Thorns of Truth: The Sequel to Garden of Liesby Eileen Goudge
Sylvie Rosenthal is dying, and one great mistake still weighs on her soul. In 1943, as a new mother in a Bronx maternity ward, she feared for her life. What would happen when her husband saw their new daughter, whose dark hair and black eyes proved she/b>
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Nearly five decades after they were swapped at birth, two women change each other’s lives
Sylvie Rosenthal is dying, and one great mistake still weighs on her soul. In 1943, as a new mother in a Bronx maternity ward, she feared for her life. What would happen when her husband saw their new daughter, whose dark hair and black eyes proved she wasn’t his own? Sylvie couldn’t bear to find out, and during a terrifying hospital fire fled the building with another woman’s child in her arms. Decades later, she told her real daughter the truth, but asked Rose to keep her secret, lest it destroy Rachel, the girl Sylvie raised as her own. Then, after years of silence, the two women’s lives, intertwined in more ways than one, are once more turned upside down. In this sequel to the blockbuster Garden of Lies, Rose and Rachel, bound forever by a secret that only one of them understands, must both find the courage to face the truth. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Eileen Goudge including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
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Thorns of Truth
By Eileen Goudge
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1998 Eileen Goudge
All rights reserved.
"Mom, what would you think about Drew and me getting married?"
Rachel Rosenthal McClanahan didn't so much hear as feel her daughter's question: like a sharp tap between her shoulder blades. She'd been struggling with the clasp on the pearl choker Brian had given her last Hanukkah, and now stood frozen before the round mirror above her Art Deco vanity, arms upraised like wings, her reflection stark as an exclamation point in her fitted black dress.
Letting one end of the necklace slip from her fingers, cool as running water, she lowered her arms as slowly and carefully as if she'd been a patient at her clinic submitting to an exam. She'd been looking forward to this evening, to the party in her husband's honor ... but what she now felt was something closer to dread, as if probing fingers had found a lump that might turn out to be malignant. The kind of low-grade dread she used to feel with Iris years ago, before—
Her mind slammed shut on that thought as effectively as a film director's clapper on a scene that wasn't going quite right. Before she started seeing Dr. Eisenger, Rachel finished on a safer note.
She turned slowly. Her lovely daughter, wearing only a slip, stood in front of Rachel's open closet, rooting for a jacket she'd asked to borrow. In her bare feet, Iris was just over five feet, her hair—the dark gold of alfalfa honey—falling in loose, slippery waves to the small of her back. Her delicate cameo of a face, with its rounded chin and forehead that somehow gave her a sweetly old-fashioned appearance, was flushed pink, and her brown eyes sparkled.
Rachel remained perfectly still, hardly daring to breathe, her arms and legs heavy with a cold, spreading numbness. The only thing stirring was her heart—as it dropped into the pit of her stomach with the swiftness of a precariously balanced stone.
I must have misunderstood, she thought.
Yesterday. What Rose had confided to her over lunch—about Drew wanting to break things off with Iris. Rose had said he loved her as much as ever, couldn't imagine life without her. But it was slowly killing him ... never knowing, from one minute to the next, what Iris might do. What kind of mood she'd be in. What she might accuse him of.
Rachel had been too stunned to reply.
Drew without Iris? That would be like the moon without the stars. When she tried to picture one apart from the other, all she could see in her mind was the two of them, like snapshots in a family album: Drew pulling Iris about in her red wagon while she shrieked with delight. Drew and Iris blowing out the candles on the cake they insisted on sharing, though their birthdays were a week apart and, technically, though bigger, Drew—who'd skipped a grade—was a year younger. At the cabin on Lake George that Rose and Max had rented every summer, Iris trotting after Drew like a puppy everywhere he went, even far out into the lake, where, on previous visits, she'd screamed and flailed when Rachel tried to teach her how to swim.
Then, in high school, after Iris ... when she was so sick ... there was Drew, stopping by every afternoon to sit with her in her room, careful to leave the door open so Rachel wouldn't wonder what they were up to. Telling her what had happened in school, or which of their friends had asked after her. Reminding Iris with every smile, the lightness of his voice, his touch, that she wasn't crazy, that she would get better. Drew had given her what neither Rachel nor Brian—both too shaken by the episode—were able to provide back then: reassurance that she was normal.
Going to separate colleges had only left them more fused at the hip, their combined phone bills alone amounting to a third-world dowry. Drew at Yale. Iris at Bryn Mawr. Weekends, they were like bird dogs on opposite trails, following the same scent—Drew riding the train down from New Haven, and Iris taking the bus from Philly. The two of them arriving here with their backpacks slung over opposite shoulders, so they could walk as closely as possible without bumping against one another. Laughing and talking a mile a minute, their faces aglow and their hair wild from kissing.
Now here they were ... home for good. Iris getting ready for Parson's in the fall. Drew working to earn extra money before med school at NYU. He'd rented a tiny studio in the Village, where Iris spent every minute that she wasn't at her easel, or Drew at the computer store where he worked. Marriage? Rachel had always assumed they would get married. Someday. When they were older. When Drew finished his residency, and Iris was ... when she was more stable.
What could suddenly have gone so wrong?
And if Rose was right, why was Iris standing here now lit up like Times Square on New Year's Eve?
Shaping her mouth into a smile, Rachel replied lightly, "Is there something I should know?" She hoped her voice sounded upbeat, that of a mother whose heart wasn't drowning in worry.
Iris smiled mysteriously. "Not yet. But Drew said we needed to talk. Tonight. After the party." Her dark-lashed eyes, the color of old Egyptian amber, seemed to hold a buried history of their own.
"What makes you think it has to do with marriage?" Rachel asked.
"Something Drew said—about needing to make some decisions about the future. What else could he have meant?" Iris' smile faltered then, but only slightly—as if it had only just then occurred to her that things might not be quite as rosy as she'd imagined.
"Oh ... I don't know," Rachel ventured. "It could be anything. Every couple has wrinkles to iron out."
Iris shot her an odd look, as if she sensed Rachel was keeping something from her. Then, with a sigh, she confessed, "You heard about the fight we had, right? From Rose? Okay. But it was no big deal. I think Drew and I are still recovering from being apart for so long. But now that we'll be at graduate schools that are practically next door to one another, why not make it official?" She laughed. "Stop looking so panicked, Mom. We're still a few years from a wedding. But if we got engaged ..." Her voice trailed off.
Rachel waited a moment before asking, "Do you two fight a lot?"
Iris frowned. "Mom ... you're not listening. Of course we fight—that's the whole point. If we were together more, we wouldn't be so stressed out."
Rachel, poised before the mirrored vanity, peered closely at the necklace puddled in her palm. She remembered when Brian had given it to her, how the pearls in their velvet box had glowed in the soft light of the sterling menorah that had been her great- grandmother's. What would it be like, she wondered with a pang, to have no sense of where she'd come from?
"A diamond ring isn't always the answer," she said.
"It's not like that with us." Iris sounded a little irritated at Rachel for not getting what was so obvious. "It's never been a question of if, only a matter of when. As far back as I can remember, Drew and I have talked about what it would be like when we were married, how many kids we'd have."
"You know how your father and I feel about Drew. We'd like nothing better than for him to be our son-in-law," Rachel replied cautiously.
"Then why are you acting this way? Like ... oh, I don't know, like I just told you I was pregnant or something?"
Rachel felt a dart of alarm. "Are you?"
"God. You're such a Jewish mother!" Iris threw her arms up ... and with an exaggerated sigh toppled backwards onto the bed. Blowing away the wisps of hair spread over her face like fine lace, she smiled dreamily up at Rachel. "I just want to spend the rest of my life with Drew. That's all."
Rose's words at lunch echoed in Rachel's mind. He loves her, honestly he does.... Maybe that's part of the problem. When you love someone that much, it hurts to see them suffer....
She fought to keep from darting a furtive glance at her daughter's bare arms with their exposed wrists flung out on either side of her on the woven blue spread. Don't, a voice in her head warned. Don't look. But she couldn't help herself. And, yes, oh God, there they were: pale raised scars like the thinnest of silver bracelets circling each wrist. Hardly visible ... unless you knew to look for them.
But Iris wasn't suffering now. She looked happy. Nearly ecstatic, in fact. Except Rachel knew how abruptly her daughter's mood could change—like a tropical storm sweeping down out of a clear blue sky, blacking out the sun, and flattening everyone around her.
Gently, Rachel dropped her choker onto the vanity, next to the crystal perfume bottle that had been her mother's. The pearls made a soft slithery sound against the polished surface, a sound that for some reason set her teeth on edge. What now? Where were the written instructions on how to repair a damaged child? How had she arrived at this point in her life, with the ground she'd always thought of as rock-solid melting from under her feet?
A glance in the mirror showed a reasonably attractive middle-aged woman with shoulder-length blond hair going gently silver, who only vaguely resembled the image of a much younger self Rachel carried about in her head like an outdated wallet photo: the idealistic resident in hippie clogs and poncho who'd traveled halfway around the world to minister to the injured and dying in a village no one had ever heard of, in a zone of hell otherwise known as Vietnam.
Not that she was so old, Rachel was quick to remind herself. She could still get the zipper up on most of her size eights, and the squarish jaw that made her look stubborn, even when she wasn't butting her head against a brick wall, had turned out to be a blessing: it refused to sag. Even the fine lines that radiated from the corners of her eyes worked to her advantage; they softened the stark blue that had so often caused people to squirm.
She'd been as good a mother as she knew how to be. One thing for certain: if Iris had been her own flesh-and-blood child, Rachel couldn't have loved her more. That's what made it so damn frustrating, this battle against demons she'd had no hand in making. Against the woman who'd given birth to Iris, and who, eighteen years ago, had excused herself to use the restroom in McDonald's ... leaving her three-year-old waiting in a booth, like an empty wrapper or a dirty tray, for someone else to find.
Rachel sank down on the bed beside Iris. "Oh, sweetie, I only want what's best for you," she said. "Whatever happens."
Iris must have caught something in her voice, for she suddenly grew very still, and her expression darkened. "Drew would never, ever leave me, if that's what you're implying. He wouldn't. He just wouldn't. And if he ever did—" She stopped.
"You'd talk it over. Straighten out whatever was wrong," Rachel supplied briskly in her doctor's voice, using it to cover her own rising panic.
Iris looked right through her then, eerily, her gaze fixed on some vanishing point only she could see. In a voice as matter-of-fact as the weatherman reporting that tomorrow it would rain. Iris said, "I'd kill myself."
The ground that had been melting under Rachel suddenly dropped away altogether. All at once she was flying backwards down the slippery slope she'd spent the last seven years scaling, that ghastly day jolting past in vivid splashes of color, and bursts of memory out of sequence. She saw blood. Everywhere. Staining the bathwater a deep rust, and soaking the pink mat next to the tub; dappled over the wall tiles in feathery patterns, oddly—it had struck Rachel in the first moment of glassy shock—like the ones Iris had made in kindergarten, using fern fronds dipped in poster paint.
She had seen Iris, floating pale and still as a fish gone belly-up in all that shocking redness. Her face partly submerged, so that the lower half appeared distorted, shimmering grotesquely below the clouded surface. Her gaping wrists seeming to grin up at Rachel.
Towels. So many towels. Swaddling Iris like a large infant as she was carried out to wait for the ambulance. Leaving pink, glistening trails of watery blood on the hallway's parquet tiles. Rachel had left the towels piled on the floor by the front door, where to this day—never mind that the entire vestibule had twice been refinished since then—a faint cloudiness marked the spot on the old oak floorboards.
As a reminder.
Rachel was jolted back to the present with a suddenness that caused her to bite down on the tip of her tongue. She felt a heated rush of pain, and her mouth filled with the taste of blood.
She stared at her daughter. In fifteen minutes, they were to be dressed and downstairs, ready to meet the car that was picking them up, but Iris might have been a million miles away. Fear, rage, impotence—all of it came surging in on a dirty, foaming tide. Rachel fought it back, reminding herself that Iris was no longer in danger. Dr. Eisenger would have warned them if she'd shown signs of slipping back into that abyss.
"You wouldn't do anything of the sort," Rachel scolded with the gentle force of a doctor applying pressure to a wound—not a mother who felt as if she herself were bleeding. "No matter what happens, you have me and Daddy. And Grandma."
At the mention of her grandmother, Iris brightened, her mouth flickering in a brief smile. She adored Sylvie—more, in some ways, Rachel thought with a twinge, than she did her own mother. From the very first instant, the two had taken to one another like parched grass to rain. As if forming a silent pact of some kind—one that didn't include Rachel.
Abruptly, Iris sat up. "Will Grandma be at the party?"
"She said she'd try her best to make it. If she's up to it." Rachel sighed, smoothing one of her daughter's fallen slip-straps back into place. She didn't want to think about her mother's fading health right now.
Iris shot her a sharp look. "You'd tell me, wouldn't you? If she were really sick, I mean. She's always saying she's fine, just a little tired ... but I don't know."
"I'd feel better if she got a second opinion," Rachel admitted. "But you know how stubborn Grandma is."
"She says she gets it from you." Iris allowed a grin to surface.
Rachel, seated on the bed, had to smile, too, in spite of the dread weighing heavily on her heart.
"Your dad has another name for it, which I won't repeat," she joked. "I think he misses the old me, who used to deliver babies for a living. Administrators have to be tough as nails."
"Do you ever miss it?" Iris asked. "All the blood and guts?"
Rachel sighed again, thinking, How can I explain it? All those feelings too complex to be contained in a single sentence? If she'd had to, she would have summed it up as an overdose of adrenaline in those early years—the madness of Vietnam, followed by her residency in obstetrics at Beth Israel, then the battle to establish her free clinic. Except the truth was that in a perverse way she'd loved it all, deep inside where logic held no sway.
Before Rachel could explain—that her place now was at the helm of the East Side Women's Health Center, along with Kay—Iris was jumping off the bed, exclaiming, "God, look at the time. It's after seven! If Daddy sees me like this, he'll have a fit."
Watching her dash for the door, Rachel smiled. Brian would make the usual disgruntled noises, for sure, but he was much too besotted with their daughter ever to get truly angry with her.
Her husband strode into the bedroom as Rachel was dabbing perfume behind her ears. She could see his reflection in the mirror as he walked toward her—a long ramble of a man who moved with the loose-limbed ease of someone more accustomed to jeans than to black tie. He was wearing the dark-blue suit custom tailored for him during his trip to London last year to promote the British edition of Twelve Degrees North. Now, though, the jacket fit more loosely than she remembered. Had he gotten thinner?
If he had, he'd lost none of his appeal. Brian, she reflected, had the kind of looks that other men never thought much of, but that women seemed to find irresistible. Like the lady standing in line at a book signing in Cincinnati, who'd whispered loud enough for Rachel to hear that she'd like to run her fingers through his hair—hair still as long and full as it had been in his twenties, its light brown now brushed with silver at the temples. His bookish face, with its slightly irregular features, always made him appear to be listening intently to everything you said, while his thoughtful gray eyes seemed to say, Yes, I know just what you mean.
The damnedest thing, Rachel thought, was that he usually did know. It was what made him such a fine writer.
Tonight's party, thrown by Brian's publisher, was in honor of Brian's having won the National Book Critics' Circle Award for Dawn's Early Light. A hundred guests, ranging from print and television moochers to book publishing heavyweights, all coming together at Avery Hammersmith's Riverside Drive penthouse to pay tribute to her husband. Yet here Rachel stood, wishing they could sneak off somewhere, just the two of them. Somewhere quiet where they could talk. Or make love.
Lately, they hadn't done enough of either.
Excerpted from Thorns of Truth by Eileen Goudge. Copyright © 1998 Eileen Goudge. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Eileen Goudge (b. 1950) is one of the nation’s most successful authors of women’s fiction. She began as a young adult writer, helping to launch the phenomenally successful Sweet Valley High series, and in 1986 she published her first adult novel, the New York Times bestseller Garden of Lies.
She has published fifteen novels in all, including the three-book saga of Carson Springs, Thorns of Truth—a sequel to Gardens of Lies—and 2012’s The Replacement Wife. She lives and works in New York City.
Eileen Goudge (b. 1950) is one of the nation’s most successful authors of women’s fiction. She began as a young adult writer, helping to launch the phenomenally successful Sweet Valley High series, and in 1986 she published her first adult novel, the New York Times bestseller Garden of Lies. She has since published twelve more novels, including the three-book saga of Carson Springs, and Thorns of Truth, a sequel to Gardens of Lies. She lives and works in New York City.
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Book2 good :) needs editing tho