Mrs. Fidget

The tall, handsome redhead stood in the formal living room at the Manor House. Matthew and Madeleine Wheeler entered the room. They could tell at a glance that something had happened.

“Miss Trask said you wish to speak to us,” Mrs. Wheeler began.

“I do, but I don’t know quite how to begin.” He took a deep breath. “I’m getting married.”

After a stunned moment of silence, Mr. Wheeler was puzzled. “Then why do you look so upset? Shouldn’t you be happy?”

“Sir, I am happy to be marrying her. I love her.”

“Good. You can have the wedding right here at Manor House. You are planning to continue living here, aren’t you?”

“That’s why I wanted to talk to you. We do want to live here. As long as we’re welcome, that is. But, we plan on being married as soon as possible.” Taking another deep breath, he blurted, “She found out this morning that she’s going to have a baby. When her parents found out, they threw her out of the house, and told her that she’s on her own from now on. The baby is mine. I want to do the right thing, and marry her immediately. That way I can assume my responsibility for her and for our child.”

Mr. Wheeler’s face showed his concern for the young man standing before him. “Are you certain the child is yours?”

“Yes, sir. There is no question about it.”

“Very well. Is it anyone we know?”

He swallowed hard as he nodded.

“Yes, it’s Trixie.”

Madeleine Wheeler fainted.

Oblivious to the events transpiring in the living room, Trixie Belden sat on the porch swing, tears running down her cheeks. Her best friend, Honey Wheeler, was beside her, trying to console her. Neither one had ever dreamed that what was supposed to be such a happy occasion would happen this way.

Trixie sat there, remembering the events of the past two days. She had spent the previous night with Honey and had woken up sick to her stomach. When Honey discovered that this had been going on for over a week, she had insisted that Trixie see a doctor. She had confided her suspicions to Honey, who drove her to a doctor in White Plains. Her suspicions were confirmed when the test came back positive.

Back in Sleepyside, Trixie had immediately gone to tell the father. His first reaction was pure joy. They agreed to marry that summer, as she was two weeks away from her high school graduation. He insisted on going immediately to ask her parents for her hand in marriage. Disapproving of the relationship, Peter Belden refused to give his consent. She had then revealed her condition. Trixie winced, remembering her father’s words. “Trixie, we’ve warned you about this relationship since you started dating him. You refused to listen, and now the worst has happened. You chose to act like an adult, and now you will have to face the consequences as an adult. Go get married, go do whatever you want. Just don’t expect any help from us. I’m sorry, but you are no longer welcome at Crabapple Farm.”

“Trixie, everything is going to be all right,” Honey comforted her now. “You’ll see. The Bob-Whites will help you anyway we can. I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

At that moment, Miss Trask called Trixie inside. She bravely squared her shoulders and wiped her eyes as she went into the house. Mrs. Wheeler,looking pale but determined, said, “Trixie, you know we’ve come to think of you as a part of our family. If it weren’t for you, Honey would be finishing boarding school somewhere and we would never even have had Jim for a son. We know the circumstances, both your condition and your parents’ decision. Matthew and I have talked about this, and we have come up with a solution that we think you will both like. Of course, it will be your decision, and you don’t have to decide until you have had time to discuss it.”

She paused; noticing that he had put his arm around Trixie, as if to protect and reassure her. Smiling, she continued, “We realize that graduation is only two weeks away. If you get married now, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for Trixie to graduate. For her to be this close and not get her diploma would be unthinkable. Trixie, you would regret it for the rest of your life. Anyway, we would like for Trixie to live with us until after graduation. Then, you may have the wedding here, the day after graduation if you wish. Miss Trask and I will help you make the necessary plans. After the wedding, you are welcome to live in the apartment as long as you want, or at least until Trixie can no longer safely climb those steep stairs. We will make other arrangements at that time.”

Trixie and Regan looked at each other and smiled. After a brief discussion, they thanked the Wheeler’s for their offer and agreed to the conditions. Soon, Regan had to go back to work, while Trixie went to rest for a while. Honey followed, offering to lend her anything she needed.

That evening, Trixie felt distinctly uncomfortable throughout dinner. She was grateful for the Wheeler’s support, but couldn’t help wondering what the reaction of the Bob-Whites would be. She knew Honey had called for a meeting to take place later that evening in the Wheeler’s living room.

As they waited for the others to arrive, Trixie sat with Jim and Honey. Honey excused herself, saying she needed to get something from her room. After a moment, Jim spoke. “Trixie, I want you to know we’re glad you’re here. I know this is hard for you and I want to help anyway I can.”

Trixie started to cry. “Thank you, Jim. You know, I’ve been in danger so many times. I’ve even been sure that I was going to die. But, I’ve never been as scared as I am right now.”

“Trixie!” Jim gently rebuked her. “You’re going to be a wonderful wife and mother!”

“Do you really think so?” she asked.

“I know so, Trixie. I remember watching you with the orphaned lamb at Happy Valley Farm, and, later, with little Dodgy. You were born to be a mother!”

“I guess so,” she answered. “Jim?”

“What is it, Trixie?”

“I’m glad that we were able to stay friends, after all that happened.”

“I am, too. No matter what happens, remember that you do have friends you can turn to. If Regan ever hurts you, in any way, I will be more than happy to take care of him for you.” He smiled, to let her know he was only half-serious.

Before she could answer, Honey opened the door, bringing Dan and Diana with her. After a few minutes, Trixie began to wonder if her brothers were coming. Finally, they came rushing in, apologizing for their tardiness. They both hugged her before sitting down.

Honey called the meeting to order and Trixie asked for the floor. She began, “I know you all know this by now, but I want to officially tell you that I’m engaged. Regan and I will be getting married the day after graduation. And early next December….”

Trixie paused, as tears began to flow down her cheeks. Honey came to her rescue, “And in December, their child will be born. Trixie will live here until the wedding.”

There was a moment of silence before Brian spoke. His face was serious, reflecting the responsibility he had always felt for his younger sister. “Guys, the motto of our club has always been ‘all for one and one for all.’ We’ve always been there for each other. I hope we always will be. Over the next few months, Trixie is going to need us more than she ever has. This afternoon, when our parents heard of her condition, they couldn’t handle it. To put it plainly, they’ve disowned her.”

Everyone rushed to reassure Trixie that they would all do anything they could to help her. Eventually, the meeting broke up. Dan lagged behind so that he could talk to her privately.

“How are you holding up?” he asked quietly.

“Pretty well, I guess, considering the day I’ve had.”

“I wanted to let you know how glad I am that you’re going to be part of our family. Even though I’ll have an aunt who is younger than I am!” His dark eyes twinkled.

Trixie hesitated a moment, then blurted, “Dan, has Regan said anything to you? About all of this, I mean?”

“Well, he told me the basics of what happened. He didn’t go into details, just told me that I’m going to be gaining an aunt and cousin.”

“Has he…, I mean, is he…,” she stammered. “Dan, I know he asked me to marry him; he even faced Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler when we didn’t know what they would say, after he heard my parents yelling, but does he really want to marry me?”

“Trixie, I know he’s bothered by everything you’ve gone through today, but I’ve never seen Uncle Regan this happy. He’s thrilled about the baby, but he’s even happier to know that you will soon be his wife. He loves you. Trust me, no man would dare cross Peter Belden if he did not love you more than anything.” Dan smiled and gently hugged her before leaving.

Monday morning, Trixie awoke to severe nausea. She realized that it was partly morning sickness and partly nerves. She was now wearing an engagement ring and felt self-conscious about it. Knowing that she and Regan needed to save for the baby, she had told him that she didn’t want a ring. However, unbeknownst to her, Dan had given his mother’s ring to him. Regan told her that Dan had refused to listen to objections, saying, “Uncle Regan, Mom loved this ring and it is one of the only things I have that belonged to her. She loved you and dreamed of finding you one day. I know she would have wanted you to have it.”

Regan had given the ring to Trixie on Sunday afternoon, after they had a long overdue discussion. Trixie had actually started it by confessing her fears of the previous night. Regan had immediately put his arms around her, saying, “Trix, I wanted to marry you even before I found out about the baby. I love you, Trixie Belden. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to wake up next to you every morning, to smile at you over the newspaper as we eat breakfast. I want to be by your side in the good times, and in the bad times. I want to take care of you when you’re sick and keep you company when you’re well. I want to hold your hand when our children are born and to help you raise them. I want to grow old with you. Is this what you want?”

She had nodded shyly, burying her head in his chest. After a moment, he kissed her softly, and said, “I know you said an engagement ring is unnecessary, but I can’t very well let you have a ring from Jim and not one from me.”

She had looked into his twinkling green eyes, smiling as she remembered the diamond ring Jim had given her so long ago. He continued, “Trixie, this ring belonged to my sister, Dan’s mother. Dan insisted that we have it.”

Trixie admired the ring on her finger. It was a simple golden band, set with a small diamond with sapphires on each side. Her thoughts returned to the present as she heard Honey ask if she was ready to leave.

After stopping to pick up Diana, the three girls arrived at Sleepyside Junior-Senior High School. Trixie was at her locker, digging for her history book, when she heard someone call her name. She looked behind her and realized that Jane Morgan was approaching. She forced a smile.

Jane exclaimed, “Why, Trixie! Is that an engagement ring you’re wearing?”

“Yes, it is,” she replied briefly.

Jane laughed as she said, “So, Tomboy Trixie is getting married! You know, I always thought that Honey would be the first in your group, or maybe Di Lynch. Unless…”

“Unless what, Jane?” Trixie asked through clenched teeth. Jane had always rubbed her the wrong way.

“You’re not the only one who can solve mysteries, you know! I saw you in White Plains on Saturday, Trixie. I was waiting for my sister-in-law to come out of Dr. Davidson’s office, when you came out. I guess I really should have spoken, but you were obviously upset. I didn’t want to intrude. Now, suddenly you’re engaged. Let’s add up the clues, shall we?”

As Trixie remained silent, dreading what she knew was coming, Jane continued. “I just can’t believe that out of the whole school, little Miss Trixie Belden, detective extraordinaire, would be the one to get herself in trouble like that. I guess you’re not as smart as everyone thinks.”

“Jane, I really can’t see how this concerns you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to class,” Trixie replied calmly. She began to walk towards her first class. Inwardly, she realized that Jane had been waiting for this moment since the ninth grade and would enjoy spreading her theories all over school.

Trixie sat through her first two classes, enduring the stares of her classmates. Apparently, she was the day’s main topic of conversation. Early in third period, she was called to the principal’s office. She entered his office nervously, wondering why he wanted to see her.

“Yes, Mr. Stratton?”

“Have a seat, Trixie. I just need to talk to you for a moment. A little while ago, a student came to see me. She told me a tale that I consider preposterous; however, I then overheard the same story being discussed in the hallway. I just need for you to refute this vile story, and I will see that proper censure is taken. Trixie, students are saying that you’re going to have a baby.”

She blinked back tears, as she said, “Mr. Stratton, I can’t deny it. It’s true. Another student saw me leave the doctor’s office when I found out Saturday morning. It’s only a guess on her part, but she’s right.”

Mr. Stratton groaned. “Trixie, you do realize that this means you won’t graduate?”

“What?” she exclaimed, too startled to worry about her manners.

“The school board wrote a policy several years ago that prevents any student from attending school while in a family way. They feel that such students have a negative influence on the rest of the student body. This includes married students, so even if you were to get married it wouldn’t change the situation. I’m sorry, Trixie, but I have no choice but to expel you from school. Since you won’t be able to finish the year, you won’t have the credits you need to graduate with your class.”

Trixie couldn’t trust herself to speak. She sat there weeping, as Mr. Stratton found her student information card.

“Do your parents know about the baby?”

“Yes, sir,” she managed to say.

“Good, because I have to call them to let them know what’s happening.”

“Mr. Stratton, it won’t do any good to call them. When I told them on Saturday, they threw me out of the house. I’m staying with the Wheelers now.”

“Unless they have given legal custody of you to the Wheelers, I still have to call them first.”

“Even though I’m of age?”

“I’m afraid so. As long as you’re enrolled in high school, you are considered to be under their guardianship.”

Trixie nodded in understanding. When the call to her mother ended, she could tell from his expression that Helen Belden would be of no help in this matter.

“Trixie, I don’t want to ask this, but I can’t talk to Madeleine Wheeler unless I know. Is Jim Frayne the father?”

Trixie started. “No, sir. Jim Frayne is NOT the father.”

He looked at her curiously before asking, “Does Mrs. Wheeler know about the baby?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well, then.” He proceeded to call Mrs. Wheeler. After the call, he asked her to wait in the outer office until Mrs. Wheeler arrived at the school.

When Madeleine Wheeler entered the door of the school, she looked angrier than Trixie had ever seen her. Charles White, superintendent of the Westchester County School System, was close behind her. She ran to embrace Trixie, protectively keeping an arm around her as they were escorted back into Mr. Stratton’s office.

“What is the meaning of this?” Mr. White asked. “Mrs. Wheeler asked me to meet her here because she says you have expelled one of our best students.”

“Unfortunately, she’s right. Trixie Belden is pregnant.”

After a few heated moments, in which Mrs. Wheeler reminded them of Trixie’s contributions to Sleepyside, Mr. White agreed that an exception might be made. Of course, the school board would have to approve it. He promised to put it on the agenda for the following night. Trixie was suspended until the board made a decision.

The following evening, Trixie nervously dressed for her hearing. Although there would be a general meeting open to the public, her case would be discussed in a closed session after the meeting. Along with Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, Regan and the Bob-Whites insisted on accompanying her to the meeting.

During the meeting, Trixie sat between Mrs. Wheeler and Regan. She really missed her parents and suddenly realized that they had been right to an extent. When she had started dating Regan, they had warned her that, while they thought a lot of him, she was getting in over her head by dating someone so much older at such a young age. When she had refused to wait until she turned eighteen to see him, they had warned her that she would have to bear the consequences if anything happened. Yet, sitting there with Regan, she felt ready to face whatever could happen. She felt him take her hand. She knew that no matter how the school board decided he would stay by her side.

After what felt like hours, the closed session began. Mr. White asked Trixie if her parents were present. She responded negatively. Matthew Wheeler stood to answer, “I am acting in loco parentis for Trixie tonight.”

A board member asked Trixie to tell why an exception to school board policy should be made for her. She had always hated talking about her accomplishments and felt very uncomfortable. She stood to summarize her school achievements. After much hard work, she had actually brought her grades up to a “B” average.

Mr. Wheeler then stood and reminded the board of all the good things Trixie had done for the people of Sleepyside. He ended by saying, “Gentlemen, I cannot condone the events that led to this situation. However, I do not condemn her either. When my family first moved to Sleepyside, Trixie’s influence helped my daughter to become a normal, happy teenager. She has always set a good example for her friends to follow. Now, she has made a mistake. No one is perfect; everyone in this room had done something that was later regretted. Trixie has helped the people of Sleepyside so many times, let us now help her when she needs us.”

An exception was granted, allowing Trixie to return to school the following morning. Between attending school and making wedding plans, the rest of the week flew by for Trixie. On Saturday, Brian called her. Mr. and Mrs. Belden had taken Bobby to White Plains so that she could move the rest of her belongings. After consulting Regan, she decided to move most of it directly to the apartment.

As Regan was trying to get the already perfectly organized stables ready for the two weeks he was about to take off, Honey drove Trixie to Crabapple Farm in the station wagon. She realized with a pang that the farm was no longer her home when she stepped out of the car and didn’t know whether to knock or go on in. While she was debating with herself, Mart spotted them and came outside.

The three went to Trixie’s old room. She began taking everything out of the closet, laying it on the bed. Just then, Brian, the most level-headed Belden, walked in with boxes he had obtained from Mr. Lytell.

“Trix, what were you planning to use?” he asked upon seeing the question in her eyes.

“I hadn’t even thought about it. Once again, I didn’t think,” she replied sheepishly. Mart looked at her sharply, but no one said a single word until the subject was changed.

As they packed, they discussed the plans for the following weekend. Graduation would be Friday evening, followed by a party for all three girls at the Lynch estate. The wedding would be held the following afternoon.

“Brian, what did Moms and Dad tell our relatives? I know most of them were planning to come for graduation.”

“Well, I didn’t hear exactly what was said,” he answered softly. “I do know Uncle Harold and Aunt Eleanor are in South America. Uncle Mart and Aunt Helen won’t be able to come. Aunt Alicia…, well, I’m surprised that you didn’t hear her very unladylike shriek when Moms was talking to her on the phone. Uncle Andrew….”

“Stop!” Trixie cried. “I don’t want to hear anymore. At least you and Mart haven’t disowned me yet.”

“Trixie! We’re not going to disown you, so don’t even think like that. Bob-Whites stick together through thick and through thin. And not only are you a Bob-White, you’re our sister. Even when you become Mrs. Trixie Regan, you will still be our sister. No matter what happens.” Brian comforted her.

“Besides, I do not consider it permissible to allow my only sister’s progeny to mature sans mine own oversight,” Mart teased. “Especially if he or she shows an inherited proclivity towards the mysterious!”

Trixie looked as if she couldn’t decide whether to laugh or to cry. She proceeded to do both.

“Honestly, Trix, I think Moms and Dad will come around once the baby is born. Right now, they’re in shock. They can’t accept that their baby girl is all grown-up, with a child of her own on the way. However, you stopped me before I got to the best part. Uncle Andrew is still coming. He wants to be here for your graduation and wedding, come what may.”

Brian insisted that Trixie not lift any boxes. Mart and Honey took a load to the station wagon while Brian and Trixie finished talking.

“Thank you for helping me, Brian. I know this is hard for you. You always did feel responsible for me.”

“Trixie, I watched you suffer when you realized that things would never work out between you and Jim. I know Jim felt as badly as you did, and we all watched you two struggle to remain friends. You did, but afterwards, you had changed. You didn’t realize it, but most of your dreams had gone. You never laughed anymore and even your rare smile seemed forced. Then, suddenly, you started laughing again. One day, you even smiled when Mart teased you. You found you could dream again. I admit I was upset when I first discovered that it was Regan making you happy again, but once I saw how much he loves you, I accepted it. Now, I want you and Regan to be happy together, raising your little one.”

“Will you do me a favor, please? Will you give me away next Saturday?”

“Are you sure?”

She nodded shyly.

He answered, “I would be honored.”

The four friends finished packing. They drove to the Manor House, where Regan helped Brian and Mart carry the boxes upstairs to the garage apartment. Leaving Trixie and Honey to unpack, the men headed back downstairs.

“Trixie, with everything that’s been happening, I haven’t had a chance to tell you how happy I am for you. Can you believe that this time next week you will actually be Mrs. Bill Regan?”

“No, and just think, by next Christmas, I’ll be a mother! I actually have a human being growing inside of me!”

“Trixie, do you regret, umm…” Honey blushed. “Well, giving yourself to him?”

Trixie blushed as well. “Well, we did talk about what could happen. I didn’t expect Moms and Dad to be so upset, and I didn’t think I would be suspended from school, but I knew that there was a chance this could happen. I don’t regret it, but I do regret causing your family so much trouble.”

As Trixie grew silent, Honey asked, “You did protect yourselves, didn’t you?”

“No, neither one of us believes in using anything like that. I know it was wrong to become intimate before marriage, but, somehow, it would have seemed worse if we had used anything.”

Honey was about to reply when they heard someone on the stairs. By the time Regan came in, the girls were discussing wedding plans.

The next week passed quickly. Trixie had morning sickness constantly, but managed to attend school every day. She was thankful that graduation became the focus of conversation, taking attention away from her predicament.

On Wednesday, the deluge began. Relatives began pouring into Sleepyside. Di’s Uncle Monty arrived simultaneously with Trixie’s Uncle Andrew. All of Honey’s grandparents came, bringing Ben Riker with them.

That evening, Trixie sat on the porch with Honey and Ben. He hadn’t heard anything that was going on, so she tried to explain her presence without going into detail.

“Let’s just say I did something Moms and Dad didn’t like and they disowned me. Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler kindly offered to let me stay here until after graduation.”

“Trixie, what will you do after that? Do you have any place to go?” Ben asked with genuine concern.

Trixie held up her left hand. “Yes, I’m getting married on Saturday.”

Ben stared open-mouthed, suddenly convinced he was the victim of an immense practical joke. Trixie was getting married? Hadn’t Jim said that he wouldn’t get himself engaged to anyone as dumb as she was? He was joking at the time, but she was still so young! Anyway, the Beldens would never desert Trixie, would they?

Just then, Andrew Belden came up the driveway. Trixie ran to meet her favorite uncle.

“Trixie!” Honey called. “Be careful! Stop running!”

Trixie didn’t turn around, but did slow down to a sedate walk. She overheard Ben say, “Why can’t she run? You’ve never stopped her before!”

Honey replied, “Ben, haven’t you figured it out yet? If she runs, she could fall. If she falls, the baby could get hurt.”

Trixie grinned as she heard Ben’s yelp of surprise. Then she greeted her uncle, as he rushed to hug his favorite niece.

“Trixie, are you all right?” he asked, his voice filled with worry.

“I’m fine, considering everything, Uncle Andrew. I’m so glad you came!”

“Wild horses couldn’t have kept me from being here. I wouldn’t miss the most important weekend of your life for anything!”

“I was just afraid to get my hopes up. I mean, not even Moms and Dad will be there.” Trixie wiped away tears. He then asked to hear the whole story.

“Trixie, I’ve heard your parent’s side of the story, but I want you to tell me what happened.”

Because of the guests at Manor House, Trixie headed towards the club house. “Honey has several visitors, so this way, no one can hear us,” she explained.

They went inside the clubhouse and sat at the conference table. “What do you want to know? I mean, where should I start?” she asked.

“Considering that I thought you were still dating Jim, start there,” he suggested.

“Well, I know everyone thought Jim and I would wind up together, including me and Jim. We tried. Last winter, I mean during my junior year, we realized it wasn’t meant to be. We worked hard at remaining friends, and we are still friends. But last winter and last spring were really hard for me, so I spent a lot of time by myself. I rode Susie through the game preserve just about everyday, which meant I was at the stables quite a bit. Regan and I started talking, I mean having actual conversations, and we became good friends.”

She paused, as if remembering those months.

“Go on,” he requested after a moment of silence.

“Anyway, as time passed, we started confiding in each other. In a way, it was easier for me to talk to him than it was for me to talk to Honey. Please don’t misunderstand me, Honey and I are still best friends. But I couldn’t talk to her about how I felt, because she really felt caught in the middle. After all, Jim is her brother. And Regan would listen to me when I needed to talk. Then we started talking about other things. Gradually, we realized that we were falling in love with each other. There’s not a certain moment that I can point to, and say that’s when I fell in love. It just happened gradually, for both of us.”

He nodded, and urged her continue.

“I’ll never forget the first time we discussed it, though! I think we would both have gone on indefinitely, never saying anything, if I hadn’t tried to ride a horse that Mr. Wheeler had recently bought. I saddled her and rode around the corral a few times. Brilliant me decided to try her on a bridle path. I should have learned my lesson the first time I tried that with a strange horse, but some things I guess I’ll never learn. Anyway, Honey was riding with me that day, and we were fine until a trespassing hunter shot a deer. The shot startled the horses, but Honey was able to control Strawberry. I couldn’t calm Apricot, and she threw me. The fall stunned me, and for a while, I lay there not moving. Honey ran for help. Regan came back yelling my name. I was sitting up by then, but I’d sprained my ankle. Regan carried me back to the stable. He kept trying to calm me down, telling me, “It’s okay, sweetie, it’s okay.” I was crying from the pain in my ankle, and didn’t realize what he had said until he realized what he was saying. While he bandaged my ankle, he apologized for calling me sweetie. I asked him why he was apologizing, and admitted that I had liked it. Anyway, we wound up talking about our feelings for each other. He asked me to go out on a real date with him. When I asked Moms and Dad, they didn’t like the idea, but finally agreed that I could go as long as we had a chaperone. They had never said that I needed a chaperone before, but I agreed to the condition. I knew they were worried about the age difference. At first, Moms wanted to forbid me to see him, but realized that it was impossible. After all, she knew I couldn’t avoid going to the Manor House.”

“Trixie, exactly how much of an age difference is there?”

“Nine years. He was twenty-two when the Wheelers moved to Sleepyside. He’s twenty-seven now.”

“So you started dating. Then what happened?”

“We went out a few times, then decided to make it an exclusive relationship. Not that either of us was seeing any one else, we just decided to make it official. Then we did start to get serious.” She paused, before continuing, “Regan didn’t want to push me into anything I wasn’t ready for, so we took everything slowly. We had already started talking about getting married later on, before we…” she trailed off, blushing.

“DID he push you into anything?” Andrew Belden asked gently.

Trixie shook her head. “No, sir. It was my choice as much as it was his.”

He looked at his niece compassionately. He had seen her get into situations in the past that had threatened her well-being, even her life. He knew that this time, she would bear the consequences of that decision for the rest of her life. He couldn’t bear to reproach her, knowing she needed his support. He changed the subject to his flight, and they walked back to the Manor House.

On Friday, the girls rode to the graduation ceremony together, as they had to attend a rehearsal beforehand. Trixie, thankful that she had felt well all day, went through the graduation march self-consciously. She sat in her seat and looked around the gymnasium. She spotted the Wheelers and Lynches sitting together, directly in front of the non-graduating Bob-Whites. Regan and Andrew Belden sat together, behind Brian, Mart, and Dan. They were all surrounded by the rest of the Wheeler and Lynch relatives. Trixie felt a twinge of sadness that her parents weren’t there for the event that they had looked forward to for so long. She did think that it was a good sign that her Uncle Andrew was sitting with Regan.

After the ceremony, the three families went to the Lynch estate for the girls’ graduation party. The mansion was filled to overflowing with guests. Trixie slipped outside for a breath of fresh air. Regan followed and stood beside her. He drew her to him, softly kissing her. Neither one spoke as Trixie’s blue eyes met Regan’s green eyes. Time lost its meaning as they each reflected on the life they would soon begin together.

Finally, Regan spoke. “I talked with Mr. Wheeler today.”

She looked at him expectantly. He explained. “He agreed to let me buy the farmhouse on Old Telegraph Road. We’ll be able to remodel it. It has plenty of bedrooms for our children, plus it adjoins the game preserve.”

“Regan, that will be perfect for us! It’s close to the stables, but we’ll still be able to have a home of our own.” She impulsively hugged him, as she whispered, “Thank you!”

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. Trixie looked out of the window as soon as she opened her eyes. She remembered that this was the last morning that she would ever wake up as Trixie Belden. As she dressed, she looked back over the years. She remembered meeting Regan for the first time, smiling when she remembered that he had seemed so old when she was thirteen. She remembered going to Saratoga with Honey to look for him when he disappeared. She laughed when she thought of the look on his face when she had whispered the words “mashed potatoes.” Before she knew it, Honey was telling her it was time for breakfast.

After breakfast, Trixie insisted on helping to get the garden ready for the ceremony and reception. Diana arrived mid-morning, leading the girls to Honey’s room. Honey, who had made Trixie’s wedding gown, urged her to try it on for one last fitting. Trixie had asked for an old-fashioned, traditional style dress, but considering the circumstances, felt that a white dress would be inappropriate. The dress Honey made was the color of cream. The stand-up collar and long sleeves were made of lace, while the full skirt fell to her ankles.

Honey and Diana agreed that Trixie looked radiant. Diana styled Trixie’s hair, which now reached past her shoulders. She pinned it up into a sophisticated chignon, which, combined with the effects of the old-fashioned dress, made her look older than her scant eighteen years.

At one o’clock, guests began to arrive. Brian and Mart were among the first to arrive, bringing Bobby with them. The eleven year old ran up to Trixie, who hugged him tightly to her.

“I miss you, Trixie!” he said.

“I miss you, too, Bobby. You know that I’ll always love you, no matter what happens, right?”

“Awww, Trixie!” he squirmed out of his sister’s grasp. “I’m going to see Regan now,” he announced importantly. He had always considered Regan to be one of his best friends.

When Bobby was out of ear-shot, Brian turned to Trixie, asking, “Are you sure about this? If you’re not, you don’t have to go through with it. We can always figure something out.”

“Yes, Brian, I’m sure. This is what I would want even if circumstances were different. I love Regan. I want to marry him.”

Mart tried to launch into a pompous soliloquy, but promptly choked up. Trixie smiled. “Brian, it’s worth it just to see Mart speechless!”

At promptly two o’clock, Honey began to play the wedding processional. Brian took Trixie’s arm. He escorted her down the makeshift aisle, where he placed her hand in Regan’s.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God and of these witnesses to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony. Marriage is a sacred institution, holy in the eyes of God. This day, the two of you will become as one, with your lives forever entwined. The joining of your right hands signifies this covenant.”

Trixie looked into her groom’s eyes. She heard the minister ask Regan to repeat after him. “I, William Archibald Regan, take thee, Beatrix Helen Belden, to be my lawfully wedded wife. I pledge to love, honor, and cherish you. Forsaking all others, I will keep myself only for you. I give you my promise.”

Feeling as if she were in a dream, she began to repeat her own vows. Vows that she knew would forever stand the test of time. “I, Beatrix Helen Belden, take thee, William Archibald Regan, to be my lawfully wedded husband. I will love, cherish, and obey you. Forsaking all others, I will keep myself only for you. I give you my promise.”

“By the power vested in me by the state of New York and by the joining of hands, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

Regan kissed her tenderly. They turned to look at the family and friends surrounding them.

“Whom therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder. I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. William Regan.”

Honey began to play the recessional, although Trixie and Regan didn’t walk back up the aisle. Instead, all of the guests surged forward to offer their congratulations. Trixie looked around the group. She was thankful that, with the exception of her parents, all of those closest to her were present.

Miss Trask and Celia busied themselves serving refreshments. After a suitable interval, Trixie slipped inside to change in to the casual clothes she would wear on their trip. She returned to the garden to find that Regan had also changed clothes. She headed towards him, stopping when she realized that he was surrounded by Belden men. She overheard Andrew, Brian, and Mart all admonish him to take good care of her. She sighed resignedly, used to hearing people being told to take care of her. Honey and Di joined her.

“So, how does it feel to be an old married woman?” Diana asked, teasingly.

“I’m happy, nervous, and relieved all at the same time,” she answered honestly. She saw Regan walking towards her. He took her arm in his. Together, they went to speak to Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler. After thanking them for everything they had done, they left the Manor House for their honeymoon.
A week after the wedding, the newlyweds returned to Sleepyside. The day after their return, Regan took Trixie to the farmhouse he had purchased from Mr. Wheeler. Although her first memories of the house were ones she tried to forget, Trixie had conquered her aversion to the house several years earlier. Now, as they decided on decorating schemes and colors, she truly fell in love with the house. In many ways, it reminded her of Crabapple Farm. Walking through the house holding hands with her husband, Trixie had no trouble picturing it filled with the laughing voices of their children.

As they left the house, Trixie noticed a moving van parked at a house across the street. She wondered if the residents were moving away or if someone new was moving in. While she was thankful to be close to the Manor House and Lynch estate, she hoped she would have nice neighbors in her new home.

The week passed by as Trixie and Regan spent time together adjusting to married life. They were able to complete most of the work needed on the farmhouse. Regan told his wife that they should be able to move in sometime in August.

The honeymoon ended. Regan resumed his responsibilities in the stables and Trixie began her life as a homemaker with some trepidation. She had never imagined herself as a housewife, but knew that it was for the best. During their brief engagement, Trixie, desiring to help make ends meet, had mentioned trying to find a job until the baby was born. Regan had patiently reminded her that it would be very difficult for a woman with a child on the way to find a good job that she would have to leave in a few months. He told her, “Trixie, I know your dream is to open a detective agency with Honey. I understand that. However, it will be several years before Honey finishes college. In the meantime, if you want to take classes at the community college, I will support you in any way that I can. After our children are born, when you get ready to open the agency, I will do my best to help you. But sweetie, I really would prefer for you to stay home while our children are young.”

Trixie had nodded. She had been fortunate to grow up in a home where her mother was able to concentrate on raising her family. She knew how Honey had felt growing up away from her parents. She wanted to be with her own children as long as possible. Before she could ask if they could afford it, Regan had continued. “Besides, there’s no need for you to work right now. We’re not rich, but we will be able to live comfortably on my salary. Mr. Wheeler has always paid me very well for having to put up with the Bob-Whites!”

Startled, she had looked at him, hurt until she noticed the twinkle in his green eyes and the smile on his face. He kissed her before adding, “You have to admit that most men would have forbidden the house to anyone who constantly ran off his servants and placed his house-guests in jail!”

“Hey, I only did that to the ones who were guilty. Don’t forget, if it wasn’t for me, you might be in jail for a crime you didn’t commit. Even worse, you might have stayed in Saratoga and married Joan!”

Regan groaned. “Don’t remind me! I had never been so glad to see anyone as I was when I saw you and Honey watching me over that fence. But don’t forget, you did set me up with her!”

“Okay, that wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever done. Of course, at the time, you were off-limits to me. Not that I thought of you that way back then. You were so old! I don’t mean that you’re old now. I just mean that at the time you seemed it. Oh, you know what I mean!”

Laughing, Regan had replied, “Trixie, I do understand you. You mean that you love me!” She agreed, leaning forward for his kiss.

Now, as they began their life together, Trixie was amazed to discover that she enjoyed making Regan’s apartment into their home. Although housework had always seemed dreary to Trixie, she now found that there was a difference between helping her mother keep house and keeping her own home comfortable and pleasant for her husband.

The day Regan returned to work, Honey accompanied Trixie to the farmhouse off Old Telegraph Road. As she showed the house to Honey, Trixie explained how she planned to decorate it. Self-consciously, she asked her best friend for a favor.

“Honey, I know you and your family have done too much for me already. I really do appreciate everything you’ve done.” Noticing Honey’s puzzled look, she continued, “I hate to ask for anything else, but would you show me how to make curtains? I want to make them instead of buying some, but I have no idea where to start.”

Honey had been carrying a small bottle of water in her hand. When she heard Trixie’s request, it fell out of her hand, rolling across the floor. Too stunned to run after it, she stared at her friend. Catching hold of herself, she asked Trixie, “Did I hear you correctly, or am I suddenly having hallucinations?”

Trixie giggled. “No, you heard me correctly. It may be my hormones talking, but, for some reason, I really do want to make the curtains for the house.”

“I always suspected you would become domestic one day. I’ll be glad to help. Do you know the measurements of the windows?”

She did, and Honey calculated the amount of material they would need. Suddenly, she asked, “Umm, Trixie? Do you have a sewing machine?”

“A what? Do you mean I need a machine to do this?” she asked, stifling her laughter.

“Surely you remember the one I used at your uncle’s cabin in the Ozarks. Or even the one sitting in my bedroom. You know, the one I used to make our jackets.” Honey said.

Trixie did laugh aloud then. “Oh, Honey! I was just joking. As a matter of fact, I do have a sewing machine of my very own. Aunt Alicia sent it to me on my last birthday. She said every young lady needs a sewing machine. If she was talking to me, I’d tell her that she’s right.” Her laughter gone, she sighed. “At least, I did send her a thank you letter before everything happened.” She changed the subject as they left for Crimper’s Department Store.

Arriving at the store, Honey headed directly to the fabric department. On the way, Trixie heard someone calling her name. They paused, allowing Grandpa Crimper to catch up to them.

“Hi, Honey. Trixie, I hear you got married!”

“Yes, sir. The day after I graduated.”

“Well, I can see you didn’t waste any time,” he said ambiguously. “Who’s the lucky man? That red-head you always had mooning after you, I suppose.”

“Which one?” Trixie laughed. “Sleepyside is full of gentlemen with red hair.”

“You know the one I’m talking about. Her brother,” he said, pointing at Honey.

“No, I didn’t marry him. I am now Mrs. Bill Regan,” she said loftily. She had always enjoyed bantering with Mr. Crimper.

“I know him. He’s a fine fellow. But Trixie, I wish I had known that you like older men. I would have married you myself! You could have been a department store heiress. Oh well, it’s too late now, I suppose.” He turned and walked away.

“Well, I never!” Trixie sputtered to Honey. “Please tell me that I dreamed that entire scene!”

Honey was laughing too hard to answer. Soon, Trixie, seeing the humor in the situation, joined in. When they reached the fabric department, they both had tears in their eyes from laughing so much.

Trixie’s first attempt at sewing turned out better than anyone expected. She had decided on a simple style, similar to the curtains Honey had made for the Moore’s cabin in the Ozarks. To her amazement, Trixie found that sewing was no more difficult, and much safer, than chasing jewel thieves. With Honey’s help, Trixie finished the curtains just in time to pack for the move.

The Bob-Whites had visited Trixie and Regan many times over the few weeks since their marriage, and now insisted on helping them move. After determining that everything was packed and labeled, she rode to the house with Diana and Honey. When they arrived, she noticed that yet another moving van was parked across the street. This time, she saw someone taking boxes into the house. Deciding that she did have new neighbors, she resolved to meet them before the day’s end.

As Dr. Ferris had forbidden Trixie to pick up anything heavy, she contented herself with directing the placement of boxes and furniture as they were brought into the house. Late that afternoon, the group finished, except for unpacking a few of the cartons. Leaving the couple alone to settle into their new home, the Bob-Whites slipped away.

Busy arranging her Lucy Radcliffe novels on a shelf, Trixie heard a knock on the door. She and Regan stopped what they were doing and, together, went to the door. Regan opened it, admitting their first visitor in their new home. Trixie gasped as her Uncle Andrew came inside.

After shaking hands with Regan, Andrew embraced his niece, who still had not spoken. Finding her voice, she said, “Uncle Andrew! What are you doing here? I mean, I’m glad to see you, but is something wrong? Surely Brian or Mart would have told me….”

Regan broke in on her confused rambling. “Andrew, you’ll have to forgive my wife. Sometimes she speaks without thinking,” he said, smiling at her. She knew he was teasing her.

“Regan, I noticed that a long time ago. Unfortunately, it seems to run in the family,” he said. “No, nothing’s wrong, Trixie. I just stopped by to meet my new neighbors!”

“New neighbors! Oh…oh…are you the one moving in across the street?” Trixie asked excitedly.

“Yes, I am. I decided long ago that I would return to Sleepyside permanently one day. The Gormans are perfectly capable on running Happy Valley Farm, while the Moores are good caretakers of my property in the Ozarks.”

The Regans settled into their home, and the time came for most of the Bob-Whites to leave for college. Honey and Diana were freshmen at the university Jim, Brian, and Mart attended. Dan had finished his police training and would be working in the Sleepyside Police Department. Over the years, Trixie had become used to watching Brian and Jim, then Mart, leave Sleepyside in September. This year, as Honey and Diana joined the boys, Dan dropped by to check on her.

“Trixie, how are you feeling?”

“Fine, I guess. Why?” she asked, with a question in her eyes.

“Because I saw that look on your face when you said goodbye to everyone. I noticed, because that same look has been on my face many times.”

“Dan, is this how you felt when we went off somewhere without you? I mean, knowing there are good reasons you’re not going, and being happy about those reasons, but still feeling left out?”

“Exactly. I enjoyed the work I did, but that didn’t make me feel any less left out. Trixie, I know you love my uncle, but you are still young. It’s normal to feel the way you do.”

“What, confused? You’re right. I do love Regan, more than anything. If I had everything to do over, I would do it the same way I did before. I guess I just need time to adjust.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. Trust me, nothing could be more of a change that being pulled out of a street gang and coming to a small town to live with an uncle I had never met. Don’t misunderstand, it was the best thing that had ever happened to me, but you remember how long it took me to become accustomed to my new circumstances.”

“Do I ever!” she smiled. “Are you sure you want to work with Sgt. Molinson?”

“Yes, you know I’ve wanted to be a policeman as long as you’ve known me. Why?”

“Because if you ever get tired of law enforcement, you would make a wonderful psychiatrist! Seriously though, thanks for cheering me up.”

“You’re welcome, Trixie. My bill will be in the mail,” he couldn’t resist teasing.

Although Trixie did miss her friends and brothers, she focused her attention on making the nursery ready for the baby. Andrew Belden was a frequent visitor, often coming by every day. Trixie was pleased, and secretly relieved, when Regan and Andrew became good friends. She realized the extent of this friendship on the day that Regan asked her to consider asking Andrew to be the god-father of their child. Trixie knew that she would never forget the look of joy and excitement on her uncle’s face as he agreed to fulfill the role.

Autumn passed quickly. By the end of October, Trixie was perfectly satisfied with her house and nursery. Mrs. Wheeler gave Trixie a baby shower on a weekend when Honey and Diana were able to come home from school. She received everything she needed, including lots of well-meaning advice from the mothers in the group. However, the closer she got to her due date, the more Trixie yearned for her own mother. Mrs. Wheeler had been wonderful, treating Trixie as she would her own daughter. Even Mrs. Lynch offered to help in any way she could. Trixie was grateful for their help and concern, but knew no one could ever take the place of Mrs. Belden.

For the first time ever, Trixie would miss the annual open-house at Crabapple Farm. Trixie contemplated cooking a Thanksgiving dinner of her own, but realized that in all likelihood she would not feel able to complete so ambitious a meal that close to her due date. After discussing it with Regan, the young couple decided to accept an invitation to the Manor House.

Thanksgiving Day dawned cloudy and cold. The temperature was well below freezing when Regan returned home from the stables in the late morning. With one eye on the weather and the other on Trixie, Regan admitted that he was uncertain they should go to dinner. Trixie, unmindful of the weather, insisted that she felt fine and was perfectly capable of going. At her insistence, they went, thoroughly enjoying their time with Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, Honey, Jim, Dan, and Miss Trask. Andrew Belden had been invited, but had felt duty bound to go to the open-house at Crabapple Farm.

Minutes after they returned home, the weather took a turn for the worse. Wind whistled around the farmhouse, bringing with it the first snowflakes of the season. Regan went outside to bring in enough firewood to last the evening. When he returned, he told Trixie that he believed a blizzard was beginning.

Snug and cozy in the farmhouse, Trixie and Regan reminisced about other storms that they had been through. While Regan rekindled the fire, Trixie turned the radio on to WSTH so that they could hear the weather forecast. She grabbed the blanket she was knitting for the baby, then curled up next to Regan on the sofa. It wasn’t long before the high wind and heavy snowfall created so much static that he switched off the radio.

Around nine o’clock, Trixie suddenly felt a pain that she had never before experienced. Involuntarily, she moaned. The pain ended as Regan asked her if she was all right. She told him that she was, as he put his arms around her. A few minutes later, another pain came, causing her to bury her face in his chest. She looked up at Regan, saying, “I think I’m in labor!”

Under his worried gaze, Trixie calmly said, “Dr. Ferris wants us to call him when the pains are five minutes apart. Go get the bag I packed out of the closet, so that we’ll be ready.”

Suddenly, a thought struck her. “An ambulance CAN get through, can’t it?”

“I hope so, sweetie. I hope so,” Regan murmured, picking up the phone to call for an ambulance. He listened for a moment, then replaced the receiver. In answer to Trixie’s questioning glance, he told her that the phone had no dial tone.

She glanced out the window, knowing that they would not be able to make it to the hospital. She looked at Regan, realizing that he was just as worried as she was. “Hey, you’ve done this before haven’t you?” she asked, trying to smile.

“Only with horses. Last time I checked, you weren’t a horse!” he tried to smile in return.

Each trying to reassure the other, Regan helped Trixie to their bedroom. Before she could make it to the bed, her water broke. He helped her to put on a clean night-gown, then urged her to lie down. After cleaning up the floor, he removed the blankets and quilts from the bed. Instead, he spread the softest towels he could find.

As Trixie lay on the bed, Regan tried to make her as comfortable as he could. He put pillows behind her back, washed her face with a cool wash-cloth, and crushed ice for her to eat. As the contractions continued and Trixie grimaced with pain, Regan felt helpless for the first time in his life. Leaving the orphanage, being framed in Saratoga, even leaving Sleepyside to clear his name, he had always felt that somehow he would be able to make it. Now, he knew Trixie was his life. He had never loved anyone the way he loved Trixie, and having to watch her suffer was sheer torture. He held her hands as pain washed over her, berating himself for putting her through this.

Regan tried to think of the baby, of some way to ease Trixie’s pain, or of anything he could do. He couldn’t help thinking, “Poor Trixie! She’s trying so hard to keep from yelling. She’s suffering because of me. If I had controlled myself last spring, she wouldn’t be going through this. I’m older; I should have stopped us. I just wanted her so much! Now, she has to depend on me to get her through this when she’s never had to depend on anyone in her life.”

Realizing that the baby was coming, he helped Trixie into a more comfortable position. Holding her hands, he quietly urged her to start pushing.

As Regan guided his first-born child into the world, he set aside his feelings of guilt, finally understanding that a miracle was happening. With tears running down his face, he told his wife, “We have a daughter!”

As he gave her first cry, Regan carefully cleaned her up and wrapped her in a soft towel. He gently placed his new-born daughter in Trixie’s exhausted arms, kissing them both. In Regan’s eyes, Trixie was more beautiful at that moment than he had ever seen her.

He carefully sterilized a sharp knife before cutting the umbilical cord. Trixie then fed their daughter for the first time.

Telephone service was restored around eight o’clock the morning after Thanksgiving. As soon as he could get a dial tone, Regan called Dr. Ferris, who arrived within minutes. He examined Trixie and the baby, giving them both a clean bill of health. He congratulated Regan on doing a fine job delivering the baby and urged him to get some sleep. Before he left, he weighed and measured the baby, recording the time of birth for his records. He told Regan how to obtain a birth certificate, as the procedure was different for home births.

As soon as Dr. Ferris drove away, Regan called Dan to tell him of the baby’s birth. Ecstatic, Dan offered to call the Wheeler’s as well as Trixie’s brothers. He also insisted on taking care of the horses for his uncle. After breaking the connection, Regan dialed the number of Andrew Belden. Reaching the answering machine, he left a message. However, even as he spoke, he saw Andrew climbing up the porch steps.

“Good morning, Andrew!” he called. “Come meet your new niece!”

“What! Has Trixie had the baby already?”

“Yes, she was born around four o’clock this morning. Mother and daughter are both doing well.”

After reassuring himself that Trixie and the baby were all right, Andrew took a good look at his niece’s husband. “Regan, you look like you were the one who just gave birth. In fact, Trixie looks better than you do! When was the last time you slept?”

Regan thought about it. “I think it was night before last.”

“That’s what I thought. I’ll stay with Trixie; you go to bed. Trust me, you’ve earned it, son.”

Too tired to argue with him, Regan complied. So as to not disturb Trixie, he went to lie down in the guest room. He fell asleep before his head touched the pillow.

Within minutes, the Bob-Whites arrived with Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler. Trixie insisted on going into the living room so that she could visit with everyone at once. As Honey and Diana helped Trixie into the room, Andrew placed the baby in Dan’s waiting arms. Immediately captivated by his new cousin, he whispered, “She’s so tiny!”

Trixie overheard. “That’s what you think!” she muttered.

As everyone laughed, Mrs. Wheeler told her, “Trixie, no man will ever understand how large a baby truly is. How much does she weigh?”

“Six pounds, eleven ounces.”

She nodded. “Honey weighed seven pounds exactly. I asked the doctor if his scales were correct, because I just knew she weighed fifteen pounds at least!”

“Mother!” Honey squealed with embarrassment.

“Just wait, Honey. One day, you’ll know first hand what I mean.”

After some persuasion, Mart finally convinced Dan to share the infant. He reminded Dan, “I know she’s your only cousin, but she’s my only niece, too!”

Taking her from Dan’s arms, Mart asked Trixie, “Speaking of which, what appellation have you decided to bestow upon this new arrival in our midst?”

Trixie stared blankly at her brother.

“What’s her name, Trixie?” Brian translated.

“Oh! Everyone, meet Rebekah Pearl Regan.”

As they all took turns holding little Rebekah, Diana asked for details of the birth. Trixie summarized without going into great detail, but let everyone know how grateful she was for her husband. “After cutting the cord, he cleaned us up and insisted that I go to sleep. I woke up one time, and he was in the rocking chair, rocking Rebekah, and watching me sleep. I think he did that until the phones came back on this morning. When that happened, he didn’t waste any time calling Dr. Ferris!” she laughed softly.

“What did Dr. Ferris tell you, Trixie?” Brian asked.

“He said Rebekah is perfectly healthy and I’m fine. He said there was no point in moving us to the hospital, but told me that he wants me to rest as much as possible for a while.”

After a while, everyone began to leave. Honey offered to relieve Andrew so that he could go home. Having been at Crabapple Farm when the blizzard hit the previous afternoon, he had stopped to check on Trixie and Regan on his way home that morning. He left after making Honey promise to call him if he was needed.

When they were alone, Trixie asked Honey if it would bother her if she nursed Rebekah.

Surprised at the question, Honey exclaimed, “Of course not! After all we’ve been through together, do you honestly think that would bother me?”

As she fed her hungry daughter, Trixie mused, “You have come a long way since that first summer you moved here. I remember when you used to get queasy at the sight of blood.” She laughed, continuing, “Of course, last night made me queasy!”

“Poor Trixie!” Honey smiled. “Was it really that bad?”

“Well, yes! It was messy and painful! At least, knowing that Regan was with me and taking care of me helped a lot.”

Honey said, “You know full well that you would do it all over again if you had the choice!”

“In a heartbeat! Honey, once you hold that baby in your arms, knowing that she’s really part of you and part of your husband, you know it was all worth it.” Trixie paused, gently placing Rebekah in her cradle and covering her with a blanket Honey handed to her. “Ironically, she seems to have Mart’s appetite!”

After spending a little while catching up on each other’s lives, Honey urged Trixie to take a nap. She assured her that she would keep watch over Rebekah. Knowing that her small daughter was in capable hands, Trixie finally fell asleep.

That evening, Trixie and Regan were finally left alone with their daughter. Although they were both thankful to have friends and relatives that greatly cared about them, they were glad to be alone as a family. There had been a constant stream of visitors as all of those close to the couple came by. Trixie refused to let herself be disappointed because her parents had not come to see their first grandchild. She looked at Rebekah, vowing to herself that she would never let anything come between them. She glanced up at Regan to discover that he was watching them with a smile.

“Trixie, you’re going to be a wonderful mother,” he assured her, answering the question he could read in her eyes.

“You’ll be a wonderful father,” she replied.

“I’m glad that she takes after you, Trixie. She’s almost as beautiful as you are,” Regan said. He moved to sit beside her, placing Rebekah in her cradle. Taking Trixie’s hands in his, he looked deep into her eyes. “Do you have any idea how happy you’ve made me?”

“I hope you’re as happy as I am,” she whispered.

As the days passed, Trixie and Regan prepared for Christmas. When Rebekah was about three weeks old, they took her to Crimper’s to have her picture made with Santa Claus. The store was packed with shoppers, and Trixie was grateful that the crowds and noise didn’t seem to bother her daughter. As they stood in line, Trixie noticed a familiar figure coming towards them. She smiled as she hugged Bobby for the first time since her wedding. Bobby turned to hug Regan, then stared at the niece he had never seen.

Looking on the reunion from a distance were Peter and Andrew Belden. Andrew urged his older brother to go speak to them. Hesitantly, Peter walked towards his only daughter and her family. Trixie tightened her grip on Regan’s hand when she noticed her father’s approach. Not knowing what to say, she smiled tentatively, trying to judge his reaction. To her surprise, she realized that he was also uncertain of what to say.

Peter looked at little Rebekah, who looked so much like Trixie had as a baby, and reached out to touch her. She grabbed his finger. Mesmerized, he took her into his arms. He held her as if he couldn’t believe she were real. After a silent moment, he spoke to Regan. “I understand that you’re taking good care of them.”

“Yes, sir,” he answered, squeezing Trixie’s hand. “They’re my life. I don’t know what I would do without them.”

Peter nodded, handing Rebekah to Regan. He turned to face his own daughter. “Trixie, I…” he broke off as he saw Regan settle Rebekah in Santa’s arms.

After the photograph was taken, he awkwardly hugged Trixie, then told Bobby that they had to go. Bobby said goodbye to Trixie and Regan, gently kissing Rebekah on her forehead. Trixie watched them as they walked away. She wondered what her father had been about to say, but realized that there was no way to know. She told Regan, “Well, at least some progress has been made.”

He agreed, then chuckled as he took a closer look at the photograph an elf handed to him. Nestled snug in Santa’s arms, Rebekah had reached up and grabbed his long beard. The look of pain on his face was too real for the beard to be false. Trixie laughed out loud when she saw the picture.

“I never told you about my first Christmas, did I?” she asked.

“No, you haven’t,” Regan smiled at her.

“Well, I was about six months old when Moms took me to see Santa. I grabbed his beard, but his was false. It came off in my hands. Moms told me that Brian started crying because he thought that I had hurt Santa Claus. You know, it looks like Rebekah may take after me in more than just looks.”

“Please, please, don’t tell me that!” Regan pretended to cringe. “I remember way too many stunts you pulled when you were growing up. I don’t know that I can go through that again!”

Knowing that he was teasing her, she teased, “You don’t know the half of it!”

He frowned, putting his freckled hands on his hips. “And what, pray tell, do I not know about?”

“Actually, I think you do know most of it. Did you really worry about me that much?” she asked.

“Well, I worried about all of you. Trixie, if I had known then what I know now…” he trailed off, kissing her on the top of her head. “All right, Mrs. Fidget, it’s time to go home.”