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Dark Seed

V. C. Andrews

  Dark Seed

  DeBeers #6

  V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c) 2001




  Early Days


  The flash of light above me on my ceiling and

  the boom that followed snapped my eyes open. The sound of my own scream was so shrill, it seemed to be coming from outside me. It made me shrink and close up inside myself until I was like someone cowering deep down in the protective world of a bomb shelter, waiting for the explosions above to end.

  For as long as I could remember. I believed the thunder and lightning that crashed and sizzled in the dark South Carolina summer skies could come right into our house. I imagined that terrible fear began the first time I was woken as an infant, shaken out of sleep by a loud clap and a flash of light on the ceiling of my nursery. I screamed then, just as I was screaming and crying now, even though I was already ten years old. Because my nanny Amou slept downstairs, tucked away in a small room as far from my mother as possible in our estate home, she did not hear my wails of fright.

  But then again, she didn't have to hear them to know they were coming. No one in my life would ever be as sensitive to and aware of my feelings as Amou was, The moment she heard the thunderstorm begin, she knew I would be afraid, and she began to make her way quickly through the kitchen, down the corridor, and up the stairs to comfort me, but also to make sure I did not disturb my mother-- which was unlikely, since she slept with earplugs.

  My mother slept with earplugs because she claimed my father snored loudly enough to wake the dead. She was very protective of her sleep, asserting it was essential not only for good health, but for healthy skin. So she did not hear my cries very often, but even if she had, she would not have come to comfort me, and she would have certainly complained if my father had risen, put on his robe and slippers, and come to my bedside. Although he could tiptoe and move with great care, he could or would disturb her, and that would bring on another and perhaps more horrifying crash of thunder and flash of lightning in our home,

  "Isabella will take care of her," she would tell him if he dared stir. "That's why we hired the woman. I am not one of those wives who cleans her home before the maid arrives. What is the point of having servants if you don't let them serve, especially a nanny, to take away the burden of raising a child, especially this child?"

  I often heard her discussing me with my father, not that she cared if I did or didn't hear. She certainly spoke loudly enough, her voice barely muffled by the walls between rooms. In fact, I never heard her whisper in our home. The only time she actually lowered her voice was when she was speaking to me and wanted to impress me with something.

  "It's not natural for a girl that age still to be afraid of such things," she declared after she heard me crying once. "I'm not the psychiatrist. Claude. You are, and the irony here is that you can't see she's not normal."

  My mother made that statement so often that it became the mantra in our home. I could hear it echoing through the house, whispered in the shadows: "She's not normal. She's not normal."

  I couldn't help but wonder if it wasn't so, especially after I was force-fed the truth.

  "Everyone has fears. Alberta."' my father explained to her patiently. There was no one I knew who spoke and conducted himself with as much control. His anger was kept hidden under blankets and blankets of psychological techniques. However, my mother even complained about that.

  "I feel like I'm living with a Jehovah's Witness. You slam the door in his face and all he says is 'Have a nice day."'

  Nevertheless, no matter how calmly and reasonably he responded to her complaints, she insisted she was right about me.

  "Everyone does NOT have fears like this child." she asserted. and waved off any argument or logic he might offer. Sympathy for me was simply not in the cache of emotions she carried in her cold heart. I had no idea why, but I did blame myself and tried as hard as I could to do things that would please her. I never seemed to be successful.

  There was no more comforting sight to me anyway than Amou standing in my bedroom doorway.

  "Hush. hush. Amou Una," she urged when she came to my bedside during the thunderstorm. Amou was a forty-three-year-old Portuguese woman my parents had hired right after I had been born, Amou Una was a Portuguese expression for loved one." which was her tender way of addressing me. I had picked up on it when I was little more than one and renamed her Amou, even though her real name was Isabella. The affectionate names we had for each other were part of the bond between us. a bond that seemed impassible between me and my mother.

  Amou was tall, with hair so vibrantly red, cardinals eyed her jealously. I knew my mother was envious, even though she had beautiful light blond hair herself. She kept her hair short because it required less maintenance, but she had dozens of expensive wigs in a variety of styles.

  Still. she was aware of how Amou's hair drew attention. She was always after Amou to cut it, and insisted she keep it tied back tightly. If a strand of it was found anywhere in our house, my mother would hold it between her thumb and forefinger and raze as though rat droppings had been discovered.

  I can't recall a time when my mother was nice to Amou. If it wasn't for my father, Amou wouldn't have remained with us long. I'm sure. It couldn't have been because my mother was jealous of how much I cared for Amou and how much she cared for me. My mother insisted Amou remain with us long after I required such attention and care. The only other servant we had was a groundskeeper and driver my father hired. His name was Miles. I didn't think my mother was very fond of him, either, but she had little to do with him.

  Amou was a different story. My mother, herself, did become somewhat dependent upon her, aver time. Amou, after all, was our cook as well as my nanny, and although we had a separate cleaning woman twice a week. Amou did also look after my mother's things, ironed her clothes, brushed out her wigs, and performed a multitude of small favors. She never argued with my mother or in any way showed any defiance, but her compliance and her willingness to accept the verbal abuse without agreeing or disagreeing only infuriated my mother more. Gradually, as I grew older and more perceptive, I began to understand how Amou undermined and defeated my mother time and time again in her own subtle way.

  Amou sat on my bed and held my hand.

  "What did I tell you. Willow? I told you to close your eyes and wish away the dreads. It was what my mother taught me. Just think of something nice, something pretty, and push the ugly dreads away," she said.

  The scent of her lilac cologne filled my nostrils and soothed my troubled brain. I could feel my body relax, the fear drain out of me. The lightning flashed around us: the thunder clapped, and

  then, its tail between its legs like some defeated big bad wolf, the storm gradually began to slink away toward some rendezvous with another small frightened child.

  Amou remained with me until I closed my eyes again and drifted off. feeling my hand still held softly in hers, hearing her hum one of her Portuguese songs. In the morning all of it seemed like a bad dream, just another in a series of so many floating through our big house, settling in the walls, making each and every room just a little darker.

  There was so much darkness in our home that I yearned for brightness and light. I cherished the sound of laughter. and especially held dear any glimmer of joy and pleasure I caught in my father's face when he spoke or gazed at me.

  Our house had no reason to be dark. The formal sitting room, the den. the Doctor's office-- as my mother insisted I refer to my father-- had two large windows right behind his desk, and all of the bedrooms. even Amou's closet of a room, had nicesized windows. Everywhere there were beautiful views of rolling fields and trees. We had one hundred and fifty acres, a
nd there were wooded paths, two rather large ponds, and a stream that twisted itself over rocks and hills to empty into a larger stream that fed into the Congaree River,

  My father and his sister. my aunt Agnes, had inherited the land and the house, but my aunt lived in Charleston and had no interest in the property, so my father paid her for her share. My mother never stopped criticizing him for paying too much. She was not fond of Aunt Agnes, and it was no secret that Aunt Agnes was not fond of her. I could count on the fingers of one hand how often she and her husband and their daughter-- my cousin. Margaret Selby-- visited our house.

  "Your sister simply cannot stand how beautiful I have made this family relic." Mother would tell my father.

  The formal rooms, including the dining room, had golden-brown satin curtains with elaborate piping when I was a little girl, but all that, including most of the rooms, had been decorated and redecorated richly three times between my birth and my mother's tragic death in a terrible car accident. She was never satisfied with anything she had done in the house, and went through decorators almost as frequently as she went through brands of makeup. No matter what she did, what she bought, whose advice she cherished at the moment, she would see something someone else had and immediately become critical of her own things. The grass was always greener in someone else's yard.

  If the Doctor questioned her sudden

  dissatisfaction with furniture and drapes and rugs she had relatively recently bought, she would cry and rage at how he was so wrapped up in his work, he had no idea what was in style and what wasn't.

  As soon as I was old enough to understand what their arguments were about, if anyone could call them arguments that is, I realized that my father's work and career were a constant source of irritation for my mother. I hesitate to call them arguments, because. like Amou, he put up so little resistance, barely offering any sort of defense or opposition.

  "You're not married to me!" my mother would scream at him. "You're married to that precious clinic of yours, that house of madness you have created. You spend so much time there I should sue you for adultery. How we that look? The perfect

  psychiatrist, the man who could cure everyone else's messed-up life, can't cure his own?"

  For some reason, a reason I wouldn't

  understand for years and years to come, that particular threat was the only thing that actually dabbed a spot of fear in each of my father's eyes. She wielded it over him like a club, and any resistance, any objection he voiced about something she wanted to buy or spend money on in the house was immediately pulled back and buried under his nod of surrender, his whole body sinking in his chair like the flag of a defeated army.

  I didn't know very much about the relationships between men and women yet, and sometimes I wonder if I ever will, but I did believe that, because my mother was so beautiful, my father loved her too deeply and completely to do anything that would displease her too much or too long. Ile was the most brilliant man I knew, and I knew even when I was only eight that he was a very famous and highly respected man in his field of psychology. There were piles of magazines with his articles in them, and his picture in many. Because the clinic he had created was becoming world-famous, he had been on television often as a guest on talk shows, and was constantly called upon to offer an opinion or a theory about one thing or another, especially in court trials.

  I suppose that was why I didn't think it strange that she insisted I refer to him always as the Doctor when I was speaking about him.

  "Don't say my father or my daddy. Say the Doctor," she instructed. After a while, with her watching over my shoulder whenever I spoke. I had trouble thinking of him as anything else but the Doctor.

  Despite my age. I sensed that my mother wasn't making me refer to him as the Doctor because she had so much admiration for him. There had to be some other reason. My mother always referred to the Doctor's clinic as either a madhouse or a nuthouse. and I don't know how many times I heard her say what he was doing over there was just high-priced voodoo.

  When I was little, he would simply tell me he was going to his hospital. For a long time I thought of it as a place where people went when they had accidents or bad colds, and then one day. when I was little more than seven. I went by his office door and saw him sitting alone, staring out his window, He looked very sad. so I paused and went in to see why.

  He didn't hear me for a while, and I was positive I saw him wipe his eyes, just like someone who was crying would,

  "What's the matter?" I asked, and he spun around. I thought at first that he was going to be angry I had snuck into his office and watched him, but after a moment, he smiled more warmly than I could ever remember,

  "Come here." he beckoned. and I walked around his desk. "Why did you ask me what was the matter?" he wanted to know.

  I stood there, gazing down at the floor.

  "I thought you were crying," I finally said.

  "Well. Willow, you were right. I was crying." he revealed.

  I couldn't imagine the Doctor crying. Nothing my mother said, no matter how angrily she said it, made him cry. The most dramatic thing I had ever seen him do in response was shake his head with a little expression of disgust on his lips and then walk away.

  "Why were you crying?"

  "Sometimes. I think about my poor patients and I feel so sorry for them. I can't help it." he told me.

  'Because they hurt themselves and they were bleeding?"

  "No," he said. "My hospital is different. Willow. My patients are very unhappy or sad people. Sometimes they hurt themselves deliberately and they are taken to the sort of hospital you are thinking of, but after that, they are brought to see me, to see if I can help them feel better about themselves." "How do you do that?" He smiled.

  "It's hard. but I talk to them a lot.. I give them medicines that help and they do things that make them feel better about themselves. They work an art projects or handicrafts, just like you do at school. In fact." he said, brightening even more. "I have something here that I was told to give you a long time ago. but I kept it safe until I thought you were ready for it, old enough far it," he said. '1 think you might be old enough now."

  "What's that?" I asked. intrigued.

  "Just a minute." he said, and went to his office closet, where he took down a box and uncovered it. For a moment he just looked at what was inside as if he was afraid to touch it. Then he lifted it out and showed it to me.

  It was a doll, stuffed and sewn with a variety of colorful cloth patches, a real mishmash. Even though the doll's face was made of material similar to my other dolls, it wasn't like any doll I had or any doll I had ever seen in a toy or department store, but it was still very nice.

  "It was made especially for you by a very special patient of mine," he told me. "Will you take very good care of it?"

  I nodded.

  "Okay. Here it is. then. Keep it in a special place in your room."

  I took it gingerly into my hands and studied the face. It reminded me of someone. I thought. but I couldn't think of who that was until I had taken it up to my roam and stared at it for a long time.

  Then it came to me. after I realized the hair color was similar to mine and the face was just like the face in the one picture of me that the Doctor had on his desk, a picture in a silver frame of me when I was about one.

  To be sure, when the Doctor was at his clinic and my mother was out shopping, I brought the doll to his office and placed it beside the picture.

  The doll face really was my face.

  There was no doubt, and this was the biggest mystery I had ever known, and maybe ever would.




  For me, the darkness really began when I was

  born again, but not reborn in any good, religious sense. Instead. I was forced to reenter the womb and then be ripped out to discover I was not who I thought I was, My name was not really mine. What was really mine was as insubstantial as smoke, blown away the day I was cr
eated, and left to be an unsolved mystery with the title, Who Am 1?

  It had been the Doctor's decision to keep all this from me until he believed I was capable of fully understanding it, and therefore not be deeply emotionally or psychologically harmed by it. The truth had been circling our home like some confused bird, caught up in a harsh wind from time to time and dropping a feather here and there. It tickled my imagination, made me curious and yet confused. I could sense it lingered there on the tip of my mother's tongue, and it was taking all her self-control to keep it locked behind those beautifully shaped lips. She certainly had planted enough hints about our lives, little seeds of ugly truth she wanted to water and sprout.

  Finally she couldn't keep it contained any longer, and decided my time had come. I was only eight when she reached this decision, but she was furious at me because she had discovered I had been into her makeup. I had been pretending I was much older and I was going on a date. Actually. I had seen something similar on a television show, where a girl not much older than I was had dressed up in her mother's clothes, put on her mother's makeup and one of her mother's wigs, and then was caught pretending she was her mother speaking to her father. Her parents thought it was cute and everyone had a good time.

  However, when my mother caught me at her vanity table, she looked like the blood rising up her neck and into her face would blow off the top of her head. I never saw her swell up as quickly or as tall. The mere sight of her made me cower. How could someone so beautiful, so elegant, someone who drew the admiration of so many other women and so many men look so ugly so quickly?

  "WILLOW!" she screamed, and ripped the lipstick out of my hands. She brought it down inches from the edge of my nose. "I put this on my lips!"

  It was one thing to be angry I used her things, but another to make me feel as if I was a walking plague, full of disease. I was afraid to cry, to utter a sound, even to breathe. She stared at me a moment. fuming.

  "This is ridiculous," she said. "Come with me. Once and for all, you will be made to understand."

  She marched me down the stairs and into the living room ahead of her. I felt as if I was being led to a firing squad. If I slowed, she poked me with her forefinger, the long painted nail cutting into my back. Amou, preparing a roast in the kitchen, looked up as we passed by. One glance at my face told her I was utterly terrified, but she would never dart come between me and my mother.