Our newlyweds (and Sylvia) arrive home at Whitefern to find Damian waiting for them on the front porch, wearing a white suit like he’s friggin’ Tony Montana, and giving each of them (well, not Sylvia) the hairy eyeball as they walk up the steps. Damian then performs what is apparently his greeting ritual–he shakes hands with Arden, squeezing his hand to judge his reaction (Audrina is proud that Arden doesn’t wince), and then he kisses Audrina’s cheeks and pinches her behind, also to judge her reaction. Somewhere in there he also pats Sylvia on the head, because nobody treats her like a person except for Audrina. Audrina snaps at him that he’s never to pinch her like that again, and he refers to her as a “saucy bit of baggage” and gives her one of those patronizing cheek slap/pats.
He tells Audrina that she didn’t need to elope, as he would have loved to have walked her down the aisle, and then turns around and offers Arden a job. See, Arden has had trouble finding a position with the sort of architectural firm that he wants, Damian has learned from Billie (!), and Damian respects Arden’s choosiness, and would like to give him a job in Damian’s brokerage firm in the interim. After all, Audrina can help him pass the exam (never is it mentioned that Audrina herself might want a job of her own). Damian compliments Audrina’s knowledge and intuition a bit, then, when Arden isn’t looking, pinches her again. I hate every male character in this book.
Damian’s next big surprise is that, while A&A were gone, he’s moved Billie into Whitefern, set up in what used to be Elly’s suite of rooms. You remember, two or so days before. Prior to her death. Two days ago. Anyway. Audrina is angry that Arden seems to be falling for Damian’s bullshit, and when she goes up to see Billie, she finds that she’s had the Kool-Aid as well. According to Ms. Lowe, who is wearing a ridiculous lace dress and is all shining eyes, Damian came over to the cottage about an hour after the trio left, ranted and raved at Billie for a bit, then stopped, looked at her, and told her that she was beautiful. As Billie was wearing her short-shorts at the time with her stumps visible, this totally won her over. Audrina is pissed that she didn’t forsee this maneuver of Damian’s.
And then Billie betrays Audrina’s years of trust with the following gems:
“Audrina, you never told me that your father is so kind, understanding and charming. Somehow you always made him seem insensitive, conniving and abusive.”
“A man like Damian Adare could never be cruel. I’m sure you misunderstood if you thought he mistreated you.”
What. No, really, what? Billie. Lowe. God. Damn. It. Audrina has been coming to you for 12 years with her tales of her completely insane and unhealthy home life, and one smug bastard calls you pretty and you completely disregard everything else. I’m disgusted. Really, guys, I am.
Ugh. So Arden accepts the job and Billie is president of the Damian Club and poor Audrina feels more trapped than ever. Damian starts on her and Arden about giving him grandchildren, which Audrina can’t handle, since she’s just barely dealing with her “wifely duties” anyway. Billie does all of the cooking, and when Damian offers to hire servants, she refuses out of gratitude, which makes Audrina more crazy, since she knows that Damian only offered because he knew that Billie would refuse.
One day a few months later, Billie comes to talk to Audrina about Sylvia. Billie has been watching the littlest Adare, and she can tell that Sylvia dislikes and is jealous of her. She’s also jealous of Arden, but seems to ignore him as he does her. Billie doesn’t believe that Sylvia is as challenged as Audrina has been led to believe–whenever Audrina isn’t looking, Sylvia follows and mimics her, and she can walk perfectly normally, but only when she knows that Audrina can’t see her. Audrina whips around to look at Sylvia when Billie says this, and although Sylvia seems startled and her lips part and her eyes unfocus when Audrina looks at her, Audrina doesn’t believe Billie. Girl, Little Sister is playing you. Billie is willing to admit that she doesn’t think very much of Damian’s burdening Audrina with her sister, and she thinks that there’s more hope for Sylvia than previously thought.
More time goes by, and Billie starts to convince Audrina that she’s been wrong about Damian. OMSG NOOOOOOOOO. Arden’s heart is clearly not in the stock market, but he works day and night to study up for the exam and to learn from working with Damian. After three failures he finally passes, thanks to Audrina. One day while he and Damian are at work, Audrina wanders into the piano room and sets Aunt Mercy Marie back up on the piano and starts to hold her own Teatime. Yaaaaaaay!!! She regrets missing Elly’s funeral, and often goes to the cemetary to put flowers on Elly and Lucky’s graves. Based a little on this guilt, she starts to do the voice for Mercy Marie, talking to Sylvia, who has crept into the room. Audrina, pretending to be Lucky, plays a little tune for Sylvia, then hands her a cookie and tells her to talk for the “lady in the photograph”. Instead, Sylvia grabs the picture, throws the frame into the fireplace, breaking it, and tears up the picture. Oh Sylvia. Damn it, the Teatimes were the best! Audrina yells at her, and Sylvia scrambles around on her hands and knees, pulling on Audrina’s skirt and drooling, which convinces Audrina that Billie was wrong about Sylvia.
That night, Audrina’s sixth-Sylvia-sense wakes her up, and she runs to Sylvia’s room, where the little girl is screaming. As Audrina comforts her, Sylvia actually speaks, saying what sounds like “Bad…bad…bad”. When asked if that’s what she said, she nods, and Audrina is thrilled, even though she should probably have paid more attention to the message. She puts Sylvia back to bed and cuddles up next to Arden, confident that Sylvia has crossed an important hurdle. Yes, she has, Audrina, and that hurdle is “Creepy girl develops her psychic powers” and you should have paid more attention.
The next morning Audrina heads to the kitchen to plan the Thanksgiving menu with Billie, taking care not to step on the colors from the stained glass windows as they pattern on the floor, as she has since she was a little girl. After menu-planning, she starts up to the playroom with some terrible idea of trying out the rocking chair again. She realizes that Sylvia is behind her, as usual, but when she turns to look at her on the stairs, Sylvia shines lights at her eyes using her prisms and Audrina is blinded and almost falls. She realizes suddenly that Sylvia could very well have done the same thing to Aunt Elly, causing her death. Audrina yells at Sylvia to never use those prisms at her again and Sylvia runs away. Audrina is afraid of how violent her reaction was, and sits down on the bottom step to collect herself. As she’s sitting there, the front door swings open, revealing a woman in a completely fantastic hat made of several shades of green feathers. A woman who announces, in (naturally) a sultry voice, “Here I am, back again. Don’t you recognize me, sweet Audrina?”
And with The Return, I wrap this up.
The whole Billie thing really bothers me. It’s so…I don’t know, it’s every horror story of a kid who goes to a “trusted adult” and says “This or that terrible thing is done to me” and the Trusted Adult doesn’t believe them. It’s terrible. I was going to do a Character Spotlight on Billie, but I really think it would make me too mad. Grrrrr. But, hey, VERA’S BACK, Y’ALL.
Now, I feel that I need to even up Audrina and Vera in my blog images, since I am morally obligated to use pictures of Joan Holloway to represent Vera, and that makes Shilo as Audrina seem waaaaay too young. I can deal with the pretense that marriage to Arden has aged our heroine–anybody have any ideas? I was going to use Betty from Mad Men, but that seems too obvious. Maybe I’ll just draw a stick figure in Paint. Ha! I could create some glorious witchy hair with that. So lemme know! I’m too fond of my little pictures to give them up.