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Wildflowers 01 Misty

V. C. Andrews


  Wildflowers #1

  V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c) 1999

  ISBN: 0671028006



  .We were brought separately to Doctor Marlowe's house. My mother drove me herself because it was on the way to meeting her friend Tammy for their weekly window-shopping and lunch with some of their girlfriends at one of the expensive restaurants near the beach in Santa Monica, California.

  I think my mother believes she still has a chance to be discovered and put on the cover of a magazine. Even as recently as yesterday, she held a magazine with the cover beside her face and asked, "Don't you think I'm just as pretty as she is, Misty? And I'm at least ten years older."

  Twenty years older was more like it, I thought, but I didn't dare say it. Aging is definitely considered a disease in our house. Minutes are treated like germs and days, months and years are diseases. My mother makes Ponce de Leon's search for the fabled Fountain of Youth. a mere Sunday-school picnic. There's nothing she wouldn't buy, no place she wouldn't go if it held the possibility of stopping Father Time. Most of her friends are the same and have similar fears. I can't help but wonder if I'll become just like them: terrified of gray hair, wrinkles and calcium


  If my mother wasn't going to Santa Monica today, she would have hired a car service for me as usual and mailed the bill to my father. She just loves sending bills to him. Every time she licks the envelope and closes it, she pounds it with a little closed fist and says, "Take that." I'm sure when Daddy sees it in his pile of mail, he grimaces and his wallet goes "Ouch."

  I'm like a dart she throws at him now. "She needs new this; she needs new that. The dentist says she needs braces. She needs new school clothes. Here's the bill for her dermatologist visit, the one your insurance doesn't cover."

  There is always another bull's-eye for Mom, who is punishing my father with my needs, whipping him with the costs of keeping me in designer jeans, straight teeth, and anything else she can buy. She pounces on a new expense and rushes to get the charges added up and sent to him ASAP, as she says. Once she sent a bill special delivery to his office even though he had days to pay it.

  Daddy tries to keep the bills down, asking why sometimes and trying to find alternatives, but whenever he does that, Mommy waves his opinions in my face like a bullfighter with a red flag, crying, "See how much he thinks of you? He's always looking for a bargain. If he wants to find cheaper prices for the things you need, let him do all the shopping."

  Daddy says he just wants to be sure I'm getting value for the dollars spent.

  I'm so lucky to have such concerned parents. I have to count my blessings on my hands and feet, my nose and ears. Doesn't everyone wish their parents were divorced?

  I couldn't help but wonder if the other girls who were coming to Doctor Marlowe's today had also been turned into whips their parents could snap at each other.

  Jade's father's chauffeur drove her because it happened to be her father's weekend with her and he had a previous appointment. All of us members of the OWP, Orphans With Parents, just love to hear about "previous appointments." What our parents usually mean is "I've got something more important to do for myself than look after your needs. If I wasn't divorced, your father could help, but no, that's not the way it is. We're different. You're . . . like some wildflower growing out of the garden, untended, left to fend for yourself most of the time, to pray for the right amount of rain and sunshine because no one's there to water and nurture you."

  "I must have had blinders on when I married your mother," Daddy says. Mommy says, "I was on drugs. There's no other possible explanation for such a stupid act."

  Did the other girls' parents say things like that in front of them? Sometimes I felt like I was invisible or something and my parents simply forgot I was standing there when they ranted and raved. Doctor Marlowe was right about one thing. I really was interested in hearing what the other girls' experiences were. That, more than anything, brought me here today. Oh, I know other OWPs at school, but without the therapy, without a Doctor Marlowe shining a light in the dark corners, they don't really tell you what's in their hearts. They keep it all locked up, afraid or ashamed that someone might discover just how lost and alone they really are.

  Star's grandmother brought her to Doctor Marlowe's house. She told us later on that her grandmother was actually sixty-eight and had inherited all the new responsibility for her and her little brother just when she was supposed to be rocking herself on some porch and knitting sweaters for her grandchildren. And then suddenly, guess what? She's a mother again.

  Cathy's mother brought her, but it nearly took a crowbar to pry the information out of Cathy's mouth. Maybe she's afraid to hear the sound of her own voice and admit to herself she exists. Very quickly she reminded all of us of a terrified kitten, rolling itself into a furry ball. I was the one who decided to call her Cat instead of Cathy and after a while, guess what? She liked it better, too.

  I was unloaded at the doctor's home and office on a warm early summer morning in Brentwood. The marine layer of morning fog was just lifting to reveal a California sky the color of faded jeans. It was going to be another one of those perfect days we all took for granted in Los Angeles. By afternoon, any clouds would resemble puffs of meringue. The breeze would feel like soft fingers on your cheeks and hair, and car windows would become glittering mirrors.

  We live in such a perfect world. Why were we so imperfect? In all our homes there were shadows in corners and whispers behind doors, no matter how bright and glorious it was outside. I used to think everyone else was at peace while we were pawns in silent wars. There were no guns fired, although sometimes we all wondered if there would be. The wounded and the dead were only hopes and wishes and the bombs were just words, nasty words wrapped in cold smiles or printed on official documents that floated into our lives along with the ashes from the fires that burned up our families.

  It was easy to see that Doctor Marlowe had a successful psychiatrist's practice, I thought. Her house was an enormous Tudor on a sizeable lot in an area of prime real estate. There was just her and her older sister Emma, so there was plenty of space for her offices.

  Why shouldn't she have a profitable practice? I asked myself. After all, she won't ever have a shortage of clients. Even the kids I knew who didn't come from broken homes had problems and many of them were in therapy either at school or privately.

  Maybe it was an epidemic Arthur Polk, one of the boys in my eleventh-grade class, said all this family dysfunction was a result of sunspots. He was a computer whiz and a science nerd, so some of my friends thought he might just be right. I thought he had a head filled with bees, each one a different thought buzzing, some stinging the others. Whenever I looked at him and he saw I was looking at him, his eyes seemed to roll like marbles in a teacup.

  "Call me to tell me what time to come for you, Misty," my mother said as I opened the car door and stepped out.

  "I already told you about what time to be here," I said.

  "I know, but you know how I lose track of time If I'm not home, remember, you just hit four and the answering service will forward the call to my cellular phone, okay, honey?"

  "Right," I said slamming the door a little harder than necessary. She hated that. She said it jolted her nervous system. The way everything jolted her nervous system these days, I thought she was like a pinball machine that if shook too hard would go tilt. Her eyes would take on that gray glazed look of dead bulbs and she would get lockjaw.

  I turned and headed for the arched entrance, hoping I wasn't the first to arrive. If I was, I might have to spend some time with Emma, who had a smile as phony as plastic fruit. All the
while she spoke to me, I could feel her eyes searching my face for signs of some madness. She talked to me as if I was about nine years old, tiptoeing her questions around me and laughing nervously after everything I said or she asked. She was the one who needed therapy, I thought, not any of us.

  Maybe that was why she lived with her sister. She was at least fifty and had been married and divorced years and years ago. She never remarried and from what I could tell was close to being a hermit. Maybe her husband had done something terrible to her. Jade, who I would discover liked to diagnose everyone but herself, decided Emma suffered from something called agoraphobia because she was afraid of being in public places. Maybe Jade was right. I saw that just stepping out the front door was enough to give Emma a panic attack.

  Neither she nor Doctor Marlowe had ever had any children. Doctor Marlowe was in her early forties and had never been married. Was this one of those famous cases of a shoemaker with holes in his shoes? After all, she was supposed to be an expert in parenting and she had no one to parent. She wasn't so unattractive that no man would look at her. Maybe she analyzed every man she dated and they couldn't stand it. I laughed, imagining her making love and then explaining every moan and sigh.

  Could a psychiatrist ever be romantic? I was eager to learn if any of the others had similar thoughts about her. Yes, maybe it would be fun to be together after all, I thought, as I jabbed the door buzzer.

  My heart did little flip-flops. All of us had been here before, but never together until today, never for what Doctor Marlowe termed the start of special peer group therapy. She had decided we had all reached the stage where it might be of some benefit. To me the only interesting thing was none of us had met. Doctor Marlowe's technique was to tell us very little about each other. She said she didn't want us coming to the sessions with any preconceived ideas. All she would really tell each of us was each girl's name and whom she lived with since her parents had divorced or split up, or, as I like to think, came apart. It seems to fit better. That's the way I feel . . . like I'm coming apart, like my arms and legs are floating away and I'm left with just this sixteen-year-old torso searching for a way out of this nightmare house that has no doors or windows.

  Anyway, a group of girls who had never spoken to each other was now supposed to gather in a room and share their pain and their anger and their fear, and that, according to Doctor Marlowe, would work miracles. I'm sure the others felt as I did: very skeptical and very anxious. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again.

  Go on, Doctor Marlowe, I challenged as I approached the door. Put us back together.

  No matter how easy Doctor Marlowe made it sound, it was still going to feel like taking off your clothes and standing naked in front of the curious eyes of strangers, and most of what each of us had to reveal, we wouldn't reveal even to our parents, especially not to our parents.



  We hated them.


  " Good morning, Misty," Doctor Marlowe's sister Emma cried from the circular stairway after their maid Sophie opened the door.

  Emma wore one of her flowery oversize dresses. Her hair was cut with razor-perfect precision at her earlobes and her bangs looked painted over her forehead and glued down a strand at a time. She kept her hair dyed coal black, probably to smother any signs of gray; however, the contrast with her pale complexion made the skin on her round face look like tissue paper. She froze on the steps, waiting for me to enter as if she thought I might change my mind.

  Sophie closed the door behind me. From somewhere deep in the house came Mozart's Symphony no. 40 in G Minor. I'm not an expert on classical music; the only reason I could identify it was because we were practicing it in the senior high school band. I play the clarinet. My mother thought it might ruin my orthodontic work, but Mr. LaRuffa, our bandleader, practically signed an affidavit that it wouldn't. Mother finally put her signature on the permission slip.

  My father forgot to attend this year's big concert, even though I had brought my clarinet to practice while I was at his new home the weekend before. Ariel, his twenty-something girlfriend, promised to remind him, which I thought was amazing in and of itself. She looked like someone who had little mirrors in her brain reflecting thoughts, bouncing them back and forth accompanied by little giggles that reminded me of tiny soap bubbles.

  No matter how obvious I was with my sarcasm, Ariel smiled. I guess Daddy was comfortable with her because she looked like a Revlon model and never challenged a thing he said. Whatever pronouncements he made, she nodded and widened her eyes as if he had just come up with a new world-shattering comment. She was quite the opposite of my mother, who today would challenge him if he said good morning.

  Mostly, Ariel gave him sex. According to my mother and her friends, that's all men really care about.

  "The doctor will be with you in a moment or two," Emma said as she stepped down the carpeted stairs, taking each step with the same precaution someone walking across a muddy road might take: tiny, careful steps followed by a tight grasp on the balustrade. I wondered if she was an alcoholic. She wore enough perfume to cover the stench of a garbage truck so it was hard to tell from her breath if she drank or not, but she had gained at least forty pounds since I had first started with Doctor Marlowe and when I told that to Mommy, she said, "Maybe she's a closet drinker."

  It better be a walk-in closet, I thought. "How are you today, dear?" Emma asked when she finally stood before me. She wasn't much taller than I was, perhaps five feet one, but she seemed to inflate like a balloon replica of herself, her heavy bosom, each breast shaped like a football, holding the flowery tent out and away from her body.

  I wore my usual costume for these mental games with Doctor Marlowe: jeans, sneakers and white socks, and any one of a dozen T-shirts that annoyed my mother. Today's had a beached whale on the front with a stream of black liquid drooling from its mouth. Under it was written Oops, another oil spill.

  Emma Marlowe didn't seem to notice what I wore, ever. She was as nervous as usual in my presence and pressed her thick lips together as she smiled so that it looked more like a smothered little laugh.

  "The doctor wants you to go directly to her office," she said, her voice thin and high-pitched like someone on the verge of screaming.

  That's a relief for both of us, I thought.

  "Anyone else here yet?" I asked.

  Before she could reply, the doorbell rang and Sophie, who was standing to the side like some doll on a spring, sprung into action. She opened the door and we all looked out at a tall, attractive black girl with braided hair. She wore a light-blue cotton sweater and a dark blue skirt. I immediately thought, that's the figure I hope I have someday when my stupid hormones decide to wake up.

  "Oh, Star," Emma Marlowe said. She looked back toward the music as if she was hoping to be rescued. "Come in, come in," she added quickly.

  Star? I thought Doctor Marlowe meant that was her last name when she told me that was the name of one of the girls. Misty was hard enough to carry around, but Star? Doctor Marlowe had left out a small detail, too, that she was black

  Star smirked. It was a clear look of disgust, the corners of her mouth tucking in and her ebony eyes narrowing. She stared at me. For a moment it felt as if we were both gunslingers in a Western movie waiting for the other to make the first move. Neither of us did.

  "I'm sure the doctor wanted to do all the introductions, but this is Misty," Emma Marlowe said.

  "Hi," I said.

  "Hi." She looked away from me quickly and practically dared Doctor Marlowe's sister to try to make small talk.

  Instead, Emma made dramatic gestures toward the office and stuttered.

  "You two can . . . just . . . go right on . . . in."

  We walked to the office. Neither Star nor I needed any directions. We had been here enough.

  The room was large for an office. One side of it was almost a small living room with two large brown leath
er sofas, some matching cushion chairs, side tables and a large, round, glass center table. The walls were a rich oak panel and there were French doors facing the rear of the house where she had her pool and her garden. It was facing the west side so if you had an afternoon appointment, the office was as bright as a Broadway stage. Morning appointments not only didn't have the direct sunlight, but when dominated by overcast skies required more lamplight.

  I always thought the moods we experienced in this office had to be different on brighter days. You carried your depression and anxiety like overly loaded suitcases into this office and hoped Doctor Marlowe would help you unpack them. Darker days made it harder, the depression heavier.

  I used to believe bad memories were stuck to my brain with superglue and if Doctor Marlowe pulled one off, a piece of me went along with it.

  Sometimes, Doctor Marlow sat behind her desk and spoke to me while I sat on one of the sofas. I thought she might believe that if she was a little farther away, I would be more open. She did lots of little things like that to test me, and I couldn't wait to compare notes about her with my fellow OWPs.

  I went right to my usual sofa and Star paused. I could see what she was thinking

  "Which one do you usually use when you're here?" I asked her.

  She glanced at the other and then looked at me sharply.

  "What difference does it make?" she replied. I shrugged. She remained standing.

  "I always sleep on the right side of my bed. What about you?"

  "Huh?" She grimaced and when she did, her eyebrows hinged and her ears actually twitched. I laughed. "What's so damn funny?"

  "Your ears moved," I said.

  She stared a moment and then she cracked a smile on her black porcelain face. Her complexion was so smooth and clear, it looked like a sculptor had put finishing touches on her just an hour ago in his studio, whereas I had little rashes and pimples breaking out on my forehead and around my chin practically every other day despite my high-priced skin specialist. Mommy blamed it on things I ate when she wasn't around. Doctor Marlowe said stress could cause them, too. If that was the case though, my head should be one giant zit, I thought.