Authors: V.C. Andrews
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Also in the FORBIDDEN series . . .
V. C. Andrews Books
The Dollanganger Family Series
Flowers in the Attic
Petals on the Wind
If There Be Thorns
Seeds of Yesterday
Garden of Shadows
The Casteel Family Series
Gates of Paradise
Web of Dreams
The Cutler Family Series
Secrets of the Morning
The Landry Family Series
Pearl in the Mist
All That Glitters
The Logan Family Series
Music in the Night
The Orphans Miniseries
Runaways (full-length novel)
The Wildflowers Miniseries
Into the Garden (full-length novel)
The Hudson Family Series
Eye of the Storm
The End of the Rainbow
The Shooting Stars Series
The De Beers Family Series
Into the Woods
The Broken Wings Series
The Gemini Series
Child of Darkness
The Shadows Series
Girl in the Shadows
The Early Spring Series
The Secret Series
Secrets in the Attic
Secrets in the Shadows
The Delia Series
The Heavenstone Series
The Heavenstone Secrets
The March Family Series
The Kindred Series
Daughter of Darkness
Daughter of Light
The Forbidden Series
The Forbidden Heart
My Sweet Audrina
Into the Darkness
The Unwelcomed Child
See how Emmie’s story began in
The tale continues in this special sneak peek of
I don’t want to sum up my time in Paris in a sentence, a paragraph, a page, or even
a book. It’s impossible to reduce any of it. Every delicious detail will remain in
my memory for as long as I can remember anything about that time in my life when the
whole world seemed to go inside out and back, leaving me older, wiser, and less vulnerable.
We all have a natural resistance to growing up. We are reluctant about surrendering
our childhood faiths, the comfort of make-believe, and, most of all, the irresponsibility
that comes from knowing that there are always adults loving and caring for us. It’s
their job to protect us while we take foolish risks, ignore rules, and challenge fate.
When you think about it, what adult wouldn’t trade everything he or she had for an
opportunity to be that lackadaisical youth who never thought about illness and age
more than momentarily, that youth who lived for birthday parties and sweets, fun-park
rides and scary movies, screaming happily at the top of her voice and then curling
up at night in her soft, scented bed, vaguely recognizing that her mother was wiping
errant strands from her forehead, kissing her cheeks, and wishing her sweet dreams?
Take me back. Dazzle me with magic, and tell me that all that has happened to me and
my family was someone else’s nightmare. Come, sunshine. Bring me a new and wonderful
the haunting voice in the darkness replied.
That can’t be. That will never be.
I awoke instead to another day in Paris, where I now lived with my uncle Alain and
his partner, Maurice, a well-known chef in a famous Saint-Germain restaurant. My sister
had brought me here on what was supposedly her holiday but was really a well-thought-out
plan for me and for herself. Someone she had loved was now able to consummate their
affair, and, more important, she was able to escape her life as a high-priced New
York escort. She had practically sold herself into indentured servitude after our
father had thrown her out of our home and family. I was too young at the time to remember
the details, but I had gotten to know her, and she had taken me in after our parents
had both died.
For a while after Roxy had left me, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do this,
start a new life living with my uncle in France. I feared I would disappoint everyone,
but my uncle and his partner opened themselves to me with such warmth and love it
wasn’t possible to fail. Fate had insisted I grow up faster than most girls my age,
and certainly most boys. Despite how much Uncle Alain and Maurice did for me, however,
I still had to find a deeper and stronger sense of independence. One of my father’s
favorite expressions haunted me: “You either sink or swim in this world.” I had visions
of his father, General Wilcox, tossing him into the pool when he was just three and
watching him struggle to keep afloat, his mother on the sidelines screaming, his father
holding her back and then, finally satisfied with my father’s desperate effort, permitting
her to scoop him up and into her arms.
I couldn’t help but feel I had been tossed into raging waters when my parents died
and my sister, after the renewal of our relationship and the close bond we had formed,
left me behind to keep me from being part of the escape to her own happiness that
she had to achieve. Of course, I was grateful I had my uncle and his partner there
to scoop me up and embrace me, but that didn’t stop the tears and the fear. Who could
blame me for wondering what would become of me? Where did I really belong? How would
I find my identit
? I dreaded the nights to come, the tossing and turning I would do in the darkness,
listening to the sounds from the Paris streets, the voices, the music, and the laughter,
but listening mostly for Roxy’s returning footsteps, dreaming of the bedroom door
being thrown open and her standing there, smiling because we could be sisters again.
Finally, sleep came rushing in, pushing hope back into the shadows. Whether I liked
it or not, I was here. This was my now.
Adjust, suck back the tears, firm up your spine, find ways to smile and laugh again,
I told myself.
Self-pity will eat away at your very soul and leave you standing idle and empty in
some corner to be ignored, invisible and forgotten.
Before I could catch my breath and try to make some sense of it all, Maurice had me
working beside him in the restaurant. One morning, he simply insisted I come along
for the day. “I’ll teach you how to be a sous chef,” he said.
From the look on Uncle Alain’s face, I could see that he and Maurice had discussed
it, probably struggling to find ways to amuse me until I started at the American School
of Paris. Uncle Alain had already taken me to see the campus and go through the admissions
procedures. I would go by Metro every morning. It was a very pretty campus. I was
excited about it. For me, it was like starting college.
“Work with you in the kitchen?”
Who knows?” he said. “Perhaps you have the instincts to become a Cordon Bleu chef
someday. You must explore yourself, Emmie. You Americans are too uptight about what’s
around the corner. Think
c’est la vie,
and move on to something else if you have to. Who cares, eh?”
I looked at Uncle Alain. He nodded and smiled. Then he put on a fake grouchy face
and said, “If you can work beside this madman, you’re a better man than most.”
“You’re blind, Alain. This girl will never resemble a man, good or bad,” Maurice said,
and they both laughed.
.” Uncle Alain paused and looked at me in a different way. It was as if he finally
had realized I was more a grown woman than the young girl he had known in America
and who had come over with her sophisticated, strong-willed sister, someone who could
throw a protective bubble over me and keep me safe. Suddenly now, he was cast in a
role he had never expected to play, as a father figure. Where I went, with whom I
went, and what I did with my free time were of greater concern. That realization in
his face was accompanied by parental fears.
I wondered, What promises had he made to Roxy? What instructions had she left behind?
How long had they talked about it? How long did he know her plan? Did he hesitate?
What did he really think of me? Until this moment, I had not given much thought to
the image of me that my sister had. I had no doubt she saw me as someone far more
fragile than she had been at my age. There was irony in the fact that we were both
alone by then, she by her own choice and I by the hand of fate. However, she was more
prepared for it. It was in her nature not to depend on the kindness of strangers and
to expect nothing, whereas I looked hopefully for someone to trust.
“I am not afraid,” I said. “
No fear.” It was something I often heard my mother chant to herself, especially after
my father’s unexpected passing. “No fear, no fear.”
Uncle Alain smiled and nodded at Maurice. “She’ll be fine,” he said. “She’s my sister’s
” Maurice said, and looked at me with confidence. “I’ll take good care of her. Don’t
“What worry? I’m not that fragile. Don’t become two old ladies,” I told them in English
and then in French. “
Deux vieilles dames.
” They roared with laughter.
Gradually, I began to stop speaking English with them. I was hungry for new French
words and expressions, and once Maurice’s fellow workers at the restaurant saw how
serious I was about it, they had the patience to teach and practice with me.
“Usually, the French haven’t the patience to put up with Americans mutilating the
language,” Uncle Alain said when Maurice told him how well I was getting along with
everyone after only two days. “They’d rather speak English with them anyway, but I
can see you are winning hearts here.”
I did make many friends at the restaurant quickly, one of whom was a waitress, Denise
Ardant. A week after I had arrived, she was celebrating her twenty-second birthday,
and Maurice had baked her a large tunnel of fudge cake in a Bundt cake pan. For about
thirty seconds, the whole waitstaff, the manager, Noel Bocuse, and everyone in the
kitchen paused to watch Denise blow out twenty-two candles. We all sang “Bon Anniversaire.”
One of the waiters, Auguste Tirel, caught my attention and created laughter the moment
after we sang by crying out, “Twenty-two and still a virgin!
Denise’s round, pudgy face flamed crimson. Her best feature was her almost electric
blue eyes that flashed at him like two tiny firecrackers. She glanced at me, and in
that moment, I saw her embarrassment and her hope that I wasn’t some very experienced
young American girl, years younger but older when it came to romance, someone who
would look down on her as a loser. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn she had that image
of me. We had our own reputations over here thanks to American exchange students who
were sexually active, used recreational drugs, and were happy to discover that the
drinking age was three years younger than it was in America.
Fear sparked beneath my breasts. I glanced at the others. What did they expect of
me? In an odd way, my exposure to Roxy’s world, the world of a high-priced escort,
had made me more cautious, even more prudish. What if I, too, unmarried and unattached
like Denise, was still a virgin by the age of twenty-two? Would I be embarrassed?
Should anyone be? I had never asked Roxy when she had lost her virginity. How young
was she? Was it after she had left our family? Before? Was that another reason our
father wanted her out of the house? During all the time we had spent together before
coming here, she had never really come out and specifically asked me if I had lost
Of course, I wondered how Auguste knew that Denise was still a virgin. All the myths
about the French paraded through my mind. Was there a special look in the face of
a virgin, a look the French especially could recognize? Did all the men see that in
my face? At what age did it suddenly become seriously important not to be a virgin
in today’s liberal world? I knew that the age of consent was fifteen in France. A
man couldn’t be prosecuted for having consensual sex with someone that age or older.
I heard two of the waiters start an argument over whom was better to fall in love
with, a virgin or an experienced woman. Didier claimed it was a waste of time to turn
your girlfriend into a proper lover. He made it sound like breaking in a horse or
housebreaking a dog, whereas Emile believed there was greater and more lasting love
when your fiancée was pure and there only for you. Didier called him a hopeless romantic.
They rattled on in French right in front of me, neither realizing that although I
didn’t speak French that fluently yet, I was able to understand nearly every word.
I wondered what Roxy would say to them if she had heard their argument. I wondered
what she would say to me. I put it in my mental notebook, another question to ask
her when she came back for me. Would she? Was I foolish to think so? Could I read
the truth in Uncle Alain’s face whenever her name was mentioned or in the absence
of any phone call, e-mail, or letter from her?
As everyone left the kitchen, some paused to comfort Denise, telling her Auguste was
an idiot but comforting her as though some weakness in her had been exposed, some
unspoken truth blasted out for everyone to know, like the little boy who cried that
the king was naked in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
It was clear that most thought that her not having had a lover at her age was a great
I suppose what made Denise stand out more, however, was her size. Ever since I could
remember, I heard other women ask my mother why so few French people were fat. My
mother had a svelte figure to her dying day. Her simple answer was, “We don’t snack
between meals.” Because of my father’s hours at his investment firm in New York, we
didn’t eat our meals on weekdays with the regularity my mother was used to when she
lived in France. However, fresh fruits and vegetables were always very important to
her, as they still are in most places in France, and the portions she served us for
all our meals were small, even tiny, compared with the portions of food my friends
had in their homes. When my father started gaining weight because of his business
lunches and lack of exercise, she was even more attentive to how much and what we
ate. Maurice told me, however, that the French were getting Americanized with fast
food, which, as a chef, he despised.
None of the other women working at the restaurant was nearly as overweight as Denise.
She was a little less than five feet eight but surely at least twenty-five pounds
too heavy. She didn’t have big breasts, but her shoulders and upper arms were somewhat
manly, and her waist and hips had no suggestion of feminine curves. To me, her plump
face was like a mask hiding the beauty she had once possessed. Occasionally, I saw
it flashing in her soft mouth and those electric eyes.