Butterfly, p.4
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       Butterfly, p.4

         Part #1 of Orphans series by V. C. Andrews
 
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  "Good. I have a book on ballet that I want you to start tonight," she told me and wheeled past me into the living room. I followed and watched her pluck a book from the shelves. She held it out for me and I hurried to take it.

  "It's full of basic information," she said, "so you won't look stupid when you meet Madame Malisorf the day after tomorrow."

  "Oh, she's far too excited to read and retain all that, Celine," Sanford said quietly. I couldn't help but think that if he just spoke more strongly, Celine might just listen to him

  "Nonsense. I'm sure she's tired, too, and she'll want to go up to her room, get into her bed, and read." She turned to me, obviously looking for my

  agreement.

  I looked at Sanford, at the book, and then at Celine.

  "Yes," I said. "I am tired."

  "Of course. It's not every day that you get to start your life over again," Celine said. She reached up for my hand and held it. "We're so alike, you and I, it's as if you really were my daughter."

  I saw tears in her eyes. They put tears into mine My heart thumped with the promise of finding real love, real joy.

  "Get a good night's rest," she said. "Welcome to your new home."

  She pulled me down to her and kissed me on the cheek. It was the first time in my life someone who wanted to be any mother had kissed me. I swallowed back my tears of happiness and headed out the door. Sanford stopped me and kissed me on the cheek, too.

  "Good night, Janet. Just call me if you need anything," he said.

  I thanked him and hurried up the stairway with the ballet book in my hands.

  Then I went into my room and just stood there gazing around in wonderment.

  I had a home.

  I was someone's child.

  Finally.

  Four

  Celine was so excited about getting me ready for my ballet lessons the next day that she was up and at my door before I had opened my eyes. When I had finally laid my head on the fluffy pillow last night, I had turned and gazed at myself in the wall mirror. The bed was so large, I looked even smaller than I was. It made me laugh. But it was so comfortable, the most comfortable bed I had ever slept in, and all the linen smelled fresh and brand-new. The next thing I knew, it was morning.

  "Rise and shine, rise and shine," Celine sang as she wheeled herself into my room. "We have a great deal to do today, Janet."

  I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and sat up. "Oh, you slept in your underwear!" she cried. "Don't you have a nightie?"

  "No," I said.

  "How do they send you out into the world

  without a nightie? Up, up, up. Get washed and dressed and come down to breakfast in fifteen minutes. We're off to the shops," she said with a sweep of her hand. Then she turned and wheeled out of my room.

  I hurried to do what she asked, and in ten minutes, I was on my way down the stairs. Sanford was already dressed in his jacket and tie and sitting at the breakfast table reading the newspaper.

  "Mildred," Celine called as soon as I set foot in the dining room.

  Mildred came from the kitchen carrying a tray with orange juice, buttered toast, and a poached egg. I had never had a poached egg before. I stared at it all when it was set before me.

  "You start your diet today," Celine explained when she saw my curious expression.

  "Diet?" I had never been accused of being overweight. Everyone always thought I was underdeveloped. "But I don't weigh a lot," I said.

  Celine laughed.

  "Diet isn't something you watch just to lose weight. Diet in this case means eating properly. A dancer is an athlete and has to eat and live like one, Janet," Celine explained. "Go on, eat," she ordered.

  Sanford lowered his paper and gave me a sympathetic smile as I drank my juice.

  "Did you sleep well?" he asked.

  "Yes," I said.

  Celine leaned toward me to whisper, "Daddy."

  "Yes, Daddy," I corrected.

  "Good," Sanford said. "Good." He returned to his paper while Celine went on about our schedule.

  "I have appointments arranged at the shoe store for your pointe shoes, and then we'll go to the shop where I will get you your dancing outfits. After that we'll go to the department store and get you some more clothes, regular shoes, undergarments, and a nice jacket for you to wear," she cataloged. "Oh, and a nightie "

  "What about school?" I asked between bites. I couldn't help thinking about what it was going to be like to have new teachers and meet new children my age.

  "School can wait another day," she declared. "I'm sure you're a very good student and it won't take you very long to catch up."

  I was a good student, but I was still surprised at how confident she was about my abilities. Sanford folded his paper, sipped his coffee, and nodded.

  "After that, we'll swing by the factory," he added.

  "If we have time," Celine corrected.

  I had barely swallowed my last bite of breakfast when she pushed away from the table and declared I should go brush my teeth and "Do your bathroom business." We were to meet at the front door in ten minutes.

  Everything was ten minutes, five minutes. For a woman in a wheelchair, she had an unbelievable amount of energy. Rushing up the stairs, I thought I had been woken to participate in some sort of marathon, but I was afraid to utter a single syllable of complaint. Sanford seemed very happy about Celine's excitement and energy and they wanted to do so much for me.

  By the time I returned, Celine was already in the car waiting. Sanford was just putting her wheelchair in the trunk.

  "Hurry," she called. "I want to get everything done in one day."

  I ran to the car and got in. Moments later, we were off.

  "Getting the proper pointe shoes is paramount to success as a dancer," Celine lectured as we drove along. "In ballet, maybe more than in anything, initial preparations are very, very important. Your shoes should fit like a second skin. There is no room for growth. When you put them on before practice, don't tie the drawstring too tight. You can damage your Achilles tendon. Let me see your feet," she suddenly ordered.

  "My feet?"

  "Yes, yes, your feet. I need to check something. I should have done it before," she muttered.

  I took off my sneakers and peeled off my socks. She reached back between the seats and pulled my feet toward her and inspected my toes.

  "Oh," she cried, "these toenails are too long. Didn't they teach you anything at that orphanage? You must keep your toenails short. Cut them every morning, every morning, do you hear?"

  "Yes," I said, nodding.

  She reached into her purse and found a nail clipper. She handed it to me and watched as I trimmed my toenails. My hands shook and I thought I might cut myself, but Celine was starting to sound angry and I wanted to please her.

  "Are you sure the store will be open this early, Celine?" Sanford asked as we approached the business district.

  "Of course I'm sure. I made a specific appointment. They know how important this is to me," she added, and her voice was finally calming

  I put on my socks and sneakers quickly and gazed out the window as we slowed down and stopped before the specialty shop. Sanford hurried around to get Celine's wheelchair out of the trunk.

  "It's such an inconvenience having to wait for that damn thing, and Sanford moves slower than a turtle," she muttered. She was so anxious to get into the store and have me fitted with pointe shoes. I wished I could be as excited about it as she was, but I felt as if I had been caught up in a whirlwind and barely had a chance to breathe. As soon as she was in her chair, she called to me. "Come on, Janet. We're late."

  When we entered the store, the salesman, a short, chubby bald man with thin wire bifocals planted on his thick nose, came waddling from the rear to greet us.

  "Mrs. Delorice," he said. "Good morning. It's so nice to see--"

  "Here she is," Celine interrupted. "Janet, sit and take off your sneakers and socks."

  The salesman nodded at Sanford.


  "Mr. Delorice."

  "Good morning, Charles. How have you been?" Sanford asked.

  "Oh, fine, just fine."

  "Please, let's concentrate," Celine demanded.

  Charles frowned and squatted to study my feet. He held them in his hands as if they were jewels, gently turning them from side to side. He felt around under my toes and pressed on my heels.

  "Exquisite," he said.

  "She may look small to you, but she is not fragile," Celine assured him

  "Oh, I can see the potential, Mrs. Delorice, yes. Let me get her fitted." He looked genuinely pleased.

  He rose and headed back to the rear of the store.

  "All pointe shoes are handmade," Celine explained. "There is no right or left to them, so don't be confused"

  "They must cost a lot," I said. I hoped her money wouldn't be wasted

  "Of course they do if they're good ones, and you must have the best. Our equipment, our dress, all of our preparations are very important for us, Janet," she said. It was the first time she had included herself and it sounded funny. It was as if she would rise out of the wheelchair and do one of her pirouettes in the shoe store.

  Charles brought three pairs and tried each on my feet. Celine tested them as much as he did. She had me stand and then walk across the store.

  "Very graceful young lady," Charles

  commented. I was beginning to wonder if Celine was right. Maybe I could be a dancer.

  "Yes, she is," Celine said, her eyes shining with excitement. "How do those feel, Janet? Remember, I want you to think of them as a second skin."

  "Good, I guess," I said. I really wasn't sure. I had never worn this kind of shoe before, and I didn't know how they should feel.

  "Those have Toe-Flo," Charles remarked, "the best stuff ever invented for padding."

  "I don't want her to become too dependent on that. I want her feet to toughen quickly." Celine's eyes darkened.

  "Oh, they will," he promised.

  "We'll see. We'll take them," she concluded.

  "Very good choice, Mrs. Delorice," Charles said and I could almost see the dollar signs floating through his mind.

  I sat and began to take the shoes off.

  "We have to have the best so we can develop quickly," Celine said. She smiled at me and stroked my hair. "We're going to become prima ballerinas."

  I looked at Sanford, who stood near the doorway. Again, I caught him wearing an expression of very deep concern, his eyes dark and concentrated on Celine. Then he saw me gazing at him and he smiled quickly.

  After the shoes were purchased, we went to a store that sold the dancing costumes, called tutus, and leotards. Celine bought me a half dozen outfits, and this was only the beginning of what soon became a shopping frenzy. We went to the department store and flew through the lingerie department, shoe department, and then the clothing department. The registers clicked and dinged, printing out reels of receipts. It was as if all the clothing I should have had since birth was being bought now. In one day I was catching up with children who hadn't been orphans. I barely had time to take a breath before I was being herded into another section of the store, measured, fitted, and dressed to model whatever Celine thought might look nice. Price tags didn't seem to matter. She never looked at a single one, nor did she blink an eye when the totals were rung up. All she did was hold her hand out to Sanford, who produced his credit card.

  Just a day before, I had thought of myself as an object of charity, cast off, living as a child of the state, without parents, without family, without, anyone really caring if I looked nice or felt comfortable in my clothing and shoes. Suddenly, I was a little princess. Who could blame me for being afraid that I would blink and be back at the orphanage, waking from a dream?

  Almost as if it pained her, Celine reluctantly agreed to stop for lunch. Sanford took us to a nice restaurant and told me I could order whatever I wanted from the menu, but Celine intercepted immediately and forbade me from ordering a big juicy hamburger.

  "Choose a salad," she said. "You have to watch your fat content now."

  "She's growing," Sanford said softly. "She'll burn off any calories, Celine."

  "It's not what she'll burn off that's important. It's development of good habits, Sanford. Please. I know what I'm doing. I was the one who trained, not you. And I don't want to hear about you spoiling her when I'm not with you, Sanford," she said, warning him with her eyes wide.

  He looked at me and laughed, but it was a weak laugh, a laugh of embarrassment.

  "I like salads," I said to stop any more arguments.

  "There, you see. She has a natural proclivity to do the right thing. It's in her nature. She's instinctive, just as I was, Sanford. She's me. She understands," she said, smiling at me. As much as it made me uncomfortable, I knew I could easily please her. I just had to agree to go along with anything she said. I think I was beginning to understand why Sanford looked so grim all the time.

  Sanford wanted us to share dessert, but Celine refused.

  "She can have something after dinner tonight," she compromised and we were off again, this time to buy toiletries Celine decided I would need.

  "I want you to take special care of your hair, Janet. Your complexion, your looks are very important. You're a performer, an artist, a living, natural work of art yourself. That's how I was taught to think and believe and that's how I want you to think," she declared.

  When we were in that section of the store, she pulled me aside so Sanford wasn't able to hear us. "Have you had your period yet?" she asked.

  "No," I answered softly. It embarrassed me to admit it because all the girls I knew who were my age and even some a year younger had already had their first period.

  Celine looked intently at me a moment. Then she nodded.

  "Nevertheless, we'll be prepared for it," she said, and bought what I would need.

  By the time we left the business district and headed for Sanford's glass factory, I was getting tired. Celine, however, continued to look energized. She talked and talked about my ballet lessons, preparing me for my first session with Madame Malisorf.

  "A ballet class is a carefully graded sequence of exercises lasting at least an hour and a half, Janet. You'll begin with stretching and warming-up exercises using the bane. Madame Malisorf likes to spend nearly an hour doing that. Next, you'll move to the center of the studio to work without support. This second part of the class we-call adage. It consists of slow work emphasizing sustaining positions and balance. The third part of the class is called allegro, and that consists of fast work, combinations, sequences of steps with the big jumps and turns that make ballet impressive. Can you remember all that, Janet? Madame Malisorf will be happy if you do." It was clear from her tone of voice that I should memorize what she'd said

  I told her I had read some of it in the book she had given me and that I would be sure to mention it to Madame Malisorf.

  "Good. You'll pick it up faster than anyone expects. I just know you will," she said.

  "We're here," Sanford announced proudly. It seemed that aside from pleasing Celine, the factory was the most important thing in Sanford's life. Maybe soon I would be added to the list.

  The factory looked much bigger than I had expected and there were dozens and dozens of cars parked in the lot. Sanford owned all this? No wonder money didn't seem to matter, I thought.

  "I'm really very tired, Sanford," Celine suddenly said. "I should take a rest."

  "But . . well, can't I show Janet the plant and check on some matters?" The smile and proud glow were gone from his face.

  "Take me home first," she commanded tersely. "Besides, Janet's seen the factory. Why does she have to go in and be exposed to all that dust?"

  "Dust? It's not dusty inside, Celine. You know how proud I am of our industrial environment." He was starting to whine.

  "Please," she groaned. "Between you and Daddy, I hear more than enough about business. My parents own a printing plant," she explained. "Pleas
e, drive on, Sanford?'

  I could see his jaw tightening as he looked at her and then he gazed at his factory and shrugged.

  "I just thought since we were already here . . ." He had already given up. He sounded like one of us orphans when we'd been passed up by yet another set of potential parents.

  "She's not just visiting us, Sanford. She's come to live with us. There will be other times," Celine reminded him.

  "Of course. You're right, dear. Home it is," he said and started off with a sigh.

  But what about my school? I couldn't help but wonder. Shouldn't we go there now?

  Celine seemed to read my thoughts.

  "In the morning Sanford will take you to the private school and have you enrolled," she said. "And when you come home, Madame Malisorf will be there, waiting for you.

  "Then," she added, her face filled with that eerie light and excitement from before, "we'll begin again."

  Five

  Later that evening when Celine began to question me about what I had read in the book on ballet, I felt as if I had already enrolled in a new school. She was like a teacher, correcting, explaining, and assigning me more reading. She wanted to be sure I knew the names of all the famous ballets.

  "I haven't told Madame Malisorf anything about your background, Janet. She doesn't have to know you've lived all your life in an orphanage," she said. "You could be a distant relative whom I've adopted."

  It was the first time she had said anything that made me feel ashamed of where I'd come from. I remembered the first time I heard someone refer to me as an orphan. It happened on the playground at school. I was in the fourth grade and we were outside at recess. There was a small sidewalk the girls used for hopscotch and we often partnered up. When one of the girls, Blair Cummings, was left with me, she complained.

  "I don't want to be with her. She's too small, and besides, she's an orphan," she remarked, and the others looked at me as if I had a wart on my nose. I remember my face became hot and tears felt like boiling drops under my eyelids. I turned and ran away. Later, when our teacher, Miss Walker, found me sitting alone in a corner of the playground, she asked if I was sick.

 
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