Rabbit! Rabbit!

Trixie awoke early the morning of her birthday, for once remembering to say “Rabbit! Rabbit!” before saying anything else. She rolled over, giggling when she caught sight of the amused expression on her husband’s face. “Good morning!” she said.

“Good morning to you, too, Mrs. Fidget! You finally remembered to say it!”

“Yep! And I even remembered to make a wish when I said it last night!”

“What did you wish for, sweetie?” Regan asked her.

“Bill Regan!” she exclaimed. “You know that if I tell you, it won’t come true!”

“Well, we can’t let that happen,” he said, trying to suppress a smile, “especially not today. By the way, since you managed to do it on your birthday, does that mean you get two wishes?”

“Not that I know of,” she laughed. She knew that Regan wasn’t superstitious, but that he loved her enough to humor her anyway. “This is the first time I’ve ever succeeded on my birthday!”

The slightly teasing note left Regan’s voice as he said, “Happy birthday, Trixie!”

“Thank you,” she smiled, starting to sit up.

“Just where do you think you’re going?” he demanded.

“I’m going check on the children,” she told him.

“They’re still asleep, sweetie,” he assured her. “We’re awake earlier than we usually are.”

She glanced at the clock, surprised to find that it really wasn’t as late as she had thought. She allowed him to pull her back onto the bed and into his arms. He had just begun to kiss her when they heard seven-month old Billy begin to wail. Regan reluctantly released her, promising to pick up later where they had left off.

Trixie changed her son’s diaper, after which she peeked into Rebekah’s room. The toddler was sleeping soundly, so she asked Regan to check on her again after he finished getting dressed. She carried Billy into the kitchen, smiling as she saw the flowers and gift-wrapped box on the table. Certain that Regan had placed them there the night before, she tried to contain her curiosity as she began to feed Billy and fix breakfast at the same time.

Breakfast was on the table and she was sniffing her flowers when Regan came into the room with Rebekah. He whispered something in the child’s ear and she said, “‘Appy day, Mommy!”

Trixie stifled her laughter, as she hugged her daughter. “Thank you, sweet pea!” she said, settling her into her high chair.

“Well, aren’t you going to open it?” Regan asked, handing her the still wrapped box.

“Can you believe I managed to wait until you got in here?” she replied, eagerly removing the red tissue paper. “Oh, I love it!” she exclaimed, as she opened the lid of the small music box.

After breakfast, Regan reminded her that Andrew would be going out to eat with them that evening, then left for the stables. She dressed the children and herself and had just finished cleaning the kitchen when the telephone rang. She was pleased to find that Mrs. Wheeler was calling to wish her a happy birthday.

Throughout the morning, she received calls from her Uncle Andrew, Hallie, and all of the Bob-Whites. She was appreciative of all the good wishes she received, but became thoroughly tired of being asked how it felt not to be a teen-ager anymore. She knew that they didn’t mean anything by it, but she wondered how anyone could possibly think that she still felt like a teen-ager, considering she had a husband and two children.

With all of the interruptions, she didn’t finish her housework until after lunch. She rested briefly, then decided to set out the flowers that she had purchased from Mrs. Elliot the day before. She took the portable playpen outside, along with several toys. She set it up where she would be able to keep a close eye on its occupants. Once she had them situated, she began to plant the seedlings.

It was some time later when she heard a car coming up the road. She looked up from the flowers, glancing first towards the playpen where Rebekah and Billy were happily playing together. Assured that they were all right, she turned her gaze towards the familiar car that had just pulled into Andrew Belden’s driveway. She watched as the driver slowly stepped out and hesitantly approached her uncle’s door.

She momentarily considered taking her children into her house and shutting the door. Reminding herself that hiding wasn’t the way to handle the situation, she forced herself to finish tamping down the soil on her plants. Once she was over her initial shock, she began to wonder if something was wrong. In the almost two years since Andrew had lived in Sleepyside, this was the first time that Trixie knew of that he had been visited by his older brother. She knew her uncle went to Crabapple Farm occasionally, although he didn’t tell her much about those visits. She realized that he was simply trying to spare her feelings, even though it was her fault that her parents had never visited his house.

Forcing herself to fill the watering cans, she thought about her parents, how her mother had never even seen Rebekah and Billy. Trixie flushed, remembering that the last time she had spoken to her mother had been the day that she had had to tell them that she was expecting. Soon after Rebekah had been born, she and Regan had run into her father at Crimper’s Department Store. Peter Belden had seen and even held his granddaughter. She had hoped afterwards that he even if her dad couldn’t forgive her, that he would at least want to see Rebekah grow up. However, as the months had passed with no word from him, she had gradually given up that hope, putting all of her energy into raising her own family. She was determined to never let her bond with her own children to be broken.

Watering her flowers, Trixie noticed that the two men were crossing Andrew’s front yard. Wishing desperately that Regan were at home, she set the cans down on the porch. She then walked quickly towards the playpen. She stood nervously, trying to smile as she picked up seven-month old Billy.

Seventeen-month old Rebekah shared none of her mother’s anxiety. She saw the men approaching and called out, “Unca Andew!”

Trixie greeted her uncle as he picked up Rebekah. The toddler laughed happily as Andrew tickled her chin, but Billy saw only the man that was a stranger to him. He buried his face in Trixie’s neck, clinging to her tightly. She looked to her father, relaxing somewhat as she saw the expression of wonder that crossed his face.

“Daddy?” she whispered, seeing tears in his eyes.

“Trixie, I…, they’re beautiful!” Peter said softly.

Uncertainly, she looked to her uncle for assurance, relieved to see his grin. “Do you want to hold him?” she asked her father. She didn’t wait for his answer, but untangled her son’s arms from her neck. “Billy, this is your grandpa. He wants to meet you,” she soothed, hoping that he wouldn’t pick up on her own nervousness. To her relief, the normally shy infant went willingly into Peter’s waiting arms.

Rebekah had never been bashful. Now, as she saw Billy being held by this man she didn’t know, she asked, “Unca Andew, who’s that?”

“That’s your grandpa. He’s your mommy’s daddy,” he replied.

Seeming to understand, she squirmed out of his grasp, toddling over to Peter. She simply stood there looking up at him. He shifted Billy to one side, scooping Rebekah up with his free arm just as years of practice had taught him to do.

Trixie watched as her father hugged her children to him. Eventually, he sensed them growing restless and put them back into the playpen. He then turned to his daughter, taking a small box from his pocket. He handed it to her, quietly saying, “Happy birthday, Trixie.”

Stunned, she took the box. Tears came into her own eyes as she opened it. Nestled inside was a necklace with three charms each containing a stone: an emerald, a topaz, and a sapphire – her birthstone, along with those of her children. With tears streaming down both of their faces, father and daughter embraced for the first time in almost two years.

Peter ended the embrace reluctantly. “Trixie, can we put the past behind us and start over? I don’t want to lose you again.”

Speechless, she could only nod in reply. Suddenly, however, she asked, “What about Regan?”

Trixie was relieved to see that his expression didn’t change as he began to speak. Both were startled when Andrew interrupted, saying, “Trixie, why don’t you take him inside and show him your house? I’ll watch Bekah and Billy for you.”

Confused, she said, “All right, but they really don’t need to stay out here in this sun for too much longer. We’ve been out here for a while.”

“Very well, you two go ahead. I’ll bring them inside for you.”

“Okay, thank you, Uncle Andrew,” Trixie answered, her brow furrowed. She saw him glance at the house next to his, where the owner stood on her porch, obviously interested in the events transpiring in the Regan’s front yard. A smile crossed her face, as she understood her uncle’s concern.

“Here, let me help,” Peter offered, taking Rebekah by the hand. He slowed his long stride to match her tiny steps. Trixie looked on, happy to note that her father never once seemed impatient at the slow pace.

Eventually, they sat down in the living room. Peter looked at his daughter and said, “Trixie, I know that you’re still waiting for me to answer your question about Regan. To be honest, I have to admit that until I saw the three of you at Crimper’s last Christmas, I was upset and angry with him. I blamed him for taking you away from me. Then, Andrew told me what happened the night Rebekah was born, how much Regan suffered that night. I remembered what I went through when all of you were born. Trixie, don’t think that he was betraying a confidence, he helped me to see that the only thing Regan is guilty of is loving you. I certainly can’t blame him for that.”

Trixie smiled through the tears streaming down her face. The smile faded as a thought came to her. She asked in a small voice, “Daddy? If you forgave me last Christmas, why have you waited this long?”

She almost wished that she hadn’t asked when she saw the sheer pain that crossed his face. She could hear the hurt in his voice as he answered, “Princess, you will never know how much I wanted to come see you, to see your children. I’ve felt like it was killing me to know how much of your life I’ve been missing out on.”

Peter paused, as if trying to decide which words to choose. Trixie stopped him, saying, “Daddy, it’s okay. I know you didn’t want to upset Moms.”

“She really does love you, Trixie,” he tried to assure her. “It’s just that, well, she needs more time. You know she never has been very strong emotionally, and now, well, we just need to be patient with her.”

Trixie forced herself to nod. She knew that Peter really believed it, but she had noticed how often her mother’s seeming illnesses always occurred when things didn’t go the way she wanted them to go. She was saved from having to comment when he swiftly changed the subject. They spoke for several minutes on matters of no consequence, then Peter reluctantly said that he needed to get back to work. After one last look at the children, he returned to Andrew’s house to pick up his car. Andrew walked with his brother, reminding Trixie that he would return later in the day.

By the time Regan returned home from the stables a few minutes later, Trixie had managed to calm down. As always, she met him at the door, greeting him with a kiss. He took a long look at her, saying, “Trixie? Is something wrong?”

“No,” she answered. She began to tremble in his arms as she said, “Daddy came to see me this afternoon. He’s finally forgiven me.”

To her surprise, Regan didn’t seem too surprised. He nodded, and told her, “Sweetie, he came to see me, too.”

“What did he say?” she asked nervously.

“Actually, we sat down and had quite a long conversation. Basically, it all boils down to he wants to be able to see you, Rebekah, and Billy. He wondered if I would object, considering all that has happened.”

“Oh? What did you tell him?”

“Trixie, you know I’m glad of it. I know how badly you’ve missed him and your mother. Besides, no matter what happens, they are still your family, too.”

She nodded, saying, “I know, it’s just that after all this time, well, I still don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“Sweetie, it’s going to take time. It’s not like you’re going to be able to pick up with them where you left off, but we’re all going to try to form a new relationship. From what he said this afternoon, your dad wants to try. He’s not going to stay away any longer.”

“I hope he won’t.”

“Trust me, sweetie. He won’t.”

Realizing that it was almost time to leave, Trixie dressed the children while Regan showered. Hoping that they would stay clean until they could get to the restaurant, she had just started getting dressed when Andrew knocked on the front door. Regan let him in, then came into the bedroom where Trixie was getting ready. He quietly asked her a question, smiling broadly as her face lit up. She thrust her feet into her shoes, laughing as he whispered, “See, I told you that he’d be back!”

It was late that night when Trixie and Regan finally made it to bed. Although they had arrived home from the restaurant at a reasonable hour, Rebekah was too wound up to go to sleep. Desperate, Trixie had finally resorted to reading Peter Rabbit to her, which did promptly put the child to sleep. While she was reading, she thought about the day she’d had, about her surprise when her dad had asked Andrew if he could go with them that evening. She was still smiling, albeit tiredly, when Billy had woken up soon after his sister dozed off. She was glad to let Regan take care of their son while she changed into her nightgown.

Moments later, she realized just how tired they both were as Regan kissed her goodnight. She turned the lamp off, then laid her head on his shoulder. “Sweetie, did your wish come true?”

Trixie murmured something, then whispered, “Yes, I really think it did.”