“Trixie? Would you mind calling Honey and letting her know you’re going to be a few minutes late?”
Helen’s words were more of a command than a question, and Trixie looked at her in surprise. Seeing the expression on her mother’s face, however, her surprise turned into a sudden dread. “Do I need to cancel all together? Is everything all right?”
“I just need to talk to you,” Helen smiled sadly. “I hate to ask you to change your plans, but with Bobby over at the Lynches….” She sighed. “I’ll be talking to him, too, but I’m not up to that quite yet.”
“What’s going on, Moms?” Trixie asked, sitting down at the kitchen table.
Helen took the chair opposite her daughter. “I don’t even know how to say this, sweetie, but I really need for you to hear me out.” She swallowed hard. “I got some…bad news… a couple of months ago. Your dad and I hoped that it wouldn’t affect you, but…”
Drawing on a reserve of calm she didn’t know she had, Trixie reached across the table and took her mother’s hand. “We know, Moms,” she whispered.
“How?” Helen asked sharply.
A grimace of anguish crossed Trixie’s face. “Mart stopped by the bank one night right before he graduated. Brian and I knew something was wrong, and we drug it out of him. None of us knew how to confront either of you, and then we realized you already knew.”
“We didn’t want any of you to know,” Helen sighed. Tears filled her eyes. “He’s apologized over and over. We’ve tried to get past this, Trixie, to move on with our lives. I’ve tried so hard for your sakes, but I can’t….”
“What’s going to happen now?” Trixie asked. “Are you going to get a di… a div…,” she trailed off, unable to finish the word that was so hard to even think.
Helen squeezed her daughter’s hand and took a deep breath. “I’ve talked to a lawyer,” she admitted. Helen squeezed her daughter’s hand and took a deep breath. “I can’t say it’s not going to happen, but I’m not going to drag our family’s dirty laundry out in public. That means we have to live separately for a year before I can file. If I file.”
“So you’re separating?” Trixie tried to blink back tears. The thought of a separation for her parents was just as unimaginable and horrifying as a divorce.
She nodded, and gently lifted Trixie’s chin so that she was no longer staring at the red gingham table cloth. “Look at me, sweetie.”
Somehow, Trixie complied.
“Your brothers are leaving for college in a couple of weeks.” She took a deep breath. “Alicia’s offered to let the three of us stay with her for as long as I need. I’d register you and Bobby in school out there.”
Trixie was speechless. As unfathomable as the break-up of her parents’ marriage was, she had known that it was possible. Even in her darkest nightmares, however, she had never even imagined that either of them would actually leave Sleepyside, let alone New York.
“You don’t have to go, Trixie,” she heard her mother say. “This is your senior year. You can stay here with your father if you want. He and I agreed that it should be your decision.”
She felt Helen’s comforting arms around her and wondered how she could be so calm when her very life was falling apart. How could she be so strong? The words sunk in, and she realized just what was being said. How could she herself choose between her own parents?
She forced herself back to the present. “Are you going to let Bobby choose, too?”
“No,” Helen shook her head. “As much as he wants to keep both of you, your dad agreed that Bobby should come with me. His work schedule….” Suddenly, Helen’s calm vanished, and tears streamed down her face.
It was the first time in her seventeen years that Trixie had ever seen her mother cry. She felt helpless as she held her, knowing that nothing she could say or do would help, but suddenly certain that just as she needed her mother, her mother also needed her.
The shrill jangling of the telephone on the wall caused Helen to pull away from Trixie and wipe her eyes. “Would you answer that, please? It may be Bobby needing a ride home.”
She took a deep breath to steady herself before picking up the receiver. “Hello?”
Honey’s worried voice greeted her, and she realized for the first time that she had not called her to either let her know she would be late or wouldn’t be able to make it at all. “I’m so sorry, Honey. Something came up, and I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it right now.”
“No. Go.” Helen interrupted. She gave a small smile. “Please, Trixie. I need to be alone for a while.”
“Are you sure?”
Helen nodded. “Just don’t mention anything to Bobby until I talk to him, please.”
“I won’t,” Trixie gave her word. She took her hand off the mouthpiece. “Honey? I’m on my way.”
After a few more words, she replaced the receiver. “Moms?”
Helen looked up.
Trixie mustered a weak smile. “When do we leave?”
Trixie looked at her through red-rimmed eyes. “No. It’s not.”
“What happened?” Honey asked, gently putting an arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Please tell me no one’s hurt.”
“Not physically, anyway,” Trixie managed to say, plopping down on to the porch swing. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I don’t know how to say this, Honey. How do I tell my best friend that everything’s ended?”
“What’s ended?” Honey asked.
“Everything,” Trixie repeated despondently. “The boys all leave to go to school in two weeks. Moms is taking me and Bobby and going to Aunt Alicia’s the next day.”
“But school starts for us just a couple of days after that,” Honey said. “Are you missing the first few days?”
She shook her head. “No. That’s just it, Honey. We’re moving out there.”
“You’re what?” Honey gasped. “But I thought your dad said he would never leave Crabapple Farm!”
“He’s not,” Trixie said. Tears again streamed down her cheeks. “Moms and Daddy are separating, Honey.”
Despite her shock and confusion, Honey drew Trixie into her arms. “But why? They’ve always seemed so much in love!”
“They are… were…,” she choked out. She fell silent as they heard a deep voice calling out her name.
Trixie pulled away from Honey as heavy footsteps sounded in the gravel of the driveway, and she looked up to see her oldest brother and her boyfriend racing towards them.
“What’s wrong, Trixie?” Brian asked, glaring at the redhead beside him. Jim shrugged as he caught Brian’s suddenly hostile glance, his wide eyes protesting his innocence.
Trixie took a deep breath. “I think she wants to tell you herself, but Moms is leaving Daddy, Brian.” She couldn’t look at Jim. “She’s taking me and Bobby out to Aunt Alicia’s. We’re leaving the day after all of you.”
Brian sat down heavily on the swing beside the girls and patted Trixie’s shoulder. She tried to smile, but didn’t quite manage it. “Moms said I don’t have to go, but she needs me. She was crying, Brian.”
“Jim? Do me a favor and go call Mart. I think he’s over at the Lynch’s with Di, but he should have his cell phone wherever he is. Just let him know that we need him here,” Brian said. He looked pleadingly at his shell-shocked friend. “He needs to be in on this.”
“Could someone let me in on this?” Jim asked, finally finding his voice. “What in the world is going on?”
“Just call Mart,” Honey asked him softly. She put her arm behind Trixie’s shoulders so that her hand was resting on Brian’s arm.
Jim didn’t answer, but quickly strode inside the house. They could hear his voice through the French windows as he spoke to Mart on the telephone, and his footfall soon sounded once again on the porch. “All right. He’s on his way. Tell me what’s happening, Trixie.”
Trixie stiffened, but she forced herself to look up at her boyfriend. She didn’t know if he would react more strongly to the news of her father’s infidelity, the fact that she had known and not confided in him, or the announcement that she would spend her senior year of high school in Moperville, several hundred miles from Sleepyside. Instinctively, she leaned into Brian and took a deep breath. “Remember when my dad was working late a lot last spring, Jim?”
He nodded silently.
“He wasn’t working late,” she admitted. “Mart was in town late one night right before he graduated. He stopped by the bank to see if Dad wanted to take a break and go have dinner somewhere, only he wasn’t there.” She closed her eyes against his intense green gaze. “I still don’t know how Moms found out, but none of us could figure out how to tell her.”
“Just because he wasn’t there doesn’t prove anything, Trixie,” Jim reminded her quickly. “There are a million places he could have been!”
“Yeah, but he wasn’t at any of them, either,” Brian interjected with a sigh. “There were way too many clues we’d all been trying to ignore, and the fact that Mart found his car in the Dodge driveway later that evening didn’t help. Not with David Dodge out of town that week and Bobby and Davy both over at the Lynch’s.”
“Besides, he’s admitted it to Moms,” Trixie said, straightening up. She swallowed. “Moms told me he’s apologized, but she can’t get over it….” She took a deep breath, regretting her next words before she even spoke them. “It was hard enough watching you just go for a walk with Laura, and we weren’t even dating back then. I can’t even imagine what Moms is going through.”
Her reference to Laura Ramsey – a continued sore spot between them even though two years had passed – put him on the defensive, and he frowned. “We weren’tdating then, Trixie,” he reminded her. “But why didn’t you tell me about this? Didn’t you trust me?”
“No one knew,” Trixie retorted, some of her shock and grief being replaced by anger at what she perceived as the third degree. “It’s not a matter of trust, Jim. It’s a matter of not wanting to talk about it! Can’t you understand that?”
Jim started to speak, but stopped at a warning glare from Brian, who said, “Drop it, you two. It’s over. It’s out in the open. Quite frankly, I’m surprised Moms managed to last this long, and I’m glad Aunt Alicia’s offering her a place to go.”
“But where is it?” Jim asked. “Please tell me it’s near Sleepyside, or better yet, near the university.”
“No,” Trixie said, struggling to keep her voice steady. “Aunt Alicia lives in Moperville. It’s several hours from here by plane. And no, I don’t see how I will be back for our weekend dates. I don’t know what we’ll do about holidays.” She bit her lip. She wasn’t trying to deliberately bait him, but things hadn’t been quite right between them in some time, and his selfishness in making the breakup of her parents’ marriage all about him had gotten to her. “I’m sure Daddy’s going to want to see us at some point, but it’ll probably be cheaper for him to come to visit us.” She started to laugh bitterly. “If Aunt Alicia lets him in the house, that is.”
“Trixie!” Brian exclaimed, looking at her in surprise. “You KNOW Moms would never let anyone keep Dad away from you and Bobby.”
“I know,” she admitted, her brief laughter dissolving into quiet tears as her anger at Jim faded, and she looked up at him. “Are you going to let it keep you away from me?”
His own anger seemed to deflate, and he reached out for her hands. She made no protest as he gently pulled her up off the swing and into his arms. “Do you honestly think I would do that?” he whispered. “I love you, Trixie!”
Emotionally drained, she found she didn’t have enough strength to answer. She clung to him, soaking his shirt with her tears.
I thought I’d let you know that we got here this morning, and we’re trying to get settled in. We’re getting there, but it’s still going to take a while. Moms has already said we’re going first thing in the morning to get me and Bobby registered for school. We’ll probably explore the town a little bit while we’re there. It will be interesting to see where I now live.
There’s so much I want to tell you, things that I didn’t get to tell you before we left. Mainly, how thankful I am that you were there for me through these past few weeks. I don’t know how I would have gotten through them without you, and I know Brian feels the same way.
It’s getting late, and I’m on Aunt Alicia’s computer, so I need to send this and go. I still have to email Jim, too, but I’ll try to write more as soon as I get a chance.
Miss you tons,
I know this is a rather different interpretation of Peter and Helen. It’s an idea I’ve been tossing about for some time, and it’s inspired by Garth Brooks’s In Another’s Eyes. This is actually the sequel to that story, and I may or may not go back and write it.
Helen’s statement that she and Peter have to be separated for a year are based on New York state law, which requires the one year period before a no-fault divorce can be obtained.
I should probably also clarify that in my universes, Uncle Mart lives quite happily with Aunt Helen in Philadelphia, as per the deluxe and cameo editions of Bob-White Cave. In this storyline, Aunt Alicia has settled in Moperville, a town not of my own creation.
As always, thanks go to Cyndi, not only for letting me know it’s not a horrid story, but for also assuring me I haven’t lost my mind. 😉