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Cage of Love, Page 2

V. C. Andrews

  “Call him and tell him not to,” he said firmly. “I want to be with you, Madge, more than I want to be with anyone.”

  “Okay,” I said softly and went to the pay phone.

  “You watch yourself,” Daddy told me. “Boys like to drink when they celebrate, and these roads are icy.”

  “I know, Daddy. I’ll be careful,” I promised.

  “If I lose you too,” he began, but didn’t finish. His throat tightened on him.

  “I won’t be very late,” I promised.

  I didn’t come home late, but I didn’t come home early either. I had the best time and lost track of the hour. We went to have something to eat and then we went to one of the other boys’ homes because his parents were on vacation. Some of the boys did drink too much, but not Preston. He and I found a place away from the rest of them, and we kissed and held each other. We didn’t go too far, although we were both disappointed in ourselves for having such restraint.

  When I finally did go home, I found Daddy waiting up. He was angry and said he had spent hours worrying about me.

  “I wasn’t out later than any of the others, Daddy,” I said.

  “I don’t care about the others. I care about you. He shouldn’t have kept you out this late. You stay away from him,” he warned.

  “No, Daddy,” I said. “We like each other. He’s nice. You liked him too.”

  “Stay away from him,” he cried.

  It was terrible. We had never been angry at each other before and never spent so much time not speaking to each other, moving through the house mechanically. When I saw Preston at school, I had to tell him about Daddy’s being angry at me. Preston wanted me to spend all day Saturday with him and Saturday night. He had planned it out. We would go to the ice-skating rink and then have lunch and take a long ride to a wonderful place he knew where we could have dinner. I was so torn. I wanted to go with him so much, but I was afraid to even mention it to Daddy.

  Finally, I decided to write him a note and just go. In the note I told him how I thought he was being unfair. I told him how much I loved him and wanted him to be happy, but I also said I hoped he wanted me to be happy as well.

  Then, I snuck out of the house and met Preston about a half mile down the highway. We went off and enjoyed a wonderful day. I had never laughed as much or smiled and felt as good since Mommy’s death. A number of times, I was tempted to call Daddy to let him know I was fine, but I thought he would be so angry on the phone, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy what still lay ahead, so I didn’t call.

  A little after eleven, Preston drove me home. I trembled in the car just thinking about what it was going to be like when I went into the house. Preston wanted to come in with me and face my father too, but I begged him not to do it, and reluctantly he kissed me good-night and drove off after getting me to promise to call him first chance I got, no matter how late or how early.

  Daddy was waiting up for me, as I expected. He looked like he had run miles. His hair was wild, his shirt undone. It looked like he had torn it open, in fact. He was sitting in his big cushioned chair, staring at the fireplace. The fire had long since gone out. There were just a few dying embers twinkling like distant stars.

  What shocked me most, however, was the sight of Lady Luck’s birdcage on the floor. He had apparently stomped on it so hard and so much, it was crushed and flattened. That, more than anything, brought tears to my eyes. I went to it, picked it up, looked at him and started to cry.

  “Don’t,” he said without looking at me.

  “Why did you do this, Daddy? Were you so angry at me?” I asked through my sobs.

  “No,” he said finally turning to look at me. “I was angry at myself. I was in such a rage at what you had done, and then suddenly, as if your mother spoke to me, I stopped ranting and raving. I swear I heard Lady Luck singing, Madge. It wasn’t just my imagination.”

  “I believe you, Daddy.”

  “And when I calmed down and sat here, I realized what I have been doing to both of us, mostly to you. I’ve let you devote your young life entirely to me for far too long. Nadine was right, of course. I didn’t want her to be right. I didn’t want to lose you too. But I had no right to … to put you in a cage, Magpie. I had no right to keep you locked up for me to look at and be with only. You have a song to sing too, and you need to be free to sing it.”

  He gazed at the smashed canary cage.

  “I guess I didn’t have to do that, but I had to get it out of me somehow.”

  “We can get another bird and another cage, Daddy.”

  “No,” he said. “You don’t worry about it.”

  “Are you all right, Daddy?”

  “I’m fine. I’ll be fine,” he said.

  We hugged each other and we cried. I cried then; he cried later. But in the morning, there was a new day and a new world of hope and love for us. Preston came to dinner often, and he and I became more involved. I applied to college, and afterward we kept up a correspondence for a while and saw each other on holidays.

  But promises made in the heat of passion often lose their power when time and distance come between those making vows. Eventually, he met someone else at his college and I met someone else at mine.

  I worried about Daddy. He wasn’t meant for bachelor-hood. His sister came around often, but when I returned home for Thanksgiving in my junior year, he had someone there for me to meet. Her name was Lorraine. She was not as pretty as Mommy, but she was nice and I saw how much she cared for Daddy. He seemed to accept her almost the way you would accept the inevitable.

  “I’m going to remarry,” he told me when we were alone, taking a walk after dinner. “She won’t replace your mother. No one will, but we’ll have something of a life together. I make her happy and she’s good for me, Magpie.”

  “I understand, Daddy. Loneliness is terrifying. It drains you of your will to live.”

  “Exactly. You’ve become a beautiful young lady. I’m going to have to stop calling you Magpie,” he said.

  “Don’t you ever,” I warned him. He hugged me and we looked out at the old henhouses.

  “I’ll rip them down now,” he said. “It will be like turning the pages of a book.”

  He did as he said. He married Lorraine; he tore down the decrepit structures and made the property more beautiful.

  And when I came home the next time, they had another birdcage and another beautiful creature. It wasn’t a canary. It was a bird Lorraine wanted, and I thought that’s as it should be.

  We spend most of our lives in and out of our private cages, I thought. Freedom was wonderful, but it was wonderful to have a place to nest, to feel secure in, to call your own, too.

  The secret of happiness was in finding a way not to trap yourself.