at night when she finished her shift.  Sally had been very generous to provide a ride for her ever since they’d started working; Arnie had been kind enough to match up their schedules almost all of the time.  And as little as she wanted to be a secretary, she wanted even less to make a career of working as a carhop.  A mental vision of herself with gray hair and a cane, on skates, serving loaded trays to customers in their cars, made her chuckle and groan at the same time.  Yes, definitely on her next day off she’d have to hit the streets looking for a new job.

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Author’s Notes

3966 words

Many thanks to my wonderful editors, Ronda, Ryl, and Trish!  They caught many boo-boos and asked great questions that helped me improve this chapter.  Any remaining errors are mine, not theirs!

Beulah was one of the top 20 radio programs in 1950 and was broadcast at the right time of day for its appearance in this story.  I wanted the program to be Gunsmoke, but the long-running Western radio serial didn’t air until 1952!  In 1950, Hattie McDaniel (Mammy in Gone with the Wind) portrayed Beulah, who was employed as a housekeeper and cook for the Henderson family: father Harry, mother Alice and son Donnie.

I had Matthew hug his housekeeper because I see him as closer to her than to his parents.  Realistic, or not?   You decide J

Farley, the Wheelers' trainer, is named in tribute to Walter Farley, author of the Black Stallion series. I devoured those books at around the time I was reading Trixie Belden for the first time.

Eventing comprises dressage, cross-country, and show jumping, with the same rider and horse competing in each event.  Eventing was introduced into the Olympic Games in 1912. The competition may be more familiarly known as “three-day eventing” and at one time was called Combined Training in the U.S.  According to the Wikipedia article and several others I consulted, this event has its roots in a comprehensive cavalry test requiring mastery of several types of riding.  We know Matthew Wheeler was a top rider for his cavalry unit, so I have made him attend a military school during his teen years, where he rode competitively.  Not sure how early the sport became known as eventing, but The British Eventing Team competed in the 1948 Olympics. More information can be found here.


Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. All other material on these pages copyright 2010-2012 by MaryN/Dianafan. Images from; manipulated by Mary N in Photoshop. Graphics copyright by Mary N 2012.

Story copyright by Mary N, 2012.

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