Authors: V. C. Andrews
"We wanted to give you this before you got all your other wedding gifts," she said. "All us here chillen," she added as she handed me the package, wrapped in fine blue paper with a pink ribbon. "We even bought the paper in your fiance Logan, I mean Mr. Stonewall's store," she said and I laughed.
"Thank you. Everyone."
I opened the package. Inside in a rich oak frame was a beautifully done needlepoint of my cabin in the Willies, and underneath it read, "Home Sweet Home, from your class."
For a moment I couldn't speak, but I knew all the little faces with their bright, happy eyes were on me.
"Thank you, children," I said. "No matter what gifts I get after this, none will be as precious or as important to me."
And none was.
The time between the last day of school and my wedding day seemed like ages. Minutes were more like hours and hours more like days because I wanted it to come so much. Even all the plans and
preparations didn't make the time fly by, as I hoped it would. Still, the anticipation built my excitement and Logan was with me as much as possible. Replies to our invitations came flooding in. I hadn't spoken to Tony Tatterton since the day I left Farthinggale Manor, the day I learned of Troy's death. Partly, I couldn't forgive him for what had happened to Troy, partly I was so frightened of the truth I had learned, the truth that had sent Troy to his death. I knew I would no longer be able to hear his voice without hearing the familiar timbre of my own in it. What I had learned about Tony and my mother, even two years later, still sent shudders down my spine. To have lived for so long with the lie that Pa was my blood and kin, Pa who had rejected me at every turn and whose love I had needed most, only to find out that when Pa looked at me, he saw my mother's former lover, her own stepfather, my father and grandfather, Tony Tatterton.
This knowledge frightened me to the marrow, not only for its tawdriness and wrongness, but for what it told me of my heritage. I didn't dare tell Logan. His innocence might be shattered by such despicable ways of the wealthy who controlled the world. But there was something more. That last day on the beach with Tony, after he told me of Troy's hideous death, a look had come into his eyes, a look that transgressed any mourning, a look of such pure desire that I knew I must stay away from him. This is why I didn't take his phone calls, why his letters piled up on my desk unanswered, why it was Pa, rather than Tony, who I wanted to be my father at the wedding. For in spite of everything, and even though I now knew he wasn't my real father, I still craved Pa's love; I already had too much of Tony's.
But since I didn't want Logan to know the shameful truth of my heritage, I dutifully sent Tony an invitation to the wedding. And Tony, sly fox that he was, wrote not to me but to Logan, explaining that Grandmother Jillian was so ill he couldn't possibly leave her to attend the wedding, but insisting that we come to Farthinggale Manor, where he would host for us the finest wedding reception Massachusetts had ever seen. Logan was so excited by his invitation that I reluctantly agreed to spend four days at Farthy before we headed for our honeymoon in Virginia Beach. We would return to Winnerow to live in the cabin until we could build our own fine house on the outskirts of Winnerow.
But not all our plans were to fall so neatly into place. On the morning of my wedding there was a knock on the cabin door. I had been up nearly all night, too nervous and too excited to sleep. Still in my nightgown, I went to the front door to greet a specialdelivery postman.
"Good morning," he chirped. "Special delivery. Please sign here,"
It was a good morning, and not only because it was my wedding day. There wasn't a cloud in the seablue summer sky. Today was my day, and God had smiled down and made this day beautiful for me, chasing away all the shadows and leaving me only sunlight. I was so full of joy and fulfillment, I felt like hugging the postman.
"Thank you," he said when I handed the clipboard back to him. Then he smiled and tipped his hat. "And good luck to you. I know it's your wedding day."
"Thank you." I watched him go back to his jeep, and waved as he turned around and headed down the mountain road. Then I closed the door and hurried to the kitchen table to open the special-delivery mail.
Surely it was a well-wisher. Perhaps it had come from Tony, who had decided at the last minute he would attend both receptions.
I tore open the envelope and unfolded the slim paper within. What I read brought my heart down to earth like a balloon that had sprung a leak. I sat down slowly, my pitter-patter heart becoming a thumping, heavy lead drum in my chest. The laughter that had been on my lips evaporated and tears filled my eyes, blurring the words on the page before me.
Unfortunately, business activities involving the circus will make it impossible for me to attend your wedding. Stacie and I wish you and Logan the best of luck.
One of my tears fell on the letter and began a quick journey over the paper, distorting Pa's words. I crumpled the letter in my fist and sat back, the tears now flowing freely over my cheeks and to the corners of my mouth, where I could taste their salty wetness.
I was crying for so many reasons, but most of all I was crying because I had hoped that my wedding would be the event to bring me and Pa together in a way we had never been. Even though it was Logan who talked me into inviting him, inviting him was a secret ambition of my heart. I had dreamt of him standing beside me, sleek and handsome in his tuxedo, holding my hand and saying the words
after the reverend asked, "Who gives away this bride?"
My wedding was going to be the crowning point of forgiveness--his forgiveness of me for causing the death of his angel, Leigh, when I was born, and my forgiveness of him for selling us. I was willing to accept Tom's belief that Pa sold us because he couldn't take care of us and he thought that it would be the best thing for us.
But now none of this was to be.
I caught my breath and wiped the tears from my face. There was nothing more to do about it, I thought. I had to concentrate on Logan and our wedding. There was no time for self-pity or rage. Besides, Pa had given me away long ago. At my wedding I would give myself.
About an hour before the wedding my sister Fanny arrived with Randall Wilcox to take me to the church. Randall was a polite, shy young man with sweet- potato red hair and milk-fair skin. His forehead was splattered with tiny freckles, but he had bright blue eyes that shone like tinted crystal. I had thought that maybe he looked older than he was, but he had an innocent and fresh appearance and followed Fanny about like a puppy.
"Why, Heaven Leigh Casteel, don'cha look virginal, this mornin'," she exclaimed and threaded her arm through Randall's so she could press herself to him possessively. She had her jet-black hair crimped and blown out, making her look loose and wild like a street prostitute. I had suggested she have her hair pinned up, anticipating she would do something just like this. "Don't she, Randall?"
He looked from me to her quickly, not expecting to have to testify in support of Fanny's sarcasm.
"You look lovely," Randall said softly, diplomatically.
"Thank you, Randall." Fanny smirked. I looked at myself in the mirror, adjusted some strands of hair, and snapped on my wrist corsage.
"I'm ready," I said.
"Sure ya are," Fanny said. "Ya always was ready for this day," she added sadly. For a moment I felt sorry for her, despite her blatant jealousy. Fanny always longed for attention, always longed to be loved, but always went about it the wrong way and probably always would.
"Fanny, the dress looks very nice on you," I said. We had driven to the city and chosen a light blue crinoline for Fanny to wear as the maid of honor. But Fanny had made alterations. She had lowered the neckline until the top of her bosom was exposed. She had tightened the sides so that it seemed painted on.
"Really? My figure has improved, hasn't it?" she said, running her hands up and over her hips, all the way to her breasts, looking lasciviously at Randall all the time. He blushed. "Even after I went through the birthin', I neva lost my figure like so many women do." She turned to me. "Randall knows our little secret about Darcy. Watch out, honey, that a whole brood of little Stonewalls don't soon ruin your figure."
"I'm not planning to have children right away, Fanny," I announced.
"Oh? Maybe Logan Stonewall's got other ideas. Maisie Setterton says he always talked 'bout havin' a big family. Ya told me that, didn't ya, Randall?" I knew Fanny brought up Maisie Setterton just to make me jealous.
"Well, I didn't exactly . . ." He looked so flustered.
"It's all right, Randall," I interjected quickly. "Fanny isn't saying it to be mean, are you, Fanny?"
"Why, no," she whined. "I'm just' tellin' ya what Maisie said."
"See?" Randall started to laugh. Fanny saw she was the object of the humor.
"Well, she did say it," she insisted. "If ya didn't tell me, someone else did." Her smile turned to a smirk "Anyway, I still can't believe you're going ta let Waysie marry ya."
"I have my reasons." I smiled to myself. Sure I did. And Fanny knew them. For Reverend Wise had bought Fanny from Pa, taken her into his home, made her pregnant, and claimed her baby for himself and his wife. I had tried to help Fanny buy back her child, but to no avail, and Fanny had still never forgiven me for my failure to do so. We shared the dark secret of her little girl's heritage and I wanted to look into Reverend Wise's eyes when Logan and I pronounced our vows. I wanted to blot out the words he had said to me when I went to him intending to demand Fanny's child. We argued and I told him, "You don't know me."
His eyelids parted to mere slots so his eyes glittered into the shade of his lids and he said, "You are wrong, Heaven Leigh Casteel. I do know you very well. You are the most
dangerous kind of female the world can ever know. A great many will love you for your beautiful face, for your seductive body; but you will fail them all, because you will believe they all fail you first. You are an idealist of the most devastatingly tragic kind--the romantic idealist. Born to destroy and to self-destruct."
I wanted him to see a different Heaven Leigh Casteel, I wanted him to swallow his own predictions, his own religious arrogance, and his sinful hypocrisy.
"You may have ya reasons," Fanny smirked, "but I'll tell ya, that Waysie is sure gonna blow his stack when he pronounces you and Logan man and wife. I can't wait to see it. I surely can't."
"Shall we go?" I said.
The ceremony was all that I had dreamt it would be and more. Just about everyone we invited turned out. Four of my male students served as ushers in the church. I had specifically instructed them to escort people to the pews randomly on a first-come, first- serve basis, thus playing havoc with the unwritten segregation of the congregation. Hill and valley people sat up front with town people, some of whom were forced to sit toward the rear with other hill and valley people.
All of the hill and valley people were smiling at me, their faces filled with happiness and elation. Most of the town people looked dignified, wearing looks of approval. After all, I was marrying Logan Stonewall and completing what was, in their eyes, a complete transition from backwoods mountain girl to a proper town girl. I would be moving out of the cabin and into a home in Winnerow. I could see it in their faces-they thought that in time I would forget the hill people. I had won their respect, but not their understanding. They thought I had done all that I had done just to become one of them.
Logan's father stood beside him where Tom, my dear departed brother, should have been standing to be best man. My heart skipped a beat and my eyes teared when I thought about his tragic death in the grasp of a furious beast. Except for Fanny, who strutted before me, tossing her hair about, turning her shoulders suggestively, and making eyes at every available male in the congregation, none of my family were here. Grandpa was dead and gone. Luke and his new wife were et', working in his new circus. Tom was gone. Keith and Jane were in college, neither really as close to me as I would have liked. My real grandmother was back in Farthy, lost in her past, babbling gibberish to herself. Tony was at the helm of the Tatterton Toy Corporation, probably mourning this day, when I would belong to another man, never to him.
Reverend Wise, tall and impressive as ever behind his podium, lifted his eyes from the Bible and glared out at me. His slick, black, custom-made suit fitted him as beautifully as usual and made him appear as slim as he had when I first saw him.
For a moment he frightened me, as he always had, but when I locked my gaze on Logan, all the sad memories were lifted away. It was like a cloudy day that had suddenly turned bright. This was my wedding, my time, my moment in the sun, and Logan, more handsome than I ever thought he could be stood. waiting to take my hand into his, my life into his.
How wonderful a wedding of two people who were sincerely in love with each other could be, I thought. It was sacred; it was precious, and it did lift my heart and make me feel as though I were walking on air. I remembered the nights when I would look up at the stars and wish for a time when Logan and I would be like a prince and a princess. He had come into my life so dramatically, just like a storybook knight in shining armor, there to do my bidding, to devote his life to me, and I thought surely we were meant to be husband and wife.
My heart fluttered beneath my breast. Beneath my veil, my face flushed.
Reverend Wise stared out at me in silence. Then he raised his eyes toward the ceiling of the church and began.
"Let us pray. Let us give thanks For the Lord has been generous. He has given us a chance to fill our hearts with joy. A wedding is a new beginning, a beginning of a new life and a chance to serve God in new ways. This could not be more true than it is for Logan Stonewall and Heaven Leigh Casteel."
He turned to Logan. "Logan Stonewall," he intoned, "do you take this woman, Heaven Leigh Casteel, to be your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, till death do you part?"
Logan turned to me, his face and eyes adoring. "I do with all my heart," he declared.
"Heaven Leigh Casteel"--Reverend Wise turned to me--"do you take this man, Logan Grant Stonewall, to be your lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, till death do you part?"