Chapter 1

Thursday, August 6, 1987

Brian couldn’t wait to get to Sleepyside. The last three weeks had been torture. He’d been distracted, so distracted even Mart had noticed. His best friend and college roommate, Jim, had noticed right away.

Fortunately, Jim and Dan had been assigned a group of older boys who spent the last week and a half camping out in the wilderness. He and Mart had been assigned the youngest group of campers. He was grateful for that. The little guys took all of his concentration. It was a challenge but all of his charges survived.

His parents had come to pick him and Mart up earlier in the day. The young charges had left the day before. Jim and Dan wouldn’t be getting back from their camping adventure until later today. They could have waited and all returned together but Mart wanted to get back to Sleepyside. His girlfriend, Diana Lynch, was playing Liesl in community theatre production of The Sound of Music. Tonight was opening night and he was planning to surprise her.

The ride had been long and Brian hadn’t felt like talking to anyone. He feigned exhaustion and pretended to sleep. Unfortunately, sleep wouldn’t come. All he could think about was the last time he’d been with his girlfriend, Honey. It had been a wonderful weekend except for one little thing. Well, a ripped condom really wasn’t a little thing.

He had tried to write Honey every day. He wanted to assure her that he wasn’t abandoning her. Her letters to him were newsy and upbeat but neither of them brought up the events of that weekend. Now they were almost to Sleepyside and he couldn’t wait to see her.

He stretched from the back seat. Glancing at his watch he realized it was only two o’clock. “Moms, could you drop me off at the Manor House driveway? I want to surprise Honey.”

“Can’t you wait until later?” Mart said. “I don’t want anything to ruin my surprise to Diana.”

“I suppose,” Moms replied, “but you’ve got to bring your duffle in when you get home. Mart, don’t worry about Diana. Hallie said the cast and crew were supposed to report at three-thirty. She said Diana was so excited she figured she’d get to the theatre at about noon.”

Moms dropped Brian off at the end of the driveway and he trudged up the hill. He was excited to see Honey, but part of him dreaded it as well. What if she didn’t have good news for him? What would they do then?

He climbed the steps to the verandah and rang the bell. Miss Trask opened the door.

“Why, this is a surprise,” she said. “I didn’t think you would be home until tomorrow with Jim.”

“Mart and I finished up early and he wanted to get back for opening night. I decided to head out as well,” he explained. “Is Honey here?”

“She just got home from work. Why don’t you go into the study and I’ll go get her. She’ll be so excited to see you.”

I hope so, he thought as he made his way to the study.

He paced as he waited. He couldn’t tell how long he waited but eventually Honey opened the door. She entered the room and headed to the end table looking for something. Brian didn’t say anything but just observed. The differences were subtle but he picked up on them. Her eyes didn’t have the sparkle they normally had and there were dark purple circles under them. She looked like she had lost some weight, weight she didn’t need to lose. His heart broke. He didn’t need to ask her to know things weren’t good.

She turned around and finally saw him. With a stifled cry she flew into his arms. He held her closely for several minutes, covering her face with loving kisses.

Finally, they came up for air. “You’re home,” she said. “I didn’t expect you until tomorrow.”

“Mart didn’t want to miss opening night,” he repeated. “I decided to hitch a ride and come home as well. I missed you.”

“Oh, Brian,” she said. “This has been the longest three weeks of my life.”

“Mine, too,” he said. “And by the looks of things, I’m guessing you don’t have good news.”

“Well, no, not really but it hasn’t been four weeks since my last period so I’m not really late yet.”

They tried to make small talk but it was awkward. Finally, Brian looked at his watch. “I’ve gotta go. I haven’t even been home yet and I need to unpack. Would you like to go to the play with me tonight?”

“I’d love to,” she said. “I was going to go with Trixie but I’m sure she won’t mind you joining us.”

“She already knows. I got her to get the tickets last week so we’d be sure to get them.”

He placed one last tender kiss on her lips and headed back to the farm. As he walked down the hill, he thought of what lay ahead of him and Honey. He hadn’t realized when she had told him she’d just finished her period that she’d really just finished it last month. When he’d allowed himself to dream, he had pictured her embracing him and excitedly telling him they weren’t pregnant. Now he would have to endure more of this torture.

What was he going to say to his parents if the worst outcome happened? He kept himself from dwelling on it. They would work something out if they had to. They wouldn’t be the first couple to find themselves in this predicament and unfortunately they wouldn’t be the last. He groaned. But he was the one that would have to face Matthew Wheeler, and with Mr. Wheeler’s famous red-headed temper, Brian didn’t want to think about that reaction.

He had to try and put it out of his mind. Until he knew one way or the other he needed to act like nothing was bothering him.

When he arrived at the farm, he pulled his duffle bags out of the van and headed inside. Moms was putting the finishing touches on dinner. Trixie hadn’t come home from work yet. Bobby was nowhere to be seen.

Absentmindedly, he climbed the stairs to the room he shared with Mart. As he walked into the room he noticed that Mart’s duffle bags were spread out on his bed. Clothes were strewn all over it as well as on the floor next to it. Mart was nowhere to be seen. Brian placed his bags on his own bed and started to unpack. Taking one look at his clothes he decided that even though he had done some laundry at camp, it wouldn’t hurt to just wash everything to make sure they were really clean. He placed the clothes in a basket and placed the basket outside his door to take downstairs when he went.

He grabbed his shaving kit and headed toward the bathroom to put that away. Steam poured out of the bathroom as Mart came out of it. “What’d you do?” Brian asked. “Try to create a sauna?”

“No, I wanted to make sure I got all of the bugs and dirt washed off. You know with the exception of the weekend the girls came up we haven’t had a truly hot shower in six weeks.”

“Yeah, and I could tell,” Brian said. “At least we got showers. Jim and Dan were out in the wilderness for almost a week. The only thing they had was a cold creek. I don’t envy Trixie and Hallie when those two get back tomorrow. Remember how ripe we were after the first session and it wasn’t nearly as warm as it was last week.”

Brian took longer than usual to shower. Part of it was getting clean. He really felt like he had about an inch of camp grime ground into his skin. But even more so, if he was in the shower he didn’t have to talk to anyone. He knew that if someone asked he would spill his guts and he couldn’t do that to Honey. The last thing he wanted to do was put Honey in a bad light.

After a shower and shave, he felt a little better. At least he felt human again. For a few minutes he’d even been able to forget about his worries. How was he going to get through the next few weeks?

By the time he made his way downstairs Moms was tossing a salad. “Could you set the table, Brian?” she asked. “It’ll just be five of us tonight. Trixie and your dad should be home any minute now. I told them we needed to eat right away. The curtain is at seven o’clock but Mart wants to get there early. Bobby’s at Larry and Terry’s. The Lynches are going to drop him off on their way into town. “

Brian started to do as his mother asked. “You’re not going tonight?” he asked.

“No, we decided to go on Sunday afternoon for the last show. We’re going with the Lynches and Wheelers. Then we’re going out for dinner at the Glen Road Inn,” his mother explained.

“Oh, that sounds nice,” Brian said distractedly. “Maybe you guys can go out to eat afterwards.”

Moms looked at her eldest son and shook her head. “That’s just what I said.” She gave him an inquisitive look but Brian pretended to ignore it.

Trixie came bounding into the kitchen followed by her father at a more sedate pace.

“Brian,” she said as she rushed over to give him a hug. “It’s good to see you. I’m so glad that you were able to come home early. Honey’s going to be so surprised. She’s been out of sorts for the past few weeks. I think she missed you more than she wanted to admit.”

He stiffened a bit and then returned Trixie’s hug. “I’ve already seen Honey. You got the tickets, right?”

Trixie headed into the bathroom to wash up. “Yeah, I was lucky and able to get four seats in the center of the theatre. The cast and crew are going out for pizza after the show and Hallie said we could join them. They’re allowed to bring family and friends.”

“You told Hallie?” Brian said. “She didn’t tell Diana, did she? Mart will kill her if she did.”

“Don’t worry,” she said, as she walked back into the kitchen. “Hallie thought it was so romantic that Mart was going to surprise her.”

Mart came bounding down the stairs. Freshly showered, he was dressed in his best pair of jeans and a maroon polo shirt. “How long before dinner?” he asked, heading to the refrigerator to get the milk out.

Moms placed the hamburgers, fries and salad on the table. “Sit down and eat.”

After saying grace, everyone passed the plates around. During dinner the three siblings caught up on what had happened in the last three weeks. As soon everyone was done, Brian got up to help clear away the table and help with the dishes. Trixie started to help.

“Go on and get ready,” Brian said. “Mart is chomping at the bit. I’ll clean up while you change.”

Mart couldn’t sit still. While Brian washed, he paced back and forth.

Brian grabbed a towel and flicked it at him. “Here, why don’t you do something useful and dry while we wait for Trixie?”

The two worked in silence. Brian’s mind was back to thinking about Honey. He hoped his brother was thinking about Diana or anything else and not paying too much attention to him. He was wrong.

“All right, Brian,” he started. “What is wrong with you?”

Brian stopped what he was doing and turned to look at Mart. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m not blind,” Mart replied. “You have been crabby and testy for the past three weeks. And I know you haven’t been sleeping well. Is something wrong with you and Honey?”

Brian went on the defensive. “Do I always have to be the one who is always happy? We just spent six weeks among kids that made Bobby look like an angel. I think I earned the right not to always be happy.” He turned around, signaling the end of the conversation and finished washing the rest of the dishes.

When Trixie came down the stairs, her brothers were working in uncomfortable silence. “Are you ready to go?” she asked. She wore denim walking shorts and a red v-necked t-shirt with her white Reebok high tops.

“Yeah,” Mart said. He made his way over to the refrigerator and pulled out a bouquet of wrapped roses. “Let’s go.”

After stopping to pick up Honey, they made their way into town. There wasn’t time to see Diana before the play. Mart thought it might be better that way. If she knew they were there, she might get flustered.

The performance went off without a hitch, except for when the little girl playing Gretl decided to wave at her parents during the scene in Maria’s bedroom. As soon as the curtain fell, Mart jumped up and pushed his way to the stage door.

“Wait up,” Trixie called. “She won’t be ready for a few minutes. Hallie will make sure that she doesn’t leave.”

She might as well have been talking to the wall as he didn’t even stop. Trixie took off after him. Brian and Honey followed at a much slower pace.

“That was fantastic,” Honey said. “Diana did such a great job. I knew she could act, but I didn’t realize she could sing so well.”

They waited outside for twenty minutes before Diana came out. She was talking with Hallie and not really paying any attention to who was waiting.

“Diana, my fair lady,” Mart said stepping forward and handing her the bouquet of roses.

“Mart,” she squealed as she crushed the flowers between them. “How did you get here?”

“Well, you know how it is when you are in charge of the younger campers. Brian and I finished up early, so Moms came and picked us up today,” he explained after placing a kiss on her lips.

Diana looked around, suddenly noticing Brian, Honey and Trixie. “Did you know about this?” she asked, directing her question to the girls.

Honey shook her head while Trixie just grinned.

“No, Brian surprised me this afternoon,” Honey said. “It was a very pleasant surprise.”

“Are Jim and Dan here?” Diana asked, looking around to see if she’d missed them.

“No, I have to pine away for one more night,” Trixie said overdramatically. “They were on an outpost camping trip that got back this afternoon. They’ll be home tomorrow afternoon. Tom’s going to drive the Lincoln and pick them up.”

One of the other cast members stopped by Diana to find out if she was going to the pizza party. Diana looked at her friends and then Mart. “What do you want to do, Mart?” she asked.

“We can go to the pizza parlor. There will only be one opening night party. We’ll have plenty of time to be alone,” he said.

She threw her arms around him again. “Thanks for understanding. I’m going to go find Mom and give her these flowers to take home so they don’t wilt. I’ll just be a minute.” Mart grabbed her hand. Together they went to find her parents.

“Come on,” Hallie said. “Let’s get going. If we don’t leave soon, we’ll never find a table.”

“Let’s just walk over there,” Trixie suggested. “It’s only a couple of blocks and we probably couldn’t find a parking spot much closer.”

Hallie and Trixie started out. Brian and Honey held back a little.

“How are you doing?” Brian asked.

“I’m doing fine,” Honey replied testily.

He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. Honey continued for a few feet before she realized he wasn’t following. She looked back at him. “What?” she asked irritated.

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I asked a polite question and you snapped at me.”

“Do you know how many times tonight you’ve asked that question?” she asked. “You asked me when you picked me up, when we got to the theatre, before the curtain came up, about six times during the show and before we got out of the theatre. I’m not sick and frail.”

Brian looked away from her. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve been so worried and I don’t want to you to think I didn’t care.”

She reached for his hand and they started walking toward the restaurant. “We really have to try and not think about it until we know something for sure. No use wasting energy worrying over something until we know more.”

Brian pulled her into his arms. “Easier said than done,” he chuckled.

When they arrived at the restaurant, the party was in full swing. They had set up a pizza buffet and everyone paid their own way.

“Did they know Mart would be here when they planned this?” Trixie asked. “They might lose money on this party.”

“I resemble that,” Mart said from behind her. “I’ll have you know that I’ve cut back on my food intake.”

“Yeah,” Brian teased. “They had to limit him on seconds at camp. They even threatened to put a lock on the refrigerators.”

Within a few minutes they were surrounded by friends. They finally made their way into the center of the room and found a place for the six of them to sit. Trixie quickly took a seat, her ankle still bothering her when she overdid things. Brian sat down next to her.

“So how are things with you?” he asked. “I’ve hardly gotten to say two words to you.”

“You’re going to have to practice on your subtlety,” she said. “I know you’re worried about my leg. For the record, I’m doing pretty well. I’ve been walking every day. The only time my ankle bothers me is when I’ve been on it too long. I guess I overdid it a little today. I shouldn’t have walked as far this morning and then again tonight.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that. I think I finally quit worrying about you about a week ago,” he said.

“Gee, something must be wrong with you,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “I figured you and Jim would still be worrying at Halloween.”

“Jim will probably still be worrying at Christmas,” Brian replied.

“I think I’d be worried if Jim didn’t worry,” Trixie said. “He is who he is, and I know he doesn’t do it to annoy me. He’s working on it.”

Honey sat down with a plate of pizza. Brian eyed a bread stick on her plate and started to reach for it. She playfully slapped at his hand. “Go get your own plate. Have you and Mart changed places?” she said.

Brian pushed the chair away from the table and stood up. “Trixie, you want anything?” he asked.

Trixie started to decline the offer, then changed her mind. “You know, I wouldn’t mind some pizza and one of those bread sticks. I’m not picky about the type.”

Brian made his way to the buffet table and loaded up the two plates. “What is this?” Lester Mundy asked. “Are you eating for two?”

For a moment Brian saw red. How could Lester know anything? Had Honey said something to someone? Then common sense kicked in. She wouldn’t have said anything and Lester was just joking.

“No,” Brian finally answered. “I’m getting a plate for Trixie. Her ankle was bothering her.”

“Oh, how is Trixie doing? I thought she had recovered,” Lester asked.

“She’s doing really well. She said it usually doesn’t bother her, but she overdid it today,” Brian said. They chatted for a few more minutes and then Brian made his way back to his table.

“What did you have to do? Bake the pizza?” Trixie teased.

“No, I ran into Lester,” he said.

The rest of the evening was rather uneventful. Before they dropped Honey off, she and Trixie made plans to ride in the morning. Brian was going to relieve his father and mow the lawn.


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Author's Notes

Well, it’s been six months since I posted the last chapter of Summer Lovin’, almost long enough to have a baby.

First of all I want to thank Bonnie and Diana B. for their tireless editing. I must be doing something right because I think I only missed about five commas in this chapter.

A special thanks to MaryN, MaryC, Jo, Grandma Cindy TrishB and PatK for doing a beta read on the story. Their insight gave me the confidence that this story didn’t totally suck.

Word Count: 3,383

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