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Shooting Stars 03 Rose

V. C. Andrews


  Shooting Stars #3

  V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c) 2001

  ISBN: 9780671039950



  When I was a little, I thought the bogeyman was hiding in shadows, watching for an opportunity to scare or hurt me. He lived in the darkness. I saw him in the quick movement of a silhouette, heard him tiptoeing over creaky floorboards or whispering through the walls. He entered my mind through nightmares and made me whimper and cry out for my mother or my father.

  When I grew older and wiser. I realized the bogeyman is not in the shadows, not in the darkness outside. He is in the hearts of evil people, selfish and envious people, and they urge him to frighten or hurt us. They whisper our names into his ear and point him in our direction.

  And the only weapon we have against him is the power of love. We can turn it on him like a great light and chase him back into the evil hearts that gave him life.

  It was a lesson I learned painfully. It took away my innocence and my trusting heart. It made me cautious and skeptical. I questioned every smile, every laugh, every kind word, scrutinizing all to be sure the bogeyman wasn't somehow involved.

  I had to become older. mature, and be strong. But how I longed for my childhood faith and

  the simple wonder that came with the sun that woke me to every new day.

  It was hard to leave all that behind.

  It was the saddest good-bye of all.

  1 Daddy

  I always believed there was something different about my father. He was whimsical and airy, light of foot and so smooth and graceful, he could slip in and out of a room frill of people without anyone realizing he was gone. I don't think I ever saw him depressed or even deeply concerned about anything, no matter how dark the possibilities were. He lost jobs, had cars repossessed, saw his homes go into foreclosure. Twice, that I knew of, he was forced to declare personal bankruptcy. There was even a time when we left one of our homes with little more than we carried on our very selves. Yet he never lost his spirit or betrayed his unhappiness in his voice.

  I used to imagine him as a little boy stumbling and rolling over and over until he stopped and jumped right to his feet, smiling, with his arms out and singing a big Ta-da! as if his accident was an accomplishment. He was actually expecting applause, laughter, and encouragement after a fiasco. He once told me that when he received a failing grade on a test in school, he took joy in having a bright red mark on his paper while the other, less fortunate students who happened to have passed had only the common black. Defeat was never in his vocabulary. Every mistake, every failure was merely a minor setback, and what was a setback anyway? Just an opportunity to start anew. Pity the poor successful ones who spent their whole lives in one town, in one job, in one house.

  Daddy. I would learn, carried that idea even into the concept of family.

  He was a handsome man in a Harrison Ford sort of way, not perfect, but surprising because his pastel blue eves could suddenly brighten with a burst of happy energy that made his smile magnetic, his laughter musical, and his every gesture as tactful as a bull fighter's. He stood six feet one, with an unruly shock of flaxen-blond hair that somehow never looked messy, but instead always looked interesting, making someone think that he was a man who had just run a mile or fought a great fight. He was athletic-looking, trim with firm shoulders. He never had the patience or the discipline to be a good school athlete when he was young, but he was not above stopping whatever he was doing, no matter how important, and joining some teenagers in the neighborhood to play a game of driveway basketball.

  Daddy's impulsiveness and childlike joy in leaping out of one persona into another in an instant annoyed my mother to no end. She always seemed embarrassed by his antics and depressed by his failures, yet she held onto him like someone clinging to a wayward sailboat in a storm, hoping the wind would die down, the rain would stop, and soon, maybe just over the horizon, there would be sunny skies. On what she built these sails full of optimism. I never knew. Maybe that was her fantasy: believing in Daddy, a fantasy I thought belonged only to a young and innocent daughter, me.

  Or maybe it was just impossible to be anything but optimistic around Daddy. I truly never saw him sulk and rarely saw him look disgusted. Of course, I never saw him cry. He wasn't even angry at the people who fired him from his jobs or the events that turned him out of one opportunity after another. It was always a big 'Oh, well, let's just move on."

  At least we remained in one state. Georgia, crisscrossing and vaulting towns, cities, villages: however, it soon became obvious that Daddy anticipated his inevitable defeats. After a while-- our second mortgage failure. I think-- we stopped buying and started renting for as short a period as the landlords tolerated. Daddy loved six-month leases. He called every new rental a trial period, a romance. Who knew if it was what we wanted or if it would last, so why get too committed? Why get committed to anything?

  Of course. Mammy flung the usual arguments at him.

  "Rose needs a substantial foundation. She can't do well in school, moving like this from place to place. She can't make friends, and neither can I, Charles,

  "And neither can you!" she emphasized, her eyebrows nearly leaping off her face. "You don't do anything with other men like most men do. You don't watch ball games or go out hunting and fishing with buddies and it's no wonder. You don't give yourself a chance to build a friendship, a relationship. Before you see someone for the second time, you're packing suitcases."

  My father would listen as if he was really riving all that serious thought and then he would shake his head and say something like, "There's no such thing as friends anyway, just acquaintances. Monica."

  "Good. Let me at least have a long enough life somewhere to have acquaintances," Mommy fired back at him.

  He laughed and nodded.

  "You will," he promised. "You will."

  Daddy made promises like children blow bubbles. At the first suggestion of approaching storm clouds, he blew his promises at us, perfectly shaped, rainbow-colored hopes and dreams, and stood back watching them float and bob around us. When they popped, he just reached into his bag of tricks and started a new bubble. I felt like we were all sixswimming in a glass of champagne.

  Bursting through the front door at the end of his workday, whatever it happened to be, he cried out his wonderful "I'm home!" He bellowed like someone who expected everything would be dropped. Mammy and I would come running out of rooms with music blaring behind us. She would put down her magazine or book, or stop working on dinner. I would leap from my desk where I was doing homework or spring from the sofa where I was sprawled watching television, and we would rush into the hallway to hug him and be hugged by him.

  That stopped happening so long ago. I couldn't remember if we had ever done it. Now when he bellowed his "I'm home." his voice echoed and died. He still greeted us with his big, happy smile, looking like someone who had returned from the great wars when all he had done was finish one more day of new work successfully enough not to get laid off.

  At present, he was a car salesman in Lewisville. Georgia, a small community about forty-five miles northwest of Atlanta famous for its duck ponds and its one industry. Lewis Foundry, which manufactures automotive cast-iron braking components and employs over seven hundred people. Small housing developments sprouted up around it and from that blossomed retail shops, a mall, and four automobile distributorships, one for which. Kruegar's. Daddy worked selling vans and suburban vehicles and Jeeps.

  How Daddy found these places was always a mystery to us, but for the past two years, which was a record, we had been living here in a small house we rented. It was actually the most comfortable and largest home w
e had ever owned or rented. It was a Queen Anne with a gabled roof and a front porch. It had a small backyard, an attached garage, a halfbasement, and an attic. There were three bedrooms, a nice size dining room, a kitchen with appliances that still functioned, and a modest living room. Since we didn't have all that much furniture anyway, it was quite adequate for our needs, and the street was quiet, the neighbors pleasant and friendly.

  Everyone liked Daddy pretty much instantly. He was so outgoing and amiable, always ueetin,g them with a smile and a hello full of interest. Daddy was a glib man. He could stop and talk politics, economics, books and movies, and especially hunting and fishing with anyone. He always knew just enough to sound educated on an issue, but not really enough for any deep analysis. He hadn't gone to college, but he knew how to agree with people, to anticipate what they felt and thought, and find ways to escort them down their paths of beliefs, making them think he was a sympathetic voice, in sync with whatever theory or analysis they had. Mommy always said Daddy missed his calling. He should have been a politician. He even could talk his way out of a speeding ticket. By the time he was finished, the poor policeman almost felt guilty.

  Daddy's verbal skills and friendly manner did make him a good salesman. When he failed at a sales job, it wasn't because he couldn't do it. I always thought it was either because he lost interest or saw something over the horizon that attracted him more. He would slack off and eventually cause his boss to decide it would be better if Daddy moved on, and move on he did. Daddy was so agreeable. I'm sure his bosses found firing him was almost a cheerful experience.

  Now, we were here, still here, hoping to stay, hoping to build a life. Mammy was permitting herself to make close friends, to join organizations, to make commitments. I was doing well in school, and since I was at the beginning of my senior year, we were expecting I would graduate at this high school. I hadn't yet decided what I wanted to do with my life. I had been in school plays and I was told I had an impressive stage presence and carried myself like a seasoned fashion model, but I knew I didn't have a strong enough voice, and I was never very

  comfortable memorizing lines and pretending to be someone else.

  Mammy didn't pressure me to be anything special. Her advice was more along the lines of what to do with myself socially. Lately, she was more strident-sounding than ever with her warnings.

  "Don't give your heart to anyone until the last moment, and then think it over three times."

  Her dark pronouncements came from her own regret in having married so young and ending what she called her chance for really living before she had even started. She and Daddy had been high school sweethearts and consequently married soon after graduation, despite the admonishments of her parents, who refused to pay for any wedding. Daddy and she eloped and set up house as soon as he acquired the first of what was to be a long string of jobs.

  Because of our lifestyle. I knew that Mommy now considered herself well beyond her prime. I could see it in her eyes whenever she and I went anywhere. She would take furtive glances at men to see if they were looking her way, following her movements with their eyes, showing any interest. If a younger woman pulled their attention from her, the disappointment would settle in her face like a rock in mud, and she would want to get our shopping over quickly and go home to brood.

  Over the years, she had taken odd jobs working in department stores, especially in the cosmetic departments, because she was a very attractive woman. When Daddy lost his positions, Mommy would have to give up hers, no matter how well she was doing or how pleased her bosses were with her work. After this happened a number of times. Mommy simply gave up trying to work.

  "What is the point?" she asked Daddy. "I won't be able to hold down the job or get promoted."

  "I'd rather have you at home anyway, my homemaker. Rose's full- time mother," Daddy declared, avoiding any argument. He acted as if the added income was superfluous, when it sometimes was all we had.

  Now, because we had lived in Lewisville so long. Mammy was considering returning to work. I was old enough to take care of my own needs, to help out in the house, and she had lots of free time to fill. Daddy didn't oppose her when she brought all this up now. In fact, they rarely had marital spats. Daddy was too easy for that. He would never disagree

  vehemently. Nothing seemed to matter that much to him, nothing deserved his raising his voice, putting an an angry face, sulking or being in the slightest way unhappy. His reaction to it all was always a shrug and a simple. "Whatever.'

  It had become our family motto. Whatever I wanted; whatever Mommy wanted. Whatever the world wanted of us, it was fine with Daddy. He loved that old adage, "If a branch doesn't bend, it breaks."

  "How about not breakirig. Charles, but not having to bend either?" Mammy asked him.

  He shook his head. smiling.

  "Monica, there's no place in the world where there's never a wind."

  Mammy showed her frustration and started to go into a depression and brood, but Daddy would come up with that rabbit in his hat almost all the time. He would have flowers sent to her, or he would secretly buy her some new perfume or same piece of jewelry. She would shake her head and call him an idiot, but she was always too pleased to keep up her howling. In the end. Daddy's charm overwhelmed everything. I started to believe he might be right about life. There was nothing worth stress. He lived the Edith Piaf song he played when he sat quietly with his martini in the living room. Je Regret Rien: I regret nothing.

  Whatever happened, happened. It was over and done with, in the past. Forget it. Look to the future. It was a philosophy of life that turned every rainy day into a sunny one. You put your Band-Aids on your scrapes and bruises, choked back tears, and forgot about them.

  "There should be only happy tears. anyway." Daddy told me once. "What does crying get you? If you're miserable, you're defeating yourself. Laugh at life and you'll always be on top of things, Rose."

  I looked at him with wonder. my Daddy, the magician who seemed incapable of not finding rainbows. The ease with which he captured people impressed me, but what impressed me more was the ease with which he tossed it all away or gave it up once he had succeeded. Was that ability to let go with no regret a power or a madness? I wondered. Was nothing worth holding onto at any cost? Was nothing worth tears?

  It wasn't long before I had an answer.

  According to Mammy, it was Daddy who insisted on naming Rose, quoting one of his favorite Shakespearean lines. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." It wasn't only because he insisted I had the sweetest face of any baby born that day. He argued that a rose always brought happiness, good times, bright and wonderful things.

  "What happens whenever you place a rose next to something?" he asked her in the hospital. "Huh? I'll tell you, Monica. It makes it seem more wonderful, more delicious, more enticing. and more desirable. That's what will happen every time she comes into a room or into anyone's life. That's our Rose."

  Mammy said she gave in because she had never seen him so excited and determined about anything as much as he was about my name. She said my grandparents thought it was just dreadful to have a name like that on a birth certificate.

  "She's a little girl, not a flower," Grandfather Wallace, Daddy's father, had declared. He favored old names, names garnered from ancestors, but Daddy had long since lost the ties with family that most people enjoy. His father never approved of the things he did with his life. Both of his parents closed all the blinds on every window that looked out on him. They shut down like a clam, but Daddy didn't mourn the loss.

  "People who drag you down, who are negative people, are dangerous," Daddy told me when I asked him about my grandparents and why we had so little to do with them. "Who needs that? Before long, they make you sad sacks. too. No sad sacks for us!" he cried and swung me around.

  When I was a little girl, he was always hugging me or twirling my strawberry blond hair in his fingers, telling me that I was a jewel.

  "Your eyes are two d
iamonds. Your hair is spun gold. Your lips are rubies and your skin comes from pearls. My Rose petal," he cried,and kissed the tip of my nose. Laughter swirled in his eyes and dazzled me. Everything my daddy did was fascinating to me in those early years. He even made every meal we had a special event, assigning names and stories to each and every thing we ate. Mommy told him I laughed too much at dinner and I would have stomachaches, but Daddy didn't believe that happy things could do any harm in any way.

  "Glum people have stomachaches. Monica. We don't, right. Rose?" he would ask.

  Of course. I always agreed with him then. To me it seemed the right thing to do, the right way to go, the right way to be: carefree, happy, unconcerned.

  "Your father just never grew up," my mother told me,. "He's a little boy in a man's body. Yes, he makes people feel good, but one of these days, he's going to have to become substantial. I just hope it's soon." she would tell me.

  Worry darkened her eyes. She took her deep breaths and waited, worked when she could, and made the best of every home we had, but I couldn't help feeling this same anxiety as I grew older and wiser and saw the shine begin to dull on Daddy's face and ways. Despite his attitudes and behavior, he was growing older. Gray hairs sounded small warnings and began to sprout like weeds in that flaxen cornfield. Lines were deepening under his eyes. He was less and less apt to drop everything and rush onto a basketball court to match himself against young boys. The world he had kept at bay was seeping in and under every door. He was beginning to show wear and tear. He had to search harder and harder to find ways to deny it, or avoid it.

  Daddy kept his little escapes private. He did a little more drinking than Mommy liked, but he didn't do it in salons and dingy bars with degenerate friends. He kept his whiskey in a paper bag and drank surreptitiously. Even his drinking was solitary. All of his means of relaxation were He loved to go duck hunting, but he never went with a group. He was a true loner when it came to all this. It was as if he didn't want to share those moments of doubt or admit that he needed his retreats from reality.