Learning to Love


Feeling completely alone in the world, Trixie sat thoughtfully as the train approached the New York City station. Her guilt at deceiving her mother and friends as to her whereabouts warred with the bewilderment and pain caused by her last trip to the city. Looking back, she supposed that she should have seen it coming; for a detective, she wondered how she could have been so blind.

After all, it wasn’t like there had been no warning signs and no hints that it was coming. She had realized that he was tiring of her; she had known that, in his eyes, she would never compare to the glamorous blondes he found so fascinating. Which was why after months of standing firm to his pleading with her, telling him that she wasn’t ready yet, she had been terrified to hear him say, “Look, Trixie, I’ve tried to be patient, but men have needs, you know. If you’re not going to meet that need, there are plenty of girls at the university who would be more than willing, in fact, who would kill to be in your shoes right now. Please, Trixie, I want to be with you, but I’m not going to wait forever. It seems like if you really loved me, then you wouldn’t be so stubborn about this.”

The thought of losing him had hit home. She had been in love with him since she was thirteen; their “special friendship” was all she had ever known. Protesting that she did love him, she had reluctantly given in, allowing him to take her in the summerhouse on Valentine’s Day. She had hoped desperately that it would bring them closer together, but that hadn’t happened.

Instead, it seemed to Trixie that things had actually gotten worse between them. He began making excuses why he couldn’t come home on the weekends. He started telling her that something had come up to prevent his regular phone calls. Finally, two weeks had passed with no word from him at all, when she had decided that she had to see him, to find out some way to hold on to him. Deciding to visit him at the Wheeler’s penthouse, where he lived while attending college, she had been determined to do whatever it took to remain his girlfriend.

She had nervously knocked on his door, almost relieved when he didn’t immediately answer. She had been about to turn away, when he had finally opened the door wearing only a pair of jeans. When he didn’t invite her in, choosing to talk to her in the hallway, she became suspicious and had pushed her way into the apartment. She knew that she would never forget the way she felt when she saw Dot Murray, completely unclothed, rush out of the room.

Even though she didn’t want to speak to him ever again, Trixie had been unable to refuse to take his phone call without having her parents discover that she had snuck into the city. She had been forced to listen as he yelled at her for coming to see him; stunned as he tried to blame her for his indiscretions. She listened silently until he finished, then asked him to never call her again. As angry as she was, she chose not to tell anyone what had happened, knowing that Jim was still a Bob-White. She was certain that such a disastrous break-up would sound the death knell of the club, but hoped that if she could convince everyone that they had just come to a parting of the ways that the club might somehow survive.

It had now been a month since she had caught them together: a month she had spent feeling alone and used. At her wit’s end, she had finally decided to confide in the one person she knew she could trust with her secret. While it had been embarrassing for her to admit to some of the details, she was relieved to have someone she could talk with and confide in, someone who listened without being judgmental. Figuring the stress and worry were making her sick, she had hoped that she would start feeling better both physically and emotionally once she wasn’t bearing her secret alone. When her physical symptoms grew worse instead of better, it was with horror that she realized that she hadn’t had her period since she had been with Jim.

She tried to clear her thoughts as the train pulled into the station. Trixie stepped onto the platform, pulling a small map from her purse. Consulting the address she had copied from the phone book, it was easy for her to find the building she was looking for. She nervously went inside, oblivious of all of the people around her. She approached the desk, where the receptionist asked briskly, “May I help you?”

“Yes, I’m here to see the doctor. I…, I was told I don’t have to have an appointment.”

“Fill this out and bring it back to me,” she said, handing Trixie a clipboard.

Trixie found an empty chair, where she began to answer the questions about her medical history. She answered as honestly as she could, hoping desperately for some other reason for the way she’d been feeling lately. She saved the top portion for last, finally scribbling in “Barbara Schulz” and giving what she hoped was a nonexistent address in Croton. She left the insurance questions blank, certain that she had brought enough money to pay in cash.

“What in the world am I going to do?” she thought bleakly as she walked away from the doctor’s office. She boarded the train to return to Sleepyside, trying to figure out how in the world she was going to survive. She remembered hearing whispers about a “doctor” on Hawthorne Street who helped women in her situation, and the thought briefly crossed her mind that it was an option.

She immediately dismissed the idea; she knew that she would never be able to go through with it. Her health teacher had been quite explicit about the risks associated with the illegal procedure, but that didn’t bother her as much as the knowledge that she would never forgive herself if she chose that way out.

Purposely trying to stop thinking about what she could do, she forced herself to read and memorize the information in the pamphlets that the doctor had given her. She didn’t dare keep them; Bobby would be certain to find them if she did. She knew the last thing she needed was for him to start asking questions. When she was sure she understood the information, she stuffed them down between the seats on the train, where she was certain they wouldn’t be able to harm her.

She arrived home, dreading the thought of facing anyone. She bypassed the driveway to Crabapple Farm, deciding to go for a walk through the game preserve. She hoped that once she was alone in the woods, she would be able to think without worrying about anyone interrupting her. She passed the stables, hoping that Regan wouldn’t see her. She knew that he would expect her to help exercise the horses, but the doctor had been quite explicit about forbidding horseback riding. She also realized that he would see right through any facade she tried to maintain, that he would know immediately that she was upset. She was about to enter the woods when she heard someone call, “Trixie!”

She retraced her steps back towards the stables, back towards the one person who knew exactly what had happened with Jim.

“Trixie, are you going through the preserve? You know Susie needs the exercise,” the red-haired groom said.

“I know, Regan,” Trixie answered. “I just, I just can’t ride her right now.” The tears she’d been trying to hold back finally began to flow down her cheeks.

“Trixie! What’s wrong?” he asked in alarm.

“I went to the doctor this morning,” she reluctantly admitted. She stared down at the floor as she stammered, “I…, I…, I’m pregnant!”

Somehow, she found herself in his strong arms. He held her to him, allowing her to cry on his shoulder. Eventually, she pulled away, following him to the relative privacy of his small office.

“Have you told Jim?” Regan gently asked.

“No! I don’t want him to know, and I can’t go to the Wheeler’s, because they’ll tell Jim, and he won’t care, and I don’t know what I’m going to do! I thought about having an, an, an abortion, but I can’t do that, and I…, I…,” her words ran together, trailing off as she dissolved into tears once again.

“Trixie, calm down. Listen to me. It’s not good for the baby or for you to get this upset. It’s going to be all right, you’ll see.” Regan held her as if she were a small child awakening from a nightmare.

“How?” she asked through her tears. “I can’t raise a child by myself! I’d just die if I had to give it up, but I can’t let Jim know, either!”

He didn’t answer her until she stopped crying. He gently turned her face towards his, so that she was looking into his eyes. “Marry me, Trixie.”

“What, what did you say?” she whispered, thinking that she was hearing things. This was the man that had watched her grow up, the man that had come to her rescue almost as often as Jim. He had been there for her every time she needed someone to listen to her, someone to understand. Now, it seemed that he was offering to rescue her once again; but this time there was no criminal to be caught. Instead, he was trying to save her from a lifetime of struggle and shame.

“I said marry me,” he held her hand in his. “I’ll put my name on the birth certificate, and no one will ever have to know that it’s not my child. I promise I’ll be a good husband to you and a good father to the child.”

“Are you serious, Regan?” she asked, not knowing what to say. She couldn’t let him ruin his life to help her, but she didn’t know how else she would be able to make it.

“Trixie, you know I wouldn’t joke about anything this important. I’m serious, I really want you to marry me.”

“You want to marry me?” she asked in disbelief. “Even though you know I’m carrying another man’s child?”

“Yes!” he said, looking into her eyes. “Trixie, you need help. You’ve already admitted that you can’t raise it alone. As far as Jim’s concerned, we look enough alike that even if the child does look like him, no one would suspect that it’s not mine.” He gently stroked her hand, giving her a look that made her feel warm all over. “I know you weren’t expecting me to propose, and I know you don’t love me. I do love you, though, and I know that I can make you happy.”

“You love me?” she asked, her eyes as wide as saucers.

He brushed an errant curl off of her forehead, before gently cupping her face in his hands. He tenderly brushed her cheek with his thumbs. She looked up into his intense green eyes, suddenly seeing the depths of emotion revealed in them. She forgot to breathe as he said, “Yes, sweetheart, I’ve been in love with you for years.”

When Trixie returned home that evening, she was stunned by Regan’s confession. She knew instinctively that he would never had said anything had it not been for her predicament, that they would have gone on just as they were from then on. Even though she was grateful that he had given her a solution to her problem, she couldn’t help but hope and pray that she would never give him cause to regret marrying her.

They had decided that it would be in her best interest to try to hide her condition for the few weeks she had until graduation, then to confront her parents and the Wheeler’s after their elopement was complete. Knowing that it was probable that Mr. Wheeler would fire him, Regan assured Trixie that he would quietly check into other positions elsewhere.

As was her custom, Trixie rode to school with Diana and Honey on the following Monday morning. She was relieved when they got to school, knowing that it would have been so easy, but so disastrous, to let her secret slip. She began her day pretending that everything was normal, sliding into her seat just as the bell rang for homeroom. She listened intently as Miss Golden began roll call, answered softly when her name was called. In the silence that Miss Golden demanded of her students, the entire class heard Jane Morgan’s sudden giggle.

“Miss Morgan? Is there something you wish to share with the class?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Then I must ask you to kindly control yourself. This is not the time or place for foolishness.”

“Yes, Miss Golden,” Jane made a show of meekness.

When the bell rang to end class, Trixie rushed out the door. Jane called out, “Hey, Trixie! Wait up!”

“Yes, Jane? What is it?” Trixie asked, warily.

“I just wanted to ask if you had a nice weekend,” she answered, tossing her hair over her shoulder.

“It was fine.”

“Oh, good! I just wanted to make sure you weren’t sick or anything.”

Suddenly frightened, Trixie answered as calmly as she could, “No, why on earth would you think that?”

“Because, Mrs. Schulz,” Jane hissed, “you really ought to be more careful to make sure that no one’s watching when you leave anything on the train!”

Trixie flushed. She had been so intent on her problems Saturday, that she hadn’t even checked to see if anyone was watching her. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Just what do you want from me, Jane?”

“Why, Barbara, anyone would think that you thought I wanted to blackmail you! You should know I wouldn’t dream of such a thing!”

Trixie sighed with relief, only to gasp as Jane continued, “No, it’s going to be much more fun to watch little Miss Perfect’s fall from grace.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean, Trixie Belden! You know the school rules as well as I do; you know that you can be thrown out of school for this. I’ve watched for far too long as you and your little clique walked around acting like you own this school. Well, I get the last laugh, because I’m going straight to Mr. Stratton!” She walked away laughing, as Trixie futilely tried to catch up with her in the now crowded hallway.

Trixie spent the morning on pins and needles, just waiting for the call to the office. Eluding Honey and Diana with great effort, she managed to get to the pay phone between classes. She knew she had to let Regan know what was happening. He reassured her that he would be there for her when she needed him, and reminded her to be careful in what she said. After talking with him, she relaxed somewhat, thankful to know that she could depend on him.

When no summons came by lunchtime, she began to wonder if Jane had had a change of heart. She knew that it was unlikely, especially when Di placed her lunch tray on the table, and said, “Have either of you noticed how odd Jane Morgan’s acting today? I haven’t seen her this giddy since she got the role of Lady MacBeth!”

At that moment, Norma Nelson, who worked as an office aide, appeared to tell Trixie she was wanted in the office. Nervously, Trixie asked Honey to return her lunch tray when she took hers, then turned to follow Norma out of the crowded cafeteria. She walked into the office with the feeling that she was walking straight into the lion’s den.

Miss von Trammel directed her to enter Mr. Stratton’s office, where he asked her to sit down. She placed her bag on the floor at her feet and waited for him to speak. He finally said, “Trixie, I know this is your lunch break, so I’m going to get straight to the point. A student came to me this morning with a story that ordinarily I would have dismissed as preposterous. However, she claims that she can verify the authenticity of her statement, so I’m going to give you an opportunity to refute this charge against you. I’m aware, that in situations such as this, that there is a tendency to prevaricate, but you are known for your honesty. Therefore, I’m choosing to trust you to answer me truthfully when I ask you, Miss Belden, are you pregnant?”

She knew his speech was meant to be a trap, but his comment about her honesty got to her. She realized that once she claimed Regan as the father of her child she would be participating in a lie that would follow her to her grave. She knew that she could tell Mr. Stratton that Jane was lying, but would still be under suspicion for the rest of the year. She remembered Regan’s reassurance that he would marry her immediately, that it had been her desire to try to graduate first. With that in mind, her eyes were focused on the floor as she slowly nodded her head.

“Do your parents know?” Mr. Stratton said with a groan.

“No, sir.”

“You know I’ve got to call them.”

She blanched, and began to plead with him not to call them, to let her finish the year. “There’s only a month of school left! I won’t even be showing by then!”

He refused to listen to her pleas. He told her that she could attend the school board meeting the following Thursday night and appeal to them for leniency, but that she would be suspended for the three days until the meeting had taken place. She retreated into silence as he called her mother.

Trixie was dreading her mother’s arrival at the school, but was horrified when her very angry father arrived instead. Afraid to speak, she could only nod when Peter asked her if the principal’s accusation was true. He listened as Mr. Stratton reviewed the appeals process with him, then said, “Beatrix, go get in the car.”

Quickly, she gathered her belongings and headed outside. She climbed into the Belden station wagon, trying to scrunch herself into the corner. Peter Belden was completely silent during the drive to Crabapple Farm, waiting until they got inside the house to begin yelling at his daughter.

Trixie was crying too hard to hear every word, but managed to hear him yell about the shame that she had brought on the family name. Eventually, he quit shouting long enough to ask, “I suppose we have Jim to thank for this disgrace?”

Preparing herself for further wrath, she shook her head. “No, sir.”

Peter glared at her as he said, “All right, if not Jim, then who is responsible?”

Knowing what was coming, forcing herself to answer his question was the hardest thing Trixie had ever done. She took a deep breath before saying, “Regan.”

“What!” Peter thundered. “You’ve been acting like a common trollop with the groom? I’ll kill him!”

“Daddy!” she squeaked, scared that he would somehow hurt Regan.

Peter visibly forced himself to calm down, inquiring, “Just what does he have to say about this? Or is he halfway to Mexico by now?”

“He…, he wants to marry me,” she stammered.

“You’re d*** right he’s going to marry you!” he snapped. “Get on the telephone and have him come over here.”

Stunned by her father’s unprecedented use of profanity, she didn’t move.

“Trixie! I said call him and I mean now. Don’t make me have to go looking for him!”

Under Peter’s watchful eye, she dialed the number to the stable. She listened anxiously as it rang, relieved when he finally picked up. “Hello?”

“Regan? Can you come over? Daddy wants to talk to you,” she managed to say.

“I’ll be right there, Trixie. Calm down, I’m on my way.”

She ended the brief exchange, hanging up the receiver. She reclaimed her seat on the sofa while Peter went upstairs. Within two minutes, he had returned with Helen, who sat down in the rocking chair, weeping. Trixie didn’t even notice that her mother refused to look at her; instead, she stared at her father as he placed his shotgun prominently on the coffee table. She heard him dial the phone, heard him telling her brothers that they were needed at home. He had barely replaced it on the hook when Regan rapped on the door.

Peter jerked the door open, motioning for the younger man to come inside. As Trixie listened to her father shouting, she felt guilty that Regan was enduring this for something he hadn’t done, when Jim should have been the one standing there facing her father’s rage. She heard Peter speak in a calmer voice, saying, “Here’s what’s going to happen. The school board will vote Thursday night to decide if she gets to graduate. If so, Trixie will remain in this house at all times, going only to school, until the graduation ceremony. At that time, you will marry her and give your child a name. If the board denies leniency, you will marry her first thing Friday morning. Given your history of flight, I will make arrangements with Matthew to make sure that you don’t leave town. Brian, who is on his way home, will also help Matthew make sure that you don’t run. Understand?”

“I give you my word that I will marry her, Mr. Belden. I’m ready to marry her right now, if you like.”

“Friday morning will be soon enough,” he snapped, pain warring with the anger on his face. “I warn you, though, if you even think about going anywhere, I’ll have Molinson hold you in jail until the wedding.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” He turned his gaze to Trixie before saying, “I love her.”

“Get out!” Peter roared, glaring at the door. He sent Trixie up to her bedroom, under orders to remain there until she was told otherwise.

An hour later, she was staring out her window when she heard Madeleine Wheeler’s voice downstairs. She was surprised when she heard Peter tell Mrs. Wheeler that she could go up to her room, but couldn’t help being curious about what she wanted.

Hearing her knock softly on the door, Trixie opened it warily. She moved so that the older woman could enter the room, and then returned to her chair by the window.

“So this is where my daughter spends most of her time!” Mrs. Wheeler exclaimed, smiling gently at Trixie. “How are you, my dear?”

“As well as I could expect, I guess,” Trixie answered, awkwardly returning the social embrace that was Mrs. Wheeler’s custom.

“Your father just spoke with Matthew a few moments ago, telling him all about your little, um, problem. Now, both men were all for dismissing Regan as soon as the wedding’s over, although I can’t imagine how they think he’s going to support you if he’s out of work,” she shook her head at their lack of logic. “Quite frankly, were you not admittedly with child, I would have never believed that he would have taken advantage of you, as he obviously must have done. I know you certainly didn’t seduce him, just as I don’t believe that you vamped my son. However, I can quite easily picture him trying to seduce you.”

She paused, as if giving Trixie a chance to confide in her. When Trixie remained silent, she continued, “Trixie, I know about the scene in the apartment.”

Trixie stifled a gasp, looking directly into her face. “How?” she whispered.

Mrs. Wheeler laughed softly. “The neighbors heard the commotion and decided that I should know. To be honest, if I had been in your position, I would have called him worse names than you did. Even though he’s my son, his behavior of late has been a disappointment to me. Unfortunately, the older he gets, the more he seems to take after his father. Between you and me, my dear, this child you’re carrying belongs to Jim, doesn’t it?”

Trixie barely hesitated, saying, “Mrs. Wheeler, if Jim were the father, wouldn’t it have been much easier for me to admit that that was the case? To appeal to him or to you for child support? I’m sure I could have greatly benefited from a paternity suit, if you weren’t willing to help me.”

“You’re absolutely right, and that is exactly what most girls would have done. That blonde you caught him with may do it yet. But not you, Trixie. You wouldn’t ask for help unless there was absolutely no other way for you to survive. No, you would grasp at any other option that presented itself. I just can’t imagine why Regan has chosen to involve himself, unless he couldn’t resist the chance to rescue a fair maiden in distress. He wouldn’t dare try to blackmail me, because once you marry him, no court in the land would grant you a settlement against Jim.”

Trixie simply looked at her, making no reply. Mrs. Wheeler smiled, saying, “If anyone ever asks, this conversation never took place. Your silence has told me everything I need to know, but I will keep your secret. If, however, you ever do need any help, I will make sure that you get it.”

Trixie felt tears running down her face, as Mrs. Wheeler genuinely embraced her. She heard her whisper, “I know my son, Trixie, and I really think you’ve made a wise decision. Just please take good care of my grandchild!” Without giving her time to respond, she walked out, softly shutting the door behind her.

That evening, Helen Belden came upstairs to call Trixie to supper. The thought of eating, let alone the thought of sitting with her parents and Bobby at the table, made Trixie feel ill. She told her mother, “I’m not hungry.”

“Get up, Beatrix! I don’t care if you’re not hungry; you’re still going to eat. If you can’t think about anyone else for a change, at least think of the child. You do have a responsibility to it, you know.” Tears threatened to run down her face as she scolded her daughter.

She meekly followed Helen downstairs, clutching to the banister for support. She silently took her usual seat, trying not to look at anyone.

“Trixie? Are you sick?” Bobby asked, sounding worried.

She hesitated, not knowing how to answer his innocent question.

“No, she’s not sick!” Peter snapped at his youngest son.

Trixie forced herself to eat her supper, not even noticing what she was eating. No one said a word until the front door opened just as they were finishing their meal. Brian and Mart came rushing into the dining room, wanting to know what the emergency was.

Eleven year old Bobby was obviously interested in hearing the answer. Peter noticed, and sent him upstairs to his room. Trixie began to follow, stopping as she heard her father say, “Young lady, you are not going anywhere. You’re going to tell your brothers just why they had to rush home from college.”

“Trixie?” Brian asked, confused.

“I’m pregnant,” she said softly, staring at the floor.

“Does Jim know?” Mart demanded. “Why isn’t he here?”

“He’s not the father,” she whispered.

“Trixie! Speak up, for crying out loud!” Mart commanded her.

“I said Jim’s not the father. Regan is.”

Both of her older brothers began yelling at her, repeating many of the things their father had already said. Mixed in with theirs, though, was outrage at the fact that not only had she acted like she had, but that she had done it while dating Jim. She closed her eyes, reminding herself that she knew she was innocent of the things they believed she had done.

Once the shouting ended, Trixie spent the next three days in her bedroom under house arrest. Mart acted as her personal jailer, making sure that she didn’t go anywhere or call anyone. He even took to bringing her meals to her on a tray, so that she wouldn’t even have to go downstairs to eat. However, she suspected that he did that as a kindness; she was certainly relieved not to have to face her parents at the table.

Tuesday evening, Trixie was astounded when Mart told her that she was about to have company. “But I’m grounded! What will Daddy say?”

“Dad knows, Trixie. Brian convinced him to let Honey come visit you. I think they both know that you don’t want to see her right now.”

She groaned, then rushed to wash her face and brush her hair, since she didn’t want to look as bad as she felt. She had just returned to staring out the window, when Honey walked into the room.

“We missed you at school today, Trixie,” Honey greeted her, her voice carefully neutral.

“I’m suspended.”

“I know. Jane made sure that everyone at school knows why, too.” Honey pointedly told her.

“So it’s all over school?” Trixie asked, dismayed.

“All over Sleepyside! Oh, Trixie, how could you? I thought you loved him!” Honey wailed, tears in her eyes.

“I did love him, Honey! It just didn’t work out!” Trixie attempted to defend herself to her best friend.

“Didn’t work out? Didn’t work out?” Normally poised, Honey began to screech. “Did you at least have the decency to tell him you were sleeping with Regan behind his back? Or did he have to catch you two together?”

Seeing the abject look of misery that accompanied Trixie’s silence, Honey obviously assumed that her second guess had been correct. “So that’s why he won’t come home! Not that I can blame him, not after what you did to him!”

Trixie would have given anything to be able to tell her the truth. She couldn’t help but think of the irony in the situation, how her efforts to keep the Bob-Whites from turning against Jim had backfired by turning them against her. She knew that Di would follow Honey’s lead in condemning her. Crying bitter tears, she couldn’t even speak as Honey said, “Good-bye, Trixie,” and slammed the door behind her.

Honey’s visit had further repercussions the following afternoon. Mart and Trixie were alone in the house when Jim knocked on the door. Trixie heard Mart tell him that she wasn’t allowed to have visitors, then heard Jim say that he thought he had a right to see her after everything she had done. Mart apparently agreed. He called up the stairs to ask her to come down.

She walked slowly down the steps, stopping right before she reached the bottom. “Jim, I have nothing to say to you.”

“No, but I certainly have something to say to you. Mart, could you excuse us for just a few minutes? I don’t think you’re going to want to hear this.”

Mart nodded, saying, “I need to go check on the chickens, anyway.”

As soon as they heard the door close behind him, Jim looked at Trixie. Narrowing his eyes, he said, “All right, Trixie, just what is going on here?”

“What do you mean?” she asked, trying to look innocent.

“I had a very interesting call from Honey last night,” he told her.


“Cut the innocent act, Trixie! Just give me a straight answer for once in your life. Is that my child you’re carrying?”

“No, it’s not.”

His face matched his hair as he said, “Don’t ever lie to me, Trixie! I know for a fact that you had not been with Regan as of two months ago. You know that as well as I do. And given your, shall we say, complete lack of enthusiasm, I hardly think that you went straight from me to him. I have a right to know my child!”

“Jim, I’ve already told you that this is not your child. Regan is the father, which means that you have no claim on him or her.”

Furious, he approached the staircase, roughly grabbing her arms before she realized what was happening. She tried to move away, but his grip was too tight. He had just started to shake her when they heard the kitchen door slam. She saw the look of horror in Jim’s eyes as he realized what he was doing. He released her before her brother could enter the room, quietly apologizing for what he had done.

“Jim, just leave,” she said, running back into her room. She was relieved that Mart had come into the house when he did; she had sensed that Jim was about to really hurt her. She had seen him lose his temper before, even been the object of it, but this was the first time he had ever gotten violent with her. Even now, she prayed that the baby was all right, hoping desperately that it hadn’t been hurt. She went to sleep that night, grateful for the first time that she had caught Jim with Dot, that she wasn’t going to have to spend her life with him.

Thursday evening, Peter and Helen accompanied Trixie to the school board hearing. She answered the questions quietly, but wasn’t surprised when her petition was denied. Her parents signed the papers that formally withdrew her from school, listing the reason as expulsion. They were silent on the way home, speaking only to advise her to begin packing her things that evening.

Trixie awoke Friday morning to nausea much worse than she’d been having. She grabbed the crackers she kept on her night-stand, knowing that her nervousness was making it worse. She couldn’t believe that she would be a married woman within just a few short hours. She knew that she wasn’t in love with Regan, but that she could always trust and depend upon him. She remembered hearing someone once say that women learned to love whoever they married. She hoped that it was true, she knew that he deserved a wife that loved him.

Her thoughts were interrupted as her mother knocked on the door. Helen entered with a breakfast tray and asked, “Trixie, do you feel able to eat this morning?”

“Not really,” she admitted, but said, “I’ll try, though.”

“I hate to rush you this morning, but your dad wants to leave here in an hour.”

“Yes, Moms. I’ll hurry.”

Helen looked at her daughter with tears in her eyes. “You know, I’ve imagined this day for so long, it’s hard to believe that it’s actually here.”

Trixie smiled. It was oddly comforting to have her mother acting as if it were a normal wedding day. After a moment, Helen said, “I…, I’d planned to have the Talk with you this morning, but I guess you don’t need it now.”

She thought of all the questions she wanted to ask, all of the fears and concerns she still had. She lowered her eyes as she replied, “No, I guess not.”

Helen turned as if to leave, but suddenly rushed back to embrace her. The two women clung together, crying, for a few precious moments, before Helen left Trixie to shower and dress.

There had been no time to obtain a wedding dress and her mother’s wedding gown wasn’t suitable for the wedding that Trixie would have to have. She chose to wear her prettiest dress, telling herself that it made no difference. She looked in the mirror as she brushed out her curls, trying vainly to piece together the elements of the old rhyme.

She decided that her dress was something old, even though she had worn it only once before. The child she carried was a new life and her relationship with Regan was also new. Her hat had blue trim, but she didn’t have anything borrowed. She had just decided to give up on it, when Mart entered the room through her open door. He handed her a small Bible. “Trixie, Moms wants you to carry this today, she said it’s the one she carried when she married Dad.”

“Thanks, Mart,” she smiled gratefully at him.

Once he had gotten over his initial anger at her supposed betrayal of Jim, some of the camaraderie had returned to their relationship and he hugged her, saying earnestly, “I hope you’ll be happy, Trixie.”

“I will be,” she tried to assure him.

“Trix,” he sighed. “I’m sorry Brian’s being so hard on you.”

She forced herself to say, “It’s all right, Mart. He has every right to be.”

There was no further time for conversation. Peter yelled up the stairs that it was time to go. Trixie took one last look in the mirror and followed her brother to the car.

Moments later, they arrived at the Sleepyside courthouse. Regan and Dan were standing on the steps with Matthew Wheeler, all dressed in dark suits. Peter spoke briefly to Matthew, glaring at the look he caught Regan giving Trixie.

Once inside the building, it didn’t take long for them to complete the necessary paperwork. Since Trixie had turned eighteen the week before, Peter and Helen weren’t required to sign their consent. Regan discreetly took Trixie’s hand as they walked into the courtroom to stand before the judge. She held onto his hand as if her life depended on it, taking comfort from his reassuring smile. With a steadiness in her voice that surprised her, she made the vows that legally bound her to him, giving her the right to bear his name. He kissed her softly. Mart took a few snapshots, then Dan stiffly welcomed her to the family.

The brief ceremony complete, Peter and Matthew left the courthouse to go to work. Regan accepted Helen’s suggestion that they come pick up Trixie’s things right away. Trixie followed her husband to the car that he had purchased a year earlier, realizing that they hadn’t had a chance to talk since the scene at Crabapple Farm. She waited as patiently as she could while he helped her to get into the car and then walked around to the driver’s side.

He turned to Trixie, saying, “I’m sorry we can’t take a wedding trip right now. This is the only day I could get off of work, but I promise to take you somewhere later on.”

She couldn’t believe that he was apologizing to her, after everything she had put him through. “It’s all right, Regan. I’m just glad that you married me! You don’t know how sorry I am for everything.”

He took her hand, saying, “Sweetie, try to forget about all of that. It’s over now, and you won’t ever have to look back.”

Even as she whispered, “Thank you for everything,” she realized that he had called her “sweetie.” Somewhat startled, she decided that she liked it.

“I wanted to do it,” he said, giving her a look similar to the one he had given her when he proposed.

They spent the rest of the day getting Trixie settled into the small apartment. Regan insisted on taking her out for dinner that evening, although she protested that she didn’t expect him to do so.

They went to a small restaurant in White Plains. Trixie enjoyed the evening, feeling somewhat as if they were on a date. However, by the time they arrived back at the apartment, she was beginning to wish that she hadn’t eaten anything. Knowing that her wedding night was upon her, she felt as if butterflies had taken up residence inside her stomach.

Walking up the steep stairs, Regan rested his hand on Trixie’s shoulder. Involuntarily, she tensed. She hoped that he hadn’t noticed, as she forced herself to try to relax. She reminded herself that he was the same man she had always felt so comfortable being around, the same man she had been able to tell her deepest secrets.

Regan unlocked the door, re-locking it once they were inside. He walked over to the living area, where he placed a record on the turntable. With music playing softly in the background, he led Trixie to the sofa. Resisting the impulse to back away, she gingerly sat down beside him.

“Trixie, what’s wrong?” he asked.

Knowing that he had always been able to discern her moods, she forced herself to speak lightly. “What makes you think that something’s wrong?”

“Sweetie, you look like a scared rabbit. Have I upset you somehow?”

“No!” she exclaimed. Dropping her voice to a whisper, she turned away as she admitted, “I’m scared, Regan.”

“Of me?” he asked, gently turning her head so that she was facing him.

“No, I could never be scared of you. It’s just that, well…” she trailed off, blushing.

“Sweetie, every bride is nervous on her wedding night,” he spoke softly. “Has your mother talked to you about it?”

“No,” she whispered. “She was going to, but then decided that there wasn’t any reason to.”

He shook his head. “You know you can ask me anything, don’t you?”

She hesitated, knowing that he meant exactly what he said, but still feeling uncomfortable at discussing it. Summoning her courage, she blurted, “Why does it have to hurt?”

Regan looked surprised. “It’s not supposed to be painful. I know a woman usually does hurt a little bit her first time, but it should never hurt again.”

It was her turn to look surprised. He noticed her look, and said, “Trixie, was it that bad with Jim?”

Reluctantly, she nodded her head. “It hurt so much, I thought I was going to die,” she admitted in a whisper. “I asked him to stop, but he wouldn’t. He just said that if I would relax I would enjoy it.”

Looking at the floor, she didn’t see the expression of anger that briefly crossed his face. She did hear him say, “Sweetie, it won’t ever hurt like that again. And if it ever does hurt at all, I promise I will stop as soon as you tell me to.”

“Promise?” she asked, looking at him hopefully.

“I promise, Trixie. I would never want to do anything that would hurt you.”

Thus assured, she went willingly, if somewhat timidly, into his waiting arms. He held her close, much as he had when he was comforting her in the stable. Eventually, as she began to relax, he bent his head toward hers, kissing her with a tenderness that amazed her. She found herself responding, even as he pulled her into his lap. She marvelled at the feelings and emotions stirring within her that she had never before experienced, wondering at the sensations his touch provoked. Sometime later, when he asked her if she were ready to go to bed, she truthfully answered, “Yes.”

Trixie awoke the next morning before Regan did. She knew that he would have to get up in a few minutes to go to the stable, but she didn’t want to disturb him until she had to. She lay quietly, blushing to remember the night before. She tried not to think about her first time, but realized that there had been a major difference: whereas Jim had had sex with her, Regan had made love to her. She still didn’t understand why he loved her or exactly when he had fallen in love with her, but she knew that she felt safe and secure in his love.

Regan soon began to stir, pulling her close to him as he awoke. He kissed her softly, saying, “I really don’t want to get up this morning.”

She smiled, looking at the clock. “I’m afraid we have no choice.”

“I was hoping you wouldn’t say that, even though I know you’re right,” he said, wrapping her in his arms.

A moment later, with urgency in her voice, she said, “Regan, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to get up. Now.”

He reluctantly released her, and she rushed into the small bathroom. She came out a few minutes later, not surprised to find him up and waiting for her. “Trixie, are you all right?” he asked, worry plainly evident on his face.

“I feel better now,” she assured him. “I’m getting used to it, anyway.”

He shook his head, his expression troubled. “I’ll feel better once you’ve seen Dr. Ferris. Do you think he will be able to see you this coming week?”

“Probably. I’ll try, anyway.”

“Good. If you can’t get an appointment this week, get one as soon as you can. He’s always been your doctor, hasn’t he?”

“Yes, since before I was born.”

Regan nodded in satisfaction, then said, “Sweetie, while we’re on the subject, how did you get those bruises? You haven’t fallen, have you?”

She shook her head, looking down at the oddly shaped bruises on her arms. She hesitated, wondering how she was going to explain.

Sensing her reluctance to talk about it, he assured her, “You don’t have to tell me, but I worry about you, Trixie. I want to know that you’re going to be all right.”

Tears came into her eyes as she sensed the concern in his voice. Briefly, she gave him the details of her confrontation with Jim, wisely omitting the fact that he had been about to hit her. Even so, she could tell that Regan was angry.

“Trixie,” he said, looking into her eyes, “if he ever makes you even think that he’s going to touch you, or better yet, if he so much as says a cross word to you, promise me that you’ll let me know.”

She nodded, suddenly hoping that the two men wouldn’t have occasion to meet any time soon.

First thing Monday morning, Regan reminded Trixie to make a doctor’s appointment. Hoping he would relax once Dr. Ferris announced that everything was normal, she called as soon as the office was open. Even though she knew that it usually didn’t take long to get one, she was still surprised when she was told to come in that afternoon.

When the time came for her to leave for town, Trixie found herself nervous about driving Regan’s car. He had added her to his insurance coverage the previous week, and helped her to become familiar with it over the weekend, but she knew that it would take time for her to become used to driving it. She walked slowly down the stairs to the garage, startled when Tom called out to her. She smiled politely as he congratulated her on her marriage, but blushed as she realized that he was looking at her differently than he had before. She hurried into the car, hoping that she would only appear anxious to get into town.

For Trixie, the worst part of the visit was having to tell the kindly man who had taken care of her since birth that not only was she pregnant, but that she had gone to another doctor to have it confirmed. She realized that she wasn’t the first patient to have done so when he told her, with eyes twinkling, that he understood. She submitted to the exam, then hesitantly asked him if an accident could have harmed the baby.

“That depends on what kind of accident,” he said, looking to her for more information.

She flushed as she said, “The kind of accident where someone grabs someone and shakes them in anger.”

“That’s an interesting usage of the word ‘accident’, Trixie. Have you had any spotting or sharp pains?”

“No, sir.”

He asked her several questions before setting her mind at ease. He did warn her that if she did have any unusual symptoms to call him immediately and to go straight to the emergency room.

Before she left, he said, “Trixie, I don’t need to tell you how dangerous physical violence is to both you and to the child. You’ve said that you can’t tell me who did this to you, but as your physician, I can make sure that you get help if you need it.”

Suddenly, she realized that Dr. Ferris was under the impression that Regan had hurt her. She hastened to say, “I’ll be all right, now. Regan won’t let anyone get close enough to hurt me anymore.” Under his puzzled expression, she left the office.

Having other errands to run before she returned home, Trixie sat in the car for a few moments to clear her mind. The sound of the school bell ringing in the distance startled her from her reverie, and she suddenly wished that she had gone shopping before going to the doctor’s office. She knew that tongues were wagging all over town, but was unprepared for the reception she did get when she walked into the supermarket.

As she pushed her cart down the aisles, she felt everyone staring at her. The whispers that would cease as she drew near were worse than the stares. For the first time in her life, Trixie wished that she didn’t live in such a small town.

She knew her face was still flushed when she arrived back at the Manor House garage. As she parked the car, she saw Honey walking towards the lake. Summoning her courage, she waved at her as she looked over. Instead of waving back or calling a greeting as she used to do, Honey pointedly turned around and kept walking. Trixie forced herself to unload the packages, but couldn’t stop the tears that flowed down her cheeks.

As the days passed, it became apparent that Honey was not going to forgive Trixie. Deep down, Trixie knew that if the situation had been reversed, and she thought Honey had cheated on Brian, that she would have been just as upset. She could understand that her friend was hurting, but that didn’t make her own pain any less. Having to live on the same property under these conditions made the hurt even worse.

Hoping that she would feel better if she could get away for a while, Trixie talked to Regan about getting a part-time job. She knew that he didn’t want her to work, but she knew that it would help if she could just work until the baby was born. When she brought it up, he was understanding, but reminded her that he had promised to take care of her and of the child. She mentioned the possibility of a temporary position, but he gently reminded her that a good position would be hard to find for a few months. Sensing that he was holding something back, she asked him if there were any other reasons. As he was obviously trying to avoid telling her what he was thinking, he mentioned something about this just not being a good time. Seeing the look in his eyes, she suddenly realized that he meant the rumors going around town would keep her from getting hired. At the look of abject misery on her face, he said, “Trixie, we know the truth. That’s all that matters.” He wiped her eyes, then wrapped her in a comforting embrace.

As Memorial Day approached, Regan and Trixie reluctantly decided it would be best if they didn’t try to go to the parade. Since Regan did have the afternoon off, they chose to go for a long walk through the game preserve, taking a picnic lunch. On the morning of the holiday, Trixie prepared the basket eagerly, surprised to realize how much the afternoon together meant to her. She knew that her feelings towards her husband were changing; she was beginning to care for him in ways she hadn’t before. Caught up in her thoughts, she finished sooner than she had intended, having thirty minutes left before Regan would get off work.

Since she had made a point of not bothering him in the stables, it had been some time since she had seen the horses. Figuring that it wouldn’t hurt anything if she did go and spend those few extra minutes with the horses, she headed to the stables. She was right at the door when she heard someone talking to Regan.

Not wanting to disturb them, she stood still as she tried to decide whether to return home or to wait for the other person to leave. She had just turned to leave when she recognized the voice that was coming from inside. In shock and sudden fear, she found herself listening in horror as she heard him laugh suddenly.

“Tell me, doesn’t it bother you having to leave her alone in the apartment so often?”

“No, I can’t say that it does,” Regan replied, a false note of cheer in his voice. “Why would it?”

“Not even with Tom working in the garage?”

“You know full well that Tom would never hurt her.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Jim, just what exactly are you insinuating?”

“I’m just giving you a friendly word of advice, that’s all. After all, she’s already proven that she can’t be trusted, so what makes you think she’s going to be any more faithful to you than she was to me?”

Overcome with nausea at the implication, she sunk to the ground. She was crying too hard to take notice of the events transpiring just a few feet away; she didn’t hear her husband’s furious reply. She didn’t hear the sound of Jupiter’s shrill neigh as Regan’s fist came in contact with Jim’s eye. She clutched her stomach, still oblivious to the voices that now came from the stable.

“You do realize that I could have you arrested for that, don’t you?” Jim said, anger suffusing his voice.

“I know you could, but I don’t think you will. After all, I’ve seen the bruises that you gave Trixie. Do you honestly think the state will give you custody of orphans if you have a history of abuse?” Regan said, his voice deadly calm. “I want one thing understood, Jim. Trixie is my wife now. She’s no longer your so-called special girl. You’ve hurt her enough, and I will not let you hurt her again, ever. Got it?”

Jim stalked out of the stables, not bothering to reply. He noticed Trixie sobbing on the ground, glancing at her contemptuously before walking down the path. She managed to get up and made her way into the stables. Regan was obviously startled to see her, saying, “Trixie? How long have you been here?”

“Too long,” she sobbed, clutching his arms for support.

He tried to calm her, attempting to verify that she was all right.

She finally choked, “Regan, you…, you…, you know that I wouldn’t do anything like that, don’t you?”

“I know, sweetie. I just wish you hadn’t heard that.”

“I wish…,” she trailed off, suddenly afraid to voice the thoughts that she had been thinking over the past few days.

“What, sweetie? What do you wish?” he asked, his anger at Jim forgotten in his concern for his wife.

“I know we can’t, but I just wish we could go away somewhere and get away from all of this. Just start over somewhere, somewhere where this can’t happen.” she said wistfully.

“Trixie, do you really mean that?” he asked quietly. “I thought you wouldn’t want to leave your family.”

“You’re my family now,” she told him. “I’ve only seen Moms a couple of times in the three weeks we’ve been married. Daddy still thinks I’ve permanently blackened the family name, which, from the reputation I now seem to have, he appears to be right. I’ve just cost you so much, I couldn’t ask you to leave Sleepyside.”

He gently wiped her eyes with his handkerchief, kissing her forehead. “Sweetie, you haven’t cost me anything. I would do anything for you and you know it. Besides, I think we should sit down and talk about this. It is a major decision, but I’ve been thinking about it, too.”

“You have?” she asked in disbelief.

“Yes,” he paused. “Do you feel up to going on our picnic now?”

Confused at the sudden change in topic, she admitted, “Would you mind if we go to the apartment for a few minutes before we leave? I don’t feel very well.”

He immediately took her hand, leading her into the fresh air. He picked up the basket that she had dropped, then carefully guided her towards the garage. Trixie smiled, knowing that if they had been safe from prying eyes he would have carried her.

Inside the apartment, she washed her face and hands, grateful for the cool water. Her nausea had passed, but Regan convinced her to lie down for a few minutes to rest. As she did, she heard him rummaging through the papers on his desk. Too curious to wait, she got up and went to see what he was looking for.

He looked up from the letter he was reading, motioning for her to come towards him. He gently pulled her down on his lap, saying, “Trixie, are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes, I’ve never been surer of anything.”

“Remember when I told you that I would start looking into other job possibilities?”

She nodded, hoping desperately that they would be able to move. She had always loved living in Sleepyside, but the charms of the small town had vanished as the town turned against her.

He continued, “I spoke with Bill Murrow out in Minnesota. He said that he could always use extra help and that he would have a job for me anytime I wanted one. When Mr. Wheeler told me that we could stay on here, I hoped that we could make this work for your sake, so I called him back to tell him that I appreciated the offer, but that we would be staying on here. Then I got a letter from him last week.”

She looked at him, wondering why she hadn’t seen it or why he hadn’t mentioned it. He chuckled, telling her, “I didn’t mention it because I thought you wouldn’t want to move out there. Anyway, he wrote to remind me that the offer was still open, especially since he needed an extra hand right now.”

Regan paused. “Sweetie, remember Gus?”

“How could I ever forget him?” she asked, finally smiling. “Is he still with them?”

“He was, but he finally made up his mind to retire. Actually, he didn’t want to retire, but it was getting so that he couldn’t wait on himself, let alone do farm chores. He’s still living in the cabin and the Murrow’s watch out for him, but Bill really needs someone to take his place.”

“Can we, Regan?” she asked, her expression hopeful.

She looked so much like a small child requesting a favor that Regan laughed. “I’ll call him and we’ll see what we can work out.”

“Thank you,” she whispered in his ear, then proceeded to kiss him on the cheek.

Once the decision was final, plans were made rather quickly. Regan gave Mr. Wheeler his two-week notice, then went with Trixie to tell her parents that they were moving. Helen tried to talk them into staying, reminding them that she wanted to see her grandchild grow up. As Trixie was assuring her that they would be back to visit, Peter spoke a few quiet words to Regan. Trying not to appear like she was eavesdropping, she heard her dad telling Regan to take good care of her and the child. She turned, just in time to see the tears in her father’s eyes as he shook her husband’s hand.

Although Trixie really believed that moving would be the best thing that they could do, she didn’t really think about what it would be like to get in the car not knowing how long it would be before she returned. She knew that they would visit occasionally, but as she hugged her parents and brothers for the last time, she realized that she was actually leaving Sleepyside. She clutched Regan’s hand tightly as they pulled away from Crabapple Farm, trying to blink away the tears that threatened to come.

Normally silent while driving, Regan did his best to take her mind off of leaving. He began to talk with her about the house they would be living in, about the adventure that it would be to live on a horse ranch. Trixie sensed how hard he was trying, and made an extra effort to be cheerful. After a while, they did fall into silence and Trixie found herself dozing off.

She awoke with a start as Regan pulled into a filling station. They got out of the car to stretch for a few minutes. When they returned to the car, Trixie insisted on driving for the next part of the trip. For the rest of the day, they took turns doing the driving, eventually agreeing to stop for the night.

Pulling off the highway, they easily found a motel with a vacancy. After checking in, they unloaded the bag that Trixie had packed for an overnight stay. Settling it into their room, they took the chance to stretch and freshen up before going to eat at a nearby diner. From the outside, the diner looked clean and respectable. Once they entered, however, the crowd gathered inside reminded Trixie of Jimmy’s Place on Cobbett’s Island. Wishing that someone would turn the jukebox down, she moved closer to Regan as they spotted an empty table in the no-smoking section.

Regan sensed her discomfort, and asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else. She shook her head, “I’m too hungry to wait.”

He laughed softly, putting his arm around her. “Maybe it won’t be too long.”

She was glad when he slid into the booth next to her, keeping his arm around her protectively. A waitress took their order, bringing it to them in due time. They ate quickly, soon returning to their motel.

Although they were up late that night, both were awake early the next morning. Anxious to arrive at their destination before nightfall, they were on the road soon after sunup. The early morning traffic was heavy, and Trixie soon began to hope that they could find a way to get off the highway. Minutes passed as traffic stood at a near standstill.

Knowing that Regan was becoming nervous in the traffic jam, she hesitated to ask him to stop, but finally decided she would have to. He managed to pull into a rest area some moments later, where Trixie promptly became sick. She soon felt some better, insisting she was able to take over the driving.

Seeing her pallor, Regan protested, giving in only when she climbed into the driver’s seat. Trixie pulled out into the highway, thankful that traffic was finally moving steadily. As she drove, instead of feeling better as she had hoped, she increasingly felt worse. Eventually, she had to stop again.

This time, Regan absolutely refused to let her drive. He made her drink the coke he had gotten her, hoping that it would settle her stomach. However, as the day progressed, it became evident that her illness wasn’t due to morning sickness. She tried not to let him know how badly she felt, but finally admitted that she wanted to stop for the day.

They were still about four hours from Fairhaven, but Regan took one long look at his wife and immediately began looking for an exit. Once they obtained a room, he insisted that she lie down while he got their things from the car. He called Bill to let him know of the delay, then wet a cloth with cool water which he placed on Trixie’s forehead. He tried vainly to find a doctor that could see her, finally convincing her to go to the emergency room.

After a long wait in the unfamiliar hospital, Trixie was diagnosed as having food poisoning. She remembered the Cole slaw she had eaten the night before, suddenly glad that Regan hadn’t eaten any. She didn’t know what she would have done if he had gotten sick, too. The doctor couldn’t give her any medicine that would be safe for the baby and still be effective, so he advised her to stay in bed as long as she could.

Leaving the hospital, they returned to the hotel, where Regan helped Trixie change into a nightgown before putting her into bed. Once she was settled, she tried to get him to go get something to eat, but he refused to leave her. Once she dozed off, he did leave just long enough to go to the vending machines in the lobby. She was still asleep when he returned, but woke soon after. She tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep. It was only when Regan lay down beside her, and she snuggled up against him, laying her head on his shoulder, that she was able to sleep once again.

It was still not yet light when she awoke the next morning. She opened her eyes slowly, realizing that she felt much better than she had the previous day. She smiled at Regan’s peaceful expression, knowing how much he had come to mean to her in the almost two months of their marriage. She still didn’t love him the way she had Jim, but she suddenly wondered if that had actually been love at all. She smiled, as a long-ago conversation flashed through her mind. Maybe love really wasn’t all moonlight, soft music, and roses after all. Her feelings for Regan were more prosaic than that, but infinitely more fulfilling than the emptiness of romance with no affection in return.

Understanding came to her as memories of both Jim and Regan flashed through her mind. She felt Regan’s arms tighten around her; she saw his eyes open. She looked deep in his eyes as she told him for the first time, “I love you.”