Authors: V. C. Andrews
"Your mommy's not here," she said. I put my robe on as quickly as I could. That woman was not whom I would want to break bad news to a child. "Where is she?" Drake inquired. "Sleeping?" "Oh, yes, she's sleeping. She's--"
"Good morning," I interrupted quickly. Drake turned abruptly and inquisitively gazed up at me with his big brown eyes. I thought he would grow to be just as handsome and cut just as manly a figure as his father. Already he had strong-looking shoulders for a young boy, and his face had the same firm chiseled lines that Luke's had had. "I'm Heaven," I said. "Your older half sister. You don't remember me, but I was here many years ago, when you were just a little baby. I gave you some toys."
He just stared at me. Mrs. Cotton shrugged and went back to preparing breakfast.
"I don't have any new toys," he said, lifting his arms. He was so cute I couldn't help but kneel down and hug him.
"Oh, Drake, Drake, my poor little Drake. You will have toys, hundreds of toys, big toys and small toys, toys with motors, toys you can ride, and you'll have a big place to ride them."
My emotional outburst frightened him. He leaned back and looked past me down the corridor.
"Where's my mommy?" he asked, worried now. "And my daddy?"
Logan appeared in the hallway and Drake's eyes widened with more surprise.
"That's Logan," I said. "He's my husband."
"I want my mommy," he said, getting off the chair, starting past me. I couldn't stop him. I looked at Logan and shook my head. When it ca e to little children, sorrow was like a large wild bird caged. It was too big to live within them.
Drake opened his parents' bedroom door and stood staring at the empty, untouched bed. I came up beside him. He turned and looked up at me, his eyes filled with fear. At that moment he reminded me of Keith when Keith was his age. Keith had such expression in his eyes, too. I took him in my arms and held him close to me again, kissing his cheeks, just the way I used to kiss away the tears on Keith's soft, little face.
"I must tell you something, Drake," I said. "And you must be a big boy and listen, okay?"
He brought his small, closed fist to his eye and rubbed back the beginning of his tears. I was sure he had inherited Luke's inner strength, Only five and he didn't want to show his fear and sorrow. I sat down on the bed with him still in my arms.
"Do you know what it means when people die and go away to Heaven?" I said. He looked at me funny and I realized the confusion. "Yes, my name is Heaven, but there is also a place called Heaven, a place where people go to be forever and ever. Did you ever hear about that place?" He shook his head. "Well, there is such a place, and sometimes people have to go there sooner than they expect," I said.
Logan came to the doorway and looked in on us. Drake eyed him cautiously and Logan smiled as warmly as he could. Then Drake turned back to me, eager to hear the rest of my story. I saw that he was treating it like a story, and I imagined that Stacie often had held him like this and either read to him or told him fairy tales. Only he must not think of this as a fairy tale, I thought. Somehow, I had to make him understand.
"Well, last night God called your mommy and daddy to Heaven and they had to go. They didn't want to leave you," I said quickly, "but they had no choice. They had to go."
"When are they coming back?" Drake asked, already sensing something very disturbing.
"They're never coming back, Drake. They can't come back, even though they want to. When God calls you, you have to go and you can't return."
"I wanna go, too," he said. He started to struggle to get out of my arms.
"No, Drake, honey. You can't go because God didn't call you to go. You have to stay on earth. You'll come with me and live in a big house and have so many nice things, you won't know what to play with or to do first."
"No!" he cried. "I wanna go with my mommy and daddy."
"You can't, honey, but they would want you to be happy and to be well cared for and to grow into a fine young man, and you'll do that for them, won't you?"
His eyes narrowed. I felt his arms tighten and his anger rise as his cheeks reddened. He had Luke's temper, all right, I thought. Looking into his eyes, I thought I could look back through time, beyond Death itself, and see Luke staring at me.
"Don't hate me for telling you these things, Drake. I want to love you and I want you to love me."
"I want my daddy!" he yelled. "I want to go to the circus! Let me go! Let me go!" He struggled against my embrace until I released him. Instantly, he charged out of the room.
"It's going to take time, Heaven," Logan comforted. "Even for a boy that young."
"I know." I shook my head and looked around the bedroom. On the small night table there was a picture of Luke and Stacie standing just outside the house embracing each other. How young and happy Luke looked. How different from the man I knew as my pa in the Willies. If only life had been happy for him. then, it would have been happy for all of us.
"We'd better have some breakfast and get dressed, honey," Logan said. "You want to see that lawyer and then go over to the funeral parlor."
I nodded and rose slowly from the bed upon which Luke and his bride had made love to each other and pledged themselves forever and forever to each other. Now they would be lying side by side in the cold, dark earth.
I hoped that I was right; I hoped that what I had told little Drake was true. I hoped they were called to a happier place, a real heaven.
DRAKE WAS STUBBORN AND SULKED. HE REFUSED TO EAT any breakfast and wouldn't let me dress him. Mrs. Cotton had to do it. It was the last duty she performed for Luke and Stacie Casteel. Even though he was reluctant to go, we took Drake with us to the law office of J. Arthur Steine, which was located in downtown Atlanta. The sights and activity soon attracted little Drake's interest, and before long he permitted me to hold him on my lap while he gazed out the window. I brushed back his silky ebony hair with my fingers and studied his face. Stacie had kept his hair long, something I couldn't blame her for doing. It was so thick and rich-looking. I kissed him softly on the cheek and held him snugly to me, but he was too involved with the things he saw to notice or care.
J. Arthur Steine's office was in a posh modern building. I was surprised that Luke had chosen this firm, because it looked like one associated with big corporations and wealthy people. His circus wasn't an insignificant venture, but it was far from being a P.T. Barnum. He had spent most of his time going from one small town to the next, and with the kind of overhead a circus would have, I was sure he had barely been scraping out a living.
Little Drake was fascinated with the glass elevator, which took us up to the twelfth floor, where Mr. Steine's office was located. The lobby of the law firm was very plush, with two secretaries behind big desks answering phones and typing. There were three law clerks rushing about, giving the secretaries papers to type or gathering up documents. The first secretary on the right was also the receptionist. She asked us to sit on the leather couch while she announced our arrival to Mr. Steine. I had just found a magazine for Drake when J. Arthur Steine came out himself to greet us.
He was a tall, distinguished-looking man with graying temples. His black-framed glasses magnified his hazel eyes. As soon as I saw him, I couldn't help but feel there was something familiar about him. Of course, with his three-piece gray silk suit, the gold chain of his pocket watch dangling out of the vest pocket, he looked like one of a number of Tony's business associates.
"My condolences," he said, reaching out to shake my hand and then Logan's. He slipped his glasses down the bridge of his nose and peered over the rims to look down at Drake, who stared up at him with an almost angry curiosity. He was definitely not a timid little boy, I thought. "This must be Drake."
"Yes. Say hello, Drake," I coached. Drake looked at me and then at J. Arthur Steine with an arrogance I thought quite beyond his years.
"I wanna go home," he stated.
"Of course you do," Mr. Steine said and then turned to the secretary. "Don't we have a delicious red lollipop for this young man, Colleen?"
"I think we might," she said, smiling at Drake. He eyed her cautiously, the promise of a lollipop softening his resistance.
"Well, why don't you find him one so he can sit out here and enjoy that while I speak to Mr. and Mrs. Stonewall," Mr. Steine said.
His secretary reached into a bottom drawer to produce a lollipop. Drake took it eagerly and started to turn away.
"You must say thank you when people, give you things, Drake," I said softly. He looked at me, considered what I said, and then turned around slowly.
"Thank you," he said and rushed back to the couch to work the wrapper of his lollipop. He didn't seem to mind being left alone.
"We'll be right out, Drake. Just stay here," I said. He looked up at me without responding and went back to his lollipop.
"Right this way," Mr. Steine said and led us through a carpeted corridor, past a beautiful conference room, a large law library, two other law offices, to his own, which was at the end of the corridor. Its windows looked over the city, which that day, because of the soft, nearly cloudless blue sky, provided a magnificent clear view. "Please, have a seat," he said, indicating the gray, soft leather chairs in front of his desk. "You two probably don't remember me," he said, "but I was at your wedding reception at Farthinggale Manor. What a party that was."
"I thought I had seen you someplace before," I mused. "But I'm afraid I don't quite understand - you were Luke Casteel's attorney?"
"Well, actually, I represented Mr. Tatterton." "Mr. Tatterton?" I looked to Logan, but he only shrugged.
"Yes. You didn't know that?" Mr. Steine asked.
"No. You'll have to explain."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I just assumed . . ." He sat forward. "Well, some time back I negotiated the purchase of a circus owned by a. . . a Mr.
Windenbarron for Mr. Tatterton." He looked at the papers on his desk. "Yes, Windenbarron."
"Tony bought the circus from Windenbarron? But . . I thought Luke owned the circus." Again I looked at Logan and again he shook his head to indicate he knew nothing.
"Oh, yes, he did," Mr. Steine assured me.
"I don't understand?'
"Well, after Mr. Tatterton bought the circus, he then had me work up an arrangement with Luke Casteel, turning the circus over to him, for a rather small sum." He smiled. "One dollar, to be exact."
"You'd have to call it a gift. Anyway, with his and Mrs. Casteel's death, the ownership reverts back to Mr. Tatterton. Last night when we spoke, he asked me to put the circus up for sale and place the proceeds into a trust fund for Drake. He also asked me to look into Mr. Casteel's estate, expedite the sale of their home, and place any and all proceeds and legacies into the same trust. I hope that meets with your approval, Mrs. Stonewall," he said.
I was dumbfounded.
"Actually," Mr. Steine went on, "the matter ordinarily wouldn't be of suffcient size for our firm, but we handle many of Mr. Tatterton's affairs in the South and when he . . . of course, we'll take care of everything."
I sat back, stunned. Why had Tony done all this? Why had he kept it a secret?
"All the necessary documents are here," he continued. "There really isn't anything you have to sign. . . . It will be a while before we settle matters, but if there is anything you would like to look over . . ."
"He gave Luke the circus?" I said. I imagined I looked rather silly with my mouth open and my baffled expression.
"Yes, Mrs. Stonewall." He paused for a moment and then sat forward. "Now, as to the funeral. The bodies are presently at the Eddington Funeral Home. The service will be at eleven tomorrow morning."
"Tony did all this with a phone call?" I asked. I didn't sound sarcastic so much as I sounded amazed. Tony had completely taken Luke, and my farewell to him, out of my hands. He had truly stolen Luke from me. J. Arthur Steine smiled the smile of pride.
"As I said, Mrs. Stonewall, Mr. Tatterton is an important client of ours. We are happy to do what we can to make things easier for all of you."
"That's Tony for you," Logan said. I looked at him. He didn't realize what this meant. He still didn't know that Tony was my real father, that it was jealousy and possessiveness that he acted from, not pure kindness. I thought, but this was something between Tony and me and Luke and me, something Logan never needed to know.
"But maybe Luke should be buried back in the Willies," I said. I thought about my mother's grave and that slim little tombstone that simply read,
BELOVED WIFE OF THOMAS LUKE CASTEEL .
"Oh, I don't know," Logan said. "Atlanta and the surrounding area did become Luke's home. Do you really think he would want to be taken back to the Willies?"
The way Logan pronounced "taken back" made it sound as if I would be returning him to a lower, uglier time of his life, something he had escaped by coming here to live and by becoming the owner of a circus.
"Maybe not," I said.
"And you've got to think of Stacie," Logan reminded me.
"What about Drake?" I asked, turning back to Mr. Steine.
"Well, as far as we can tell, there are no relatives on Mrs. Casteel's side who would be interested in taking care of the boy. Mr. Casteel had some brothers?"
"They weren't willing even to take care of themselves," I said. "All five of them ended up in prison."
"Well," he said, sitting back, "you're his half sister. What do you want to do about the child? I'm sure you've discussed this with Mr. Tatterton, and he's told me to follow your instructions. If you want, I'm sure you'll have no problem arranging for custody of the boy. You can certainly provide him with a wonderful home."
"Well, of course I want custody," I insisted. "However, since I will be taking custody of Drake, all matters pertaining to him should be directed to me from now on, and not Mr. Tatterton." He heard the ice in my words and straightened up in his seat.
"Fine. Same address, correct?"
"We have an address in Winnerow, too," I said. "We'll give that to you. That's where I want everything sent." He just stared for a moment and then nodded. There was no doubt in my mind that he would be on the phone with Tony the moment we left his office. I wrote out the address of the Hasbrouck House and gave it to him.
"Do you know," I asked, "if we will be able to view Luke's body?"
"From what I understand, Mrs. Stonewall, it's not a pleasant sight. It's a closed casket, better left that way."
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "Heaven?" Logan asked. He put his hand on my arm.
"It's all right," I said. I stood up. "Thank you, Mr. Steine," I said. He came around his desk.
"I'm sorry that the second time we meet it has to be under these circumstances. Good luck to you and especially to the little boy. I'll be in touch concerning all the other matters."
I thanked him again and we left. I was trembling as we walked down that plush corridor to the lobby. Drake had red streaks from the lollipop all over his mouth, his chin, and his cheeks. He looked up anxiously.
"When he eats a lollipop, he really eats it," Logan marveled.
"Is there a rest room nearby?" I asked the secretary. "Of course. Right to your left, first door."
I picked up Drake and took him into the rest room to wash off his face. He stared at me, stared deeply into my eyes and face. I hoped he saw the love I had for him.
"Are we going home now?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, Drake honey. Home and then to a new home where nothing bad will ever touch you again."
He just continued to stare. Then he lifted his right hand, his forefinger extended, and touched the single tear that had escaped my right eye and zigzagged its way to the middle of my cheek. Suddenly, although he wouldn't accept it, he seemed to understand all that had happened.
As soon as we returned to Luke's house and I opened the car door, Drake lunged out and ran to the front door. Before we had left for J. Arthur Steine's law office, Mrs. Cotton had given me the keys to the house because she would be gone by the time we returned. Drake was surprised to find the door locked when he turned the knob. He looked back at us, a frantic desperation in his little face.
"Where's Mommy?" he asked. "Where's Daddy?"
I put the key into the lock without responding. My throat had become so tight I couldn't speak anyway. When I opened the door, he rushed into the house, calling.
"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"
His little feet pattered on the floor as he rushed from room to room.
His plaintive voice made my heart ache and filled my eyes with tears.
"Maybe it's not such a good idea to stay here tonight, Heaven," Logan said, coming up beside me in the doorway and putting his arm around my shoulders. "Maybe we should just go back to Atlanta and check into a hotel. We'll look around and pack whatever you want to take from this place."
"Maybe you're right," I said, my voice trembling now. "But I'm afraid of wrenching him away from all that is familiar so quickly. But maybe we can make it into a fun, exciting adventure for him." I took a deep breath to get hold of myself. Things had to be done; there just wasn't time to be mournful, and I had little Drake to think about now. I had to be strong for him. "You see if you can find any suitcases, and I'll start going through his things, taking only what's necessary. I want to buy him an entirely new wardrobe."
Logan went looking and I followed Drake back to the bedrooms. Once again he was standing in his parents' doorway, staring at the empty bed. When I lifted him into my arms, there wasn't the slightest resistance. He laid his head against my shoulder, his thumb in his mouth, and stared with glassy eyes.
"What we're going to do, Drake," I said, "is go to your room and pick out whatever you want to take with you. Then Logan and I will pack it into a suitcase, and we'll all go to a nice hotel in Atlanta. Were you ever in a hotel?"
He shook his head softly.
"Oh, you're going to like it. And we'll go to a nice restaurant. Tomorrow, we'll be going on an airplane," I said, and that perked him up. He lifted his head from my shoulder and looked at me with new interest. "You were never on an airplane?" He shook his head more vigorously this time. "Well," I said, carrying him to his room, "we're going to take an airplane ride and then get into a big car and go to the biggest house you ever saw."
"Will Mommy be there?"
"Will Daddy?" His hopeful voice nearly broke my heart.
"No, Drake. Don't you remember what I told you about God calling them to Heaven?" He nodded. "That's where they are, but they'll be looking down at you and smiling because you'll be so well taken care of, okay?"
I put him down and began searching through the drawers in his dresser. Logan found some suitcases, but I picked out only enough clothing to fill one. I told Drake to choose his favorite toy to take. A few minutes later he stood in front of me holding a familiar toy fire engine. It was a Tatterton Toy, a replica of one of the first fire engines ever made, and it was constructed out of a heavy metal. The pump was actually functional. It had real little rubber tires and a steering wheel that actually turned the front wheels. It was the kind of quality toy just not sold in regular stores anymore. The little firemen, their faces rendered in actual detail, some wearing intense expressions, some smiling, were all intact. The toy had been well cared for these past years. It was the toy I had sent to him after I had first visited.
"Oh, that's a beautiful toy, Drake. Do you know where you got that toy?" He shook his head. "I sent it to you years ago. I'm glad you took good care of it and that's the toy you want to take with you. But do you know what?" I said, pulling him to me and brushing his hair off his forehead. "You're going to have a lot of toys like this, good toys, real toys." His eyes widened with interest. "You know why?" He shook his head. "Because Logan and I own a toy factory," I said. He looked amazed as I smiled to reassure him. "That's right, a toy factory. Okay," I said. "You carry that out to Logan and tell him you want to take it along." I looked around the room and then went back to Luke and Stacie's bedroom.
I decided I wanted the picture of them together in the front of the house. I wanted it for Drake, but I wanted it for myself almost as much.
"I'm making a cup of tea. Want any?" Logan called from the kitchen.
"No, thanks. See if Drake will eat anything, though, okay?"
"Sure. Hey, Drake," I heard Logan say. "Let's see what's for lunch, huh"
While they were out in the kitchen, I began to search through the dresser drawers, primarily to see if there was anything of value I should take for Drake. I found all of Stacie's jewelry, which was mostly costume jewelry, a watch that looked valuable, and some more pictures of her and Luke. In his dresser under his socks in the top drawer, I found one of Grandpa's whittled rabbits. It brought tears to my eyes as I stood there remembering him sitting in his rocker, working and talking to his imaginary Annie
Then I found something that amazed me--a
newspaper clipping announcing my marriage to Logan. I saw where Luke had underlined the part about my being a schoolteacher in Winnerow. I sat on the bed, holding the clipping in my lap. So he had been interested in me and proud of me all the while, I thought. But why couldn't he have come to my wedding, and why didn't he ever contact me or write to me since? Now he was gone, Stacie was gone, Mrs. Cotton was gaffe; and anyway, she wasn't the kind of person who could want to answer any questions, and the lawyer was too professional and indifferent to know anything more than legal matters.
But Tony would know, I thought. I felt sure of that now. For some reason he knew and was involved with so many things concerning Luke and his life. I couldn't wait to get back to find out why he had kept it all a secret. Did he think he was protecting me somehow? I was no longer a child; he had no right to hide anything from me.
I put the clipping with the pictures and the rabbit and some other things I wanted to take and started to look through the closets when I heard the front door bell. I paused to listen as Logan went to see who it was. A moment later I heard a familiar voice. Fanny's! But there was a second voice, also very familiar to me. She had come with Randall Wilcox. By the time I came out, she and Randall were already in the kitchen.
"Drake, honey," Fanny drawled, "I'm yer sista Fanny, the one yer Pa loved the most." Before Drake could respond, she scooped him off his chair and into her arms, covering his face with kisses and leaving lipstick streaked over his cheeks and forehead.