Authors: V. C. Andrews
"This is ridiculous," he said, his lips curling. "I don't blame her for Troy's death, nor do I blame myself. I did all I could for him, under the circumstances, but you knew how unhappy and depressed he was, how he was convinced he would die because of those constant nightmares in which he saw his own death, even saw his own tombstone. He knew what he was doing when he chose Jillian's wild horse. In my mind he committed suicide," Tony said, following his words with a sigh.
We both paused when Curtis brought him his drink He went to the couch and sat down, but I remained by the piano.
"Now, as far as Jillian goes," he continued, "I've also done all any man in my circumstances could do. I kept her safe, warm, satisfied, even in her madness. But that didn't mean I had to sacrifice my own sanity, did it? She has a professional nurse twenty-four hours a day. I'm not neglecting her out of some ridiculous sense of guilt I'm just busy, that's all."
"So busy that you haven't noticed what's happening here in Farthy. All of the servants are disturbed because of Jillian," I said. Tony smiled coldly and crossed his leg. He meticulously ran his fingers down the sharp crease of his dark blue trouser leg and stared at me.
"Are you sure it's not you who is disturbed because of Jillian? Does her presence here torment you?"
"Of course not," I said. "I'm thinking only of her welfare."
"I see." He sat back to sip his drink "All right," he said. "I'll have the doctor come tomorrow. 'What shall I do if he recommends we commit her to an institution for the mentally ill? Should I send her away to keep the servants from telling ridiculous tales?"
"We'll have to do what's best for her," I said. I couldn't help myself. I was trembling now.
"Of course Tony," I said, sitting on the piano stool, "Troy's cottage. ."
"What about Troy's cottage?" He sat forward. "It's . you've kept it just the way it was . . . like a living monument."
"You were there?" A quick glimmer of fear lit his eyes, then he banished it. "I see," he said, sitting back. "What would you have had me do, burn it down?"
"You were right in one sense, Heaven," he said, all the anger and frustration gone from his face. "All of us have to come to terms with our own guilt . . . our own ghosts. I did what I could for him; I was angry at him for tossing his life away, but that doesn't mean . . . I don't miss him," he said.
I bit my lower lip to force the lump in my throat to stay down. I felt the tears well up in my eyes.
"In a way we are all a bit arrogant about our grief," he continued. "We think no one but we can suffer it as much. You weren't the only one who had a broken heart."
The long silence between us was shattered by Logan's arrival.
"I'm starving," he declared. He looked from Tony to me and back to Tony. "Something wrong?"
"No," Tony said quickly. "Nothing that's not going to be taken care of as soon as possible." He turned to me. "Right, Heaven?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. I rose from the piano stool, ran my fingers lightly over the keys, and followed Tony and Logan out of the room, the memory of Troy's music slowly dying away as we went in to dinner.
THE NEXT DAY JILLIAN'S DOCTOR CAME TO EXAMINE AND reevaluate her condition. He concluded that she was in remarkably good physical health, but she had indeed changed from a confused, disoriented state to a hypertense and volatile one. He prescribed tranquilizers. Martha Goodman was satisfied and agreed to stay on as Milan's private nurse.
The day after the doctor's visit Tony and Logan went to Winnerrow with Paul Grant, the architect, to view the site for the factory. I accompanied them to meet with him a week later to discuss his preliminary plans for the structure and the grounds around it. I was immediately impressed with Paul and liked all of his suggestions. He had built a scale model of the planned factory and included the landscaping as well. It looked like an intricate Tatterton Toy.
"I'd like to keep the integrity of the woods here," he said, pointing to the right of the model, "and build a simple circular drive that branches off for deliveries here. Of course, the building should be all wood. A metal or stone building in this setting would be . ."
He looked up at me. "Quite out of character. Wouldn't you say?"
I didn't reply, but he knew I approved. He smiled and went on with his explanations. Somehow he had styled the factory after a cabinlike structure so that it looked like it belonged in the outskirts of Winnerow. There was a cafeteria for the artisans to have their lunch; there were large work spaces; there was plenty of storage and a good-sized delivery and packaging room. There was an office for Logan or Tony to use whenever they were there. He had even built an executive rest area.
"I'd like the model when you're finished with it," I said.
"Of course, Mrs. Stonewall. . . deliver it personally," he said. I knew he was flirting with me, but neither Logan nor Tony seemed to notice.
Logan began to spend a great deal of time traveling back and forth to Winnerow. Tony accompanied him a few times, but most of the trips Logan made alone. He was truly in charge. I decided there was no reason for me to go back to Winnerow until the factory was completed.
A little more than a month after the start of construction, Logan began making his treks through the Willies in search of the natural artisans who would be solicited for work later on. Whenever he returned from one of these trips and described some of the people he met, I was always reminded of Grandpa. Some of the names Logan mentioned were still familiar to me. He wanted me to go along with him on this search, but I thought it might be too painful for me, might bring back too many vivid memories of all I had lost.
In the meantime I settled into a quiet existence at Farthy. When Logan was away, I took my dinners with Tony, who often talked about the Boston theater scene. He was always offering to buy tickets to this show or that.
"After all, we often decide whether or not they'll take their show to New York. We're very important to the theater world," he said. He tried everything to get me to accompany him to one of the new shows. I was content with reading, occasionally going horseback riding for exercise, and helping Martha Goodman with Jillian, who, with the help of the tranquilizers, had become quite subdued and rather like a sweet little girl. She rarely mentioned ghosts anymore.
Finally, part out of boredom and partly out of genuine interest in a new show opening in Boston, I agreed to accompany Tony one Saturday night. Logan was in Winnerow and wouldn't return until the following Wednesday. I went to my closet to decide what to wear and sifted through some of the dresses Tony had bought to fill the closet in my new suite. It had all been part of that surprise, but until now I really hadn't inspected the garments.
Near the end of the rack, I discovered a black satin dress with a pleated skirt and a sleeveless lace bodice. The bodice was to be worn off shoulder. The neckline was heart-shaped, which made it rather revealing. Tony had always had such a good eye for style and size, something I had discovered when he had taken me to purchase a wardrobe after I had been enrolled in the Winterhaven School, a private school for rather affluent girls. When I put the dress on and gazed at myself in the mirror, I felt the tingle in the small of my stomach that comes with the awareness of my own sexual allure. My bosom was lifted, deepening my cleavage. I felt positively tantalizing. I knew that in such a dress the ripeness of my womanhood was revealed. Gone was the soft, innocent look that had once been mine.
I pinned up my hair, showing the long line of my neck. My skin was smooth and soft where it dipped to meet my shoulders. I had a hand-knit, light wool shawl to drape over my shoulders, which I knew would suffice on such a warm summer's evening. I used a minimum of makeup, just a slight touch of eye shadow and some light pink lipstick.
After making these preparations, I stepped back and gazed at myself. It felt good to dress up; it felt good to be going somewhere. Since our honeymoon, Logan had been so wrapped up in his work and the factory in Winnerow, we had done very little together. I was glad I had finally given in to Tony's continual requests to join him for a show. The thought of moving about in Boston's high society and being entertained was invigorating.
A gentle knock on my bedroom door quickly pulled me out of my reverie. It was Tony, dressed in a black tuxedo, a white shirt and winged collar with a black bow tie. For a moment he simply stood there, staring in at me, a strangely troubled look in his eyes.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"What? Oh, no, no, nothing's wrong," he stammered. Then he caught hold of himself, sighed, and beamed his warmest smile at me. "I . . there's no color more flattering to you than black. It's the same with your grandmother. My God, Heaven, you're absolutely breathtaking. Your grandmother was beautiful; your mother was more beautiful; but you are the most beautiful."
"Thank you," I said, "but . ."
"I was hoping you would wear that dress. But most of all I wanted you to wear these." He held up one of Jillian's most expensive diamond necklaces and matching earrings.
"Oh, Tony, I couldn't. I shouldn't." I shook my head and stepped back.
"Nonsense. I insist. They're simply fading away in a drawer."
He came around behind me and draped the necklace around my neck, fastening it quickly. Then he took hold of my shoulders and turned me to the mirror.
"Behold, how you flatter the diamonds and not vice versa," he said. The glittering stones felt warm against my skin and revived that tingling in the small of my stomach. I held my breath as Tony ran his fingers over the diamonds, his blue eyes sparkling almost as brightly.
"Thank you," I said, my throat nearly closing before I could utter the words. He had pressed his lips to the top of my head and closed his eyes.
"You're wearing jasmine, Jillian's jasmine. Leigh used to wear it, too," he whispered.
"Well, I. . . it was here and I. ."
"I'm glad," he said. "The scent brings back only good memories. Don't forget the earrings," he said. He put them into my palm, holding my hand for a moment. "Don't be too much longer. I want to get to the theater a little early and show you off."
"Oh, Tony, please . . ."
"I'll be waiting downstairs. The limo awaits you," he said and was gone. He was so excited, he looked twenty years younger.
I put on the earrings quickly and took one more look at myself. I felt like a woman playing with fire by resurrecting Tony's memories of my mother, a young girl who, if I were to believe Jillian's mad utterances, seduced him, but found him a willing victim.
But I am not as young and as inexperienced about men as my mother was, I thought. Surely events couldn't run away with me as they had with her. I was in control; I knew what I was doing. I was going out to have a good time. It was good to feel beautiful and to be appreciated. What was so wrong with that? Didn't every woman want that? Long for that? Fantasize about being the center of attraction?
Yet wasn't it sinful to feel this way, to fall in love with your own image? That had been Jillian's sin, hadn't it: falling in love with herself, wanting to be forever young and beautiful? Was her madness her punishment? Would it be mine as well?
I scooped up my shawl and draped it about my shoulders, taking one last look at myself as I did so. For a moment, only a moment, one of the pictures of my mother in her photo album flashed before me. Her father, Cleave Van Wren, was gone. Jillian had divorced him and started up with Tony. There was Mommy with a new man, a much younger and handsomer man, twenty-year-old Tony Tatterton. And strangely, in this photograph, the beautiful, radiant girl who had smiled with confident candor into the camera lens before could not manage even a faint, false smile. Darkness troubled her eyes just the way they did in the flashing image I saw in my mirror.
Was I looking at a memory of her or of myself? The picture had been so prophetic. What did this image predict for me?
Refusing to permit anything to interfere with my warm, vibrant, and exciting feelings, I laughed at what I called my foolish imagination and ran from the room, my own laughter trickling behind and finally shut away behind the bedroom doors to linger in the shadows with all the other ghost sounds that haunted Farthinggale Manor.
The play was marvelous, a hilarious domestic comedy with not a single dry spot. It was a period piece about a young girl who had been promised in marriage to a doddering old millionaire. She was really in love with his son, but the marriage contract stipulated that if she didn't marry the old man, the son couldn't inherit a penny. The old man died before the first act ended, but the son and the beautiful young girl kept up the guise that the old man was still alive. He was always either asleep or napping in a chair. There were many opportunities for humorous situations. Of course, all ended happily ever after with the two lovebirds marrying.
"Don't you wish life could be like a play or a movie?" Tony asked me on the way back to Farthy. "Always ending happily ever after?"
"Of course," I agreed.
"You know,1 sometimes feel all my money is like a fortress. It's true, you can't buy happiness, but you can buy away unhappiness, use your money to make things easier, more comfortable."
"Like you've done with Jillian?"
"Yes," he said. He turned to me in the darkness of the backseat of the limo. His eyes were obscured in that darkness, but occasionally a passing automobile or a passing street light flickered and revealed the sad look in his face. "Like what I've done with Jillian."
"And what you've done with me," I added.
"What do you mean?"
"Buying Logan," I said. I said it simply, matterof-factly, as if it were something too obvious to deny.
"Why, Heaven, you don't mean to sit there and say--"
"It doesn't matter," I assured him. "I let it happen, so I must want it myself . . . this rich life, Farthy, surrounded by so many good things, and yet feeling as though I'm doing worthwhile things by sending Logan to construct that factory in Winnerow. I just hope it all has a happy ending, too," I added.
"It will," he promised and squeezed my hand for reassurance. "But let's not be maudlin tonight," he said, casting away the heavy tones from his voice. "The evening's been too wonderful. Did you see the looks you were getting? How jealous some of my friends were? They didn't know who you were at first." He chuckled. There was something about him that seemed very much like a little boy again. He was having fun, playing. Tony was such a serious man most of the time, absorbed in his schemes and in the business. It was rare to see this light, gay side of him.
For the first time I thought about him as a man and I wondered what was it like for him to be married to Jillian, to have a wife who was mentally ill. Never to have a companion, never to have anyone to take to dinner or to shows. In short, to have no one to love.
I remembered how gay and active he and Jillian had been when I first arrived at Farthy. All those exciting trips they took, to California, to Europe, all the big parties, the elegant dinners . . . suddenly all that had ended for him. All he had left was his work . . . and me.
Loneliness was the cruelest season of all, I thought; more damaging than all the frosts of winter, sending the heart into hibernation. It had no one to live for, to be awake for, to beat fast and furiously for. The lonely had only memories and hopes, dreams and illusions. Under their Christmas trees were beautiful fully wrapped empty boxes.
It was cruel of me to resent him for using his money to keep Logan and me at Farthy, I thought. With Troy gone and Jillian deranged, we were all he had now. I could understand his jealousy of anything that took my attention from Farthinggale. He wasn't like Luke. Pa lost his beautiful young wife in childbirth and then married another woman who bore him children. When she deserted him, he gave up and sold his family, but soon found a new woman and a new life. Tony was different. Even with all his money and power, he couldn't discard his past, cast off his memories, and start anew. I had to admire his steadfast devotion and loyalty, even though some might say my much poorer father who had become tied down to the circus he now owned was much better off.
"How about a brandy before going up to bed?" Tony asked me as we drew close to Farthy. "It always takes me a while to unwind and I'd like to get the chill out."
I agreed and we went directly to the living room, where Curtis had already made a fire in the fireplace. He brought us the drinks and Tony and I talked a little more about the play, about some of the people he had introduced me to, and about his plans for the further expansion of Tatterton Toys. Finally, feeling very tired, I excused myself and went up to my rooms. He remained sitting there, sipping his brandy, staring into the fire.
On the landing I looked in the direction of Jillian's suite and saw Martha Goodman beckoning me. She was dressed in a robe and slippers and appeared more than a little agitated.
"She's having a bad night," she whispered, coming out of the doorway as I approached. "Whenever the weather gets like this, she has a bad time."
"Did you give her the medication?"
"Yes, but it's not being so effective tonight" She frowned and shook her head.
"Restless, is she?" The wind coming off the sea picked up and even in the deepest parts of the big house we could hear it rush over the roof and windows, sounding more like the sea than the air.
"Yes. She's been muttering about Abdulla Bar. She claims she hears the horse galloping around the house, whinnying. She was so intent about it, so positive she heard it, she got to me, I have to confess. I actually sent Curtis out earlier to see if any of the horses had broken loose. Of course, none had."
"Oh, dear. Should I inform Mr. Tatterton? Perhaps we--"
"No, no. I just wanted to have a moment's conversation with someone, other than one of the servants. They sometimes get me more unnerved than Mrs. Tatterton does." She squeezed my hand. "It's all right. It will be all right. We'll all go to sleep now. Don't worry."
"Just call me if there is any problem. Don't hesitate."
"Thank you, Mrs. Stonewall. I'm so happy you've decided to stay here. It's comforting knowing you are just down the corridor," she said, an audible tone of relief in her voice.
"Good night, Martha." I patted her hand and went to my suite.
As I prepared for bed the rain began, heavy, hard, pounding and scratching at the windows. To me it sounded like so many small creatures scurrying up and down the glass. When I looked out, it was like looking into a black velvet curtain. Only an occasional streak of lightning permitted any visibility and when that jolt of heavenly electricity ripped across the cold, coal-black sky, it distorted everything below--trees, gazebo, lawn furniture. Everything looked liquid, oozing across my field of vision, changing shapes, elongating, heaving. It was a nightmare world. A night it would be easy to see ghosts in. I closed my curtains tightly and pulled back the quilt on my bed, anxious to go to sleep and wake up to the warm, morning sun.