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Cage of Love

V. C. Andrews

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  Following the death of Virginia Andrews, the Andrews family worked with a carefully selected writer to organize and complete Virginia Andrews’ stories and to create additional ones, inspired by her storytelling genius.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © September 2001 by the Vanda General Partnership

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

  ISBN 0-7434-4869-3

  V.C. ANDREWS and VIRGINIA ANDREWS are registered trademarks of the Vanda General Partnership.

  POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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  My mother died when I was only twelve. We had just begun to enter that womanly magical place together where she would be my guide. Through her eyes, her wisdom and experience, I would know where to stand and where to walk.

  “The world has always been full of minefields for any young girl, Madge, but it’s so much truer today than ever,” she told me the year she passed away.

  She had a horrible virus in her heart that destroyed it slowly, weakening and aging her right before Daddy’s eyes and mine. In her final months, I felt more like the mother taking care of her, the child. She taught me so much so quickly, realizing that her days were ticking down like some windup clock. In fact, the moment she died, I looked at the clock and memorized the hour and the minute forever and ever.

  My mother anticipated it all and began teaching me how to care for myself and my father almost the day she was diagnosed. For a long time, she had me fooled. She pulled me into the kitchen to work beside her and learn recipes and cooking techniques, making it all seem like just another mother-daughter activity. Subtly, she dropped hints and comments about my daddy’s needs and ways.

  “He won’t wear a shirt he’s worn the day before and he has to have it starched just right. He’s not very good when it comes to tying his tie, Madge,” she said, and then demonstrated how to do it and had me practice on her. “Just in case I’m busy,” she said, “and you have to do it.”

  I felt a little alarm go off inside me when she said that, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. I didn’t want to.

  “Your father has little patience for the seemingly inconsequential things,” she told me, “but if he goes out of this house with a button too loose or a scuff on his shoe, it throws him out of kilter and he loses confidence in himself.

  “He’s too busy to shop for himself or too insecure about it,” she continued, giving me what I would later think of as Lessons in Daddy. “He doesn’t keep up with style and couldn’t tell you the price of a decent pair of slacks or even a package of underwear or socks.

  “You see how he is when we go shopping on Saturdays. He gets caught up in some new electronic gadget and spends hours learning about it while we’re off doing what we came to do, and then he’s always asking us why we take so long and how we can spend so much time sifting through clothes. He took almost a half a day just to buy a new telephone answering machine, remember?”

  I smiled and laughed. She would talk about Daddy right in front of him as well. They had such a warm, loving relationship that he never felt insulted, even if she did it in front of other people. It was always loving.

  “I tried cooking for us,” he defended, when she made fun of his culinary skills, “didn’t I?”

  “Yes, Spencer, you tried. You roasted the chicken until it shrank to half its size and you overcooked the vegetables, but you did make good ice tea.”

  “That came in a bottle already made,” he declared.

  “Well, you poured it well,” she said, and everyone laughed, even Daddy.

  I used to think that if two people loved each other as much as my parents loved each other, nothing bad could happen to either of them. Their love was like invisible armor keeping out the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Bad things happened to far less substantial people, to selfish people, but surely not to people who depended upon each other as much as my parents depended on one another and cared for one another. They were too happy to make the sort of errors depressed and unhappy people made. They would live forever.

  Mommy was surely the spine of strength in our world, but she did depend on Daddy, too. She wanted him to make the business decisions, to manage their money, to negotiate for the bigger purchases.

  “I know I do a lot to take care of him, but he takes care of me, too. It’s a partnership. I guess people would call us an old-fashioned family. So many young people are afraid of giving. They’re all so worried they won’t get enough in return and someone will be critical. In the end they’re not as happy,” she said.

  “I’ll never regret making you and your father my life’s work.”

  We lived on the farm Daddy had inherited, but it was a farm that hadn’t been worked for nearly twenty years. My grandfather Grayson Wagner once raised chickens for egg production. The long henhouses were still there, but now with their windows broken, their siding fading, the grass and weeds creeping all around and up the sides of the structures, they looked like ancient ruins. Once in a while Daddy would look out at them and vow to either tear them down or at least make them look neater. He never did either. I think tearing them down for him would have been too traumatic, too much like saying a final goodbye to the childhood he had enjoyed and to the memory of his father he cherished.

  We had a large house with thirteen rooms. Fifty or so years ago, families were made to fit such houses. People had three, four or five children without it being very unusual. After I was born, Mommy tried to have another child for two years and then, after seeing doctor after doctor, faced the fact that she might never have another. It might have been nature’s way, knowing that she would soon not be strong enough for more children and might even hasten the few years she had left to live. At least, that was something Daddy came to believe and told me after she had died.

  A month after she died, her beautiful canary, Lucky Lady, died. I woke up one morning and found her on her side in the cage, her beautiful voice silenced. When Daddy saw her, he actually sat on the sofa and wept. I put my arm around him and we pressed our heads together as we stared at the little yellow bird, both of us with our eyes full of Mommy, remembering how she would sit for hours and whistle and talk to her precious companion. We took her and buried her where Mommy was laid to rest.

  Loving creatures, I decided that day, could pine away, could simply give up when they no longer had their cherished companions.

  My thoughts then turned immediately to Daddy. Would I lose him soon, too? Would I be alone and have to go live with some relatives? Such terrifying thoughts as well as my love for Daddy and my sense of obligation, my responsibility to fulfill the role Mommy had filled so well, kept me tied closely to him, t
o his every breath, his every movement and need, which was soon to be seen as an obsession.

  It was the same for Daddy, too. He became even more of a homebody and warded off every attempt to get him to go out and mingle with people his own age. Of course, his friends used all the logic and even said things like “Jacqueline would want you to go on, Spencer. She wouldn’t want you getting yourself weak and sick from loneliness. You have a big responsibility now. You have to bring up your daughter all alone.”

  “I’m all right,” Daddy would insist. “We’re fine. Aren’t we, Magpie?”

  That was the nickname he had given me years and years ago, and it was what he called me more often than not, now that Mommy was gone.

  “Yes, Daddy,” I would say. “We’re fine.”

  “Fine,” my aunt Nadine, Daddy’s sister, would mutter. “The poor girl is missing out on a normal childhood, coming home from school every day to fix your supper and spending her weekends looking after your house. At least hire a woman.”

  “She’d be an employee, and it would all be work to her,” Daddy replied.

  “Well, what do you think it was for Jacqueline, you male chauvinist,” Aunt Nadine countered.

  “This house was her creation and everything in it was built and maintained with her hands of love,” Daddy replied in a storm of words, his eyes full of fury. “Don’t you think I would have hired a woman to help her years ago, and especially when she was sick? She was adamant about my not doing that. It was her life, her world, her pleasure.”

  “You had an angel,” Aunt Nadine admitted.

  “And I have her angelic daughter,” Daddy said, smiling at me.

  Aunt Nadine shook her head in defeat and left us, as did just about everyone who came to give Daddy advice during those days, weeks and months after Mommy’s death. Soon, they all gave up and Daddy dove deeper into his work.

  Daddy was a well-respected architect and had so much work, he had to turn down or farm out a great deal of it. He had an office in Gardner, New York, a small upstate town only five miles from our home. I attended the Gardner public school. In the years that followed Mommy’s premature passing, I grew four inches and developed into a mature young woman. I was courted by the dramatics teacher, the cheerleading coach, and the choral director, but every extracurricular activity required after-school practice and I had to go home to prepare Daddy’s dinner and look after the house chores. I looked after our clothes as well.

  It wasn’t often that I was able to go out to a movie or to a party, and whenever I was asked, I would hesitate and think of poor Daddy, all alone at home, staring at the television set or pretending to read, his eyes sometimes lingering so long on a page, it was obvious he was lost in deep thought. He would tell me to go, but when I would look at him unnoticed, I would see the emptiness in his eyes.

  There was a boy I liked at school and who I knew liked me very much. His name was Preston Forster, and he was a star player on our basketball team. A number of girls had crushes on him, most making that very obvious. I think he mistook my hesitation as a bit of arrogance. When we started to talk to each other more frankly, he revealed that he had thought I was stuck-up and was glad to discover my apparent aloofness or immunity from his “charm and good looks,” as he jokingly referred to it, was for another reason: my concern for my father.

  “Bring him to the next game,” he urged. I did, and Daddy enjoyed it. Afterward Preston asked me to go with him and some of the other members of the team and their girlfriends to get something to eat and listen to music. I looked at Daddy.

  “Go on,” he said. “You might want to come home early, though. We had planned on getting up early to go cross-country skiing. Of course, we don’t have to do that,” he said.

  “I’ll bring her home early, sir,” Preston said quickly.

  Daddy nodded and kissed me goodbye. When we started out, I saw him lumbering toward our car, his hands deep in his pockets, his head down. It put such a pain in my heart, I couldn’t go.

  “I really do have to get up at the crack of dawn, Preston,” I told him. “Maybe some other time.”

  “Hey,” he said, but I was already running to catch up with Daddy.

  “Magpie!” he said, surprised. “What’s wrong?”

  “Nothing. I’m just tired and decided to go home with you, Daddy.”

  He smiled and talked continuously all the way home, telling me about his days as a basketball player at his high school. We did go to sleep shortly after we arrived home and we were up very early. It had snowed heavily all week, so there was a good pack of snow for our cross-country. We had so much fun together. Both our faces were red from the cold air and from the excitement. Later, we hovered over hot chocolates in front of our fireplace, and he wrapped a blanket around me and held me closely. He looked so contented, so at peace, and for the time being at least, not like a man who lived under a dark cloud of mourning.

  Preston surprised me by showing up late the following morning. He claimed he had just been in the neighborhood and decided to stop by. I asked him to stay for lunch, which he did. He and Daddy talked about basketball and then Preston and I took a walk around the farm. When I put on my coat, he asked me why we had an empty birdcage in the living room.

  “It was for my mother’s canary. It died shortly after she did, and we haven’t replaced it.”

  “So why keep the cage?”

  “We just do,” I said. “Daddy wants it up,” I added.

  Preston looked at me and then we left the house.

  “I guess you have a big responsibility looking after your father,” he said. “It must have been very hard for both of you after your mother died.”

  “It still is. We think about her every day.”

  He nodded. We were holding gloved hands, but he stopped and took his glove off and then slipped mine off.

  “It’s cold,” he said, “but I like holding your naked hand.”

  It took my breath away to hear him say that. It was as if we had totally undressed. His fingers moved warmly against mine. He gripped my palm and then brought it to his lips. I think I was holding my breath the whole time.

  “Hey,” he suddenly said, “any hay in that barn?”

  “Not fresh hay, no,” I cried, but he pulled me along and we went into the old barn. It was cold enough to see our breaths, but when he turned and kissed me, it put a warm glow over my whole body.

  “You know you’re the prettiest girl in the school,” he said.

  “I am not.”

  “Yes, you are. You have a natural look. You don’t need all that fancy makeup some of them wear, and your hair... all you have to do is brush it and you outshine them all.”

  I smiled. His words felt like jewels dazzling my heart. He kissed me again, and then we both decided it was too cold in the barn and we were better off walking in the sunlight. I showed him our pond, now all frozen over, and we talked about school, our teachers and what we thought we might do with our lives. I had not sent out a single college application, and Daddy had never asked about it. On the other hand, Preston was already accepted to the University of Syracuse. He had been scouted and would be on their basketball team. He said his interest lay in biology and he thought he might become a marine biologist.

  “I love scuba diving and I love the idea of being in a warm climate,” he declared. “You ever scuba dive?”

  “No. I’ve never really been anywhere,” I said. I knew his family was one of the wealthier families in the community. “Daddy talks about us taking a holiday, maybe going to one of the islands in the Caribbean where he and my mother went when they were younger.”

  “That’s a mistake,” Preston said. “He shouldn’t go back. The memories might make things harder.”

  “Not if he has me along,” I said.

  Preston stared at me and then he looked away toward the mountains and said, “You know, the other kids in school say things about you. They talk about your devotion to your father, but they make it sound... unnatur
al. You have to get out and be with people your own age too,” he emphasized.

  “I will,” I said.

  “When? How about next weekend?” he asked, practically leaping at me. “I’ll take you to a movie Saturday night. We have an away game Friday, so it’ll have to be Saturday. Okay? Well?”

  I looked at the house.


  “Okay,” I said, but it made me feel so light-headed and hollow inside.

  It wasn’t until Friday that I told Daddy. He looked surprised but said it was fine. Saturday morning, however, he woke up with a terrible headache. He said it made him nauseous to walk around, so he stayed in bed all day. When Preston called me at five, I told him my father was sick and I had to stay home to take care of him.

  “Why? He’s old enough to take care of himself, Madge.”

  “He’d do it for me,” I said.

  “That’s different. He’s your father.”

  “I’m his daughter,” I said. “I’m sorry. Maybe next weekend.”

  “Sure,” Preston said. “Next week he’ll probably have an appendix attack,” he added.

  He was so mad at me, he barely looked at me all week. Daddy was better on Sunday and went to work on Monday. Friday afternoon, Preston approached me in the hallway and said, “I don’t suppose you’ll be at the home game tonight, will you? It’s just the biggest game of the year for us.”

  “I’ll try,” I said.


  When I went home, I fixed dinner and when Daddy arrived, I asked him to take me to the game. He said he was too tired so I asked him to drive me and leave me there. He looked surprised but he said he would. I told him I would call him when the game ended. It was the most exciting game of the year. We won by two points, the two points Preston made with the final shot. The team carried him off the court. When he came out of the locker room, everyone was trying to get his attention, but he saw me and hurried to my side.

  “Can you celebrate with me?” he asked.

  “My father is coming for me.”