Fourth novel in the thrilling Hudson series, following the turbulent life of Rain. Rains daughter Summer is about to turn sixteen. All her life, she has lived on the Virginia family estate where the Hudson family's secrets have lurked among the shadows for generations. Like all girls her age, Summer dreams of growing up and making her own life, of falling in love and finding her soulmate. But a devastating tragedy will force Summer to stare into the cold eyes of adulthood long before she is ready, and flee the only place she has ever called home. For Summer is about to discover secrets of her own. Some she will keep. Some she will share. And some will haunt her for the rest of her life.
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With the publication of her first novel, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, Virginia Andrews became a bestselling phenomenon. Since the death of Virginia Andrews, at her bequest and with the approval of her family, ideas and proposals she left for novels have been developed anonymously by an established novelist. Virginia Andrews' novels have sold over 80 million copies worldwide and been translated into 22 languages.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One: Happy Birthday, Summer
It seemed as if a rainbow had burst over our house and grounds. I knew that Daddy had been secretly planning some surprises, but I was not prepared for all that he had done. The moment the morning sun nudged my eyes open, I heard the gentle tinkling notes of "Happy Birthday to You." With sleepy eyes I gazed at a precious and dazzling merry-go-round spinning a menagerie of animals around a ballerina who danced at its center.
"I hope you always wake with a smile like that, Summer," Daddy said.
I looked up and saw Daddy standing there. His face was glowing almost as much as mine. I had his turquoise eyes, but Mommy's ebony hair and a complexion a few shades lighter so anyone could see that I had also clearly inherited Daddy's freckles, especially at the crests of my cheeks.
"Happy birthday, sweetheart," he said and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.
Mommy watched from her wheelchair on the opposite side of my bed. For a moment she looked so distant, almost as though she was on the outside of a great glass bubble set around me. I knew she was having one of those Evil Eye thoughts, those fears that whenever she was too happy, something terrible would happen. She seemed to realize it herself and brightened quickly into a smile. I rose to hug her.
"What were the two of you doing?" I cried as the merry-go-round continued. "Sitting here waiting for me to wake up? How long have you been here?"
"We were watching you all night," Daddy joked. "We took turns, didn't we, Rain?"
"Practically," Mommy said. "Your crazy father has been acting as if this was more his birthday than yours." She jokingly put on a look of disapproval. "More and more these days, he acts like a sixteen-year-old."
"You never lose the child within you entirely," Daddy assured us. "I want to blow out candles on my ninetieth birthday and unwrap presents. Don't forget to arrange for that, you two," he ordered, sounding like it was just around the corner.
Mommy shook her head and smiled at me as if the two of us were allies forced to tolerate another foolish man. Daddy could never be a foolish man to me, never, ever, I thought.
"It's a beautiful merry-go-round," I said as it stopped.
"That," my mother said, "is not even the tip of the iceberg. Look out the window," she urged me.
My room overlooked the lake. Grandmother Megan told me it had once been her room, and Mommy said she used it when she had first arrived. Now, she and Daddy used what was Grandmother Hudson's room, only they had changed the decor and replaced all the furniture. The bathroom had been updated to provide for Mommy's special needs.
In the beginning Mommy didn't want to make dramatic changes in the house. She said she felt an obligation to Grandmother Hudson's memory to keep it close to how it had been, but in time rugs wore, walls had to be repainted, fixtures replaced, appliances changed, and Daddy brought in a decorator to give it all what they called a more eclectic style.
The hallways still had the spirit of the nineteenth century with some Federal antiques, like a White and Dogswell clock that hung across from a circular mirror of that period. Mommy was very proud of all the antiques left by my Grandmother Hudson. Mommy had loved her very much, so much that I was jealous and wished I had been able to know her, too.
Grandfather Hudson's office was the same as it had always been, but much of the rest of the house -- the living room, the kitchen, my bedroom and Daddy and Mommy's -- had been modernized with lighter colors and softer fabrics. Recently my parents had redone the maid's quarters, covering the floor with a thick white shag rug and replacing what had been a hospital bed with a queen-size cherry wood one; this pleased Mrs. Geary very much.
After Glenda had married Uncle Roy and she and Harley had moved out of the main house, Mommy and Daddy hired Mrs. Geary through an agency. She was in her early forties at the time and had come from Ireland to live and work in America when she was in her late twenties. Now streaked with gray, her hair had once been almost as red as Daddy's. She had been working for her distant American relatives who she said treated her as badly as Cinderella's stepmother treated Cinderella.
"There was no respect. Everything I did was simply expected, too. Not an ounce of gratitude! I was glad to get out of there," she told me.
Daddy said he liked her because she had an inner strength and confidence he thought would make her an asset in a household where the mistress was disabled. Mommy and she took to each other immediately, and by now it was impossible for me to think of her as anything less than a member of our family. She was often a second mother to me, ordering me to dress more warmly or eat better. She even had something to say about where I would go and with whom I would go. A mother hen didn't hover over an egg as much as Mrs. Geary hovered over me as I grew up under both her and Mommy's wings.
"I spent almost as much time and energy as your mother keeping you growing healthy and strong, and I'm not about to see my investment go sour," she told me if I complained. She loved to find words and expressions to avoid expressing her true feelings for me. It was as if she believed that the moment you told someone you loved her, you lost her. I would learn that her own early childhood and teenage years were filled with enough loss to make her think this way.
Nevertheless, I teased her whenever I could, especially about her endless ongoing romance with Clarence Lynch, the librarian at the municipal library. Like her, he was in his late fifties. They had been seeing each other socially for as long as I could remember.
Once, when I asked her why she had never married him, her reply was, "Why would I want to ruin a perfectly good relationship?"
It confused me, of course, and I ran to Mommy with questions. She simply smiled and said, "Summer, not everyone fits so neatly into the little boxes society has created. As long as they're happy, why ask them to change?"
In Mommy's mind, and I now think mine too, happiness and health were two sides of the same coin, the most important and valuable coin. People who were happy had more hope of being healthy; of course, people who were healthy were happy. Smiles and laughter were the best medications for the illnesses of the spirit.
No one illustrated this better than Daddy, I thought. He loved Mommy and me so much and was so happy that anyone could see him and feel him radiating with warmth and well-being. He was still a highly respected physical therapist who had assumed his uncle's therapy business and then had created a chain of unique health clubs that combined regular exercise with therapeutic programs. They were known as rejuvenation clubs; their theme was that through exercise and meditation aging could be slowed down and even in some cases reversed. National health and exercise magazines had even featured Daddy in articles. I was very proud of him and so was Mommy.
Yes, happiness and health were truly the twin sisters my family had adopted to live beside me. They nurtured wisdom and wove a protective wall around our house. Nothing terrible from the outside could hurt us, I thought. But what I also knew was trouble loomed nearby in Uncle Roy's sad and dour world, and it also came riding into our fortress in the form of a Trojan horse named Alison, my Aunt Alison.
"People who don't like themselves can't like anyone else," Mommy once told me. "Your aunt Alison hates herself. She just doesn't know it or want to know it. I feel more pity for her than I do anger, and you will, too," Mommy predicted.
Aunt Alison, as well as Grandmother Megan and my stepgrandfather Grant Randolph would all be here today for my birthday party.
Now in the morning light, I stood by the window and parted the curtains as Mommy had directed. For a moment I thought I was still dreaming. My mouth hung open.
All of the trees below had been strewn with bright colored ribbons. Many branches had balloons tied to them and they were all dancing to the rhythms of the breezes. Tables covered with green and red and yellow paper tablecloths were all set up on the lawn, and a dance floor was being laid out as I watched. There was even a small stage for musicians.
Daddy had kept my party arrangements a big secret and had obviously paid people extra to come quietly on the grounds very early in the morning, before the sun was even up, to begin constructing it all.
"Your father was out there in the dark with a flashlight hanging balloons," Mommy told me.
"I thought it would be more fun to wake up to it than see it happening days before," he commented from behind.
I still had trouble finding my voice. Finally, I shook my head and shrieked with joy.
I rushed into his arms to kiss him and then hugged and kissed Mommy who couldn't stop laughing at my excitement.
"Is your father crazy or not?"
"NO!" I cried. "He's wonderful!"
"You see," Daddy said, "at least I have one woman in this house who sees sense in the things I do."
"You poor outnumbered man," Mommy teased.
"Well, you should have heard Mrs. Geary mumbling how it was all too much of this or too much of that and how even happy shocks can be damaging to a young, impressionable spirit."
"Don't make fun of her," Mommy softly chided.
"Make fun of her? It's everyone else who's making fun of me. All right. I've got some small matters to look after, such as the parking arrangements. I don't want any of Summer's teenager friends driving their cars over the flowers," Daddy said and left.
Mommy shook her head and smiled after him. Would I ever find anyone I loved as much and who loved me as much as my parents loved each other? They were living proof that there really was such a thing as soul mates.
"You'd better get yourself dressed and come down to breakfast," she said turning back to me and starting away.
"I'm too excited to eat, Mommy."
"If you don't, Mrs. Geary will single-handedly rip every balloon off every tree and pack up the tables and chairs," she warned. We laughed.
I hugged her again.
"Happy, happy birthday, Summer. All your birthdays have been special to me because it was truly a miracle for us to have you," she said softly, "but I know how special this one is for you."
"Thank you, Mommy."
I knew how true that was, how difficult my birth was for her and how they had decided not to try to have any more children and test their good luck.
"I'll see you downstairs," she said and continued to wheel herself out to the chair elevator that would take her down the stairs and to the wheelchair below.
Never in my life had my mother ever stood on her own beside me. Never had we walked side by side or ran together. Never had we gone strolling through department stores or down streets to window-shop.
When I was old enough to push her, I thought it was fun. After all, I was a little girl moving my mother along. But somewhere along the way, I turned to watch other mothers and daughters walking through malls, and I looked at Mommy's face and saw the longing and the sadness and no longer did I feel excited or amused by it.
Was that what growing older meant? I wondered. Losing all your illusions?
If that was so, why were any of us so happy and so willing to blow out the candles?
Mrs. Geary milled about the breakfast table longer than she had to, studying me eat as if my consumption of food was part of some important experiment.
"It's a big day," she preached when I complained about being given too much. "Big days require bigger fortification. I know what's going to happen out there after the festivities start. You won't eat a thing and you'll be going, going, going -- draining and draining that wisp of a willow of a body of yours. That's when sickness comes knocking on the door anticipating a big fat welcome."
Mommy looked down at her dish of grapefruit slices, hiding her smile.
"I'm not a wisp of a willow," I protested.
After all, I was five feet four and nearly one hundred and fifteen pounds. Mommy told me I had a figure like hers once was, although I didn't need to be told. I saw the pictures of her when she was in acting school in London. In all of the photographs, she looked like someone just caught the moment after a wonderful new experience or sight. Her face glowed. There was no better compliment for me than to be compared to Mommy.
Mrs. Geary always came in the backdoor with her flatteries, especially about my looks and figure.
"Nature plays a trick on young girls," she informed me. "Before you have a woman's mind, you get a woman's body. It's like putting a diamond necklace around the neck of a four-year-old girl. She has no idea why everyone, especially grownups, are staring at her and she doesn't know yet how to wear it or carry it."
"Young people are different today," I insisted when she made these speeches at me. "We're far more sophisticated than young people were when you were my age."
"Oh please," she cried, slapping her hand over her forehead. It was her favorite dramatic gesture. I actually heard the sharp crack of her palm on her skin. "More sophisticated? You have more teenage pregnancies, more children in trouble with drugs, more car accidents, more runaways.
"When I was your age, the only pregnant girl in the village was a girl raped by her idiot stepbrother."
"Mommy!" I'd moan in desperation.
"She's only trying to give you good advice, honey," Mommy said, but she gave Mrs. Geary a look that said, "Enough."
"I'll eat at my party," I promised. "Daddy's having them make all my favorite things."
That was a mistake. I knew it the moment the words slipped past my lips. Daddy had hired caterers even though Mrs. Geary said she would prepare all the food. He insisted it was an unfair burden to place on her, but she countered with a surprising admission that preparing the food for my birthday was a special pleasure for her. In the end she was given the responsibility for the birthday cake.
She grunted at my statement and shook her head. Occasionally, Mrs. Geary would go to a stylist to have her hair cut and shaped, but most of the time, she wore it pinned back in a severe bun. For my party, however, she had surprised us all by having it cut and trimmed in a French style. She had pretty green eyes and a small nose and mouth but a chin that disappeared too quickly. At five feet seven, she was somewhat portly with heavy arms and a robust bosom. She did have a very soft complexion with not even a sign of an impending wrinkle, something she ascribed to keeping makeup and rough soap off her skin.
"Manufactured food," she muttered with disdain. "It'll have a mass-produced taste."
"Now, Mrs. Geary," Mommy gently chastised. "You know it's not manufactured food."
Mrs. Geary bit down on her lower lip, shook her head and went into the kitchen. Mommy smiled at me and said Mrs. Geary would be fine.
I gobbled down the remainder of my breakfast, too excited to sit a moment longer.
Daddy was outside working with the grounds people to be sure everything was set up the way he wanted it to be. A little more than two dozen of my girlfriends from the Dogwood School for Girls and almost twenty boys from our sister school, Sweet William, would be attending as well as some of my teachers and, of course, my family and Mrs. Geary's Mr. Lynch.
I didn't think of myself as going steady with anyone, but I was seeing Chase Ta...
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Descripción Chivers, 2001. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería P110754016943