As Part II begins, our Audrina has decided to take charge of her life, as was her mother’s last advice to her. Note: This is not actually true. Lucky’s technical last advice to her daughter came in the form of a dream, wherein she told Audrina to “Be a good girl. Obey Papa!”, but let’s face it: that’s never gotten Audrina too far. And in another note, something I didn’t mention in the last recap: when Audrina has her memory of Lucky teaching her to play the piano, she also remembers her mother running through the fields with her toddler-self, and Lucky is all of 19. Audrina doesn’t remark on this, but we can note it.
Since Lucky’s death, Vera has become a little fashion plate. She sets her hair constantly (that takes a toll, Vera-my-dove, just FYI), polishes her nails again and again, and irons all of her clothing, even her slips. A girl after my own heart. As far as clothing goes, anyway. Audrina has started sitting in the rocking chair voluntarily, as she feels her mother’s presence when she does so. She sneaks away to visit Arden fairly often, but she still isn’t allowed into his house and she’s still never seen Billie other than from the cottage window. She’s also been pleading with Damian to bring Baby Sylvia home, but Damian refuses, putting Audrina off with talk about the doctors.
Audrina is growing increasingly frustrated with her inability to magically play the piano, but one happy day Arden takes her into town on the handlebars of his bicycle and introduces her to Lamar Rensdale, the sexy sexy piano teacher. Lamar has “wild, chocolate-brown hair” and eyes that match exactly, and he’s impressed with what Audrina is able to do on the piano. Damian allows Arden to take Audrina into the village, but warns her against ever being alone with him. Audrina defends Arden, mentioning that the two of them are seldom out of sight of Billie, and she tells her father how beautiful Billie is. And that’s a good defense, Audrina. “Don’t worry, Papa, Arden would never hurt me. He’s got a gorgeous mom! That has to mean something!” Damian waves away Audrina’s talk of Billie, telling his daughter that he’s done with wives and being married: he’s going to devote alllllll of his energies into taking care of Audrina. Damian. I have had just about enough of this. It ain’t right. When I want this kind of paternal weirdness I will call Tony Tatterton for it.
Audrina begins practicing the piano in earnest, which naturally attracts Vera’s attention since she can’t let an opportunity to bug her sister-cousin go by. Vera wants to know all about Mr. Rensdale and his artistic hotness, mentioning that the girls at school all talk about how young and sexy and single said piano man is. Audrina is uncomfortable with where the conversation is headed, and tells Vera that Lamar is too old for her. Vera announces that nobody-but nobody is too old for her, but that everybody will be too old for Audrina once Papa lets her out of his clutches. Audrina is forced to admit that this is probably true, given that, and I frakkin quote: “Papa was latching onto me more and more with each passing day. In all ways but bedroom ones, he was making me his wife.”
NO. NO. NO. Damian. NO. This is NOT OKAY. ARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH.
Moving on for my soul’s sake, Vera convinces Damian to spring for her piano lessons too, and Vera immediately launches into flirting-with-Mr. Rensdale mode. Audrina simply can’t understand how differently Vera acts around their piano teacher. This is because Audrina is a wee bit…shall we say…simple when it comes to the menfolk.
As the next chapter opens, we’re told that it’s been a year and a half since Lucky died. Vera has claimed the rocking chair, so Audrina now avoids it, even though Damian still thinks that she rocks in it to catch the gift. During one of her piano lessons, Lamar asks her how old she is. Audrina flips out, crying about her missing memories and her inability to keep track of time. Lamar comforts her, and takes the opportunity to stroke her back inappropriately. I’d forgotten how infinitely gross Lamar Rensdale really is. There isn’t a quality male character within miles of this book.
Audrina pulls back from Lamar, having flashes of the memory-of-the-forest, and he immediately turns on the “Don’t be afraid, there’s a beautiful girl inside you, let her out” sleaze.
Lamar promises that he will make Damian send Audrina to school and Audrina believes him because the male figures in her life have all been so outstanding so far.
Damian has been getting richer and richer in the months since Lucky died. Audrina, Vera, and Arden spend their summer swimming and sailing, and Audrina notices that her father no longer makes fun of her aunt Ellie, and that Ellie, in fact, seems to be in a better and better mood. Arden is now 15 and dreams of being an architect. Audrina is depressed that she’s still never been in Arden’s house and has STILL never seen Billie other than through the cottage window. Arden, as is his wont, feeds her some nonsense about how he and his mom are still decorating and Billie’s too embarrassed to let Audrina see the house that way. Damian tells Audrina that Vera is 14, and Audrina turns 11. For her birthday, Arden gives her a rose pendant made out of a chunk of rose quartz that he’d found in the woods a couple of years before. At the time, he’d told Audrina that he would give the pendant to the girl that he planned to marry, and our Audrina is duly claimed.
Note: I have no issues in general with engagement rings or meaningful jewelry or any of that. Just issues with Arden, and with his relationship with Audrina.
Vera has taken to reading Lucky’s old romance novels whilst laying around on the chaise lounge, explaining to Audrina that these books are going to teach her everything she needs to know about catching herself a man. Audrina thinks that Vera should have surgery done to make her shorter leg longer, but Vera knows that if she could walk normally she’d have to do chores and work around the house, and she plans to live the life of luxury, even if that means walking with her limp for the rest of her life.
One snowy day, Audrina finally guilts Arden into taking her into his house. (Are you totally excited? Whatever could Billie’s secret beeeee?) Once inside, there’s no immediate sign of Billie, but Audrina is amazed to see that the living room is filled with trophies and pictures and medals–Billie was once an ice skating champion. Audrina is thrilled and can’t understand what all the secrecy has been about. Suddenly, Audrina hears a noise behind her and turns to see Billie is now in the living room, bedecked in a floor-length gown, piled-high hair, and full makeup. After some obvious weirdness between Arden and Billie, Audrina tries to excuse herself, only to have Billie give up and tell her everything. See, Billie was indeed an ice skating champion, until one day a terrible accident stole her career from her.
See, Billie tripped on a bobby pin that someone had lost on the ice, and cut herself on her skate. When the wound didn’t heal, it was found that she had diabetes, and both of her legs eventually had to be amputated. Her husband left her, and she and Arden moved to the cottage. Audrina is overwhelmed by all of this information, but loves Billie anyway and la di da, all seems to be well. Arden walks Audrina home and she wanders into the parlor to find her cousin Vera, all sprawled out with a romance novel and, yes ladies and gentlemen, it’s public masturbation time.
Okay, so it’s less public than it is just Audrina, but come on. So Vera’s having some personal time (on a couch in the parlor where her mother or cousin or uncle could walk in at any moment), and when Audrina, confused and disgusted, tells her to stop, Vera, not missing a beat or even opening her eyes, tells her sister-cousin to go away as “You’re just a babe in the woods–or are you?”
After this experience, Audrina begins to spend more and more time with Billie, treating her as a substitute mother. Billie tries to comfort Audrina after she spills her lifestory, but Audrina is left feeling that there are worlds of information that no one is sharing with her. One night after this, Audrina hears her aunt and father fighting about sending Audrina to school. Aunt Ellsbeth tells Audrina that Lamar Rensdale actually came through and told her to send Audrina to school or he’d get the authorities involved. Damian relents and this recap ends with our little Audrina getting ready to go to school for the first (??) time.