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Web of Dreams

V. C. Andrews

  Web of Dreams

  Casteel #5 V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c) 1990

  ISBN: 0671729197



  . Luke and I pass through the tall wrought-iron gates that spell out FARTHINGGALE MANOR. Patches of rust have broken out along the letters like a skin rash and the pounding of sea storms and winter winds have bent the gates back. Now they lean against the somber gray skies and the great house itself looks oppressed, weighed down by time and the heavy and bleak history that lives in its hallways and grand rooms. There are a few employees kept on to look after the house and grounds, but no one really checks on their work and they do relatively little to keep things up.

  Luke squeezes my hand. It has been years, centuries, it seems, since we have been here. The dismal skies are appropriate for our arrival, for this is not a nostalgic journey. We would rather not remember my stay here, my imprisonment I should say, after the dreadful accident that took my parents' lives.

  But our journey is sadder yet. The funeral air is correct. We have come to bury my real father, to put Troy Tatterton finally to rest alongside his true love, my mother, Heaven.

  He had remained in his little cottage all these years, continuing his intricate artistic work on the wonderful Tatterton Toys, leaving only for special occasions like the births of my children. But whenever he visited us, no matter what the occasion, he could never stay away from Farthinggale long. Something always called him back.

  Now he will never leave.

  Even though the great house looms forever in my nightmares, and the memories of those tortured sys remain remarkably vivid still, once I look upon this grand estate, I understand why Troy had the need to return. Even I, who have every reason not to, feel a need to reenter the house and walk through its long corridors, up its great stairway to view the room that had been ray cell.

  Luke doesn't want me to go inside.

  "Annie," he says, "it's not necessary. We'll wait for the burial ceremony to start and greet whoever there is to greet outside."

  But I can't help myself. Something draws me on.

  I don't enter what was my bedroom. There are cobwebs everywhere and everywhere there is dust and grime. Curtains are faded and hang loose. Linens look stained, dirty.

  I shake my head and walk on, pausing at Jillian's suite, the famous suite Tony had kept up with a fanatical urgency, refusing to face up to Jillian's passing and all that had gone with it. The suite has always intrigued me. It intrigues me now. I walk in, look up at the mirrors without their glass, gaze at the clothing still draped over chairs, the toiletries still on the vanity table. I pass it all, slowly, moving like one through a dream, the air like gauze.

  And then I stop at Jillian's desk. I do not know why I do, but perhaps it's because the drawer is slightly open. Everything about this suite intrigues me and I wonder if there is something in that drawer that Jillian might have written during her days of madness.

  Curiosity takes hold of me and I open the drawer. I blow away the dust and peer inside to see blank paper, pens and ink. Nothing unusual I think and then I spot the cloth bag toward the rear of the drawer and reach in.

  There's a book in it. I take it out slowly.

  LEIGH'S BOOK, it says on the front. I hold my breath. It is my grandmother's diary. I open to the first page and find myself falling back through time.


  . I think it first started with a dream. No, not a dream, but more of a nightmare. In it I was standing with my parents--I don't know where. They were talking with each other and sometimes they would turn and say something to me. The only thing was, whenever I tried to talk to them, they seemed unable to hear me. As I kept trying to get into their

  conversation I reached up to push my hair back. Yet instead of my hair falling into place, I was horrified to discover a large clump of hair falling into my hand. Again and again I pushed back at my hair and each time I did another clump of my hair came free. I stared, horrified, at the large strands of hair in my hand. What was going on? Suddenly, a mirror appeared before me and in it I could see my image. I choked back a scream. My beautiful cashmere sweater was filled with holes and my skirt was torn and dirty. Then, before my already disbelieving eyes, I watched my features bloat. As I became fatter and fatter I started to cry. A trail of tears streamed down my smudged cheeks. I tore my eyes from my ugly image and turned to my parents, screaming for their help. My screams reverberated and bounced off the walls. Yet my parents did nothing. Why wouldn't they help me?

  I couldn't stop screaming. Finally, when I thought nty voice was gone and I was unable to utter a sound, they turned to me. Looks of astonishment broke across their faces. I wanted to call to Daddy . to have him cover me with hugs and kisses . . to protect me as he always had, but before I could open my mouth, a look of disgust came over his face! I cringed in horror and then he disappeared. Only Momma remained. At least, I thought it was Momma. This stranger looked exactly like her . . except for her eyes. Her eyes were so cold! Cold and calculating . . empty of the love and warmth I saw daily. Where had it gone? Why was she looking at me this way? My beautiful momma would never look at me with such hatred. Yes, hatred . . . and jealousy! My momma wouldn't fail to help me in my most desperate moment. Yet she did nothing. First, a look of disgust, identical to the look Daddy had given me, appeared. Soon it was replaced by a smirk . . . a smirk of satisfaction. And then she turned her back on me . starting to walk away . leaving . . leaving me alone in the darkness. -

  Somehow I found my voice and cried for her help. But she only kept walking, becoming smaller and smaller. I tried to follow, but was unable to move. Then I turned back to my image and before I could blink an eye, the mirror shattered and shards of glass came directly at my face.

  With my last bit of strength I screamed, raising ray hands to shield my face as I kept screaming and screaming.

  When I awoke I was still screaming and my heart was beating furiously. For a moment I couldn't figure out where I was. Then, as the familiar surroundings of my bedroom came into view, I remembered. I was home in my bedroom in Boston. Today was my birthday. My twelfth birth 4.y. Glad to be out of my awful dream, I put my fears behind me and pushed away the images that had terrified me only seconds ago. I headed downstairs with only thoughts of the day ahead.

  . On my twelfth birthday, I opened what would be my most precious gift: this book for memories. At the last moment, Daddy slipped it into the small mountain of wonderful and expensive gifts he and Momma had bought me. I knew he had put it there himself after Momma had arranged everything because she was just as curious about it as I was. Daddy usually left the buying of gifts completely in Momma's hands, just as he left her in charge of buying things for the house and buying all my clothes because he admittedly knew absolutely nothing when it came to fashions. He said Momma was an artist, so she would know better about color coordinations and designs, but I think he was just happy not to have to go to department stores and clothing stores.

  On a few occasions when I was younger, Daddy brought me models of his steamships, but Momma thought those were silly gifts for a little girl, especially the one that you took apart to learn about the workings of the engine. But I couldn't help being intrigued and very interested and played with it all the time, except when Momma was around.

  Everything was stacked on one side of the dining room table at breakfast, just as it always had been on every birthday I could remember. I had woken early, of course, because of the dream. Birthday mornings were usually like Christmas mornings to me, although this morning I was still a little upset by the nightmare, and now I tried hard to forget its scariness.

  Daddy had the surprise gift wrapped in light pink paper with birthday candles pain
ted in dark blue that spelled out HAPPY BIRTHDAY all over it. Just knowing he had bought it for me all by himself made it the most important gift there. I tried not to rip the paper as I unwrapped it. I loved saving things like that, mementos of all my special occasions: the candles from my tenth birthday cake, the one that was so big it took both Clarence the butler and Svenson the cook to carry it into the dining room; the candy angel on the top of the four-foot Christmas tree Momma bought to have placed in my playroom when I was only five; tickets from the circus Daddy took me to when it came to Boston last year; a play program from the Punch and Judy puppet show at the museum Momma and I went to when I was seven, and dozens of odds and ends like buttons and pins and even old shoe laces. So Daddy already knew that memories were precious to me.

  I took the book out slowly and ran the tips of my fingers over the cover, over my name. I just loved the feel of the butter-soft, rose-colored leather cover with the gilded edging, and I especially loved seeing my name in print written like the title of a book: LEIGH'S BOOK.

  I looked up with excitement. Daddy, already dressed in his dark gray three-piece suit and tie, stood back smiling, standing there the way he usually stood with his hands clasped behind his back, rocking on his heels like an old sea captain. Usually, Momma made him stop, claiming it made her nervous. Because Daddy was the owner of a big luxury ocean liner company and was on one ship or another so often, he said he spent more time on the water than on the land and he was used to rocking.

  "What is that?" Momma asked when I opened the cover to blank page after blank page.

  "I call it a logbook," Daddy said and winked at me. "Captain's log: Keep track of the major events. Memories are more precious than jewels," Daddy said.

  "It's just a diary," Momma said shaking her head. "Logbook. She's a little girl, not a sailor."

  Daddy winked at me again. Momma had bought me so many very expensive things, I knew I should pay more attention to them, but I clutched the book called LEIGH'S BOOK to my heart and got up quickly to kiss Daddy thank you. He knelt down and I kissed him on his rosy cheek just above his gray beard, and his shimmering rust-brown eyes brightened. Momma claimed Daddy was on one or another of his ships or at the ocean so much, his skin tasted salty, but I never tasted it whenever I kissed him.

  "Thank you, Daddy," I whispered. "I'll write about you all the time."

  There were so many things to write down, so many private and precious thoughts, 1 couldn't wait to do it.

  But Momma was anxious for me to unwrap the other talk while we both got ready to go out to a fancy Boston restaurant for my birthday dinner, I asked her to tell me the story again.

  "Don't you ever get tired of hearing about that?" she asked, throwing me a quick look.

  "Oh no, Momma. I think it's a wonderful story, a dream story. No one could ever write one as beautiful," I said, which made her very happy.

  "All right," she said, sitting down at my vanity table. She began to brush her beautiful hair, till it shone like spun gold. "I lived like poor Cinderella did before her prince arrived," she began as always. "But it wasn't always like that. I was the apple of my father's eye. He was a foreman in charge of everything at a nearby oil field, a very important man. Although he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty when he had to, he was a very elegant man. I hope some day you'll find a man like my father."

  "Isn't Daddy like him then? He doesn't mind working on his ships, getting down in the engine room with his men?"

  "Yes," she said dryly, "he doesn't care. But I want someone different for you, someone who is a real executive, who orders men about and lives in a mansion and . . ."

  "But don't we live in a mansion, Momma?" I protested. Ours was the biggest, most luxurious town house on the street, a classic Georgian Colonial with oversize entryways and fourteen-foot ceilings. All my friends loved my house and were especially impressed with the dining room because it had a domed ceiling and was encircled by Ionic columns. Momma had had it redone two years ago when she saw one just like it in one of her art magazines.

  "Yes, yes, but I want you to live on an estate with acres and acres of land, and horses, and pools, and dozens and dozens of servants and its own private beach. And . ." Her eyes grew soft and dreamy and faraway as she conjured up this wonderful mansion and grounds, "it will even have an English maze."

  She shook her head as though to clear it of its daydreams and with long, graceful strokes began to brush her cascading hair again. She said you had to brush at least one hundred times a night to keep it soft and healthy, and a woman's hair was her crown. She usually wore it up or pulled back from her face to show her sculptured profile.

  "Anyway, my sisters, the ironing board twins, were terribly jealous of the love my father had for me. Often, he would bring something beautiful home for me and nothing but practical things like sewing kits or crochet hooks for them. They didn't want pretty ribbons or new earrings or combs anyway. They hated me for being pretty, don't you see? They still do."

  "But then your father died and your older brother went into the army," I said, impatient to get to the romantic parts of the story.

  "Yes, and how things changed. Then I really became poor Cinderella, you see. They made me do all the chores around the house and hid my beautiful things whenever they could. If I didn't do what they wanted, they broke my combs or buried my jewelry. They threw out all my cosmetics," she declared hatefully.

  "But what about your mother? What did Grandma Jana do?" I knew the answer, but I had to hear it.

  "Nothing. She approved. She thought my father had been spoiling me anyway. She's just like them, no matter how she acts now. And don't think that because she gave you that cameo pin for your birthday," she added eying the cameo on my vanity table, "she has changed in any way."

  "It is beautiful and Daddy says it's very, very valuable." "Yes. I asked her for it years ago, but she refused me," she said bitterly.

  "Do you want it, Momma?"

  "No. It's yours," she said after a moment. "She gave it to you. Be careful with it, that's all. Anyway, where was I?" "They were burying your jewelry."

  "Burying my . . oh, yes, yes. And they tore my best dresses, my most expensive dresses, too. Once, Beatrice, in a fit of temper, sneaked into my room and hacked one of my dresses with a kitchen knife."

  "How cruel!" I exclaimed.

  "Of course, to this day they deny doing all that. But they did, believe me. They even tried to cut off my beautiful hair once, sneak in on me while I was sleeping and chop it with their long sewing scissors, but I woke up just in time and . . ." She shuddered as if what followed was too terrible to mention. Then she began stroking her hair again and continued. "Your father had come to Texas on some business venture, and my mother, who was still mingling with the blue bloods, met him at a dinner and invited him to our house, intending for him to fall in love with your aunt Peggy.

  "But when he set eyes on me . ." She stopped and sat back, looking at herself in the mirror. Momma always had the smoothest skin, not a wrinkle daring to show itself. She had an elegant face, a face that you could find on a cameo or on the cover of Vogue. She had shining blue eyes that revealed her moods: brightening like Christmas lights when she was happy, cold like icicles when she was angry, and soft and sad like a lost puppy when she was unhappy.

  "When he looked at me," she said to her own image in the mirror, "his heart became an instant slave to my beauty.

  "Of course," she added turning to me quickly, "your aunts were insanely jealous. They made me wear this faded, dull brown dress that came down to my ankles and hid my figure, and they wouldn't let me wear any jewelry. I had to have my hair up in a granny's bun and could wear no makeup, not even a dab of lipstick.

  "But Cleave saw right through all that. His eyes were fixed on me all night, and every time I spoke, even if it was to say, 'Please pass the salt,' he would stop whatever he was saying to listen as if my words were pearls of wisdom." She sighed and then so did L How wonderful, I thought, to have suc
h romantic memories. More than anything I wanted to one day have memories just as romantic for my very own.

  Did you fall in love with him right away too?" I knew that answer too, but I h to hear it again because I wanted to get it right for my book.

  "Not right away, although I did feel myself turning to him more and more. I thought he had a funny accent, you know, that ".'oston accent, so I was intrigued with everything he said. He was

  distinguished and had the look of a successful businessman: confident of himself, but not stiff; he wore expensive clothing, and had a thick gold pocket watch with the longest gold chain I had ever seen. When he opened it, it played the tune of

  `Greensleeves: "

  "Did he look like an old sea salt?" I asked, laughing. Daddy always told me he did.

  "I didn't know anything about the sea or his business, having lived in central Texas all my life, but he had the same beard he has now, only it wasn't all gray and it was much more neatly trimmed, I might add. Anyway he did talk on and on about his growing steamship line. Grandma found that interesting," she added with a smirk. "Planning on the rich suitor she was going to have for Peggy."

  "Then what happened?"

  "He asked to see our gardens and before Grandma could get Peggy to guide him, he turned to me and asked if I would do so. You should have seen their faces then. Peggy's dropped even lower, her chin stretched down to her ugly Adam's apple, and Beatrice actually groaned.

  "Of course, I agreed to do it, first just to torment them, but after we-walked out into the warm Texas night . . ." "Yes?"

  "And he began to speak softly, I realized Cleave VanVoreen was more than a stuffy, New England businessman. He was rich and clever and handsome in his own way, yes, but he was also very lonely and very taken with me, so taken that he actually proposed that first night. We were standing by the baby roses."

  "I thought you were on the swing and it wasn't until the second night."