Sensible Olivia Logan was always the responsible sister. Beautiful and flighty Belinda was lavished with attention from their parents, friends and boys at school. And as she matures into a young woman her beauty becomes even more haunting. Then came the fateful night, when Olivia was awakened by an unearthy wail from Belinda's bedroom. It was the tragic night that their father would forbid them to speak of ever again. The night would send generations of Logans down an unavoidable path of lies, deceit and heartbreak.
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One of the most popular authors of all time, V. C. Andrews (1923-1986) is the author of the bestselling Dollanganger family saga, which began with Flowers in the Attic and includes Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows.
Laurel Lefkow s many theater credits include "Look Back in Anger", "Little Foxes", "The Heiress", "A Midsummer Night s Dream", and "The Boy Next Door". On television she can be seen in "A Class Act", "Small Metal Jacket", and "The Perfect Family". An accomplished radio actress, Laurel is also a frequent narrator of audio books.
Chapter 1: Cries in the Night
At first I thought I was dreaming, for when I woke and opened my eyes, I heard nothing but the low whistle of the wind blowing up from the ocean. The stream of moonlight filtering through my sheer white curtain bathed the walls in a pale yellow glow. My window shutters banged against the clapboard and then, I heard the sound again, this time with my eyes wide. I listened, my heart tapping like a steadily growing drumbeat in anticipation of some important announcement or event. After a moment I heard it once more.
It sounded like a cat in heat, but we had no cats. Daddy hated pets, finding them more of an obligation than a pleasure. The only animals he said had any purpose was a watchdog or a seeing-eye dog, and he had no need for either. Our house was far enough away from the downtown Provincetown area and surrounded by walls ten feet high with an entrance gate Daddy had Jerome, our grounds keeper, lock every night. Daddy also kept his shotgun under the bed, "just in case." It was, he said, a lot cheaper than feeding some mongrel, and that, he concluded, "was the bottom line."
This time the sound was even louder. I sat up so quickly someone would think I had springs under me, but I realized the shrill cries were not in my imagination or from nightmares. The noise was coming through the wall between my room and Belinda's. It wasn't a howl, exactly, nor was it a screech. There was something familiar about the sound and yet something starkly unusual. It was certainly not a noise Belinda would make herself, but there was no doubt it was emanating from her bedroom.
I stepped off my bed, scooped up my robe from the chair beside my bed, and shoved my arms into the sleeves as I left my room. Daddy and Mother had already come out of their bedroom. Mother was still in her nightgown and Daddy was in his pajamas. The dreadful sound continued.
"What in all hell..." Daddy started for Belinda's closed door. I followed, with Mother a distant third, but when Daddy opened the door and realized the horrendous scream came from Belinda, Mother charged forward.
"Winston, what's wrong?" she cried.
Daddy flicked on the light, illuminating the most amazing and alarming sight before us.
Belinda was sprawled on the floor, her nightgown bloody and crumbled up to her breasts. There, lying between her legs was a newly-born infant, the umbilical cord and afterbirth still attached.
Belinda's eyes were wild with terror. The baby's eyes were closed, and it jerked its tiny arm and then stopped moving.
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph," Daddy exclaimed under his breath, his feet hammered to the floor by astonishment.
Mother's eyes rolled back in her head and she folded at Daddy's feet as if her spinal cord had turned to jelly.
"Take her to bed, Daddy," I said. "I'll see to Belinda."
He gazed back at the sight once more to confirm it was indeed still there and not in his imagination. Then he squatted, slipped his arms under Mother and lifted her like she was a baby herself, carrying her back to their bedroom.
I entered Belinda's room, quickly closing the door behind me. Our servants downstairs were surely awake by now as well. Belinda whimpered. Her eyes rolled as if the room were spinning. She had her arms raised, but she was afraid to touch the infant or herself.
"I couldn't stop it. It just happened, Olivia," she moaned. Her whole body shook. I stepped up to her and gazed down at the bloody sight.
"You were pregnant? All this time you've been pregnant?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes," she said, gasping.
Now everything made sense. A number of times during the past few months Daddy and I had made comments about Belinda's gaining weight. She was ravenous at every meal lately and didn't seem at all concerned about her widening hips and bloated face. I really didn't care. It was more Daddy who complained. His precious little Barbie doll was disappearing right before his eyes and in its place grew this self-indulgent creature I called my sister.
Oh, once or twice, I said things like, "Aren't you afraid you'll lose your entourage of boyfriends?"
She didn't seem concerned even though it was true that fewer and fewer young men came around to visit her or ask her to go sailing, take walks on the beach or spend an evening in town. Now that I stared down at her squirming on the bedroom floor, her child quiet and unmoving between her thighs, I realized why she had so adamantly kept me from seeing her naked a number of times. A quick search of her closet would result in the discovery of a pair of girdles in a box. What I also understood now was her sudden and uncharacteristic interest in and desire for those baggy dresses she used to refer to as "Granny clothes" whenever I wore them.
I knelt beside her and put my hand on the infant's tiny chest. It felt cold already and it did not vibrate with any heartbeat, nor did it rise and fall with any breath.
"I don't think it's alive," I said.
She whimpered again.
"Please, Olivia, get it away. I...can't touch it," she said.
I didn't move quickly. I stared at the wrinkled little creature for a while, studying its facial features, its blue lips and its fingers so tiny even one of my own small fingers was the width of nearly all five of one of its hands.
"It was a boy," I said, more as a thought voiced aloud than anything she wanted to know.
Belinda closed her eyes and began to hyperventilate. I watched her suffering for a moment, still dumbfounded at how well she had kept this secret. What would our daddy think of his precious little princess now? I wondered.
"Do you have any idea, even an inkling of an idea, how terrible this is, Belinda? Didn't you consider this inevitable outcome and think about what it was going to do to our parents? Why didn't you come forward earlier so Daddy could have done something about this instead of deceiving everyone and hiding your condition?"
"I was afraid," she murmured and began to sniffle and sob. "I thought everyone would just hate me."
"Oh, and now we just love you?" I countered. She closed her eyes and held her breath a moment.
"Please, please, Olivia, help me," she begged.
"How many months were you pregnant?" I asked.
"I don't know exactly, but at least six or seven," she said quickly.
"That's why this child is so tiny. It's a premature birth. I knew you were having sex with some of your boyfriends, Belinda. I just knew it. I told you this would happen. I warned you. Now look, just look at what you've reaped with your wild, selfish behavior."
She sobbed an apology.
"Right," I muttered. "We'll all just blink and it will be gone."
"Who is the father?" I demanded. She didn't reply. "You've got to say, Olivia. Whoever he is he bears at least half the responsibility. Daddy's going to want to know. Who is it? Arnold Miller?"
He was a boy she had been with a great deal more than the others.
"No," she said quickly. "Arnold and I never went far enough."
"Then who was it, Belinda? I'm not going to play a guessing game with you. Tell me! If you don't tell me, I'll leave you here wallowing in this...disaster."
"I don't know," she wailed. "Please, Olivia."
"How can you not know unless you...my God, Belinda, how many boys have you slept with? And so closely together that you can't pinpoint who would be the father of this...this child?"
At the moment I didn't know what bothered me more: that she had so many lovers or that I had had none.
She just shook her head.
"I don't know, Olivia. I don't know. I don't want to blame anyone. Please."
"You'll have to tell Daddy something, Belinda," I warned. "He won't settle for an 'I don't know.'"
She opened her eyes and gazed up at me, and for a moment, I thought she was going to reveal the father of her baby. Was it someone I knew well, too?
"I can't blame someone if I don't know for sure," she finally declared. "Can I?"
"They're all to blame. You might as well name all of them and let each one sweat," I said, thinking that would be a just and poetic revenge.
"I can't," she wailed. She shook her head so hard, I thought she would tear it off her neck.
"All right, suit yourself. You'll see what's going to happen now. You'll see," I predicted.
I rose and went to her bathroom to get some towels. Then I returned and rolled the dead infant onto one. I placed it and the afterbirth and umbilical cord on the bed just as Daddy opened the door and stepped back into the room. He looked around, his eyes avoiding Belinda for a moment. He gazed at the child before turning to me with a questioning look.
"He's dead, I think, Daddy," I said.
"Most likely," he said and approached the bed. He reached down slowly with his big hand and put the tip of his forefinger on the infant's neck. "Yes," he said. "A blessing."
Belinda began to wail.
"Stop it!" I snapped, hovering over her. "Do you want Carmelita to hear and come running up here?"
Belinda muffled her sobs and turned over on her side.
"Can you get her cleaned up and back to bed?" Daddy asked me.
"Is she...bleeding or anything? Are we going to need a doctor?"
"I don't think so."
"Make sure. I'll be right back," he said.
"I have her calmed down a bit, but she's still trembling badly," he said sorrowfully.
"After I get Belinda into the bathtub, I'll look in on her," I promised.
"Good." He hurried from the room.
"Get up, Belinda. I can't lift you and carry you into the bathroom. I'm going to run some water in your tub. At least cover yourself for now. You look absolutely disgusting moaning and wallowing on the floor," I said.
She whimpered her reply and started to brace herself on her elbows. There was blood on her legs, but she didn't look to be bleeding anymore. She took deep breaths again and sighed so deeply I thought she had passed out.
"Are you in any pain?"
"I don't need a doctor," she said. "I'll be all right."
"Maybe you don't need a doctor, but whether or not you'll be all right remains to be seen," I said.
I glanced again at the dead infant. I couldn't make out the color of its few strands of hair because its head was covered with sticky blood. There was no way to study it and determine who the father could be, I thought, and went to the bathroom to run Belinda's tub.
After I helped her get in, I heard Daddy return to the room. I went to the bathroom door and saw he had brought a small cardboard shoe box along. He glanced at me as he lifted the dead infant, wrapped it more tightly in the blanket, and then carefully, as if it were still alive, put it in the box.
"We've got to clean this up ourselves," he said, nodding at the floor. "I don't want the servants knowing anything, Olivia."
"I'll take care of it, Daddy."
"How is she?"
"She's all right. She'll live," I said sharply. He nodded again and lifted the box in his arms.
"What are you going to do, Daddy?"
"I'll have to bury the poor thing," he said.
For a moment I just stood there staring at him clutching the makeshift coffin in his arms.
"Don't we have to report it to someone?" I asked.
"If we do that, Olivia, this terrible event will be headline news in every home and tavern in Provincetown. It would definitely do Belinda no good, and it would be very damaging to the family. Apparently, she did a good job of keeping all this a secret from us, but question her vigorously and make sure no one else knows about it," he added.
"Don't forget. As soon as you finish with her, please look in on your mother."
"I will, Daddy."
He stared for a moment and then looked at the box in his arms.
"It has to be this way," he concluded, more for himself than for me, I thought. He turned and hurried out of the bedroom with the box cradled securely in his arms.
I returned to the tub and saw to it that Belinda washed herself. I helped her dry her body and then I brought her a new, clean nightgown. After I got her back into bed, I went downstairs to the utility room. I found I was tiptoing and slinking along in my own home, moving like a burglar to keep from waking Carmelita, our maid and cook, or Jerome. I got a pail, a mop, rags and some detergent. Then I returned to Belinda's room and filled the pail with hot water.
Fortunately, she had lowered herself from the bed onto a throw rug and the rug had absorbed most of the blood. I rolled up the rug and then washed away any traces of the horrendous event. Belinda lay there with her eyes closed, moaning softly, occasionally sobbing. As I worked, I rattled off a relentless series of complaints and chastisements.
"You've really done it this time. Mother is beside herself. Daddy looked pale enough to be a corpse, too. We'll all have nightmares forever. What did you think, it would all just go away without anyone knowing?"
I paused and looked down at her wilting little face.
"Did you think being pregnant was like having a cold or the measles? Maybe you damaged yourself forever, Belinda. Maybe now you'll never be able to have a child decently. No one will want to marry you. What were you thinking?" I ranted. How could this be happening? I wondered. How could anyone, even Belinda, do such a thing to herself and her family?
"Please, Olivia. Please, stop. Please," she begged putting her hands over her ears.
"I'll stop. I should stop and let you clean up this mess," I muttered. "Does anyone else know about your being pregnant? You didn't tell any of your bubbleheaded friends at school, did you?" I followed. Most of Belinda's friends were silly, spoiled girls I called the Bubble Gum Club because I thought their brains were full of bubbles.
"No, no one knows anything," she swore. "I always got dressed and undressed in private when I took physical education class, and I never showered at school."
"You better be telling the truth," I warned her.
I went to the bathroom and cleaned up the tub so Carmelita wouldn't find any traces of this tragedy.
Daddy returned, his dark brown hair wild, his eyes full of torment and shock. He saw the rug and the wet rags and picked everything up.
"I'm going to bury all this too," he mumbled. "It must be as if none of this ever happened."
He looked about madly.
"You've got everything, Daddy."
"Good," he said and charged out. I had never seen our father look more crazed. It actually frightened me more than it frightened Belinda, who was lying there with her eyes closed most of the time. I imagined she was afraid to look him in the face now.
After Daddy left again, I went to see how Mother was doing. She was sitting at the edge of her bed, working up the strength to stand and see about Belinda. She still looked quite pale, her breathing labored.
"Mother, you should lie down again," I said rushing to her side.
"How is Belinda?"
"She'll be all right. I got her cleaned up and back to bed."
"Daddy's taken care of all the rest."
"The baby died right away, Mother," I said. "It was premature. Daddy took the baby and buried it someplace. He said he doesn't want anyone to know."
"Buried?" she gasped and shook her head. "God forgive us," she whispered.
I thought she would fall forward to the floor, so I seized her by the elbow and tried to get her to lie back, but she shook her head.
"I have to look in on her, Olivia."
She wobbled when she stood. I put my arm around her waist and helped her to the door. She grew stronger as she walked and returned to Belinda's bedroom.
Belinda started to sob as Mother approached her.
"I'm sorry, Mommy," she whimpered. "I'm sorry."
Mother sat on the bed and held her in her arms, and as Belinda cried, Mother rocked her.
"Poor child," she said.
"Poor child? She ought...
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