Read Jade Online

Authors: V. C. Andrews

Tags: #Horror

Jade

Jade

Wildflowers #3
V.C. Andrews
Copyright (c) 1999
ISBN: 0671028022
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Prologue

Even though I had been in Dr. Marlowe's office many times, for some reason I couldn't recall the miniature grandfather clock in the center of the bottom wall shelf to the left of her desk. It was encased in dark cherry wood and had a face of Roman numerals. It didn't bong or clang. It played no music on the hour, but the small pendulum swung back and forth with a determined little effort that caught my eye and held me mesmerized for a few moments while everyone waited for me to begin.

The beat of my heart seemed synchronized with the movement of the miniature clock's pendulum, and I thought, why can't we think of our hearts as being little clocks inside us, keeping our time. Even before we are born, our parents' magical hands of love wind them up. Maybe the lengths of our lives are in direct proportion to how much our parents wanted us. Maybe some behavioral scientist should do a study of unwanted children to see how long they live and compare their lives with the lives of children from perfect little families. None of us in this room would probably be happy with those results.

I could feel the other girls' eyes on me and just knew what each of them must be thinking What was I doing here? I looked like I came from one of those perfect little families. How horrible could my story be? Why did I need the services of a psychiatrist?

I could understand why they would have these questions. No matter what had happened between my mother and father and to me afterward, I always held myself together, poised, with a regal air of confidence. I guess I get that from my mother, although my father is far from being an insecure person. It's just that my mother will never let anyone know she is at a disadvantage. Even if she loses an argument, she does it in such a way that the winner isn't sure he or she has won. Her eyes don't fill with surrender. Her shoulders never sag; she never lowers her head in defeat.

Mother gets angry, but Mother doesn't lose control. Control is in fact the essence of who she is. My father wants me to believe that it is exactly her obsession with being in control that has led them to what he calls their marital apocalypse.

I suppose he's right in his characterization of it. It is the end of one world, a world I was innocent enough to believe would go on until their clocks ran out. I used to think they were so much in love, that when one's pendulum stopped, the other's would soon follow.

Of course, I told myself that wouldn't be until many, many years into the future when even I was entering old age. Our world was so protected, I believed I lived in a grand bubble that kept out fatal illness, serious accidents, crime and unhappiness. I went from a luxurious Beverly Hills home to plush limousines to private schools with sparkling clean hallways and new desks. I came out of one womb to be placed safely into another, never to be too cold or too hot.

In the world in which I grew up, being uncomfortable was intolerable, a betrayal of promises. Shoes had to fit perfectly, socks had to be soft, no clothes could chafe our skin. Our meals had to be properly cooked and sufficiently warm, our bathwater just the right temperature. Our beds smelled fresh or were deliciously scented. We fell asleep on clouds of silk and refused to admit nightmares into our houses of dreams. If one slipped under my door when I was a little girl, my father or mother was there instantly at the sound of my cry to step on it as they would some wicked little insect that dared show itself on our imported Italian marble floors.

I didn't think of myself as being exceptionally lucky or even fortunate. I was born into a life of luxury and it was there for me to discover and very quickly to expect. I had no deep philosophical explanation as to why I had so much and people I saw outside my limousine windows had so much less. Some great power had decided it would be this way and this was the way it was. That's all.

Of course, as I grew older and my mother talked about the things she had accomplished in her life and my father did the same, I understood that they had earned or won what we had and we therefore deserved it.

"Never be ashamed for having more than someone else," my mother once told me. More often than not when she made these pronouncements, she sounded like a lecturer. "Those with less are not ashamed of wanting more and especially wanting what you have. Envy always gives birth to
resentment. Be careful to whom you give your trust. More than likely they have eyes greener than yours behind their dark glasses and artificial smiles," she warned.

How wise I thought she was. How wise I thought they both were.
Now here I sat after that magic bubble had burst and people who were really little more than strangers to me wanted me to give them my trust. The four of us were participating in what our therapist called group therapy, telling about ourselves, our most intimate selves in the hopes that we would somehow help each other understand and accept all that had happened to us. The more truthful we were about our intimate selves, the better the chances for success. That did take a great deal of trust.
From the way Dr. Marlowe talked, winning our trust was more important to her than the money she received for trying to help us to readjust.
I love that term, readjust. It makes it seem as if we are all some broken mechanical thing that our psychiatrist will repair with a turn of a screw here, a bolt replaced there, and lots of new oil and grease squeezed into places that grind and squeak.
When I looked at these other girls for the first time, I realized that no one was happy to be here. Not one of us had come here willingly. Oh, I don't mean we were dragged here kicking and screaming, although Star made it sound as if it was almost that way for her. It's for sure we would each like to be someplace else. Cathy, whom we nicknamed Cat, hadn't even told her story yet, but one look at her face and I knew she dreaded being here the most. Maybe she dreaded being anywhere. Misty looked the least uncomfortable, but still stirred and fidgeted about like someone sitting on an anthill, her eyes shifting nervously from one of us to the other.
Yesterday, Star talked about times in her life when it felt like it was raining pain. Even though she came from a much different world, I knew what she meant. Our worlds were very different, but similar clouds had come rolling in and we were under an identical downpour of anger and hate drenching us in our parents' madness. I guess we were all just people who had been caught in the same flood and had been pulled onto the same raft, now tossing and turning, all of us looking desperately for an end to the storm.
However, now that I was here and it was my turn to talk about my life, I felt like I had been shoved into the center of this circle of eyes and ears. For two days I had been on the outside looking in, listening first to Misty and then to Star. I was able to maintain distance between myself and the others and to stay aloof like my mother, maybe I had inherited her desire for control. Today was my day and-suddenly, I felt naked, conscious of every blemish, like some specimen under glass in our science class lab. Tears are more private than smiles, I thought. Why should I share any of them with these girls?
Look at them: Misty sitting there with her silly little grin and her T-shirt proclaiming
Boycott Child Labor, End Teenage Pregnancy;
Star, a black girl who was ready to jump down my throat every time I opened my mouth; and Cathy, a mousy-faced girl, who looked terrified enough to swallow her own tongue every time she blurted a comment and we turned to her. These three were to be my new confidants, my adopted sisters of misfortune? Hardly.
I wondered about this session all night, and then when the limousine brought me to Dr. Marlowe's house this morning, I sat there gazing at the front door and asked myself what was I doing here? The question still lingered. I'm not telling these people intimate things about myself just because they come from broken families, too. They're worse than strangers. They're so far from my world, they're foreigners. They'll just think I'm some spoiled brat.
"I can't do this," I declared and shook my head after a long moment of silence and expectation. "It's stupid."
"Oh, I see. It wasn't stupid for me, yesterday," Star said, turning those ebony eyes of hers into tiny hot coals, "but it's stupid for you today."
"I don't think it was stupid for me either," Misty said, wide-eyed. "I don't!" she emphasized when I gave her a look that said, "Spare me."
Cat kept her eyes down. I felt like crawling on the floor, turning over on my back and looking up at her and asking, "Do you think it's all right to talk about your pain? And when you do, do we have to all lie down on the floor like this and look up at you?"
"You sat here and listened and made your comments about my life with no trouble yesterday," Star muttered.
"This isn't supposed to be show me yours and I'll show you mine. I didn't say I was going to do this for sure. I don't owe you anything just because you did it," I declared.
"I didn't say you did. You think I'm dying to hear your story?"
"Good, so I won't tell you anything," I said and practically turned my back on her.
"Very often," Dr. Marlowe said softly after a heavy moment of silence, "we use anger as a way of avoiding unpleasant things. Actually, anger only prolongs the unpleasantness and that only makes it harder for us:'
"Us?" I fired at her.
"I'm human therefore I'm not perfect, so I say we, us. I understand these things from my own experiences, which helps me help you," she said. "Don't forget, I've been in the center, too. I know it's difficult and painful, but it helps:'
"I don't see how just talking about myself is going to help me." I looked at Misty. "Do feel any better about yourself since you talked?"
She shrugged.
"I don't know if I feel any better. It felt like I unloaded some weight, though. Yeah," she said tilting her head in thought, "maybe I do feel better. What about you, Star?"
Star turned away.
"She doesn't care about what you feel or don't feel. She's just trying to run away," she said, jerking her head back toward me.
"Excuse me?" I said. "Run away? From what?"
"This is a process," Dr. Marlowe interjected, raising her voice a little. "A process that must be built on trust. I've said this before. You've got to try, Jade. Surely you've heard some things during these past two days that have helped you look at your own situation a little better. If anything, at least you know you're not alone."
"Oh no?" I said. "Not alone?" I stared at Misty for a moment. "I liked one thing you said during your session. I liked your classifying us as orphans with parents. Believe me, Dr. Marlowe:' I said, turning back to her, "We're alone."
"The OWP! Let's get some T-shirts made up!" Misty exclaimed with a bounce that made her look like she was sitting on springs.
"Yeah, it could be a whole new club," Star said dryly. She looked at me. "Or a new street gang with a Beverly as our leader."
"A Beverly?"
I shook my head. This is impossible. I shouldn't have agreed to take part in it.
"Just forget this," I muttered.
"You see, it's hard to begin, right?" Misty asked.
"It's because my situation is a lot different from yours," I declared.
"Sure," she said with a smirk that twisted her little nose. "You're special. We're not."
"Look. You told about your father leaving you and your mother and moving in with a girlfriend, right?" "So?"
I looked at Star.
"And you told about parents that have deserted you and now you and your brother live with your grandmother, right?"
"Like she said, so?"
"So my situation is a lot different. My parents fought over me like cats in heat and they're still fighting over me. Neither will ever give the other the satisfaction. You don't know what that's like. I feel . . I'm being pulled apart, poked to death with questions from lawyers, psychologists and judges!"
I didn't mean to scream it, but it came out that way, and tears bubbled in my eyes, too, as my throat closed with the effort to keep them back. Who wanted to cry in front of them?
Star turned to look at me. Cat lifted her eyes slowly as if they were heavy steel balls and Misty nodded, her eyes brightening. They all looked suddenly interested.
I
took a deep breath. How could I make them understand? I wasn't being a snob. I spoke again, slowly, my eyes on the floor, probably looking at the same tile Cat stared at most of the time.
"When I first learned about my parents getting a divorce, I didn't think much about myself and with whom I'd be living. I just assumed fathers left and you stayed with your mother. I was almost sixteen when this all began and suddenly I became a prize to win in a contest. The contest was going to be held in a courtroom and my mother and father were going to try to prove to a judge that the other was unfit to have custody of me." I looked up at Star. "Do you have any idea what that's like?"
"No," she said quietly. "I don't. You're right. My parents both ran away from having custody and responsibility, but that doesn't mean I don't want to know what it's like to have parents who want you," she added.
The sincerity in her eyes took me by surprise. I felt the blood that had risen into my neck and cheeks recede, and my heart slowed as I sat back. I glanced at Dr. Marlowe, who had raised her eyebrows.
When I first began seeing Dr. Marlowe, I wanted to hate her. I wanted her to fail from the getgo. I don't know why. Maybe I didn't want to admit that I needed her. Maybe I still didn't, but I couldn't get myself to dislike her. She always seemed so relaxed. She didn't force me to do or say anything. She waited until the gates opened a little more in my mind and I let memories and feelings flow out. She was like that now.
I still felt twisted and stretched like a rubber band, but the butterflies in my stomach seemed to settle. Maybe I could do this. Maybe I should, I thought. Sometimes, when you hear yourself say things, you confirm your own feelings, and it was true, I didn't have anybody else to talk to these days except my face in the mirror.
I looked out the window. It was a much nicer day than yesterday. We didn't even have our usual marine layer flowing in from the ocean this summer morning. When I woke, the sky was already clear and bright. Now, as I sat staring into the soft blue sky, I could see birds flittering from branch to branch on the trees outside Dr. Marlowe's Brentwood house. A squirrel hurried down the trunk, paused, looked our way and scurried into a bush. I wished I could do the same.
Our house and grounds were bigger than Dr. Marlowe's, but we were only a few miles down Sunset Boulevard in one of the most expensive sections of Beverly Hills, a gated community of custom homes owned by some of the richest people in the country, maybe even the world. Our neighbors were ambassadors and business moguls, even Arab royalty owned homes there. It was one of the most desirable places to live. My parents had bought and built there knowing it would be. No wonder I grew up feeling like I was living in a protective bubble.
However, it wasn't difficult to be comfortable with our surroundings here. Dr. Marlowe was good at making me feel like I was just visiting with her. I didn't feel I was in treatment of any kind, although I knew that's exactly what this was. I supposed . . . no, I hoped, somewhere deep down that it was more, that I was with someone who cared about me for other than professional reasons.
Dr. Marlowe had told us she and her sister were children of divorce. They had ended up living with their father. Even though her experiences were different, there had to be some similarities, something that helped her to sympathize. She was right about that. It helped me to talk to her.
Maybe telling us a little about herself was just her way of getting the trust she was after. Maybe it was all part of the technique. Maybe I didn't care.
Maybe I did.
"I'm like everyone here," I admitted. "I don't want to hate my parents."
"Good," Dr. Marlowe encouraged. I could hear and sense the others relax. "That's a good start, Jade." Her eyes were full of expectation.
"Once they were in love," I said. "They had to have been in love. I saw all the pictures. They held hands and took walks on beaches. They smiled up at the camera while they sat at dinner tables. They had pictures of each other smiling and waving from horses, from cars and from boats. They were kissing under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, in a gondola in Venice, and even on a Ferris wheel in some amusement park. No two people could be more in love, I used to think.
"Now, I think, no two people could hate each other more."
I paused, feeling my face harden again with frustration and confusion.
"And I'm supposed to care about living with one more than the other."
"Do you?" Misty asked.
"No," I answered honestly. "Most of the time, I don't want to live with either of them."
"Whose fault is that?" Dr. Marlowe threw out at me. She had asked me this before and I had turned away. Now, I looked at the others. They all seemed so interested in my answer, even Cat stared intently at me. I looked from one to the other, at their desperate eyes searching my face.
"I don't know!" I screamed back at them all.
"Me neither," Misty said.
Star just shook her head. She didn't have the answer either.
I looked at Cat. The terror was back in her eyes.
"That's what we're here to find out, then," Dr. Marlowe said. "You've all come so far. Why not take a few more big steps to see where it leads? Isn't that worth the effort, Jade?"
I turned away, tears burning under my lids.
"Jade?"
"Yes," I said finally.
I looked up at her through my tears.
"Okay," I said. "I'll try."
And I stepped out of that precious bubble again where the rain was cold and the sun was hot and people willingly and often told each other lies.

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