Into the Garden

  Into the Garden

  Wildflowers #5

  V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c) 1999

  ISBN: 0671007718



  Whenever I read stories about girls my age, I would wonder what had happened to my childhood. Sometimes it seems I was born and now here I am, Cathy Carson, seventeen. All the years before are blurred as if my memories had been kept on old film that spoiled. Faces and names, places and events, no matter how important they were at the time, are smudged and splotched so that nothing is

  recognizable. Of course, I know why. I don't want to remember, not after all that has happened, not after what my father did to me.

  He's out of our lives, but he's not gone. He's never far away. All I have to do is close my eyes and there he is again, smiling, speaking softly, telling me how pretty I am, and then touching me, doing it all under the guise of his special lessons that would give me an advantage over other girls my age.

  I shudder just the way I would if ice dripped down my back. Then I shake my head hard to rattle the images and stop the flow of pain. It goes away, and for a while, I am safe.

  After having spent months and months with my therapist, Doctor Marlowe, and after being with the other Orphans With Parents, Jade, Star, and Misty, in group therapy, I was able to get back into the world. I had finished my junior year at St. Jude's High School and completed the group therapy. I was supposed to have a follow-up session, but it hadn't been scheduled yet.

  When our group sessions ended, I really didn't believe that the other girls wanted to be friends and keep in touch, even though we all said so and Jade took everyone's telephone number. We had all revealed so many intimate secrets to each other. Sometimes, sharing such things ties people together tightly, binds them in knots that are almost impossible to break. Each revelation is like another string wrapping around our hearts, binding us together forever.

  But sometimes, after you realize what you have revealed, you can't face the listener again. It's embarrassing to know that when she looks at you, she sees your pain and your humiliation. You turn away. You wish she would go away, and you don't try to make contact. You are eager to turn her back into a stranger. You might even see each other somewhere, gaze blankly into each, other's faces, and pretend you didn't see each other.

  Half of me hoped that would happen, but the other half, the half that longed for friends and kindred spirits, hoped it wouldn't. No one but my father, who had his reasons, ever kept a promise to me. I didn't expect the girls would keep theirs. Each of them had her own problems, and each was surely occupied and distracted.

  Misty Foster's mother and father had a bad divorce and her father was in a romance with a much younger woman. Her mother was trying to see other men, but was still quite self-absorbed with her pursuit of youth and beauty, and poor Misty felt so alone, she came up with the idea of calling herself and the rest of us Orphans With Parents, or the OWP's. It was a funny idea, but after a while, I liked it because I had never belonged to any organization or club, had never been in a play or on a team. It wasn't the sort of club membership anyone would want, but at least there was a sense of togetherness, something shared

  Star Fisher lived with her grandmother Pearl Anthony, her mother's mother, and her eight-year-old brother, Rodney, after her father had first deserted the family and then her mother had run off with a boyfriend. Yet Star was still the proudest and, in some ways, strongest of the four of us. I was afraid of her when we first met. She seemed so hard and even mean, but after I heard her story and she heard ours, she seemed to soften, even become protective of me and the others. In so many ways, I wanted to be like her.

  And then there was the official president of our club, Jade Lester, a beautiful and rich girl who lived in a Beverly Hills mansion. Her parents treated her like another possession, an asset over which to battle during their nasty divorce. They were two strong and independent people. Her father was a famous and successful architect and her mother was an executive in a cosmetic company who guarded her career with a passion, even refusing to permit her parental responsibilities to interfere with climbing the corporate ladder. At the time we ended our group therapy, her parents were approaching some sort of compromise over custody, but had still not reached it.

  As bad as my story was, I ended up feeling sorry for each of them. They seemed to feel sorrier for me than they did for themselves, and they didn't even know the whole truth about my family.

  Family is such a strange word to apply to my situation. I had been adopted, but I had not discovered that until after my father began forcing himself on me. It was really the other girls who had made me question why my mother had wanted to adopt a child in the first place. She never seemed comfortable with me and hated the responsibilities that came along with being a mother. I had wondered what had made her want me, but not with the passion and the need the girls instilled in me. Finally, I confronted my mother and forced her to tell me the truth, or what I disovered was the sordid truth.

  I was not really her adopted daughter. I was her half sister. Our mother had had some sort of love affair and had become pregnant in her forties. My half sister had been pressured into getting married to Howard Carson, and then pressured again into adopting me. There was still a great deal I didn't know, but that revelation was enough to make me feel sick to my stomach and even more un- wanted and confused.

  What was I? Who was I? To learn that you were a regretted mistake, a sin, an embarrassment, is horrible, but I still had to know more.

  My half sister Geraldine (I have great difficulty now thinking of her as my mother) always warned me about getting too close to the truth. She claimed it doesn't set you free. She said, "It's like too much of any good thing. It puts you in a darker place. Don't ask so many questions."

  One time when I pursued one of my endless lines of questions, telling her I had to know the truth, that the truth was important, Geraldine responded by asking me, "What if you were horribly ugly, but you lived in a world without reflections, no mirrors, no way to see yourself and know? Would you be better off if someone brought you a mirror and showed you your face? That's the truth, too, and all it brings is pain."

  Was she right? Had I forced her to hold up a mirror? Was my pain my own doing? Maybe that was why she hated mirrors and caring about your looks, why she criticized most women for being narcissistic, why she censored my books and magazines when I was younger and wouldn't permit me to watch certain television programs, why she practically spit at some commercials, and why she wanted me to do all that I could to hide my breasts when they began to develop much too early.

  Or maybe there was another reason, a deeper reason, one that she feared even more than the truths she had already revealed. Our house was full of secrets, unspoken dark thoughts that hovered in corners or lived like insects under rugs and in locked closets. Should I take them out? Should I do what she warned me not to do? Should I continue to cling to silence, to look away, to close my eyes?

  I remembered how Star described her fantasy world, her magic carpet to take her away from her unhappiness. I was never able to do that. Makebelieve was always too difficult, too thin, and easily shattered by Geraldine's voice or look. It was like a balloon that started to lift me away and always exploded or leaked its air and brought me down bard, planting me firmly in my loneliness.

  Clocks ticked, day turned to night and then to day. I moved through my responsibilities as if I had been hypnotized, mechanically, never feeling any excitement, surprised at the sound of my own laughter, if it ever came, and even surprised by my own tears and sobs.

  After Geraldine had reluctantly told me part of the truth, I felt even lighter, less substantial, more alienated and alone. I stared out of my wind
ow at the street and watched the cars go by, wondering who everyone was and where everyone was going. I was also looking for a sign of my stepfather. He loomed forever and ever out there.

  Geraldine thought he wouldn't dare show his face, but in my secret, deepest places, I feared he would return. Maybe I would see his hands first, those familiar large palms, those long, spidery fingers, and then he would come out of the darkness, smiling, reaching for me. I would close my body like a fist and hold my breath.

  And he would touch me again. Try as I would, I couldn't keep myself locked away. My cries of protest would go unheard and he would cover me like a blanket woven out of the darkness.

  Forbidden Pleasures

  When Jade called to invite me, as well as Misty and Star, to her home for our first official meeting of the OWP's, my heart seemed to wake up and beat happiness as well as blood through my veins and arteries. My whole body came alive and lifted as if some heavy chains had been broken. I could almost hear them shatter and clank at my feet.

  Geraldine was busy preparing our dinner, cleaning the vegetables for our salad, inspecting every carrot, every lettuce leaf for some imperfection and then pausing to baste the roast chicken, but always listening with one ear tilted in my direction. Our downstairs phone was on the kitchen wall near the door and I had no phone in my room. The only time I could have any privacy during a personal call was when she was upstairs, out of the house, or in the bathroom. The moment I cradled the receiver, she spun on her heels, demanding to know who had called.

  "It was Jade," I announced, unable to hide my excitement, "inviting me to her house for a brunch." "Jade?" Geraldine's small eyes narrowed into suspicious slits, darkened with accusations, fears, and threats. "Isn't she one of them?"

  Geraldine usually referred to the other girls in my group therapy as "Them." It made it sound as if they were all monstrous, alien creatures. If they were monstrous, what was I in her eyes? I wondered. She blamed everything on my father when she spoke about it, if she ever spoke about it, but deep down in my heart, I believed she blamed me as well. I could see it and feel it in the way her eyes lingered on me like two tiny spotlights of accusation.

  After all, I thought, she had made me feel as if there was something polluted about me because I had been born a child out of an adulterous affair, even if the adulterer was her own mother. Sin was always something contagious in Geraldine's eyes. Why shouldn't she believe I had inherited a tendency toward it?

  I couldn't remember her ever looking at me with pleasure, and certainly never with pride. She was always searching for something to criticize as if she had been given the responsibility of ensuring that I never wandered from the path of righteousness, her righteousness. My premature voluptuous figure only reinforced her tarnished image of me. Once she even told me it meant I'd be oversexed, and she always talked about sex as if it was a disease. She often tried to make me feel ashamed of what I looked like and she had even gone so far as to try to prevent me from having a female figure as long as she could, making me wear what were practically straight-jackets when my body started to develop.

  "She's one of the girls, yes," I said finally, hoping she wouldn't start criticizing Jade and the others as she had done so many times in the past.

  "The girls? You mean those girls from Doctor Marlowe's clinic?" she asked, grimacing as if she had just bitten into a rotten walnut.

  Geraldine never had approved of the therapy sessions. She hated the idea of strangers knowing anything intimate about us. She would have had me keep it all locked inside, no matter what damage it did to me. In her way of thinking, you swallowed the bad with the good and you locked it inside and worked, worked, worked, keeping yourself busy to forget whatever was unpleasant or ugly.

  "Doctor Marlowe never referred to it as a clinic, Mother. You know we went to her office in her home. You make it sound terrible, like a hospital or a research lab or something with the four of us being treated like guinea pigs," I told her.

  She grimaced again, only with more disgust this time. Geraldine could twist her mouth until it almost looked like a corkscrew. She was so thin these days, she hardly had a cheek to pull in, but it dipped in like the center of a saucer when she turned her lips.

  "It's just a bunch of hocus-pocus, all this psychological mumbo-jumbo. What did people do before all this counsel and analysis, huh? tell you," she said quickly. As she often did, Geraldine asked a question that she had already answered to her liking in her own mind. "They gritted their teeth and they endured. It made them stronger.

  "Nowadays, you have all these moaners and groaners, crying and complaining as soon as they're in the least bit of difficulty. They're even on television-- television! And why? To tell the most personal things! People have no shame anymore. They are willing to tell complete strangers their most private secrets and business, for the whole world to see and know. Disgusting.

  "We're just thinning the blood with all this stupidity," she insisted, "thinning the blood, making ourselves weak and pitiful. There's no grit. People have no self-respect and these so-called doctors just encourage it all."

  "Doctor Marlowe has helped us, Mother, helped all of us through very difficult times," I insisted.

  "Um," she said, grinding her teeth. "Well, I don't want you associating yourself with such girls. I didn't like the idea of that doctor bringing you all together like that in the first place. It wasn't healthy."

  "But I like them and they like me. We have ..." "What?" she snapped. "What do you have?" "A lot in common," I said.

  She stared at me, her eyes turning red with fear

  and shock.

  "You mean, they. ...their daddies ..."

  "No, they each have a different problem, none

  of them like mine," I said quickly. She recovered instantly, whipping her upper body ramrod straight. She hated anything that even vaguely suggested what had happened.

  "What good will come of you being around girls with problems, Cathy? You're just going to poison the well some more. They can't be good influences. If you were sick with pneumonia, would it be good for you to hang around with patients sick with tuberculosis? No, of course not. If this Doctor Marlowe thought you were in need of help, why would she mix you in with other girls who were sick, too? To make more money, faster, that's why," she said.

  "No, that's not true. It was a technique " "Technique," she spat. "They have all sorts of words, to cloud the truth and get away with their hocus-pocus. I don't want you having anything more to do with those girls, hear?"


  "No but's, Cathy. I have all the responsibility now. Always did," she spat. "You go off and get into trouble with some disturbed teenage girls and I have more to handle. It's enough running this house and making sure you get what you need."

  "But I need friends, too!"

  "Friends, yes, but not mental cripples," she insisted, and turned her back on me.

  "They're not mental cripples. If they're mental cripples, what am I?"

  She was silent.

  "I'm going," I asserted.

  She slammed a pot down on the counter so hard, I felt my insides jump into my throat. Then she turned toward me, wagging the pot she gripped in her hand like a club.

  "You'll not be disobedient now," she warned. "I'm legally your mother and I'm still the one responsible for you, and you'll obey, hear?"

  I stared at her. Suddenly, she turned from flushed red to the whitest pale and fell back against the counter. "Mother, what's wrong?" I cried.

  She waved me off.

  "Nothing," she said, taking a deep, and what looked like a painful, breath. "It's just a little dizzy spell. Go tend to your own chores. I'll be calling you to set the table soon."

  She clutched her stomach and chest as if to keep everything inside and turned her back to me. I waited and watched until she straightened up her bony shoulders, this time with more effort, and then returned to what she was doing. She moaned under her breath, but said no more. I watched her for a mo
ment before leaving the kitchen.

  I was determined to go to Jade's house. I wouldn't be shut out. I hadn't told Geraldine that the brunch was tomorrow. I would sneak out and go, I thought. I would just use her golden rule: what she doesn't know, won't hurt her. Hide the truth. The truth can bring pain. Why bring her any pain? Sometimes it's kinder to lie.

  Because I didn't talk about the brunch anymore, Geraldine didn't mention it again and the subject drifted off like so many unpleasant thoughts and words in our house. Sometimes, when I looked around my home, I thought the already dark walls were becoming even darker as more vile, nasty, and ugly words were splattered over them.

  Geraldine liked the house this way. She kept the curtains drawn tight most of the day so "people couldn't gape through our windows and snoop." As if anyone really cared what went on in our little home, I thought. We had to be the most boring people on the street. Who'd want to know about us? Geraldine never participated in any social events and rarely spoke to anyone. She liked keeping to herself, keeping the lights low, the doors shut tight, the world at bay.

  After dinner, I managed to get to the phone to call Jade without Geraldine overhearing. She had gone upstairs to the bathroom. She didn't like using the downstairs bathroom. She was always afraid either I or my adoptive father when he was here could hear her. I knew that was the reason because she always yelled at me after I used the downstairs bathroom and said, "When you go, start with some tissue in the water so you don't make any disgusting noises. These walls and doors are so thin, you can hear someone's stomach gurgle."

  I should have asked her if the walls and doors were so thin, why didn't you ever hear what went on behind mine? She hadn't heard me when I needed her most, and now as I reached for the phone, I hoped her voluntary deafness would continue.

  "It's Cathy. I have a problem," I began, when Jade answered her phone.

  "Oh no," she cried. "I knew your mother wouldn't let you come. And I'm having this great brunch prepared for us. Star and Misty are definitely coming Please don't tell me you can't come."

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