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Hudson 03 Eye of the Storm

V. C. Andrews

  Eye of the Storm

  Hudson #3

  V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c) 2000

  ISBN: 0671039830




  Sometimes I think that Mama Arnold named

  me Rain because she knew so many tears would fall from my eyes. Other children often teased me. singing "Rain, rain, go away.. Come again another day." When I was older, boys would call out to me in the halls or in the street and say, "You can rain on me anytime, girl."None of them would do it if my brother Roy was around, but he knew they often did when he wasn't, and he got so angry about it once, he raged at Mama Arnold, demanding why she named me Rain.

  She looked at him with such innocence and confusion scribbled through the lines in her face.

  "Where I come from," she replied calmly. "where my family comes from, rain is a good thing, an important thing. Without it, we would go hungry, Roy. You ain't known that kind of hunger, thank God, but I remember it. We called it bottom hunger because you were empty right to the bottom of your poor stomach.

  "And I remember feeling that first blessed drop after days and days of lingering drought. My daddy and mama would be so happy, they'd just stand in the downpour and let themselves get soaked through the skin. I recall once." she continued, smiling. "how we all joined hands and danced in the storm, all of us gettin' soaked to the bone and not a one car-in'. I Mess we looked like a crazy bunch, but the rain meant hope and money enough to buy what we needed.

  "Why, some people took to prayer sessions and rituals of all kinds to bring on the rain. I saw my first rainmaker when I was about ten. He was a small, dark man with eyes like shiny balls of black licorice. All the children thought he was charged with electricity from being hit by lightning so many times, and we were terrified of his touchin' us.

  "The church paid for him. Nothing he did brought a drop and he left saving we must've angered the Lord somethin' awful to have Him be so unforgiving. You know what that does to a

  congregation. Roy? Everyone goes peerin' around at everyone else with eyes of accusation, blaming our troubles on their sins. I heard talk of one community driving a whole family out because they thought they were responsible for a prolonged drought.

  "When your sister was born and I saw how beautiful she was. I thought to myself why she's as pretty and as full of hope for us as a good rain and that's when I decided it would be a good name."

  Roy stared at her, obviously overwhelmed. Beneatha looked down, sullen because she had been named after some relative and that wasn't much compared to what Mama Arnold was saying about me. and I remember thinking I had a greater responsibility because of my name. Mama Arnold thought I would bring good luck.

  Today. as I dressed to go to the cemetery to visit Grandmother Hudson's gave. I believed Mama Arnold couldn't have been more wrong. All I seemed to bring to anyone was bad luck. Of course.

  Grandmother Hudson didn't think that when she died. She might have thought it in the beginning when my real mother had arranged for me to live with her under the guise of my being some charity case. That way my real mother. Megan Hudson Randolph, could still keep secret her getting pregnant and giving birth to me when she was in college, even from her husband and especially from her two children. Brody and Alison. My grandparents had paid my stepfather Ken to take me as soon as I had been born. Years later. Grandmother Hudson would take me in reluctantly, like a parent who had to swallow the sins of her child.

  Mama Arnold was much sicker than any of us knew, and after my younger sister Beneatha had been killed and Ken, my stepfather, had run off and been arrested for armed robbery. Mama Arnold wanted to be sure I would be safe. When I think back now to that day when she forced my real mother to meet us for lunch and then convinced her she had to take me back. I realize how strong a woman Mama Arnold really was. Grandmother Hudson and Mama Arnold weren't so different when it came to the importance of and the sacrifices for their families.

  On first impression, people like Mama Arnold who scratch out an existence in their state of poverty and hard times don't look like very much. Mostly. they hobble along looking tired. Aged beyond their years, cynical, hopeless, their eyes as vacant as blown lightbulbs. What people don't see is the great strength, courage and optimism it takes for women like Mama Arnold to do battle with all the evil around them in order to protect their children. Mama Arnold was our fortress.

  It seems silly now to think of that fragile little lady as a power of any kind, but that's who and what she was. She and I weren't blood related, but she gave me the gift of grit. I stood taller because of her, and one of the things that had so endeared me to Grandmother Hudson was her recognition of that and her admiration for Mama Arnold.

  Grandmother Hudson and I had grown so close so quickly. I really loved that woman and I la-low she loved me, despite her initial reluctance. After all, she was a woman born and bred in the Old South, formal and stern in her ways, and here I was a mulatto and her illegitimate granddaughter. She was a woman who wouldn't tolerate a stain on her dress, much less a stain on her family honor. However, in the end she proved her deep affection for me by arranging for my dramatics training in London and then, by leaving me so much of her estate: fifty- one percent of this house and property, fifty percent of the business and a twomillion-dollar portfolio of investments that provided more than enough for my well-being.

  Grandmother Hudson's older daughter, my aunt Victoria, was so outraged she vowed to fight the will in court. Still unmarried, running the family's investment and development business. overseeing projects, my aunt Victoria felt unappreciated and, from what I had witnessed during my short time with Grandmother Hudson, was always in some sort of conflict or other with her. Victoria resented her younger sister, my mother Megan, whom she thought their father favored over her, and whom she thought had a head full of air. Perhaps she resented my mother mostly though for having a husband like Grant, a handsome, intelligent, ambitious man, the kind of a man she wanted for herself and thought she could appreciate and satisfy far more than Megan could.

  Toward the end of my senior year in high school. Grandmother Hudson had arranged for me to live with her sister Leonora and my Feat-uncle Richard in England when I attended the Richard Burbage School of Drama. Neither Great-aunt Leonora or

  Great-uncle Richard knew who I really was. They thought Grandmother Hudson was doing some sort of charity work, sponsoring a poor minority girl. They didn't learn the whole truth until Grandmother Hudson died.

  When I was called back from England along with my greatuncle and great-aunt after Grandmother Hudson's death, my mother and her husband tried to get me to compromise and surrender much of what my grandmother had left me in the will. I think they both saw their offer as a way of paying me off and getting rid of me forever and ever, but I believed Grandmother Hudson had a purpose for what she had done. and I wasn't going to change anything in that will, not even a comma.

  My aunt Victoria continued to rage about making legal challenges. something I knew was terrifying to Grant, who had political ambitions. The last thing he wanted out in the open was his wife's past affair with an African-American man and my existence. Even after the funeral and all, he and my mother had still not told their children the whole truth. Brody liked me. I know, but Alison couldn't understand why I was given so much and why I commanded so much of her family's attention. She despised me, but I wasn't sure the truth would make any difference when it came to that and so secrets and lies continued to swirl around this house and family like a maddened hive of bees.

  Living in the mansion alone at the moment. I could practically hear those lies buzzing. Soon, they would sting us, sting us all and bring even great
er pain, but everyone in this family was focused on his or her self-interests and had tunnel vision. They didn't see it. Mama Arnold always told me there were none so blind as those who refused to see, those who looked away or down or at some fantasy rather than the truth. This family took the prize when it came to doing just that, from my great-uncle's strange fantasies in his London cottage, to my mother's refusal to face reality, to go off and distract herself with new purchases at the least little drop of controversy or stress.

  My aunt Victoria mumbled about her, complaining, calling her another Scarlett O'Hara because she was always saying "I'll worry about it tomorrow." Tomorrow, tomorrow-- it never comes of course. Victoria liked to remind everyone.

  Well, whether my mother was going to face it or not, tomorrow had come to this family.

  Grandmother Hudson in her last will and testament had insisted it come. Even in death, maybe especially in death, she hovered over her family, scowling down at them and demanding they finally take responsibility for their actions, for who they were and what they were.

  I wasn't about to stop all that from happening. but I couldn't be more frightened of what the future held for me. I didn't have all that many choices, True, I had found Larry Ward my real father in England and met his family. He had achieved his dream: he had become a Shakespearean scholar and taught in a community college. He wanted me to visit and get to know his family and get them to know me better, including his wife Leanna. but Grandmother Hudson's last bit of advice was not to push myself on them. She was afraid they would come to resent me. Maybe after a little more time, I thought, when I was more sure of myself, I would revisit him and his family.

  Meanwhile, with my stepbrother Roy still in the army in Germany, the only friend I had here was Jake, Grandmother Hudson's driver. He and I had also grown very close during my time here, and one day before I left to study the performing arts in England, he surprised me by bringing me to see his new race horse that he had named after me.

  Jake had history with this family and this property. It had once belonged to his family, but years ago, his family lost it and the Hudsons took it over. Jake had traveled a great deal in his life.

  He had been in the navy and he had never married and had no children or family of his own. I often felt like he was adopting me.

  Today. he waited for me outside to drive me to the cemetery. I had been there before with everyone else of course, but this time I was going alone to say my own good-bye.

  After the funeral and the reading of the will. I had moved myself into Grandmother Hudson's room. I didn't change anything, didn't move a picture or shift a chair. It helped me to feel she was still there, still watching over me.

  Aunt Victoria had already been through Grandmother Hudson's things, making sure she had all her valuable jewelry, watches and even some clothing. Parts of the room, dresser drawers and closets looked absolutely pillaged. In fact the drawers were so empty there was not even a piece of lint left and the closets were full of gaping areas, even the hangers gone.

  Of course, having lived here and helped take care of the house. I was quite familiar with

  everything, especially in the kitchen. I recalled the meals I had cooked for Grandmother Hudson and how much she had appreciated them. Her attorney provided me with all the information I needed to maintain the house and property. He said if I wanted, which I did, he would continue to manage and oversee that aspect of the estate. I had the feeling

  Grandmother Hudson had told him many nice things about me. He seemed very pleased that I had stood up to my mother. Her husband and Victoria.

  "Up to now," he said, "you're living up to your grandmother's expectations. Rain."

  I thanked him for the compliment and told him even in the short time we had spent together, she had provided the example for me to follow. The only thing was, I wasn't confident about how much longer I could follow it.

  I glanced at myself once more in the mirror and then started down the stairway to make the trip to the cemetery. It was a mostly cloudy day with a cooler breeze. announcing the imminent arrival of fall. A perfect day for visiting graveyards. I thought as I stepped out of the house. Jake was leaning against Grandmother Hudson's Rolls-Royce, his arms folded, waiting for me. The moment I appeared, he smiled and stood straight.

  "Mornin' ", Princess." he called as I crossed the drive toward him.

  "Good morning, Jake."

  "You sleep all right?" he asked.

  I knew everyone was wondering if I would be able to live in a house this large all by myself. Aunt Victoria was hoping I would get spooked and go to her, practically begging to accept the deal she had offered through Grant Randolph.

  "Yes, I did. Jake.'

  He smiled. Take was a tall, lean, balding man whose bushy, thick eyebrows almost made up for his loss of hair. He had dark brawn eyes which always seemed to have an impish glint, lighting up his narrow face. His chin was slightly cleft and his nose was just a little too long and too thin, but his smile for me was almost always warm, friendly, just as it was this morning.

  Lately, he had a crimson tint in his cheeks. I knew he was drinking a little more than usual, but he called it his fuel and I could never say I saw him look or act drunk.

  He opened the rear door of the Rolls for me. I hesitated, gazing in at the seat where Grandmother Hudson always sat firmly. I could still smell her perfume, the scent floating out to me. It made me hesitant.

  "You all right with this. Rain?"

  "Yes, Take. Yes," I said and got in quickly. He closed the door and we started for the cemetery.

  "Victoria called to tell me I'd be picking up Megan and Grant at the airport tomorrow," he said as we drove along. "Did you know about that?"


  "Thought so." he said nodding and shaking his head. "Sneak attack."

  "How did they even know I would be home?" I asked. He shrugged.

  "Victoria just assumes you will." He looked back at me, his eyes a little wide. "That woman is all confidence," he said. He laughed. "I can remember her as a little girl. She walked so straight and perfect and always looked like she was thinking. She was so serious, even back then. and I remember the way she would look at Megan, look down her nose at her as if to say. 'How did this bug get into our house?'

  "One thing about Megan though, she never seemed to pay her much attention. Victoria's comments slid off her back like ice cubes off a hot plate."

  "Which had to drive Victoria crazy." I said.

  "Exactly. Exactly." He laughed. "If Megan gave her much thought, she'd be upset. I suppose. Even back then. I nicknamed her Turtle. She'd get this faroff, dreamy look and crawl into her shell of fantasies to escape Victoria."

  "Megan is like that with everyone." I muttered, more to myself than to him.

  "Um," he said.

  I hadn't told Jake anything about Megan being my real mother and I hadn't told him about my real father at all. Since the funeral and all that followed, he and I hadn't really spent much time together. This was the first trip, the first time he was driving me anywhere when I was by myself,

  "So, have you decided to return to England. Princess?'" he asked me.

  "Probably," I said. "I'll stay in the dorms this time, of course,"

  "I understand, Leonora and Richard are two pieces of work, all right. Frances used to shake her head and laugh at how regal and how English Leonora had become."

  I wanted to tell him there wasn't all that much that was funny about them. They had lost their little girl who had a defective heart valve and it had left my great-uncle rather bizarre. Shortly before I had left England, he had impregnated their maid. Mary Margaret. whom I discovered was the daughter of Great-uncle Richard's driver. Boggs, the man who ran his house. No one but Boggs. I and Mary Margaret knew. Both my great-uncle and great-aunt were people who created their own imaginary world to replace the reality they couldn't face. and Mary Margaret had been forced to be part of Great-uncle Richard's fantasies.

  "You did
n't happen to find yourself a nice young Englishman while you were there now, did you, Princess?" Jake asked.

  "No, Jake." I said.

  He raised his eyebrows at the way I had replied. He could hear my audible sigh following. At the school I had met a handsome Canadian boy. Randall Glenn, the type of young man who could make every woman's heart flutter when he looked her way. We had become lovers for a while. Randall had a beautiful singing voice. I was sure he would be a great success, but in the end, he proved to be too immature for ine.

  "No one to go back to then?" Jake pursued.

  "Shakespeare." I replied and he laughed.

  The cemetery soon loomed before us. We passed through an arch and went to the right and then to the left to the Hudsons' plots. Grandmother Hudson had been buried beside her husband Everett and to his right were his parents and a brother.

  Jake stopped the car and turned off the engine.

  "Looks like there might be a little storm later," he said. "I was going to take Rain out for a little trot. but I'll wait until tomorrow. Hey," he said while I procrastinated, building up my courage in the rear seat, "maybe you can ride her from time to time. Until you return to England, that is."

  "I haven't ridden for a while. Jake, not since school here."

  "Yeah, well it's like ridin' a bike. Princess. You just get on and it comes back. Don't forget," he reminded me, "I've seen you riding. You're good."

  "All right. Jake. I'll do it," I promised, took a deep breath and got out.

  I didn't think as much about Grandmother Hudson during the funeral. There were so many people and so much tension between my aunt Victoria and my mother. I was often distracted. I kept expecting Grandmother Hudson would appear and be outraged by the ostentatious arrangements Victoria had made.

  "How dare you conduct such a silly service in my name? All of you, get on with your own lives," she would command and then smile at me and we'd go home.

  Dreaming seemed to be the best medicine for such deep, sickly sadness. I thought and walked toward her grave. Jake remained in the car, watching me.