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The End of the Rainbow

V. C. Andrews

  The End of the Rainbow

  Hudson #4

  V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c) 2001

  ISBN: 0671039857




  On my sixteenth birthday, there wasn't a single

  cloud in the sky. An uninterrupted sea of baby blue was spread from one horizon to the other, and the warm breeze scented with hyacinths, lilacs and daffodils was as gentle as the flutter of air from a passing sparrow.

  It was magic.

  Twilight the day before. I had pushed Mommy in her wheelchair down the ramp and turned her toward the lake.

  "There's one!" Mommy cried as soon as she caught sight of the first blackbird lifting from a tree branch in the surrounding forest and gliding over the water.

  Then, as we often did, we held hands and closed our eves and made our wishes. It was our special little secret ceremony, something we had begun doing together since I was four because it was something she said she had always done. She believed in the power of the lake and its surroundings.

  "I started doing it almost as soon as I had arrived to live with your great-grandmother Hudson," she told me. "Before that the only body of water I had really spent any time near was what was in my bathtub. A place like this was perfect for my dreams and still is. I know it will be perfect for yours as well. Summer."

  We both had wished for a wonderful tomorrow. I imagined a day when smiles would float down from Heaven itself, settling so deeply in the faces of all my relatives and friends that they would all forget every sad or troubling thought, every unhappy moment. Then we would all ring in my new year in harmony. Mommy believed we needed a dose of magic here and there to protect us, especially us.

  I didn't disagree, for now I was well past the age when I wouldn't be permitted to hear about and learn about the tragedies and the mistakes that marked our family history. Mommy confessed that

  sometimes-- perhaps even more often than

  sometimes-- she truly believed there was a curse haunting her every step, her every breath. Even her every thought.

  "Anyone else would probably have come to a point where she was unable to make another decision. Summer. My hands used to tremble on the steering wheel of my specially equipped van even when I approached an ordinary intersection and merely had to decide whether to go right or left. Surely something terrible would occur if I made the wrong choice. I thought. The only reason why I didn't freeze up was because I kept hearing my adopted mother's voice urging me on and chiding me for being afraid," Mommy said. "That woman could face down Armageddon."

  I could certainly understand Mommy's fear and often wondered if such a curse could be passed on to me. That was Mommy's worst worry, too.

  "What if the strongest, biggest thing I gave you was my own bad luck?" Mommy suddenly said, as if she had read my mind.

  "That's silly, Mommy," I told her, even though I wasn't sure. "There's no such thing as being destined to have bad luck. It's all just chance and no one's to blame. You couldn't be the cause of anyone's trouble." I insisted and did so with such vehemence she had to laugh and promise not to speak such dark thoughts to me again.

  But, she would. She couldn't help it. She was carrying a sack full of guilt.

  She was especially pursued by the memories of her stepsister. Bentatha, being murdered by gang members in Washington. D.C.-- where Mommy first lived-- and also troubling her was the car accident that had killed her half brother, my uncle Brody, who I never met. I saw his photograph and was well aware of how handsome he had been and how much promise his future had held for him. He died rushing home after visiting Mommy when she lived here all alone. Grandmother Megan. Mommy's real mother, suffered a terrible nervous breakdown after Uncle Brody's accident. She almost committed suicide.

  Aunt Alison, Uncle Brody's sister, still harbored ill feeling toward Mommy, although lately she disguised it well and was at least civil when she was here, not that she was that often. Recently, she had gone through a nasty divorce, her husband accusing her of being an adulteress and not only with one other lover either! That, I wasn't told however. That I overheard.

  In our house the walls don't keep secrets behind them too well.

  Anyone would think Aunt Alison should feel sorry for Mommy. Not long after Brody's death, she had become a paraplegic when she was thrown from her horse. Then she had suffered horribly under the hands of her bizarre and mad Aunt Victoria, Grandmother Megan's sister. For a while Mommy was basically a prisoner in this house. She hated talking about it. She said it revived nightmares. but Mommy believed that she had been punished for bringing all this bad luck. She actually thought she deserved it. and if it wasn't for my father. Austin. who had become her physical therapist, she might have succeeded in doing away with herself in this very lake we now serenely gazed upon.

  We had filled this lake with tears enough, it seemed to me,. It was time for smiles and laughter and sunshine, and if it took my birth and my birthdays to make that strong and stronger. I was happy to do it.

  From where we looked out over the lake to make our wishes, we could see Uncle Roy. Mommy's stepbrother, repairing a window shutter on his house. After he had left the army. Mommy had asked him to work for her and Grandmother Megan's real estate and construction development company. He became a job foreman and soon began dating my nanny. Glenda Robinson, who was an unwed mother with a child only a year older than I was at the time, a boy named Harley. When Uncle Roy proposed to Glenda and she agreed to marry him. Mommy decided they should build their home on our property.

  "I have all this land. Roy," she told him, land that's no use to me. I'm not going to grow cotton or tobacco. This isn't Tara." she joked.

  From what she told me. I understood Uncle Roy wasn't so eager to do it. She had to get my father to talk him into it. Uncle Roy had his reasons, which according to Mommy, stemmed from his stubborn pride. Later. I would learn there were other reasons, perhaps more important and deeper reasons, the sort that start somewhere near the bottom of your very soul and make themselves heard almost daily.

  Mommy loved to describe the dramatic scenes from her past for me, deepening her voice to imitate Uncle Roy's. Sometimes I laughed; sometimes. I listened in complete wonder. mesmerized by her ability to get me to see it all happening right before me. After all. Mommy had attended a prestigious London school of drama and had almost become an actress.

  "Roy still wasn't going to build his house here." she had told me. "I accused him of being afraid to marry a white woman and live on the same estate with a white man who married an African American woman.

  "'You're half white.' your uncle Roy reminded me.

  "Well,' I countered. 'a hundred and fifty years ago I'd still be a slave. Roy Arnold. Don't try to make me feel any less or any better than you. If Mama Latisha heard such talk, she'd whip you good for it.' I told him, waving my skinny little finger in his face for a change. He had to shake his head and laugh. And then he had to give in and build the house," she told me.

  A year after he married Glenda, they had a baby girl, whom they named Latisha after Uncle Roy's mother and Mommy's adopted mother. She was a pretty child, but just after she had turned three, she developed leukemia; she went so fast, the doctors nearly didn't have time to tell them there was little hope.

  It almost destroyed Aunt Glenda. She nearly lost her faith. But then rather than hate God for it, she became very religious. Harley once told me his mother believed children were punished for the sins of their parents. After little Latishas death. Aunt Glenda believed if she didn't become righteous, her daughter would suffer even more in the hereafter. It absorbed her being now, and from the way he said it. I knew he was in mourning too, but not only for his sister. H
e mourned that he had also lost his mother to the tragedy and left his upbringing more or less to my uncle Roy.

  "You'd never know I'm an only child now," he told me. "My mother acts as if Latisha is still with us, only out there, sleeping under the stars. Sometimes, she acts as if she hears her. She keeps all her things out, even washes and irons her clothes. It drives both me and Roy crazy."

  The worst kind of sibling rivalry was being forced to compete with your dead sister for your mother's attention, I thought.

  They buried Latisha on the grounds of the estate, close to their house. Uncle Roy put up a pretty fence and gate around her grave and tombstone, Aunt Glenda had turned it into a sacred site and a day didn't pass when she wasn't over there praying at her lost little daughter's tombstone. I looked out my window at night and often saw a lone candle burning. Glenda's silhouette forming under the stars or under an overcast sky. Once I even saw her out there in the rain and lightning, holding her umbrella, unconcerned about the lightning flashing around her.

  "A mother never lets go," Mommy told me when we discussed the things Harley told me. "even if she has to put her hand through fire."

  I was too young at the time of Latisha's death, but years later, I would hear Mommy mutter to herself that she had once again brought bad luck to someone.

  "I should have let Roy live far away from me, just as he had wanted." she moaned.

  No one got angrier at her for saying things like that than Uncle Roy. His eyes would redden like an electric stove range: he would swell up his shoulders, which made him look even wider and taller, and then he would deepen his voice to chastise her and forbid her from saying such things.

  "You're the one Mama would whip for saying that," he assured her, his long, thick right forefinger pointed at her face like an arrow.

  No one wanted to be around an angry Uncle Roy, least of all his stepson Harley. These days Harley was in trouble at school and with his friends so often. Uncle Roy's brow was practically frozen with deep wrinkles and thick rolls from his constant scowling.

  "The Lord left me a strange burden," I overheard Uncle Roy tell Mommy more than once. "He took my chance to be a daddy away from me when He took Latisha. but He left me with a father's responsibilities for a boy I never fathered. You talk about curses being put on you. I don't think I've done anything to deserve this burden. but I've got it."

  "Mama used to say it's not for us to decide whether or not what the Lord does is right or wrong. Roy."

  "Yeah. That don't seem right either," he told her.

  It saddened me to hear such things. I couldn't help but think of Harley. It's hard. I thought, hard to be unwanted. I knew it made Mommy sad. too.

  No one knew better than she did what that meant.

  And I hoped and prayed it was something I'd never have to learn.


  Happy Birthday, Summer


  It seemed as if a rainbow had burst over our

  house and grounds. I knew that Daddy had been secretly planning some surprises, but I was not prepared for all that he had done. The moment the morning sun nudged my eyes open, I heard the gentle tinkling notes of "Happy Birthday to You." With sleepy eyes I gazed at a precious and dazzling merrygo-round spinning a menagerie of animals around a ballerina who danced at its center.

  "I hope you always wake with a smile like that, Summer," Daddy said.

  I looked up and saw Daddy standing there. His face was glowing almost as much as mine. I had his turquoise eyes, but Mommy's ebony hair and a complexion a few shades lighter so anyone could see that I had also clearly inherited Daddy's freckles, especially at the crests of my cheeks.

  "Happy birthday, sweetheart," he said and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.

  Mommy watched from her wheelchair on the opposite side of my bed. For a moment she looked so distant, almost as though she was on the outside of a great glass bubble set around me. I knew she was having one of those Evil Eye thoughts, those fears that whenever she was too happy, something terrible would happen. She seemed to realize it herself and brightened quickly into a smile. I rose to hug her.

  "What were the two of you doing?" I cried as the merry-go-round continued, "Sitting here waiting for me to wake up? How long have you been here?"

  "We were watching you all night," Daddy joked. "We took turns, didn't we. Rain?"

  "Practically," Mommy said. "Your crazy father has been acting as if this was more his birthday than yours." She jokingly put on a look of disapproval. "More and more these days, he acts like a sixteenyear-old."

  "You never lose the child within you entirely," Daddy assured us. "I want to blow out candles on my ninetieth birthday and unwrap presents. Don't forget to arrange for that, you two." he ordered, sounding like it was just around the corner.

  Mommy shook her head and smiled at me as if the two of us were allies forced to tolerate another foolish man. Daddy could never be a foolish man to me, never, ever. I thought.

  "It's a beautiful merry-go-round," I said as it stopped.

  "That," my mother said. "is not even the tip of the iceberg. Look out the window," she urged me.

  My room overlooked the lake. Grandmother Megan told me it had once been her room. and Mommy said she used it when she had first arrived. Now, she and Daddy used what was Grandmother Hudson's room, only they had changed the decor and replaced all the furniture. The bathroom had been updated to provide for Mommy's special needs.

  In the beginning Mommy didn't want to make dramatic changes in the house. She said she felt an obligation to Grandmother Hudson's memory to keep it close to how it had been, but in time rugs wore, walls had to be repainted, fixtures replaced, appliances changed, and Daddy brought in a decorator to give it all what they called a more eclectic style.

  The hallways still had the spirit of the nineteenth century with some Federal antiques, like a White and Dogswell clock that hung across from a circular mirror of that period. Mommy was very proud of all the antiques left by my Grandmother Hudson. Mommy had loved her very much, so much that I was jealous and wished I had been able to know her. too.

  Grandfather Hudson's office was the same as it had always been, but much of the rest of the house-- the living room, the kitchen, my bedroom and Daddy and Mommy's-- had been modernized with lighter colors and softer fabrics. Recently my parents had redone the maid's quarters, covering the floor with a thick white shag rug and replacing what had been a hospital bed with a queen-size cherry wood one; this pleased Mrs, Geary very much.

  After Glenda had married Uncle Roy and she and Harley had moved out of the main house. Mommy and Daddy hired Mrs. Geary through an agency. She was in her early forties at the time and had come from Ireland to live and work in America when she was in her late twenties. Now streaked with gray, her hair had once been almost as red as Daddy's. She had been working for her distant American relatives who she said treated her as badly as Cinderella's stepmother treated Cinderella.

  "There was no respect. Everything I did was simply expected. too. Not an ounce of gratitude! I was glad to get out of there,- she told me.

  Daddy said he liked her because she had an inner strength and confidence he thought would make her an asset in a household where the mistress was disabled. Mommy and she took to each other immediately, and by now it was impossible for me to think of her as anything less than a member of our family. She was often a second mother to me, ordering me to dress more warmly or eat better. She even had something to say about where I would go and with whom I would go. A mother hen didn't hover over an egg as much as Mrs. Geary hovered over me as I grew up under both her and Mommy's wings.

  "I spent almost as much time and energy as your mother keeping you growing healthy and strong, and I'm not about to see my investment go sour," she told me if I complained. She loved to find words and expressions to avoid expressing her true feelings for me. It was as if she believed that the moment you told someone you loved her, you lost her. I would learn that her own early childhood and teena
ge years were filled with enough loss to make her think this way.

  Nevertheless. I teased her whenever I could, especially about her endless ongoing romance with Clarence Lynch, the librarian at the municipal library. Like her, he was in his late fifties. They had been seeing each other socially for as long as I could remember.

  Once. when I asked her why she had never married him, her reply was, "Why would I want to ruin a perfectly good relationship?"

  It confused me, of course. and I ran to Mommy with questions. She simply smiled and said. "Summer, not everyone fits so neatly into the little boxes society has created. As long as they're happy, why ask them to change?"

  In Mommy's mind, and I now think mine too, happiness and health were two sides of the same coin, the most important and valuable coin. People who were happy had more hope of being healthy: of course, people who were healthy were happy. Smiles and laughter were the best medications for the illnesses of the spirit.

  No one illustrated this better than Daddy. I thought. He loved Mommy and me so much and was so happy that anyone could see him and feel him radiating with warmth and well-being. He was still a highly respected physical therapist who had assumed his uncle's therapy business and then had created a chain of unique health clubs that combined regular exercise with therapeutic progams. They were known as rejuvenation clubs: their theme was that through exercise and meditation wing could be slowed down and even in some cases reversed. National health and exercise magazines had even featured Daddy in articles. I was very proud of him and so was Mommy.

  Yes, happiness and health were truly the twin sisters my family had adopted to live beside me. They nurtured wisdom and wave a protective wall around our house. Nothing terrible from the outside could hurt us. I thought. But what I also knew was trouble loomed nearby in Uncle Roy's sad and dour world, and it also came riding into our fortress in the form of a Trojan horse named Alison. my Aunt Alison.

  "People who don't like themselves can't like anyone else," Mommy once told me. "Your aunt Alison hates herself. She just doesn't know it or want to know it. I feel more pity for her than I do anger, and you will. too," Mommy predicted.