“Am I running?” she thought miserably, propping her chin on her hands. She stared with unseeing eyes at the snowy scene outside her window. “Am I? Is that what this is all about, just getting away?”
“No,” she told herself, remembering the sleepless nights Peter had endured when she came home from the hospital. The sleepless nights were bad enough, but the nightmares were worse. She had been awakened several times by his cries, cries that were filled with fright and despair. She tried to forget, but knew that she would always remember hearing him calling out to her in his sleep to come back to him. Tears came into her eyes, as she recalled his words.
“Every time I close my eyes, I see you lying there. Helen, we can start over somewhere else, maybe buy a house in town or find an apartment in the city.”
She had agreed, trying to hide the guilt she felt. There had been Beldens at Crabapple Farm for six generations. She and Peter had planned to live out their lives there; Peter had planned to indulge his dreams of full-scale farming after retiring from the bank. A tear ran down her cheek as she reflected, “All of our dreams are gone, all of our hopes and plans.”
Realizing the full impact of her actions of the previous summer, Helen would have given anything to be able to go back and undo what she had done. She sighed at that thought, knowing her original mistake had occurred much earlier than that.
When she was first admitted to the hospital, she had been so hopeful that things would work out after all. Dr. McCoy had warned her that it wouldn’t be as easy as she thought, but she hadn’t been able to bring herself to believe him.
After all, Trixie had forgiven her for turning her back on her, even making the effort to make her hospital stay as comfortable as possible. Helen had even managed to convince her to let Bobby stay with her family, so that Peter could remain close by her side.
The more time she spent with her, though, the more she realized that she didn’t have her daughter back. The Trixie that she was learning to love was no longer the self-conscious teenage detective she had once been, nor was she even the young, frightened girl that left home on her parent’s orders. This Trixie wasn’t Peter and Helen’s daughter. She was Bill Regan’s wife, Rebekah and Billy’s mother, Andrew’s niece.
The tears that she had been trying to hold back finally began to spill down her cheeks. She had been unprepared for the raw pain she had experienced when she saw the little family interacting for the first time. Trixie had seemed so happy and fulfilled, just the way she had felt when her own children were babies. Watching all the little moments that had made that Thanksgiving so special had reemphasized how much she had missed out on. It hurt knowing that Andrew was a part of that, that he had been there to see Trixie blossom into full adulthood, to be a part of Rebekah and Billy’s lives from the days of their birth.
“Do I really want to miss out on being there when this one’s born?” she wondered, thinking about the child Trixie was carrying. “But it’s not like I won’t ever be able to see it. There’ll be visits; we can call or write.” She sighed, smiling wryly through her tears as she thought, “Andrew will make sure we’re supplied with photographs.”
“Why do I feel like I’m the one running, when this is what Peter wants?” she asked herself. “This was his idea. Well, at least he didn’t hesitate to accept when Harold made the offer.”
Her mind went back to the tour of the mine offices that Harold had taken them on two days earlier. She smiled in spite of her inner turmoil, remembering that her brother-in-law had never been known for his subtlety.
“Look, Peter,” Harold said, trying to keep his voice low. “I know you’ve always said you’d never leave Crabapple Farm, but I really do need your help. With the amount of traveling Eleanor and I have to do, just to keep new customers and contacts, we’re not in the office long enough to ensure that everything is handled the way it should be. We’ve always had trusted employees, but we caught one of them with his hand in the till last month. He’s been replaced, but I need someone to be here when I’m not. What do you say?”
It wasn’t the first time that Harold had made the same offer; he and Eleanor had been trying to get them to move out here for years. In the past, though, Peter had always turned it down, never once considering making the cross-country move. This time, Peter had surprised them all by replying, “I say ‘all right.'”
Say goodbye to yesterday
Nothing standing in my way
Never was a guarantee
But in my heart I know there’s got to be
“I made it through the wedding. That was something,” she thought, again staring moodily out the window at the heavily falling snow. “Even if Hallie did pull that stunt at the reception. Everyone knows why she did it, or at least all the ones from Sleepyside.”
She shook her head, grateful that Peter had agreed to leave Sleepyside. “I just hope he doesn’t change his mind after this evening,” she began to worry, reassuring herself that it had been his idea. Of course, that had been before Hallie had made such a big deal out of her father and daughter dance, before Peter had danced with his daughter.
When Hallie made her little announcement urging all the fathers and daughters present to take the dance floor, Helen had noticed everyone watching her as Peter headed towards Trixie. It had been obvious that no one trusted her to remain calm, but she thought that she had surprised them all. Instead of getting visibly upset, she had just smiled as if she loved the idea.
“We were right to decide to leave. Sleepyside has too many painful memories,” she decided, remembering how difficult it had been to see Trixie walk down the aisle as matron of honor, her hand tucked under Regan’s arm. Seeing her during her visits to the hospital and in her home on Thanksgiving had been relatively easy, considering how much Trixie had changed and matured, but it was different seeing her with Regan in an actual wedding. It had been too easy to compare it to the one Trixie should have had and would have had if she’d married Jim. Seeing Jim with his own bride made her feel even worse.
She didn’t dare hint at those feelings, knowing that everyone assumed that she had finally fully accepted Regan as her daughter’s husband, and, to an extent, she had. She had spent many hours in therapy during her hospital stay, trying to understand how to deal with the conflicting emotions she would inevitably feel.
In the mood she was in, it was easy for her thoughts to turn from reflective to critical as she dwelt on that day’s wedding. “I still can’t believe Trixie let that baby take part in the wedding! She should have known that Rebekah would cause a scene!” She unwillingly smiled, however, as she remembered how her granddaughter had reached the end of the aisle with leftover rose petals, tossing them into the air. Andrew had retrieved the smiling child from the wedding party, holding her in his lap for the duration of the ceremony.
“I made it through it, that’s the important part.” She took a deep breath, “Just one day, one step at a time, like Dr. McCoy said. I made it through the wedding. And tomorrow….”
She cheered slightly as she thought, “And tomorrow, I get to tell Bobby that we’re moving out here. He’s going to be so excited!”
I can see me pulling through
Finding out I’m someone who
Is moving on and letting go
Picking up the pieces on the road
“How could he say that?” Helen thought frantically, wiping her eyes as she caught a glimpse of her thirteen-year old son outside the window. She watched in silent disbelief as he helped Anders, Rebekah, and Billy build snowmen. It seemed as if he gave no thought at all as to how badly he had hurt her, but she forced herself to remember that he didn’t know she had overheard his words to Trixie.
“Trixie?” Helen heard Bobby in the kitchen. With her hand on the doorknob, she paused, listening as he continued, “If… if I can convince Moms and Dad, can I keep living with you and Regan? Please, Trixie?” For the first time in years, she heard her son crying when he said, “It would have been bad enough going back to the Farm, but…”
She hadn’t waited to hear the rest of his sentence; she hadn’t waited to hear Trixie’s reply. She had flown up the steps to the guest room she was sharing with Peter, barely making it to the room before breaking down into tears.
“It would have been bad enough going back to the Farm. It would have been bad enough going back to the Farm.” The words became a refrain, repeating themselves as Helen sobbed. It had been bad enough being ostracized by the town, becoming a pariah in her own circle of friends, but to have her own son, her precious baby, her little boy, plainly say that he didn’t want to live with her was unbearable.
“It would have been bad enough going back to the Farm,” she repeated, remembering the day that now seemed a lifetime ago.
“Peter! We warned her! She knew what would happen!”
“I know that, Helen!” Peter groaned in agony. He bowed his head, crying for the first time since Brian’s birth. “How can we turn our backs on our baby girl? She’s having a baby!”
Tears welled in her own eyes as she thought about the coming child. The news hadn’t been entirely unexpected; but the certain knowledge that her daughter was carrying Regan’s child was too much for her to handle. “We have to do this, Peter!” she repeated firmly. “We have to!”
The glimmer of hope that she’d held on to that Trixie would one day come to her senses and reconcile with Jim Frayne faded forever as she realized that Trixie would be marrying Regan after all. She renewed her efforts to convince Peter to follow through on the idle threats that he had made to their daughter as her dashed hopes were swallowed up in sudden fury that Trixie had sullied the family name.
Helen barely noticed the change that came over her husband as she convinced him to turn his daughter out of the house, although the brokenness of his spirit would haunt her dreams from then on. She handed him a wet towel, “Don’t let her see you cry, Peter.”
She made the empty motion of wiping her own dry eyes, then took his hand. “Let’s get this over with.”
Together, they left the kitchen, returning to the living room where Peter told Trixie that she was no longer welcome at Crabapple Farm.
“Will I never be forgiven for that?” she cried within herself, Bobby’s words still burning themselves into her mind. “Why Bobby? Do I have to lose him, too?”
Memories of Bobby’s infancy and childhood tortured her, as she reminded herself that he couldn’t stand the thought of living with her again. She remembered the chubby toddler trying to keep up with his older siblings, the preschooler demanding that he be allowed to go to school with “Twixie,” the six year old being bitten by a copperhead. She recalled his rescue from the catamount’s den, his close call with the Cowhands not long afterwards, the narrow escape he’d had from the Dodge kidnappers that same year. She noticed that one thread ran through all of these memories: the fact that she had heard them all after the danger was over. Trixie had been the one running to his rescue, the one who he had come to look to for encouragement and support.
“It would have been bad enough going back to the Farm.” She wept as she remembered the day she now knew she should have realized was a sign of things to come.
“Come on, Bobby,” Helen sighed as she caught sight of the dirt covering the six year old. “It’s time to get ready for the wedding!”
“Where’s Trixie?” the child demanded to know, looking in askance at the clothes draped across his mother’s arm. “I want Trixie!”
“She’s off with Honey,” she tried to explain patiently, attempting to lead him to the bathroom. “Let’s go get you in the bathtub.”
“NO!!” he wailed. “Trixie promised!”
“Bobby, Trixie’s not here right now. You’ll have to hurry if you want to go to the wedding!”
“Don’t wanna!” he screamed, “Trixie ALWAYS helps me!”
Helen continued to weep, knowing that he had been right. In trying to help Trixie settle down and curb her tomboyish impulses, she had had her take over a good deal of Bobby’s care from an early age. It hadn’t helped that after Trixie was gone, she just hadn’t had the energy to spend the time with him that she should have.
“It would have been bad enough going back to the Farm.” She was again watching him from the window, reliving the moment that had heard those awful words. “It’s too late, isn’t it, Bobby?” she asked silently. “You’ll never come back to me, will you?”
She knew that as of the first of January, she would once again have legal custody of the teenager. She could force him to move with them, but as she watched him through the window, she noticed how different he seemed with the children. He was no longer the sullen, morose child that she’d packed away to summer camp that past summer; instead, he was once again vibrant and alive. “Can I do this to him?” she wondered, leaning her cheek against the cool window pane. “Or do I set him free?”
The chapter’s been written
It’s all in the past
I kept turning pages
I’m here at last
“Well, it’s over,” she thought, gazing blankly at the cardinal sitting on the window sill, “and I actually made it through.” It had been a difficult day for Helen, as she and Peter finalized the arrangements that had to be made before everyone began returning to Sleepyside.
“Mart, Brian, we need to talk to you,” Peter told their sons, motioning for them to sit at their aunt and uncle’s kitchen table.
“Is everything all right?” Brian asked, obviously alarmed at his mother’s pale face.
“Yes,” Helen answered, trying to smile. Knowing what she would have to do later that morning made smiling difficult, but she wanted to reassure her oldest children.
Peter put his arm around Helen, saying, “You already know that your mother and I will be joining your Uncle Harold and Aunt Eleanor in their mining business.” He smiled, “You also know that we considered selling Crabapple Farm.”
Mart nodded, his face inscrutable as he said, “Are you?”
“We can’t do it, Mart,” Helen answered holding onto Peter’s free hand. “You’ll never have much of an inheritance from us, but your dad and I feel that Crabapple Farm should go to you children.”
Mart sighed in relief and even Brian looked as if a weight had been lifted. Peter continued, “I do want it to stay in the family, but you know it’s going to be a big responsibility. Mart, I know you’ve still got almost two quarters left before graduation, but most of the upkeep will fall on your shoulders. I’m sure Brian will help you, but your sister is going to have more on her shoulders than she needs as it is.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll handle it,” Mart assured his father. “You don’t have to worry about a thing.”
Helen sighed. “If only the other discussions had been that easy….”
“Moms?” Trixie asked hesitantly, poking her head through the doorway. “Could I talk to you a minute while Bobby’s off with Cap?”
Knowing what was coming, but glad that she wouldn’t have to seek her out, Helen agreed. “Of course, Trixie. Is Regan with you?”
“No, he’s helping Knut and Uncle Andrew try to put Anders’s new bunk beds together,” she answered, smiling as she said, “which will be interesting since Gloria’s gone to the grocery store and they’re having to watch all of the children, too.”
“Anders has really taken to Bobby,” Helen commented, feeling as if her heart were breaking in two.
“Yes, he has,” Trixie nodded. “Of course, Bekah and Billy have, too. Moms, I’m not sure how to say this, but I wish you’d consider letting him stay with me and Regan, at least until school’s out for the summer.”
She was silent, trying to shut out the memory of Bobby’s words the day before. Trixie continued, “He’s been doing so well in school this year, but if he’s uprooted in the middle of the year….”
Finding her voice, Helen interrupted. “Trixie, I heard what he told you yesterday.”
“It’s all right, Trixie. I know he doesn’t want to live with me anymore.”
“Moms, it’s not….”
Interrupting again, Helen shook her head. “Trixie, please don’t make this any harder than it already is. You’ve been taking care of him just about his whole life, but I AM his mother. I’ve got to do what’s best for him.”
Trixie nodded, tears in her eyes. “I KNOW you want what’s best for him. He’s come so far the past few months, he’s growing up, Moms.”
Helen wiped her eyes with a tissue hastily grabbed from her nightstand. “He really is, Trixie. All of you grew up too fast.” Forcing herself to calm down, she asked, “What does Regan think about this?”
“He wants him to stay with us as much as I do.”
“Very well, Trixie,” Helen choked out. “Dad and I will want to talk with both you and Regan before you go home tomorrow, though.”
Helen had found herself wrapped in Trixie’s excited arms, and managed not to wince as her exuberant daughter forgot to be gentle. Although she was able to handle gentle embraces, unexpected squeezes still caused her minor pain. She sighed, remembering how her daughter had been as impatient as always in calling Regan to come right over.
“At least it’s done with,” she mused, remembering the conference with her daughter and son-in-law. “I still can’t believe he’s refusing to let Peter contribute to Bobby’s support, though.”
“And of course, we’ll pay for what he needs, either so much a month or you can send me the receipts of what you’ve had to pay,” Peter assured Regan.
“No, sir,” Regan said immediately. “If you want to send him a little spending money, that’s between you and Bobby, but I can’t accept your money.”
“We’ll discuss this again later,” Peter replied, while Helen simply stared in bewilderment. “But in the meantime, I’ll make arrangements for us to visit the attorney’s office when we return to Sleepyside. I don’t know if he will need to draw up a new agreement, or simply extend the deadline on the one we have, but we’ll get it taken care of.”
“Have you told Bobby yet?” Trixie asked, her hand on Regan’s arm.
“No,” Peter shook his head. “We were waiting until we spoke with you.”
“And so my baby’s gone,” she sighed, remembering the enthusiasm he hadn’t been able to completely conceal when he was informed of the arrangement. “All of my babies are gone.”
“Bobby, I have something to tell you,” Helen said as he stepped through the front door with his cousin.
She couldn’t help but notice the dread on his face as he nodded, following her to the living room. “What is it, Moms?”
Summoning strength she didn’t know she possessed, she said, “Bobby, how would you like to stay in Sleepyside with Trixie and Regan?”
“What?” he whispered. “Do you mean it?”
Tearfully, she nodded. “I think it will be better for you to stay with them instead of coming with us.”
Carefully watching his face, she noticed the confusion that briefly warred with the relief he tried to conceal from his expression before he jumped up to hug her. “Thank you,” he whispered, momentarily leaning his head on her shoulder. She returned his embrace, feeling as if her heart were breaking in two.
“What am I going to do?” she whispered, watching as the cardinal flew away.
“You’re not going to do anything,” she heard in whispered reply, as strong arms wrapped gently around her. “We’re going to start over. Together. I love you, Helen,” he said softly, stroking her hair.
She turned around in his arms, laying her head on his shoulder. “I love you, too, Peter.”
Gonna take some time, I’m on the mend
I’m healing, starting over at the end
And feeling stronger than I’ve ever been