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Flowers in the Attic: "Our Mother's Surprise" (Part 4)

Maggie Mae

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Part Four: Our Mother's Surprise. 

I will finish this chapter today. Even if I have to take a nap at work to do so. Sort of kidding but also not. I recently interviewed for a new lateral position at a sister type organization. I didn't get it. I don't even know if I wanted it. But I still feel the sting of rejection, despite the weirdness of the "culture fit" interview. I actually don't know if they ever intended to treat me like a normal candidate. Or maybe they did? I don't know. I do know, however, that this book will be here for me. Ever so weird, ever so creepy, the question of "why, VC, why?" and "did you intend for this subtext to be here? 

Chris finds money in his mother's bedroom easily. The ease of which he finds her money casually scattered over the dresser decreases his trust in his mother. (FINALLY, GAWD). He sees his mother's "negligees trimmed with fur or marabou feathers" and further loses hope that she is saving up for the release of her four children from the attic. 

More interesting than the contents of Corrine's wardrobe, are the clues that something is amiss. The Grandmother is no longer punishing them for being half dressed. The twins have become deep sleepers and it scares Cathy to look at them. They also receive four powdered sugar donuts every day, along with sandwiches, lukewarm soups, and milk. All in a picnic basket. Cathy would like the menu to vary a bit, and bring brownies or cookies, or pie. Pie is probably the last thing I would be thinking about, but I generally don't think about pie very often in general. 

The two teenagers run along the corridors one night, so we can get more visuals of the home. The trophy room reveals that Cathy hates the oil painting of the Grandfather she's never met, because he's a "cruel and heartless man" who has no right to be handsome. Chris does not let her look in every room, because he's a boring, terrible person. He calls her "nosy" and I am reminded that sexism knows no bounds. Men are "curious" while women are "nosy." Men are "born leaders" while women are "bossy." Fuck that. Women, be curious. Be bossy. Stand tall. Take up space. Cathy, grow a spine. 

Cathy is impressed by the house's grand and beautiful size. 

They make their way to their mother's "grand suite of rooms." Chris had already told her, in detail, about the swan bed. But seeing it in person is ... Well, Cathy says that "hearing isn't seeing!" Her breathe is pulled in, her dreams take on "wings of fancy" and she's all a flutter. "Glory be to heaven!" She can not believe the "posh splendor" or the opulence. This goes on for a while. She's overwhelmed and decides to touch all the things. She rolls around on the bed, then realizes that she doesn't like being on the bed where her mother sleeps with some new guy she hasn't met. Cathy rolls off the bed, runs into the walk in closet and starts describing the contents. Keep in mind that this is not supposed to be written in present tense, so she's recounting this. This is something that was important enough to commit to memory. There is quite a list of different types of fabrics and her mum's "sleeping" clothes. The attached dressing room & bath has live plants and a bidet. 

Why can't Americans embrace the bidet? 

The bathroom is so modern, it has a bath and a separate shower. That just sounds like more to clean, though I do appreciate a good deep bath, and a nice flat shower with a nice shower head. Cathy becomes aware that Chris has been shielding her from this ridiculous waste of money. Cathy is literally wearing rags, the twins are half dead, and her mom is prancing around in a leopard coat with green wool in between the fur trim. (SO CLASSY)

Instead of remembering that there are literally dying children in the attic, and the headaches, cramping, and general illnesses, Cathy tries on her mom's clothing, and makeup. I don't know what Chris was doing while she's putting on too-big nylons, heels, and applying all of the makeup. Obviously we need to rush around and not look through the other rooms, but no reason to hurry Cathy along while she plays dress-up. Which, isn't she like 14? I kind of get it, but I also feel a sense of "why aren't you doing something useful with your time?" She fishes for compliments from the only male over 10 she knows, and he's not pleased. She also drenches herself in perfume. 

Chris overreacts, but not in the way I would expect, which would be "please just help me look for money" and instead calls her "an adolescent whore," and orders her to wash her face and clean up the dressing table. She looks at herself and realizes that she doesn't look the same as her mother in the same dress, and contemplates what is different. She decides it's because she's wearing 17 bracelets, 26 rings, necklaces (plural), a tiara, and the dress. 

She puts away the clothes, and puts her own clothing back on, stealing a plain white bra in the process. She finds a book called "How to Create Your Own Needlework Designs" and gives it a glance through. It's not a book on needlepoint at all. It's a book full of pictures of unclothed people doing things that unclothed people do. Cathy is shocked and frozen. Chris comes along and looks through it too, also stunned. He takes Cathy's hand and pulls her back to the northern wing, where their room is, and the entrance to the attic. Cathy contemplates how Carrie and Cory are made from what she saw, so it couldn't be evil. She prays that the twins will stay safe and healthy until they leave. 

Chris offers Cathy the bathroom first. I'm kind of grossed out that I'm thinking about this, but he is a teenage boy who just looked at The Joy of Sex (or a similar book) for the first time. I'm surprised he didn't "need" to go first. Unless he's relieving himself in the room where the twins are sleeping, but that's awful. 

She comes out wearing her thickest most concealing granny gown. They can't look at each other. They skip their prayers and go to bed separately. She thinks about how she should have shut the book before he saw inside, and then thinks about how "someday in the near future she was going to need to know all there was to know about how bodies are used in ways of love." 

And this chapter is over!!!!! It was long and rather boring, despite finally making some plot progress. V.C. Andrews is not a world builder, for sure. I almost want to read this book if it were set in the modern age or at least embraced anachronisms and made it sort of timeless, because the "Golly gee!" and gushing about fabrics and just general weirdness makes Cathy so unrelatable.  (Spellcheck says that's not a word.) I'd like to hear more about the house and what's in the unused rooms. I want to read Corrine's point of view. I want to know what Bart is thinking. I don't care about Cathy playing dress up. Or maybe this book is just not for me? I mean, I'm obviously not the target audience anymore. Chris is not my idea of a dream guy, he sounds controlling and terrible. 

 

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FloraDoraDolly

Posted

I'm willing to cut Cathy a little slack for playing dress up. This was her first time in a new room where there are so many exotic, shiny new objects. It's not like this kid gets to hang out at the mall every Saturday with her friends and try on all the perfumes at Macy's.

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SassyPantswithASideofClass

Posted

I always wondered, when they were snooping around; why didn't they just grab the twins (asleep I know) and just make a run for it? .......

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AnywhereButHere

Posted

1 hour ago, SassyPantswithASideofClass said:

I always wondered, when they were snooping around; why didn't they just grab the twins (asleep I know) and just make a run for it? .......

Seriously! I mean, I guess they are teens and decision making skills really don't hit until your 20's (or later - I know some people...), but for real. You're capering all over the house. No one has seen you. There are stairs! Go down them! Screw the attic window bullshit. Each of you grab a twin (we keep hearing how small and malnourished they are) and fireman carry them the hell out of Dodge!

Full disclosure: This book made perfect sense to me when I was a pre-teen and was hella dramatic, so I guess Andrews did know her target audience. :pb_lol:

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Maggie Mae

Posted

18 hours ago, FloraDoraDolly said:

I'm willing to cut Cathy a little slack for playing dress up. This was her first time in a new room where there are so many exotic, shiny new objects. It's not like this kid gets to hang out at the mall every Saturday with her friends and try on all the perfumes at Macy's.

I am also, and I actually enjoyed the mental picture of her trying on clothes that are too big, all of the jewelry, and all of the make-up. However, she's been through an incredibly traumatic few years. At one point they were without food for close to 10 days, and resorted to drinking each other's blood and eating raw mice. A real person would likely be in survival mode, and worried about getting caught. This kind of scene, to me, seems like it should be earlier in the book, when the kids were still confident that their parent/grandparent wouldn't kill them.  

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FloraDoraDolly

Posted

8 hours ago, SassyPantswithASideofClass said:

I always wondered, when they were snooping around; why didn't they just grab the twins (asleep I know) and just make a run for it? .......

They were in the mother's room to steal money. The snooping just went along with the job. But I agree that they should have just grabbed whatever they could carry and run away that same night. It was 1960-- how much could a train ticket cost?

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JordynDarby5

Posted

Cathy should have pocketed some of Corinne's jewelry. No doubt they all got to be worth some money. Then grab the twins and bolt. 

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Maggie Mae

Posted

Just now, JordynDarby5 said:

Cathy should have pocketed some of Corinne's jewelry. No doubt they all got to be worth some money. Then grab the twins and bolt. 

I think Chris told her not to? 

Also, she'd probably fall in "love" with it and try to keep whatever she stole. 

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