“I am so not ready for this,” Trixie thought as she stared at her reflection in her dresser mirror. She smiled as she heard the water quit running in the shower and reached for her hairbrush. “But I don’t think Regan is, either.”
“Do we really have to go through with this?” Regan muttered seconds later as he opened the door separating their bedroom from the bathroom clad only in his boxer shorts.
“I’m afraid so,” she answered, unable to smother her giggle at his expression. Her brief laugh ended in a sigh. “This is all Rebekah’s talked about since registration last spring.”
“I know,” he admitted reluctantly, tossing his wet towel on a chair before sitting down on the bed. “I still say she’s too young to go to school all day.”
“She’s going to be six in November,” Trixie pointed out. “Some of her classmates are barely five.”
“But whatever happened to half-days for kindergarten students?” he grumbled, accepting the clean socks that she handed to him.
“They haven’t had that in years.” She shook her head. “Sweetheart, we’ve just got to accept that our daughter is growing up.”
“But I don’t want to!” Regan frowned, although his green eyes twinkled. “Wasn’t it just yesterday she was a tiny baby?”
Sliding one last hairpin into her hair to hold her bangs back, she sat down beside him on the bed. “It does seem like it,” she agreed.
He put his arms around her, pulling her towards him. He kissed her softly, then said, “Then again, I’m not complaining. If time stood still, you couldn’t have given me our other three beautiful children.”
“We have been blessed,” she answered, smiling as she looked deep into his eyes. “I love you so much.”
“I love you, too,” he whispered. “I always will.”
“Me, too,” she tried to answer, her words fading as he claimed her lips with his own. He turned slightly, taking her with him as he lay back on the bed.
“Daddy! Mommy!” Rebekah called, impatiently banging her small fist on the locked door. “Hurry up! We’re gonna be late!”
Regan smiled in resignation, muttering, “Maybe it is time to get her out of the house for a while every day!” He chuckled softly at Trixie’s giggle, then spoke loudly enough so that his voice would carry out into the hallway. “No, we won’t, Bekah. Go see if your Uncle Andrew’s here yet.”
“He’s not,” Trixie rebuked quietly, her arms still around his neck. “We would have heard him knocking.”
“I know,” he admitted sheepishly. “But I couldn’t finish kissing you with her standing outside our door.”
“You can’t, anyway,” she replied, gently pushing him off of her as she sat up. “We need to leave in ten minutes, and you’re still not dressed.”
Regan glanced at the clock. “Don’t think you’re getting out of this that easily, Mrs. Fidget. We will pick up where we left off.”
“Is that a threat?” she said, raising an eyebrow.
“No.” He smiled tenderly. “It’s not a threat. It’s a promise.”
“It better be,” she told him, giving him a quick hug. “Now hurry up!”
Regan finished getting dressed while Trixie straightened out her clothes and rebrushed her hair. He took her hand as he opened the door, kissing her one last time before they started walking down the hall.
“Bobby?” Trixie asked in surprise, stopping abruptly at his open door. “I thought you’d gone already.”
“I had.” He flushed as he hastily closed his desk drawer and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I just came back for a minute.”
“Oh?” Regan asked. “What for? This date with Sally is all you’ve talked about for the past week, so why aren’t you on it?”
“I was! I am!” Bobby stammered. “I just had to come back for something.”
Regan raised his eyebrows, glancing towards the still slightly open desk drawer. “And just what did you forget?”
The seventeen-year old turned even redder and hesitated as he glanced around the room. Almost desperately, he grabbed a book off of the shelf above his desk. “This.”
“The King and I: A Tribute,” Trixie read aloud. “Bobby, I didn’t know you were interested in Julie Andrews!”
“Who?” Bobby asked, confusion dissipating some of the red from his freckled face. “Was she married to him?”
It was her turn to look puzzled. “Married to who?”
In spite of his serious expression, Regan laughed. “Sweetie, it’s a book about Elvis. It’s not exactly well-written, but I think it was a best-seller.”
“It was,” Bobby agreed, suddenly looking hopeful. “Have you read it?”
“Back when it first came out.”
“Great!” Bobby exclaimed with a grin. “How fast can you tell me what it says?”
“I can’t,” Regan admitted. “It’s been years since I’ve actually read it. But if you’re interested, I think Dan has an entire shelf of books about him.”
“Not really.” He shook his head. “But Sally is, and well, you know how it is.”
“Yes, I do know,” Regan gazed steadily at his young brother-in-law, all laughter gone from his voice. “Don’t forget your curfew’s at eleven.”
“Can’t we make it midnight tonight? You know she’s leaving for home in the morning.”
“Eleven o’clock,” he repeated. “Jim told me that Sally has to be in by ten-thirty, so thirty minutes ought to be plenty of time to get home.”
“You talked to Jim?” Bobby asked, blushing deeply as he stared at the floor.
“That’s right,” Regan said evenly. “And we’ll discuss it in the morning.”
In an unusual display of meekness, Bobby nodded and fled from the room. Trixie glanced at Regan. “What was that all about?”
He shook his head, casting a significant look at their daughter who was running down the hall towards them. Bending his head to hers, he whispered, “We’ll talk later, I promise.”
“Daddy! Mommy! Uncle Andrew’s here!” Rebekah called, skidding to a stop in front of them.
“What have we told you about running in the house, Bekah?” Trixie asked, forcing a stern note into her voice in an attempt to hide her mirth at the dolls peeking from her child’s backpack.
“I’m sorry, Mommy.” She looked contrite for a fraction of a second. “Come on, we’ve got to go!”
Regan gently removed the backpack from her shoulders. “Bekah, honey, you don’t need your bookbag tonight.”
“Are you sure, Daddy?” Rebekah looked up at him, a plea in her big blue eyes.
“Well,” he allowed just a note of doubt to creep into his voice. “Maybe we should take it, just to be on the safe side.” A smile lit up her face, and he smiled tenderly before adding, “But Bert and Ernie have to stay home.”
“But they’ll get lonely!” she protested. “I told them they could go with us!”
“Sweetpea, Uncle Andrew’s going to stay here with your brothers and sister,” Trixie told her, winking at Regan over the child’s head. “He’ll take good care of them for you.”
“But Mommy…,” she began to whine.
“No, Bekah,” Trixie interrupted, this time with genuine sternness. She pointedly looked towards the clock in the hallway. “And the longer you argue, the later we’ll be.”
Rebekah didn’t reply, but turned to her father. “Please, Daddy?”
He looked from Rebekah’s pleading eyes to Trixie’s now angry ones, and he had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. He fixed his own green eyed gaze on the small child who had him so firmly wrapped around her little finger. “What did Mommy just tell you?”
“Rebekah Regan,” he said after she trailed off. “What did your mother tell you?”
“No,” she whispered sadly.
“All right then,” he told her. “Now hurry up, or we will be late.” He removed the dolls in question from where they peeked out of either side of Rebekah’s unzipped backpack. After making sure it was now empty, he zipped it and handed it to her. “Do you still want to take this?”
She nodded emphatically. “I’m going to school, so I need it!”
Trixie took the Sesame Street dolls from Regan, smiling as he reached down to pick Rebekah up. The child wrapped her small arms around his neck, and they started down the hall. Stopping only long enough to peek in on sleeping Elspeth, they walked into the living room where Andrew was showing Billy and Danny pictures in a large storybook. “Thanks again, Uncle Andrew,” Trixie greeted him, starting when she got a good look at the yellow book. “Hey, is that what I think it is?”
“That depends,” his eyes twinkled merrily. “What do you think it is?”
“It can’t be what I think it is, because I lost it years ago,” she answered, gently taking the book from her oldest son. “Let Mommy see it, Billy.” She stared at the cover in disbelief, squealing as she handed it to Regan. “It is my book, Uncle Andrew! Where did you find it? I thought I lost it years ago.”
“You did.” His eyes twinkled. “Mart found it today in the box of his old toys he got out of the attic. He asked me to bring it along to you.”
“I’m glad he found it! I’ve been looking everywhere for a copy so I could read it to them,” she replied, handing the book back to Billy. “Be careful with it, you two. This was mine when I was your age.”
“We will, Mommy,” the pair chorused. Trixie and Regan bid them goodbye, assuring Andrew that they would try not to take too long.
“Take your time,” Andrew told them as they walked towards the door, chuckling ruefully. “I would have been over here anyway, since my bride had to work tonight.”
Trixie stopped, looking at him with concern. “I thought she was quitting working nights.”
“She’s still planning to, but she’s having to wait for something to open up,” Andrew sighed.
“Let’s go!” Rebekah interrupted, earning a stern look from her father before he obediently followed her out the door.
Trixie shook her head in irritation, biting her tongue to prevent saying something she would regret. She knew that after six months of marriage, the only obstacle to her uncle’s complete happiness was his wife’s continued emphasis on her career. Finally forcing a smile, she went to meet her husband and daughter in the car.
It was a short ride to Sleepyside Primary School, and Rebekah chattered excitedly for the entire drive. When she saw the crowds gathered, however, her eagerness was replaced with nervousness, and she tightly clung to both of her parents’ hands as they crossed the parking lot.
“Sweetpea, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Trixie tried to assure her. “Just think, this is where I went to school when I was your age.”
“Really?” she asked quietly, still subdued as she looked up at her in wonder. Trixie nodded, and the child turned to Regan. “Did you come here, too, Daddy?”
“No,” he shook his head. “I went to a school in the city, but your Uncles Brian and Mart came here, too.”
“Bobby and Aunt Di did, too,” Trixie added. “Your Aunt Di was even in my kindergarten class.”
Rebekah’s eyes widened. “What about Aunt Honey, and Cousin Dan, and Mr. Jim, and….”
Regan gently cut off her recitation. “No, sweetheart. Come on, let’s go find your classroom.”
The child swallowed hard, finally nodding. Her grip on their hands tightened as they walked through the double doors of the main entrance and began to follow the arrows that led the way to the kindergarten wing.
“Okay, we’re looking for Mrs. Davis’s room,” Trixie reminded them when they reached the brightly painted hallway. “Look, Bekah, do you see the rainbow?”
Rebekah nodded and pointed at a large bulletin board on the opposite wall. She whispered shyly, “Is that a crabapple tree, Mommy?”
Trixie grinned. “No, sweetpea, I think that’s a regular apple tree.”
“Good.” She scrunched up her nose. “I don’t like crabapples.”
A “bucket” of construction paper apples stood next to the tree, which was beside a classroom door, at just the right height for a kindergartner to comfortably see. “There’s my name!” Rebekah squealed as she pointed excitedly to one of the apples. Surprised when a woman came out of the classroom, she whirled around and hid her face against Regan.
“Hi, I’m Mrs. Davis,” she greeted them, a sudden flash of recognition crossing her soft features. “Trixie?”
Trixie nodded. “Ruthie! I didn’t know you were a teacher!”
“This is my first year in Sleepyside, but I taught in White Plains last year,” Ruth explained, smiling as she knelt down to greet Rebekah. “What’s your name?”
Slowly, and only after prodding by her father, Rebekah turned around. “Rebekah.”
“Hi, Rebekah. I’m Mrs. Davis. I’m looking forward to having you in my class this year.”
“Hello,” she answered shyly.
“If you’ll come inside the room, I have some paperwork for you,” Ruth said, turning again to Trixie. “Well, Miss Claudia has the paperwork for you,” she amended with a laugh. “You don’t have to fill it out tonight, though.” Another couple came up to them with a small boy, and she excused herself, saying, “Trixie, I’m looking forward to getting a chance to catch up with you.”
“I am, too,” Trixie replied as she and Regan led Rebekah into the classroom. There were a few other families already present, mostly looking at the nametags affixed to the low tables and cubbies. In a low voice, she answered his whispered question with a quick, “We went to high school together.”
“Hello,” an older woman greeted them, smiling warmly at Rebekah. “You are…?”
Trixie gently prodded her daughter into yet another reluctant answer. She laughed. “Trust me, she’s usually not this shy!”
“You’ve just got to get used to us, don’t you, Rebekah?” the teacher’s aide asked, chuckling as she nodded somberly. “She’s going to be fine. I’m Miss Claudia, by the way. I’ll be assisting Mrs. Davis this year.”
“How many pupils will you have?” Regan asked, casting a wary eye at the number of tables in the room.
“Twenty-four. Let’s see,” she mused, following Regan’s glance. She started towards a table beside one of the two teacher’s desks in the room, saying, “Rebekah’s going to be sitting right here.”
There was a boy already sitting at the table, playing with a toy school bus. Rebekah sat down in the chair directly across from him, astonishing her parents by greeting him. “Hi! What’s your name?”
“Thomas,” he said shyly. “What’s yours?”
“Rebekah. Is that your bus?”
“No, it’s Mrs. Davis’s. Want to help me drive it?”
“Sure,” she giggled, and they started taking turns rolling the bus back and forth across the table.
Catching site of Regan’s expression, Trixie had to laugh out loud. She couldn’t resist whispering, “Just wait until she’s sixteen.”
“Are you trying to kill me?” he asked her softly with a pained look on his face. He forced a smile at the teacher’s aide still standing beside him. “Did you have some paperwork for us?”
“Yes, sir,” she handed him a thick packet. “There are some forms that need to be filled out, plus a list of the supplies she’s going to need. You’ll also find copies of the school policies, as well as classroom rules and procedures.”
“Thank you,” Trixie answered, still watching her daughter playing happily.
“Just take your time, now, and look around. Let me know if you have any questions.” With a final smile, Miss Claudia walked away to greet another family.
Trixie turned, giving Regan a reassuring smile as she heard someone call her name. Her astonishment at discovering that Ruthie Kettner was Rebekah’s teacher was mild compared to her surprise at seeing Bill Morgan approaching them. She slid her hand into Regan’s.
“Trixie? Is this your daughter?” he asked as he moved to stand behind Thomas.
“Yes,” she nodded. “Bill, this is my husband, Regan, and this is Rebekah.”
The men nodded at each other, and Bill said, “I see you’ve already met Thomas.”
“Is he your son?” Trixie inquired in what she hoped was a polite voice.
“Yeah,” he patted the boy’s shoulder. “My wife wanted to come tonight, but we’re expecting another child next month, and she’s really not feeling well these days.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting her,” Trixie answered. “How many do you have?”
“This will be our second,” he replied. “Does Rebekah have any brothers or sisters?”
“Two brothers and a sister.” She grinned at the look of surprise he tried to hide. “How’s Jane doing?”
He shook his head sadly. “I honestly don’t know, Trixie. She eloped with some guy she met on the set of some play she was doing, and broke off contact with all of us. It’s been almost two years since I last spoke with her.”
“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I didn’t know.”
“It’s all right,” he assured her. “She changed so much during college, sometimes I feel like it’s been longer than that since I really spoke to her.” He coughed slightly, his expression wistful as he looked down at his son. “Thomas, say goodbye to Rebekah. We need to go.”
Thomas shyly waved at Rebekah who returned the friendly gesture. Excusing himself, Bill took two steps before stopping and turning around. “Trixie,” he paused, looking uncomfortable. “I wanted to let you know I’m sorry for what she did to you.”
Stunned, Trixie managed to shake her head. “It wasn’t your fault. It’s all ancient history now, anyway. Don’t worry about it.”
He breathed a sigh of relief, and, with a final nod, was gone. She saw the question in Regan’s eyes, but simply shook her head, mouthing, “Not here.” She knelt beside Rebekah. “Bekah, honey, let’s find out where that goes so we can put it up. Then we’ll find your cubby.”
“Over there,” Rebekah pointed to a toy box full of similar plastic cars and trucks, and, her shyness gone, she ran to put the bus back where it belonged.
Regan squeezed Trixie’s hand, looking at her with such love and concern that it brought tears to her eyes as she tried to forget the memories Bill’s words had brought to her mind. She didn’t have time to dwell on it, though, because Rebekah was soon back and taking her free hand. “Okay, Mommy, it’s up!”
She nodded, desperately trying to blink back the tears before her daughter could notice them. The reassuring pressure from her husband’s freckled hand let her know that he already had. She coughed slightly to clear her throat, forcing a bright note into her voice as she said, “Now let’s go find your name over there.”
By this time, the crowd had begun to thin, and it didn’t take them long to find the apple-shaped nametag with her name on it. Rebekah’s interest in her cubby was short-lived, however, once she caught sight of the large stuffed Wile E. Coyote that stood guard over the wooden structure. “Look, Daddy! He’s wearing a coat like Cousin Dan’s!”
Even Trixie had to giggle as she saw that the figure was indeed wearing what appeared to be a black leather jacket. She flushed when Ruth came up behind them, kneeling down beside her new pupil. “Do you know what his name is, Rebekah?” she asked softly.
“No,” the child shook her head. “But he looks kinda like my Cousin Dan.”
“Oh? How old is he?” Ruth asked, going along with her.
“I don’t know,” she answered seriously. “But he’s old. He’s as old as my Mommy!”
Trixie was torn between the equally appealing urges to laugh and wish the floor would open up and swallow her whole. Suddenly remembering that not only had Ruthie and Dan gone out a few times, but that Ruthie hadn’t taken it well when the relationship ended cemented her desire to disappear.
Ruth did laugh softly as she glanced up at Trixie, and Trixie finally found her voice, although she knew her face was bright red. “Dan Mangan is my nephew now,” she explained, slightly tilting her head towards her husband.
“Oh,” Ruth spoke softly, swallowing hard as she stood to her feet. She glanced down at the floor as she told Regan, “You probably won’t remember, but I think we met once several years ago.”
Regan was completely flummoxed, but she didn’t give him time to answer before turning her attention back to Rebekah. Most of the excitement and energy that had been in her voice earlier had vanished, and Ruth sounded rather subdued as she told the child that she looked forward to seeing her on Tuesday. “If you’ll excuse me, I believe Miss Claudia needs me.” Her smile was too bright as she hurried away to speak with her aide.
“What was that all about?” Regan asked Trixie softly as they crossed the parking lot a few minutes later. “And are you all right?”
She nodded slowly, impulsively hugging him once Rebekah was fastened securely in her seat. With the car door firmly closed, she explained in a low voice, “I’d forgotten that Ruthie is one of Dan’s ex-girlfriends.”
“I still don’t remember her,” he shook his head. “But did you see her face when she realized who Bekah was talking about?”
Trixie nodded, her blue eyes troubled. “I just don’t understand why it upset her so much. I mean, she’s obviously married, but…,” she trailed off. “Anyway, she’s the one he took to the Spring Fling my freshman year.”
Regan chuckled as he opened the driver’s side door. “That was back when he was trying to convince himself that Hallie was too young for him.”
“She was, way back then,” Trixie replied. She sighed. “But I’m so glad they’re so happy together now.”
“Me, too, sweetie,” he patted her shoulder before starting the car. “Me, too.”
When they arrived home, Andrew met them at the door. His eyes crinkled as he shook his head. “Would you believe they’re all sound asleep?”
“Already?” Trixie asked in surprise. “How’d you manage that?”
“I didn’t.” He laughed softly. “My lovely wife did. Her interview was cancelled at the last minute, so she came in not long after you left. Go look in the boys’ room.”
“Uncle Andrew!” Rebekah tugged on his sleeve. “I met my teachers!”
“You did? Why don’t you tell me about it while Mommy and Daddy go see your brothers and sister?”
She nodded excitedly. “I even got to help drive the bus!”
Andrew took her by the hand, motioning for Trixie and Regan to go on down the hallway as he led her into the living room.
Stopping at the doorway of the room Billy and Danny shared, they stared at the scene in wonderment. Andrew’s wife was propped up between the headboard of Billy’s bed and the wall, Trixie’s newly found Better Homes and Gardens Storybook open in her lap. Her head lolled back as she dozed with Elspeth snuggled against her shoulder, blissfully unaware that the child had a fistful of her long blonde hair. Billy and Danny were curled up against her on each side.
Trixie silently slipped away to grab the camera, hoping against hope that the light in the room would be sufficient without using the flash. She quietly clicked the button, allowing Regan to pull her away from the peaceful scene.
“Do you think they’ll ever have one?” he whispered softly.
She looked at him in confusion. “One what?”
He drew her into his arms, tenderly kissing the tip of her nose. “A baby, sweetie. Do you think they’ll ever have a baby of their own?”
“What?” she repeated, her eyes wide with surprise. “You don’t think….”
“I’m just wondering; that’s all.” He shook his head, unable to resist chuckling at her stricken expression. “Would it be that terrible?”
“Yes! No!” she answered when she was finally able to speak. “I don’t know! I’ve just never thought about it before.” She sighed. “This whole night has just been so full of surprises.”
Regan gently tilted her face up to meet his. Lightly stroking her cheeks with his thumbs, he gazed worriedly into her blue eyes. “Trixie, sweetie, what was that guy talking about that upset you?”
She bit her lip, wondering how to phrase it in the scant moments they would have before inevitably being interrupted. “Remember when I got suspended from school for being pregnant with Rebekah?”
He nodded, tightening his arms around her.
Tears began to flow down her cheeks. “His younger sister was the one who found out and told it all over school. She even went to Mr. Stratton with it, just so that she could get me into trouble.”
Regan pulled her down onto the bench they kept beside the hallway telephone. Holding her close, he cradled her head on his shoulder and rubbed her back as she cried.
“Mommy!” Rebekah ran down the hall to their side. “What’s wrong?”
Trixie sat up, trying frantically to wipe the tears from her eyes before Rebekah grew any more alarmed. “Nothing, sweetpea,” she told her, pulling her up onto the bench with them.
“Then why are you so sad?” she asked, wiping her mother’s face with her small hands.
Trixie hugged her tightly. “You know what, Bekah?” she asked brightly.
“What, Mommy?” the child asked, relieved to see her mother smile.
“I love you,” Trixie whispered in her ear before gently tickling her.
Rebekah giggled with delight, throwing her arms around her neck. “I love you, too!”
“Are you ready for your bedtime story, young lady?” Andrew asked gruffly from the doorway, where he had watched the little scene transpire. Walking up to them, he looked to Regan, obviously relieved at his barely perceptible nod. He took Rebekah by the hand and led her down the hall.
“Are you all right, sweetie?” Regan asked her when Rebekah was out of earshot.
Trixie nodded and smiled. “I am. And do you know what?”
“You love me?” he teased, gently pinching her nose like he often did their children’s.
“Uh-huh,” she answered, hugging him tightly. “But you know what else?”
“Even after everything that happened back then, if we could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.” She lifted her face to his, meeting his lips with her own. Their tongues met with a passion that, even after six years of marriage and four children, still had the power to make her completely breathless.
Lost in time, they both jumped, breaking apart guiltily as Andrew cleared his throat beside them. Trixie flushed as she saw her uncle’s eyes twinkling mischievously as he held tightly to his wife’s hand. “Feeling better, I take it?”
Blushing to the roots of her sandy hair, she nodded mutely as Regan gave her a comforting squeeze. Andrew chuckled, but sobered as he asked, “Is there anything I need to worry about?”
“No,” Trixie smiled. “My baby’s just growing up too fast.”
“They are, at that,” Andrew admitted. “Sometimes it still seems like you shouldn’t be any older than Rebekah yourself.”
“Now, Andrew, you know that growing up does have its advantages,” his wife reminded him in her usual well-modulated tones. She smiled knowingly at the look he gave her. “Why don’t we go home and give them some time alone?”
He nodded. “Bekah finally drifted off to sleep, and Danny and Billy didn’t so much as bat an eyelid when we got them in their own beds. Elspeth was another story, though!’
“I can imagine,” Trixie answered ruefully. “We’ll check in on her in a few minutes.”
“Then we will go ahead. Regan, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow. What time did Matt want me there again?”
“Around two, I think. The Patmans won’t be there until two-thirty.”
“I’ll see you then,” Andrew replied. “Good night, Trixie.”
“Thanks for everything,” she told them, turning to Regan once they left. “Who are the Patmans?”
“A young couple from California. They’re interested in buying some of our horses, but they’re insisting on meeting with all three of us first.” He sighed. “From the meetings I’ve had with them, I almost hope they don’t buy any.”
“Why not?” she asked curiously.
“They claim to want to start showing horses, but all they’re really interested in is the potential profits, not the horses.”
“Ugh,” she wrinkled her nose. “Think they have a good groom?”
“That’s one reason we’re meeting before they get there. The stables are doing so well that we can afford to refuse to sell if we don’t think they’ll have a good home.”
“Yup,” she agreed. “It won’t be long before you’re a full partner.”
“Probably not,” he said, kissing her softly. “Go check on Elspeth, and I’ll lock the front door.”
Trixie stood, stretching her cramped limbs. “What time is it?”
“Right at nine-thirty,” he told her, checking his watch. “We’ve still got an hour and a half before Bobby will be home.”
“That reminds me,” she said. “What was going on between you two before we left tonight?”
Regan sighed. “Trixie, sweetie, let’s at least go into the living room before we discuss it. It’s not exactly something I want to risk having the others overhear.”
Suddenly worried, she grabbed his hand, reminding herself that if Bobby was in danger Regan would have told her earlier. “He’s all right, isn’t he?”
“Yes.” He nodded. “I just had a long talk with Jim today, but what with everything going on tonight, I haven’t had a chance to tell you about it.
His words helped ease her mind, and she suggested, “Instead of the living room, why don’t I meet you in our room in a few minutes? I want to get out of this dress.”
Regan raised an eyebrow. “Trixie, if you get out of that dress, we may not get much talking done.”
“You do still have a promise to live up to, don’t you?” she reminded him, kissing his cheek before heading to her youngest daughter’s room.
Ten minutes later, clad in a long night-shirt, Trixie stepped out of the bathroom to find Regan sitting on the bed reading through the packet they had been given earlier that evening. “Sweetie, I hate to tell you this, but that’s not much better than the dress,” he told her with a perfectly straight face.
“Yes, it is,” she insisted, sitting down beside him. She leaned over and whispered, “There’s nowhere near as much under this as there was that dress.”
“I thought you wanted to talk,” he whispered back, pulling her into his arms.
“I do,” she frowned, reluctantly pulling away. “I’ve just got a feeling I’m not going to like this.”
“No,” he shook his head, all playfulness gone. “I don’t think you will. I’ve already told you I spoke with Jim this afternoon.” He waited for her nod. “He caught Bobby and Sally in the summerhouse yesterday.”
“What were they doing in the summerhouse?” Trixie’s eyes widened as she saw his expression. “They weren’t,” she paused to swallow. “Were they?” She let out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding when he shook his head.
“They were both clothed, but…,” he broke off. “Jim wasn’t too upset; he said he knew it was just as much Sally as it was Bobby, but that he thought we should know.”
“You’re going to have to have a talk with him,” she sighed. “You don’t think they’ve done anything else, do you?”
“I hope not,” he answered, “and I really don’t think so. And for what it’s worth, Jim didn’t either. They’ve always been too well chaperoned.”
“Obviously not if they were able to sneak off to the summerhouse,” Trixie muttered under her breath.
Regan put his hand on her shoulder. “Sweetie, it’s not like they’re children who should have to be watched all the time.”
“They’re too young to be having sex, Regan,” she said bluntly. “They’re only seventeen!”
“I’m not saying they aren’t, Trixie, but you can’t treat them like children. They have to have some freedom. After all, I was already living on my own when I was seventeen.”
“Well, I wasn’t!” she snapped. “When I was seventeen,” she stopped, her eyes widening with a sudden realization. When she spoke again, it was in a whisper. “Oh, God, Regan, when I was seventeen, I was getting pregnant.”
“You were almost eighteen, sweetie,” he reminded her softly. “And we didn’t find out until you were already eighteen.”
“I know, but I was still seventeen when she was conceived.” Closing her blue eyes, she murmured, “I thought I was so old back then.”
Regan smiled gently, taking her hand in his freckled one. “Sweetie, it’s different when you’re the parent.”
“I know,” she admitted, moving into his embrace. “Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t do anything different, even if I could, but I still don’t want Bobby to go through what I did.”
Before he could reply, they heard someone running through the hallway and then a door slammed. “Something’s wrong, Regan. It’s too early for him to be home.”
“I know,” he said, starting down the hall while Trixie grabbed for her robe. He knocked softly at Bobby’s door. “Bobby?”
There was no response, only muffled sobs. Trixie didn’t bother with waiting for him to answer or open the door; she simply opened it herself and walked in. Bobby made no move as she walked towards where he lay face down, crying into his pillow.
“Bobby, honey, what happened?”
“She, she, she….” he tried to speak, but couldn’t.
“Mommy!” Rebekah asked from the doorway, “What’s going on?”
“Nothing to concern you, sweetpea,” she answered, motioning for Regan to deal with Rebekah while she handled Bobby. She idly rubbed his back, saying, “Sit up, Bobby. Tell me what’s wrong.”
Once the door had safely closed behind Regan and Rebekah, Bobby did sit up, wiping his eyes with the backs of his hands. Trixie stood and yanked some tissue from the box on his dresser. She handed it to him.
Bobby scooted back against his headboard, crossing his legs Indian style. “Trixie, I, I lied to you earlier. That stupid book wasn’t all I came back for.”
“It wasn’t?” she asked, trying desperately to keep her voice neutral even as her heart sank.
He shook his head. “I did come back for the book, but I had a ring in my desk drawer. I bought it when I went school shopping with Terry and Larry last weekend.”
“A ring? What kind of ring?”
Tears streamed down his face as he took it from his pocket and thrust it into her hands. “It’s her birthstone, and I wanted it to be a promise ring. You know, like engaged to be engaged when we finish school.”
“Why didn’t you give it to her?” Trixie asked, relief that it was only a ring mixing with astonishment that it was actually a ring.
“I did!” He started to sob again, and she put her arm around his shoulders the way she had when he would come to her with his problems when he was small. “She wouldn’t take it. She claimed to love me, but then turned around and said she wasn’t her sister and didn’t want to waste her senior year.”
She handed him another tissue with her free hand. “I’ve seen the way she acts around you, Bobby. I think she really does love you, but a promise ring is a very big step. Maybe she’s just not ready to make such a big commitment.”
“Then why didn’t she say that, instead of saying, ‘I want to go out and have fun this year, not wait by the phone and mailbox?'” he quoted bitterly. “I love her, Trixie!” He choked out, “I thought she loved me.”
“It’s going to be okay, Bobby,” she tried to soothe, gently stroking the blonde head so much like her own that he laid on her shoulder. She let him cry it out, remembering first hand just how much it hurt when relationships came to an end.
“Trixie?” he asked, taking another tissue from her hand. “Is this how you felt when you and Jim broke up?”
She nodded, remembering how confused and lost he had seemed at the age of eight when he had slipped into her room seeking solace from their parents’ sudden fighting only to find her sobbing bitter tears into her own pillow. “But you’ll find it hurts a little less every day, until one day you’ll realize that you’re okay and life has moved on. Just look at me; it didn’t even take a year before I realized that I was in love with Regan, and look at how happy we are.”
“I can’t picture you married to Jim,” Bobby admitted, grinning slightly as he realized that just maybe his sister was right. “You two would have killed each other a long time ago.”
“I know,” she agreed, relieved to see his smile. “But see what good friends we still are? He even risked his life when you were kidnapped a few years ago.” She shuddered involuntarily at the memory that still occasionally haunted her dreams, but forced it from her mind. She patted Bobby’s shoulder.
“I remember that,” he told her quietly. “But don’t expect me to stay friends with Sally. Not after what she did.”
Trixie smiled. “Bobby, honey, I don’t expect that right now. Jim and I had to work at it for months before we decided we could still be friends. It’s going to take time. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, because it won’t, but you will get through this.”
“Thanks, Trix,” he nodded, wiping his face again before awkwardly hugging her. “I think I want to be alone for awhile.”
She stood, patting his shoulder again. “If you want to talk to me, you know you can, right?”
“I know,” he nodded again. “Just remind me again that life will go on without her.”
“It will, Bobby. I promise you, it will get easier. You’ve just got to give it some time.”
“Thanks again, Trixie,” he managed to smile bravely before flopping back down on his bed. She quietly slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her. Walking down the hall, she found Regan in Elspeth’s room, gently rocking her back to sleep.
“Is everything okay, sweetie?” he asked softly.
She nodded. “It will be, even if Bobby’s not quite ready to think so. Sally broke up with him tonight.”
“What?” he looked up at her in surprise.
“He tried to give her a promise ring,” she explained softly. “She told him she wasn’t ready to settle down.”
“At least she told him now,” Regan answered, “instead of deciding that after the fact.”
“I know,” she admitted, “but Bobby’s not seeing that yet.”
“He will, sweetie. Just give him time.” He stood from the rocker, and carefully placed Elspeth back in her crib.
“That’s what I told him,” she smiled. “Not the better now than later, but to just give it time.”
After bending to kiss Elspeth’s downy head, he took Trixie’s hand, silently leading her back to their bedroom.
“Thanks for calming me down earlier,” she told him after he shut the door. “I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
He simply smiled and pulled her to him. “I love you, Mrs. Fidget.”
“I love you, too,” she told him, her eyes suddenly shining with unshed tears. “You don’t know how much.”
“No more than I love you, sweetie. You’re my world.”
“And you’re mine,” she whispered. “Always and forever.”
Whoa! My love, my darling,
I hunger, hunger for your love
He gently reached over, wiping away the teardrop falling down her cheek. She lifted her face to his, a small sigh escaping her as his arms encircled her.
Whoa! My love, my darling,
I hunger for your touch
He began to kiss her tears away, and her arms wrapped around his broad shoulders. Never breaking his hold on her, Regan turned out the light. They sank down on the bed, finally aware of nothing but each other.
Author’s notes: This story is not only my submission for Jixemitri’s third anniversary celebration, but it’s also my submission for Jixemitri Second Anniversary CWP. I chose to use Unchained Melody by the Everly Brothers from the list of Songs that Remind Us of Jix. Much gratitude goes to Cyndi for not only editing this story, but for bearing with me when I decided to rewrite the ending at the very last minute. That late night IM was much appreciated!
I also want to mention that while the book Bobby mentioned does not exist (at least, not to my knowledge. If it does, apologies go to whoever wrote it for the way I used it! *G*), the one Andrew brought Trixie does. The Better Homes and Gardens Storybook is extremely hard to find now, but was a beloved piece of my early child-hood and still occupies a place of honor on my shelf.