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Dollenganger 05 Garden of Shadows

V. C. Andrews

  Garden of Shadows

  Dollenganger #5 (Prequel) V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c)1990

  ISBN: 067172942X





  I have been forced to leave this record. Had others not decided to tell my story for their own gain, the secrets of the Foxworths would have been buried in my grave with me. Cruelty comes in many forms-- ignorance is one of them. Because of ignorance, I have been judged. Now I have gone to Him, the only judge whose verdict matters, and accepted His pronouncement on my soul. Those of you who remain below will here come to know the true story. And knowing the truth, judge me if you dare.

  Olivia Winfield Foxworth

  1 The First Bud of Spring

  . WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL, MY FATHER BOUGHT ME A priceless handcrafted dollhouse. It was a magical miniature world, with beautiful tiny porcelain dolls, furniture, even paintings and chandeliers and rugs all made to scale. But the house was enclosed in a glass case and I was never allowed to touch the family inside--indeed, I was not even permitted to touch the glass case, for fear of leaving smudges. Dainty things had always been at peril in my large hands, and the dollhouse was for me to admire but never to touch.

  I kept it on an oak table under the sash of stained- glass windows in my bedroom. The sun coming through the tinted windows always spread a soft, rainbow- colored sky over the tiny universe and put the light of happiness into the faces of the miniature family. Even the servants in the kitchen, the butler dressed in white livery who stood near the entrance door, and the nanny in the nursery all wore looks of contentment.

  That was as it should be, as it should always be

  ---as I fervently hoped and prayed it would be for me someday. That miniature world was without shadows; for, even on overcast days, when clouds hung their gloom outside, the tinted-glass windows magically turned the gray light into rainbows.

  The real world, my own world, seemed always to be gray, without rainbows. Gray for my eyes, which I had always been told were too stern, gray for my hopes, gray for the old maid no one wanted in the deck of cards. At twenty-four, I was an old maid, already a spinster. It seemed I intimidated eligible young men with my height and intelligence. It seemed that the rainbow world of love and marriage and babies would always be as closed off to me as that dollhouse I so admired. For it was only in makebelieve that my hopes took wing.

  In my fantasies I was pretty, lighthearted, charming, like the other young women I had met but never befriended. Mine was a lonely life, filled mostly with books and dreams. And though I did not talk about it, I clung to the small hope my dear mother had given me just before she died.

  "Life is very much like a garden, Olivia. And people are like tiny seeds, nurtured by love and friendship and caring. And if enough time and care are spent, they bloom into gorgeous flowers. And sometimes, even an old, neglected plant left in a yard gone to seed will unexpectedly burst into blossom. These are the most precious, the most cherished blossoms of all. You will be that sort of flower, Olivia. It may take time, but your flowering will come."

  How I missed my optimistic mother. I was sixteen when she died--just when I most needed to have those woman-to-woman talks with her that would tell me how to win a man's heart, how to be like her: respectable, competent, yet a woman in every way. My mother was forever involved in one thing or another, and in everything she was competent and in charge. She threaded her way through each crisis, and when one ended, there was always another to replace it. My father seemed content that she was busy. It mattered not with what.

  He often said that just because women weren't involved in serious business, that didn't mean they should be idle. They had their "womanly" things to do.

  Yet, when it came to me, he encouraged me to go to business school. It seemed right and proper that I would become his private accountant, that he would give me a place in his den, a manly room with one wall covered with firearms and another with pictures from his hunting and fishing expeditions, a room that always had the odor of cigar smoke and whiskey, its dark brown rug the most worn-looking of any rug in the house. He set aside a portion of his large black oakwood desk for me to work meticulously on his accounts, his business expenses, his employees' wages, and even his household expenses. Working with my father, I often felt more like the son he had always longed for--but never got--than the daughter I was. Oh, I did want to please, but it seemed I would never be just what anyone wanted.

  He used to say I would be a great help to any husband, and I used to believe that was why he was so determined I would get a business education and have that experience. He didn't come out and say it in so many words, but I could hear them anyway--a woman six feet tall needed something more to capture a man's love.

  Yes, I was six feet tall; I had shot up as a teenager, much to my dismay, to giant proportions. I was the beanstalk in Jack's garden. I was the giant. There was nothing dainty or fragile about me.

  I had my mother's auburn hair, but my shoulders were too wide and my bosom large. I often stood before my mirror and wished my arms shorter. My gray eyes were too long and catlike and my nose was too sharp. My lips were thin, my complexion pale and gray. Gray, gray, gray. How I longed to be pretty and bright. But when I sat before my vanilla marble vanity table trying to blush and to flutter my eyelashes--look flirtatious--I managed only to look a fool. I didn't want to look empty-headed and silly, yet I couldn't help but sit before the glass-encased dollhouse and study the pretty, delicate porcelain face of the tiny wife. How I wished it were my face. Maybe then this would be my world.

  But it was not. And so I left my hope encased with the porcelain figures and went about my way.

  If my father had really expected to make me more attractive to a man by providing me with an education and practical business experience, he must have been sorely disappointed in the result.

  Gentlemen came and went, all coming because of his manipulations, I discovered; and still I was yet to be courted and loved. I was always afraid that my money, my father's money, money I would inherit, would bring a man to the door pretending to be in love with me. I think my father feared the same thing, because he came to me one day and said, "I have written into my will that whatever money you receive shall be only yours and yours to do with what you like. No husband will ever expect to take control of your fortune simply by marrying you."

  He made his announcement and left before I could even respond. Then he screened any candidates for my romance carefully, exposing me only to the highest class of gentleman, men of some fortune themselves. I had yet to meet one I didn't tower over, or one who wouldn't scowl at the things I said. It seemed I'd die a spinster.

  But my father wouldn't have it so.

  "There's a young man coming to dinner tonight," he began one Friday morning late in April, "who I must say is one of the most impressive I've met. I want you to wear that blue dress you had made for yourself last Easter."

  "Oh, Father." It was on the tip of my tongue to say, "Why bother," but he anticipated my reaction.

  "Don't argue about it, and for heaven's sake don't start in on the woman suffrage movement when we're at the table."

  My eyes flamed. He knew how I hated to be bridled like one of his horses.

  "A man no sooner shows some interest in you than you challenge the most treasured of manly privileges. It never fails. The blue dress," he repeated, and pivoted and left before I could offer an argument.

  It seemed pointless to me to go through the rituals at my vanity table. I shampooed my hair vigorously and then sat down t
o brush it a hundred times, softening it and pinning it back neatly but not too harsh with the ivory combs my father had given me for Christmas the previous year.

  My father didn't know or even seem to recognize that I had commissioned the "blue dress" because I wanted a dress that looked like the dresses women wore in fashion photographs. The bodice was low enough to expose some of the fullness of my bosom, and the tight waist gave me a suggestion of an "hourglass" figure. It was made of silk, and the material was exceptionally soft and had a sheen to it like nothing else I owned. The sleeves were cut just above the elbow. I thought that made my arms look shorter.

  I put on my mother's blue sapphire pendant, which I thought made my neck look slimmer. There was a blush in my cheeks but I couldn't say if it was there because of my healthy body or because of my nervousness. I was nervous. I'd been through enough of those evenings before--watching the man's face fall as he rose to greet me and I towered over him.

  I was merely rehearsing for another failure.

  By the time I went downstairs, my father's guest had arrived. They were together in the den. I heard my father's loud laughter, and then I heard the gentleman's voice, low but deeply resonant, the voice of a man with some confidence. I pressed my palms against my hips to dry off the wetness and proceeded to the doorway of the den.

  The moment I appeared, Malcolm Neal Foxworth stood up and my heart skipped a beat. He was at least six foot two and easily the most handsome young man who had ever come to our house.

  "Malcolm," my father said, "I'm proud to present my lovely daughter."

  He took my hand and said, "Charmed, Miss Winfield."

  I was looking directly into his sky-blue eyes. And he was gazing just as forthrightly into mine. I'd never believed in schoolgirl romantic notions such as love at first sight, but I felt his gaze slide right over my heart and lodge in the pit of my stomach.

  He had flaxen blond hair, a little longer in the back than most men wore, but the strands were brushed neatly and looked heavenly light He had a strong Roman nose and a thin straight mouth. Broadshouldered, slim-hipped, he had an almost athletic air about him. And I could tell by the way he was gazing at me, with almost a wry smile of amusement, that he was quite accustomed to women falling into a flutter about him. Well, I thought, I mustn't give him something more to be amused at Olivia Winfield. Of course, such a man would hardly give me the time of day, and I would have to get through another evening of Father's doomed matchmaking. I shook his hand firmly, smiled back, and quickly looked away.

  After we were introduced, my father explained that Malcolm had come to New London from Yale, where he had attended a class reunion. He was interested in investing in the shipbuilding industry because he believed that with the Great War over, the markets for exporting would develop. From what I learned of his background that night, I understood that he already owned a number of cloth factories, had commanding interest in a few banks, and owned some lumber mills in Virginia. He was in business with his father, but his father, even though he was only fiftyfive, was distracted. I didn't learn until later what that meant.

  At dinner I tried to be the polite, quiet observer that my father wanted me to be, the way my mother used to be. Margaret and Philip, our servants, served an elegant dinner of beef Wellington, a menu my father had chosen himself. He did so only on special occasions. I thought my father was being quite obvious when he said, "Olivia's a college graduate, you know. She has a business degree and handles a major portion of my bookkeeping."

  "Really?" Malcolm seemed genuinely impressed. His cerulean blue eyes brightened even more with interest and I felt he was taking a second, more serious look at me. "Do you enjoy the work, Miss Winfield?"

  I shot a glance at my father, who sat back in his high-backed light-maple chair and nodded as if prompting my responses. I did so want this Malcolm Foxworth to like me, but I was determined to be who I was.

  "It's better to fill your time with sensible and productive things," I said. "Even for a woman."

  My father's smile faded, but Malcolm's widened. "I totally agree," he said. He didn't turn back to my father. "I find most so-called beautiful women vapid and rather silly. It's as if their good looks are enough to see them through life. I prefer intelligent women who know how to think for themselves, women who can be real assets to their husbands."

  My father cleared his throat. "Yes, yes," he said, and turned the conversation back to the shipping industry. He had it from good sources that the merchant marine fleet, built for the war effort, would soon be offered to private owners. His topic took Malcolm's attention for most of the dinner, but nevertheless, I felt Malcolm's eyes on me and at times, when I looked up at him, he was smiling at me.

  Never had I sat with one of my father's guests and been so enraptured. Never had I felt as welcome at the table. Malcolm was polite to my father, but it was clear to me that he wanted to talk more to me.

  To me!

  The handsomest man ever to come to our house was interested in me? But he could have a hundred beautiful girls to adore him forever. Why should he be interested in a Plain Jane such as I? But oh how I wanted to believe I wasn't imagining all those side glances, those times he asked me to pass him things he could have easily gotten himself, the way he tried to bring me into the conversation. Perhaps, just for a few hours I could allow my slight bud of hope to blossom. Just for tonight! Tomorrow I'd let it gray again.

  After dinner Malcolm and my father adjourned to the den to smoke their cigars and talk more about the investments Malcolm wanted to make. With them my hopes, so briefly flowered, so quickly withered. Of course Malcolm wasn't interested in me--he was interested in business with my father. They would be in there for the rest of the evening. I might as well retire to my room to read that new novel that was attracting attention, Edith Wharton's Age of

  Innocence. But I decided instead to bring the book down to the sitting room and read by the Tiffany lamp, happy to see Malcolm just to say good-bye.

  It was very quiet on our street that time of evening, but I looked up to see a couple walking arm in arm. It was the way the husband and wife in my glass-encased doll world would walk if they could escape their imprisonment, I thought. I watched them until they disappeared around the corner. How I wished I could someday walk with a man like that--a man like Malcolm. But it was not to be. It seemed God was deaf to my hopes and prayers for love. I sighed. As I turned back to my book, I realized all I could know of love and life would be from books.

  Then I spied Malcolm in the doorway. Why, he had been watching me! He stood so straight and still, his shoulders drawn back, his head high. There was a calculating look in his eyes, as if he were sizing me up unawares, but I didn't know what to make of it.

  "Oh!" My surprise brought heat to my cheeks. My heart began to thump so loudly, I thought he might even hear it across the room.

  "It is a lovely evening," he said. "Could I interest you in a walk?"

  For a moment I just stared. He wanted to take me out walking!

  "Yes," I said. I could see he liked the way I came to a quick decision. I didn't try to flutter my eyelashes or act uncertain to tease him with my answer. I wanted to go for a walk and I wanted very much to go for a walk with him. If I had a hope that what appeared to be his interest in me would flower, I was going to be just who I was. "I'll just run up and get my coat." I was glad for a reason to go off and catch my breath.

  Malcolm was waiting at the front door when I returned. Philip had gotten him his overcoat and stood beside him waiting to open the door. I wondered where my father was and if this was something he might have arranged. But even though I knew Malcolm only a short while, I believed he was not a man to do something he didn't want to do.

  When Philip opened the front door, I caught a look of satisfaction in his eyes. He approved of this gentleman.

  Malcolm took my arm and escorted me down the six front steps. Both of us were quiet as we proceeded down the walkway until we reached the front gate. M
alcolm opened the gate and stepped back to permit me to pass through first. It was a cool April evening,. with just a hint of spring in the air. The trees by the gate still reached into the sky with bare gray arms, but their arms were softened by hundreds of tiny buds about to spring to life. Yet winter's chill still hung in the air, still hung in me. For a crazy moment I wished to turn to Malcolm and bury myself in his arms, something I'd certainly never done with a man, not even my father. I determinedly walked ahead and pointed toward the river.

  "If we go to the end of the street here," I said, "and turn right, we have a beautiful view of the Thames River."

  "Fine," he said.

  It was always a fantasy of mine to walk along the banks of the river on a spring evening with a man who was falling in love with me. I was a blur of emotion--so many hopes and fears, confusion, frightening feelings moving through my body, I felt dizzy. But I couldn't let Malcolm see my agitation, so I kept my bearing straight, my head high as we walked. The lights of the ships moved up and down with their cargo. On a night as dark as that one was, the lights on the water in the distance looked like fireflies caught in cobwebs.

  "Rather beautiful view," he said.


  "How is it," he said, "that your father hasn't married you off yet? I won't insult your intelligence and tell you that you're beautiful; but you are extremely attractive and it's quite apparent that-you have an extraordinary mind How is it no man has captured you yet?"

  "How is it you haven't taken a wife?" I responded.

  He laughed. "Answer a question with a question. Well, Miss Winfield," he said, "if you must know, I find most women today tedious with their effort to be beguiling. A man who is serious about his life, who is determined to build something significant of himself and his family, must, it seems to me, avoid this type."

  "And this is the only kind of woman you've known?" I asked. I couldn't see precisely, of course, but I felt he blushed. "Haven't you searched for others?"