APRIL HAD ALWAYS FELT LIKE AN OUTSIDER.
Her older sister Brenda was tall, athletic, competitive, and sure of herself. But April Taylor was short, sensitive, and overweight -- and she couldn't bounce back from their father's cutting criticisms the way Brenda did. April didn't know why their once-loving dad had become a coldhearted monster, but she was sure it had something to do with her. And she could see how his cruel behavior was tearing away at her gentle mother. But a glimmer of happiness returns when Brenda brings home her college roommate: beautiful, bewitching Celia. And April wonders if she might not be so different from Brenda after all....
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September 12, 2005
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Excerpt from April Shadows by V.C. Andrews
I used to feel as if it were Christmas every day, all day long, at our house. Mama's voice was so full of happiness whenever she spoke. Anyone who saw how we all woke and greeted one another in the morning would think we had expectations of gifts around a tree. Laughter and giggles rang like silver bells, and Mama's smile beamed so brightly that there were never dark days, even when the Tennessee sky was totally overcast and bruised, angry-looking clouds threatened to drench us in a bone-chilling rain.
I wasn't afraid to pretend, to dream, and to imagine anything. I'd blink and see sunlight glimmering off mounds of snow that looked like coconut, and Daddy seemed to know that those sorts of days, days that threatened to depress us, were days when he should bring home surprises, whether it be a bouquet of Mama's favorite baby roses, a new doll for me, or some game for Brenda. Back then, he bought her a Ping-Pong table and rackets, a Wiffle ball and bat, a new tennis racket, and a set of golf clubs. She played every sport well, even though she eventually favored basketball and volleyball because of her height and speed. As soon as Daddy realized that, he put up a basketball net and backboard in our driveway.
Mama said that back then, his friends kidded him about trying to turn his daughter into the son he didn't have. Mama and Daddy had stopped having children after I was born. I never asked why. Brenda told me it was because Daddy wouldn't be able to stand having three girls. He was already outnumbered so much. However, we couldn't help believing it had something to do with Mama's health, because I had been such a difficult birth, and in the end, she had to have a cesarean delivery. In the back of my mind, I couldn't prevent myself from thinking that if it weren't for me, Daddy might have had the son he wanted.
No one ever made me feel guilty about it. No one even so much as hinted at my birth being the problem. Despite it all, we were truly the perfect family in the eyes of all our neighbors and family friends.
I used to wish that we would be frozen in time. While most of my friends were hoping the hands would spin quickly over the faces of their clocks and watches so that they could drive their own cars, be able to stay out later and later on weekends, have dramatic heart-shattering romances, and collect boyfriends like butterflies, pinning their pictures on the walls, I tried to tread time the way I would tread water. I wanted Mama and Daddy to be forever as young as they were, still passionate about each other, always holding hands or hugging and kissing.
At an early age, I noticed that the parents of my friends didn't stand as close to each other, didn't touch or look at each other as much as my parents did. I would hover close by, believing that just being in their shadow, bathing in their laughter and their smiles, was enough to protect me forever and ever.
Brenda wasn't as sensitive to all this as I was, and she certainly wasn't interested in freezing time. She was anxious about trying out for college varsity teams and competing seriously in games where she could excel and win the appreciation and interest of people who could further her athletic career. Adolescence seemed to be more of a nuisance. She would get absolutely impossible when she had her period. On more than one occasion, she wondered aloud why boys' lives weren't equally interrupted. Why weren't their rhythms changed, their energy sapped, their moods depressed?