Butterfly, p.10
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       Butterfly, p.10

         Part #1 of Orphans series by V. C. Andrews
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  The presents were piled up like Christmas gifts under a tree. Mildred had helium balloons on the ceiling with different-colored ribbons dangling. There were birthday decorations on the windows and walls, and the food was so impressive, I heard Mrs. Wilhams wonder aloud what Sanford and Celine would do for a wedding.

  A wedding? I thought. Would I become a famous dancer and marry another famous dancer? Would I marry a rich businessman like Sanford? Would I go to college and meet some handsome young man? It was as if my life here was the key to unlocking a treasure chest of fantasies, fantasies that could actually come true!

  My new grandparents were the last to arrive. I heard Celine ask about Daniel and saw her mother grimace.

  0 "Who knows where he is?" she groaned. ' That's why we're late. He was supposed to drive us."

  "Happy birthday," my grandfather said when he saw me standing nearby. He was the one who handed me my present.

  "Yes, happy birthday," my grandmother followed. She didn't give me much more than a passing glance before getting into a conversation with the other guests. My grandfather began a discussion with Sanford and I returned to my friends. We danced and drank punch and ate. Josh was at my side most of the time, although suddenly Billy Ross was asking me to dance as well.

  Afterward, I cut the huge birthday cake. I had to blow out the candles and everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me, everyone but my grandmother, who stood staring with a dark, unhappy expression on her face. While we ate cake I opened presents and everyone oohed and ahed over the pretty clothes, the hair dryer, the jewelry. My grandparents had bought me a pair of leather gloves that turned out to be at least two sizes too big.

  I hated to see the party come to an end. Josh stayed behind and reminded me I had promised to show him our lake. I told Sanford where we were going and we left the house. It was a bit cool and overcast. I wore my new leather jacket that Sanford and Celine had bought me.

  "This is a great house," Josh said. "It's twice as big as mine. And all this land, I could have my own baseball field," he continued. "You're lucky."

  "I am lucky," I said. We stood at the crest of the hill, looking down at the lake.

  "I'm glad you transferred into our school," Josh said. "Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have ever met you."

  "No, you wouldn't have," I said, thinking about where I had come from. I was almost tempted to tell him the truth. He was so sweet, but I was afraid that the moment he heard the word orphan, he would back away and pretend he never knew me.

  "Can we go in the rowboat?" he asked when he spotted the boat docked onshore.

  "My father doesn't want me to go without an adult, I don't swim," I confessed.

  "Really? How come?"

  I shrugged.

  "I just never learned."

  His eyes grew narrow and his eyebrows nearly touched. Then he smiled.

  "Maybe be the one to teach you this summer.:'

  "I'd like that," I said.

  "I never gave you a birthday kiss," he said.

  I didn't move and he leaned toward me slowly. I closed my eyes and there, on the crest of the bill behind my new home, I was kissed for the first time on the lips. It didn't last long. There was even a little friction shock, but I thought it was the most wonderful kiss in the world, better than any I had seen on television or in the movies. The little warm feeling that followed lingered for a moment around my heart and then trickled into my pool of memories where it would stay forever and ever.

  "Janet!" We turned to see Sanford beckoning. "Josh's father is here to pick him up."

  "Okay," I called back and we started for the house. Josh took my, hand. Neither of us spoke. We let go before we rounded the house to greet his father, who wished me a happy birthday.

  "See you in school," Josh said. I wished I could kiss him good-bye, but he looked embarrassed and hurried to get into his father's car. Moments later, he was waving good-bye and my party was over. I felt like I did when we were given some wonderful special dessert at the orphanage. When it was coming to an end, I wanted to linger and linger over the last tidbits of pleasure.

  I went back inside. Mildred was busy cleaning up, but she didn't look upset about the extra work and when I offered to help her, she laughed and said not to worry. I was about to go upstairs to change out of my party dress, when I heard voices in the dining room. My grandparents were I here, having coffee and talking with Celine.

  I was nervous about interrupting them, she hesitated near the door. Just before I decide I would enter and try to get to know them a little better, I heard my grandmother say, "She'll always be a stranger to me, Celine. She's not of blood and blood is the most important thing for family."

  "That's ridiculous. Mother, and anywayI'm not concerned about family. I don't just want a daughter. Anyone can have a daughter. I want adancer."

  My heart fell at her words. What did she mean?

  "More reason to question what you are doing Celine. I saw the girt at the recital. What in heaven's name caused you to believe she was anything special?"

  "She does," Celine insisted.

  "Well, if she does, she keeps it well hidden." grandmother said. "Where is she? You would think she would show some respect. She'd take time to come here."

  I decided that was my cue and I entered.

  "Hello," I said, my voice quavering, my stomach in knots over Celine's words. "Thank you for the present. Grandmother and Grandfather."

  My grandfather nodded and smiled. My grandmother tightened the corner of her mouth. "We have to go," she said. "Your brother is a constant worry for me," she added, looking at Celine. "I'm afraid he's going to end up with one of those floozies and disgrace all of us one of these days," she added as she rose.

  "It's your own fault," Celine said. "You spoiled him."

  "I didn't spoil him. Your father spoiled him," she accused.

  "He'll be all right" Sanford said. "He's just sowing his wild oats."

  "Really?" my grandmother said. "Well, when do you think he'll run out of oats?"

  Sanford laughed and then escorted them out.

  My grandfather patted me on the head as they left and mumbled something about "Many happy returns."

  I remained with Celine, who sat there brooding in her chair.

  "Thank you for the party," I told her. She looked up as if just realizing I was still in the room. "Where were you?"

  "I went for a walk with Josh to show him the lake." I said.

  She rolled her chair around the table and came toward me.

  "You've got to be careful when it comes to boys," she began.

  I smiled. I was just thirteen.

  "I know what you're thinking. You think you have plenty of time to worry about romance, but believe me, you don't. Not you. You're special. I don't want you to turn your brain into Jell-0 with silly lovesickness. It's distracting and this morning you saw what distraction can do."

  She drew closer until we were gazing into each other's eyes.

  "Sex draws on your creative energies, Janet. It can drain you," she explained. "When I was dancing and approaching the peak of my development, I refrained from all sexual activities with Sanford. For a long time, we even slept in separate rooms," she added.

  I didn't say anything and I didn't move. I don't think I even blinked.

  "I had many boys chasing after me, especially when I was your age' she continued, "but I didn't have time to waste on schoolgirl crushes. You won't either so don't encourage any." She started to wheel herself away and stopped. "Tomorrow," she said, "we'll try to make up for today."

  She left me standing there looking after her. "Make up for today?" She made it sound as if my birthday and my birthday party were a total inconvenience.

  I had a grandmother who didn't really want me and a mother who only wanted me so that I could be the dancer she couldn't be.

  No, Josh, I thought, maybe I'm not as lucky as you imagine.

  Outside, the sky turned darker. The rain began and the drops that hit the
windows looked like heaven's tears.

  Eleven

  Once Celine and I began working weekends on ray dancing, it became a regular part of my schedule. A number of times, Sanford tried to plan family outings: day trips, shopping, movie matinees, or just a ride and dinner in a nice restaurant. Celine not only rejected his suggestions; she became annoyed and angry at him just for making them.

  After my birthday party, I was invited to other girls' houses, and one night I was invited to a pajama party at Betty Lowe's. Celine always had a reason why I shouldn't go, the primary one being I would stay up too late, be too tired, and start my dance practice too late.

  "Parents don't watch their children very well anymore," she told me. "I can't be sure you'll be well chaperoned, and I know what happens at these all girl parties. Boys always sneak over and then . . . things happen. Not that I ever went to any sleepovers, I knew enough not to be distracted," she added.

  I tried to explain my situation to my new friends, but after I had turned down half a dozen invitations, the invitations stopped coining and once again, I felt a gap growing between me and the other students at the school, Even Josh began to lose interest in me because we never had a chance to be alone. Once, and only because Sanford had talked Celine into permitting me to go with him to the factory after my dance lesson on a Saturday, I was able to meet Josh at the custard stand. Sanford knew that was why I wanted to go along with him and he permitted me to stay there for nearly two hours before coming around to bring me home.

  "It's probably best for you not to mention this to Celine," Sanford told me. "Not that we want to keep any secrets from her. I just don't want her worrying."

  I nodded, but he didn't have to ask. I wouldn't have dreamed of mentioning it.

  I did my best to explain my situation to Josh., but he couldn't understand how my dancing prevented me from doing nearly everything any of the other kids could do. The crisis came when he formally asked me to the movies. His father was going to drive us. Sanford said yes but Celine said no and they got into the worst argument they had since I had arrived.

  "This time it's only a night at the movies and ice cream afterward, ice cream full of fat that she doesn't need. Tomorrow it will be a whole weekend day and night. And then she'll be wanting to go on weekend jaunts with girls who have nothing but bubble gum brains and two left feet."

  "She's only thirteen, Celine."

  "When I was thirteen, I had performed in twelve programs and I had danced in Sleeping Beauty at the Albany Center for the Performing Arts. You've seen the news clippings?'

  "That's you. Janet's Janet."

  "Janet has opportunities now she would never have had, Sanford. It's practically sinful to do anything that would frustrate or detract from them." She would not be dissuaded,

  "But---"

  "Haven't you done enough damage to ballet for one lifetime?" she screamed at him.

  When Sanford came to my door that evening, I already knewwhat the decision was.

  "I'm sorry?' he said. "Celine thinks you're too young for this sort of thing."

  He said it with his head down, his eyes on the floor.

  "I'll think of something nice for us to do soon," he added, and left me crying tears into my pillow.

  Josh's face dropped and actually turned ashen when I told him I couldn't go with him that Friday night. I tried to give him an explanation, but he just shook his head.

  "What is it, your parents don't think I'm rich enough?" he shot back at me and then turned and left me standing alone in the school hallway before I could deny it.

  I felt as if I were entering Celine's private world of shadows now. One of my girlfriends called to tease me and sang, "All work and no play make Janet a dull girl." The world that had become filled with sunshine and color began to turn shades of gray. Even when it was a clear sky, I felt as if clouds hung over me. My moodiness seeped into my performances at lessons. Madame Malisorf's eyes narrowed into slits of suspicion. Celine had made me promise never to tell Madame Malisorf how hard she and I worked on the weekends, but my master teacher was too perceptive.

  "Aren't you resting your legs'?" she asked me directly one afternoon. Celine was in her usual corner observing. I glanced her way. Madame Malisorf followed the shift in my eyes and turned

  "Celine, are you working this student seven days a week?" she demanded.

  "On occasion, I go over something with her, Madame Malisorf. She's young and--"

  "I want her to have a full twenty-four hours of rest. Those muscles need some time to rebuild. Every time we work out, we break them down. You, of all people, should know that," she said, shaking her head. "Make sure she has the rest required," she demanded.

  Celine promised, but never kept her promise, and if I mentioned it, she would go into a rage and then a depression, backing herself into one of those dark corners in the house to stare sadly at the pictures of her former self. Sometimes, she simply read and reread a dance program and I'd find her asleep in her chair, the program in her lap, clutched tightly in her fingers. I didn't have the heart to put up any real resistance.

  I tried to do better, to be sharp, to hit my marks. Now, without any friends calling me, I did my homework and went to bed early. I even did what she had asked me to do when I first enrolled in school. I pretended to have cramps and got myself excused from physical education class a number of times. I needed to conserve my energy. I had grown terrified of being tired or sluggish.

  Summer was drawing closer and with it was the promise of attending a prestigious dance school. However, money couldn't buy someone a place in the school. Everyone had to audition and Celine's new obsession was getting me prepared for that audition. Madame Malisorf agreed to help win me a spot. She thought it was a good idea for me to go to the school because she was going to spend most of her summer in Europe as she usually did. My lessons became reviews of fundamentals. Dimitri rarely came to practice anymore. He had already been accepted to a school for dance in New York City and was preparing himself for the new training.

  We had to travel to Bennington, Vermont, where the audition for the dance school was being held. I was actually excited about it because I would be spending eight weeks at the school and I had read the program and schedule and seen that there was more rest and recreation time than I now had. Of course, almost anywhere would give me more time. At the end of the school's brochure were testimonials written by former students and many of them talked about the social events, singing around the campfire, their weekly social dance, and short bus trips to museums and historic sights. Not everything had to do with dance. The school's philosophy was that a more rounded person makes a more complete artist. It was very expensive to go there and it amazed me that so many people would compete to spend so much money.

  At my final lesson before the audition, Madame Malisorf put me through what she predicted would be the school's test. She stood back alongside Celine and tried to be an objective judge. At the end she and Celine spoke softly for a moment and then Madame Malisorf smiled

  "I would give you a place in my school, Janet," she said. "You've made considerable improvement and you have reached a quality of performance that would justify the investment of further time and effort," she claimed. Celine beamed.

  I was happy too because I really wanted to get into the school I think a part of me, a strong part of me, wanted to get away for a while, and not feel so guilty about every misstep. Before she left, Madame Malisorf warned Celine not to wear me out.

  "She's a fragile commodity now, Celine. We've taken her far, too far too fast perhaps, but she's there. Now let's let her develop at a normal pace. Otherwise. ." She looked at me. "We'll ruin what we've created."

  "Don't worry, Madame. I will cherish her as much as I cherished myself, if not more."

  Despite the hard days and the difficult lessons, despite her critical eyes and often harsh comments, I had grown to appreciate and respect Madame Malisorf. I was even a bit afraid of what would happen without her o
verseeing everything, but she left assuring me that my teachers at the school would be of the highest quality.

  "I'll see you in September," she told me and left.

  "I knew it," Celine declared once we were alone. "I knew she would come to see you as I do. We must continue to prepare This is wonderful, wonderful," she said and for the next few days, she was as animated and excited as she had been when I first arrived.

  Sanford, however, looked more troubled by it all. Problems at the factory took up more and more of his time and he continually apologized to me about it. It was as if he was sorry he was leaving me alone with Celine so much. Celine wasn't the least bit interested in the factory and didn't have the patience to listen to anything Sanford said. She was so focused on my audition, it seemed that she thought of nothing else from the moment she rose to the moment she fell asleep.

  And then, the week before my audition, there was a new family crisis. Daniel had run off and married a woman he had gotten pregnant. My grandparents were overwrought. They held a family meeting at our house. I wasn't invited, but they spoke so loudly, I would have had to have been deaf not to hear.

  "Both my children just go out and do impulsive things," Grandmother cried. "Neither of you thinks about the family name anymore'

  I heard them all trying to calm her, but she was beside herself. They talked about Daniel's new wife and how she came from a lower class of people.

  "What sort of a child would a woman like that produce?" Grandmother asked. "We should disown them both. We should."

  If they did that, what would happen to the baby? I wondered. Would he or she become an orphan like I was?

  The sound of discussion turned to the sounds of sobbing. Soon afterward, my grandparents emerged, my grandmother looking distraught, her eyes bloodshot, her makeup smudged. She gazed at me, then turned and hurried out of the house.

  Daniel was the main subject of conversation at the beginning of dinner that night, but Celine put a quick, sharp end to it.

 
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