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Falling Stars

V. C. Andrews

  Falling Stars

  Shooting Stars #5

  V.C. Andrews

  Copyright (c) 2001

  ISBN: 0671039873


  The truly insane perform on many public stages. The sane stage their performances in the privacy of their own minds. Everyone is an actor. In the end, everyone wants applause.

  Madame Senetsky



  Now that I was definitely going to the Senetsky School of Performing Arts in New York City. I asked Mommy to tell me once again what it was like for her to come to America from Russia when she was just a little older than I was now. I was hoping she would give me some secret, some special new power with which I could overcome my fears and anxieties and stop the spasms of trembling that made my spine rattle like the infamous snake-- warning warning, warning.

  I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult for anyone to understand why I was afraid. I had spent all my life on this corn farm in Ohio. The moonlight always looked warm and soft and protecting to me. I was able to see the sky blazing with stars, not a single constellation washed out by streetlights and the lights of tall buildings. On a mattress of freshly cut grass. I could sprawl out on my back, look up, and feel like I was drifting into space, drifting toward the bedazzling beauty of other galaxies and solar systems. I could feel like I was part of something far greater than myself. In a city as big and overwhelming as New York. I knew you could feel insignificant.

  The noises I heard outside my window every night were sounds made by owls and frogs, peepers, and occasionally a coyote or two who had wandered close by in search of prey. The symphony being played was familiar music of the night to me.

  It soothed me. I drew it over me like an additional blanket, and fell asleep to the lullaby I trusted. I was never afraid to close my eyes. I was never afraid of the darkness.

  However, I knew that, very soon. whenever I put my head down on my pillow to sleep, I would hear the hubbub of city traffic-- horns and car wheels, sirens from ambulances and fire engines or police cars, announcing someone's trouble and pain. There would be the continuous murmur of strange voices, an undercurrent of indistinguishable words caught in the ebb and flow of human drama. In New York City. I would see more people in an hour than I had seen in a month back on the farm. I would be a small fish in a big ocean full of dark waters, searching for the light. I was so afraid my dreams would rot into nightmares.

  How had Mama managed to come from a world so similar to the world I lived in now without getting herself lost? Where had she found the courage? She and her aunt had traveled across the ocean. She was coming to marry my father, a man she had never met. The lights of the great city that greeted her surely had to have filled her with terrible uncertainty. She was so far from the voices and the smiles that had given her comfort, embraced her warmly when she was frightened, and promised her that she would be all right, promised her she would always be safe.

  Mama paused before answering. I could see she wanted to tell me something important, something that would help me. Her own memories flowed in a continuous stream behind her eyes, some bringing smiles, some making her nod thoughtfully.

  "I t's like being born again. Honey. Not in a religious sense. but in a more everyday sense." she began. ''Everythin' is so new and different: the odors. the sounds. the sights. colors. everything. You don't know where to look first. You hesitate to take a step. but you do. and then you take another and another. Soon you're walkin'. just like everyone around you. Suddenly, one day, you feel like you belong, No one can tell you have come from a place vastly different.

  "You'll see." she said confidently, "It will happen to you. too. . She was right. of course, But I often wished she wasn't.

  1 Curtain Up

  How numb and panicky I felt the day Daddy. Mommy, and I set out for New York City in Daddy's new black Lincoln Town Car, It had luxurious black leather seats that still smelled as fresh as the day they were made. The dashboard resembled an airplane console with its sound system, its climate controls and GP S locator screen, and its ground positioning system.

  Daddy had bought the car soon after my Grandad Forman had died. There was a great deal more money than any of us had imagined in the legacy, money buried away in interest-bearing accounts Daddy was unaware existed until the will was read. My grandad was a frugal man who believed it was a sin to spend money on anything other than what he deemed absolutely necessary.

  A big, beautiful, luxurious car was certainly not absolutely necessary. but Daddy had always wanted one. and Grandad had always discouraged it. I should really say, forbidden it. Grandad Forman had been more than just the head of our household. He had ruled our lives with a stern, fundamentalist religious eye, seeing potential evil everywhere-- even. I was to learn, in his own face every time he looked in the mirror. As terrible as it was to think it, when he died, it was truly as if a heavy weight had been lifted from our shoulders. We could breathe, enjoy the fruits of our hard labor and not be afraid to laugh, listen to music, and appreciate beautiful things for themselves and not only their practical uses.

  Nowhere was this more evident than in Daddy's face every time he gazed appreciatively at his new automobile. He had an expression similar to the one on his face whenever he gazed out at a field of fresh, healthy corn and knew we were going to enjoy another successful year. His heart was fall. He was proud of himself. I could see it in his eyes. He was fulfilling promises I was sure he had made to himself, and maybe even to Mommy, years ago.

  Daddy had also fulfilled a promise to my Uncle Simon, and built him his greenhouse right behind the cow barn. Uncle Simon. Daddy's older half-brother, was a giant of a man who, despite his size and strength, was the gentlest man I knew. Grandad had treated Uncle Simon poorly all his life, forcing him to leave school at a young age and do hard labor on the farm. He even moved him out of the main house and into a makeshift apartment above the cow barn.

  Despite his great strength and size. Uncle Simon accepted his lot in life, but put all his best efforts and love into his flowers. He nurtured them as parents nurtured children, fingered the petals as someone would handle very valuable jewels, and even talked to them. They were almost always vibrant, healthy, and very beautiful. Soon his flowers became very famous. People stopped by to see them often, and then started to offer him money for them. Eventually, with Mommy's help, he had turned his hobby into a successful little business.

  Later, when I learned he was really Grandad's son, the result of an affair Grandad had had with one of his farm worker's wives, whom he later married after the worker's death. I understood better why Uncle Simon conjured lip guilt in Grandad's mind, stinging his overblown conscience, and thus why he had tried to separate him from the rest of us.

  Thankfully, that had never worked.

  Now, with the farmhouse itself being

  refurbished. Mommy's new kitchen appliances installed, new rugs, new furniture, and bright new colors in our home all having been acquired. Daddy turned his full attention to me and my attending the well-known Senetsky School for the Performing Arts in New York City. where I had been accepted to develop my talent as a classical violinist.

  The school was owned and managed by an internationally famous former stage actress, singer, and dancer. Madame Edith Senetsky. Her son. Edmond, was a theatrical agent, and often sent prospective candidates he had discovered during his various travels around the country to audition for her performing arts institution. It had a worldwide reputation for developing talent and creating stars of the stage and screen. Its list of celebrated graduates was impressive.

  I had no idea yet just how small the school's population was and how personal the attention to each student would be. In my mind, when I thought of a school. I conjured up imag
es of students in

  classrooms, bells ringing, schedules to follow, rules to obey and homework to do.

  However. Madame Senetsky was very critical and selective. Candidates who would be well sought after and accepted at other, more traditional schools of performing arts were quickly rejected. Mr. Wengrow, my violin instructor, constantly impressed upon me how significant it was that I had been chosen. To him, it was explicit proof that I would become a major success. It was almost as if my career would be guaranteed as long as I followed Madame Senetsky's orders and guidance.

  Even my boyfriend. Chandler Maxwell, a talented pianist who had taken duet lessons with me, was convinced of this, of my success beyond his own. It all made me very nervous. The level of expectations was high. To fail after being given such an

  opportunity was almost, to use Grandad Forman's terms, a cardinal sin.

  And then there was my Feat desire to fulfill all the promises I had made to my Uncle Peter, my daddy's younger brother, before he had died tragically in a plane crash. He was a wonderful, handsome man, whose joy and happiness and carefree ways flew in the face of Grandad's stern warnings. Uncle Peter was the one who had bought me my wonderful violin and started to pay for my lessons. He had great faith in me, more than anyone.

  "You've got to do this for him then," Chandler once said. when I told him more about Uncle Peter, my first pretend boyfriend. "Almost as much as you have to do it for yourself. I wish I had someone like that to please," he added with some bitterness. His family, especially his father, wasn't very excited about his interest in music. Chandler had been accepted to Boston University. and I would be in New York, but we promised each other we would remain in close contact, and he vowed he would visit me as soon as there was an opportunity to do so.

  "I'll come to New York as often as I can," he pledged.

  Now I was actually leaving. The day had come. Daddy had put my suitcases in the trunk. He and Mommy sat up front and I sat in the rear, clutching the bouquet of red, white, and pink roses Uncle Simon had just cut from his bushes and given to me as a bon voyage gift.

  "They'll keep all the way to New York." he promised. "Put the stems in water at the motel you stay at tonight."

  I thanked him, and he promised to send me fresh flowers now and then.

  "I don't imagine you'll see much greenery, living in New York." he muttered. "Cities are full of concrete and steel," he added distastefully.

  I kept the door open and he lingered there, kicking a small stone with his big foot. Sometimes. when I thought of him. I thought of Paul Bunyan.

  "It's not that bad there. They've got parks, Simon, with ponds and ducks and everything," Mommy told him.

  He nodded, but he didn't think much of that. I could see it in his eyes. and I could see the loneliness he was anticipating the moment we drove off.

  "I'll write you and I'll call you often. Uncle Simon," I promised.

  "I'm not much with letters," he replied.

  "You don't have to write me back. Just send your flowers when you want."

  He smiled, nodded, lifted his big hand to say goodbye, and walked toward the greenhouse.

  A fugitive tear charged out of the corner of my eye and fled down my cheek to my chin. I closed my eyes to stop the flood that threatened to follow. Uncle Simon had always been there, watching over me, doing my chores for me so I would have more time to spend on my violin, calling me one of his precious flowers, taking pleasure in my blossoming. Although my leaving was inevitable, he, even more than my parents, hated to see me go. It made me think of how hard it was for him to give up his flowers to buyers. Mommy convinced him he was sharing his love of their beauty with other people, and that was only right and good.

  She told him my talent was so rare and beautiful. I had an obligation to share it, too, with others. I know that was meant to help me feel better about going, as much as it was meant to help Uncle Simon.

  Still, it was hard for him to say good-bye. It was so hard for me. too.

  "Here we go. Fasten your seatbelts," Daddy declared with a dramatic flare and started the car.

  Moments later we were on the highway, cruising toward the interstate and on our way to New York City. The scenery flew by, all of it quickly becoming a blur through my tear-fogged eyes.

  Wasn't all this a terrible mistake? Even with the great vote of confidence I had received by being chosen. was I seeking to do something I could never do? Could I live so far away from home and be on my own, I wondered. As we drove on. I realized that I had never spent a single night out of my home. I had never slept in a bed other than my own-- no pajama parties with girlfriends, no family trips to stay at hotels, no relatives for me to visit. And yet, here I was, going off to live in a strange place and go to school with strangers.

  A part of me wanted to shout. "Stop driving. Daddy. Turn back. I can't do this. I won't do this."

  My tongue actually tried to form the words. Why? Where were my feelings of joy and excitement? I had treat reasons to feel that way. The faces of all those envious of me flashed across my eyes. Their covetous words echoed in my ears.

  "You're going to school in New York City! Wow!"

  "A school where you learn how to be a professional entertainer? I'm just going back into English, history, and math to get myself a liberal arts degree. You know how many freshmen flunk out of college? You don't have to worry about failing exams."

  "You're so lucky you've got a talent. Honey."

  Was I?

  How often had I asked myself, is this a blessing or a curse?

  How often had I wondered, where would all of it really take me?

  Soon, I would know.

  Fortunately, we had great weather all the way to New York. We had to spend one night on the road. Daddy had planned the trip like a battle, figuring out how many hours it would take to get to our first rest stop, our lunch, our motel and dinner. Some road work and traffic backups spoiled his plan and slowed us up. but Mommy wouldn't permit him to go too fast.

  Occasionally, at Mommy's request. I took out my violin and played for them while we rode, and especially when we were stuck in traffic. Daddy thought it was amusing to open all our windows and let the people in cars around us hear me play, too. Some people actually applauded.

  "It's better than this CD and radio!" Daddy cried. "We have our own built-in musical artist, performing live!"

  Daddy was never as talkative as he was on this journey. Mommy was the same, and when they were quiet. I rattled on and on, talking about things my school friends had said, asking questions about places we passed. For a while, it was as if we were all afraid of any long silences, afraid of permitting our dark thoughts to get control. Our little family was splitting up and it was very traumatic, even if it would be good for my future.

  The reality of what was happening and what I was doing didn't set in until we confronted the great New York skyline. Traversing the George

  Washington Bridge, we rode in awe. I kept thinking. I truly an crossing from one world over to other. The bright day made the skyscrapers sparkle. Their windows like precious jewels catching the sunlight. Wasn't this a good omen? I thought. Please, dear God, let it be.

  As soon as we turned into the traffic, the tension was palpable in our car. Horns blared around us. Drivers, especially taxicab drivers, stuck their heads out of their windows and screamed, waved fists, and cursed. Mommy sat forward, cramped with nerves. Daddy began to mutter aloud, wondering how human beings could put themselves into such a horrid situation day in and day out. It seemed to take forever to reach the exit we were told to take off the East River Drive. Once we were in the city proper, however, the wonder returned. Mommy laughed at the way people hurried along.

  "It looks like the sidewalks are moving!" she cried. "I forgot how exciting it is here."

  She marveled at the shops, the restaurants with their patio seating, the fashionable women in high heeled shoes and designer outfits.

  "What fashionable women?" Daddy asked, his
eyes suddenly going like windshield wipers.

  "Just keep your eyes on the road. Isaac Forman. I'll watch the people," she admonished.

  Her feigned concern brought a smile to my frozen face. Now that we were actually here and I was really going to do this. My blood seemed to congeal and my heart go on pause. I kept holding my breath, and finally realized I was embracing myself so tightly, I nearly suffocated.

  We followed the detailed directions and soon turned onto streets that seemed magically removed from the hustle and bustle. The buildings looked immaculate, all with security guards in crisp, bright gray and burgundy uniforms, either in front of or just inside their lobbies. There were black and gray iron gates and parking restrictions everywhere I looked, emphasizing how special and restricted these places were. We turned down one more street, and then all of us, almost simultaneously, released a sigh of amazement.

  It was truly as if we had left the city and entered a magical kingdom. A high, black wrought iron gate fenced in the property, upon which there were sprawling maple trees, fountains, stone benches, walkways, and gardens. There, at the center of it, was this enormous mansion with a very busy roof line consisting of spires, pinnacle turrets, gables, and shapely chimneys, confronting us with its majesty, its formidable size. To me, it was larger than most hotels. The grounds were certainly larger than my own school grounds!

  It's impressive, I thought, but it was strangely dark with its black shutters like heavy lids over stony dark eyes, almost an illustration in a book of fantasy, a castle rising from the bog, spreading over several acres in magnificent but intimidating grandeur. When the sun took a fugitive position behind a passing cloud, it became even darker, more foreboding. Would I cross a moat and be made a prisoner, or kept secure, safe, far from the demons that lurked in what Grandad Forman always called Satan's city?

  "This is a school?" Mommy asked. astounded. "How can it be?"

  "It's the right address, isn't it?" Daddy said, slowing down, somewhat skeptical himself.