Trixie BeldenŽ is the registered trademark of Random House. This story is not for profit.
This story takes place
immediately after the conclusion of The Red Trailer Mystery.
"We should be back as soon as all the
paperwork has been prepared and signed," Matthew Wheeler explained to Miss Trask as
he helped his wife into the car. "Are you sure you and Trixie will be okay
to drive back to Sleepyside?"
"We'll be fine," Miss Trask assured
him confidently and Trixie nodded in agreement.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like to
come with us Trixie?" Matthew asked her.
"Thank you for offering Mr Wheeler,"
Trixie replied with a small smile. "But I really should get home to my
family and Miss Trask needs some company on the drive home."
"That's very thoughtful of you," he
told her. He moved to climb into the car then paused. "Thank you for
everything you've done Trixie. Madeleine and I will never forget it."
Trixie blushed and looked down at her
scuffed sneakers, embarrassed by his compliment.
"I won't ever forget it either
Trixie!" Honey cried and threw her arms around her friend. "If it wasn't
for you, I wouldn't be getting Jim as a brother!"
"And I wouldn't have a best friend if
it wasn't for you," Trixie grinned, hugging her back. "Now off you go, I
want you back in Sleepyside as soon as possible with a brand new brother!"
Honey giggled and released Trixie and
climbed into the back of the car, leaving only Jim waiting to say goodbye.
The shared a glance for a moment before he stepped towards her, and Miss Trask
moved away to talk to the driver.
"How can I ever repay you for all that
you've done for me?" Jim asked softly and Trixie felt her face grow warm again.
"Thank you for everything Trixie."
"You're welcome Jim," Trixie murmured
in embarrassment. "I'm really glad you're coming back to Sleepyside for
"So am I," Jim smiled. "I
can't wait to get back there and meet your brothers..."
"And go riding and swimming and hiking
together," Trixie finished for him. They smiled at each other. "It's
going to be great."
"So I guess I'll see you soon then?"
"Yep, soon," she nodded.
"Okay," he murmured, but he didn't
move towards the car.
"Bye then," Trixie mumbled, then
suddenly thrust out her hand.
Jim smiled and accepted her hand,
shaking it gently. They stopped for a brief moment, hand in hand and then
they let go, and Jim held his up in a wave.
"Thanks for keeping me company on the
ride home, Trixie," Miss Trask began as they headed home, the Silver Swan
in tow. "I hope you didn't mind coming home with me instead."
"To tell you the truth, I was actually
getting a little homesick," Trixie admitted sheepishly. "It seems like
forever since I last saw Moms and Bobby and I'm hoping he's completely recovered
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Miss Trask
reassured her. "You're an awfully brave girl dealing with the snake bite
the way you did. Not everyone can keep a cool head in a situation like
"I don't know how I did it," Trixie
mumbled, red faced. "I just did what I knew I had to do."
Miss Trask nodded. "It often
happens like that. If you did stop to think about it, you'd probably panic
and get flustered."
"Exactly!" Trixie nodded
emphatically. "I fell apart after the doctor left. Thank goodness I
kept it together until then."
"You've been a great role model for
Honey," Miss Trask told her. "I hardly recognise her as the same sickly,
lonely girl I taught before the summer."
"I think Mrs Wheeler might feel the same
way," Trixie commented quietly.
Miss Trask glanced over at Trixie and
sighed softly. "They've hardly had an ideal mother and daughter
relationship. Has Honey said much to you?"
"A little," Trixie revealed.
"She told me she thought her mother didn't love her because she wasn't a boy."
Miss Trask shook her head slowly and
"You don't think..." Trixie began
worriedly, "now that Honey's parents are adopting Jim that it might make her
relationship with her mother worse?"
"I don't think so," Miss Trask replied
slowly. "Perhaps now they'll be more like a family and Jim's presence will
help bring them closer together."
"I hope so!" Trixie cried.
"I'm so glad Jim will finally have a real home. He's been through so
"He seems like such a strong, sensible
lad," Miss Trask agreed. "It's amazing he's managed to deal so well with
all that has happened to him."
Trixie shuddered. "That
horrible, horrible man! I hope they lock him up and throw away the key!"
"I hope so too," Miss Trask murmured
and wisely decided to change the subject.
"It's marvellous seeing the three of you together. You all look so happy,
as if you've known each other most of your lives."
"I know," Trixie smiled. "Mart
and Brian are going to love Jim and Honey too. I can't wait until they get
home from camp."
"I look forward to meeting them," Miss
Trask told her. "Do they normally go to summer camp without you?"
"Oh, no!" Trixie hastened to explain.
"Brian and Mart work as camp counsellors. This is Mart's first year, but
Brian has been for the last two summers. He's been saving money to buy his
"That's wonderful," Miss Trask
murmured approvingly. "Honey also tells me you're trying to earn money to
buy a horse."
"I'm trying...." Trixie sighed.
"I love riding your horses, but I'd so love a horse of my own."
"I'd like to learn to ride now that
I'm living in the country," Miss Trask told her. "It will give me a better
chance to explore the game preserve."
"Oh, you'll love it!" Trixie
assured her. "It's so beautiful!"
"The Hudson Valley certainly is
lovely," Miss Trask agreed. "I think the move to the Manor House will be
good for all of us."
"I know it will be," Trixie told
her, with a look of determination on her face. "It's going to be just
"Just let me park the trailer Trixie,
then I'll take you home," Miss Trask told her companion as they pulled into the
winding driveway that lead up to Manor House.
"That's okay Miss Trask, I can walk
home," Trixie replied. "It's no prob - Wow! Is that a new horse?
Look at him! He's beautiful!"
Trixie pointed excitedly at the
gelding Regan was leading into the stables and Miss Trask smiled at her
"Shall I let you out here?"
"Oh, yes please!" Trixie cried,
scrambling out of the car before it had come to a complete stop.
Miss Trask allowed herself a small
chuckle as she continued up the driveway to the garage at the rear of the house.
"Regan!" Trixie cried, running towards
the Wheeler's groom. "Did Mr Wheeler buy a new horse? When did he
arrive? Who's he for?"
"Whoa!" Regan cried as the horse
pranced skittishly. "Don't you know any better than to run at a horse
yelling your head off like that?"
"Sorry," Trixie mumbled, her
"I wasn't thinking."
"It's okay Trixie," Regan assured her
quickly, noting her embarrassment. "Yes, Mr Wheeler did buy a new horse.
His name is Starlight. Do you like him?"
"Oh, I love him," Trixie purred,
reaching up to stroke the horse's neck. "Do you think I could ride him
Regan? I rode every day when we were away and I'm really good now."
"I bet you are," Regan smiled.
"Well, maybe you can come up tomorrow and take him for a ride in the enclosure
and if you like each other, you can ride him while I exercise Jupe."
"Wow! That would be great
Regan," Trixie replied, wide-eyed. "He's so beautiful. Is he for
"Noooo," Regan replied and led the
horse into the stables.
"Well, who's he for?" Trixie demanded,
"Now I'm not sure I should tell you,"
Regan drawled, enjoying her impatient expression as he removed Starlight's
"Oh, please Regan..." Trixie pleaded.
"Starlight is for Mr Wheeler," Regan
revealed with a smile.
"Oh, does that mean...?" Trixie's eyes
widened in excitement.
"Yep," Regan grinned. "When Mr
Wheeler heard how well Jim handled Jupe and how much Jim liked him, he called me
and told me to get him another horse because he was giving Jupe to Jim."
"Oh, wow!" Trixie sighed
happily. "Jim is going to be so happy! It's all working out Regan.
Just like Honey and I told him it would."
"He's a lucky kid alright," Regan
agreed. "I wish I'd had half his luck when I was his age, but I guess I
did alright for a while there."
But Trixie was too excited to pay much
attention. "I can't wait to ride him Regan. I've gotta go home but
I'll be back tomorrow as soon as I've done my chores."
"Off you go then, I know your mother
and brother are waiting for you," Regan told her with a grin. "I'll see
"Thanks Regan, bye Starlight!"
Trixie kissed the gelding on the nose, gave Regan a wave and took off at a break
neck speed down the drive way towards her Crabapple Farm. Reddy spotted
her and followed, barking excitedly.
"There she goes fella," Regan murmured
to Starlight. "She's the one I told you about. You just watch,
she'll have you eating out of the palm of her hand by this time tomorrow."
"Moms? Bobby? I'm home!"
Trixie cried excitedly, slamming the kitchen door shut behind her.
Reddy slammed into the door and yelped
"Oh Reddy, I'm sorry," Trixie cried
and let the red setter in. He skidded across the floor and barked
furiously, calling for Bobby.
Bobby raced down the stairs towards
them. "Trixie! Reddy! Moms, Trixie and Reddy are home!"
Trixie scooped the little blonde boy
into her arms and Reddy jumped up excitedly, trying to lick his face.
"Down Reddy, down!" Trixie
commanded, but that only made the excited dog jump more. "Bobby, you look
so brown! Did you have fun at the beach?"
"Boy, it was fun!" Bobby cried.
"Moms and I made sand castles and picked up shells and we saw crabs and I went
"He completely forgot he had ever been
sick, and made his mother very happy," Helen Belden finished as she entered the
room. "But we both missed you very much."
"I missed you too Moms," Trixie cried,
putting Bobby down and eagerly hugging her mother. "But we had the best
time and we found Jim and Mr and Mrs Wheeler are going to adopt him and..."
"We heard the good news," Helen told
her, kissing her daughter on the head. "Your father spoke to Mr Rainsford
yesterday. I'm so glad you found him Trixie and I'm really proud that you
were able to help this young man find a home."
"Oh Moms, he's so wonderful!"
Trixie cried. "He's so smart. He's such a woodsman and he can ride
like a centaur, and he's so kind. He's going to be such a good brother for
Honey and Brian and Mart are just going to love him."
"It sounds like you already do," Helen
remarked with an amused smile.
Trixie blushed. "I've never met
anyone like him."
"Will I like him?" Bobby demanded.
"Of course you will," Trixie cried.
"He's going to help me make a shower for you so you can cool off outside when
"One for Reddy too?"
"I think Reddy can share it with you,"
Helen told him. "Why don't you take Reddy outside and play?"
"Can you play too Trixie?"
"In a minute, I just want to talk to
"Okey dokey," Bobby nodded, and raced
outside with Reddy.
"Is he okay Moms?" Trixie asked,
watching him roll on the grass with the red setter. "I mean, really?"
"He's fine Trixie," Helen said firmly,
watching her daughter carefully. "The seaside did us both the world of
good. He's never been more healthy."
"I'm so glad Moms," Trixie sighed
happily. "I was so worried about him."
"You look wonderful," Helen commented,
brushing her daughters pink cheeks. "I swear you've gotten taller and
thinner since you left."
"I wish Moms!" Trixie wrinkled her
nose. "If only I had a figure like Honey's!"
"And she probably wishes she had your
figure," Helen told her with a smile. "You're really growing into quite a
"Oh Moms..." Trixie squirmed in
Helen reached out and tousled her
blonde curls. "But you're still my tomboy Trixie! Off you go and
play with your brother. He's missed you."
"I love you Moms!" Trixie cried,
hugging her mother quickly. Then releasing her, she ran outside to join
Bobby and Reddy, her mother looking on with a proud smile on her face.
"My little girl is growing up," she
murmured. "And I'm looking forward to meeting this Jim she talks so much
about. He must be quite something."
"Thanks for letting me ride Starlight,
Regan," Trixie said gratefully as she groomed him carefully. "He's so
beautiful to ride, especially after the horses we hired at Autoville. I
mean, they were nice and all, but nothing like Starlight or Lady."
"I should think not," Regan retorted.
"These horses are thoroughbreds, not hacks like they have at those hire places."
"How did you learn so much about
horses?" Trixie asked. "Did you grow up on a farm?"
"Not exactly," Regan muttered.
"I fell in love with horses when I was about Bobby's age. My dad used to
take me to the track and I used to hang out with the trainers and they taught
me almost everything I know."
"Wow! That sounds like fun."
"Not exactly," Regan muttered again.
"Hey, why don't you leave me to finish up with Starlight?"
"Why? I don't mind..."
"I thought you'd rather go and welcome
Honey and Jim home," Regan replied, cocking his head in the direction of the
driveway where a car was pulling up.
Trixie thrust the brush into Regan's
hand and ran towards the car. It pulled to a stop in front of the car and
Honey jumped out and ran towards Trixie.
"I'm so glad you're here!" Honey
cried, hugging her friend. "I missed you so much. I got myself a
brother, but I felt like I'd lost a sister while I was away from you!"
"I've always wanted a sister," Trixie
told her, half-laughing, half-crying.
"And you helped me find one." A husky
voice told her.
"Jim!" Trixie looked up into his
smiling green eyes. "Are you a sight for sore eyes! I almost
couldn't trust myself to believe you were really coming back here."
"Well, I'm here and I'm not going
anywhere," Jim assured her. "I've got a new family now."
He put an arm around Honey and turned
to look at Matthew and Madeleine Wheeler, who stood watching them. Tears
prickled Trixie's eyes and she suddenly felt as if she was intruding of this
brand new family.
"We owe you a lot Trixie," Mr Wheeler
said in a meaningful tone. "We love it if you could stay for dinner.
Can you join us?"
Trixie looked down at her old jeans
and her t-shirt stained with leather cleaner. Not only was she not dressed
for dinner, but she felt awkward being invited to share their first meal as a
family in their home.
"Please Trixie!" Honey begged.
"We really want you to stay."
"I'll need to ask Moms," Trixie
replied reluctantly. "And I have to go home for a shower."
"I'll call your mother and tell her
we've invited you for dinner," Madeleine Wheeler offered. "It's high time
I introduced myself to her as Honey speaks quite fondly of her. And you
can shower here. I'm sure Honey can lend you some clothes for dinner."
Trixie looked to Honey, who nodded
eagerly and she accepted Mrs Wheeler's offer with a smile.
"It's all settled then," Mr Wheeler
smiled. "Now you girls go and shower and gossip or whatever you need to
do, and Mother and I will help Jim settle in."
"Thanks Mr Wheeler," Trixie replied
quietly. She looked over at Jim, who met her gaze with a smile.
"It's good to see you again, Trix,"
Jim told her. "I'm looking forward to going riding with you tomorrow."
Trixie nodded and watched him walk
away with Mr and Mrs Wheeler, then she clasped her hand to her mouth.
"Did Regan tell you about Jim's
surprise?" Honey guessed. "Isn't it wonderful? Daddy's going to
invite him for a ride tomorrow morning and surprise him."
"I wish I could see the look on his
face," Trixie remarked wistfully. "He's going to be so thrilled."
"Well, of course you can," Honey
cried. "You can come riding with us."
"But won't I be intruding?" Trixie
asked awkwardly. "Your father might want to spend some time alone with
Jim, without me tagging along."
"Don't be silly," Honey chided her.
"You're going to be a big part of our family. Mother and Dad realise that.
And Dad will have plenty of time to spend alone with Jim. He's promised to
spend a lot more time at home."
"That's wonderful Honey," Trixie
smiled. "I'm so happy for you."
"You made it happen Trixie," Honey
told her, squeezing her arm and leading her towards the house. "I'm so
glad I met you."
"Me too," Trixie replied, her eyes
prickling with tears again. "Now tell me what happened in New York."
The two girls walked into Manor House,
arms linked, heads close together; close friends reunited.
"I feel human again!" Trixie cried as
she stepped out of Honey's bathroom in a fluffy white robe. "Now if only
this tangled mop of mine will behave itself."
"Let me try," Honey offered, reaching
for her brush. "I'm so happy you're here. As excited as I was about
Mother and Dad adopting Jim and getting to spend the last few days with them, I
really missed you."
"I know what you mean," Trixie nodded,
bracing herself as Honey began to tackle her hair with the brush. "It was
so strange finding Jim then watching you leave altogether, so soon afterwards.
I hardly had time for it all to sink in and then I began to wonder if it was all
some incredible dream."
"It is a dream come true," Honey
sighed happily. "I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. How can
I ever thank you Trixie?"
"What for?" Trixie asked with a frown.
"You made it all happen. You would never have moved here if you hadn't
gotten sick, and we couldn't have found Jim without the Silver Swan and
Miss Trask. I just came along for the ride!"
"You did much more than that, and you
know it!" Honey told her. "Now how does that look?"
Trixie got off the bed and looked in
Honey's mirror. She wrinkled her nose. "Not bad, considering what
you had to work with."
"Now what are you going to wear?"
Honey asked, ignoring Trixie's comment.
"What are you wearing?"
"This." Honey held up a pretty
yellow dress with a neckline and sleeves adorned with ruffles. She didn't
miss the look on Trixie's face. "We usually dress up for dinner. I'm
"It's okay," Trixie said quickly, not
wanting to upset her friend. "Just as well I stayed here to shower,
otherwise I would have come wearing jeans and made a fool out of myself."
"I'd rather wear jeans too," Honey
confessed. "But Mother loves an excuse to dress up and she prefers that we
dress for dinner."
"Have you got anything I can fit
into?" Trixie asked, staring at the expensive dresses in Honey's wardrobe.
"What about this one?" Honey
suggested, holding up a pretty white dress. "It was getting too short for
me, so it should be just right for you."
"But is it wide enough for me?" Trixie
asked sceptically, accepting the dress.
"Try it on," Honey urged.
Trixie quickly pulled the dress over
her head, holding her breath as she slid the material down over her body.
To her surprise the dress fitted quite comfortably and she was surprised to see
she actually had a waist.
"Wow..." Trixie murmured at her
reflection. She almost didn't recognise herself.
"You look wonderful," Honey told her,
approvingly. "Now I don't think any of my shoes are going to fit you, but
I did find an old pair of sandals that should do the job."
"Old?" Trixie scoffed, looking at the
white pair of sandals that gleamed as if new.
"I meant old, as in I've had them for
a while," Honey giggled. "I don't know if I've ever worn them though.
Try them on."
Trixie slipped on the sandals and
wriggled her toes. "They're a little loose, but they should be okay."
"Great!" Honey smiled and linked
her arm with Trixie's. "Now let's get down to dinner. Daddy can get
as grumpy as a bear if he has to wait too long."
Trixie nodded nervously and headed out
of the room with Honey. She took the stairs slowly, scared of slipping in
her unfamiliar shoes. Honey gave her a reassuring smile and led her into
the sitting room that adjoined the dining room.
"Well, it's about time," Mr Wheeler
grumbled good naturedly, rising as they entered the room. "Though, I must
say it was certainly worth the wait. Don't you think so Jim?"
Jim had also risen to his feet and was
staring at the girls as if he'd never seen them before.
"Yes sir," he murmured, his eyes fixed
"Matthew, you're embarrassing them,"
Madeleine Wheeler chided him, noticing Trixie's flushed face. "You do look
lovely girls. I'm glad Honey was able to find you something suitable,
Trixie. Now shall we go in for dinner?"
Trixie nodded and watched as Matthew
linked arms with his wife and daughter and led them into the dining room.
Jim appeared by her side.
"You look really nice Trix," he
"So do you," she murmured, glancing at
his new pants and shirt.
"I wish I was wearing jeans," he
confessed with a sly smile. "I bet you do too, huh?"
Trixie grinned and nodded in
agreement. Her nerves diminished a little and she happily allowed Jim to
take her arm and escort her into the dining room.
"Thanks for walking me home Jim,"
Trixie said as they headed down the driveway towards Crabapple Farm. "You
didn't have to, it isn't even dark yet."
"I wanted to," Jim replied quietly.
"Besides, Honey needs some time alone with her parents."
"She's awfully happy you're part of
her family now," Trixie assured him.
"So am I," Jim smiled. "Where
would I be now if it wasn't for you two?"
"I don't even want to think about it,"
Trixie shuddered. "I'm glad you'll finally get to meet my parents. I
think they're sick of me talking about you all the time."
"And just what have you been telling
them about me?" Jim asked, looking at her closely.
Trixie blushed. "Just about how
we found you and how self-sufficient you are..."
"It's amazing what you can do when you
have to," Jim told her. "I'm looking forward to meeting them.
There's a few things I'd like to tell them about their daughter."
"Like what?" Trixie asked in alarm.
"Like how stubborn and determined you
are," Jim grinned and Trixie wrinkled her nose at him. "And how brave,
strong and unselfish you are. I've never met a girl like you Trix."
Trixie felt her heart leap suddenly
and her feet felt as if she was barely touching the ground. Her face felt
hot, but she allowed herself a quick glance at Jim and was unnerved to find him
looking seriously at her. She looked away quickly, suddenly at a loss for
"I've..." she began blindly, but was
interrupted by Reddy running over to greet them. He jumped up excitedly,
trying to smother her with wet kisses and when she pushed him away, he turned
his attentions to Jim, who patted the dog lovingly.
"He likes you," Trixie laughed.
"Poor Reddy never gets much attention from anyone but Bobby. He always
greets strangers like potential best friends."
"I like him," Jim told her, finally
managing to calm the excited dog and continue towards the house. "I had a
dog of my own once until Jonesy shot it."
"Oh Jim! He didn't!" Trixie
"I'm afraid he did," Jim replied
soberly. "Said it was useless, spoilt and cost too much. He needed
an operation, but rather than pay for it, Jonesy just took care of it himself.
He even made me bury him."
"Oh Jim..." Trixie murmured, her eyes
filling with tears. "That must have been terrible for you."
Jim shook his head quickly, as if
shaking the memory away and turned to face Trixie. "It was, but it's all
over now - thanks to you and the Wheelers. I get a chance to start over."
"Then let's not talk about it again,"
Trixie cried. "I want everything to be just perfect for you here."
"Everything pretty much is," Jim told
her earnestly, and he took her hand and they walked silently across the lawn to
the Crabapple Farm.
Helen was making supper in the kitchen
when she looked up and saw Jim and Trixie approaching. She blinked hard
with surprise and looked again to be sure that what she saw was correct.
Her daughter, her tomboy daughter, was wearing a dress and walking hand in hand
with a tall, young man. She smiled wryly to herself and called out to
"Peter, Trixie's home and she's
brought her young man with her."
"What?" Peter called from the sitting
room, and got to his feet.
"Hi Daddy, hi Moms," Trixie called,
dropping her hand from Jim's as she entered the kitchen. "I'd like you to
meet Jim Frayne."
Jim stepped forward to shake hands
with Peter. "Nice to meet you sir."
"Likewise Jim," Peter replied warmly
and gestured to Helen. "This is my wife, Helen."
"It's great to meet you Mrs Belden."
"It's wonderful to meet you, Jim,"
Helen told him with a warm smile. "Trixie's told us so much about you."
"I assure you not all of it's true,"
Jim told them jokingly, attempting to hide his embarrassment.
"Oh, it's all true!" Trixie
interjected, bursting with pride.
Helen watched her daughter's glowing
face with amusement. "I'm sure all the wonderful things Trixie has told us
about you are true. We were just about to have some supper, would you like
to join us Jim?"
Trixie looked at Jim hopefully and he
nodded in agreement. "Thanks Mrs Belden, that would be nice."
"Peter, why don't you take Jim into
the sitting room?" Helen suggested. "I'm sure he'd be interested in
talking to you about his uncle."
"I'd like that sir," Jim said quickly.
"Trixie told me you knew him quite well. I only wish that I'd had a chance
to meet him before he died."
"Oh Moms, isn't he just the best?"
Trixie cried as soon as her father and Jim were out of earshot.
"He seems like a very nice young man,"
Helen agreed with a smile. "Did you have a nice dinner with the Wheelers?"
"I had to borrow one of Honey's
dresses," Trixie moaned. "They dress up for dinner, but the food was nice
and Honey's dad was really great."
"The dress suits you," Helen told her
daughter approvingly. "But I hope you didn't wear those sneakers to
"Oh, no!" Trixie assured her
quickly. "I borrowed some sandals from Honey, but I couldn't walk home in
them. I would have been tripping all the way home."
"I'm glad you had a nice time," Helen
smiled. "Now why don't you take this tray in and I'll bring the hot drinks
in as soon as this kettle's boiled."
"Okay Moms," Trixie told her, grabbing
the tray and taking it into the sitting room, where her father and Jim were
"Your uncle was buried in the
Sleepyside cemetery a few days before Trixie and Honey found you," Peter told
Jim gently. "I'm sorry son, but we couldn't wait any longer."
"I understand Sir," Jim replied
quietly and looked down at his hands. "I'm sorry I..."
"You had good reasons for what you
did," Peter interjected firmly. "I'm sure your uncle would have
understood. However, I spoke to George Rainsford yesterday and he and I
felt that you might want to hold a memorial service for your uncle."
"Really?" Jim asked earnestly.
"I could do that?"
"You certainly can," Peter assured him
with a smile. "Your uncle was on the board of trustees of Sleepyside
Hospital and I know a number of them would like to meet you and pay their
respects to your uncle."
"I'd like that Mr Belden, thank you,"
Jim murmured gratefully. "Would you be able to help me organise this?"
"I'd be honoured to Jim. Let me
discuss the details with the trustees and Mr Rainsford and then we can make the
"Thank you Sir."
"That's wonderful Daddy!" Trixie
cried, setting down the tray and hurrying to hug her father. "I'm so
"So am I Trixie," Jim said, smiling
sadly as he watched her with her father. He sighed and looked around the
homey setting and swallowed the lump that formed in his throat when Helen Belden
entered carrying a tray of drinks.
"Are you okay Jim?" Helen asked,
watching him closely.
"I'm fine Mrs Belden, thanks," he
assured her, smiling quickly. He looked over at Trixie. "Everything
is just fine."
It wasn't the warm summer night nor
the light from the bright, full moon that kept Jim awake. He couldn't
switch off his thoughts and the bed that probably cost more than all the beds he
had slept in his life, felt uncomfortable and strange.
"Is this really my life now?" He
spoke the words quietly, afraid they would echo in the large house.
It was so different from anything he
had known, anything he had imagined. Once, his life had been like life at
Crabapple Farm and the scene tonight had been a reminder of how life had been
when he'd had a family. Was it wrong to wish he had found a home like
Jim instantly felt guilty. His
new parents had given him everything he needed and more than he could ever want.
Honey was already like a sister to him, but would he ever have the kind of home
that Trixie had?
He closed his eyes and tried to will
himself to sleep. At least now that Jonesy was locked away, he could sleep
without the fear of waking to look into his eyes. And now, with four walls
around him, the nightmares weren't as often.
But they still came.
"Morning!" Trixie called breathlessly
as she ran up the driveway. "Have you gone to see the horses yet?"
"No, not yet," Honey smiled, glancing
at Jim. "We're just waiting for Dad."
"How was your first night in Manor
House?" Trixie asked Jim. "I bet you probably pinched yourself when you
woke up this morning."
"Something like that," Jim grinned.
"I've slept in so many different places recently that nothing seems quite
"Well, at least you don't have to get
up at the crack of dawn and feed the chickens and collect the eggs," Trixie
groaned. "It must be nice to wake up at a leisurely pace and stroll down
"It is for a change," Jim agreed.
"But it's not what I'm used to. If you ever need a hand with the chickens,
just let me know and I'll come and help you."
"Me too," Honey added quickly,
glancing between the two.
"I was just kidding," Trixie insisted
sheepishly. "It takes all of five minutes, really it does."
"Good morning all," Matthew Wheeler
called as he strolled down the front steps. His wife followed beside him,
but she was definitely not dressed for riding.
"Good morning Mr and Mrs Wheeler,"
Trixie mumbled nervously.
"Glad you could join us Trixie," Mr
Wheeler told her warmly. "Regan tells me you've become quite the rider."
"I really appreciate you letting me
borrow Lady to ride," Trixie answered quickly. "I can't tell you how much
it means to me."
"Every girl needs a horse," Mr Wheeler
replied, "and come to think of it, so does every boy. Jim, ladies, shall
we go into the stable and see what Regan has for us?"
Trixie and Honey smiled knowingly at
each other and followed Mr and Mrs Wheeler and Jim into the stables.
"Good morning Mr and Mrs Wheeler,"
Regan welcomed them. "Good morning Jim, Honey and Trixie."
"Morning Regan," Trixie and Honey
"Have you got the horses saddled
Regan?" Mr Wheeler asked.
"I certainly have," Regan answered
quickly. "I have Lady saddled up for Trixie, Strawberry ready for Honey,
Jupe's ready to go and what have we here... I'd like to introduce you to
The group oohed and ahhed over the
"What do you think of him, son?" Mr
Wheeler asked Jim.
"He's fantastic sir," Jim replied,
wide-eyed. "Look at those legs, he's a beauty!"
"Regan knows how to pick 'em, doesn't
he?" Mr Wheeler beamed. "Still I'm going to miss riding Jupe."
Jim turned to him with a mixture of
surprise and disappointment. "You're getting rid of Jupe? Why sir?"
"Because I thought you would be able
to ride him more than I could," Mr Wheeler announced jubilantly.
"You're giving him to me?!" Jim asked,
"That's right son, he's all yours."
Jim stared at the group of faces that
watched him with wide grins.
"I can't believe it!" Jim cried.
"Thank you sir!"
"We want you to have whatever you
like," Mrs Wheeler told him impulsively.
"I don't need anything else Ma'am,"
Jim assured her quickly. "You've both done so much for me."
"Nonsense!" Mr Wheeler told him.
"Now are we going to stand around here and chit chat all day or are we going to
"Ride!" Honey, Trixie and Jim
"Well, let's go then!"
"May I come in sir?" Jim asked,
stopping in the doorway of the library.
"Of course you can Jim," Mr Wheeler
answered. "This is your home now."
"Thank you sir," Jim murmured and took
the seat that Matt Wheeler gestured to. "I just wanted to say thank you
for all the gifts you and Mother have bought me. The clothes, all the
sports equipment, the new bike and giving me Jupe. I really appreciate it
all sir, but you don't have to buy me these things."
Matt blinked in surprise. "We
were only trying to give you what you'd been missing out on for all these
"I understand sir, and I really
appreciate it," Jim replied earnestly. "It's just that it's all so
overwhelming, going from working on Jonesy's farm to living here and having all
these things. It doesn't seem real."
Matt was silent for a moment as he
pondered Jim's words. Finally, he shook his head with a slow smile.
"You're definitely your father's son,
Jim Frayne. Your father got to college on an academic scholarship and he
worked hard to make ends meet and wouldn't accept so much as a free meal from
me. I should have remembered that, I'm sorry Jim."
"I didn't want to sound ungrateful
sir," Jim replied with relief. "Thanks for understanding."
"Do you remember much about your
father Jim?" Matt asked slowly.
"Only some," Jim admitted quietly.
"Well, I dug out our college yearbook
today and I was wondering if you'd care to indulge me in a little reminiscing
about our college days."
"I'd like that," Jim accepted with
a grin and he pulled his chair up beside Matt's.
"Now, the first time I met your father
was when we almost got into a fight in the college cafeteria..."
"So the counsellor drove out here to
visit Jim?" Trixie asked as she stretched out on the boat deck.
"Uh huh, it's part of the adoption,"
Honey explained. "The court sends a counsellor out to see how Jim is
adjusting and make sure he's in a safe, happy environment."
"Well, he certainly seems happy,"
Trixie replied. "He's got a sister and a mother and father and he lives in
a wonderful house and has lots of neat stuff."
Honey frowned a little. "I think
it makes him a little uncomfortable. Kind of like how you felt the first
time you stayed the night."
"I didn't..." Trixie began in protest.
"It's okay Trixie," Honey smiled.
"I know it's a bit daunting and Jim's not used to it either. He has
trouble sleeping at night sometimes. I can hear him pacing the floor."
"I don't blame him," Trixie sighed
sadly. "He must be petrified of waking up and finding Jonesy standing over
"I know, it's terrible," Honey agreed.
"But I do love having him as a brother and Mother and Dad just adore him."
"I know he loves you all too," Trixie
cried. "I guess he's just waiting to come crashing back to earth. It
must be hard for him to believe this is all real."
"I wonder the same thing myself,"
Honey confessed. "It seems like only yesterday that I was miserable and so
sick with no friends at all."
"I'm so glad you moved here!" Trixie
cried, hugging her friend. "Hopefully, both you and Jim can put all your
bad memories behind you and start over here."
"I know we can," Honey assured her,
returning the hug. "And I can't wait to meet your older brothers. Do
you miss them?"
"Like anything," Trixie admitted.
"This is the first time that both Mart and Brian have been away over the summer
and if you hadn't come along, I'm sure I would have died of boredom!"
"You might have still found Jim,"
Honey pointed out.
"But I wouldn't have been able to go
looking for him when he ran away," Trixie argued. She hugged her knees
happily. "Everything worked out the way it was supposed to. It's all
going to be perfectly perfect, just you wait and see!"
"Now Jim, you understand that the
court has appointed me to visit you, talk to you and investigate your home life
so I can determine how you are settling in and make sure this is a safe and
happy environment for you?"
"Yes, Ma'am," Jim answered seriously.
"Please call me Julie, Jim. I'd
like you to feel as comfortable as possible," the counsellor told him with a
smile. "Now why don't we start by you showing me your room?"
Jim nodded and led Julie out of the
library and to his bedroom. It was a spacious room with a large bed, desk,
walk in wardrobe and a closet for his sports supplies.
"Did the Wheeler's buy you all these
clothes and sports equipment?" Julie asked.
"All of it," Jim told her. "I
didn't ask for these things. Most of these things were here when I moved
"They've certainly been very
generous," Julie commented, sitting down in an arm chair. "Are you
comfortable with that?"
"Not totally," Jim admitted.
"But I discussed it with Dad and he understood. He was really good about
"So you feel comfortable approaching
Mr Wheeler with any problems?" Julie asked. "What about Mrs Wheeler?"
Jim hesitated. "It's not quite
the same," he admitted. "She's a lot more formal than Dad and I guess I
find it harder because she's so different to my own mother."
"But Mr Wheeler is more like your own
Dad?" Julie asked and Jim nodded in reply. "I understand they look quite
"Apparently, people often thought they
were brothers while they were at college," Jim revealed with a smile.
"Does it make you feel better that Mr
Wheeler knew your father?"
"I guess it does," Jim answered
slowly. "It makes them less like strangers and I no longer have any links
to my family, so it helps that I have this tenuous one."
"Do you feel alone Jim? Even
living here with your new family?"
"Sometimes," Jim admitted, staring out
the window towards Crabapple Farm. "But then I remember how lucky I am and
that I have a new family and new friends and it doesn't feel quite so bad."
"It will get better," Julie assured
him. "Do you still have problems sleeping? Any nightmares?"
"I'm sure a doctor could help you with
the sleeping problems," Julie began."
"No thank you," Jim replied.
"I'll be okay. It's getting better now."
"Do you feel safe here, Jim?"
"Overwhelmingly so," Jim answered
quickly. "I know Jonesy found me in Sleepyside before, but this world
feels so removed from my past that I feel protected here."
"So things still don't feel quite
"I keep expecting to wake up and be
back at Jonesy's farm or sleeping somewhere on the run," Jim confessed quietly.
His heart still thumped rapidly every time he woke until he became familiar with
his surroundings and the reminder that it was now all behind him.
"Well, everything you've told me seems
perfectly normal given your experiences," Julie assured him. "But if you
find these feelings continue or the nightmares keep coming, you need to tell
someone or call me, okay?"
"So I don't need to see you again?"
"I don't see any reason why I need to
visit again," Julie told him. "You're well looked after, you seem to be
settling in well and I think with time you'll be able to let go of the painful
memories. I think this is the perfect place for a young man like you to
spend his formative years."
"That's a relief!" Jim sighed in
"Were you worried about today?"
"A little," Jim admitted.
"You had nothing to worry about,"
Julie assured him. "We'd only consider moving you if you were unhappy here
and that certainly doesn't seem to be the case."
"Great," Julie grinned. "Now why
don't we go and let your parents know the good news and then you can take me out
to the stables to meet that horse of yours?"
Trixie stood solemnly next to her
mother as she watched Jim shake hands with some of the men whom had spoken about
his uncle during the memorial service. His expression was serious, yet
earnest and she could tell he was fiercely proud of the uncle he had never
The trustees from the hospital has
spoken so fondly of James Winthrop Frayne that Trixie forgot she ever harboured
ill feelings towards the old man. He was Jim's uncle and anything that had
to do with Jim was good in her eyes.
"I can't thank you enough Mr Belden,"
Jim turned to Trixie's father. "I understand my uncle was not the easiest
person to get along with in the last few years, but the way you spoke about made
me feel as if I really knew him."
"It was an honour to pay my respects
to your uncle, Jim," Peter told him softly. "He did a lot for Helen and I
when we moved to Sleepyside, so did your aunt."
"Thank you for helping me organise
this day," Jim added, then turned to Mr Rainsford. "You too, sir. I
owe you so much for all you've done for me."
"It was nothing at all, Jim," Mr
Rainsford assured him. "Your uncle was an old friend of mine and I'm glad
I was able to help you find a happier life, despite your uncle's death."
Jim smiled his thanks and turned to
his adopted family. "Thank you for being here with me today. I can't
tell you how much this means to me."
"We wouldn't be anywhere else, Jim,"
Madeleine told him, placing a hand on his arm. "We're glad we could be
here for you."
Jim kissed her cheek and Madeleine
smiled in surprise. Honey squeezed her hand and smiled happily at the glow
on her mother's face.
"We thought you might like to invite
everyone back to Crabapple Farm for afternoon tea," Helen Belden offered gently
"That's so generous of you Mrs
Belden," Jim began, grateful and amazed at the generosity of the Belden family.
"No buts son," Peter Belden
interjected. "It's all been arranged."
Jim looked at Trixie, who shook her
head in encouragement and then to the Wheelers.
"Sounds like a wonderful idea," Matt
Wheeler announced. "Are you up to it Jim?"
"Yes sir," Jim said slowly. "I'm
just a little overwhelmed."
"Don't be," Trixie told him softly,
taking his hand. "We're here for you now."
"Dad?" Jim murmured quietly, stopping
in the doorway of the study.
"Come in, son," Matthew replied
immediately. "Is everything okay?"
Jim hesitated and Matthew frowned.
"Is everything okay?"
"You've done so much for me sir," Jim
began slowly and swallowed quickly. "I know I told you that I didn't want
anything else from you, but..."
"Name it," Matthew interjected, his
"I was wondering... well, it's just
that I'd..." Jim's jaw twitched as he struggled with his emotions and Matthew
wished fervently that he could put an end to the boy's discomfort.
"Go on..." he encouraged him softly.
"I'd like to say goodbye to my
parents," Jim whispered softly, meeting his step-father's gaze.
Matthew didn't even blink. "Of
course. I completely understand Jim. I can organise that
immediately. Are they both... uh... buried in Rochester?"
"Fine, we can fly up there tomorrow if
you like and maybe you can even show us where you grew up."
"I'd like that, thank you," Jim
replied gratefully. He hesitated again then continued. "Can I ask
one more favour, please?"
"Helping you is never a favour Jim,"
Matt assured him. "That's what families are for, but go ahead."
"May I invite Trixie? It would
mean an awful lot to me if she could be there with me, too."
Matthew couldn't help but noticing the
slight reddening of Jim's face, but he did not comment on it.
"I'd already assumed she'd be coming
with us," Matthew told him. "She's part of our family too now."
"Thank you sir," Jim smiled. "I
really appreciate this."
"You're welcome Jim," Matthew replied
warmly. "Let me organise this now and you can contact Trixie and let her
know the details."
Jim nodded and returned to his room.
He lay on his bed and stared up at the ceiling, knowing that tomorrow he would
say goodbye to his past and embrace his future.
The heat reflected off the tarmac,
making the group recoil with an almost collective gasp as the stepped off the
plane and headed towards the waiting car.
They talked little except for the
short responses to Mrs Wheeler's nervous chatter and Honey and Trixie flanked
Jim's side, as if to protect him from what was to come.
"Shall we take a look at your old
neighbourhood first Jim?" Mr Wheeler suggested, and Jim agreed, giving the
driver an address.
Each one of them stared out of the
window, feigning interest in the scenery. Jim's face was strangely still as he
watched the vaguely familiar streets go past. Trixie reached out and
touched his arm and he turned to her with a small smile, releasing the breath he
didn't realise he'd been holding.
"This is it," the driver announced as
he pulled up to the curb.
The old house wasn't unlike Crabapple
Farm. Set back on the property, it was surrounded by trees and the small
farmhouse looked vacant and weary under its faded paint and loose guttering.
"It's beautiful Jim," Honey breathed.
Jim nodded silently, his eyes fixed on
"It looks empty," Madeleine commented.
"Would you like to get out and take a better look?"
"No thank you Ma'am," Jim replied
softly, meeting her eyes but then turning back to the house. "The bank
foreclosed on us, not long after Dad died. If it wasn't for Jonesy, Mom
and I would have been out on the streets. At least he saved us from that."
"I wonder if the bank still owns it,"
Madeleine remarked under her breath, looking at he husband. Matthew did
not miss her look and he nodded slightly and squeezed her hand.
"It reminds me of Crabapple Farm,"
Trixie said finally and Jim turned to her with a sad smile. "I think so
Honey bit her lip in an attempt to
stop the tears from filling her eyes. She loved Jim so much already, but
she was worried that he wouldn't be happy in her family and wondered if he would
always long for a home like Crabapple Farm and a family like the Belden's.
Jim turned to Honey and smiled.
"I'm glad you like it sis." His words brought a smile instantly to her
face and the reassurance that he already felt part of her family made the threat
of tears disappear.
"I think we're ready to go on now,"
Jim told the driver, and he took one long, last look at the house as the car
It was only a short drive to the
cemetery, but for Trixie it seemed to take forever. She knew how important
this moment was to Jim, they had even talked about it before he had approached
Mr Wheeler. She struggled with the idea that nothing she could do would
lessen the pain Jim felt, but couldn't resign herself to the fact and she wanted
it to be over.
Jim lead the way through the maze of
headstones and Honey marvelled at his ability to remember the exact location of
the grave. But then I've never lost a member of my family, she
reminded herself and felt angry at her sheltered life.
Madeleine held her husband's hand as
they walked through the cemetary. Sweat threatened to break out on her
forehead, but she could not dab daintly at it with her handkerchief because she
carried a floral arrangement in her other hand.
"This is it," Jim spoke softly,
stopping in front of a grave.
The group stood in silence as they
read the inscription on the tombstone. Jim's father's name and the dates
of his birth and death, were followed by the same information for his mother.
There were only words left to represent what had once been Jim's whole life and
Trixie felt angry at how insignificant they seemed.
Matthew moved to Jim's side and they
both solemnly stared at the grave. "I'm sorry I lost touch with your dad,
Jim. I can't help thinking that maybe if I'd been a better friend then
things would be a lot different."
"Just you saying that means a lot
sir," Jim replied softly. "I'm sure what you've done would mean a great
deal to him."
"He was a good man," Matthew remarked
in a low voice, and Madeleine moved to his side and took his hand.
"Jim? Would you like to place these
flowers on the grave?"
Jim nodded and took the wreath from
her. He knelt down and placed it in front of the tombstone, then gently
touched the cool stone.
Trixie and Honey watched silently.
Tears ran down Honey's face while Trixie tried valiantly to maintain her stoic
Jim stood up and smiled slightly at
Honey while offering her his handkerchief. She accepted it gratefully and
hugged her new brother. He held her for a moment and Trixie's eyes met
his. Her lips trembled at his pained expression and she quickly looked
"Thank you," he murmured to Honey as
he released her. He looked up at his new parents. "Thank you for
coming with me."
"We'll give you some time alone if you
like," Matthew suggested and, reaching for his daughter's hand, the Wheeler's
Trixie remained still for a moment,
uncertain of what to do or say. Blindly, she took a few steps but Jim
grabbed her hand.
"Don't go... please?"
Trixie nodded, and they stood together
both in silent prayer.
"I never thought I'd be happy again
after they died," Jim murmured suddenly. Trixie turned to him and he
smiled sadly. "You've given me another chance at happiness. You'll
never know how much that means to me Trixie."
Trixie's strong nerve broke as tears
flooded her face and Jim held her in his arms as she cried.
"Ssshhh," he whispered. "Don't
cry Trixie. It's okay. You've made it all okay."
She looked up at him with a tear
stained face and he smiled as he gently wiped the tears from her cheeks.
"I'm afraid I can't even offer you my handkerchief."
"It's okay," Trixie sniffed, pulling
one from her pocket. "I'm sorry I cried. I wanted to be strong for
"You have been," Jim assured her,
grasping her hand. His eyes returned to the tombstone and he sighed.
"I just needed to say goodbye. I'm never going to forget you, but I've got
to make a go of this new life. I want to make you proud of me."
Trixie's eyes filled with tears again.
"We'll take good care of him, I promise."
"Thanks Trix," Jim murmured, tears
glistening in his eyes.
"Shall I leave you alone for a
"No," Jim replied, shaking his head.
He turned to look at his new family who watched on in concern. He smiled
at them as he and Trixie walked towards them.
"I'm ready to go."