Butterfly, p.2
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       Butterfly, p.2

         Part #1 of Orphans series by V. C. Andrews
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  "What do you know?" I asked. Maybe she knew something about my real mommy and daddy.

  "I know you were an orphan shortly after your birth and ever since. I know some very stupid people came to find children to adopt and passed you by. That's their loss and my gain," she followed with a thin, high-pitched laugh.

  "What did you mean when you said music I would dance to?" I asked.

  She released my hand and sat back. For a moment I didn't think she was going to answer. She stared off toward the woods. A sparrow landed near us and studied us with curiosity.

  "After I picked you out, I observed you, auditioning you in my own mind," she explained. "I studied your walk, your gestures, and your posture to see if you were capable of being trained to become the dancer I was to be, the dancer I can no longer even dream to be. Beyond a doubt I am convinced you can. Would you like that? Would you like to be a famous dancer, Janet?"

  "A famous dancer? I've never thought about it," I said honestly. "I do like to dance. I like music too," I added.

  "Of course you do," she responded. "Someone with your natural grace and rhythm has to love music, and you'll love to dance, too. You'll love the power. You'll feel . . ." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes I saw that they were filled with an eerie light. "You'll feel you can soar like a bird. When you're good, and you will be good, you will lose yourself in the music, Janet. It will carry you off, just as it did for me so many, many times before I became crippled."

  "What happened to you?" I dared to ask. It was obvious that talking about dancing made her emotional, but the eerie look in her eyes made me nervous and I wanted her to do something besides stare at me so intently.

  Mrs. Delorice lost her soft, dreamy smile and gazed back at the building before turning to me and replying.

  "I was in a very bad car accident. Sanford lost control of our vehicle one night when we were returning from a party. He had a little too much to drink, although he'll never ever admit to that. He claimed he was blinded by the lights of a tractortrailer truck. We went off the road and hit a tree. He was wearing his seat belt but I had forgotten to put mine on. The door opened and I was thrown from the car. My spine was very badly damaged. I almost died,"

  "I'm sorry," I said quickly.

  Her face hardened, the lines deepening as shadows darkened her complexion.

  "I'm past being sorry. I was sorry for years, but being sorry for yourself doesn't help one bit, Janet. Never indulge in self-pity. You become incapable of helping yourself. Oh," she said excited again, the light in her eyes returning, "I have so much to tell you, to teach you. It's going to be wonderful for both of us. Are you excited, too?"

  "Yes," I said. I was, but everything was moving so fast and I couldn't help feeling nervous and a little bit scared.

  She turned toward the building.

  "Where is he? I never saw a man waste so much time. Oh, but you'll get to admire him for his compassion and sensitivity," she said. "There isn't anything he wouldn't do for me now, and now," she said with a wider smile, "there isn't anything he won't do for you.

  "Think of it, Janet, think of it," she urged, "for the first time in your life, you will have two loving people who will care more about you than they will for themselves. Oh yes, it's true, dear, precious Janet. Look at me. Why should I worry about myself anymore? I'm a prisoner in this damaged body forever, and Sanford, Sanford lives to make me happy. So you see," she said with that tiny, thin laugh again, "if my happiness depends on your happiness, Sanford will cherish you as much as I will.

  "You will be happy, Janet," she said with such firmness it frightened me. It was almost as if she was commanding me to be happy. "That," she said, "I promise you."

  Sanford stepped out of the building.

  "It's about time," she muttered. "Come, Janet, dear. Let us begin your new life. Let's think of this as your true birth. Okay? We'll even use this day as your birthday from now on. Why not? Yes? I like that idea. Don't you?" she declared with another thin laugh. "Today is your birthday!"

  "Sanford," she called before I could reply. Actually, I didn't know what to say. My birthday had never been very special to me. He started toward us. "This day is more extraordinary than we imagined. It's Janet's birthday."

  "It is?" he asked, looking confused. "But, I thought. ."

  "It is." She stamped her words in the air between them and he nodded.

  She reached her hand out to me.

  "Come along now," she said. "We're going home to celebrate."

  When I saw the grim look on Sanford's face and remembered the crazy light that had come into Mrs. Delorice's eyes, I wondered just what I had gotten myself into.

  Two

  Despite the years I had lived at the orphanage, there wasn't anyone was sorry to leave behind. My goodbyes were quick. Those who had made fun of me for so long just stared with envy. No one had much to say. Only Margaret came up to me as I was getting my things together and whispered, "What kind of a mother is a mother in a wheelchair?"

  "One who wants to love me," I replied and left her gnawing on the inside of her cheek.

  Celine was already in the car, waiting. Sanford helped me with my things and then opened the car door for me as if he were my chauffeur. They had a very expensive-looking black car with leather seats that felt as soft as marshmallows. I thought the car was as big as a limousine. It had the scent of fresh roses.

  "Look at her, Sanford," Celine said. "She's not the least bit sorry to be leaving that place. Are you, dear?"

  "No . . ." The following word seemed hard to form, so alien. My tongue tripped over itself. "Mother."

  "Did you hear her, Sanford? Did you hear what she called me?"

  "I did, honey." He looked back at me and smiled for the first time since I'd met him. "Welcome to our family, Janet."

  "Thank you," I said, but I knew I had spoken too softly for either of them to hear.

  "We had a nice conversation in the garden while you were crossing T's and dotting I's, Sanford." "Oh?"

  "Janet told me she loves to dance," Celine said. "Really?" Sanford sounded surprised.

  I had said I liked dancing, but I hadn't done enough dancing to say I loved it, especially the sort of dancing she meant. She turned to face me.

  "I was younger than you when I started training, Janet. My mother was very supportive, maybe because her mother, my grandmother Annie, was a prima ballerina. It broke my mother's heart almost as much as it did mine when I had to stop." She had turned to look at me and I could see the strange light had returned to her eyes.

  She took a deep breath before continuing.

  "Both my parents are still alive. They live in Westchester in the same house where my brother Daniel and I were raised," she explained.

  My heart began to pound again. It was one thing to dream of having a mommy and daddy, but another to think up an entire family with grandparents and uncles and aunts. Maybe there was a cousin, too, a girl about my age with whom I could become best friends.

  "Unfortunately, both of Sanford's parents are gone," she continued. She gazed at him again. "His sister Marlene lives in Denver but we don't see her very much. She doesn't approve of me."

  "Celine, please," he said weakly.

  "Yes, Sanford's right. No unpleasantness, never again You don't need to know any of the unpleasantness I've had to bear. You've known enough during your poor little life," she said. "You don't have to worry about money, either. We're rich."

  "You shouldn't say things like that, Celine," Sanford gently chastised. I could tell immediately that he was sorry he'd spoken.

  "Why not? Why shouldn't I be proud? Sanford owns and operates a glass factory. We're not as big as Corning, but we're competition for them, aren't we, Sanford?" she bragged.

  "Yes, dear." He looked back at me. "Once you've settled in, show you the plant."

  "You can show her, but she's not going to spend a great deal of time down there, Sanford. She'll be too busy with her school
ing and her dancing," Celine assured him.

  A cold drop of ice trickled along my spine.

  "What if I can't be a dancer?" I asked. Would they send me back?

  "Can't be? Don't be silly, Janet. I told you, you have grace. You already dance. You dance when you walk, the way you hold yourself, the way you look at people, the way you sit. Having been gifted with this myself, I know how to recognize it in someone else. You won't fail," she said confidently. "I won't let you fail. I'll be your cushion, your parachute. You won't suffer the sort of disappointments I suffered," she pledged.

  Even more anxious, I squeezed my arms around myself. When I was younger, I would pretend my arms were my mother's arms, holding me. I would close my eyes and imagine the scent of her hair, the softness of her face, the warmth of her lips on my forehead. Would Celine ever hold me like that? Or would her being in a wheelchair make that too difficult to do?

  I gazed out the window at the scenery that flowed by. It was as if the whole world had become liquid and ran past us in a stream of trees, houses, fields, and even people. Few took any special notice of us even though I felt so special. They should all be cheering as we go by. I'm not an orphan anymore.

  "Looks like some rain ahead," Sanford predicted and nodded at a ridge of dark clouds creeping toward us from the horizon.

  "Oh phooey," Celine declared. "I want the sun to shine all day today."

  Sanford smiled and I could feel the tension ease out of him

  "I'll see what I can do," he said. The way he looked at her, doted on her, I had no doubt that if he could, he would shape the weather and the world to please her. There was love here, I thought, some sort of love. I only hoped it was the right sort.

  When I finally set my eyes on their house, I thought I had fallen into a storybook. No one really lived in such a house, I thought, even as we went up the long circular driveway with perfectly trimmed hedges on both sides. Evenly spaced apart were charcoal gray lampposts, the bulbs encased in shiny brass fixtures. Celine hadn't been exaggerating. They did have more lawn than the orphanage. There were large sprawling red maple trees with leaves that looked like dark rubies, and a pair of enormous weeping willow trees, the tips of the branches touching the ground to form a cave of shadows. I could just make out the shape of two benches and a small fountain surrounded by the darkness. Squirrels scurried around the fountain and over the benches, up trees and through the grass with a nervous, happy energy. I saw a rabbit pop out from behind the trees, look our way, and then hop toward the taller grass.

  I turned to look at the house, a tall two-story with a porch that wrapped all the way around. Two robins paraded over the four wooden front steps. Alongside them was a ramp for Celine's wheelchair and a sparrow stood so still on it, he looked stuffed.

  It all seemed so magical, touched by a fairy's wand and brought to life.

  "Home sweet home," Celine declared. "We did a lot to modernize it after we bought it. It's Victorian," she explained. I didn't know what that meant, but from the way she said it, I understood it was impressive.

  The house looked like it had been recently painted, a bright, crisp white. The paired entry doors had mirrored glass in the top halves of each and all the windows on the first and second floors had filmy white curtains in them. Only the attic windows were dark, with what looked like dark gray drapes pulled closed.

  "Your room faces the east so you will have bright morning sunshine to wake you every day," Celine explained

  To the right and just behind the house was the garage, but Sanford stopped the car in front and got out quickly. He opened the trunk, took out Celine's wheelchair, and moved to open her door.

  "Get her things," Celine commanded as soon as she was in her chair.

  "Don't you want me to get you into the house first?"

  "No. I asked you to get her things," she repeated firmly. "Where is that Mildred?" she muttered under her breath.

  I stepped out and stared up at the house, my new home. Celine had gotten a little of her wish. The clouds had parted briefly and rays of light made the windows glitter as we stood there, but before we went up to the front doors, the clouds shifted and deepened the shadows again. Celine shuddered and tightened the shawl Sanford had placed around her shoulders.

  "How do you like it?" she asked me

  expectantly.

  "It's beautiful," I said.

  However, most of my life homes with families in them looked beautiful to me, even if they were half the size and cost of this one. Behind closed doors and on the other side of curtains, families sat having dinner or watching television together. Brothers and sisters teased each other, but told each other secret things and held each other's dreams in strict confidence. There were shoulders to lean on, lips that would kiss away tears, voices that would warm cold and frightened little hearts. There were daddies who had strong arms to hold you, daddies who smelled of the outdoors and aftershave, daddies with love in their smiles; and mommies who were beautiful and soft, who were scented with flowery aromas, perfumes that filled your nostrils and stirred your imagination and filled your head with dreams of becoming as lovely and as pretty.

  Yes, it was a beautiful house. They were all beautiful houses.

  "Hurry along, please, Sanford," Celine said, wheeling herself to the base of the ramp

  He struggled with two suitcases and one of the smaller bags. I started toward her chair, but she turned in anticipation. It was as if she had eyes behind her head.

  "No, Janet. I don't want you doing anything this strenuous. You can't afford to pull a tendon."

  I stopped, confused. Pull a tendon? I had no idea what she meant.

  "It's all right," Sanford told me and somehow managed to take hold of the chair as he kept the suitcases under his arm. He pushed her up the ramp and I followed. When we reached the porch, he put down the suitcases and hurried around to unlock the door.

  "Where is that fool?" she asked him sharply. I had no idea who she was talking about. Did someone else live in their beautiful house?

  "It's all right," he said inserting his door key. Celine turned and smiled at me.

  "Now you can push me, sweetheart," she said, and I moved quickly to the back of the chair.

  Sanford opened the door and we entered the house. The entryway was wide with mirrors on both sides. On the right was a coat rack and a small table on which were some sort of pamphlets. When I looked closer, I saw they were programs for a dance recital. On the front of one was Celine's picture. Above it in big red letters were the words Sleeping Beauty.

  "I want you to see the studio first," she said when she saw what had captured my attention. "Sanford, bring her things upstairs to her room and see if you can find Mildred. We'll be along in a few minutes."

  I saw there was a special elevator chair that ran up the side of the stairway. At the top was another wheelchair. Celine wheeled herself deeper into the house and I followed slowly, drinking everything in: the beautiful paintings on the walls, all of dancers, one who looked very much like Celine.

  "This is our living room," she said, nodding at a room on the left.

  I could only glance at it because she moved quickly down the hall. I saw the fancy pink and white sofa with frills along the base, a red cushioned chair, the fieldstone fireplace and mantel, above which was a grand painting of Celine in a ballet costume.

  "Here," she declared, pausing at another doorway.

  I stepped up beside her and looked into the room. It was large and empty, with a shiny wooden floor. All around the room were full-length mirrors and on one side was a long wooden bar.

  "This is my studio and now it is yours," she declared. "I had a wall knocked out and two rooms connected. You can spare no expense when it comes to your art."

  "Mine?" I asked.

  "Of course, Janet. I will get you the best instructor, Madame Malisorf, who has trained some very famous Russian ballet dancers and once was an accomplished ballerina herself. She was my teacher and mentor." And again that fa
raway, eerie look came over her.

  "I really don't know anything about ballet," I said, my voice trembling. I was afraid she would want to return me to the orphanage immediately when she learned how clumsy I was

  "That's all right. That's good. I'd rather you didn't know anything," she replied, taking my hand.

  "You would?"

  "Yes. This way you're pure, an innocent, an untouched dancer, not contaminated by any mediocre teacher. Madame Malisorf will be pleased," she assured me. "She loves working with pure talent."

  "But I don't have any talent," I said.

  "Of course you do."

  "I don't think I've even seen a ballet on television," I confessed.

  She laughed and I was glad to see her normal face returning.

  "No, I don't imagine you did, living in those places with children who have had no opportunities. You mustn't be so afraid," she said softly, squeezing my hand. "Ballet is not as difficult as you might imagine and it's not some strange form of dance reserved only for the very rich. It's just another way of telling a story, a beautiful way, through dance. Ballet is the foundation of all Western theatrical dance. People who want to be modern dancers or dancers in show business are always advised to start with ballet."

  "Really?"

  "Of course." She smiled. "So you see, you will be doing something that will help you in so many ways. You'll have wonderful posture, more grace, rhythm, and beauty. You will be my prima ballerina, Janet."

  She stared at me with her eyes so full of hope and love I could only smile back. Suddenly we heard a door slam and someone hurrying down the stairs. She turned her chair and I looked back to see a tall young blond girl come down the hallway. She was dressed in a maid's uniform. She had large brown eyes with a nose a little too long and a mouth a little too wide with a weak, bony chin.

  "I'm sorry, Mrs. Delorice. I didn't hear you driveup."

  "Probably because you had those stupid earphones in your ears again, listening to that ugly rock music," Celine quipped.

  The maid cringed and began to shake her head vigorously.

 
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