So here I am! No more excuses, here we go!
All of the high drama of Vera’s running away and the reading of her goodbye note took place during breakfast, so Audrina has to high-tail it to get ready for school. When Audrina runs upstairs (with Sylvia in tow, natch), she discovers that Vera has taken all of Audrina’s good sweaters and blouses. She makes sure to note that Vera took “all of the ones that would fit her”, which is an important note, because Vera has been described as an…ample young lady, and Audrina has not. Oh Vera, with your stolen tight sweaters and blouses with three or four buttons undone. I miss you already. Audrina also finds that Vera stole all of her jewelry, save the birthstone ring and quartz rose that Audrina wears around her neck. She’s surprised that Vera didn’t try to take them off of her in the night, and frankly, so am I. Audrina goes back downstairs and tells Aunt Elly (whose name, I just realized, I started misspelling totally randomly a few recaps back. It’s “Ellie”, really, but I don’t feel like changing it now.) about the stolen goods and Elly tells her that Vera also stole all of her jewelry and her new coat. Elly rather bitterly observes that it was the first new coat she’d had in several years and now she doesn’t know when she’ll get another. Audrina says that Damian will buy Elly a new coat, but, secretly, she’s not sure that he will. God, Damian sucks.
Audrina goes to school and afterward begs a ride to Lamar’s house with a classmate (a friend? Audrina has a friend who isn’t an obsessive weird guy, a mentally challenged little sister, or her bitter bitter aunt? I shan’t believe it.), but when Audrina gets there, she finds the cottage deserted and a neighbor tells her that Lamar left in the middle of the night with some woman. Audrina starts to walk the fifteen miles home in the rain, because Vera stole all of her change when she left and Audrina has no way to call Arden for a ride. As she goes, she’s honked at and otherwise hassled by various male drivers until one of them suddenly pulls his car over and makes to drag her into it. Audrina very understandably screams and fights this only to realize that it’s Arden that has her. Despite knowing that it’s him, Audrina still feels a strange urge to slap at him and get him away from her (do it! DO IT!), but gets in the car, and Arden asks her what she was doing there, since he’d heard that Lamar was gone. Audrina tells Arden about Vera leaving, and he drops her off at home, first kissing her cheek (a kiss that makes her want to scream again). Audrina spends the next few days sick in bed, thinking about Vera and Lamar. She asks Elly if she thinks that Lamar will marry Vera, but Elly is adamant that he won’t–after all, “men don’t marry girls like Vera”. Nice, Elly. Damian may be the high bastard of this story, but you’re no Mother of the Year contender yourself.
The new year comes and goes and Elly finally decides to ask Damian why he hasn’t mentioned Vera since she left. Damian, being a bastard, tells her that it’s because he doesn’t care and that he’s found the house to be a much happier place since Vera left. He also mentions a mysterious “something” that he thinks that Vera might have done, and that, if she had in fact done it, he would gladly wring her neck. He assumes that Vera ran off with Lamar (well, obviously Damian, do catch up), and informs Audrina that if she ever tried the same, he’d follow her around the world to bring her back. Time goes on without Vera, which is to say, time goes on without anything exciting happening. Audrina turns thirteen, then fourteen, Aunt Elly smiles more and more, and Sylvia…stays pretty much the same.
And now, some Arden Lowe douchebaggery. Audrina, Arden, and Sylvia spend a lot of time out in the woods together. Damian has gotten used to Arden, because he assumes that Audrina will get tired of him before long. We can only wish. Arden, who is going away to college in the fall, asks Audrina to save herself for him, and they have their first kiss, which is also Audrina’s first kiss. She’s nervous and excited, but ultimately isn’t sure if she liked the kiss or not. Arden kisses her again, and it makes Audrina think about the rocking chair memories and she’s frightened. Arden is hurt that Audrina is trembling, and she laughs a little about it, because after all, she’s often wondered what’s taken him so long to kiss her and now she feels a little silly for letting it frighten her.
So Arden turns around and asks her if, since she’s been wanting to be kissed, she’s “going to be a pushover”, like Billie has been in the past–Arden’s father was Billie’s third husband and Billie apparently fell in love once a week when she was a teen–because Arden was hoping that Audrina would be different. YOU SANCTIMONIOUS ASS. SHE IS FOURTEEN YEARS OLD AND WANTED TO BE KISSED BY THE BOY SHE LIKES. THAT DOES NOT MAKE HER A PUSHOVER OR A WHORE. IT MAKES YOU A TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE ASS.
Sorry. Where was I? Audrina is quick to deny that she’s any such thing, and holds up her love for Sylvia as having taught her how to love and opening her up to it. Arden gets uncomfortable when she mentions this, as he always does when she talks about Sylvia, who he also refuses to look at or acknowledge most of the time. That’s really great of you, Arden. You unbelievable tool. Arden and Audrina end up all tangled up in each others’ arms on the ground and Arden starts spouting some crap about always having dreamt of being with a pure and decent and clean girl like Audrina (which, dude, you’re seventeen. Come ON.) Then he starts the staring. He stares into her eyes, then moves down to her chest, and then to her crotch like the creeper that he is (because, really, who does that? Who stares at someone’s crotch?), which causes Audrina to move her legs into a more concealing position. This, naturally, makes Arden feel hurt. Audrina gets up to go home, and we get one of the funnier editorial mistakes in this book. See, Audrina was wearing a skirt earlier in the scene when Arden first picked her up and twirled her around before they kissed, and now that she’s getting the hell out of Dodge, she’s described as wearing slacks. This means that Arden’s inherent creepshow tendencies have caused Audrina to transform a skirt into pants using the sheer power of her mind. She heads home with Sylvia in tow.
Arden leaves for college. Audrina spends all of her free time taking care of Sylvia (she also has to run home from school everyday to save her little sister from Elly’s switches and general neglect) and spending time with Billie, who teaches her sewing and cooking and gives her weirdly awkward advice about healthy marital sex lives. Audrina gets letters from Arden and all of the girls at school are jealous that she has a college boyfriend, but she’s also sure that Arden’s dating other girls while he’s at school. And she’s…apparently okay with this? Since he’s a guy? Who the hell knows. All I know is that Audrina’s being faithful and waiting patiently for Arden, because that’s what she does.
One night, Audrina gets woken up by what she assumes is her sixth-Sylvia-sense, but she finds her sister safe in bed, so she heads back to her room. As she’s going down the hall, she sees light coming from under her father’s bedroom door, and hears both her father’s and her aunt’s voices coming from the room. Because no one in this family has any normal impulses, Audrina listens in.
Elly wants to go to New York, as Vera called her the day before and needs her (Ellsbeth, Vera does not now, nor has she ever, needed you. Not the way you’re trying to sell it.). Elly’s done all she can for Damian and his daughters (she says), and she wants him to hire a nurse for Sylvia and a maid for everything else so that Audrina can go to college. Damian doesn’t think that there’s any chance that Audrina could make it in the outside world, in fact, he doesn’t even think that she’ll ever marry Arden, especially since she can’t “respond”. I say it again–THIS IS NOT HEALTHY. Basically Elly wants Damian to give her money so that she can go to Vera, since he knows damn well that Vera’s his flesh and blood and oh and if Vera’s given half a chance, she’ll come back and destroy Damian and Audrina and maybe Elly could stop her. She’d also like Damian to know that he made Vera what she is, which I think we can all pretty much agree on.
Audrina looks through the keyhole to see Elly pacing around angrily wearing a see-through peignoir and nothin’ else. As Audrina watches, Damian (who digs Elly when she’s angry) grabs her aunt and they tumble into bed together. Audrina has enough decency to leave them to it, and she goes back to her room in a fresh state of confusion. She establishes for herself yet again that Vera is Damian’s child and that Elly was the woman from whom Lucky stole Damian. Yes, Audrina, we KNOW this. YOU know this! Let’s move on.
Time moves on, Audrina turns seventeen and Arden gives her an engagement ring, promising her that they’ll be married when she’s nineteen and she can stop fearing ages that have nines in them. She notices that Elly seems distant and sad, but she doesn’t know what to do about it. Elly asks Audrina if she’s really sure that she’s in love with Arden, and that she wants to marry him. Audrina says that she does, but Elly asks her to try to make her own decisions and get herself some independence. Arden comes to visit and Audrina can’t deal with the level of physicality that he wants from the relationship, so he’s an arrogant douche some more about it and ignores Sylvia. Audrina tells him that if he can’t love Sylvia, then she can’t be with him. Arden also makes enigmatic statements about wanting to “reimburse” Audrina for something, but naturally he doesn’t elaborate. Arden goes back to college, but we don’t get a nice break from him because he graduates less than a page later. Damian is committing varying degrees of stock fraud and using the money to renovate Whitefern.
Damian doesn’t allow Audrina to go to Arden’s college graduation. Unbeknowst to him, Arden taught Audrina to drive years before and she and Sylvia dress in their best and take one of Damian’s cars to go to pick up Arden at the airport. And with that cliffhanger of a chapter ending, I leave you.
Woo! And we’re back!