Part 5

Thursday night

The boys had gone to bed, and Alicia followed almost as soon as Brian and Mart had gone upstairs.  Helen and Peter were left alone in Peter’s study.  Helen paced back and forth, a look of concentration on her face, and her hands jammed into the pockets of her skirt. 

“Imagine, Peter,” she finally exclaimed.  “All this time I’ve been jealous of Alicia’s independence, her clothes, her … well, everything.  And she’s been jealous of me!  My family, my home, my garden.  If only we had ever really talked to each other – maybe we could have been so much closer.”

“It sounds like you had a good talk tonight, and cleared the air,” Peter remarked. 

“I think we did.  Peter, dear, I’m going to tell you what Alicia told me.  She said I could tell you, but she doesn’t want other people to know.  It’s terribly sad.”  Helen leaned over her husband and nuzzled her nose in his dark hair.  He reached up for her hand, and patted his leg.

“If you’re going to tell me something that personal, you’d better come and sit in my lap,” he told her.

As Helen repeated the story, tears rolled down her cheeks.  She had to stop several times in order to get her voice under control.  Peter listened in silence, rubbing her back gently when she broke down and sobbed.  “The poor thing!  I wish she could have told me, so I could have been there for her,” she mourned.

“Your sister has a lot of pride,” Peter reminded her.  “If she had wanted to tell you, I doubt if she could have brought herself to confess that she had fallen in love with such a cad.  But her experience was probably why she was so fiercely against our relationship, when we first started dating.”

“You’re probably right.  I’m just glad we cleared the air.  You know, I think I was pushing Trixie to spend time with Alicia because I felt guilty.  I didn’t want to spend time with Alicia myself because I resented her – not just for her nice things, but because she hit it off with Bobby right away.  He’ll do things for her that he’ll never do for me.  So if Alicia kept busy with Trixie, I could keep her from stealing my baby – oh, I’m such an idiot!”  She bowed her head and pulled her curls in a gesture that was exactly like Trixie. 

Peter chuckled. “You know, sometimes I feel the same way.  When I come in from work, sometimes I just want a half-hour to myself.  That’s when the kids will demand my attention.  Other times, I’d really like to talk to them or do something with them, but they’re busy doing chores you’ve asked them to do, or up in their rooms doing homework.”

“I guess the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.”  Helen smiled a watery smile.  “Let’s go to bed, dear.”


This is the way we bake our bread,
Bake our bread, bake our bread.
This is the way we bake our bread,
All on a Friday morning.

The next morning, Alicia was once more in the kitchen before Helen, but this time, Helen didn’t mind that her sister had a pot of coffee ready, and that the morning paper was folded at Peter’s place.  She wasn’t resentful that Alicia had already fried up a pound of bacon and was mixing a bowl of blueberry pancake batter.

“The bacon smells delicious, Alicia,” she said.  “Do you know that blueberry pancakes are Mart’s and Trixie’s favorite breakfast in the world?”   

“Well, I felt like I had to do something to please my niece.  She’s had a lot of patience with me this week.  I’m afraid she hates the knitting I’ve tried to teach her.  So today I thought I’d tell her to put it away, and I’d take her to town to eat lunch at – what’s that little hamburger place the kids like – Wimpy’s?  That is, if it’s all right with you.”  Alicia’s voice faltered as she finished speaking.  She had none of her usual self-assured poise as she faced Helen.

“Alicia, I know Trixie would enjoy that!”  Impulsively, Helen crossed the room in a few strides, and pulled her sister into a quick hug.  After a stiff moment, Alicia returned the hug and then stepped back.

“Then … I know Peter said one of the Delanoys’ Irish Setters would be too expensive, but … do you think he’d mind if I took Trixie to see the puppies?  I know she wanted to go yesterday.”  Alicia had turned to adjust the flame under the skillet where a puddle of butter was melting, so that Helen couldn’t read her expression.  “I was going to buy some kind of a treat for all of the children before I leave, and if I think it’s affordable, would you and Peter … mind?”  She poured pancake batter into the skillet by careful measures until four equal circles of batter sizzled on its surface.

“Mind what?”  Helen was bewildered.   “A treat or a puppy?” 

“You goose!  A puppy, of course,” Alicia replied.

“A puppy?  I suppose I had always thought we’d get a dog for the kids when they were old enough to take responsibility,” Helen stammered.  “But, um, since Bobby – well, I just haven’t thought much about a dog.  I’ll discuss it with Peter and let you know.”

“Discuss what with Peter?”  Peter himself strode into the kitchen, pulling out his chair before coming near the stove to pour himself a cup of coffee and survey the breakfast offerings.   “Alicia, I can see where Helen gets her cooking talents.  She must take after her big sister.”  He made a show of inhaling the aroma of the pancakes, before moving back to the table and his newspaper with his coffee cup. 

“Alicia was just saying she’d like to get a puppy for the kids, dear,” Helen answered him.  “I told her we’d have to discuss it.”

“A puppy?  I know the kids would love to have one, but it might turn out to be a lot of added responsibility for you,” Peter said.  “Any particular kind of puppy?”

“I was really thinking about an Irish setter, like the ones the boys saw yesterday.”  Alicia spoke up firmly, and it occurred to Helen that her sister could speak for herself.  “Irish setters are supposed to be very friendly, good with children.  And I know Brian and Mart have been learning to hunt; setters are good hunting dogs, too.”

Where did she learn so much about Irish setters? Helen wondered.

“A dog could be good for the kids, no question about it,” Peter assented.  “I think Mike Delanoy’s dogs are a little pricey for our budget, though, and I don’t want you sinking a lot of money into an expensive dog, either.  You do enough for them now, Alicia.”

“I think I’m well able to judge whether I can afford to buy my niece and nephews a dog,” Alicia replied.  Her earlier diffidence was gone, and there was an edge of steel in her voice.

“Well, you know what you can afford to spend.”  As always, Peter was unruffled.  “But I don’t want you thinking you can – or need to – buy the kids’ affection.  I hope they’re not that selfish.”  With that, he addressed the plate of pancakes Helen sat in front of him, oozing with melted butter and maple syrup.

Brian and Mart came in from doing their chores, and Mart gave his aunt a hug and a kiss when he saw that the family’s breakfast was blueberry pancakes.  “You are a culinary goddess,” he announced.

“Why, thank you, my gourmet food critic,” Alicia answered with a smile.  The older boys went upstairs to wash up and comb their hair before breakfast.

The three adults were able to finish eating before Bobby came trudging downstairs, Trixie on his heels.

“Mommy, Trixie tolded me I couldn’t have any pancakes today if I didn’t hurry up and get dressed,” Bobby grumbled.

“Well, Trixie was right that you have to get dressed before you can eat, if you’re getting up this late, darling.”  Helen’s voice was soothing even as she corrected her youngest.

“Robert, dear, sit down here and have some blueberry pancakes,” Alicia invited him.  “You’re a big boy now, so I fixed three pancakes just for you.”

“Okey-dokey!”  Bobby smiled, and a dimple appeared in each cheek.  Helen noticed how Alicia’s expression softened as she looked at him.  No wonder she tries to get close to Bobby, she thought.

“Beatrix, dear, here’s a plate for you.  I hope you’ll like these pancakes – your mother said blueberry pancakes were your favorite.”  Alicia’s voice lost a note of the confidence it had held while she spoke to Bobby, and her bright smile looked a little stiff as she bent forward to hand Trixie her plate.

“Aunt Alicia, I really wish you’d call me Trixie.”  The words came tumbling out, and Helen thought Trixie looked like she might cry.  

Alicia looked taken aback.  “All right,” she agreed.  “If that’s what you want.  Our grandmother’s name was Beatrix, and I always loved the name.  But I agree, it’s kind of old-fashioned.”

“It sounds like an old lady with blue hair.  I’m sorry, but I never have liked it.” Trixie took her plate and went to the table.

Helen thought it might be time to speak up.  “Trixie, Aunt Alicia wanted to do something special with you today, since she’ll be leaving tomorrow.”

“Please, can we do something that doesn’t involve a needle?”  Trixie looked a bit anxious.  “Aunt Alicia, the pancakes are really good.”  She smiled at her aunt, and Helen felt sure Trixie meant what she said.  Trixie wasn’t one to hold grudges for long.

“I thought we could go to town and eat lunch at Wimpy’s, maybe get an ice cream, and go to see the puppies your brothers saw yesterday.  You’ve learned a lot about knitting this week, and we can work on that some other time.  I still think you might enjoy it if you really try, but we’ve done enough for one week, and I feel bad that you missed seeing the puppies.”  Alicia reached out a hand to stroke her niece’s shoulder.

“Wimpy’s!  I wanna go, too!” Bobby exclaimed.  “Can I go too, Auntie Alicia?”

“Son, today I think your mother wants you to stay home and help her.  You saw the pups yesterday and Trixie didn’t.”  Peter Belden gave his youngest a stern look, and stood, glancing at his watch.  “It’s time for me to go, dear,” he said to Helen.  “Where are the boys?”

A clatter of footsteps was his answer as Brian and Mart galloped downstairs.  “I hope there’s something left,” Mart worried.  “Trixie and Bobby might have eaten everything in sight.”

“Not a chance of that, buddy,” Brian could be heard to reassure him.  “Now, if Moms and Dad weren’t here, it might be a different story.”

Peter Belden bid his family good-bye, and Helen prepared to begin the day’s chores.  She directed her older sons in some cleanup around the yard, as well as in fetching her large platter from the china cabinet.  Trixie was to dust the downstairs before dressing for her lunch with Alicia.  Bobby – what could Bobby do?  She decided, with some trepidation, to ask him to help her bake an Easter cake. 

An hour later, Helen had set Bobby to the task of shaking a jar of shredded coconut with a few drops of food coloring to tint it green.  Her cake was in the oven, and Bobby had licked the spatula and the beaters.  Trixie was nearly finished dusting, and Alicia had run the vacuum cleaner and cleaned the downstairs bathroom.  Glancing out into the back yard, she could see Mart and Brian tossing fallen tree limbs into a pile.  Later, Peter would cut the limbs into smaller pieces for use as kindling and firewood.  The weekend routine was oddly comforting, rather than an irksome reminder that the work never stopped for a stay-at-home mother of four.

Helen dried her hands on a towel and walked into the living room so that Alicia could hear her.  “Alicia, would you like for me to call a cab for you and Trixie, or do you want to drive my station wagon into town?”

Alicia finished winding the vacuum’s cord before answering.  “I suppose you had better call a cab for us.  I don’t drive very often, living in the city, and I don’t want to take any chances.”  She bit her lip.  “I appreciate it, though.”

By noon, Trixie was dressed – under protest – in a plaid jumper and turtleneck such as she might wear to school.  Helen had felt it necessary to veto Trixie’s first choice of jeans, although Alicia had insisted jeans would be fine.  “Peter doesn’t like for Trixie to go into town wearing jeans,” she explained.  Fluffing her daughter’s curls into an aureole around her face, and making sure there were no telltale smudges on Trixie’s face or hands, Helen pronounced her ready for the outing.  Alicia appeared, wearing one of her nice skirts and a light jacket.  Her straight, dark blonde hair was pulled into a neat French twist and she wore a touch of lipstick.

“Bea – Trixie, you look very nice,” she said with a smile of approval. 

Trixie’s attempt to smile through her scowl created a comical and gruesome expression.  “At least Dad doesn’t make me wear a hat to town,” she grumbled.

“The cab should be here any minute,” Helen reminded them.  “Do you need your purse, Trixie?”

“No, I have some money in my pocket, and a couple of tissues.  I don’t need anything else, do I?” Trixie asked.

Just then, a taxi could be seen making its way up the Beldens’ driveway.  “Have a good time, Trixie, dear,” Helen murmured, giving her daughter a kiss good-bye.

Bobby came running into the living room, and jumped up on his big sister.  “Bye, Trixie,” he sobbed.  “I wish I could go!  Kiss the puppies for me.”  

Trixie staggered under his weight, but returned his hug.  “Of course I will, lamb,” she soothed him.  “Now, you be a big boy and help Moms.  I want to see that cake decorated when I get back.”

Bobby scrambled down as quickly as he had launched himself at her.  “I’m gonna dec’rate the bunny cake all by myself.  With jolly beans and Easter grass coconut.”  He nodded emphatically.

The cab’s horn sounded, and Trixie ran out to meet it, Alicia following sedately.

Helen found her thoughts turning to her sister and Trixie many times in the next couple of hours.  She wondered how Alicia would make common ground with her tomboy niece, and wondered how Trixie would respond.  “To think, all of this time I’ve thought Alicia chose to remain single, chose to devote herself to teaching, chose to travel instead of getting to know my babies.  And I had no idea.” 

Bobby dropped his jar of coconut on the floor, and by a miracle, it didn’t break.  She mixed a batch of buttercream frosting, and had to make another half-batch because Bobby and Mart took so many tastes.  Still, she didn’t find herself becoming impatient with her boys.  Her mind was busy in another line of thought.  She couldn’t get over the revelations her sister had shared with her the night before.   I chose a different path – maybe.  Peter and I … we could have ended up in trouble.  What would my parents have said then?  Were we smart, or just lucky?  I was impetuous, like Trixie … but Peter didn’t want to do anything without a lifetime commitment.  At the time, I wasn’t sure I was ready for a lifetime commitment, but I went along with him because I didn’t want to lose him.  So I wasn’t so different from Alicia – we both wanted to please a boyfriend. 

Helen’s cake cooled on the dining room table as she fed her three hungry boys Crabapple Farm specials for lunch, along with several crunchy apples and glasses of  cold milk.  She smiled as she watched them, so different, but so close.  Bobby and Mart watched everything Brian did, and tried to imitate him.  At the same time, Mart was trying to be different in some way, to be an individual.  Brian, steady and responsible, looked after his younger siblings and tried to live up to their image of him as perfect.

“Bobby, let me wipe your face,” Brian offered.  “You have a smudge of peanut butter in your eyebrow.”

“No, I don’t.”  Bobby frowned and rubbed the other eyebrow, making a smudge in it as well.

“Come on, Bobster.  Let Brian wash your face and I’ll read Peter Rabbit to you while you lie down,” Mart wheedled.

“Mommy needs me to holp her dec’rate the cake.  She needs me!”  Bobby was starting to whine.

 “I’ll wait for you to take your nap, dear,” Helen told him.  “The cake has to cool for awhile before we can frost it, anyway.”  She dabbed at Bobby’s face with a clean dishcloth.  Did I choose right?  I’ve never really thought about it before.  The kids started coming and I was always so busy I really didn’t think about what I gave up.  But how could I do without Peter, and my children?  I love to cook, and I really like keeping my home neat and a welcoming place for my family and friends.  If I was in an apartment by myself, I think I’d be lonely …

Mart had Bobby on his back.  “Bid farewell to yon lovely maiden, Little Prince.  For you must be off to a quest in the land of Nod.”  Mart loved to use big words – sometimes Helen felt sure he chose words purposely to tease Trixie and Bobby.  But Bobby was now bouncing on his faithful steed’s back, smiling even as he opened his mouth wide in a yawn.

“Night, Mommy,” he said, reaching for her to bestow a kiss.  “What’s a quest, Mart?  And where’s the land of Nod?”

“Moms – Moms!”  Trixie burst into the kitchen, Alicia walking sedately behind her.  Helen looked up from the bunny cake, which Bobby was embellishing with licorice whips for whiskers.  Trixie threw her arms about her mother and hugged her tightly.  “Oh, Moms, you should have seen the sweet puppies!  Aunt Alicia is buying the tiniest one for us, but we can’t have him for another six weeks.  Oh, I’ll just die if I have to wait that long!”  She heaved a deep sigh and dropped into a kitchen chair.

“Trixie, of course we can’t have it now.  We don’t have a mama dog to feed the puppy.”  Bobby joined the conversation.  Standing on a chair in order to place different-colored jelly beans around the base of the cake, he looked down at his sister with an air of superiority.  Despite several dabs of frosting decorating his face and hair, he exuded dignity. 

Trixie stuck her tongue out at him and crossed her eyes.

“Trixie!”  Helen sighed.

“Remember, dear, Mr. Delanoy said the puppies have to be old enough to wean before they can leave their mother,” Alicia reminded her niece.  “Besides, remember …?” She lifted a well-groomed eyebrow.

Trixie snapped to attention.  “Moms, Aunt Alicia took me to the library and found a book about Irish setters, and one about dog-training.  I’m going to study all about that so I can train the puppy when we get him,” she said proudly. 

“Does the pup have a name yet?” Helen asked.

“Oh, yes!  Every pup has to have a name so that they can be registered,” Trixie answered.  “The names are so interesting!  His name is Rory O’Finn.   The father dog’s name is Finn MacCool, and O’Finn means ‘son of Finn’.  ‘Rory’ means red.  Some of the dogs have really fancy names, but Mr. Delanoy kept this one simple since he was a runt and wouldn’t be a show dog.”  Trixie’s eyes sparkled with enthusiasm as she explained the meaning of the puppy’s name.

“Finn MacCool was a legendary Irish hero, and Mr. Delanoy said he likes to give his dogs names that have a connection to Ireland,” Alicia added.  “Really, it was quite fascinating.”

“Moms, we had a great time.  Aunt Alicia took me to Wimpy’s before we went to see the pups, and I had a cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate milkshake.  Yummy, yum!”

“I’m glad, dear.”  Helen smiled.  “What did you eat, Alicia?”

“Oh, just a club sandwich and a strawberry pop.  It’s been years since I drank a strawberry pop – it was even better than I remembered.”  Alicia smiled, and her eyes held a sparkle as bright as Trixie’s.

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Author’s Notes

3442 words

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 2009 by MaryN/ Dianafan.

I owe huge thanks to my editors, Trish, Ryl, and Ronda, as well as to the members of my online writing group!  Each provided insights and suggestions that challenged me to improve the story. Any mistakes are mine, not theirs.  You ladies are fantastic!

I'm deeply grateful to Vivian, my webhostess and html guru, and to chromasnake, who helped me to make my pages web-friendly. Thank you, my friends!

The crabapple blossom graphic is from, as is the woven basket background; the borderstrip is Microsoft clip art; manipulated in Photoshop by me.

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