Say Goodbye

Author’s Note:  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 good."

"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?" Jim asked.

"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.

"Bye Trixie."

"Bye Jim."



"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 now."

"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 that."

"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 remained silent.

"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 much..."

"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 own car."

"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 perfect!"



"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 excitement.

"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 face reddening.  "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 Jim?"

"Noooo," Regan replied and led the horse into the stables.

"Well, who's he for?" Trixie demanded, following him.

"Now I'm not sure I should tell you," Regan drawled, enjoying her impatient expression as he removed Starlight's halter.

"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 you tomorrow."

"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 in surprise. 

"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 fishing and..."

"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 it's hot."

"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 Moms."

"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 young lady."

"Oh Moms..." Trixie squirmed in embarrassment.

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 sorry Trixie..."

"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 on Trixie. 

"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 whispered.

"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 words.

"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 gasped.

"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.

"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 dinner."

"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 talking quietly.

"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 arrangements."

"Thank you Sir."

"That's wonderful Daddy!" Trixie cried, setting down the tray and hurrying to hug her father.  "I'm so glad."

"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 Crabapple Farm?

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 normal."

"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 for breakfast."

"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 chorused happily.

"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 Starlight!"

The group oohed and ahhed over the beautiful gelding.

"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, stunned.

"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?"

"Ride!" Honey, Trixie and Jim chorused.

"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 years."

"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 him."

"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 in."

"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 it, actually."

"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 similar?"

"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?"

Jim nodded.

"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 real?"

"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 relief.

"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."

"No Ma'am!"

"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 known.

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 to Jim.

"That's so generous of you Mrs Belden," Jim began, grateful and amazed at the generosity of the Belden family.  "But..."

"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 face serious.

"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?"

Jim nodded.

"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 the house.

"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 too."

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 pulled away.



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 expression.

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 away.

"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 moved away.

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."

"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 moment?"

"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."

The End