August 1973

“I’ll discuss it with Helen, Hal.  If she’s agreeable, I’ll call you tomorrow.”  Peter Belden hung up the phone and rubbed a hand across his forehead.  Trixie had raised her hand to knock on the door to her father’s study, and at the sight of his face, she almost forgot about asking permission to spend the weekend at Honey’s house.

“What is it, Dad?  Was that Uncle Harold?  What did he want?”  The questions tumbled out before she could even wonder if the answers were any of her business.

“Something I need to discuss with your mother,” he answered.  “You’ll know about it when—and if—the time is right, Trixie.”   He had a look on his face that was not grumpy, exactly, but didn’t invite further questions, either.

“Okay, I’m sorry.  I wasn’t trying to be nosy,” she apologized.

“Nothing to be sorry about.”  His face still looked strained, but he smiled at her.  “Did you need something, Princess?”

“Um, well, I just wondered if I could spend the weekend at Honey’s.  She just called because she just got in from shopping with her mom for her parents’ trip to Ireland next week, and she wants to have a house party for the Bob-Whites before school starts.  Moms hasn’t come home from the Garden Club meeting yet, and I wanted to let Honey know as soon as possible.”  Trixie gazed at her dad with a pleading look in her big blue eyes—the one she knew he could never resist.

“Sure, Trixie.  That will be fine.  Where’s your brother?”

“Mrs. Lynch took Bobby and the Lynch boys to see The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  They were supposed to read it for school,” she told him.  “They should be home after supper sometime.”

“All right.”  He looked about to say something else for a moment, but then seemed to change his mind.  It wasn’t like her dad to be so indecisive and she wondered again what his conversation with Uncle Harold had been about.

“Okay, see you Sunday!”  She kissed him good-bye and started for the door, then spun around and ran back.  “Dad, will you let Mart know as soon as he gets home?  He was going to help Dan chop some wood this afternoon.”  As he nodded, she hurried outside, allowing the screened back door to slam shut behind her.   She didn’t need to pack a bag or even a toothbrush; she spent the night at the Manor House often enough that she had several changes of clothing and any personal items she might need.  

Over the weekend, she completely forgot about her father’s mysterious reluctance to talk about his phone call.

“Trixie, can you come to Dad’s study for a few minutes?”  Her mother’s voice floated back to the kitchen, where Tixie and Mart were doing the supper dishes. 

Tossing her dish towel at her brother, she called back.  “Coming, Moms!”  She ran to the study, wondering what they wanted, and slid into a chair.  Both of her parents were seated on the loveseat across from the desk.

“Trixie, you might remember I got a call Friday right before you went to Honey’s house.  It was your Uncle Harold, just as you thought.”

“Yes, I remember.”  She fidgeted a little and tucked her right foot underneath her.  What could be going on?  She was starting to feel apprehensive.

Her mother spoke.  “Uncle Harold and Aunt Eleanor have to go to Bolivia to work on a problem at their mine.  Hallie can’t stay by herself at the house, and Harold asked if she could stay with us, at least until Christmas.”

“Hallie!”  She could hear the note of displeasure in her own voice, and tried to make amends.  “I mean, why couldn’t she stay at home?  They have a housekeeper and some other staff, don’t they?  She’s not a little kid and it seems like she’d want to stay at home instead of moving across the country for her junior year.”  She folded her arms across her chest, glancing from one parent to the other.  “Besides, isn’t she a big basketball star or something?”

Her dad sighed.  “Yes, Trix, they have a housekeeper and other staff, who have always spoiled Hallie.  They aren’t equipped to supervise and discipline her.  Hallie got into trouble near the end of last year, and Hal and Eleanor wanted to take her with them.  She pitched a fit and refused to go, and Hal thinks if they force her to go with them, she’ll run away and get into danger.  She doesn’t want to go to boarding school, either.”

“Hal thought staying with family would be the best thing, and it was something she was willing to accept,” Moms put in.  “My heart goes out to her, somehow.  Anyway, we just couldn’t say no.”

“Great.”  Trixie frowned.  “Is she going to share my room, too?”

“Sweetheart, I’m sure you’re feeling blindsided right now,” her mother said.  “No, you don’t have to share your room.  Hallie can stay in the guest room downstairs.”

“I hope, Trixie, that you’ll try to welcome your cousin and help her find her way around Sleepyside Junior-Senior High.”  Her dad gave her a sympathetic look.  “Hal and Eleanor thought you kids would be a great influence for Hallie, and I hope you’ll do your best.  We would have liked to discuss it with you sooner, but your aunt and uncle are leaving the country tomorrow, and we had to decide quickly.”

She felt like she’d been punched in the stomach.  Hallie had been so very annoying when the Bob-Whites went to Idaho.  And she was everything Trixie wasn’t—tall, thin, and gorgeous.  Still, her parents were looking at her with such confidence and hope.  She forced a smile to her lips, although it felt more like a grimace.  “I’ll do my best, and so will all the Bob-Whites, I know.  Does Mart know yet?”

“No, we wanted to tell you first,” Moms said.  “Her visit will probably affect you the most.  Mart won’t even be here most of the time.” 

Trixie swallowed hard.  She hadn’t even thought—so far—about spending most of her time at home, on the bus, and at school with Hallie, and without Mart.  Her almost-twin was good at defusing tension, with his big words that stopped Hallie in her tracks, and his wisecracking humor that started everyone laughing.  She felt suddenly alone and cracked her knuckles loudly, ignoring her mother’s slight frown.

“Princess, I hope you’ll take Hallie around school, show her where her classes are, and introduce her to a few people,” her father said.  He leaned forward, his dark eyes intense.  “I know you’re not excited about her visit, but she doesn’t really want to come here, either.  Her parents felt it was important to expose her to some different friends and a better environment, and I hope you’ll try to make her feel welcome.”

“I’ll try, Dad.  I don’t know many people in her class—juniors, I mean.  But I’ll try.” 

“If you could take her to the basketball tryouts, I think she’d be grateful,” Moms added.  “She’s been on the school team at home and you’re right that she’s supposed to be a good player.”

“Sure.”  With every added request, she felt more and more as if she was being backed into a corner.  The thought of everyone at school comparing her with her beautiful cousin was bad enough.  The realization that Hallie would probably not appreciate her efforts was worse.  Her senior year was supposed to be her best, the one she’d remember forever, and her memories were already being tainted with the prospect of friction with Hallie.   

And school hadn’t even started yet.

She strove to sound slightly enthusiastic.  “When will she be here?”

“Her flight arrives tomorrow, early in the afternoon.  I’d like for you and Mart to pick her up,” her father said.  “If the rest of the Bob-Whites want to go with you, that would be great.”

“Okay, I’ll call Honey and Di tonight. Mart can call Dan.”  At least Diana got along with her pretty well.  The downside of that was that Hallie would probably spend more time with the Bob-Whites outside of school.  She stood up.  “Is that everything?”

“Yes, dear.”  Her mother’s eyes were sympathetic, but Trixie wondered if she really had any idea of the storm Hallie’s visit might unleash. 

“I’m going to take a shower now,” she said.  “It’s been a long day in the garden and helping with the canning.”  She yawned.  “I’ll tell Mart and then I’ll call Honey and Di before I go to bed.”

“They just dumped the news on me, like I should just be grateful or something.”  Honey was her last hope for a sympathetic ear.  She’d already given Diana the news, and smiled through gritted teeth in the face of her friend’s enthusiasm.  “Even Di tried to console me by pointing out Hallie would be too busy with basketball to annoy me.”

“I’m sorry, Trix.  You know, I felt the same way when Ben came to live with us during freshman year, except of course I wasn’t worried about him borrowing my clothes or sharing my room or anything like that.  Although I guess that could have happened, but he’s not twisted that way, not that I have anything against cross-dressers or anything.  And he was annoying.  You remember.  But in the end it turned out all right and he’s a lot closer to both Jim and me now.”

“Honey, it’s not the same at all.”  She was determined to try to get someone to understand how she felt.  “Hallie’s perfect, she’s gorgeous, she’s in the newspaper every week for basketball, and she loves to cook.”

“But I thought your parents said she got into some kind of trouble last year and couldn’t stay at home, that her parents were going to be in South America.”  Honey sighed.  “I know how lonely I felt when my parents traveled all the time and I was stuck away at boarding school.  And I was a nervous wreck when I started at Sleepyside, with a whole school full of kids I’d never met.  If it hadn’t been for you and your brothers and of course Jim, I would have been so scared!  Hallie might be lonely and scared, and putting on a tough front, the way Ben did.”

“Lonely, schmonely.”  Trixie sighed, too.  “I don’t think Hallie has a shy bone in her body.  I hope she will be so busy with basketball that she doesn’t have time to hang out with the Bob-Whites.”

“Well, let’s wait and see.  She’s your family, so I want to give her a chance.  I still say she’s probably scared and lonely, and she might try to get attention because of that.  If we welcome her and include her, she might loosen up and be fun.”

“I’ll try, Honey.  I really will.  But it seems like we always rub each other the wrong way.  Anyway, we’re going to the airport to pick her up tomorrow, if you want to go.  Moms thought the Bob-Whites might want to welcome her as a group.”

“Of course I’d love to go,” Honey said.  “What time will we leave?”

The two girls spent another ten minutes setting up the plans for meeting Hallie at the airport.  Brian and Jim were taking a late summer class and working on campus at college, so it would just be the five younger Bob-Whites.  When Trixie said good-night at last, she was starting to cheer up, if only slightly.

Trixie tossed and turned, trying to find a spot on her bed that wasn’t hot.  Normally, the two windows in her room allowed air to circulate and cool the room after the sun went down, but tonight no breath of air stirred.  She finally fell into a fitful sleep, and immediately began to dream of swimming in the Wheeler lake with the other Bob-Whites.  Somehow she became separated from the others, and found herself submerged in Honey’s room, which was filled with water.  She swam to the top of the water, but encountered an elaborate chandelier, with its arms under water, but the lights on.

She knew very well that electricity and water didn’t mix, so she started swimming slowly away from it and looking around for the door.  She’d just found it and exited the room to safety when there was a loud splash behind her.  Whirling around in the water as quickly as she could, she was stunned to see a girl in a white dress, with long, dark hair, plunging down into the room of water, feet first. 

“Hallie, come over here,” she tried to shout.  “You’ll be electrocuted!”  But her words came out in a gurgle and then she had no breath left.  Desperate for air, she propelled herself upward to the surface.  She could see the other girl staring at her from under the chandelier.  A stream of bubbles escaped from her mouth, but she made no effort to save herself. 

Trixie’s face emerged from the water and she gasped for fresh air.  As she opened her eyes, she saw only her cozy room at Crabapple Farm.  No submerged luxurious bedroom, no chandelier, and no girl in a white dress, sinking down into the water.  She shivered, suddenly chilled.

Author’s Notes

2233 words

This story is another entry in the CWE #3 challenge, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words,” and was inspired by pictures #2 and 4.  #2 shows the impact of a single drop of water on a body of water, and I’m sure Hallie’s visit will have a ripple effect on many other people in her temporary home.  #4, of course, depicts Trixie’s dream. 

Huge thanks to BonnieH for a quick and thoughtful edit!  I had just dumped 24,000+ words on my three regular editors, and felt like it would be way too much to ask them to do anything else right now.  Bonnie jumped into the breach and did a great job.

Thanks again to the Jix Circle Writing Events team, Misty, Dana, and Susan.  This has been a fabulous challenge that has helped me get some long-time plans for my uni posted.

Hallie’s visit to Crabapple Farm is something I’ve known would happen for years.  I hesitated to start writing the story arc because I have so many other long stories that are not quite ready for prime time.  With Horizons and this story, I’ve started laying the groundwork for some future events, and hope I’ll be able to write more of Hallie’s actual visit.  It’s been wonderfully motivating to read everyone’s comments on HorizonsThank you so much, dear Jix friends!  I hope you’ll like this little snippet as well!

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 2012 by MaryN/Dianafan. Images from Microsoft Clip art and and manipulated by Mary N in Photoshop. Graphics copyright by Mary N 2012.

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