Part 6

Sunday, April 14

“Okay, kids!  Everybody say cheese,” Peter Belden directed as he aimed the camera toward his children, gathered in front of one of the crabapple trees, which was just starting to bloom.  Brian, Mart, Trixie and Bobby were dressed in the sweaters Alicia had made for them.  Trixie had agreed to wear her new dress, and she looked adorable, Helen thought.  She tried not to think of how Trixie had groaned in private over the dress, with its intricate smocking, full skirt, and Peter Pan collar.  Thankfully, all of the children had been properly grateful for their aunt’s workmanship, and it seemed that the boys really liked their sweaters.  All of the colors were flattering, and Helen had been pleasantly surprised to receive a sweater that matched Trixie’s – without the satin bow.  Alicia had also made her a dress in fabric that matched her daughter’s, although in a more sophisticated style.  Helen had always wanted a mother-daughter outfit and she was pleased to have her dream come true, if only for one day.

“Now, let me take a picture of the six of you,” Alicia begged.  “I need a family picture of the Beldens!”

By the time the two sisters had posed together, then Alicia with the children, Peter and the boys together, and then Trixie and Helen, it was time to leave for church services.  Peter opened the car door for his wife and sister-in-law to get into the front seat, whispering to Helen that she had better enjoy the sight of Trixie in her dress for the next hour, as it might be her last chance.  Helen stuck her tongue out at him in response, but couldn’t help giggling.

Peter laid down the Sunday paper.  “Brian, Mart, will you boys take Aunt Alicia’s suitcases out to the car?  It’s time we were leaving.”  He stood, and stretched himself after lifting his youngest son from his lap onto the floor.  It was nearly time to drive Alicia into Sleepyside to catch her bus, which was scheduled to leave at three-thirty.  The Belden dining room and kitchen had just been restored to their usual neat appearance by the combined efforts of Helen, Alicia, and the three eldest Belden children, while Peter read the Sunday funnies to Bobby in the living room. 

Helen glanced at her watch.  “My goodness, it’s nearly time!  Alicia, I can’t believe how the week has flown.  Especially the last couple of days,” she added, touching her sister’s arm.  Alicia looked as if she was about to reply, when a tiny dynamo dashed into the kitchen and began to pull at Helen’s skirt.

“But I don’t want Aunty Alicia to go yet!” Bobby cried.  “Why can’t she come an’ live with us forever and ever?”  Helen could see that he was working himself up to a full-fledged tantrum. 

Alicia laid her dish towel on the counter and stepped quickly to Bobby’s side.  “Bobby, darling, I need to go back to my home,” she said.  “All of my clothes are there, and my cat.  Maybe I can visit you again sometime.  If it’s all right with your parents,” she added.  Bending down to his level, she hugged him and gave him a kiss.  “Remember, you’re a big boy now,” she whispered.

“Okey-dokey.”  Bobby still looked glum, but the tantrum had been averted.  “Hey, did you know I dec’rated the Easter Bunny cake all by myself?” he asked proudly.

“Yes, and you did a fine job.”  Alicia smiled at Bobby as if this was her first time hearing of his accomplishment, although Helen had heard him boasting of it at least a dozen times since he placed the last jellybeans and licorice whips on the coconut-covered cake.

Helen felt tears starting in her eyes.  I wasted so much time during this visit resenting Alicia, she thought.  “Alicia, of course you must come back soon,” she blurted out. “Maybe you could visit us for a week this summer.”

“Yes, Auntie.  You’ll have to come back to see how Rory O’Finn is doing.”  Trixie had carried Alicia’s knitting basket from the guest room, and entered the kitchen just in time to hear her mother’s invitation.  Carefully, she set the basket down on the table and hugged her aunt.  Alicia was facing Helen as she returned Trixie’s hug, and the two sisters’ eyes met over Trixie’s tumbled curls.  Alicia’s eyes were bright, as Helen knew her own were, and her lips quivered only a little as she smiled.

“I’ll try, Trixie, dear.  I’ll see what I can do.”

Fifteen minutes later, Helen stood with the children a few feet from the car, to see her sister off.  One by one, Alicia hugged her niece and nephews.   Lastly, she stood before Helen.  “I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing to come back here.  But I’m glad I did, after all.”

Impulsively, Helen threw her arms around Alicia, and didn’t release her until Peter’s warning cough reminded her that Alicia had a bus to catch.  “Please, please do come back this summer,” she whispered as they separated.

“I’ll try, sweetie,” Alicia agreed with a final kiss.  “I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” she quipped, with the ghost of a smile.  Alicia slid gracefully into the front seat of the Belden’s car, and Peter closed the door.   As the car pulled away, the front passenger window was rolled down, and she waved at the assembled group.

“You’re right,” Helen murmured, returning the wave.  “It certainly is.”

Part 6

Alicia Johnson waved good-bye to her brother-in-law as the big Greyhound bus pulled away from the station.  When she could no longer see him, she opened her handbag to retrieve the paperback book she had been reading during her journey to Sleepyside.  The book had been fascinating to her before she visited Crabapple Farm.  However, now her attention was continually distracted by thoughts of her sister’s life.  Helen had the life Alicia had wanted, but life with four children and a husband was hard work.  She was busy from morning til night, with hardly a minute to herself – like the old nursery rhyme, Here we go round the mulberry bush – day in and day out. 

I’m still angry that my chance to choose was taken from me, but I have a good life, and I like my independence and my quiet, well-ordered routines, she thought.  I’m glad to be returning to my tidy apartment and to my cat.  A line from Willa Cather’s My Antonia popped into Alicia’s head, unbidden: 

‘Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the incommunicable past.’ 

I do have that with Helen, and maybe now we can build a new relationship over the ashes of the old one.   Alicia mused over the possibilities of the newfound relationship, and closed her book.  Pulling out a pen and small pad of paper, she began to jot down ideas for activities she and her sister could do together when she visited in the summer.





Author’s Notes

1170 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 this 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.

Copyright 2008-2011 by MaryN

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