Everyone Says Her Mother Was Crazy. Is She Doomed to Repeat the Past? Up in the attic, that's where Alice's mother used to escape to...and it's where, so Alice has been told, she plotted the murder of her own stepfather. Now, years later, with her mother locked away for life, the attic is where Alice finds comfort in her aloneness, writing poetry and painting pictures. When Alice finally finds the courage to come out of her shell, exchanging her dowdy looks for flattering clothes and makeup, her life completely opens up -- she even attends the prom with a cute, popular boy. But it's a night that turns quickly tragic -- sending her newfound happiness crashing down around her, and hurtling Alice into a shattering new life, one that leads her to a shocking reunion with the shadows she had fled. From the imagination behindFlowers in the Atticcomes a sensational new novel that spins a seductive web between fantasies and lies -- and uncovers the price for keeping
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April 14, 2008
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Excerpt from Secrets in the Shadows by V.C. Andrews
My Mother's Daughter
I sit by the window in the attic that looks out on the wooded area behind the Doral House, just the way I imagined my mother had done more than sixteen years ago when she was about my age. This year heavy March and early April rains had turned the trees and foliage so plush and thick in upstate New York that sunlight was barely able to reach the forest floor. While I sit here, I try to envision and understand what it was like to feel like a bird in a cage, especially a bird that had flown into the cage deliberately and then locked the door behind her, for that was what my mother had done. However, unlike a bird, she couldn't sing or flutter about too noisily.
My mother had turned herself into a silent prisoner, mute and ghostly, and even though I was created up in this attic, fathered by my grandparents' son, Jesse, while he and my aunt Zipporah hid my mother in this attic after she had killed her stepfather, Harry Pearson, I was, for all practical purposes, born without parents.
Almost from the first day I was nurtured and began my relationship with the people caring for me, the people who were supposed to love me and whom I was supposed to love, I understood them to be Grandma and Grandpa, not Mommy and Daddy.
Neither pretended to be anything more.
Of course, I can't remember exactly when I heard the words Mama and Papa, Mother and Father, Mommy and Daddy. Maybe I first heard them watching television, watching other little girls and boys my age being cared for by younger people. Even then I began to feel I was different and began to understand that someone else, someone very important, was missing from my world, my life. Now, years later, I still feel like someone who had part of herself amputated even before she was born.
I imagine a child psychologist would have a field day with all this. He or she might even decide to do an article about me for some therapy magazine. My classmates -- and even my teachers -- would not be surprised if my picture appeared on the front page of Child Psychology or some such publication. I'm sure I don't do myself any good or change their minds either by keeping so much to myself or, especially, by the way I dress. I can't help being drawn to darker colors and blouses, skirts and shoes that detract from my appearance. I wear clothing usually a size or two too big, things women my grandmother's age would wear. In fact the other girls call my wardrobe Granny clothes. They bob their heads and cluck like hens about me whenever I walk by in the school hallways.
I've always deliberately kept my hair cut a little too short, and, unlike most girls my age, I never wore lipstick, trimmed my eyebrows or used any makeup. I had no mother or older sister to show me how, and my grandmother has never offered to do so, but I'm sure I've refrained from doing any of those things for other reasons, too.
I readily admit one reason to myself. I am fully aware that I have made choices that will keep boys from noticing me or caring about me, including deliberately wearing clothing that makes me uninteresting. The reason is simply that I wish I really was invisible or at least slowly disappearing, and being ignored helps me feel as if I am. I know all this contributes toward why people think me somewhat weird, so in a real sense, I suppose I am at fault. I am a bit mad.
And it isn't just my fellow students who remark about me. Over the past sixteen years, I probably heard some adult whisper something like "That girl should see a psychiatrist" a dozen times if I heard it once, and even if people didn't say it, they surely thought it. I could see it in their eyes as they followed me along while I walked with my head down, skulking through the village of Sandburg or to the Doral House.
It was interesting to me that I could not refer to where I lived as home. To this day I call it the Doral House, as if I knew instinctively that I was living in a place that was as temporary for me as the various small hotels and tourist houses in this New York mountain area were for vacationers.
Other girls and boys my age would say they had to get home, whereas I would say, "I have to get back to the Doral House." I made it sound like a safe haven, like my private embassy where I had diplomatic privileges and immunities. Once I was shut up inside it, no one could bother me, no one could send any accusatory darts from his or her eyes, and none of their dark whispers could penetrate the walls.