Here it is, y’all. The end of Flowers in the Attic. This is gonna be…something.
It’s spring now, and Chris has gotten sick (uh oh). He’s too sick to go out robbin’ bedrooms with his sister, so he tells Cathy that she needs to go by herself. She doesn’t want to leave him alone, which causes him to yell at her that she can’t depend on him all the time and that she needs to do things on her own. That’s what their mom thought, that she’d always have a man to help her, and look where that’s gotten them? Damn Chris, that’s some harsh stuff. True though, I must admit. He calms down when he sees that he scared Cathy, and assures her that he’s fine, but they really do need that money. We find out that they’ve been sick so often that Cathy is afraid that one of them is going to die. FORESHADOWING. They exchange I love yous and Cathy leaves.
She heads to their mother’s room, as Corrine told the kids that afternoon that she and Bart were going to a party. Always the #1 Mom, Corrine, and Cathy plans to take some jewelry this time around. When she gets to the room, however, she finds that Bart is in fact still there, seated facing the doorway. Cathy freezes (and makes sure to tell us that she’s wearing a shortie nightgown, thanks Cathy) and slowly realizes that Bart is asleep. He’s also wearing a pink ruffled tuxedo shirt with black lining on the ruffles, which is some Lazenby-Bond-level glam right there, good on ya Bart. Cathy takes the time to look him over and notes that he’s much younger than Corrine, which she thinks is terrible of her mother. Okay, wait. Corrine is what…36? 37? by now? She’s 33 when they get there and Olivia whips her. So what can Bart be, if he’s also a successful lawyer? 30? 28? Calm down, Cathy. This is like when Pearl was so impressed by Ruby’s good looks sticking around once she’d hit 35. So Cathy checks Bart out and decides she’d like to kiss him, especially given that he has a rocking mustache and she wants to know what it’s like to kiss someone who isn’t related to her. Oh boy. No really, she says that. I guess that’s fair enough, given her age as well as her circumstances, but oh boy all the same. So she kisses him and has an internal battle about whether or not to wake him up and tell him the truth. She decides against it, concluding that no one would choose four unwanted children over lots and lots of money and this part is really sad. She should have woken him up. I think Bart, though party to an incredibly questionable sex scene in a later book, is not shown to be a bad guy and I think he would have believed them. I don’t think his love for Corrine would have overpowered his reaction to learning what she’d done. Poor Cathy though, that’s not a decision I’d want to make on my own.
Cathy runs back and tells Chris that she didn’t find any money (she doesn’t tell him about Bart) and he teases her for being a bad thief. More time passes and it’s summer, coming up on their third year in the attic, and Chris has managed to steal more money, though they’re not getting much closer to their goal of $500. Cory is getting sicker and sicker and the kids have retreated more and more into numerous little rituals and beliefs that they’ve invented to keep them “safe”. In this case, C&C made white the safest color, leading the twins to refuse to sleep on anything but white sheets and to fear their mother because she wears black dresses. Oh boy. These kids. Cathy wonders why they can never get a pleasant breeze in the attic, why the wind only makes it through when it’s cold and awful. And then we skip to September.
We’ve arrived at the rape scene so let me sketch this out as briefly as I can: Cathy is in the attic when Chris returns from a thieving expedition and tells her that he was in their mother’s room looking at the “Needlework” book when Corrine and Bart came back unexpectedly and he had to hide. Bart is telling Corrine about his theory that the maids are stealing from them, as he’s been losing cash and his wallet is never in the same place twice. Corrine doesn’t get why five dollars here and there matters, but Bart is like um I WORK for my money, so I care. Corrine, who has become stronger-willed in her second marriage, tells Bart that there’s no way she can move out yet and when her husband suggests that they skip whatever event they’re headed to and stay in, she brings up the “last time” when he went upstairs “for a moment” and ended up falling asleep. Bart notes that he’d skip out and fall asleep more often if it meant that he could have a wonderful dream about a beautiful young blonde girl kissing him. Corrine has heard about enough regarding this dream (and really, Bart, why would you keep telling your wife about it??) and they leave still bickering.
Cathy hears all of this later, as during it all she’s up in the attic wishing she had her old music box back. Chris comes in and confronts her about kissing Bart and ruining everything–now they won’t leave money out any more, and then he slaps her, and tells her that she’s his, and then he rapes her. We’ve had some good conversation in the comments about this scene and its repercussions and so I don’t want to rehash it all a million times, but in my opinion and so the opinion of this blog, it’s not a consensual scene. Cathy says that she tried to fight him off, that he was stronger, and that she “wanted what he wanted” since she loved him so much, and that’s not the same thing as wanting something because you want it. He flat out calls it in the next scene–he apologizes for raping her, and Cathy, yes, does say that he didn’t, but it’s in a “I could have fought you off if I wanted to” way and she blames herself for kissing Bart and wearing short skirts, and that’s such a deep pool of victim-blaming and self-blaming and oh man. Let’s just go on, can we?
They have $396.44 and Chris decides that the next time he goes to steal things he’s going to go on a big sweep and take everything he can find. They’re both really worried about the twins so it’s time to get out of there and take them to a doctor. They make joking plans about going to Sarasota and joining the circus and the twins are very against that plan since they’re afraid their siblings would fall. Chris tells them that he and Cathy are an unbeatable team and Cathy remembers him telling her that he’ll never love anyone else. Awkward. It’s October now and Corrine has just left for the night, barely even looking at her children, and C&C are planning the big heist for that evening when Cory gets sick. He’s throwing up nonstop and he’s feverish and achy. Carrie, oh my god, asks politely if she can sleep in the same bed as her twin, promising that they won’t do anything evil, CRIPES CARRIE, MY HEART. Chris and Cathy try to figure out what could have caused this and they basically list everything BUT the donuts, which, come on guys. Olivia comes in with their food and while she doesn’t acknowledge it when they tell her that Cory needs a doctor, she returns shortly with Corrine. And then they go off into a corner and whisper together for a while, which is Cathy’s last straw. She screams at them to do something and Cathy does everyone’s favorite lines: “Have you forgotten you are his mother? If you haven’t, then, damn it, act like his mother!” Corrine shoots back with “You! Always it’s you!” and slaps Cathy. Who promptly slaps her back. BEST SCENE. This is the constant, the one in each adaptation, it’s just too good. Olivia is loving this, of course, and Chris pulls Cathy back, telling her that this isn’t helping Cory. Cathy lets Corrine have it then, damning her to hell if she doesn’t help Cory, swearing her revenge, telling that one day Bart and Malcolm and everyone will know exactly what she is and what she did. Corrine can only glare at her but Olivia speaks up at last, telling Corrine that Cathy’s right and that they need to take Cory for help.
Sadly, as we know, it’s too late, and Corrine returns the next day to tell them that Cory died of pneumonia and has already been buried, causing years of speculation and ghostly searches for my blog. The Great Cory Burial Debate will continue in Petals, don’t you worry. Corrine immediately peaces out, leaving her remaining children to grieve together. As the days pass, Carrie also starts to get worse and worse and C&C know that they need to get out of there. Chris has a new worry now, that they’ve spent so long in the attic that they’re now vulnerable to common germs and infections, but Cathy’s not hearing that–she’s not dying in that attic, so if it’s germs in the outside world, so be it. She wants them to go steal everything and leave tonight, but Chris wants to wait until they know that Corrine and Bart are out. And he doesn’t know if that’ll be soon since how can Corrine go party if she’s in mourning. Oh CHRISTOPHER. Come the fuck on, guy. Cathy does get one beam of happiness in all of this: she has a lovely dream one night where Chris the Elder appears and carries a healthy Cory off to Heaven (the place, not the Casteel) and that’s nice. She tells us that she got peace from that dream for a long time and lord knows the girl needs it.
November 10th! That’s the last day in the attic, Cathy tells us, as “God would not deliver us, we would deliver ourselves”. Okay, that’s pretty bad-ass. SPOILER ALERT: it is not actually their last day. Chris is preparing to go down to Corrine’s room, she having come by earlier and told them that she and Bart are going out. After Chris leaves, Cathy and Carrie try to sleep and wait for him to get back, but hours and hours go by without him returning. Cathy starts envisioning every nightmare scenario: Bart caught him, Olivia caught him, he’s been arrested, he’s been beaten, and when he finally returns after dawn with nothing in his pillowcases, she flips out, assuming that he couldn’t go through with robbing his precious Momma after all! Lifelessly, Chris tells her that all of the jewelry was gone and he starts to cry. She holds him for a while and gets him to tell her everything.
So Chris got to Corrine’s room to find that it was stripped: clothes, jewelry, pictures, books, everything was gone. They’d left, really left, not just to a party but for good. Chris went a little nutty, ripping the room up to try to find something, anything that Corrine could have left behind, but it was all gone, every trinket and ring and paperweight. Cathy tried to get him to take just one little thing so many times and he wouldn’t because he’d still believed in Corrine and now look. Cathy reassures him a little and gets him to go on. He finally looked in the last place, the bottom nightstand drawer, and there he finds Chris the Elder’s picture, his and Corrine’s marriage license, and Corrine’s wedding and engagement rings. Chris thinks that Corrine knew who was stealing from her and left that stuff on purpose, Cathy just thinks that Corrine no longer cares since she has Bart. Really, Cathy? You think the lesser cruelty? I’m with Chris: Corrine totally knew. Cathy knows that there’s more that Chris isn’t telling her, so he continues. Desperate now that he can’t steal from Corrine, Chris decides what the hell and decides to steal from Olivia. After all, she has all the jewelry that they saw her wearing at the Christmas party, as well as the brooches she’s always wearing (brooches for life, by the way) so he headed down the hall to the Grandmother’s room. Cathy immediately thinks that he saw Olivia naked which he and I are both like “Uh no Cathy, god”, but he DID see Olivia sans wig. She was awake, reading the Bible in bed, so he couldn’t steal from her, but he did hear her pray for forgiveness, noting in her prayer that she’s always done what she thought best. There’s a whole mess to unpack in THAT statement, Olivia.
Moving along, Chris headed down to the library, thanking his sister for her persistent questioning of Corrine, since that’s how he even knew the way. He sees the gaps in the shelves where Corrine had taken books up to them (and never took them back? Great cover up, Corrine) and sees six telephones on the Grandfather’s desk, all disconnected. Uh oh. Cathy is on edge, since she wants to hear all the details but she KNOWS that something awful is coming. And how. Chris went through the desk, finding all of the drawers unlocked and empty. Uh oh. He could see Malcolm’s room across the library and geared himself up to face him finally. Chris had a whole monologue prepared and everything but! when he went into the room it too was completely stripped. The hospital bed mattress was doubled up, the wheelchair was in a corner, and there was nothing on any surfaces, no hair brushes or anything. The whole room felt like it hadn’t been used in ages. Uh oh. Chris, thanks to Corrine’s stories, was able to locate the wall safe back in the library and went to try to crack it (thanks to television!) but was interrupted by footsteps. (Cathy, meanwhile: “The grandfather–why wasn’t he on the bed?” Uh, Cathy…) Chris hid behind a sofa but thought his time was up when he realized he’d left his flashlight in Malcolm’s room. The footsteps turned out to belong to a maid (Livvy) and good old John Amos the butler. Livvy is sure she heard something but John isn’t convinced so they glance around once and leave. Just as Chris was about to escape, however, they came back into the library and sit down right on the sofa Chris is hiding under.
Chris decides to try to take a nap through this but it’s a good thing he didn’t, he tells Cathy, since the pair has the most convenient conversation this side of an episode of Downton Abbey. Livvy insists that she did hear something and John reminds her that this very morning she was on about mice in the attic again, even though “that old bitch” has been taking tons of arsenic up there in picnic baskets to kill those mice. UH OH. Cathy is still not following, by the way. Livvy agrees that Olivia is the worst and that she’s seen Olivia in Malcolm’s old room just smiling oddly at his empty bed, seemingly gloating that he’s dead, and that she has all that money now. John points out that while Olivia has the money from her own family and is doing just fine, it’s Corrine that got all of the Foxworth millions from her father. Livvy notes that Malcolm did treat Corrine pretty badly before he died, but now she has all that money and her young hot husband, so she’s doing okay. John’s like well you’ve got me, don’t you? and then they totally fuck on the sofa poor Chris is hiding under. What the what. This is so damn random, AND really out of character for the John Amos that we meet in Garden of Shadows, I feel. (A lack of continuity? In a prequel? Why never, Megan, never.) Cathy is surprised that Livvy was actually into it and didn’t protest or anything (oh that’s healthy) and Chris describes it all a little over much, and then apparently JA and Livvy smoked some cigarettes and then did it again, which just blows Cathy’s mind.
Cathy is still not sure why exactly Chris is so upset and he’s like have you been listening to me. Well sure, Cathy says, jewels were gone, Momma and Bart skipped out, Grandmother wears a wig, we won’t have enough money in the outside but we’ll still be out, what am I missing here? Chris finally has to spell it out for her that Malcolm is dead and has been dead for almost a year.
For serious, dude. Cathy’s first reaction is happiness, they’re free now! Momma would inherit the money and they’d be free! But then reality sets in and she realizes that Corrine never told them, that she’d kept them up there anyway. Chris, making sure that Carrie (still asleep) can’t hear, reiterates what Cathy just figured out, that Corrine lied to them, that even after her father’s will was read nine months before she still left them up there. That Cory would be alive if they’d gotten out nine months ago. Cathy starts to cry but Chris tells her to hold it in since there’s still worse stuff to come. Good lord these kids. Cathy can’t hear anything worse, not yet, so Chris agrees that it can wait and promises her that they’re going to get out and get better and live amazing lives. Buoyed by this, Cathy thanks Chris for the breather and tells him to tell her the rest of it. She thinks that there’s nothing that he can say that will shock her any more than what he’s already said, but she is very wrong. The reason that Olivia gave the maids for not going into their room on those Fridays was because there were mice in the attic using the stairs to get down into the rest of the house. Olivia would subsequently leave picnic baskets of arsenic-laced food for the mice. Chris points out that arsenic is white and that if it was mixed with powdered sugar you’d never even taste it. Cathy doesn’t get why Olivia wouldn’t just poison them all at once and have done with it, Chris reminds her of some movie they’d watched where a woman slowly poisoned rich old men with arsenic because the symptoms were so hard to pin down and can look like food poisoning or PNEUMONIA. Cathy THEN comprehends that Cory died of arsenic poisoning. CATHERINE LEIGH DOLLANGANGER. You are disappointing me! Get with the program here!
Don’t look at me like that, young lady.
Chris is like well obviously Momma was lying about the pneumonia. And who knows if she ever even took Cory to the hospital? If she did they can’t have noticed anything suspicious or she’d be in jail. Cathy can’t believe that Corrine would just let Olivia poison them, so Chris determines that what they have to do is test a bit of remaining donut on Mickey. Cathy doesn’t want to since Mickey trusts them but Chris convinces her, reminding her that they’re dead if they don’t figure this out. So they do and yep, poor Mickey dies shortly thereafter. Chris thinks they should take Mickey and two of the donuts with them as evidence and Cathy agrees but can tell that Chris is STILL holding something back. Just get on with it, Christopher! You don’t have time for this! Chris can’t bear to tell her now, he wants to wait until they’re gone, and Cathy agrees so that they can all get some rest.
They lay around watching soap operas and Cathy notes that, much like themselves, people on soap operas never really go outside. They just sit around drinking martinis and just when they think that they’re going to be happy, the next big bad thing happens. Unbeknownst to the kids, Olivia has popped in and she tells Cathy that she’s exactly right about the real world: nothing ever works out the way you think it will. Then she leaves. Well okay, Olivia. I think she’s bored. After she leaves, Chris tries to comfort Cathy by telling that Olivia’s wrong, and just because nothing worked out for her, it doesn’t mean that it won’t for them. They shouldn’t leave trying to find perfection, but should settle for some small bit of happiness and therefore not be disappointed. Slap that one on a greeting card, Chris. Cathy isn’t hearing that, though, nope, she wants it all. She vows to herself that she’s in control of her life now, not God, not Chris, and she’s going to have everything she ever wanted and take what she wants when she wants it. Sounds like the perfect mindset for a bananas revenge epic, doesn’t it? Cathy thinks back on what a naive little kid she was when they arrived at Foxworth Hall and that now she’s “older than the mountains outside”. I like it. Let’s go with this.
Full of this new determination, Cathy gives Carrie a bath and forces her to drink some milk. She dresses her and they sit to wait until they’re going to make their escape. Cathy notes what belongings they’re taking with them: her and Chris’s fancy watches, the banjo and guitar, Corrine’s rings, Chris’s camera…she’s snapped out of this by the fear that if Olivia could sneak in and overhear Cathy’s comments from before, what’s to say that she hadn’t done that in the past and knows all about their escape plans? She asks Chris (though she almost doesn’t, afraid he’ll hesitate again) and he tells her that nothing’s stopping them this time. Still worried, Cathy goes up to the attic, caught up in nostalgia as she looks around at the flowers and swings, then she takes a piece of chalk and writes on the schoolroom’s blackboard:
“We lived in the attic,
Christopher, Cory, Carrie, and me,
Now there are only three.”
She signs her name and puts the date, then Chris calls up that it’s time to go. They use their wooden key and head out, planning to use any means necessary to get past John Amos and Olivia, if need be. Chris has the suitcases and Cathy has Carrie, who she notes only weighs a little more than she did that night they first arrived. The money is pinned inside their coats. They make it outside without any trouble and Cathy sets Carrie down so she can walk. Carrie, heartbreakingly, wants to know if they’re going to meet Cory, when Cathy reminds her that Cory is off in a beautiful garden, Carrie says that Cory won’t like it if she’s not there. Cathy pulls Carrie along, but not before Carrie looks back at the house and tells her sister that they need to hurry, since Cory is praying that they get away before Olivia sends someone to catch them. Thanks possible ghost-Cory? They make it to the train depot just in the nick of time and onto a train. As the train passes Foxworth Hall up on its hill, Cathy and Chris look up to see the far-off figure of Olivia as she stands in the window of their bedroom. Cathy wonders why she was up there so early and though Chris shrugs it off, Cathy wishes she could know Olivia’s thoughts as she searched the room and found no one there.
They arrive in Charlottesville and have a two-hour wait for the next bus to Sarasota. So as to keep on the move in case John Amos comes after them, they store the suitcases and instruments in a locker and walk around the city a bit. Cathy is heartened to find that people don’t stare at them the way she was afraid they would. They stop on a corner and Chris takes out the bag with Mickey and the donuts in it. Chris notes that if they go to the police then Cathy and Carrie won’t have to run since they’ll go into foster care, though he’s not sure what will happen to him. Cathy asks him to finally tell her his last bit of bad news and it turns out that Malcolm’s will had a codicil that he’d added in the days before he died, stating that if it was ever discovered that Corrine and Chris the Elder had any children, Corrine would lose the money and have to return everything purchased with said money. Not just that, but the same applied if Corrine had any children from her second marriage as well. Good god damn, Malcolm. Cathy realizes that this means it was Corrine, not Olivia who was poisoning them. Chris can’t be sure, but he heard Olivia praying and he doesn’t think that she’d do it herself. Oh, she’d carry the poison up to them and warn them not to eat it under the guise of “sugar is bad!” but she wouldn’t poison them herself. Cathy points out that Corrine was on her honeymoon when the donuts started coming, but Chris counters that nine months ago, when the will was read, Corrine was back. And only Corrine is affected by the will, Olivia has her own money.
Cathy wants to discuss a lot more, but with Carrie clinging to her she decides to wait. Chris hands Cathy the bag and tells her that it’s up to her. Time for some time in the mind of Cathy Dollanganger. Cathy wants revenge. She wants it more than anything, she wants to see Olivia and Corrine convicted of their crimes and locked away forever, she wants to see Corrine suffer the loss of her freedom and her money and Bart. She wonders if she should just let God deal with it all and thinks it’s unfair of Chris to put this on her shoulders. She wonders if it’s because he knows he’ll still forgive Corrine anything, that he’ll blame it on Malcolm and Olivia and forgive Corrine. Cathy wonders if there would ever be enough money in the world to make her kill her own children. She remembers how it was when Chris the Elder was alive, how happy they all were, how much Corrine loved them and she thinks that Malcolm and Olivia probably did know all the right ways to kill Corrine’s feelings. Cathy thinks about her mother, how Corrine once had four perfect children who thought that she was perfect too and now she had none and even if she never wanted Cathy back, she’d want Chris and Carrie and her future grandchildren and she’d have nothing. They can move forward from this and make their lives and when they see Corrine again they can ignore her. Decided now, Cathy throws the bag away. Chris tells her to say goodbye to the past (not gonna happen) and Cathy feels free enough to forget all about her revenge (DEFINITELY not gonna happen) and they laugh and hug and promise Carrie that they’re going to see flowers soon.
The epilogue is short and Cathy is relieved to have told her story. Their lives were never easy, she tells us, (OH BOY NO) but she and Chris learned that they were survivors, even if it was different for poor Carrie, and “how we managed to survive–that’s another story.”
AND OH BOY IS IT. Thank y’all so much for sticking with me through this. We made it! Onward and upwards, I say, onto my absolute favorite Dollanganger book (and possibly my favorite V.C. Andrews book) the infinite wonder that is Petals on the Wind. Coming up: Creepy Dr. Paul! Ballet ballet ballet! Everyone tells Cathy to calm it down and she does! not! listen! Julian! More Bart and his mustache! The Great Cory Burial Debate returns! The other big mystery of the Dollangangers arrives! Dramatic dress recreations! All of this and more!
See y’all then!