Here we go ’round the mulberry bush,
the mulberry bush,
the mulberry bush.
Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
All on a beautiful morning.

Sunday, April 7, 1968

Alicia Johnson squinted to read the upcoming road sign from her seat on the Greyhound bus. “Sleepyside, 3 miles”. She swallowed convulsively and pulled a creased envelope from her pocketbook. Plucking out the letter inside, she reread it for at least the twentieth time.


“Dear Alicia,

I’m so sorry we weren’t able to see you at Christmas, and hope you enjoyed your trip to Switzerland. We’d love to have you visit when your school has its spring break. The children have all grown so since last year, and I’d like for them to know their aunt a bit better. You’ve never been to Crabapple Farm, and the middle of April is a lovely time here. Peter joins me in inviting you to come.



Alicia drew a shaky breath. My sister has the life I wanted, she thought. A husband, a home of her own, children … I hope I’ll be able to hide my jealousy for a whole week. Why did I agree to this visit? Carefully, she refolded the sheet of paper, replaced it in its envelope, and tucked the envelope back into her purse. The bus was turning onto the side street where the combination record shop/bus station was located in the village of Sleepyside-on-Hudson, New York. She snapped open her powder compact and blotted the shine from her nose with a puff, then stood and waited for the passengers ahead of her to disembark. Moments later, she was standing on the curb with her luggage, staring around at the buildings which seemed both familiar and strange.

The old hotel is gone, she noted. A sign on the vacant lot proclaimed “Future site of Farmers Bank and Trust Company”. The old ice cream shop is now the home of Wimpy’s. I wonder if Wimpy’s burgers are as good as they used to be, she mused. Her stomach growled and Alicia checked her watch, then craned her neck to see if she could spot the taxi she had summoned. It’s the waiting, she decided. I dread visiting Helen, but just like going off the high diving board, anticipation is the worst of it… I hope!

Finally, a battered taxicab pulled up to the curb where she waited, and a lanky young man unfolded himself from the driver’s seat. In proud painted lettering, the taxi’s door proclaimed “Sleepyside Taxi Service – we get you where you’re going!” I suppose this is the only taxi in Sleepyside, Alicia told herself.

“Do you know how to get to Crabapple Farm?” she asked, peering at the young man – who barely looked old enough to drive. “It’s on Glen Road.” Grabbing the handle of her Pullman-size suitcase, she uttered a most unladylike grunt as she hefted it off the ground. The young man jumped forward, his hand reaching to snatch the suitcase from her.

“Ma’am, that’s much too heavy for you,” he declared. “Crabapple Farm – the Belden place? Sure, I know where it is. I can get you there in five minutes, tops. So you’re visiting the Beldens?”

Alicia was taken aback by the young man’s inquisitive manner. I guess I’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in a small town. “Yes. Yes, I am,” she managed to answer. Sometimes I’ve thought I’d never come back. I’m a stranger here now. She felt a curious twinge in her chest at the thought.

“I’ll put your suitcase in the trunk,” the young man offered. He opened the rear door for her. In a moment, the car was headed out of town and into the newly-green countryside. Alicia noted the flowering redbud and white dogwood trees which lined the roadside, but the peaceful scene did not calm her. Too soon, the taxi was turning off the blacktopped road, into a curving drive lined with crabapple trees. The buds on the trees were swollen and pink with promise, but had not yet blossomed. As the taxi came to a stop, Alicia stared at the neat white frame house with its welcoming front porch. Before she could exit the car, a half-dozen people seemed to erupt from the house and she shrank back into her seat. I should have realized that they’d all be at home on a Sunday, she scolded herself.

Pasting a confident, first-day-of-school smile on her face, she gracefully accepted Peter Belden’s help in getting out of the car. Helen was right behind him, and Alicia reached out to greet her with a carefully formal embrace.

“Thanks for asking me to visit, Helen,” she managed to say. “It’s good to be here.”




Author’s Notes

771 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 2008 by MaryN/ Dianafan.

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.

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