Cover image for If there be thorns
Title:
If there be thorns
Author:
Andrews, V. C. (Virginia C.)
Publication Information:
New York : Pocket Books, [1981]

©1981
Physical Description:
374 pages ; 18 cm
Summary:
The story of a boy driven to the edge of madness.
General Note:
Sequel to: Petals on the wind.
Language:
English
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.1 18.0 159174.
ISBN:
9780671463007

9780671648145

9780671729455

9780671682897

9780671456689
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Chris and Cathy made such a loving home for fourteen-year-old Jory -- so handsome, so gentle. And for Bart,who had such a dazzling imagination for a nine year old. Then the lights came on in the house next door. Soon the Old Lady in Black was there, watching them, guarded by her strange old butler. Soon she had Bart over for cookies and ice cream and asked him to call her "Grandmother". And soon Bart's transformation began... Fed by the hint of terrible things about his mother and father...leading him into shocking acts of violence. Now while this little boy trembles on the edge of madness, his anguished parents await the climax to a horror that flowered in an attic long ago, a horror whose thorns are still wet with blood, still tipped with fire.


Summary

Chris and Cathy made such a loving home for fourteen-year-old Jory -- so handsome, so gentle. And for Bart,who had such a dazzling imagination for a nine year old. Then the lights came on in the house next door. Soon the Old Lady in Black was there, watching them, guarded by her strange old butler. Soon she had Bart over for cookies and ice cream and asked him to call her "Grandmother". And soon Bart's transformation began... Fed by the hint of terrible things about his mother and father...leading him into shocking acts of violence. Now while this little boy trembles on the edge of madness, his anguished parents await the climax to a horror that flowered in an attic long ago, a horror whose thorns are still wet with blood, still tipped with fire.


Summary

Now a major Lifetime movie event--Book Three of the Dollanganger series that began with Flowers in the Attic --the novel of forbidden love that captured the world's imagination and earned V.C. Andrews a fiercely devoted fanbase.

They hide the shocking truth to protect their children. But someone who knows their dark secret is watching.

Christopher and Cathy have made a loving home for their handsome and talented teenager Jory, their imaginative nine-year-old Bart, and a sweet baby daughter. Then an elderly woman and her strange butler move in next door. The Old Woman in Black watches from her window, lures lonely Bart inside with cookies and ice cream, and asks him to call her "grandmother." Slowly Bart transforms, each visit pushing him closer to the edge of madness and violence, while his anguished parents can only watch. For Cathy and Chris, the horrors of the past have come home…and everything they love may soon be torn from them.


Author Notes

Born on June 6, 1924 in Portsmouth, Va., Virginia Cleo ("V. C.") Andrews was one of three children of William Henry and Lillian Lilnora. Andrews worked as a commercial fashion and portrait artist for a time. However, after her father's death in the late 1960s and the family's subsequent move to Manchester, Mo, she began what she described as "closet" writing. It was her publisher's decision to use the initials V. C. rather than her full name. This was done for the purpose of neutralizing her gender so as to sell to adult male audiences; the common belief was that men did not like to read books by women writers.

Andrews eventually became a full-time writer. Her first novel was a science fiction fantasy entitled The Gods of the Green Mountains, published in 1972. In 1980, she published the bestseller Flowers in the Attic, followed by Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows; all of which comprise the Dollanganger Series.

Andrews died of breast cancer on December 19, 1986, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. After her death, her family hired a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, to finish the manuscripts she had started. He would complete the next two novels, Garden of Shadows and Fallen Hearts, and they were published soon after. These two novels are considered the last to bear the "V. C. Andrews" name and to be almost completely written by Andrews herself. She left a legacy of books that have been sold worldwide and translated into 13 foreign languages.

(Bowker Author Biography) V.C. Andrews' novels have sold more than eighty-five million copies and have been translated into sixteen foreign languages. All 38 of V.C. Andrews' novels have hit the New York Times bestseller list.

(Publisher Provided)


Born on June 6, 1924 in Portsmouth, Va., Virginia Cleo ("V. C.") Andrews was one of three children of William Henry and Lillian Lilnora. Andrews worked as a commercial fashion and portrait artist for a time. However, after her father's death in the late 1960s and the family's subsequent move to Manchester, Mo, she began what she described as "closet" writing. It was her publisher's decision to use the initials V. C. rather than her full name. This was done for the purpose of neutralizing her gender so as to sell to adult male audiences; the common belief was that men did not like to read books by women writers.

Andrews eventually became a full-time writer. Her first novel was a science fiction fantasy entitled The Gods of the Green Mountains, published in 1972. In 1980, she published the bestseller Flowers in the Attic, followed by Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows; all of which comprise the Dollanganger Series.

Andrews died of breast cancer on December 19, 1986, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. After her death, her family hired a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, to finish the manuscripts she had started. He would complete the next two novels, Garden of Shadows and Fallen Hearts, and they were published soon after. These two novels are considered the last to bear the "V. C. Andrews" name and to be almost completely written by Andrews herself. She left a legacy of books that have been sold worldwide and translated into 13 foreign languages.

(Bowker Author Biography) V.C. Andrews' novels have sold more than eighty-five million copies and have been translated into sixteen foreign languages. All 38 of V.C. Andrews' novels have hit the New York Times bestseller list.

(Publisher Provided)


Born on June 6, 1924 in Portsmouth, Va., Virginia Cleo ("V. C.") Andrews was one of three children of William Henry and Lillian Lilnora. Andrews worked as a commercial fashion and portrait artist for a time. However, after her father's death in the late 1960s and the family's subsequent move to Manchester, Mo, she began what she described as "closet" writing. It was her publisher's decision to use the initials V. C. rather than her full name. This was done for the purpose of neutralizing her gender so as to sell to adult male audiences; the common belief was that men did not like to read books by women writers.

Andrews eventually became a full-time writer. Her first novel was a science fiction fantasy entitled The Gods of the Green Mountains, published in 1972. In 1980, she published the bestseller Flowers in the Attic, followed by Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows; all of which comprise the Dollanganger Series.

Andrews died of breast cancer on December 19, 1986, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. After her death, her family hired a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, to finish the manuscripts she had started. He would complete the next two novels, Garden of Shadows and Fallen Hearts, and they were published soon after. These two novels are considered the last to bear the "V. C. Andrews" name and to be almost completely written by Andrews herself. She left a legacy of books that have been sold worldwide and translated into 13 foreign languages.

(Bowker Author Biography) V.C. Andrews' novels have sold more than eighty-five million copies and have been translated into sixteen foreign languages. All 38 of V.C. Andrews' novels have hit the New York Times bestseller list.

(Publisher Provided)


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One: Jory Whenever Dad didn't drive me home from school, a yellow school bus would let me off at an isolated spot where I would recover my bike from the nearest ravine, hidden there each morning before I stepped onto the bus. To reach my home I had to travel a winding narrow road without any houses until I came to the huge deserted mansion that invariably drew my eyes, making me wonder who had lived there; why had they deserted it? When I saw that house I automatically slowed, knowing soon I'd be home. An acre from that house was our home, sitting isolated and lonely on a road that had more twists and turns than a puzzle maze that leads the mouse to the cheese. We lived in Fairfax, Marin County, about twenty miles north of San Francisco. There was a redwood forest on the other side of the mountains, and the ocean too. Ours was a cold place, sometimes dreary. The fog would roll in in great billowing waves and often shrouded the landscape all day, turning everything cold and eerie. The fog was spooky, but it was also romantic and mysterious. As much as I loved my home, I had vague, disturbing memories of a southern garden full of giant magnolia trees dripping with Spanish moss. I remembered a tall man with dark hair turning gray; a man who called me his son. I didn't remember his face nearly as well as I remembered the nice warm and safe feeling he gave me. I guess one of the saddest things about growing bigger, and older, was that no one was large enough, or strong enough, to pick you up and hold you close and make you feel that safe again. Chris was my mother's third husband. My own father died before I was born; his name was Julian Marquet, and everyone in the ballet world knew about him. Hardly anyone outside of Clairmont, South Carolina, knew about Dr. Paul Scott Sheffield, who had been my mother's second husband. In that same southern state, in the town of Greenglenna, lived my paternal grandmother, Madame Marisha. She was the one who wrote me a letter each week, and once a summer we visited her. It seemed she wanted almost as much as I did, for me to become the most famous dancer the world had ever known. And thus I would prove to her, and to everyone, that my father had not lived and died in vain. By no means was my grandmother an ordinary little old lady going on seventy-four. Once she'd been very famous, and not for one second did she let anyone forget this. It was a rule I was never to call her Grandmother when others could overhear and possibly guess her age. She'd whispered to me once that it would be all right if I called her Mother, but that didn't seem right when I already had a mother whom I loved very much. So I called her Madame Marisha, or Madame M., just as everyone else did. Our yearly visit to South Carolina was long anticipated during the winters, and quickly forgotten once we were back and safely snuggled in our little valley where our long redwood house nestled. "Safe in the valley where the wind doesn't blow," my mother said often. Too often, really -- as if the wind blowing greatly distressed her. I reached our curving drive, parked my bike and went inside the house. No sign of Bart or Mom. Heck! I raced into the kitchen where Emma was preparing dinner. She spent most of her time in the kitchen, and that accounted for her "pleasingly plump" figure. She had a long, dour face unless she was smiling; fortunately, she smiled most of the time. She could order you to do this, do that, and with her smile take the pain from the ordeal of doing for yourself, which was something my brother Bart refused to do. I suspected Emma waited on Bart more than me because he spilled when he tried to pour his own milk. He dropped when he carried a glass of water. There wasn't anything he could hold onto, and nothing he could keep from bumping into. Tables fell, lamps toppled. If an extension wire was anywhere in the house Bart would be sure to snag his sneaker toes underneath and down he'd go -- or the blender, the mixer, or the radio, would crash to the floor. "Where's Bart?" I asked Emma, who was peeling potatoes to put in with the roast beef she had in the oven. "I tell you, Jory, I'll be glad when that boy stays in school just as long as you do. I hate to see him come in the kitchen. I have to stop what I'm doing and look around and anticipate just what he might knock off or bump into. Thank God he's got that wall to sit on. What is it you boys do up on that wall, anyway?" "Nothing," I said. I didn't want to tell her how often we stole over to the deserted mansion beyond the wall and played there. The estate was off-limits to us, but parents weren't supposed to see and know everything. Next I asked "Where's Mom?" Emma said she'd come home early after cancelling her ballet class, which I already knew. "Half her class has colds," I explained. "But where is she now?" "Jory, I can't keep my eye on everybody and still know what I'm doing. A few minutes ago she said something about going up to the attic for old pictures. Why don't you join her up there and help her search?" That was Emma's nice way of saying I was in her way. I headed for the attic stairs, which were hidden in the far end of our large walk-in linen closet in the back hall. Just as I was passing through the family room I heard the front door open and close. To my surprise I saw my dad standing stock-stiff in the foyer, a strange look of reflection in his blue eyes, making me reluctant to call out and break into his thoughts. I paused, undecided. He headed for his bedroom after he put down his black doctor's bag. He had to pass the linen closet with its door slightly ajar. He stopped, listening as I was to the faint sound of ballet music drifting down the stairs. Why was my mother up there? Dancing there again? Whenever I asked why she danced in such a dusty place, she explained she was "compelled" to dance up there, despite the heat and dust. "Don't you tell your father about this," she'd warned me several times. After I questioned her, she'd stopped going up there -- and now she was doing it again. This time I was going up. This time I was going to listen to the excuses she gave him. For Dad would catch her! On tiptoe I trailed him up the steep, narrow stairs. He paused directly under the bare electric bulb that hung down from the apex of the attic. He riveted his eyes upon my mom, who kept right on dancing as if she didn't see him there. She held a dustmop in one hand and playfully swiped at this or that, miming Cinderella and certainly not Princess Aurora from The Sleeping Beauty, which was the music she had on the ancient record player. Gosh. My stepfather's heart seemed to jump right up into his eyes. He looked scared, and I sensed she was hurting him just by dancing in the attic. How odd. I didn't understand what went on between them. I was fourteen, Bart was nine, and we were both a long, long way from being adults. The love they had for each other seemed to me very different from the love I saw between the parents of the few friends I had. Their love seemed more intense, more tumultuous, more passionate. Whenever they thought no one was watching they locked eyes, and they had to reach out and touch whenever they passed one another. Now that I was an adolescent, I was beginning to take more notice of what went on between the most meaningful models I had. I wondered often about the different facets my parents had. One for the public to view; another for Bart and me, and the third, most fervent side, which they showed only to each other. (How could they know their two sons were not always discreet enough to turn away and leave like they should?) Maybe that was the way all adults were, especially parents. Dad kept staring as Mom whirled in fast pirouettes that fanned her long blonde hair out in a half circle. Her leotards were white, her pointes white too, and I was enthralled as she danced, wielding that dust-mop like a sword to stab at old furniture that Bart and I had outgrown. Scattered on the floor and shelves were broken toys, kiddy-cars and scooters, dishes she or Emma had broken that she meant to glue back together one day. With each swipe of her dustmop she brought zillions of golden dustmotes into play. Frenzied and crazy they struggled to settle down before she attacked again and once more drove them into flight. "Depart!" she cried, as a queen to her slaves. "Go and stay away! Torment me no more!" -- and round and round she spun, so fast I had to turn to follow her with my eyes or end up dizzy just from watching. She whipped her head, her leg, doing fouettes with more expertise than I'd seen on stage. Wild and possessed she spun faster! faster! keeping time to the music, using the mop as part of her action, making housework so dramatic I wanted to kick off my shoes and jump in and join her and be the partner my real father had once been. But I could only stand in the dim purplish shadows and watch something I sensed I shouldn't be watching. My dad swallowed over the lump which must have risen in his throat. Mom looked so beautiful, so young and soft. She was thirty-seven, so old in years but so young in appearance, and so easily she could be wounded by an unkind word. Just as easily as any sixteen-year-old dancer in her classes. "Cathy!" cried Dad, jerking the needle from the record so the music screeched to a halt. "STOP! What are you doing?" She heard and fluttered her slim pale arms in mock fright, flittering toward him, using the tiny, even steps called bourrés. For a second or so only, before she was again spinning in a series of pirouettes around him, encircling him-and swiping at him with her dustmop! "STOP IT!" he yelled, seizing hold of her mop and hurling it away. He grabbed her waist, pinioning her arms to her sides as a deep blush rose to stain her cheeks. He released his hold enough to allow her arms to flutter like broken bird wings so her hands could cover her throat. Above those crossed pale hands her blue eyes grew larger and very dark. Her full lips began to quiver, and slowly, slowly, with awful reluctance she was forced to look where Dad's finger pointed. I looked too and was surprised to see two twin beds set up in the portion of the attic that was soon to be under construction. Dad had promised her we'd have a recreation room up here. But twin beds in all this junk? Why? Mom spoke then, her voice husky and scared. "Chris? You're home? You don't usually come home this early..." He'd caught her and I was relieved. Now he could straighten her out, tell her not to dance up here again in the dry, dusty air that could make her faint. Even I could see she was having trouble coming up with some excuse. "Cathy, I know I brought those bedsteads up, but how did you manage to put them together?" Dad shot out. "How did you manage the mattresses?" Then he jolted for a second time, spying the picnic hamper between the beds. "Cathy!" he roared, glaring at her. "Does history have to repeat itself? Can't we learn and benefit from the mistakes of others? Do we have to do it all over again?" Again? What was he talking about? "Catherine," Dad went on in the same cold, hard voice, "don't stand there and try to look innocent, like some wicked child caught stealing. Why are those beds here, all made up with clean sheets and new blankets? Why the picnic hamper? Haven't we seen enough of that type of basket to last us our whole lives through?" And here I was thinking she'd put the beds together so she and I could have a place to fall down and rest after we danced, as we had a few times. And a picnic hamper was, after all, just another basket. I drifted closer, then hid behind a strut that rose to the rafters. Something sad and painful was between them; something young, fresh, like a raw wound that refused to heal. My mother looked ashamed and suddenly awkward. The man I called Dad stood bewildered; I could tell he wanted to take her in his arms and forgive her. "Cathy, Cathy," he pleaded with anguish, "don't be like her in every way!" Mom jerked her head high, threw back her shoulders, and, with arrogant pride, glared him down. She flipped her long hair back from her face and smiled to charm him. Was she doing all of that just to make him stop asking questions she didn't want to answer? I felt strangely cold in the musty gloom of the attic. A chilling shiver raced down my spine, making me want to run and hide. Making me ashamed, too, for spying -- that was Bart's way, not mine. How could I escape without attracting their attention? I had to stay in my hidden place. "Look at me, Cathy. You're not the sweet young ingenue anymore, and this is not a game. There is no reason for those beds to be there. And the picnic basket only compounds my fears. What the hell are you planning?" Her arms spread wide as if to hug him, but he pushed her away and spoke again: "Don't try to appeal to me when I feel sick to my stomach. I ask myself each day how I can come home and not be tired of you, and still feel as I do after so many years, and after all that has happened. Yet I go on year after year loving you, needing and trusting you. Don't take my love and make it into something ugly!" Bewilderment clouded her expression. I'm sure it clouded mine too. Didn't he truly love her? Was that what he meant? Mom was staring at the beds again, as if surprised to see them there. "Chris, help me!" she choked, stepping closer and opening her arms again. He put her off, shaking his head. She implored, "Please don't shake your head and act like you don't understand. I don't remember buying the basket, really I don't! I had a dream the other night about coming up here and putting the beds together, but when I came up today and saw them, I thought you must have put them there." "Cathy! I DID NOT PUT THE BEDS THERE!" "Move out of the shadows. I can't see you where you are." She lifted her small pale hands, seeming to wipe away invisible cobwebs. Then she was staring at her hands as if they'd betrayed her -- or was she really seeing spiderwebs tying her fingers together? Just as my dad did, I looked around again. Never had the attic been so clean before. The floor had been scrubbed, cartons of old junk were stacked neatly. She had tried to make the attic look homey by hanging pretty pictures of flowers on the walls. Dad was eyeing Mom as if she were crazy. I wondered what he was thinking, and why he couldn't tell what bothered her when he was the best doctor ever. Was he trying to decide if she was only pretending to forget? Did that dazed, troubled look in her terrified eyes tell him differently? Must have, for he said softly, kindly, "Cathy, you don't have to look scared. You're not swimming in a sea of deceit anymore, or helplessly caught in an undertow. You are not drowning. Not going under. Not having a nightmare. You don't have to clutch at straws when you have me." Then he drew her into his arms as she fell toward him, grasping as if to keep from drowning. "You're all right, darling," he whispered, stroking her back, touching her cheeks, drying the tears that began to flow. Tenderly he tilted her chin up before his lips slowly lowered to hers. The kiss lasted and lasted, making me hold my breath. "The grandmother is dead. Foxworth Hall has been burned to the ground." Foxworth Hall? What was that? "No, it hasn't, Chris. I heard her climbing the stairs a short while ago, and you know she's afraid of small, confined places -- how could she climb the stairs?" "Were you sleeping when you heard her?" I shivered. What the devil were they talking about? Which grandmother? "Yes," she murmured, her lips moving over his face. "I guess I did drift into nightmares after I finished my bath and lay out on the bedroom patio. I don't even remember climbing the stairs up here. I don't know why I come, or why I dance, unless I am losing my mind. I feel I am her sometimes, and then I hate myself!" "No, you're not her, and Momma is miles and miles away where she can never hurt us again. Virginia is three thousand miles from here, and yesterday has come and gone. Ask yourself one question whenever you are in doubt -- if we could survive the worst, doesn't it stand to reason we should be able to bear the best?" I wanted to run, wanted to stay. I felt I, too, was drowning in their sea of deceit even when I didn't understand what they were talking about. I saw two people, my parents, as strangers I didn't know -- younger, less strong, less dependable. "Kiss me," Mom murmured. "Wake me up and chase away the ghosts. Say you love me and always will, no matter what I do." Eagerly enough he did all of that. When he had her convinced, she wanted him to dance with her. She replaced the needle on the record and again the music soared. Shriveled up tight and small, I watched him try to do the difficult ballet steps that would have been so easy for me. He didn't have enough skill or grace to partner someone as skilled as my mom. It was embarrassing to even see him try. Soon enough she put on another record where he could lead. Dancing in the dark, 'Til the tune ends, we're dancing in the dark. Now Dad was confident, holding her close, his cheek pressed to hers as they went gliding around the floor. "I miss the paper flowers that used to flutter in our wake," she said softly."And down the stairs the twins were quietly watching the small black-and-white TV set in the corner." His eyes were closed, his voice soft and dreamy. "You were only fourteen, and I loved you even then, much to my shame." Shame? Why? He hadn't even known her when she was fourteen. I frowned, trying to think back to when and where they'd first met. Mom and her younger sister, Carrie, had run away from home soon after Mom's parents were killed in an auto accident. They'd gone south on a bus and a kind black woman named Henny had taken them to her employer Dr. Paul Sheffield, who had generously taken them in and given them a good home. My mom had started ballet classes again and there she had met Julian Marquet -- the man who was my father. I was born shortly after he was killed. Then Mom married Daddy Paul. And Daddy Paul was Bart's father. It had been a long, long time before she met Chris, who was Daddy Paul's younger brother. So how could he have loved her when she was fourteen? Had they told us lies? Oh gosh, oh gosh... But now that the dance was over, the argument began again: "Okay, you're feeling better, yourself again," Dad said. "I want you to solemnly promise that if anything ever happens to me, be it tomorrow, or years from now, you swear that you will never, so help you God, hide Bart and Jory in the attic so you can go unencumbered into another marriage!" Stunned, I watched my mom jerk her head upward before she gasped: "Is that what you think of me? Damn you for thinking I am so much like her! Maybe I did put the beds together. Maybe I did bring the basket up here. But never once did it cross my mind to...to...Chris, you know I wouldn't do that!" Do what, what? He made her swear. Really forced her to speak the words while her blue eyes glared hot and angry at him all the while. Sweating now, hurting too, I felt angry and terribly disillusioned in my dad, who should know better. Mom wouldn't do that. She couldn't! She loved me. She loved Bart too. Even if she did look at him sometimes with shadows in her eyes, still she would never, never hide us away in this attic. My dad left her standing in the middle of the attic as he strode forward to seize the picnic hamper. Next he unlatched, then pushed open the screen and hurled the basket out the open window. He watched it fall to the ground before once more turning to confront my mom angrily: "Perhaps we are compounding the sins of our parents by living together as we are. Perhaps in the end both Jory and Bart will be hurt -- so don't whisper to me tonight when we're in bed about adopting another child. We cannot afford to involve another child in the mess we've made! Don't you realize, Cathy, that when you put those beds up here you were unconsciously planning what to do in case our secret is exposed?" "No," she objected, spreading her hands helplessly. "I wouldn't. I couldn't do that..." "You have to mean that!" he snapped. "No matter what happens, we will not, or you will not, put your children in this attic to save yourself, or me." "I hate you for thinking I would!" "I am trying to be patient. I am trying to believe in you. I know you still have nightmares. I know you are still tormented by all that happened when we were young and innocent. But you have to grow up enough to look at yourself honestly. Haven't you learned yet that the subconscious often leads the way to reality?" He strode back to cuddle her close, to soothe and kiss her, to soften his voice as she clung to him desperately. (Why did she have to feel so desperate?) "Cathy, my heart, put away those fears instilled by the cruel grandmother. She wanted us to believe in hell and its everlasting torments of revenge. There is no hell but that which we make for ourselves. There is no heaven but that which we build between us. Don't chip away at my belief, my love, with your 'unconscious' deeds. I have no life without you." "Then don't go to see your mother this summer." He raised his head and stared over hers, pain in his eyes. I slid silently on the floor to sit and stare at them. What was going on? Why was I suddenly so afraid? Copyright © 1981 by Virginia Andrews Excerpted from If There Be Thorns by V. C. Andrews All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Chapter One: Jory Whenever Dad didn't drive me home from school, a yellow school bus would let me off at an isolated spot where I would recover my bike from the nearest ravine, hidden there each morning before I stepped onto the bus. To reach my home I had to travel a winding narrow road without any houses until I came to the huge deserted mansion that invariably drew my eyes, making me wonder who had lived there; why had they deserted it? When I saw that house I automatically slowed, knowing soon I'd be home. An acre from that house was our home, sitting isolated and lonely on a road that had more twists and turns than a puzzle maze that leads the mouse to the cheese. We lived in Fairfax, Marin County, about twenty miles north of San Francisco. There was a redwood forest on the other side of the mountains, and the ocean too. Ours was a cold place, sometimes dreary. The fog would roll in in great billowing waves and often shrouded the landscape all day, turning everything cold and eerie. The fog was spooky, but it was also romantic and mysterious. As much as I loved my home, I had vague, disturbing memories of a southern garden full of giant magnolia trees dripping with Spanish moss. I remembered a tall man with dark hair turning gray; a man who called me his son. I didn't remember his face nearly as well as I remembered the nice warm and safe feeling he gave me. I guess one of the saddest things about growing bigger, and older, was that no one was large enough, or strong enough, to pick you up and hold you close and make you feel that safe again. Chris was my mother's third husband. My own father died before I was born; his name was Julian Marquet, and everyone in the ballet world knew about him. Hardly anyone outside of Clairmont, South Carolina, knew about Dr. Paul Scott Sheffield, who had been my mother's second husband. In that same southern state, in the town of Greenglenna, lived my paternal grandmother, Madame Marisha. She was the one who wrote me a letter each week, and once a summer we visited her. It seemed she wanted almost as much as I did, for me to become the most famous dancer the world had ever known. And thus I would prove to her, and to everyone, that my father had not lived and died in vain. By no means was my grandmother an ordinary little old lady going on seventy-four. Once she'd been very famous, and not for one second did she let anyone forget this. It was a rule I was never to call her Grandmother when others could overhear and possibly guess her age. She'd whispered to me once that it would be all right if I called her Mother, but that didn't seem right when I already had a mother whom I loved very much. So I called her Madame Marisha, or Madame M., just as everyone else did. Our yearly visit to South Carolina was long anticipated during the winters, and quickly forgotten once we were back and safely snuggled in our little valley where our long redwood house nestled. "Safe in the valley where the wind doesn't blow," my mother said often. Too often, really -- as if the wind blowing greatly distressed her. I reached our curving drive, parked my bike and went inside the house. No sign of Bart or Mom. Heck! I raced into the kitchen where Emma was preparing dinner. She spent most of her time in the kitchen, and that accounted for her "pleasingly plump" figure. She had a long, dour face unless she was smiling; fortunately, she smiled most of the time. She could order you to do this, do that, and with her smile take the pain from the ordeal of doing for yourself, which was something my brother Bart refused to do. I suspected Emma waited on Bart more than me because he spilled when he tried to pour his own milk. He dropped when he carried a glass of water. There wasn't anything he could hold onto, and nothing he could keep from bumping into. Tables fell, lamps toppled. If an extension wire was anywhere in the house Bart would be sure to snag his sneaker toes underneath and down he'd go -- or the blender, the mixer, or the radio, would crash to the floor. "Where's Bart?" I asked Emma, who was peeling potatoes to put in with the roast beef she had in the oven. "I tell you, Jory, I'll be glad when that boy stays in school just as long as you do. I hate to see him come in the kitchen. I have to stop what I'm doing and look around and anticipate just what he might knock off or bump into. Thank God he's got that wall to sit on. What is it you boys do up on that wall, anyway?" "Nothing," I said. I didn't want to tell her how often we stole over to the deserted mansion beyond the wall and played there. The estate was off-limits to us, but parents weren't supposed to see and know everything. Next I asked "Where's Mom?" Emma said she'd come home early after cancelling her ballet class, which I already knew. "Half her class has colds," I explained. "But where is she now?" "Jory, I can't keep my eye on everybody and still know what I'm doing. A few minutes ago she said something about going up to the attic for old pictures. Why don't you join her up there and help her search?" That was Emma's nice way of saying I was in her way. I headed for the attic stairs, which were hidden in the far end of our large walk-in linen closet in the back hall. Just as I was passing through the family room I heard the front door open and close. To my surprise I saw my dad standing stock-stiff in the foyer, a strange look of reflection in his blue eyes, making me reluctant to call out and break into his thoughts. I paused, undecided. He headed for his bedroom after he put down his black doctor's bag. He had to pass the linen closet with its door slightly ajar. He stopped, listening as I was to the faint sound of ballet music drifting down the stairs. Why was my mother up there? Dancing there again? Whenever I asked why she danced in such a dusty place, she explained she was "compelled" to dance up there, despite the heat and dust. "Don't you tell your father about this," she'd warned me several times. After I questioned her, she'd stopped going up there -- and now she was doing it again. This time I was going up. This time I was going to listen to the excuses she gave him. For Dad would catch her! On tiptoe I trailed him up the steep, narrow stairs. He paused directly under the bare electric bulb that hung down from the apex of the attic. He riveted his eyes upon my mom, who kept right on dancing as if she didn't see him there. She held a dustmop in one hand and playfully swiped at this or that, miming Cinderella and certainly not Princess Aurora from The Sleeping Beauty, which was the music she had on the ancient record player. Gosh. My stepfather's heart seemed to jump right up into his eyes. He looked scared, and I sensed she was hurting him just by dancing in the attic. How odd. I didn't understand what went on between them. I was fourteen, Bart was nine, and we were both a long, long way from being adults. The love they had for each other seemed to me very different from the love I saw between the parents of the few friends I had. Their love seemed more intense, more tumultuous, more passionate. Whenever they thought no one was watching they locked eyes, and they had to reach out and touch whenever they passed one another. Now that I was an adolescent, I was beginning to take more notice of what went on between the most meaningful models I had. I wondered often about the different facets my parents had. One for the public to view; another for Bart and me, and the third, most fervent side, which they showed only to each other. (How could they know their two sons were not always discreet enough to turn away and leave like they should?) Maybe that was the way all adults were, especially parents. Dad kept staring as Mom whirled in fast pirouettes that fanned her long blonde hair out in a half circle. Her leotards were white, her pointes white too, and I was enthralled as she danced, wielding that dust-mop like a sword to stab at old furniture that Bart and I had outgrown. Scattered on the floor and shelves were broken toys, kiddy-cars and scooters, dishes she or Emma had broken that she meant to glue back together one day. With each swipe of her dustmop she brought zillions of golden dustmotes into play. Frenzied and crazy they struggled to settle down before she attacked again and once more drove them into flight. "Depart!" she cried, as a queen to her slaves. "Go and stay away! Torment me no more!" -- and round and round she spun, so fast I had to turn to follow her with my eyes or end up dizzy just from watching. She whipped her head, her leg, doing fouettes with more expertise than I'd seen on stage. Wild and possessed she spun faster! faster! keeping time to the music, using the mop as part of her action, making housework so dramatic I wanted to kick off my shoes and jump in and join her and be the partner my real father had once been. But I could only stand in the dim purplish shadows and watch something I sensed I shouldn't be watching. My dad swallowed over the lump which must have risen in his throat. Mom looked so beautiful, so young and soft. She was thirty-seven, so old in years but so young in appearance, and so easily she could be wounded by an unkind word. Just as easily as any sixteen-year-old dancer in her classes. "Cathy!" cried Dad, jerking the needle from the record so the music screeched to a halt. "STOP! What are you doing?" She heard and fluttered her slim pale arms in mock fright, flittering toward him, using the tiny, even steps called bourrés. For a second or so only, before she was again spinning in a series of pirouettes around him, encircling him-and swiping at him with her dustmop! "STOP IT!" he yelled, seizing hold of her mop and hurling it away. He grabbed her waist, pinioning her arms to her sides as a deep blush rose to stain her cheeks. He released his hold enough to allow her arms to flutter like broken bird wings so her hands could cover her throat. Above those crossed pale hands her blue eyes grew larger and very dark. Her full lips began to quiver, and slowly, slowly, with awful reluctance she was forced to look where Dad's finger pointed. I looked too and was surprised to see two twin beds set up in the portion of the attic that was soon to be under construction. Dad had promised her we'd have a recreation room up here. But twin beds in all this junk? Why? Mom spoke then, her voice husky and scared. "Chris? You're home? You don't usually come home this early..." He'd caught her and I was relieved. Now he could straighten her out, tell her not to dance up here again in the dry, dusty air that could make her faint. Even I could see she was having trouble coming up with some excuse. "Cathy, I know I brought those bedsteads up, but how did you manage to put them together?" Dad shot out. "How did you manage the mattresses?" Then he jolted for a second time, spying the picnic hamper between the beds. "Cathy!" he roared, glaring at her. "Does history have to repeat itself? Can't we learn and benefit from the mistakes of others? Do we have to do it all over again?" Again? What was he talking about? "Catherine," Dad went on in the same cold, hard voice, "don't stand there and try to look innocent, like some wicked child caught stealing. Why are those beds here, all made up with clean sheets and new blankets? Why the picnic hamper? Haven't we seen enough of that type of basket to last us our whole lives through?" And here I was thinking she'd put the beds together so she and I could have a place to fall down and rest after we danced, as we had a few times. And a picnic hamper was, after all, just another basket. I drifted closer, then hid behind a strut that rose to the rafters. Something sad and painful was between them; something young, fresh, like a raw wound that refused to heal. My mother looked ashamed and suddenly awkward. The man I called Dad stood bewildered; I could tell he wanted to take her in his arms and forgive her. "Cathy, Cathy," he pleaded with anguish, "don't be like her in every way!" Mom jerked her head high, threw back her shoulders, and, with arrogant pride, glared him down. She flipped her long hair back from her face and smiled to charm him. Was she doing all of that just to make him stop asking questions she didn't want to answer? I felt strangely cold in the musty gloom of the attic. A chilling shiver raced down my spine, making me want to run and hide. Making me ashamed, too, for spying -- that was Bart's way, not mine. How could I escape without attracting their attention? I had to stay in my hidden place. "Look at me, Cathy. You're not the sweet young ingenue anymore, and this is not a game. There is no reason for those beds to be there. And the picnic basket only compounds my fears. What the hell are you planning?" Her arms spread wide as if to hug him, but he pushed her away and spoke again: "Don't try to appeal to me when I feel sick to my stomach. I ask myself each day how I can come home and not be tired of you, and still feel as I do after so many years, and after all that has happened. Yet I go on year after year loving you, needing and trusting you. Don't take my love and make it into something ugly!" Bewilderment clouded her expression. I'm sure it clouded mine too. Didn't he truly love her? Was that what he meant? Mom was staring at the beds again, as if surprised to see them there. "Chris, help me!" she choked, stepping closer and opening her arms again. He put her off, shaking his head. She implored, "Please don't shake your head and act like you don't understand. I don't remember buying the basket, really I don't! I had a dream the other night about coming up here and putting the beds together, but when I came up today and saw them, I thought you must have put them there." "Cathy! I DID NOT PUT THE BEDS THERE!" "Move out of the shadows. I can't see you where you are." She lifted her small pale hands, seeming to wipe away invisible cobwebs. Then she was staring at her hands as if they'd betrayed her -- or was she really seeing spiderwebs tying her fingers together? Just as my dad did, I looked around again. Never had the attic been so clean before. The floor had been scrubbed, cartons of old junk were stacked neatly. She had tried to make the attic look homey by hanging pretty pictures of flowers on the walls. Dad was eyeing Mom as if she were crazy. I wondered what he was thinking, and why he couldn't tell what bothered her when he was the best doctor ever. Was he trying to decide if she was only pretending to forget? Did that dazed, troubled look in her terrified eyes tell him differently? Must have, for he said softly, kindly, "Cathy, you don't have to look scared. You're not swimming in a sea of deceit anymore, or helplessly caught in an undertow. You are not drowning. Not going under. Not having a nightmare. You don't have to clutch at straws when you have me." Then he drew her into his arms as she fell toward him, grasping as if to keep from drowning. "You're all right, darling," he whispered, stroking her back, touching her cheeks, drying the tears that began to flow. Tenderly he tilted her chin up before his lips slowly lowered to hers. The kiss lasted and lasted, making me hold my breath. "The grandmother is dead. Foxworth Hall has been burned to the ground." Foxworth Hall? What was that? "No, it hasn't, Chris. I heard her climbing the stairs a short while ago, and you know she's afraid of small, confined places -- how could she climb the stairs?" "Were you sleeping when you heard her?" I shivered. What the devil were they talking about? Which grandmother? "Yes," she murmured, her lips moving over his face. "I guess I did drift into nightmares after I finished my bath and lay out on the bedroom patio. I don't even remember climbing the stairs up here. I don't know why I come, or why I dance, unless I am losing my mind. I feel I am her sometimes, and then I hate myself!" "No, you're not her, and Momma is miles and miles away where she can never hurt us again. Virginia is three thousand miles from here, and yesterday has come and gone. Ask yourself one question whenever you are in doubt -- if we could survive the worst, doesn't it stand to reason we should be able to bear the best?" I wanted to run, wanted to stay. I felt I, too, was drowning in their sea of deceit even when I didn't understand what they were talking about. I saw two people, my parents, as strangers I didn't know -- younger, less strong, less dependable. "Kiss me," Mom murmured. "Wake me up and chase away the ghosts. Say you love me and always will, no matter what I do." Eagerly enough he did all of that. When he had her convinced, she wanted him to dance with her. She replaced the needle on the record and again the music soared. Shriveled up tight and small, I watched him try to do the difficult ballet steps that would have been so easy for me. He didn't have enough skill or grace to partner someone as skilled as my mom. It was embarrassing to even see him try. Soon enough she put on another record where he could lead. Dancing in the dark, 'Til the tune ends, we're dancing in the dark. Now Dad was confident, holding her close, his cheek pressed to hers as they went gliding around the floor. "I miss the paper flowers that used to flutter in our wake," she said softly."And down the stairs the twins were quietly watching the small black-and-white TV set in the corner." His eyes were closed, his voice soft and dreamy. "You were only fourteen, and I loved you even then, much to my shame." Shame? Why? He hadn't even known her when she was fourteen. I frowned, trying to think back to when and where they'd first met. Mom and her younger sister, Carrie, had run away from home soon after Mom's parents were killed in an auto accident. They'd gone south on a bus and a kind black woman named Henny had taken them to her employer Dr. Paul Sheffield, who had generously taken them in and given them a good home. My mom had started ballet classes again and there she had met Julian Marquet -- the man who was my father. I was born shortly after he was killed. Then Mom married Daddy Paul. And Daddy Paul was Bart's father. It had been a long, long time before she met Chris, who was Daddy Paul's younger brother. So how could he have loved her when she was fourteen? Had they told us lies? Oh gosh, oh gosh... But now that the dance was over, the argument began again: "Okay, you're feeling better, yourself again," Dad said. "I want you to solemnly promise that if anything ever happens to me, be it tomorrow, or years from now, you swear that you will never, so help you God, hide Bart and Jory in the attic so you can go unencumbered into another marriage!" Stunned, I watched my mom jerk her head upward before she gasped: "Is that what you think of me? Damn you for thinking I am so much like her! Maybe I did put the beds together. Maybe I did bring the basket up here. But never once did it cross my mind to...to...Chris, you know I wouldn't do that!" Do what, what? He made her swear. Really forced her to speak the words while her blue eyes glared hot and angry at him all the while. Sweating now, hurting too, I felt angry and terribly disillusioned in my dad, who should know better. Mom wouldn't do that. She couldn't! She loved me. She loved Bart too. Even if she did look at him sometimes with shadows in her eyes, still she would never, never hide us away in this attic. My dad left her standing in the middle of the attic as he strode forward to seize the picnic hamper. Next he unlatched, then pushed open the screen and hurled the basket out the open window. He watched it fall to the ground before once more turning to confront my mom angrily: "Perhaps we are compounding the sins of our parents by living together as we are. Perhaps in the end both Jory and Bart will be hurt -- so don't whisper to me tonight when we're in bed about adopting another child. We cannot afford to involve another child in the mess we've made! Don't you realize, Cathy, that when you put those beds up here you were unconsciously planning what to do in case our secret is exposed?" "No," she objected, spreading her hands helplessly. "I wouldn't. I couldn't do that..." "You have to mean that!" he snapped. "No matter what happens, we will not, or you will not, put your children in this attic to save yourself, or me." "I hate you for thinking I would!" "I am trying to be patient. I am trying to believe in you. I know you still have nightmares. I know you are still tormented by all that happened when we were young and innocent. But you have to grow up enough to look at yourself honestly. Haven't you learned yet that the subconscious often leads the way to reality?" He strode back to cuddle her close, to soothe and kiss her, to soften his voice as she clung to him desperately. (Why did she have to feel so desperate?) "Cathy, my heart, put away those fears instilled by the cruel grandmother. She wanted us to believe in hell and its everlasting torments of revenge. There is no hell but that which we make for ourselves. There is no heaven but that which we build between us. Don't chip away at my belief, my love, with your 'unconscious' deeds. I have no life without you." "Then don't go to see your mother this summer." He raised his head and stared over hers, pain in his eyes. I slid silently on the floor to sit and stare at them. What was going on? Why was I suddenly so afraid? Copyright © 1981 by Virginia Andrews Excerpted from If There Be Thorns by V. C. Andrews All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Prologue In the late evening when the shadows were long, I sat quiet and unmoving near one of Paul's marble statues. I heard the statues whispering to me of the past I could never forget; hinting slyly of the future I was trying to ignore. Flickering ghostly in the pale light of the rising moon were the will-o'-the-wisp regrets that told me daily I could and should have done differently. But I am what I have always been, a person ruled by instincts. It seems I can never change. I found a strand of silver in my hair today, reminding me that soon I might be a grandmother, and I shuddered. What kind of grandmother would I make? What kind of mother was I? In the sweetness of twilight I waited for Chris to come and join me and tell me with the true blue of his eyes that I'm not fading; I'm not just a paper flower but one that's real. He put his arm about my shoulder and I rested my bead where it seemed to fit best, both of us knowing our story is almost over and Bart and Jory will give to both of us, either the best or the worst of what is yet to be. It is their story now, Jory's and Bart's, and they will tell it as they knew it. Copyright © 1981 by Virginia Andrews Chapter One: Jory Whenever Dad didn't drive me home from school, a yellow school bus would let me off at an isolated spot where I would recover my bike from the nearest ravine, hidden there each morning before I stepped onto the bus. To reach my home I had to travel a winding narrow road without any houses until I came to the huge deserted mansion that invariably drew my eyes, making me wonder who had lived there; why had they deserted it? When I saw that house I automatically slowed, knowing soon I'd be home. An acre from that house was our home, sitting isolated and lonely on a road that had more twists and turns than a puzzle maze that leads the mouse to the cheese. We lived in Fairfax, Marin County, about twenty miles north of San Francisco. There was a redwood forest on the other side of the mountains, and the ocean too. Ours was a cold place, sometimes dreary. The fog would roll in in great billowing waves and often shrouded the landscape all day, turning everything cold and eerie. The fog was spooky, but it was also romantic and mysterious. As much as I loved my home, I had vague, disturbing memories of a southern garden full of giant magnolia trees dripping with Spanish moss. I remembered a tall man with dark hair turning gray; a man who called me his son. I didn't remember his face nearly as well as I remembered the nice warm and safe feeling he gave me. I guess one of the saddest things about growing bigger, and older, was that no one was large enough, or strong enough, to pick you up and hold you close and make you feel that safe again. Chris was my mother's third husband. My own father died before I was born; his name was Julian Marquet, and everyone in the ballet world knew about him. Hardly anyone outside of Clairmont, South Carolina, knew about Dr. Paul Scott Sheffield, who had been my mother's second husband. In that same southern state, in the town of Greenglenna, lived my paternal grandmother, Madame Marisha. She was the one who wrote me a letter each week, and once a summer we visited her. It seemed she wanted almost as much as I did, for me to become the most famous dancer the world had ever known. And thus I would prove to her, and to everyone, that my father had not lived and died in vain. By no means was my grandmother an ordinary little old lady going on seventy-four. Once she'd been very famous, and not for one second did she let anyone forget this. It was a rule I was never to call her Grandmother when others could overhear and possibly guess her age. She'd whispered to me once that it would be all right if I called her Mother, but that didn't seem right when I already had a mother whom I loved very much. So I called her Madame Marisha, or Madame M., just as everyone else did. Our yearly visit to South Carolina was long anticipated during the winters, and quickly forgotten once we were back and safely snuggled in our little valley where our long redwood house nestled. "Safe in the valley where the wind doesn't blow," my mother said often. Too often, really -- as if the wind blowing greatly distressed her. I reached our curving drive, parked my bike and went inside the house. No sign of Bart or Mom. Heck! I raced into the kitchen where Emma was preparing dinner. She spent most of her time in the kitchen, and that accounted for her "pleasingly plump" figure. She had a long, dour face unless she was smiling; fortunately, she smiled most of the time. She could order you to do this, do that, and with her smile take the pain from the ordeal of doing for yourself, which was something my brother Bart refused to do. I suspected Emma waited on Bart more than me because he spilled when he tried to pour his own milk. He dropped when he carried a glass of water. There wasn't anything he could hold onto, and nothing he could keep from bumping into. Tables fell, lamps toppled. If an extension wire was anywhere in the house Bart would be sure to snag his sneaker toes underneath and down he'd go -- or the blender, the mixer, or the radio, would crash to the floor. "Where's Bart?" I asked Emma, who was peeling potatoes to put in with the roast beef she had in the oven. "I tell you, Jory, I'll be glad when that boy stays in school just as long as you do. I hate to see him come in the kitchen. I have to stop what I'm doing and look around and anticipate just what he might knock off or bump into. Thank God he's got that wall to sit on. What is it you boys do up on that wall, anyway?" "Nothing," I said. I didn't want to tell her how often we stole over to the deserted mansion beyond the wall and played there. The estate was off-limits to us, but parents weren't supposed to see and know everything. Next I asked "Where's Mom?" Emma said she'd come home early after cancelling her ballet class, which I already knew. "Half her class has colds," I explained. "But where is she now?" "Jory, I can't keep my eye on everybody and still know what I'm doing. A few minutes ago she said something about going up to the attic for old pictures. Why don't you join her up there and help her search?" That was Emma's nice way of saying I was in her way. I headed for the attic stairs, which were hidden in the far end of our large walk-in linen closet in the back hall. Just as I was passing through the family room I heard the front door open and close. To my surprise I saw my dad standing stock-stiff in the foyer, a strange look of reflection in his blue eyes, making me reluctant to call out and break into his thoughts. I paused, undecided. He headed for his bedroom after he put down his black doctor's bag. He had to pass the linen closet with its door slightly ajar. He stopped, listening as I was to the faint sound of ballet music drifting down the stairs. Why was my mother up there? Dancing there again? Whenever I asked why she danced in such a dusty place, she explained she was "compelled" to dance up there, despite the heat and dust. "Don't you tell your father about this," she'd warned me several times. After I questioned her, she'd stopped going up there -- and now she was doing it again. This time I was going up. This time I was going to listen to the excuses she gave him. For Dad would catch her! On tiptoe I trailed him up the steep, narrow stairs. He paused directly under the bare electric bulb that hung down from the apex of the attic. He riveted his eyes upon my mom, who kept right on dancing as if she didn't see him there. She held a dustmop in one hand and playfully swiped at this or that, miming Cinderella and certainly not Princess Aurora from The Sleeping Beauty, which was the music she had on the ancient record player. Gosh. My stepfather's heart seemed to jump right up into his eyes. He looked scared, and I sensed she was hurting him just by dancing in the attic. How odd. I didn't understand what went on between them. I was fourteen, Bart was nine, and we were both a long, long way from being adults. The love they had for each other seemed to me very different from the love I saw between the parents of the few friends I had. Their love seemed more intense, more tumultuous, more passionate. Whenever they thought no one was watching they locked eyes, and they had to reach out and touch whenever they passed one another. Now that I was an adolescent, I was beginning to take more notice of what went on between the most meaningful models I had. I wondered often about the different facets my parents had. One for the public to view; another for Bart and me, and the third, most fervent side, which they showed only to each other. (How could they know their two sons were not always discreet enough to turn away and leave like they should?) Maybe that was the way all adults were, especially parents. Dad kept staring as Mom whirled in fast pirouettes that fanned her long blonde hair out in a half circle. Her leotards were white, her pointes white too, and I was enthralled as she danced, wielding that dust-mop like a sword to stab at old furniture that Bart and I had outgrown. Scattered on the floor and shelves were broken toys, kiddy-cars and scooters, dishes she or Emma had broken that she meant to glue back together one day. With each swipe of her dustmop she brought zillions of golden dustmotes into play. Frenzied and crazy they struggled to settle down before she attacked again and once more drove them into flight. "Depart!" she cried, as a queen to her slaves. "Go and stay away! Torment me no more!" -- and round and round she spun, so fast I had to turn to follow her with my eyes or end up dizzy just from watching. She whipped her head, her leg, doing fouettes with more expertise than I'd seen on stage. Wild and possessed she spun faster! faster! keeping time to the music, using the mop as part of her action, making housework so dramatic I wanted to kick off my shoes and jump in and join her and be the partner my real father had once been. But I could only stand in the dim purplish shadows and watch something I sensed I shouldn't be watching. My dad swallowed over the lump which must have risen in his throat. Mom looked so beautiful, so young and soft. She was thirty-seven, so old in years but so young in appearance, and so easily she could be wounded by an unkind word. Just as easily as any sixteen-year-old dancer in her classes. "Cathy!" cried Dad, jerking the needle from the record so the music screeched to a halt. "STOP! What are you doing?" She heard and fluttered her slim pale arms in mock fright, flittering toward him, using the tiny, even steps called bourrés. For a second or so only, before she was again spinning in a series of pirouettes around him, encircling him-and swiping at him with her dustmop! "STOP IT!" he yelled, seizing hold of her mop and hurling it away. He grabbed her waist, pinioning her arms to her sides as a deep blush rose to stain her cheeks. He released his hold enough to allow her arms to flutter like broken bird wings so her hands could cover her throat. Above those crossed pale hands her blue eyes grew larger and very dark. Her full lips began to quiver, and slowly, slowly, with awful reluctance she was forced to look where Dad's finger pointed. I looked too and was surprised to see two twin beds set up in the portion of the attic that was soon to be under construction. Dad had promised her we'd have a recreation room up here. But twin beds in all this junk? Why? Mom spoke then, her voice husky and scared. "Chris? You're home? You don't usually come home this early..." He'd caught her and I was relieved. Now he could straighten her out, tell her not to dance up here again in the dry, dusty air that could make her faint. Even I could see she was having trouble coming up with some excuse. "Cathy, I know I brought those bedsteads up, but how did you manage to put them together?" Dad shot out. "How did you manage the mattresses?" Then he jolted for a second time, spying the picnic hamper between the beds. "Cathy!" he roared, glaring at her. "Does history have to repeat itself? Can't we learn and benefit from the mistakes of others? Do we have to do it all over again?" Again? What was he talking about? "Catherine," Dad went on in the same cold, hard voice, "don't stand there and try to look innocent, like some wicked child caught stealing. Why are those beds here, all made up with clean sheets and new blankets? Why the picnic hamper? Haven't we seen enough of that type of basket to last us our whole lives through?" And here I was thinking she'd put the beds together so she and I could have a place to fall down and rest after we danced, as we had a few times. And a picnic hamper was, after all, just another basket. I drifted closer, then hid behind a strut that rose to the rafters. Something sad and painful was between them; something young, fresh, like a raw wound that refused to heal. My mother looked ashamed and suddenly awkward. The man I called Dad stood bewildered; I could tell he wanted to take her in his arms and forgive her. "Cathy, Cathy," he pleaded with anguish, "don't be like her in every way!" Mom jerked her head high, threw back her shoulders, and, with arrogant pride, glared him down. She flipped her long hair back from her face and smiled to charm him. Was she doing all of that just to make him stop asking questions she didn't want to answer? I felt strangely cold in the musty gloom of the attic. A chilling shiver raced down my spine, making me want to run and hide. Making me ashamed, too, for spying -- that was Bart's way, not mine. How could I escape without attracting their attention? I had to stay in my hidden place. "Look at me, Cathy. You're not the sweet young ingenue anymore, and this is not a game. There is no reason for those beds to be there. And the picnic basket only compounds my fears. What the hell are you planning?" Her arms spread wide as if to hug him, but he pushed her away and spoke again: "Don't try to appeal to me when I feel sick to my stomach. I ask myself each day how I can come home and not be tired of you, and still feel as I do after so many years, and after all that has happened. Yet I go on year after year loving you, needing and trusting you. Don't take my love and make it into something ugly!" Bewilderment clouded her expression. I'm sure it clouded mine too. Didn't he truly love her? Was that what he meant? Mom was staring at the beds again, as if surprised to see them there. "Chris, help me!" she choked, stepping closer and opening her arms again. He put her off, shaking his head. She implored, "Please don't shake your head and act like you don't understand. I don't remember buying the basket, really I don't! I had a dream the other night about coming up here and putting the beds together, but when I came up today and saw them, I thought you must have put them there." "Cathy! I DID NOT PUT THE BEDS THERE!" "Move out of the shadows. I can't see you where you are." She lifted her small pale hands, seeming to wipe away invisible cobwebs. Then she was staring at her hands as if they'd betrayed her -- or was she really seeing spiderwebs tying her fingers together? Just as my dad did, I looked around again. Never had the attic been so clean before. The floor had been scrubbed, cartons of old junk were stacked neatly. She had tried to make the attic look homey by hanging pretty pictures of flowers on the walls. Dad was eyeing Mom as if she were crazy. I wondered what he was thinking, and why he couldn't tell what bothered her when he was the best doctor ever. Was he trying to decide if she was only pretending to forget? Did that dazed, troubled look in her terrified eyes tell him differently? Must have, for he said softly, kindly, "Cathy, you don't have to look scared. You're not swimming in a sea of deceit anymore, or helplessly caught in an undertow. You are not drowning. Not going under. Not having a nightmare. You don't have to clutch at straws when you have me." Then he drew her into his arms as she fell toward him, grasping as if to keep from drowning. "You're all right, darling," he whispered, stroking her back, touching her cheeks, drying the tears that began to flow. Tenderly he tilted her chin up before his lips slowly lowered to hers. The kiss lasted and lasted, making me hold my breath. "The grandmother is dead. Foxworth Hall has been burned to the ground." Foxworth Hall? What was that? "No, it hasn't, Chris. I heard her climbing the stairs a short while ago, and you know she's afraid of small, confined places -- how could she climb the stairs?" "Were you sleeping when you heard her?" I shivered. What the devil were they talking about? Which grandmother? "Yes," she murmured, her lips moving over his face. "I guess I did drift into nightmares after I finished my bath and lay out on the bedroom patio. I don't even remember climbing the stairs up here. I don't know why I come, or why I dance, unless I am losing my mind. I feel I am her sometimes, and then I hate myself!" "No, you're not her, and Momma is miles and miles away where she can never hurt us again. Virginia is three thousand miles from here, and yesterday has come and gone. Ask yourself one question whenever you are in doubt -- if we could survive the worst, doesn't it stand to reason we should be able to bear the best?" I wanted to run, wanted to stay. I felt I, too, was drowning in their sea of deceit even when I didn't understand what they were talking about. I saw two people, my parents, as strangers I didn't know -- younger, less strong, less dependable. "Kiss me," Mom murmured. "Wake me up and chase away the ghosts. Say you love me and always will, no matter what I do." Eagerly enough he did all of that. When he had her convinced, she wanted him to dance with her. She replaced the needle on the record and again the music soared. Shriveled up tight and small, I watched him try to do the difficult ballet steps that would have been so easy for me. He didn't have enough skill or grace to partner someone as skilled as my mom. It was embarrassing to even see him try. Soon enough she put on another record where he could lead. Dancing in the dark, 'Til the tune ends, we're dancing in the dark. Now Dad was confident, holding her close, his cheek pressed to hers as they went gliding around the floor. "I miss the paper flowers that used to flutter in our wake," she said softly. "And down the stairs the twins were quietly watching the small black-and-white TV set in the corner." His eyes were closed, his voice soft and dreamy. "You were only fourteen, and I loved you even then, much to my shame." Shame? Why? He hadn't even known her when she was fourteen. I frowned, trying to think back to when and where they'd first met. Mom and her younger sister, Carrie, had run away from home soon after Mom's parents were killed in an auto accident. They'd gone south on a bus and a kind black woman named Henny had taken them to her employer Dr. Paul Sheffield, who had generously taken them in and given them a good home. My mom had started ballet classes again and there she had met Julian Marquet -- the man who was my father. I was born shortly after he was killed. Then Mom married Daddy Paul. And Daddy Paul was Bart's father. It had been a long, long time before she met Chris, who was Daddy Paul's younger brother. So how could he have loved her when she was fourteen? Had they told us lies? Oh gosh, oh gosh... But now that the dance was over, the argument began again: "Okay, you're feeling better, yourself again," Dad said. "I want you to solemnly promise that if anything ever happens to me, be it tomorrow, or years from now, you swear that you will never, so help you God, hide Bart and Jory in the attic so you can go unencumbered into another marriage!" Stunned, I watched my mom jerk her head upward before she gasped: "Is that what you think of me? Damn you for thinking I am so much like her! Maybe I did put the beds together. Maybe I did bring the basket up here. But never once did it cross my mind to...to...Chris, you know I wouldn't do that!" Do what, what? He made her swear. Really forced her to speak the words while her blue eyes glared hot and angry at him all the while. Sweating now, hurting too, I felt angry and terribly disillusioned in my dad, who should know better. Mom wouldn't do that. She couldn't! She loved me. She loved Bart too. Even if she did look at him sometimes with shadows in her eyes, still she would never, never hide us away in this attic. My dad left her standing in the middle of the attic as he strode forward to seize the picnic hamper. Next he unlatched, then pushed open the screen and hurled the basket out the open window. He watched it fall to the ground before once more turning to confront my mom angrily: "Perhaps we are compounding the sins of our parents by living together as we are. Perhaps in the end both Jory and Bart will be hurt -- so don't whisper to me tonight when we're in bed about adopting another child. We cannot afford to involve another child in the mess we've made! Don't you realize, Cathy, that when you put those beds up here you were unconsciously planning what to do in case our secret is exposed?" "No," she objected, spreading her hands helplessly. "I wouldn't. I couldn't do that..." "You have to mean that!" he snapped. "No matter what happens, we will not, or you will not, put your children in this attic to save yourself, or me." "I hate you for thinking I would!" "I am trying to be patient. I am trying to believe in you. I know you still have nightmares. I know you are still tormented by all that happened when we were young and innocent. But you have to grow up enough to look at yourself honestly. Haven't you learned yet that the subconscious often leads the way to reality?" He strode back to cuddle her close, to soothe and kiss her, to soften his voice as she clung to him desperately. (Why did she have to feel so desperate?) "Cathy, my heart, put away those fears instilled by the cruel grandmother. She wanted us to believe in hell and its everlasting torments of revenge. There is no hell but that which we make for ourselves. There is no heaven but that which we build between us. Don't chip away at my belief, my love, with your 'unconscious' deeds. I have no life without you." "Then don't go to see your mother this summer." He raised his head and stared over hers, pain in his eyes. I slid silently on the floor to sit and stare at them. What was going on? Why was I suddenly so afraid? Copyright © 1981 by Virginia Andrews Chapter 2: Bart "And on the seventh day God rested," read Jory as I finished patting the earth nice and firm over the pansy seeds that were meant to honor my aunt Carrie's and uncle Cory's birthday on May fifth. Little aunt and uncle I'd never seen. Both been dead a long, long time. Dead before I was born. People died easy in our family. (Wonder why they liked pansies so much? Silly little nothing flowers with pudding faces.) Wish Momma didn't think honoring dead people's birthdays was so damn important. "You know what else?" asked Jory, like nine was a dumb age, and he was a big adult. "In the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, they lived in the Garden of Eden without wearing any clothes at all. Then one day an evil talking snake told them it was sinful to walk around naked, so Adam put on a fig leaf." Gosh...naked people who didn't know naked was wicked. "What did Eve put on?" I asked as I looked around, hoping to see a fig leaf. He went on reading in a singsong way that took me to olden times when God was looking out for everyone -- even naked people who could talk to snakes. Jory said he could put Biblical stories into "mind" music, and that made me mad and scared -- him dancing to "mind" music I couldn't hear! Made me feel stupid, invisible, dumber than crazy. "Jory, where d'ya find fig leaves?" "Why?" "If I had one, I'd take off all my clothes and wear it." Jory laughed. "Good golly, Bart, there's only one way for a boy to wear a fig leaf -- and you'd be embarrassed." "I would not!" "You would too!" "I'm never embarrassed!" "Then how do you know what it's like? Besides, have you ever seen Dad wear a fig leaf?" "No..." But I figured since I'd never seen a fig leaf, how could I know whether or not I had? I said this to Jory. "Boy, you'd know!" he answered, with another laugh to mock me. Then he was grinning, jumping up to leap up all the Marble steps in one long bound that I couldn't help but admire. Me, I had to trail along behind. Wish I was graceful like him. Wish I could dance and charm everybody into likin me. Jory was bigger, older, smarter -- but wait a minute. Maybe I could make myself smarter if not bigger. My head was big. Had to have a big brain inside. I'd grow taller by and by, catch up with Jory, bypass him. Why, I'd grow taller than Daddy; taller than the giant in "Jack and the Beanstalk" -- and that giant was taller than anybody! Nine years old...wish I was fourteen. There was Jory sitting on the top step, waitin for me to catch up. Insultin. Hateful. God sure hadn't been kind to me when he passed out coordination. Remembered five years ago when I was four and Emma gave each of us a baby chick, all soft yellow fuzz, making chirps and cheeps. Never felt nothin so good before in my whole livelong life. There I was lovin it, holdin it, sniffin its baby smell before I put it kindly on the ground -- and darn if that chick didn't fall over dead. "You squeezed," said Daddy, who knew about stuff like that. "I warned you not to hold it too tight. Baby chicks are fragile and you have to handle them with care. Their hearts are very near the surface -- so next time, gentle hands, okay?" Thought God might strike me dead then and there, even though most of it was His fault anyway. Wasn't my fault he didn't make my nerve endings go all the way to the surface of my skin. Wasn't my fault I couldn't feel pain like everybody else -- was His! Then I'd shivered, fearful He might do somethin. But when He was forgivin I went an hour later to the little pen where Jory's live chick had been walkin around lonesome. I picked him up and told him he had a friend. Boy, we had a good time with me chasin him and him chasin me, when all of a sudden, after only two hours of havin fun -- that chick keeled over dead too! Hated stiff cold things. Why'd it give up so easily? "What's the matter with you?" I shouted. "I didn't squeeze! My hands didn't hold you! I was careful -- so stop playin dead and get up or my daddy will think I killed you on purpose!" Once I'd seen my daddy haul a man out of the water and save his life by pumpin out the water and blowing in air, so I did the same things to the chick. It stayed dead. Next I massaged its heart, then I prayed, and still it stayed dead. I was no good. No good for nothin. Couldn't stay clean. Emma said clean clothes on me were a waste of her good time. Couldn't hold onto a dish when I dried it. New toys fell apart soon after they came my way. New shoes looked old in ten minutes after knowin my feet. Weren't my fault if they scuffed up easily. People just didn't know how to make good, unscuffable shoes. Never saw a day when my knees weren't scabby or covered with bandaids. When I played ball I tripped and fell between bases. My hands didn't know how to catch right, so my fingers bent backwards and twice I'd had fingers broken. Three times I'd fallen from trees. Once I broke my right arm, once my left arm. Third time I only got bruises. Jory never broke anything. Was no wonder my mom kept tellin me and him not to go next door to that big ole house with so many staircases, 'cause sooner or later she knew I'd fall down steps and break all my bones! "What a pity you don't have much coordination," mumbled Jory. Then he stood up and yelled, "Bart, stop running like a girl! Lean forward, use your legs like pumps. Put your heart in it and let go! Forget about falling. You won't if you don't expect to. And if you catch me I'll give you my superspeed ball!" Boy, wasn't nothin I wanted in this whole wide world more than I wanted that ball of his. Jory could throw it with a curve. When he pitched at tin cans setting on the wall, he'd hit 'em, one after another. I never hit anything I aimed for -- but I did hit a lot I didn't even see, like windows and people. "Don't want yer ole speedball?" I gasped, though I did want it. It was a better ball than mine; they were always givin him better than me. He looked at me with sympathy, making me want to cry. Hated pity! "You can have it even if you don't win the race, and you can give me yours. I'm not trying to hurt your feelings. I just want you to stop being afraid of doing everything wrong, and then maybe you won't -- sometimes getting mad enough helps you win." He smiled, and I guess if my momma had been around she would have thought his flash of white teeth was charmin. My face was born for scowlin. "Don't want yer ole ball," I repeated, refusing to be won over to someone handsome, graceful and fourteenth in a long fine of Russian ballet dancers who'd married ballerinas. What was so great about dancers? Nothin', nothin'! God had smiled on Jory's legs and made them pretty, while mine looked like knobby sticks that wanted to bleed. "You hate me, don't you? You want me to die, don't YOU?" He gave me a funny, long look. "Naw, I don't hate you and I don't want you to die. I kinda like you for my brother even if you are clumsy and a squealer." "Thanks heaps." "Yeah...think nothing of it. Let's go look at the house." Every day after school we went to the high white wall and sat up there, and some days we went inside the house. Soon school would be over and we'd have nothin to do all day but play. It was nice to know the house was there, waitin for us. Spooky ole house with lots of rooms, jagged halls, trunks fun of hidden treasures, high ceilings, odd-shaped rooms with small rooms joinin, sometimes a row of little rooms hidin one behind the other. Spiders lived there and spun webs on the fancy chandeliers. Mice ran everywhere, havin hundreds of babies to put droppins all over. Garden insects moved inside and climbed the walls and crept on the wood floors. Birds came down the chimneys and fluttered about madly as they tried to find a way out. Sometimes they banged against walls, windows, and we'd come in and find 'em dead and pitiful. Sometimes Jory and I would arrive in the nick of time and throw open windows and doors so they could escape. Jory figured someone must have abandoned the ole house quickly. Half the furniture was there, settin dusty and moldin, givin off smelly odors that made Jory wrinkle his nose. I sniffed it and tried to know what it was sayin. I could stand real still and almost hear the ghosts talkin, and if we sat still on a dusty ole velvet couch and didn't talk, up from the cellar would come faint rustlins like the ghosts wanted to whisper secrets in our ears. "Don't you ever tell anybody ghosts talk to you, or they'll think you're crazy," Jory had warned. We already had one crazy person in our family -- our daddy's mother, who was in a nuthouse way back in Virginia. Once a summer we went East to visit her and ole graves. Momma wouldn't go in the long brick building where people in pretty clothes strolled over green lawns, and nobody would have guessed they were crazy if attendants in white suits hadn't been there too. Every summer Momma would ask, when Daddy came back from seein his mother, "Well, is she better?" And Daddy would look sad before he'd say, "No, not really much progress...but there would be if you would forgive her." That always shook Momma up. She acted like she wanted that grandmother to stay locked up forever. "You listen to me, Christopher Doll" my momma had snapped, "it's the other way around, remember! She's the one who should go down on her knees and plead -- she should ask for our forgiveness!" Last summer we hadn't gone East to visit anybody. I hated ole graves, ole Madame Marisha with her black rusty clothes, her big bun of white and black hair -- and I didn't care even now if two ole ladies back East never had a visit from us again. And as for them down in those graves -- let 'em stay there without flowers! Too many dead people in our lives, messin it up. "C'mon, Bart!" called Jory. He had already scaled the tree on our side of the wall, and he was sittin up there waitin for me. I managed the climb, then settled down next to Jory, who insisted I sit against the tree trunk -- just in case. "You know what?" said Jory wistfully. "Someday I'm gonna buy Mom a house just as big. Every once in a while I overhear her and Dad talking about big houses, so I guess she wants one larger than the one we've already got." "Yeah, they sure do talk a lot about big houses." "I like our house better," said Jory, while I set about drummin my heels against the wall, which had bricks under the crumblin white stucco. Momma had mentioned once she thought the bricks showin through added "interesting texture contrast." I did what I could to make the wall more interestin. But it was sure true that in a big house like that one over there you could get lost in the dark and ramble on and on for days on end. None of the bathrooms worked. No water. Crazy sinks with no water and stupid fruit cellar with no fruit, and wine cellar with no wine. "Gee, wouldn't it be nice if a big family moved in over there?" Jory said, wishin like me we could have lots and lots of nearby friends to play with. We didn't have anybody but each other once we came home from school. "And if they had two boys and two girls it would be just perfect," went on Jory dreamily. "Sure would be neat to have all girls living next door." Neat, sure. I'll bet he was wishin Melodie Richarme would move in over there. Then he could see her every day and hug and kiss her like I'd seen him do a few times. Girls. Made me sick. "Hate girls! -- want all boys!" I grouched. Jory laughed, saying I was only nine and soon enough I'd like girls more than boys. "What makes Melodie's arms rich?" "Do you realize how dumb that makes you sound? That's her last name and doesn't mean anything." Just when I wanted to say he was the dumb one because all names had to mean somethin, or else why have them? -- two trucks pulled up in the long driveway of the mansion. Wow! Nobody ever went over there but US. We sat on and watched the workmen runnin around, doin this and that. Some went up on the orange roof Momma said was called "pantile" and began to check it over. Others went inside the house with ladders and cans that looked like they held paint. Some had huge rolls of wallpaper under their arms. Others checked over the windows, and some looked at the shrubs and trees. "Hey!" said Jory, very upset lookin. "Somebody must have bought that place. I'll bet they'll move in after it's fixed up." Didn't want no neighbors who would disturb Momma and Daddy's privacy. All the time they were talkin about how nice it was not to have close neighbors to "disturb their privacy." We sat on until it grew dark, then went into our house and didn't say a word to our parents -- for when you said somethin out loud, that meant it was really true. Thoughts didn't count. Next day it was Sunday and we went on a picnic at Stinson Beach. Then came Monday afternoon and Jory and I were back up on the wall, starin over at all that activity. Was foggy and cold, but we could see just well enough to be bothered. We couldn't go over there and have a place of our own anymore. Where would we play now? "Hey, you kids!" called a burly man on another day when we were only watchin. "Whadaya doin' up there?" "Nothing!" yelled Jory. (I never talked to strangers. Jory was always teasin me for not talkin to anybody much but myself.) "Don't you kids tell me you're not doin' nothin' when I see you over here! This house is private property -- so stay off these grounds or you'll hear from me!" He was real mean, and fierce lookin; his workclothes were old and dirty. When he came closer I saw the biggest feet in my life, and the dirtiest boots. I was glad the wall was ten feet high and we had the advantage over him. "Sure we play over there a little," said Jory, who wasn't scared of anybody, "but we don't hurt anything. We leave it like we found it." "Well, from now on stay off altogether!" he snapped, glarin first at Jory, then at me. "Some rich dame has bought this place and she won't want kids hangin around. And don't you think you can get by with anything because she's an old lady livin alone. She's bringin servants with her." Servants. Wow! "Rich people can have everything their own way," muttered the giant on the ground as he moved off. "Do this, do that, and have it done yesterday. Money -- God, what I wouldn't do to have my share." We had only Emma, so we weren't really rich. Jory said Emma was like a maiden aunt, not really a relative or a servant. To me she was just somebody I'd known all my life, somebody who didn't like me nearly as much as she liked Jory. I didn't like her either, so I didn't care. Weeks passed. School ended. Still those workmen were over there. By this time Momma and Daddy had noticed, and they weren't too happy about neighbors they didn't intend to visit and make welcome. Both me and Jory wondered why they didn't want friends comin to our house. "It's love," whispered Jory. "They're still like honeymooners. Remember, Chris is our mom's third husband, and the bloom hasn't worn off." What bloom? Didn't see any flowers. Jory had passed on to the junior year of high school with flyin colors. I sneaked into the fifth grade by the skin of my teeth. Hated school. Hated that ole mansion that looked like new now. Gone were all the spooky, eerie times when we'd had lots of fun over there. "We'll just bide our time until we can sneak over there and see that old lady," Jory said, whispering so all those gardeners trimmin the shrubs and snippin at the trees wouldn't hear. She owned acres of land, twenty or more. That made for lots of cleanup jobs, since the workmen on the roof were lettin everythin fall. Her yard was littered with papers, spills of nails, bits of lumber left over from repair jobs, plus trash that blew through the iron fence in front of the driveway that was near what Jory called "lover's lane." That hateful construction boss was pickin up beer cans as he headed our way, scowlin just to see us when we weren't doin a thing bad. "How many times do I have to tell you boys?" he bellowed. "Now don't force me to say it again!" He put his huge fists on his hips and glared up at us. "I've warned you before to stay off that wall -- now Scat!" Jory was unwilling to move from the wall when it wasn't any harm to just sit and look. "Are the two of you deaf?" he yelled again. In a flash Jory's face turned from handsome to mean. "No, we are not deaf! We live here. This wall is on the property line, and just as much ours as it is hers. Our dad says so. So we will sit up here and watch just as long as we like. And don't you dare yell and tell us to 'scat' again!" "Sassy kid, aren't yah?" and off he wandered without even lookin at me, who was just as sassy -- inside. Copyright © 1981 by Virginia Andrews Excerpted from If There Be Thorns by V. C. Andrews All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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