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DeBeers 03 Twisted Roots

V. C. Andrews

  Twisted Roots

  DeBeers #3

  V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c) 2002

  ISBN: 0743428587



  Hannah's Story


  I have always felt like someone with a pimple

  on the tip of her nose because my last name is different from my mother's. First you try to cover it up, and then, when you can no longer do that, you pretend it's nothing and act as if it certainly doesn't bother you.

  I have my father's last name. Eaton, and my mother. Willow, who remarried a year after I was born, has my stepfather's last name. Fuentes. My father, who is an important and successful Palm Beach attorney, has always refused to permit my stepfather to legally adopt me and thus take on his name, even though my daddy, too, remarried a year after I was born and has twin boys, now fifteen years old. Adrian and Cade.

  The irony about all this is my Eaton paternal grandparents have never had anything to do with me. Neither has my aunt Whitley, my father's sister, or her children, my cousins Quentin and Laurel, both of whom have their own families. I have seen my Eaton grandparents, my aunt, and her husband Hans, only from a distance. and I know they have seen me from time to time, but they have never acknowledged me. Once I saw Quentin. but I've never seen his family. and I've never seen Laurel or any of her family. Even when I was very young, it didn't take me long to realize the Eatons built a wall around themselves, so they were the castle-keeps, especially in regard to me.

  Whenever I've been with my father. I've also been with Adrian and Cade. but I'm not very fond of my half brothers, who suffer from 100 percent snobquotient. I won't deny that they are very good-looking and very good students, but they love reminding people of that, especially me. Even though I'm just as good a student as either of them, they often try to make me feel inferior by bragging about how much more they have or how many more friends they have. They have what they call their "Invite Board" in their game room, and they pin up their party invitations on it. They love showing it to me, especially when almost every available space is taken.

  My father's second wife. Danielle, is polite and nice enough to me. but I've always thought she was afraid to be much more. She gives only about a 70 percent smile and stops short whenever she is about to invite me to do something or .give me something that might somehow seem to be extra and above what is absolutely necessary. Perhaps she thinks my brothers would be jealous. I'm sure they would be.

  Danielle is pretty with doll-like features. My father met her on one of his trips to France. She was working for a travel agency. All I know is they had a whirlwind romance, and she became pregnant almost the day they were married. She always seems quite overwhelmed by her twin boys. I've caught her looking at them with an expression of astonishment on her face after something they said or did, making me think she was wondering how two such conflicting and explosive personalities were ever a part of her. I've even heard her jokingly say that they kicked so hard in her womb, she was afraid they would induce labor.

  Mommy calls Danielle my father's "trinket wife." She says he has a charm bracelet with pictures of all his past trinkets, with Mommy excluded, of course. I know that's not true. and I know that Mommy doesn't really believe it, but she likes to say things like that about him. There is what I would best describe as a shaky truce between my mother and father. and I walk the tightrope between them afraid to say one nice thing about either to either for fear their anger and disappointment will shake the around I'm on, causing me to fall off and then lose them bath.

  The only family I really have is what I call my "stepfamily," the Fuentes. They have never made me feel like anything less than a member of their family, making sure to always melude me in their celebrations and events. I expect there is really a word in the dictionary like step-family, but the word is in my own private dictionary along with ,snob-quotient and nongrandma and nongrandpa, which is what my father's parents Bunny and Asher Eaton are to me. I suppose I could call the Eatons my nonfamily.

  I do have some family on my mother's side: an uncle, my mother's half brother. Linden. He lives in a residency in the Boca Raton area, in what my mother terms an "intermediary home." He's spent years and years in a very controlled environment, a mental health clinic, and he's not quite ready to be on his own in the outside world. She never says it, but she doesn't have to say it. She knows I know she doesn't believe he will ever be quite ready. So it's not really an "intermediate place" for Linden: it's a dead end. No matter how deeply set his problems are, however, my uncle Linden loves me very much and I love him.

  My father is always warning me about Uncle Linden and telling me things like "Insanity runs like an underground sewer through that family bloodline," which makes me wonder if he doesn't think I have the mental pollution in me as well. His parents, his sister, and even his children certainly treat me as if I do. Sometimes I get the impression that Adrian and Cade think I'm going to break out in mad babbling or stick my finger in an electric socket, (They would love that.) I know they deliberately do things, tease and shock me with their words and behavior, in the hope that they will bring on a seizure of madness. There is always that slight pause, that hesitation of

  anticipation, waiting for my reactions. I try to ignore them, but sometimes it's like pretending a mosquito hasn't landed on your arm.

  My stepfather. Miguel, who is a psychology professor and was even once my mother's teacher, told me that it's my father's family that has the mental problems. I told him that doesn't help me because in either case, I might be inheriting it.

  Not this kind of mental illness. Hannah." he replied. "This kind is home grown in Palm Beach. You can't inherit it. You have to wander into those gardens to contact that sort of poison ivy, and thankfully, your mother keeps you out of those gardens."

  We both laughed at that, me not so much because Mother was keeping me out of that world, but because that world wasn't inviting me to enter. Whenever I walked down Worth Avenue with Mommy, I felt we were both invisible. People who knew who we were seemed too terrified to look at us for more than a split second. Maybe they thought they would be turned into pillars of salt, or if they smiled at us, no one would ever again smile at them. This was especially true about snobby salespeople in the better Palm Beach stores, who often made us wait or even ignored us for as long as they could or until Mommy put herself aggressively in their faces.

  "When I tell you these things about Palm Beach, it's not a case of the fox and the grapes. Hannah," my stepfather insisted. 'Believe me. You don't want to be part of that social scene. It's cannibalistic. They eat each other for breakfast.

  "Pass me that child from Coconut Row, or can I have a piece of that young man from Esplanade Way, please?" he added, pretending to be seated at some Palm Beach fancy restaurant. We both roared with laughter.

  I really love my stepfather as much as anyone would love a natural father, maybe even more than I love mine. I know my father thinks I do. Whenever he sees me wearing something new, especially a ring or a bracelet, he always says. "I see your mother's Cuban lover is trying to buy your love again with some cheap imitation jewelry."

  I always want to say, "He's not her Cuban lover. He's her husband, and this isn't cheap imitation jewelry," but if I defend Miguel too vigorously, it only convinces Daddy he's right, so I usually pretend I don't hear him. More often than not, when I am with either my mother or my father. I feel like I am floundering in the world of jealous adult quicksand. A critical glance, a sarcastic word, even an innocent question can pull me down into their swampy underworld full of green-eyed monsters.

  It's better for me to say nothing, to look bored and disinterested. Both take it as a sign of agreeme
nt, and I think that's all right. Let them believe what they need to believe. Little silences are like antimissiles I use to keep all the missiles of unhappiness from striking my heart.

  I might not be able to do that today. however. Today is one of the strangest, if not the strangest, day in my life: My mother is a psychologist who specializes in the problems of young people. She said she likes to get to someone before his or her emotional and psychological difficulties are not too comfortably seated. She has been in practice for more than ten years, and she is very well known and respected. All during that time she and my stepfather put off having a child of their own, and then they decided right after my sixteenth birthday to have one Just a little more than two months later at dinner. Mother announced she was pregnant. It was the most surprising thing I had heard my whole life. My mother. pregnant? It was so strange to realize she was actually going to give birth. There were girls my age giving birth!

  "Your brother or sister might even be born on your birthday." she declared. "Wouldn't that be wonderful? We could have one big birthday party every year!"

  I know Mommy was just trying to be excited for me because she never had a brother or sister in her home when she was growing up. But no I thought. It wouldn't be wonderful. Who wants to share your one special day with someone else? I used to feel sorry for Adrian and Cade because they had to do that, being twins. Adrian's solace is his gleeful bragging about being born a good two minutes before Cade. Cade counters by saying that was because he kicked Adrian out of their mother's womb first.

  "I couldn't stand the smell," he bellows and laughs.

  "That was exactly why I came out first. I couldn't stand your smell." Adrian throws back at him.

  It's hard to believe they are brothers, even though they are mirror images of each other. They so enjoy belittling each other or defeating each other. It's as though they were put on same mysterious starting line and their births came after the report of a starting gun. Cade will always be in pursuit of Adrian, who had that two-minute advantage. However, at least when they are making fun of each other, they are not making fun of me. If I try to stop them from hurting each other. I know they will only turn on me.

  Anyway, this morning I was waken by a great deal of commotion, shouting, doors slamming, footsteps on the stairs and in the hallway. My heart skipped a beat when I heard Miguel yell, "We're going to the hospital!"

  When I went to the door. Miguel turned to me and cried. "Your mother's water has broken!"

  I knew it was almost a month too soon. so I understood why she and Miguel were in a panic about it Mommy had always been nervous about being pregnant this late in life, so she had been very intense about her prenatal care, her vitamins, doctor's visits, diet, and exercise. Now, despite all that, she was being rushed to the hospital to give birth to what I already knew would be my baby brother. Claude, named for my maternal grandfather. Even before little Claude, as he would come to be known, opened his eyes and cried for the first time. I was already jealous of him, more jealous than Cade was of Adrian and Adrian was of Cade.

  After all, my brother Claude would have my mother's last name. He would be a Fuentes, and he would belong in this family more than I did. He. would never have a nongrandma or nongrandpa.

  Certainly, he would never feel like a stranger in his daddy's home. He had dozens of real relatives to call his family, not his stepfamily. He wouldn't need little silences to keep him from being too unhappy, nor would he have to worry about saying the wrong things to his father or his mother. He would never think he was on an island, cut off from the sea of society around him.

  In short, he would never wonder who he really was.

  Lying there and listening to the shouting and the footsteps dying out in the hallway as they left the house. I had one deep regret on this the most confusing of all days for me. Anyone who heard my regret might think it was probably the strangest thing of all, in fact.

  Why was I born first? Why couldn't I be the one who was to be born today?


  An Early Baby


  I was too young to remember her before she

  died, but my mother had a nanny, who, according to the way Mommy talks about her, was more of a mother to her than certainly her stepmother was. Sometimes I think how weird it is that Grandmother Grace. Mommy, and I have each had at least one stepparent in our lives. Are same people meant to be brought up that way? I asked Mommy about that, and she said so many marriages end in divorces these days that it is not at all uncommon for a child to have stepparents.

  "People marry and remarry the way teenagers used to go steady and break up to go steady with someone else years ago," she says. She's very bitter about it, although she would be the last one to admit to that. Psychologists, bath she and Miguel remind me, are not supposed to be judgmental.

  "We help our clients make those decisions on their own. We don't impose our values on them," she said.

  However, I have heard her angrily remark many times that the marriage vows should be updated. "They should be rewritten to say, 'Do you take this woman to have and to hold-- for a while or until you get bored?'"

  Sometimes she is so down on male-female relationships that I have to wonder if I will ever find anyone with whom I might be happy and spend the rest of my life. According to what he has told me and how he acts, my stepfather. Miguel, has no doubts about it. He seems to be very happy and very determined to spend the rest of his life with Mommy. I have never said anything to her about it. but I think he loves her more than she loves him. I know he makes her happy. He makes her laugh a lot, and I can see she enjoys her conversations with him, especially when they are discussing social and psychological topics. But sometimes, more often than ever. I think, she can be very distant. Her eyes take on a glazed look, and she stares at the sea or suddenly goes off to walk alone.

  She steals away when Miguel or I least expect it, walking through the house on "pussy willow feet." I have watched her without her knowing, observed her on our beach, and have seen her moving slowly, as slowly as sand sifting through your fingers, idly watching time go by, her face sometimes taking on that dreamy far-off expression, her beautiful lips in a soft smile. It makes me think she hears voices no one else can hear, remembers a whisper, a touch. Or even a kiss she has lost. Something wonderful slipped through her fingers years and years ago, perhaps, and now all she can do is resurrect the memory.

  "All our memories are like bubbles. Hannah," she once told me. "They drift by and burst, and all you can do is wait for another chance to blow them through your thoughts so they can drift by again. Reach out to touch them, and they will pop and be gone.

  Sometimes I envy people who have suffered loss of memory and who are never tormented with their pasts. I even envy Linden, lost in some world of his own."

  I hate it when she talks like that. It makes me think she would like to return to a time before I was born, as short as that happier period in her life might have been, and if she could, she would sell her soul to do so.

  How can she be unhappy here? How could anyone? We live on an estate called Joya del Mar. We have an enormous main house with halls so long and rooms so large, you could bounce your echo along the walls. The property is vast. too. On it we have a beach house, our own private beach front, a magnificent pool, beautiful patios and walkways with enough flowers and bushes to fill a small public park. She doesn't have to do any household chores. We have a cook. Mrs. Haber, and a maid named Lila who has been with us nearly ten years. Twice a week a small army of grounds people manicure our property.

  Professionally. Mommy is very successful. She has a psychotherapy practice with an office in West Palm Beach, not far from the magnet school I attend. Magnet schools provide a more specialized

  curriculum. Mine emphasizes the arts, and since I like to sing, Mother arranged for me to attend the A. W. Drefoos School of Arts in West Palm Beach. We get up and go together most of the time, or my stepfather takes me.

was the year they were supposed to buy me my own car so I could drive myself places, but they have yet to do it. They have this idea that I should first find some sort of part-time job to at least pay for my own gas and insurance.

  "When you accumulate enough to pay for at least one year's insurance, we'll get you the car." she has promised.

  She also promised to help me by looking for a job that could fit into my schedule. I moaned and groaned, wondering aloud in front of them if my taking on a job wouldn't hurt my schoolwork. Miguel laughed.

  "Oh, having a vehicle and driving all over the place won't cut in on your study time?"

  I hate having parents who are so realistic. The parents of other girls my age accept at least a fantasy or two. However, it is very important to Mommy and Miguel that I develop a sense of value, the one sense they both insist is absent in Palm Beach.

  "Here, people would think it justifiable to go to war over a jar of caviar," Mommy once quipped.

  I do understand why she doesn't like the Palm Beach social world. My maternal grandmother Grace wasn't treated well here. and Mommy blames many of her own difficulties on that. At times Palm Beach doesn't seem real to me. either. It's too perfect. It glitters and feels like a movie set. When we cross the Flagler Bridge into West Palm Beach. Mother claims she is leaving the world of illusion and entering reality.

  "Rich people here are richer than rich people most everywhere else," she told me. "Some of the wealthy people here are in fact wealthier than many small or third-world countries. Hannah. They keep reality outside their gold-plated walls. There are no cemeteries or hospitals in Palm Beach, Death and sickness have to stand outside the door. While the rest of us get stuck in traffic jams of all sorts in life, the wealthy residents of Palm Beach fly over them."

  "What's wrong with that?" I asked her. "I'd like that."

  "They haven't the tolerance for the slightest inconveniences anymore. Sometimes it's good to have a challenge, to be frustrated, to have to rise to an occasion, to find strength in yourself. You need some calluses on your soul, Hannah. You need to be stronger."