Having finally won over Grandmother Hudson, Rain finds a measure of peace in the privileged world into which she was thrown after the death of her sister. However, her real love is acting and eventually she is allowed to go to London to study at RADA. But the unexpected lies in wait for her.
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One of the most popular authors of all time, V.C. Andrews has been a bestselling phenomenon since the publication of Flowers in the Attic, first in the renowned Dollanganger family series which includes Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows. The family saga continues with Christopher’s Diary: Secrets of Foxworth, Christopher’s Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger, and Secret Brother. V.C. Andrews has written more than seventy novels, which have sold more than 106 million copies worldwide and been translated into twenty-five foreign languages. Join the conversation about the world of V.C. Andrews at Facebook.com/OfficialVCAndrews.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One: A Grand Adventure
Grandmother Hudson sat there with an I-told-you-so smile on her face at the breakfast table after I returned from speaking with my mother on the phone.
"Well?" she asked when I sat in silence. I knew she wanted to hear she had been right. Spitefully, I wanted to keep her waiting. Actually, my reluctance to speak was more out of my own pain. No matter how brave a face I put on, I was still disappointed.
"She's not coming," I said quickly, my eyes downcast. "She says the attorney general is having them over for dinner. I'm supposed to call her if you dare make plans to go with me to England."
"I should go just for that," Grandmother Hudson said like a petulant little girl. "Have you packed everything?"
She slid a long white envelope over the table to me.
"Extra spending money. I don't expect my sister will buy you anything you need. It's a bank draft, so soon after you arrive, ask Leonora to direct you to her bank and have it deposited. You know, of course, all the money will be changed to English pounds?"
"You'll have to learn the exchange rate so you understand what things will cost. Of course you'll speak the same language," she continued, "but there are many differences. My sister has become an Anglophile. She has an accent and all, although there were times even recently when I caught her sounding more like an American. It will take a little getting used to, but that will be part of the adventure." She paused, sat back and sighed. "I wish I was your age, going off somewhere. I feel like I've been chained to this chair and imprisoned by my own traitorous heart," she moaned.
"You've told me many times that you did a great deal of traveling and that you enjoy not having to drag off somewhere," I reminded her.
"Yes, we did travel quite often until Everett became ill." She paused, looking thoughtful for a moment and then smirked at me. "No one told you that you have to memorize every last word I utter in this house and then throw them back at me."
I laughed at her and she smiled, wagging her head. Then she grew serious again.
"I should tell you a little about my sister Leonora and her husband Richard," she said sitting forward. "You already know he is a barrister, and Leonora will be the first to tell you how important he is. They live in a fancy part of London, Holland Park. I've actually only been there twice, once for a visit and once...for a funeral."
"They lost their only child Heather. She was seven at the time."
"How horrible. How did she die?"
"She was born with a defective heart valve and corrective surgery didn't solve the problem. One morning, they found she'd died in her sleep. It was very sad."
"What did you tell your sister about me?" I asked.
"What everyone else believes. It's better for us to leave it that way. My sister isn't as liberal minded as I am. For now, she thinks you're going there to live and help with the domestic chores while you attend the drama school. Since they have a maid, a cook, a butler and a chauffeur, I'm sure there won't be all that much for you to do. She's certainly not going to give up her maid and assign her duties to you. Having a team of servants is too much of a status symbol to Leonora."
"I'm not afraid of hard work, Grandmother."
"I know." She smiled and then her face turned somber to add, "It's not the work that will be hard. However, I wouldn't have agreed to send you over if I didn't feel you would do well, Rain. Mr. MacWaine will take good care of you, and I do hope to get there myself someday soon, despite my oppressive physician."
I nodded. I really did hope she would.
Later in the day while I was writing a letter to Roy, I heard Victoria come into the house. I could always tell when it was Victoria. Her heels tapped down on the tile floor like tiny hammers when she walked. Her steps were deliberate, each one falling with a vengeance. I suppose I could say she didn't walk as much as she marched, her long legs striding forcefully as her bony shoulders turned.
I could hear her voice, barely muffled behind Grandmother Hudson's closed door.
"I just learned of the expense of this ridiculous trip to England you're sponsoring, Mother. On top of it all, you're sending her first class?"
"You always travel first class, Victoria," I heard Grandmother Hudson remind her.
"That's me. I'm your daughter. I run the affairs here. I should travel first class. That...girl is a family disgrace, someone to hide, not blatantly wave about as if we're all so proud my sister had an illegitimate child with a black man. Daddy would turn over in his grave. He didn't even travel first class!"
"Your father never took advantage of his money. I never understood the reason for making it if you don't enjoy it," Grandmother Hudson said calmly.
"Exactly my point. She didn't make it, did she?"
"When will you understand that what I do with my money is my business, Victoria? We've had this conversation ad nauseam. If you want to be thrifty, be so with your own money and leave me alone."
"I saw how much that school is costing, too," Victoria said, ignoring Grandmother Hudson's wishes. "It's ridiculous to assume she has any talent on the basis of a school play. Conor MacWaine is robbing us. He probably enjoys taking advantage of stupid Americans."
"Are you calling me stupid?"
"It's not very bright to spend forty thousand dollars on...on that girl becoming an actress."
"If you're quite finished..."
"I'm not finished. I want to know when you're calling your attorney about the will, Mother."
"I told you what I've done I will not undo. When you make up your own will, you can leave her out."
"What?" Victoria's laugh was more like a thin squeal. "You don't think I'll ever include her in my will, do you? Oh, what's the use? I'm wasting my breath."
"Finally, you say something intelligent."
"Everyone shouldn't depend on me keeping my mouth shut forever about this, Mother. One of these days..."
"You'll do nothing," Grandmother Hudson snapped. "If you so much as suggest..."
"It's not right and it's...unhealthy to be coddling her like this. Megan should be ashamed of what she has done to the rest of us."
It grew quiet and then a few moments later, Victoria emerged from the room and stomped out of the house. I hoped she had marched out of my life. She was so bitter, with her teeth clenched all the time and her eyebrows turned in like someone with a continuous headache. She seemed to take pleasure in nothing. I didn't think she even liked herself, much less me. I imagined she lived in a house without mirrors so she could avoid looking at herself.
When I saw Grandmother Hudson later in the day, I didn't mention hearing any of the conversation between her and Victoria. I was sure she wanted me to forget it as quickly as she apparently did. She enjoyed so little in the way of pleasure from her children and grandchildren. It made me reconsider what it means to be rich and to be poor.
Just as he had promised, Jake was there early the next morning. We had barely finished breakfast when he arrived. After he stepped into the dining room, I realized I rarely, if ever, had seen Jake in the house. Occasionally he would bring in groceries or whatever packages had to be carried, but usually he waited outside by the car. This morning he looked spiffy. His uniform was cleaned and pressed and the brim of his cap glittered in the light of the chandelier.
"Morning, ladies," he declared as he took a tiny bow. "I am here to fetch the princess and her things for her journey to the Old World."
"Don't make a fool of yourself this early in the morning, Jake Marvin," Grandmother Hudson warned. She glanced quickly at me and then straightened with a military posture in her chair. "Everything is waiting in her room."
"Thank you, ladies," he replied with a smile on his lips, pivoted and paraded off to get my luggage.
"I'll miss Jake," I said, looking after him with a soft smile on my face.
"Yes, well, when you get to London, you'll see the way a chauffeur is supposed to behave, I'm sure. My sister wears her servants like ribbons on her chest. They're all properly uniformed and trained. My brother-in-law runs his home as if it was a Swiss timepiece. They live their lives according to the tick of that grandfather's clock. The English and their high tea.
"When I think of what a dizzy, foolish little girl Leonora was before she went to finishing school and then to England, I marvel at what one's ego can accomplish," Grandmother Hudson said.
"Don't you like your sister?"
"Like her? Of course I don't like her. I love her as I should love a sister, but we never got along. Now that I think of it, your mother takes after Leonora more than she takes after me. Some gene must have jumped ship when I wasn't looking," she added.
"Are you sure your sister really wants me there?" I asked, still suspicious about everyone's motives.
"Leonora doesn't do anything she doesn't want to do, even though she owes me more than she can ever repay. I don't mean to make her seem unpleasant. I have no doubt you'll enjoy your stay there and she'll be able to brag about the great charitable thing she's doing, and for an American no less!"
We heard Jake carrying my bags down the stairs. Grandmother Hudson glanced at the small clock in her hutch and then looked at me.
"You should get yourself ready," she said in a softer voice.
My heart began to thump like a tire that had gone flat. I still couldn't believe I was going to be taken to the airport and flown across the ocean. Grandmother Hudson had seen to my passport. Everything had been done. There was nothing left to do but go. I stood up slowly.
"I'm not good at good-byes," she said, "but I'll walk out with you."
"I was hoping you would come along to the airport," I said.
"Oh, I hate that ride. Besides, you have to learn how to be on your own from the get-go," she added firmly.
I swallowed back my anxiety and started out. She was right behind me.
Jake stood by the Rolls holding the rear door open for me. His smile glimmered in the morning sunlight. I hesitated on the steps, took a deep breath and started toward the car. Grandmother Hudson followed. When I got to the car, I turned and we looked at each other. I had a sinking feeling in my chest. What if we never saw each other again? I had said good-bye to too many people this year, I thought.
"Are you going to take better care of yourself?" I asked her.
"Do I have a choice with all these doctors poking their noses in my business?"
"No," I replied.
"Then you've answered your own question. Stop worrying about me. I'm an old lady. Worry about yourself, about becoming someone of whom we would all be proud, including your mama," she added.
It brought a smile to my face.
"Thank you." I glanced at Jake. The way he looked at us made me wonder if he knew more than he pretended to know. Impulsively, I stepped forward and gave Grandmother Hudson a hug. She stiffened as if it was unwelcomed, but in her eyes I saw the softness and affection that had drawn me closer to her all these months.
"I was afraid there was nobody in my family with a sense of propriety and the grit to do the right things. Don't disappoint me," she said.
"I won't." I couldn't hide the tears in my eyes.
"Good-byes are simply ridiculous," she muttered, spun around and headed back into the house.
Jake winked at me.
I got into the vehicle and he closed the door. Grandmother Hudson paused at the front door and looked back. I rolled the window down and we just gazed at each other. Then I lifted my hand as Jake started the engine. I waved once. She waved back and we were on our way. She watched us leave and then turned and entered the house.
How lonely she was, I thought, despite her brave and blustery act. She should be the one who goes off to drama school, not me. She's a much better actress. Both her daughters were disappointing to her and she didn't enjoy her grandchildren. Her friends were all society ladies who used her for her charity contributions. Her house was full of echoes, empty voices, dark memories, heavy whispers and heavier music drifting out of windows and caught in the wind.
"Don't worry about our queen," Jake said. He had been watching me in the rearview mirror. "I'll see that she does the right things and gets over to see you in short order."
"You?" I started to laugh, but there was a look on Jake's face that told me not to underestimate him. "I hope so, Jake," I said.
As we rode to the airport, Jake told me stories of his own travels, filling them with little warnings about people, about scam artists.
"Be really careful about who you talk to and never show your money. Never show anyone where you're keeping it on you, Rain. Just take out a few bucks for gum and magazines and stash the rest safely, hear?"
"If you take your time and don't let anyone rush you along, you won't make mistakes. When you're in a strange place, it's always better to listen first and talk last."
"All right, Jake."
"Just go directly to your boarding gate and wait with your carry-on luggage right by you. If you leave it for a second, there'll be some creep ready to scoop it up. The airports are full of parasites who hang around just looking for someone like yourself who looks green."
"Me? Green?" I started to laugh, but Jake kept a serious expression.
"These people are experts, Rain. They know how to tell the difference between a seasoned traveler and an innocent young lady," he warned sternly.
"All right, Jake. I'll pay attention."
"You should have had a dozen daughters," I told him.
He laughed, but I really meant it. Why was it people who didn't want children, who were too selfish to really care for them, were the ones who had them, and people like Jake who were generous and loving at heart went through life alone?
Mama used to live with the deep-set belief that ultimately fairness and right would win out at the end, that there was a good and just superior power taking care of us. Maybe it wasn't evident, but it was there.
Poor Mama, I thought. I wonder if she died still believing in good angels or if she had lost her faith in the end and died with disappointment blackening her pure heart.
It wasn't until the airport came into sight that I realized not only had I not flown overseas, I had never flown anywhere! I wondered if Jake knew that.
"It looks so busy," I commented seeing all the vehicles double-parking, people rushing about, skycaps rolling luggage, shuttle buses winding around cars, policemen screaming at drivers and waving on other cars. I thought it was pure chaos. "What a mess. How does anyone know where to go?"
"This isn't your first airplane ride, is it?" Jake finally asked.
"Oh man," he said. "All right. Don't worry about it. You'll have to check your luggage inside and show them your passport with your ticket. They won't let me park here, Rain, so you'll be on your own from the time I let you out. Of course, I could park in the lot and wait with you if you like," he offered.
"I'll be all right, Jake. Mrs. Hudson told me to be on my own from the get-go."
"She would because she thinks everyone was born with the same steel in her bones," he muttered.
"Victoria was," I said, thinking that was the best part of Gra...
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