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As Logan's bride, she would savor now the love she had sought for so long. And free from her father's clutches, she would live again in her backwoods town, a respected teacher and cherished wife. But after a wedding trip to Boston's Farthinggale Manor and a lavish, elegant party, Heaven and Logan are persuaded to stay...lured by Tony Tatterton's ...
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As Logan's bride, she would savor now the love she had sought for so long. And free from her father's clutches, she would live again in her backwoods town, a respected teacher and cherished wife. But after a wedding trip to Boston's Farthinggale Manor and a lavish, elegant party, Heaven and Logan are persuaded to stay...lured by Tony Tatterton's guile to live amidst the Tatterton wealth and privilege. Then the ghosts of Heaven's past rise up once more, writhing around her fragile happiness...threatening her precious love with scandal and jealousy, sinister passions and dangerous dreams!
I sat on the long front porch of the cabin, reading and rereading my letter to Pa. It was a warm May morning, spring alread -- from the cold dark winter of death and mourning, gradually warming with the promise of spring, finally bursting into warm, burgeoning summer. The sparrows and robins, were singing, Bitting from branch to branch, gently shaking the leaves. Sunlight wove its way through the woods, threading strands of gold. from birch to hickory to maple, turning the leaves where the hot bathed them. Ile world looked glorious and alive.
I took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet, fresh perfume of blossoming flowers and rich green leaves. Above me, the sky was deep cerulean blue and the candy cotton puffs of clouds stretched and curled delicious shapes, like babies stretching in sleep.
Logan had been them from the clay I returned to Winnerow. He had been there through the terrible after Tom's death, while Pa was in the hospital. He had been them after Pa had returned with Stacie and little Drake to his own home in Georgia. He had been there when Grandpa died, leaving we alone in the cabin of my childhood, now rebuilt and refurbished into a cozy home. He had been there on the, first day I began teaching my dear students at the Winnerow Grammar School. I laughed to myself now, recalling that first day, getting ready to test my competence, to see if I really could be the teacher I'd always dreamed of being.
I had come out of the cabin, just as I had this morning, intending, as I did most every day, to take a moment's pause to sit in Granny's old rocker and look out through the Willies before starting my journey down to the school. Only on this first morning, when I opened the door, there was Logan standing by the steps, a wide, happy smile on his face, his dark sapphire eyes brightening in the morning sun.
"Good morning, Miss Casteel." He performed a grand bow. "I have been sent here to escort you to your classroom. It's a fringe benefit of the Winnerow School System."
"Oh, Logan!" I cried. "You got up so early to walk up here.
"It wasn't so early. I get up this early to open the drugstore. It's three times the size it was when we were high school students," he said proudly, "and demands a lot more work. Miss Casteel," he added, holding out his hand. I walked down the steps to take it and we started down the mountain path, just the way we had when we were high school sweethearts.
It seemed so much like the old days -- when Logan and I trailed behind Tom and Keith and Our Jane, with Fanny taunting us, trying to provoke and tease Logan away from me with her lewd and lascivious behavior, finally giving up and running off in a sulk when she saw that he wouldn't divert his attention from me. I could almost hear my brothers, and sisters' voices ahead. Despite how hard our lives were then, the memories brought tears to my eyes.
"Hey, hey," Logan said, seeing my eyes begin to fill with tears, "this is a happy day. I want a big smile and I want to hear your laughter echo through the Willies, just the way it used to."
"Oh, Logan, thank you. Thank you for being here, for caring."
He stopped and turned me toward him; his eyes were serious and full of love.
"No, Heaven. It's I who should thank you for bein as beautiful and as lovely as I remember you. Its as if" -- he looked around, searching for the words -- "as if time stood still for us and everything that we thought happened since was only a dream. Now we are waking tip and once again you: are here I am here with you, and I have your hand in mine. I'll never let it so again," he vowed.
A tingle traveled through my fingers laced through his, a tingle of happiness that reached my heart and set it pounding the way it had that first day we kissed, when I was only twelve years old. I wanted him to kiss me again, I wanted to be that same innocent girl again, but I wasn't. And he wasn't, either. Why, only a few months ago rumors were flying that he intended to marry Maisie Setterton. But Maisie seemed to have disappeared from the picture of Logan's life as soon as I returned.
We walked silently along the wooded path. Red and brown speckled sparrows followed along, Bitting through the shadows of the forest, moving so quickly and gracefully we barely saw a branch shake.
"I know," Logan finally said, "that both our lives took strangely different directions since the days when I walked you home from school, and all the promises we made to each other then might seem more like foolish dreams. But I would like to think that our love for each other was so strong that it has outlasted all the tragedy and a the hardship since."
We stopped to face each other again. I knew he could read all the doubt in my eyes.
"Logan. I'd like to believe that, too. I'm tired of dreams that die, dreams that were really too airy and weak to last or grow stronger as we grew older. I want to believe in someone again."
"Oh, Heaven, believe in me," he pleaded, taking my hand into both of his now. "I won't disappoint you. Ever."
"I can try," I whispered and he smiled. Then he kissed me, a kiss meant to seal a promise, but all my life I had seen promises broken. Logan sensed my hesitation, my fear. He embraced me.
"I'm going to make you believe in me, Heaven. I'm going to be all you could want in a man." He pressed his face to my hair. I felt his breath on my neck, his heart beating madly against mine. In this forest on the old trail, I felt myself wanting, desperately to hope again; I felt myself softening. The Heaven Leigh Casteel who had been wounded badly as a child, tormented and seduced as a young girl, heartbroken as a young woman, turned hungrily toward the promise of happiness.
"In time I think I will believe in you, Logan."
"Oh, Heaven, dear Heaven, you've truly come home." Logan kissed me again and again.
Why was it then, that as he kissed me with all the love and passion in him, I thought of Troy, my forbidden fiancé, my dark, dead love? Why was it Troy's lips I felt pressing against my own? Why was it Troy's taste I craved? Troy's arms I felt pressing me against him? But then Logan kissed both my eyes, and I opened them, to his young, fresh, loving face, a face that had never known the depths of anguish and despair my sad, doomed Troy had succumbed to. I knew in my heart that Logan would bring me the kind of life I and my mother before me had been deprived of -- a life of calm, respect, and honor.
Logan and I courted throughout the school year, and one day he knocked on my cabin door and said, "Have I got a surprise for you, Heaven." He looked like a mischievous little boy with a frog in his pocket.
"Are you going to blindfold me?" I played along with his sweet game.
He came up behind me and put his gentle hands over my eyes. "Keep them shut, Heaven!" Then he took my hand and I stumbled along behind him on the way to his car, feeling secure being led by his boyish enthusiasm. I felt the fresh breeze on my face as we sped away, I knew not where. Then the car stopped and Logan opened my door and reached for my arm. "Come out now, were almost there," he said as he led me from the car, onto what felt like a sidewalk.
When he opened the door to the drugstore, I immediately caught the familiar scent of perfume and toiletries mixed with cold remedies and prescription medicinal smells, but I didn't let on that I knew where I was. I didn't want to dampen his great good humor. He sat me on a stool and busied himself somewhere behind the counter. It seemed like a half hour before his cheery voice returned and almost shouted, "You can open your eyes now, Heaven!"
Before me was a rainbow castle -- built of ice cream, cherries, whipped cream, and all things sweet and delicious. "Logan," I declared, "it"s beautiful. But if I eat that, I'll be three hundred pounds in an hour. Then will you still love me?"
"Heaven" -- his voice grew low and raspy -- "my love for you is greater than youth and beauty. But this sundae isn't for eating -- I wanted to build you the most beautiful, sweetest castle you had ever seen. I know I can't compete with the riches of the Tattertons and the grand mansion Farthinggale. But that mansion is made of cold gray stone, and my love for you is as warm as the first day of spring. My love will build a castle around you, a castle no stone mansion can compete with. Heaven" -- he got down on his knees in front of the astonished stares of all the customers in the drugstore -- "Heaven, will you be my wife?"
I looked deep into his eyes and saw the love and sweetness there. I knew he would do everything he could to make me so very happy. What was the passion I longed for -- the passion that had been stolen from me with Troy's death -- when compared to a lifetime of gentle love, caring, and undying commitment? "Yes," I said, the tears already welling in my eye. "Yes, Logan, yes, I will be your wife."
Suddenly applause broke out around us, as all the customers beamed their happy smiles on us, the newly engaged. Logan turned beet red and dropped my hand, just as I was about to embrace him.
"Here, Heaven," he said, popping a cherry into my mouth, trying to cover his embarrassment at the public spectacle we were making. Then he pecked me on the cheek. "I love you forever," he whispered.
So a love born years ago, like a slowly blossoming flower, finally opened completely. I felt brighter and fresher than I ever had before. I had come full circle, erasing the pain of the past, as I traveled the paths now that I had traveled as a child, only now I was clearing my own path, rather than treading one that had been marked for me. Now I could make my own fate, as the forest makes its natural trails built on the most solid ground, the firmest earth. It was as if I'd suddenly reached one of those magical clearings in the forest, and I knew enough to build my home there.
Now my childhood sweetheart was to be my lifelong sweetheart. Dreams did indeed come true and I knew that things we often think are too good and too precious to be part of the real world really could be part of the real world. I was filled with hope and happiness again. I was a young girl again, willing to believe, to be vulnerable, to open myself to someone and risk my fragile heart. In this clearing, where the sun was strong and nurturing, Logan and I would be like the sturdy saplings, growing stronger and stronger until we became mighty oak trees that could withstand any bitter storm of winter.
I spent the next few weeks planning the wedding. This wedding would be far more than merely another marriage of a Winnerow man and a woman. Even though I had remained in the hills, living in Grandpa's cabin, I still drove an expensive automobile, wore fine clothing, and carried myself as a cultured and sophisticated woman. I may have put aside a wealthy existence as the heir to the Tatterton Toy empire, but the townspeople still saw me as a scum-of-the-hills Casteel. They might have approved of the way I was teaching their children, but they still didn't like me sitting in the front pews of their church.
When Logan and I attended church together, that Sunday, after our engagement picture had adorned the bride's section of The Winnerow Reporter, all eyes followed us as we made our way to the very front pew -- Logan's family's place in church -- a place I had never dared sit before. "Welcome, Heaven," Mrs. Stonewall said, a little nervously, as she handed me the missal. Logan's father simply nodded his head, but when we rose to sing, I sang out proud and strong until my voice, a voice of the hills despite its patina of culture, reverberated throughout the church. And when the service was over, after I had greeted the Reverend Wise with a smile that told him I would prove all his prophecies wrong, Logan's mother said to me, "Why, Heaven, I never knew you had such a dignified singing voice. I hope you'll join our ladies' choir." I knew then and there that Loretta Stonewall had finally decided to accept me. I also knew then and there that I would make all the others do the same, that I would make them open their eyes and look at all the hill folk and see us for the honest, struggling human beings we were.
That was why I planned the kind of wedding I did. Logan tried his best to understand my motivations, and even stood up to his parents' objections. I was ever so grateful. He was even pleased and amused by the way I planned to force the people of Winnerow to commingle with the hill people. I was determined to have the finest affair Winnerow had ever seen and when I walked down that aisle, the townspeople wouldn't see poor white trash that had come into money, but someone just as good and as refined as they thought they were. I remembered when I had come back to Winnerow years ago and walked down that church looking like a fashion plate, bedecked with rich jewels. Despite my fine raiment, the townspeople had looked down their noses at me. The hill people were supposed to take the back benches and those deemed worthiest of God were in the first rows.
My wedding would be different. I invited a number of hill families. I invited all the children in my class. I wanted my sister Fanny to be my maid of honor. I hadn't seen Fanny much in the two years since I'd returned to Winnerow, because Fanny did not seem able to put away her jealousy and resentment of me, even though I tried, as I always had, to help her in every way I could. Logan kept me up to date on Fanny's affairs and activities. Apparently, she was often the subject of conversation among the young men and women of Winnerow, and often he would overhear some of this conversation in his drugstore. Since her divorce from "Old man Mallory," the gossip was about her flirtatious involvement with a much younger man, Randall Wilcox, the lawyer's son. Randall was only eighteen years old, a first-year college student, and Fanny was a divorced woman of twenty-two.
The week after our engagement was announced, I drove up to the house Fanny had bought with old Mallory's money -- a house high on a hill, painted a gaudy pink with red trim on the windows. I hadn't spoken to Fanny in over a year, since she accused me of stealing everything that was hers, when in reality it was she who had tried to pilfer everything that was mine, especially Logan.
"Well, what a surprise this is," she proclaimed in an overly dramatic fashion when she opened the door. "Miss Heaven herself come ta visit her po' white trash sista."
"I'm not here to fight with you, Fanny. I'm too happy for you to make me angry about anything."
She sat down on her couch quickly, her interest seized.
"Logan and I are going to be married in June."
"Is that so?" Fanny drawled, her entire posture collapsing in disappointment.
Why couldn't she be happy for me for once? Why couldn't we be real sisters and care for each other?
"You knew we had been seeing each other again."
"How would I know anythin'? Yer hardly eva here and we hardly eva talk ta one anotha."
"You know what goes on in Winnerow, Fanny. Anyway, I would like you to be my maid of honor."
"Really?" Her eyes lit up on that. Then I saw the old spiteful fire return to Fanny's eye. "I just can't say yet, Heavin darlin'. I got a full schedule of ma own. What date exactly is your weddin' gonna be?"
I told her.
"Well" -- Fanny pretended to think about it -- "I had plans for that weekend, you know ma new man likes ta take me lots of places -- ta college dances and such. But maybe I can change ma plans. Is it gonna be a faincy weddin'?"
"And are ya gonna buy yer lovin' sista a really fancy expensive dress? And will ya take me to the city to pick it out?"
She thought for a moment.
"Kin I bring Randall Wilcox?" she asked. "Ya probably know he's been courtin' me. I jus' know he'd look so gorgeous in a tuxedo. The men are wearing tuxedos, aren't they?"
"Yes, Fanny. If you'd like that, I'll have an invitation hand delivered to his house."
"Sure, I'd like it. Why not?" she asked.
And so it was done.
My invitation to Pa was the last one I mailed. I started down the mountain trail a little earlier than usual that morning so I could go to the post office before going to school for my final day of class. I think I was as excited as I was the first day I had gone down the trail to begin school myself. When I got to my classroom, my students looked up at me with faces filled with expectation. Even the usually sad and tired faces of the Willies children were fresh and bright this morning. I knew they had something special planned.
Patricia Coons raised her hand.
"I have something for you, Miss Casteel," she announced shyly.
She got up slowly and came forward, proud to have been chosen as the class representative. She shuffled her feet and bit one of her already chewed-down nails.
"We wanted to give you this before you got all your other wedding gifts," she said. "All us here chillen," she added as she handed me the package, wrapped in fine blue paper with a pink ribbon. "We even bought the paper in your fiancé Logan, I mean Mr. Stonewall's store," she said and I laughed.
"Thank you. Everyone."
I opened the package. Inside in a rich oak frame was a beautifully done needlepoint of my cabin in the Willies, and underneath it read, "Home Sweet Home, from your class."
For a moment I couldn't speak, but I knew all the little faces with their bright, happy eyes were on me.
"Thank you, children," I said. "No matter what gifts I get after this, none will be as precious or as important to me."
And none was.
The time between the last day of school and my wedding day seemed like ages. Minutes were more like hours and hours more like days because I wanted it to come so much. Even all the plans and preparations didn't make the time fly by, as I hoped it would. Still, the anticipation built my excitement and Logan was with me as much as possible. Replies to our invitations came flooding in. I hadn't spoken to Tony Tatterton since the day I left Farthinggale Manor, the day I learned of Troy's death. Partly, I couldn't forgive him for what had happened to Troy, partly I was so frightened of the truth I had learned, the truth that had sent Troy to his death. I knew I would no longer be able to hear his voice without hearing the familiar timbre of my own in it. What I had learned about Tony and my mother, even two years later, still sent shudders down my spine. To have lived for so long with the lie that Pa was my blood and kin, Pa who had rejected me at every turn and whose love I had needed most, only to find out that when Pa looked at me, he saw my mother's former lover, her own stepfather, my father and grandfather, Tony Tatterton.
This knowledge frightened me to the marrow, not only for its tawdriness and wrongness, but for what it told me of my heritage. I didn't dare tell Logan. His innocence might be shattered by such despicable ways of the wealthy who controlled the world. But there was something more. That last day on the beach with Tony, after he told me of Troy's hideous death, a look had come into his eyes, a look that transgressed any mourning, a look of such pure desire that I knew I must stay away from him. This is why I didn't take his phone calls, why his letters piled up on my desk unanswered, why it was Pa, rather than Tony, who I wanted to be my father at the wedding. For in spite of everything, and even though I now knew he wasn't my real father, I still craved Pa's love; I already had too much of Tony's.
But since I didn't want Logan to know the shameful truth of my heritage, I dutifully sent Tony an invitation to the wedding. And Tony, sly fox that he was, wrote not to me but to Logan, explaining that Grandmother Jillian was so ill he couldn't possibly leave her to attend the wedding, but insisting that we come to Farthinggale Manor, where he would host for us the finest wedding reception Massachusetts had ever seen. Logan was so excited by his invitation that I reluctantly agreed to spend four days at Farthy before we headed for our honeymoon in Virginia Beach. We would return to Winnerow to live in the cabin until we could build our own fine house on the outskirts of Winnerow.
But not all our plans were to fall so neatly into place. On the morning of my wedding there was a knock on the cabin door. I had been up nearly all night, too nervous and too excited to sleep. Still in my nightgown, I went to the front door to greet a special delivery postman.
"Good morning," he chirped. "Special delivery. Please sign here."
It was a good morning, and not only because it was my wedding day. There wasn't a cloud in the sea-blue summer sky. Today was my day, and God had smiled down and made this day beautiful for me, chasing away all the shadows and leaving me only sunlight. I was so full of joy and fulfillment, I felt like hugging the postman.
"Thank you," he said when I handed the clipboard back to him. Then he smiled and tipped his hat. "And good luck to you. I know it's your wedding day."
"Thank you." I watched him go back to his jeep, and waved as he turned around and headed down the mountain road. Then I closed the door and hurried to the kitchen table to open the special-delivery mail. Surely it was a well-wisher. Perhaps it had come from Tony, who had decided at the last minute he would attend both receptions.
I tore open the envelope and unfolded the slim paper within. What I read brought my heart down to earth like a balloon that had sprung a leak. I sat down slowly, my pitter-patter heart becoming a thumping, heavy lead drum in my chest. The laughter that had been on my lips evaporated and tears filled my eyes, blurring the words on the page before me.
Unfortunately, business activities involving the circus will make it impossible for me to attend your wedding. Stacie and I wish you and Logan the best of luck.
One of my tears fell on the letter and began a quick journey over the paper, distorting Pa's words. I crumpled the letter in my fist and sat back, the tears now flowing freely over my cheeks and to the comers of my mouth, where I could taste their salty wetness.
I was crying for so many reasons, but most of all I was crying because I had hoped that my wedding would be the event to bring me and Pa together in a way we had never been. Even though it was Logan who talked me into inviting him, inviting him was a secret ambition of my heart. I had dreamt of him standing beside me, sleek and handsome in his tuxedo, holding my hand and saying the words I do, after the reverend asked, "Who gives away this bride?"
My wedding was going to be the crowning point of forgiveness -- his forgiveness of me for causing the death of his angel, Leigh, when I was born, and my forgiveness of him for selling us. I was willing to accept Tom's belief that Pa sold us because he couldn't take care of us and he thought that it would be the best thing for us.
But now none of this was to be.
I caught my breath and wiped the tears from my face. There was nothing more to do about it, I thought. I had to concentrate on Logan and our wedding. There was no time for self-pity or rage. Besides, Pa had given me away long ago. At my wedding I would give myself.
About an hour before the wedding my sister Fanny arrived with Randall Wilcox to take me to the church. Randall was a polite, shy young man with sweetpotato red hair and milk-fair skin. His forehead was splattered with tiny freckles, but he had bright blue eyes that shone like tinted crystal. I had thought that maybe he looked older than he was, but he had an innocent and fresh appearance and followed Fanny about like a puppy.
"Why, Heaven Leigh Casteel, don'cha look virginal, this mornin'," she exclaimed and threaded her arm through Randall's so she could press herself to him possessively. She had her jet-black hair crimped and blown out, making her look loose and wild like a street prostitute. I had suggested she have her hair pinned up, anticipating she would do something just like this. "Don't she, Randall?"
He looked from me to her quickly, not expecting to have to testify in support of Fanny's sarcasm.
"You look lovely," Randall said softly, diplomatically.
"Thank you, Randall." Fanny smirked. I looked at myself in the mirror, adjusted some strands of hair, and snapped on my wrist corsage.
"I'm ready," I said.
"Sure ya are," Fanny said. "Ya always was ready for this day," she added sadly. For a moment I felt sorry for her, despite her blatant jealousy. Fanny always longed for attention, always longed to be loved, but always went about it the wrong way and probably always would.
"Fanny, the dress looks very nice on you," I said. We had driven to the city and chosen a light blue crinoline for Fanny to wear as the maid of honor. But Fanny had made alterations. She had lowered the neckline until the top of her bosom was exposed. She had tightened the sides so that it seemed painted on.
"Really? My figure has improved, hasn't it?" she said, running her hands up and over her hips, all the way to her breasts, looking lasciviously at Randall all the time. He blushed. "Even after I went through the birthin", I neva lost my figure like so many women do." She turned to me. "Randall knows our little secret about Darcy. Watch out, honey, that a whole brood of little Stonewalls don't soon ruin your figure."
"I'm not planning to have children right away, Fanny," I announced.
"Oh? Maybe Logan Stonewall's got other ideas. Maisie Setterton says he always talked 'bout havin' a big family. Ya told me that, didn't ya, Randall?" I knew Fanny brought up Maisie Setterton just to make me jealous.
"Well, I didn't exactly..." He looked so flustered.
"It's all right, Randall," I interjected quickly. "Fanny isn't saying it to be mean, are you, Fanny?"
"Why, no," she whined. "I'm just' tellin' ya what Maisie said."
"See?" Randall started to laugh. Fanny saw she was the object of the humor.
"Well, she did say it," she insisted. "If ya didn't tell me, someone else did." Her smile turned to a smirk. "Anyway, I still can't believe you're going ta let Waysie marry ya."
"I have my reasons." I smiled to myself. Sure I did. And Fanny knew them. For Reverend Wise had bought Fanny from Pa, taken her into his home, made her pregnant, and claimed her baby for himself and his wife. I had tried to help Fanny buy back her child, but to no avail, and Fanny had still never forgiven me for my failure to do so. We shared the dark secret of her little girl's heritage and I wanted to look into Reverend Wise's eyes when Logan and I pronounced our vows. I wanted to blot out the words he had said to me when I went to him intending to demand Fanny's child. We argued and I told him, "You don't know me."
His eyelids parted to mere slots so his eyes glittered into the shade of his lids and he said, "You are wrong, Heaven Leigh Casteel. I do know you very well. You are the most dangerous kind of female the world can ever know. A great many will love you for your beautiful face, for your seductive body; but you will fail them all, because you will believe they all fail you first. You are an idealist of the most devastatingly tragic kind -- the romantic idealist. Born to destroy and to self-destruct."
I wanted him to see a different Heaven Leigh Casteel, I wanted him to swallow his own predictions, his own religious arrogance, and his sinful hypocrisy.
"You may have ya reasons," Fanny smirked, "but I'll tell ya, that Waysie is sure gonna blow his stack when he pronounces you and Logan man and wife. I can't wait to see it. I surely can't."
"Shall we go?" I said.
The ceremony was all that I had dreamt it would be and more. Just about everyone we invited turned out. Four of my male students served as ushers in the church. I had specifically instructed them to escort people to the pews randomly on a first-come, firstserve basis, thus playing havoc with the unwritten segregation of the congregation. Hill and valley people sat up front with town people, some of whom were forced to sit toward the rear with other hill and valley people.
All of the hill and valley people were smiling at me, their faces filled with happiness and elation. Most of the town people looked dignified, wearing looks of approval. After all, I was marrying Logan Stonewall and completing what was, in their eyes, a complete transition from backwoods mountain girl to a proper town girl. I would be moving out of the cabin and into a home in Winnerow. I could see it in their faces they thought that in time I would forget the hill people. I had won their respect, but not their understanding. They thought I had done all that I had done just to become one of them.
Logan's father stood beside him where Tom, my dear departed brother, should have been standing to be best man. My heart skipped a beat and my eyes teared when I thought about his tragic death in the grasp of a furious beast. Except for Fanny, who strutted before me, tossing her hair about, turning her shoulders suggestively, and making eyes at every available male in the congregation, none of my family were here. Grandpa was dead and gone. Luke and his new wife were off working in his new circus. Tom was gone. Keith and Jane were in college, neither really as close to me as I would have liked. My real grandmother was back in Farthy, lost in her past, babbling gibberish to herself. Tony was at the helm of the Tatterton Toy Corporation, probably mourning this day, when I would belong to another man, never to him.
Reverend Wise, tall and impressive as ever behind his podium, lifted his eyes from the Bible and glared out at me. His slick, black, custom-made suit fitted him as beautifully as usual and made him appear as slim as he had when I first saw him.
For a moment he frightened me, as he always had, but when I locked my gaze on Logan, all the sad memories were lifted away. It was like a cloudy day that had suddenly turned bright. This was my wedding, my time, my moment in the sun, and Logan, more handsome than I ever thought he could be, stood waiting to take my hand into his, my life into his.
How wonderful a wedding of two people who were sincerely in love with each other could be, I thought. It was sacred; it was precious, and it did lift my heart and make me feel as though I were walking on air. I remembered the nights when I would look up at the stars and wish for a time when Logan and I would be like a prince and a princess. He had come into my life so dramatically, just like a storybook knight in shining armor, there to do my bidding, to devote his life to me, and I thought surely we were meant to be husband and wife.
My heart fluttered beneath my breast. Beneath my veil, my face flushed.
Reverend Wise stared out at me in silence. Then he raised his eyes toward the ceiling of the church and began.
"Let us pray. Let us give thanks. For the Lord has been generous. He has given us a chance to fill our hearts with joy. A wedding is a new beginning, a beginning of a new life and a chance to serve God in new ways. This could not be more true than it is for Logan Stonewall and Heaven Leigh Casteel."
He turned to Logan. "Logan Stonewall," he intoned, "do you take this woman, Heaven Leigh Casteel, to be your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, till death do you part?"
Logan turned to me, his face and eyes adoring. "I do with all my heart," he declared.
"Heaven Leigh Casteel" -- Reverend Wise turned to me -- "do you take this man, Logan Grant Stonewall, to be your lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, till death do you part?"
I looked into Logan's eyes and whispered, "I do."
"Who has the rings?" Reverend Wise asked.
Fanny sashayed forward. "Why, Reverend, ah do," she smirked as she lifted her hands, palm up -- each held a ring. Then she bent forward, displaying her full cleavage for the Reverend's eyes, checking to make sure he was looking, and handed Logan and me our rings.
Logan smiled at me, the gentlest of smiles, as he slipped the diamond-encrusted wedding band on my wedding finger. "With this ring I thee wed," he said.
I then did the same.
"By the powers invested in me by God and our Savior Jesus Christ," Reverend Wise intoned, "I now pronounce you man and wife. What God has brought together, let no man tear asunder. You may now kiss your bride, Logan."
Logan kissed me with more passion than he ever had before. Then we walked arm in arm back up the aisle. When we reached the door, Reverend Wise called out, "Ladies and gentlemen, come greet Mr. and Mrs. Logan Stonewall."
Everyone was around us at once, especially the townspeople. It was as though the service, the pronouncement of the words, the wearing of the rings confirmed me as one of them.
Outside the church the Longchamps had started playing a lilting waltz. After everyone had greeted us in the receiving line, Logan and I were expected to dance first. I saw the hill folk hanging back, insecure and uncertain. I felt their nervousness as they filed through that proper ceremonial reception line. I kissed Logan on the cheek and said, "Hang on, honey," Then I went up to the violinist, one of the greatest hill fiddlers ever, and I said, "Play me some country foot-stompin' music." As he began to play, I could hear all around me the sound of the hill folk clappin' and tappin'. I took my husband around the waist, the memories of my hill days flooding back to me, and I broke out into the Willies' swing.
The town folk stood back as one by one the hill folks came forward to cut in on our dance. Logan was spun away by a pretty student of mine as my old neighbor Race McGee twirled me away. Then the hill folk began to pull the town folk into the dance. Never had I been so happy. Everyone was laughing, clapping, whirling around. At last the Willies and Winnerow were one.
Suddenly I saw Fanny in her skin-tight blue dress slink across the dance floor and tap Logan's partner on the shoulder. "Make way for the sista-in-lore, for the best lady!" Fanny shouted for all to hear. She threw her arms around Logan's neck and pressed her bosom into his chest, placed her hands on his buttocks and began whirling my astonished Logan across the dance floor. When the music stopped, she announced, "I guess it's time to kiss the husband, this time," and with that I saw her tongue slither out between her lips and thrust itself into Logan's mouth.
Finally Logan yanked himself away from her grasp, but Fanny's laugh rang out above the music, tolling its alarm to warn me. I listened, and I heard. But this was my day and I wasn't going to let Fanny, or anyone or anything, spoil it.
Copyright © 1988 by the Vanda Gerneral Partnership
Very often during the first few days I was alone in Grandmother Hudson's grand house, I would stop at one of the many antique mirrors and ask my image just who I was at the moment. The expression I caught on my face was so strange and new to me, I hardly recognized myself. It was almost as if some spirit in the house had possessed me for a while or as if the ghosts moved in and out of me at will, each changing my moods, my look, even the sound of my voice.
Back in Endfield Place in London, my great-uncle Richard and great-aunt Leonora's home, a ghost was supposedly trapped, the ghost of the original owner's mistress, poisoned by his wife. I didn't really believe in ghosts, but Grandmother Hudson used to tell me that a house such as this one, a house that had been home for so long to a family, was far more than just wood, stone, glass and metal thrown together to form a structure. It took on the character of the people who resided within it. Minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years of reverberating with their voices, their laughter and their sobs filled it with memories.
"Think of it as if it were a gigantic sponge around us, absorbing our thoughts and actions, filling itself with our very natures until it became a part of us and we became forever a part of it. A new family can come in here and have the walls repainted, the floors covered with new carpet, different curtains and shutters hung on the windows, new furniture brought into every room, but we will linger in the heart of the house.
"The new owner might awaken one night and hear strange voices as the house replays some moment from our past like a sponge that has been squeezed and drips its contents, revealing what's really deep inside."
She smiled at my look of skepticism. Long ago I had stopped believing in tooth fairies and magic. Harsh reality was in my face too much.
"What I really mean, Rain, is when you look at something, whether it be a home or a tree or even the lake and see only what anyone else can see, you are partially blind. Take your time. Let things settle around you, in you. That takes some trust, I know, but after a while, it will become easier and easier and you will grow stronger and fuller because of it. You will become a part of all you see and all you touch," she told me.
These were rare moments, moments when she permitted herself to let down her own fortress walls and give me the opportunity to look in on whom she really was, a great and powerful lady on the outside, but no more than a little girl on the inside longing for love, for softness, for smiles and laughter and rainbow promises. Even at her age, she could blow out birthday candles and wish, too.
Much of her, of that, remained in the house. Her body rested in the graveyard a few miles away from it, but her spirit joined the spirits of the others who passed from room to room in a chain of memories lighter than smoke, looking for a way to resurrect some of the glory.
They were testing me, visiting me, challenging me by tinkering with my thoughts and feelings. They filled the shadows in the corners and whispered on the stairs, but I wasn't afraid even though I quickly began to have strange dreams, strange because they were about people I had never seen or met. Yet, despite that, there was something familiar about them, some laugh or wisp of a smile that filled me with even greater curiosity. I saw a little girl sitting all crunched up on a sofa, her eyes wide with surprise. I heard sobs through the walls. My eyes traveled down until they found two teenage girls listening, their mouths open with astonishment. Well-dressed people paraded through the hallways to rooms filled with displays of food and wine. There was the sound of violins and then a beautiful voice could be heard singing the famous aria from Madama Butterfly.
I could make little sense out of any of it, but I kept trying, searching for some clues, some answers. Even though I had lived in the house for a while before going to London, there was still much for me to look at and explore. I spent hours in the library perusing the books and then sifting through the old papers and some of the correspondence still kept in file cabinets and drawers. Most of it was about the various projects for development Grandfather Hudson had started. However, there were some personal letters, letters from old friends, people who had relocated to different states or even different countries, some of them old college friends.
I discovered that Grandmother Hudson had had a close girlfriend in finishing school who had married and moved to Savannah. Her name was Ariana Keely and her husband was an attorney. She had three children, two boys and a girl. The letters were filled with details about her children, but very little about herself and her husband. Occasionally, she would drift into something revealing and I would be able to read between the lines and understand that apparently neither she nor Grandmother Hudson believed they had found the happiness and the perfection both somehow had thought was inevitable for people who had been given all the advantages.
"As you say, Frances, we're privileged people," Ariana wrote in one letter, "but all that seems to guarantee is a more comfortable world of disappointment full of more distractions, more ways to ignore reality."
It all made me wonder that if someone wealthy, born with status and advantages couldn't be happy, what should I really expect?
I was thinking about all this as Jake drove me home from the cemetery. Neither of us had spoken for quite a while. I sat gazing out of the window, but really not looking at anything. The sky continued to darken.
"You all right, Princess?" Jake asked finally.
"What? Oh, yes, Jake. I'm fine. Looks like it is going to pour."
"Yes," he said. "I was going to go into Richmond tonight, but I think I'll wait until morning, get up early and make the airport pickup."
I sat back. The dreary sky and my rush of sad memories filled me with a cold loneliness. You're too young to have to do battle with a great family, I told myself. I didn't ask for any of this. Thoughts about my mother, her husband and Aunt Victoria ganging up on me again tomorrow consumed me with dread.
"Maybe you oughta go to a movie or something, Princess," Jake said. "I can come by and take you, if you'd like."
"No thanks, Jake."
"Did you keep in contact with any of the friends you made when you went to school here?" he asked.
"No, Jake," I said smiling. He was trying hard, worrying about me. "I'm okay for a while. I'll keep myself busy by making myself dinner. Would you like to come to dinner?"
"Huh?" he asked.
"I've got a great recipe for chicken with peaches, something my mama used to make."
"Hmm. Sounds delicious," he said. "What time?"
"Come by about six."
"Should I bring anything?"
"Just your appetite, Jake," I said and he laughed. "You know how well stocked Mrs. Hudson kept the house."
Jake nodded, looking at me in the rearview mirror. Something in his eyes told me he knew I should be calling her Grandmother Hudson. It occurred to me that Grandmother Hudson herself might have told him the truth, but he never asked me any prying questions. Sometimes, I thought he seemed like someone on the sidelines who knew everything and was just waiting and watching to see how it would turn out.
"That I do. I took her shopping enough," he said. "No matter how I assured her, she always behaved as if she could never get me when she needed me. She'd always hit me with something like, 'Why add another worry to the load you're already carrying on your shoulders?' That woman," he said shaking his head, "she never stopped trying to change me."
"She was very fond of you," I said.
He nodded, his eyes smaller, darker. Suddenly he was the one who grew quiet. Neither of us said another word until we pulled up to the house. The first drops began to fall.
"Thank you, Jake. I'll get my own door," I added before he could step out. "See you later, Jake."
"Okay, Princess," he called as I rushed up the steps and into the house.
I was excited. I had something nice to do. I was going to make us a wonderful meal, my first dinner in my own big house. Wouldn't Mama Arnold laugh if she saw me now?
About an hour before Jake arrived, however, the phone rang and my mood took a plunge back into the pool of depression. It was Grandmother Hudson's attorney, Mr. Sanger.
"I received a call from Grant, Megan and Victoria's attorney a little while ago, Rain. It looks like they're deciding to go forward with this challenge. They'll be requesting all Frances's medical records and they'll try to show she wasn't of competent mind when she changed the will and gave you so much. It still might all be just a tactic to get you to compromise."
"I know they're coming to see me tomorrow," I said. "Jake told me."
"I could be there if you'd like," he offered.
"That might just make it all nastier. I'll call you if I need you," I said.
"Sorry," he said, "but this is often the way these things can go."
With the wind picking up and whipping the rain at the windows and the roof of the house, and now the news of an impending legal war between me and my reluctant family, I couldn't keep the trembles from making my hands shake as I worked in the kitchen. I set the table and brought out the candelabra. I imagined Jake would like some wine. I didn't know anything about wine, so I decided to wait for him to make the choice. When I glanced at the grandfather clock in the hallway, I saw it was about three hours slow again.
That brought a smile to my face. I remembered how unconcerned Grandmother Hudson was about time. Most of the clocks in the house were off, even the electric ones in the bedrooms and kitchen. The fancy French clock in the office had a malfunction she never had fixed and her cuckoo clock in the breakfast nook sometimes worked, sometimes didn't. It could pop out at the most unexpected times. I asked her many times why she didn't get it and the other clocks repaired.
"At my age," she would say whenever I mentioned the clocks, "you don't want to be reminded how many hours have gone by."
I told her she wasn't that old. Jake was older than she was and didn't even think of slowing down.
"Jake," she said, "hasn't the sense to think about his age. If he did, he'd realize just how much of his life he's wasted."
I had to smile at that too. She sounded disapproving, but she never really criticized Jake. Her complaints were like whippings with wet noodles. I could see by the way they looked at each other that they had an endearing affection. It was just that whenever Grandmother Hudson smiled at him, she always looked away first as if smiling directly at him might shatter some essential glass wall they had to keep up between them. I thought it had something to do with employers and employees, but I could never be that way, no matter how rich I was.
Anyway, I would soon find out that there were other reasons.
I rushed to the door when the bell sounded. Jake surprised me by being dressed in a sports jacket and tie. He had a box of candy too.
"You didn't have to get dressed up, Jake," I said, laughing.
"I couldn't imagine coming to Frances's house for dinner without being properly attired," he said as he entered. "Sweets for the sweet." He handed me the candy.
"Thank you, Jake. Is it still raining pretty hard?"
"Slowing up. The front's moving north to get the Yankees now," he said.
When he saw the dinner table, he blew a low whistle.
"Very nice, Princess. Very nice. Looks like you learned a lot being an English maid, huh?"
"I know what bangers and mash is and I can speak some Cockney slang," I told him and he laughed. "I didn't know what to pick out for wine, Jake. I thought I'd leave that to you."
"Oh. Sure," he said.
"You know where the wine cellar is, right?" I asked him.
"I do, Princess," he said. "I even know which floorboards creak in this house."
I nodded. Of course he did. He had once lived here a long, long time ago.
"Okay, Jake. I'll get things started while you do that," I told him and went to the kitchen.
When I brought in our salads, he had already opened two bottles of wine and poured me a glass. It looked like he had poured himself a second already.
"One thing about Frances," he said. "She always had good wine, whether it be a good California wine or French. She was a very refined woman, classy," he added. "Let's have a toast to her." He held up his glass and I lifted mine and we tapped glasses after he said, "To Frances, who I'm sure is setting things right wherever she is."
We both took a long sip of our wine.
"Good-looking salad, Rain. Warm bread, too! I'm impressed already."
"Thank you, Jake."
"So," he said, "tell me about your time in London. I hope you were having some fun."
I described the school, told him about Randall Glenn, the talented boy from Canada who was studying to be a concert singer and how Randall and I had done a great deal of touring. I told him about Catherine and Leslie, the sisters from France, the showcase presentation I was in and all the encouragement I had received.
"It sounds like you should return then," he said. "I hope you don't get stuck here for some silly reason, Rain. Take advantage of your opportunities. Frances would want that. She'd be disappointed if you didn't," he said.
When Jake and I looked at each other, I couldn't help feeling there were things that were not being said. Every time he would mention Grandmother Hudson's name, he would get a misty glint in his eyes.
I brought out the main dish and he raved about it, saying someday I'd make a lucky man a wonderful wife.
"But you'll probably be one of these modern women who thinks the kitchen is beneath her," he added.
"I don't think so, Jake. Not the way I was brought up," I said.
He wanted to know more about my life growing up in Washington, D.C. He listened attentively, his face turning hard and his eyes cold when I described with more detail than ever before what exactly had happened to my stepsister Beneatha.
"No wonder your mother wanted to get you out of that world," he said.
Again, our eyes locked for a longer moment. I was surprised that Jake had already finished a bottle of wine himself and was well into the second. I had yet to finish my first glass. I looked down at my plate, pushed some of my food around with my fork and, without looking up, asked, "How much do you really know about me, Jake?" I lifted my eyes quickly. "How much did Mrs. Hudson tell you?"
He started to shake his head and stopped, a smile on his lips.
"She used to say you had a divining rod for the truth," Jake said softly.
"You know, those things some people swear can find water."
"Oh." I nodded. "So what well of truth have I discovered, Jake?"
He laughed but then grew serious quickly.
"I know Megan is really your mother," he admitted. He fingered his wineglass. "I always knew."
"Grandmother Hudson told you?"
"What else did she tell you?"
He looked up.
"Not long before she died, she told me how you hunted down your real father in London," he said.
"I didn't exactly hunt him down."
"Those were her very words. I just knew she would do it, she said. Frances wasn't angry about it. She was impressed with your resourcefulness."
"Why did she trust you with all these deep family secrets, Jake?"
I fixed my eyes on him intently and he poured the remaining wine into his glass.
"Maybe because she had no one else she really trusted," he said and drank his wine.
"I didn't think she needed to tell anyone anything."
He looked surprised, his bushy eyebrows hoisted.
"Naw," he said. "That was just what she wanted everyone else to think. She wasn't really as much of the iron queen she pretended to be."
"Why did she leave me so much and make it so difficult for me with the family? Did she tell you that? Did she explain what she hoped would happen?"
He shook his head and shrugged.
"She thought a lot of you, Princess. You came crashing into her life like a wave of freshwater. She was very depressed about her family until you arrived on the scene. When you're that age and your family is disappointing, you start to wonder what it was all for and that can make you very sad. You took most of that sadness away. She wasn't going to check out without making sure you were strong."
"I'm not so strong, Jake, even with all she's left me. I'm by myself again. Grandmother Hudson's attorney called me a short while ago to tell me that my mother, Grant and Victoria are pushing forward with the legal challenge even if it means dragging everything into the open, Grandma's health records, my mother's past, everything about me, too. She'll make me look like some fortune hunter taking advantage of an elderly lady. I'd be better off if I had inherited nothing," I moaned.
"Hey, hey, don't talk like that," he ordered, but I couldn't keep the tears behind the dam of my lids. They began to pour over and streak down my cheeks. "All the people I love are either dead or too far away to help me."
"I'm here," he boasted and rose from his seat. He came over to me and put his arm around my shoulders. "You're going to do fine, Princess. We owe it to Frances," he said.
"Sure," I muttered and flicked the tears away with the back of my hand.
"I'm going to help you," he insisted.
"I mean it. I can help you."
He stepped away and stared at the wall.
"I've got to believe she worked it so I would do this," he muttered, more to himself than to me.
"Do what, Jake?"
He was silent for a long moment. Then he turned and gazed at me, looking down at me as if he was high up on some mountain.
"Give you our secret."
"Whose secret?" I shook my head. "You're confusing me even more, Jake." I looked at the wine. Was he babbling now because he had drunk so much?
"Frances's and mine," he said. He smiled. "And now yours, but you keep it like some last resort, some last bullet to put into your gun, okay?"
I stared at him. He still made no sense. Jake was nice. He was a kind man. I actually loved him, but it was best to just nod and finish up the dinner, I thought.
"You don't believe me, don't believe I can give you something to strengthen your position and your resolve, huh?"
"Sure I do, Jake."
He sat and turned to me.
"Frances and I were lovers once," he said quickly. "We had an affair. It lasted quite a while actually. We had lots of opportunity and we took advantage of it. We stopped when she became pregnant."
"With Victoria," he said. "She's mine. I'm just about positive and so was she."
I shook my head to throw the words back out of my ears. Grandmother Hudson, unfaithful to her husband? She was my rock of morality.
"It wasn't anyone's fault. It just happened. Everett neglected Frances. He was obsessed with his business interests and rarely traveled or went to a social occasion unless there was a financial benefit or reason to do it.
"One day we started to spend more and more time with each other. I don't think it ever occurred to Everett that she might stray or have a romantic interest in anyone else, not that I ever believed she had any for him.
"Theirs was one of those Old South, old-fashioned marriages. You know, parents get together and decide wouldn't it be perfect if your daughter married our son. Parents always knew better in those days. So much for what they knew better, huh?"
He finished the wine in his glass.
"Did my grandfather know? I mean, about Victoria not being his daughter?"
"I think so, but he never said anything. He wasn't the sort who would," Jake said.
"What sort is that?" I asked, grimacing.
"Upper crust," Jake said. "One just couldn't conceive of such a thing in that world. Frances never said anything to him. As soon as she realized she was pregnant, she just decided that was it for us.
"When I returned from my years in the navy and knocking about, Victoria was already in her late twenties. I used to be afraid that anyone could take one look at her and see me in her face, but Victoria has one of those faces that seems to have created itself. She doesn't look much like Frances and I don't think she looks very much like me. Our noses are different, our mouths. Maybe we have similar eyes and ears," he conceded.
"Maybe she isn't your daughter then," I said.
"She didn't look much like Everett either. You've seen his pictures. What do you think?"
"Maybe there was someone else."
"What? Someone else?" He shook his head. "No, never."
"Why not? If my grandmother had an affair with you, she could have had one with someone else, too."
He stared at me a moment as if the idea had never occurred.
"Or are you upper crust, too, Jake, more upper crust than my grandfather, and can't even conceive of it?" I asked him.
He continued to stare and then he smiled and shook his head.
"No, Frances told me with an air of certainty that couldn't be challenged. We stood down by the dock late one afternoon, just before the sun set, and she said — I'll never forget it because of how she put it — she said, 'We've gone and done it up good, Jake.' Of course, I didn't know what she meant.
" 'What's that mean, Frances?' I asked.
"'I've got a cake in my oven,' she said. That's what she said. Some cake. 'Too much unbridled passion,' she added, 'passion that makes you throw caution to the wind.'
"I was stunned. I just stood there playing with a stick in the water and watching the ripples and thinking, What's going to be?
" 'Of course, we won't see each other that way anymore, Jake. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I needed you so much,'
she told me and walked away.
"I felt like everything had evaporated inside me. I felt like a shell. Any minute a wind would come sailing over the water, lift me like a kite, and blow me over the trees.
"I guess in a way it did because soon after that I joined the navy."
He sat there silently, staring down at his plate and his empty wineglass and then he closed his eyes.
"I never loved anyone but Frances," he continued. "I couldn't. It was like I was given just enough love fuel for one woman and I used it all on her. I returned to work for her just so I could be around her.
"Sometimes, when I drove her places, I'd pretend I wasn't her hired driver. I'd imagine we were man and wife and I was taking her somewhere just the way any husband would take his wife some place. If Victoria went along, I even imagined I was like any other husband and father."
Everyone spends time in his or her fantasies, I thought. Everyone.
"Does Victoria have any idea? Did Grandmother Hudson ever tell her?"
"Oh no, no," Jake said quickly. "But that's why I wanted you to know, to have this information. When and if she has you up against the wall, you can fling it at her and I'll be there to verify it.
"They got ways to test the blood and prove it beyond a doubt, you know. She'll know that so she won't be so sure of herself. It will knock her off that high pedestal," he promised.
"It would be revealing Grandmother Hudson's secret, too. I don't know if I could ever do that, Jake."
"Sure you can. If the time comes, you'll do it. You knew her well enough to know she wouldn't mind," he said confidently.
"Wow," I said shaking my head. "Talk about skeletons in the closet. The closets here should be rattling."
"I'd better get going," he said. "I got to get up early and head for Richmond to pick them up at the airport."
"Don't you want some coffee, first?" I wanted him to have coffee because he had drunk so much wine, but it didn't seem to faze him.
"No. Thanks. This was a great meal. You want me to help you clean up?"
"No, Jake. I'm very experienced at it, remember?" I said referring to my days at Grandmother Hudson's sister's home in London, as well as my days here.
"Right. Okay. Maybe I'll see you some time in the afternoon when I bring them around."
"Oh, are they staying overnight?" I asked quickly.
"No. I'm taking them back for a nine o'clock flight."
Good, I thought. Jake kissed me on the cheek and left. When the door closed behind him, the emptiness of the great house settled around me like some dark cloud. The thickness of the night still heavily overcast turned the windows into mirrors flashing my image back to me as I crossed through the rooms. The wind was still strong enough to make parts of the house creak and groan. Just to have other sounds floating through, I turned on the television set and found a music channel. I made it loud enough to hear while I cleaned up the dining room and then the kitchen.
Afterward, I returned to the den and watched some television until my eyelids felt heavy and I caught myself dozing on and off. I'll sleep well tonight, I thought, but the tension over tomorrow's family meeting slipped in beside me as I walked up the stairs. By the time my head hit the pillow, there was static in the air crackling around me, and with its tiny sparks of lightning, scorching my brain.
No matter how I turned or scrunched the pillow against my cheeks, I was soon uncomfortable, turning and tossing again and again until it was nearly morning. Then, I finally fell asleep the way someone would accidentally step into a poorly covered old well, descending in a panic down into the darkness, my screams rushing out above me as if they were tied to a hot red ribbon. The moment I hit bottom, my eyes clicked open. Sunlight was already streaming in, flooding the room with wave after wave of insistent, unrelenting illumination.
I groaned. Every part of me ached. I panicked with the possibility of my getting sick. If there was ever a wrong time for that, it was now, today of all days, I thought. When I rose, I poured some of Grandmother Hudson's sweet-smelling bath powder into a hot tub and soaked for nearly twenty minutes before I got dressed and went down to make myself some coffee.
The phone rang almost as soon as I entered the kitchen. It was Mr. MacWaine, the administrator of the Burbage School of Drama in London, the man who had discovered me and, with Grandmother Hudson's help, had brought me to England.
He wanted to know how I was doing and what I was planning for my immediate future.
"If I've had one inquiry concerning you, I've had ten," he told me. "We do hope you'll be returning, Rain," he said.
"Thank you. I expect I will. I was going to contact you about arrangements to live in the dorm this time, Mr. MacWaine."
"That won't be a problem," he assured me. "I am happy to see you will continue with us. I am sure Mrs. Hudson would have wanted that," he said.
I thanked him for his concern and interest.
"Oh, before I forget," he continued, "there was one inquiry I promised I would pass on to you. Apparently you won the admiration of a London professor, a Shakespearean scholar, Doctor Ward. He's an acquaintance of one of the board of trustee members and he's asked after you. Was he at our showcase?" Mr. MacWaine wondered.
"Yes," I said. I didn't know what else to say, but almost immediately after I said it, I regretted lying. Whenever I lied about my secret past, I just added to the deception, the false foundation beneath this family now, I thought. I hated being any part of that.
"Lovely," Mr. MacWaine said. "Do keep me informed as to your arrangements. In the meantime, I'll see to the dormitory space," he promised.
Speaking with him lifted my spirits and reminded me that I did have a place to go, a future just waiting for me to fulfill it. I was certainly not stuck here. How wonderful that my real father was asking after me, thinking about me, looking forward to seeing me and getting to know me. Grandmother Hudson had been disappointed in people too often to believe there would be any value for me in pursuing my real father. I understood her cynicism, but I wasn't at all ready to accept it.
Buoyed, I discovered I was hungry and prepared myself some breakfast. Then I went through the house, dusting and cleaning some so that Victoria couldn't point to anything and say, "See, see how she is letting our property deteriorate."
As I was cleaning up after breakfast, the phone rang again. This time it was Aunt Victoria.
"Your mother," she said punctuating the word with such venom, she turned it into a curse word, "and Grant are flying in this morning. We will be at the house by two
o'clock. We're meeting with our attorney for lunch first," she added, which was clearly meant to intimidate me.
"It seems like lawyer's day," I replied coolly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she fired back.
"I'm meeting with my attorney for lunch here at the house, too," I said.
I wasn't, of course, but I wanted to do her one better and show her I could be just as intimidating. There was a long pause.
"You're making a big mistake being so obstinate," she said.
"Isn't that odd?" I countered.
"Isn't what odd?"
"I've been thinking you're making a big mistake being so obstinate."
If a moment of silence was ever packed full of explosive energy, this was it.
"We'll all be there at two," she repeated. "Make sure you're there as well."
"I have no place I'd rather be today," I said. "Thanks for the warning."
When I hung up, my heart was pounding.
But to me it sounded like all the ghosts in the house were clapping.
Copyright © 2000 by Vanda General Partnership
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Posted January 6, 2006
At last Heaven can be happy--sort of. She marries the man of her dreams, but other dreams are ripped out of her reach never to be touched. Every story that passes, Heaven grows stronger proving that she has Willies blood in her despite her true heritage.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 11, 2005
This is the third book in a five book series about the Casteel's. Heaven has finally married Logan and decides to move back to Farthinggale Manor with Tony Tatterton, her biological father. Everything is good until Troy reappears again, he's Heavens uncle and her lover. Then Luke Casteel dies and Heaven assumes responsibilty for his son Drake. Then Fanny reveals to Heaven that she's pregnant by Logan. Heaven finally decides she's had enough of Tony after she discovers all the lies and manipulation he had over Luke Casteel, the man she believed to be her father. This book was very slow, a bit boring, but all in all a great read. I was surprised Heaven moved back to Winnerow instead of just going to live somewhere completely different and cutting her ties with her promiscuous sister Fanny. In the end Heaven gets pregnant herself and has her baby and for once in her life she's actually happy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 14, 2004
Posted May 28, 2004
Heaven at first I found to be a little rich brat but after what she goes through, with her sister Fanny and with her husband Logan I give Heaven a lot of credit!! Very good book would recommend this one!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 7, 2004
Fallen Hearts was a big let-down for me because it was a little bit boring. It seemed to drag things on and on, over and over. Still, i recommend this book if nothing else but to keep you up to date on the rest of the series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 1, 2004
This fantastic book is the last in the Casteel series from Heaven's point of view.Heaven and Logan retreat to Farthingale Manor after marrying and many suprises are in this book. I was pleased to find out that Troy was not dead, but I am glad that Heaven marryed Logan and not Troy. I liked the character Troy, but he was too depressing.Heaven's father dies in this book, which is sad, as they never got a chance to have a proper father-daughter relationship.Trust me, if you love books, buy this one.i finished it in about 3 days and it isn't short.But a word of advice: ALWAYS READ THE CASTEEL SERIES IN THE CORRECT ORDER AND DO NOT SKIP ANY OF THE BOOKS!!! Believe me about this. So many things go on in these books, that if you miss one out or read them in another order then you will find yourself confused.Do not make this mistake with any series. Anyway, if someone has told you that this series is boring or not good, don't believe them because they don't know what they are talking about.A truly heart breaking story about a girl's struggle to find happiness.The Casteel series are the best books I have ever read, and I have read hundreds.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 1, 2004
I was a little disappointed to find out that Heaven married Logan. And I was even more disappointed that she stayed with him after he cheated on her with Fanny. But I was happy to find out that Troy was still alive. I just wish that he would have came back sooner.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 8, 2003
I really enjoyed this book....lots of concepts to handle, some at the same time, some at different times, like: love, passion, deception, pride...all in all a good read! It is kind of hard not to just get up and slap Fanny in the face, and Troy...WOW! He sounded perfect in Dark Angel!I understand why it couldn't work between them, with them being uncle and niece, but I have to admit...it would have been a GREAT LOVE story! I recommend this book to all who have read the first two!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2003
This book is so good I almost feel the same emotions as Heaven is going through. I couldn't put the book down your stuck after the first chapter. This is the one of the best series of V.C. Andrews the whole series is so thrilling and surprisng.I don't know how Heaven can tolerate Fanny it's crazy how Tony can manipulate everyone that Heaven cares about and it's good that Heaven marries Logan her first love.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 19, 2002
Fallen Hearts is a great book for those who love a twist. I liked this book not only because of some surprising twists, but because of how real the situations in the book are. Heaven the main character goes through a lot in this book, but comes out strong and determined. Her husband disappoints her and spends the rest of the book making up for it. Her sister tries to hurt in more than one way, and is always trying to take from her what she wants most, she loses some loved ones and she cuts her blood father out of her life to start a new. In the end though, Tony Tattertorn (Heaven's father)finds a way back in to her life, only to be cut out again... or was he. I reccomend this book for those who love a book with a little bit of everything. Love, mystery, challenge, deseption; everything.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2000
This was easily the greatest book in the series. I t is my absolute favorite, and when I pick it up, I can't put it down. I can't belive Troy was still alive, that took a weird twist, and then Annie being Troys and not Logans. If I would have been Heaven, I would have killed Fanny for what she did to Logan. It's about time Heaven and Logan got married. It was obvious to tell they would since the first book. I recomend this book to everyone, just as long as they've read the other 2 books in the series, or you won't understand it. :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 25, 2000
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Posted May 10, 2013
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Posted February 22, 2010
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Posted April 3, 2009
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