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Secret Whispers

V. C. Andrews


  V.C. Andrews® Books

  The Dollanganger Family Series

  Flowers in the Attic

  Petals on the Wind

  If There Be Thorns

  Seeds of Yesterday

  Garden of Shadows

  The Casteel Family Series


  Dark Angel

  Fallen Hearts

  Gates of Paradise

  Web of Dreams

  The Cutler Family Series


  Secrets of the Morning

  Twilight’s Child

  Midnight Whispers

  Darkest Hour

  The Landry Family Series


  Pearl in the Mist

  All That Glitters

  Hidden Jewel

  Tarnished Gold

  The Logan Family Series


  Heart Song

  Unfinished Symphony

  Music of the Night


  The Orphans Miniseries





  Runaways (full-length novel)

  The Wildflowers Miniseries





  Into the Garden (full-length novel)

  The Hudson Family Series


  Lightning Strikes

  Eye of the Storm

  The End of the Rainbow

  The Shooting Stars Series





  Falling Stars

  The De Beers Family Series


  Wicked Forest

  Twisted Roots

  Into the Woods

  Hidden Leaves

  The Broken Wings Series

  Broken Wings

  Midnight Flight

  The Gemini Series


  Black Cat

  Child of Darkness

  The Shadows Series

  April Shadows

  Girl in the Shadows

  The Early Spring Series

  Broken Flower

  Scattered Leaves

  The Secret Series

  Secrets in the Attic

  Secrets in the Shadows

  The Delia Series

  Delia’s Crossing

  Delia’s Heart

  Delia’s Gift

  The Heaven-stone Series

  The Heaven-stone Secrets

  Secret Whispers

  My Sweet Audrina (does not belong to a series)



  Gallery Books

  A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  Following the death of Virginia Andrews, the Andrews family

  worked with a carefully selected writer to organize and complete

  Virginia Andrews’ stories and to create additional novels, of

  which this is one, inspired by her storytelling genius.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and

  incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are

  used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locale

  or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2010 by the Vanda General Partnership

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or

  portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address

  Gallery Books Subsidiary Rights Department,

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  First Gallery Books hardcover edition March 2010

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  Designed by Esther Paradelo

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  ISBN 978-1-4391-5498-4

  ISBN 978-1-4391-7140-0 (eBook)



  NOT ONLY IN dreams but also in quiet moments when I was alone with my own thoughts, I would often hear a baby’s cry. She sounded frightened, and I was confident she was calling for me. It was terrifying because when my mother had suffered a miscarriage and she and my father had lost their chance to have a son, she had gone into a deep depression and often thought she heard her baby’s cry. My parents had already set up a nursery for the baby they intended to name Asa Heaven-stone, after one of my father’s ancestors who had fought in the Civil War. Daddy always wanted his Asa.

  I had a different reason to imagine a baby’s cry. I was afraid to tell anyone what I heard and have it get back to my father, but most of all, I didn’t want to admit even to myself that a part of me was out there and would never know who I was and, perhaps more important, who she really was.

  “Be still, my heart,” I would whisper.

  “Don’t listen to the wind,” I would tell myself.

  If I was awake when I heard the cry, I would slap on my earphones and listen to my iPod or hurriedly turn on the television. Sometimes, I would simply start humming some song aloud. I would do anything to distract myself.

  If I was dreaming, I would moan and then wake with a start and listen hard to be sure it had been only a dream.

  The silence comforted me.

  But it didn’t make it all go away.

  I knew what every mother knows.

  It never goes away.

  It only gets louder, and nothing would drown it out—not all the radios, all the televisions, or all the iPods in the world.


  “SEMANTHA! WHAT THE hell are you doing on the floor?” my dorm roommate, Ellie Patton, asked. She stood in our bathroom doorway with her hands on her hips, gaping at me with her black pearl eyes so enlarged that she resembled someone with serious thyroid problems. I realized she must have been standing there for a while calling to me and was getting upset at my not responding.

  I was surprised she was up so early. Everything about her was usually frantic and last-minute. We had been together at Collier for my three years of private high school, but this was the first time she had caught me doing it.

  For the last three years, I woke up on the morning of my daughter’s birthday and secretly lit a candle. I would hear my sister, Cassie, whispering in my ear, reminding me of the date as well, not that I needed her to do that. Lately, however, I was even seeing her stepping out of a shadow or smiling back at me in a mirror.

  Usually, I was home on my daughter’s birthday because it occurred during a spring break. However, this year, the break occurred two days after her birthday, so I was still at Collier, a private high school for girls just south of Albany, New York.

  I hadn’t expected to be sent to a private high school outside Kentucky, but Daddy had chosen Collier for me because it was so exclusive, which really meant very expensive and well supervised. My therapist
in Kentucky, Dr. Ryan, had recommended it. It had a small but beautifully maintained campus. The main building was neoclassical and resembled a government office building, something you might expect to find in Washington, D.C. There were three dormitory buildings that looked like anything but dormitory buildings because of their elaborate landscaping and porticos. They looked more like private estates.

  Our dormitory housed only twenty girls, and none of our classes had more than fifteen students in it. Some of my public-school classes had had nearly forty in them. It was impossible here to avoid being called on to answer a question or have your homework checked. Every teacher was well acquainted with all of his or her students, their work histories, and their families. The story circulated was that they had reports on us that rivaled FBI reports on terror suspects.

  The school had a beautiful, technologically modern theater; two playfields, one for field hockey and one for softball; and a spanking-new gymnasium. The library was stocked with computers and had a separate audiovisual room for viewing information or listening to music. Our cafeteria reminded me of an upscale restaurant. The chairs were large and cushioned, and the tables were polished, rich, hard walnut.

  Once a month, the school held a formal dinner for us during which the dean of students, Mrs. Hathaway, delivered a report concerning the student body’s overall performance and her expectations for the weeks to come. Attendance was mandatory. Every violation, whether of rules or of the property, was described, and the violators were sometimes publicly chastised. Contrary to what she hoped, however, making it onto what the students called Hathaway’s Hit List was viewed as some sort of accomplishment, a respected act of defiance. I had yet to make the list.

  Few private schools gave their students as much personal attention, which meant there were more eyes on us all day and all night than in most other private schools. The restrictions on our comings and goings were also far stricter than at other schools. Our privileges were directly tied to our grades and our on-campus behavior, as at other schools, but at Collier, there was a hair trigger on punishment. It wouldn’t take much to put one of us in a cage, and, of course, smoking, drinking alcohol, or doing any drugs were reasons for immediate expulsion and forfeiting all of the money your parents had spent, and they had spent a great deal.

  There was even a rumor that our rooms were bugged and our phone calls monitored. Supposedly, our parents received weekly reports about our behavior and our work. Some even thought it was a daily report. Most of the girls believed the rumors, because almost all of them had given their parents cause to worry about them. It was almost a requirement for admittance that we were not to be trusted or believed. The game played with incoming first-year girls was how quickly one of us could get them to reveal their embarrassing secrets, something that explained why their parents would want to pay so much more money for them to attend Collier.

  The secret I revealed was probably the most boring for them. Ellie told me I was one of the longest holdouts, one of the most difficult to break, because I wasn’t as desperate for their friendship. Finally, I revealed that I had been seeing a therapist regularly because of family tragedies and there was concern that I could have a nervous breakdown. Or, as my father put it to Mrs. Hathaway, “She’s as fragile as a blue-jay egg.”

  Of course, nothing was ever said about my pregnancy and my giving birth, but when some people my age hear that you have deep-seated psychological issues serious enough to require regular therapy and you’re on the edge of falling into a nervous breakdown, they look at you as if you have leprosy. I felt confident, however, that many of the others had been sent for counseling at one time or another as well. One or two looked and acted as if they had recently been released from a clinic, in fact. But unlike me, they felt that secret was too sensitive to reveal. They probably invented something else or told only part of their story. Ironically, they’d admit to getting pregnant and having an abortion before they’d admit to having been in psychological counseling for years, but that was not true for me. The Cassie living inside me wouldn’t let me do that.

  Even while I had attended my private high school, I’d had periodic sessions with Dr. Ryan, when I was home for either an extended weekend or on holiday. It was really my father’s younger brother, my uncle Perry, who insisted that my father arrange that in the first place.

  “After all she has gone through, she has way too much emotional and psychological damage, Teddy,” he told him right in front of me. “You can’t just send her off to live in an unfamiliar environment with strangers. She needs support, professional support, and we both know you’re too busy to provide it.”

  Of course, Uncle Perry had been right, and if it hadn’t been for Dr. Ryan, I probably wouldn’t have been this close to finishing high school, even one as insulated and protective as Collier. I certainly would never have had the strength to go off to college, not that I thought I would. I avoided filling out applications, but to satisfy my curious classmates, I pretended I had already been admitted to an expensive small college in Kentucky. They believed it. For the most part, everyone believed whatever I said because I said it with such conviction and nonchalance. I think that was because I made myself believe it first.

  Even though I didn’t see a therapist on a regular basis here, I had many informal sessions with Mrs. Hathaway. She obviously knew when I had a long break between classes and either casually came by my room at the dormitory or caught me walking on campus and invited me to her office for a cup of tea.

  Her questions were always the same. “How are you getting along with your roommate, your classmates, and your teachers? Why aren’t you participating in any activities like the drama club, chorus, or one of the athletic teams? You’ve got to expand your interests, explore, experiment, Semantha. Doesn’t anything we offer interest you?”

  Almost always, she’d tilt her head and smile softly before asking, “Have you met any nice boys at our social events?”

  All of the girls thought little of Collier’s social events. There were so many chaperones, and the security personnel hovered outside every entrance like killer bees ready to sting anyone for the smallest indiscretion. It was nearly impossible to go off and do something we considered more exciting. It was like being brought up in the mid-forties, when there were actually rules about how many inches apart a boy and a girl had to be when they danced together. And of course, if you wore anything Mrs. Hathaway considered inappropriate, you weren’t even permitted to enter the auditorium for one of the official socials.

  In general, the boys we met at these highly controlled gatherings came from brother schools for boys or nearby parochial schools. On very rare occasions, boys from one of the area public schools were invited, but they were usually what Mrs. Hathaway would call the créme de la créme, the honor students. Davina Bernstein said they were rented from Geeks R Us and at midnight would turn into laptops.

  I told Mrs. Hathaway that I hadn’t met any boy who remotely interested me or whom I interested. None of my answers to any of her questions really pleased her, but she wasn’t pushy. Like most of the people my father had spoken to about me, she tiptoed and whispered and showed great patience and understanding. I was so tired of this so-called tender loving care that I wanted to scream, but instead, I turned myself into a sponge, absorbed what I had to absorb, and then squeezed it out of myself as soon as I was alone again or when Ellie was on the phone or out in the hallway talking to other girls.

  Right now, she continued to stand in the bathroom doorway, impatiently waiting for an explanation for the lit candle and my sitting cross-legged on the bathroom floor talking to myself.

  When I was at home on my daughter’s birthday, I lit the candle in my bathroom with the windows wide open so no one would smell the wax melting. Softly, under my breath, I would sing “Happy Birthday” to her and pretend she was there, now almost four years old, sitting on the floor with me, her eyes wide with excitement. I even pretended to give her a present and watch her unwrap it. W
e would hug, and I would hold her and give her the security and comfort that came with knowing your mother is always there for you, loving you and protecting you. I cried tears of joy for both of us.

  Then I would hear someone walking in the hallway or a door open and close, and I would quickly smother the candle flame and hide the candle again in the bottom of a sink cabinet. I knew how furious my father would be if he discovered I had done such a thing. Maybe for a few seconds, there was some awareness of the special day visible in his eyes on the first-year anniversary after I had given birth, but that candle burning in his memory was soon snuffed out. It was truly as though he had clapped his hands over the tiny flame.

  I could never forget any of it, even though it was all so painful to remember. Of course, I tried to forget. I really did, and maybe I was making some progress. Maybe that was why Cassie was coming back to me in whisperings and shadows. She was afraid I would leave her in her grave forever.

  “Semantha?” Ellie pursued. “Will you please tell me what you’re doing in our bathroom?”

  “It’s just something I do in memory of someone I loved and lost,” I told her.

  “Oh,” she said. “Sorry.” I knew she thought I was doing it for my mother or my sister or perhaps both.

  When Ellie and I were first assigned to room with each other, I didn’t reveal anything about my seeing a therapist on a regular basis. I did that later, when it was clear to me that none of the girls would leave me be until I told them something negative about myself. It was almost as if they wouldn’t tolerate someone who had nothing to hide.

  However, I told Ellie the story that was so embedded in my mind that it was practically a recording. I couldn’t avoid telling her, because I never had a mother call or visit, and the logical question was why not.

  “My parents at a late time in their marriage tried to have another child, hoping for a boy,” I began. “My father had always dreamed of having a son he would name after one of his famous ancestors, Asa Heaven-stone, a young man who fought and was killed in the Civil War. His portrait hangs on a wall in our house in Kentucky with the portraits of other Heaven-stone ancestors.