Vera and Audrina stare each other down. Audrina can’t handle a staredown (especially not against Vera), so she starts to scoot up the stairs backwards like a little kid, and Vera calls her on it. Audrina’s response is to snap at Vera that her mother is dead. Nice. Unfazed, Vera tells Audrina that she already knows that, as she has friends in the village who keep her up-to-date. In fact, they’ve told her another juicy piece of gossip—namely that Audrina is now Mrs. Arden Lowe. She never thought that Audrina would be grown-up enough to marry anyone, and she congratulates them, though she tells Audrina that she should have known better. Vera makes fun of Audrina’s white dress, telling her that it’s the holiday season, the time for bright colors and parties and, naturally, Audrina’s still wearing white.
Audrina, in an attempt to defend herself, explains to Vera that the color is winter white, it’s a wool dress, it was very expensive, and Arden picked it out special and likes for her to wear it. Vera, unimpressed by Arden’s selection from the white side of the White Virgin/Red Whore Store, makes fun of Audrina’s need to stay “Papa’s pure little darling” and of Arden’s help with this need. Vera announces that she’s come back for Thanksgiving and she wants to know where Arden is so that he can carry in her bags. Audrina tells Vera that Damian won’t be happy to see her, but Vera doesn’t care–she wants what is owed to both herself and to Elly. Just then, Billie comes in on her red cart and Vera freaks right out. One of the soles of her shoes is thicker (to compensate for her shorter leg, recall) and it almost causes her to trip as she’s trying to jump back from Billie. Billie holds her own, and Vera pulls it together enough to smile brightly and greet Billie. Billie welcomes Vera and tells her that her old room is clean and she can stay there once the linens are changed. Vera is surprised that Billie lives there, as her spies didn’t have that information. Billie goes to get lunch ready and Vera makes Audrina help her with her bags. Vera assures Audrina that she doesn’t want Arden, but not because she’s already married, because Damian’s intel was correct: Lamar killed himself. Vera holds off telling Audrina any more about that until after lunch, but she manages to guilt trip her sister-cousin about having given up the piano.
On the way to Vera’s room they pass Sylvia, who has snitched Billie’s cart and is shoving along in it. Audrina scolds her for having taken it and lifts her down. Vera takes the opportunity to call Billie and Sylvia freaks and Audrina warns her that if she speaks like that again, she’ll throw her out herself. Vera takes it (for now) and unpacks her things. At lunch, Audrina starts to feel more and more dowdy compared to Vera,
especially given Vera’s jewelry–which Audrina shortly realizes is the same jewelry that Vera stole from Elly and Audrina when she ran away. Vera takes all of that off before Damian and Arden get home, however.
As they come in, Damian is yelling at Arden for some mistake he made at the office that’s going to cost a client a lot of money (HA HA ARDEN, YA BURNT!), but he soon sets aside this lovely past-time in order to yell at Vera and demand to know what the hell she’s doing there. Billie is upset by Damian’s reaction to his niece, so she sits there pouting; Arden joins Audrina on the sofa, but even with his arm around his wife, he’s staring at Vera; and Sylvia lolls around in the corner like Audrina’s never taught her how to act. Vera turns on the tears, claiming that she’s just back to visit Elly’s grave. Also: she’s now a registered nurse; she was seduced in all innocence by Lamar; and she wants whatever “valuables” Elly might have left her. At one point in this speech, Damian tells Vera that he “knows what went on here before”, and her response is to throw Arden a “Shut up, shut up!” look, which makes Audrina pull away from him and sit on the other end of the couch. Damian tells Vera she has a day to visit Elly’s grave and get out, but Billie turns on the waterworks and convinces him to let Vera stay for the week. Oh damn it, Billie. Audrina can already tell that Vera’s working her magic on Arden.
Vera and Billie become BFFs. One day while Vera is vacuuming, Audrina sneaks in behind her and reads over her shoulder a list of valuables that Vera is writing. Vera flips out at first, but then tells Audrina her Lamar Rensdale sob-story. See, they moved to NYC, with Vera all the while insisting that she was pregnant, and Lamar all the while insisting that she wasn’t. They moved into a boarding house and while Lamar taught at Julliard, Vera started nursing school, with some “art school modeling” on the side to make ends meet. This (among other things, I’m sure) apparently drove Lamar crazy and he started drinking, eventually losing his skill at the piano and his job. They moved to a slum, where Lamar taught piano to kids who usually couldn’t pay him, and eventually Vera left him, only to read in the paper later that he’d drowned himself in the Hudson. Audrina is a wee bit dubious of who is in the wrong here, and Vera starts to cry. Billie appears out of nowhere (for a woman with no legs who moves around on a wheeled cart, she’s sure ninja-like) and tries to hug Vera, but Vera freaks out again. Billie, offended, leaves, and Audrina gets on Vera’s case about her attitude towards Billie, especially given her leg (cold, Audrina).
Arden is working too hard and oh wait, I don’t care about Arden’s problems. He’s on the Vera is Great! train, but assures Audrina that she’s got no reason to be jealous. Thanksgiving comes and goes, but Vera sticks around, and Damian stops mentioning that she should leave. Audrina is working hard with Sylvia, trying to teach her to talk and move properly, and she always seems to learn best if they’re in that damned playroom. One day, they finally have a breakthrough–Audrina teaches Sylvia to say “My name is Sylvia” and seems to get across to her what that means by showing her her reflection in a mirror. Before Audrina can give Sylvia her reward cookies, though, Vera comes in and Sylvia immediately reverts to unfocused drool mode. Audrina tells Vera to leave and they argue a little, when Sylvia hurls herself at Vera, screaming, and Vera kicks her. Sylvia’s foot gets accidentally (???) hooked behind Vera’s leg and Vera falls back over the rocking chair and breaks her leg again. She’s now their house guest for another 7-8 weeks.
Vera tells Billie that Sylvia deliberately tripped her, and though Audrina insists that’s impossible, it’s clear that Billie doesn’t entirely believe her. Audrina overhears Sylvia singing the playroom song, but when she asks Billie about it, Billie says that she thought it was Vera, who often sings that song sadly to herself. Vera takes up her spot on the chaise lounge again, Audrina spends all of her time cleaning, Billie spends all of hers cooking, and Sylvia retreats back to all of her old behaviors and refuses to work with Audrina any longer. A month or so after the New Year, Audrina convinces Sylvia to come up to the playroom with her for a lesson, where they are surprised to find Billie in the rocking chair. She’s all giddy over something, but when she invites Sylvia to sit on her lap, Sylvia screams and refuses. Damian tells Audrina to give up on Sylvia.
Sigh. Fine. Arden crap. He’s working too hard, he doesn’t understand the stock market, wah wah wah wah. Then he explodes!! No more Arden, yaaaay!
Okay, fine. He does not explode. Instead, he tells Audrina that he’s found evidence that Damian’s been stealing from his clients and committing various types of stock fraud, most of which seem like pretty good ideas to me, so I guess it’s good I’m not involved with the stock market.
Audrina is furious, and although Arden tells her not to, she storms off to Damian’s room at two in the morning to confront him about it. When she gets there, she hears a woman’s voice in his room, and she assumes that he’s brought home a floozy. She realizes that she knows the woman’s voice, however, and throws the door open. Who does that? To their father? Ew, Audrina, come on. It’s Billie, naturally. She and Damian are “playing intimately” with each other. Oh GOD the visuals. Thank soup they throw the covers over themselves, so at least this scene isn’t entirely weird. Audrina calls Billie a whore (OMG ISSUES) and tells her to get out of the house, and she tells Damian that she and Arden and Sylvia are leaving. Billie starts to cry. Damian throws on an entirely awesome red brocade robe and tells Audrina that she’s being silly and that Billie will be staying for as long as she likes. Audrina goes back to her room. She eventually decides that it’s not Billie’s fault (how big of you) and doesn’t tell Arden.
Billie comes to see Audrina the next day, trying to explain what was going on, and Audrina makes a point to note that Billie’s always wearing bright colors–scarlets and magentas and electric blues (nothing nice and proper like winter white) and that the colors dazzle her eyes. Billie loves Damian, she says, and even if he never marries her, even if she’s only ever his “kitchen and bedroom slave” (because Audrina has to bring that up), she’ll be okay with that, because she loves him and he made her feel like a woman again. Oh Billie. Billie tells Audrina that she loves her like a daughter and Audrina cracks and they embrace. Audrina swears that she’ll make Damian marry Billie, but Billie doesn’t want it to be like that. Vera, who has apparently been eavesdropping, pops in to call Billie a freak again. Oh Vera. A few weeks later, Arden has finally caught on to the whole “I think my mom likes your dad!” thing, and doesn’t want to expose Damian’s crimes as it’ll hurt Billie–he wants to speak to him alone. Vera’s sunning herself on the lawn during this conversation, and as Arden goes back into the house, she takes her bikini top off and Arden doesn’t really try to pretend that he doesn’t look. Tool.
Audrina and Sylvia go inside and Damian stops them. Audrina tells him that she knows he’ll never marry Billie, and he seems astounded to know that Billie wants to marry him at all. He takes the opportunity to say that if he got himself another wife, he wouldn’t need any daughters, would he? which is creepy and weird. Audrina agrees with me and she takes Sylvia outside for a walk. Damian and Arden leave for work. Vera calls out to Audrina as her sister-cousins pass her, but Audrina ignores her and takes Sylvia down to the woods. Audrina’s babbling something about spring time and how she’s going to teach Sylvia how to be a young lady, but when she reaches the riverbank and turns around, Sylvia isn’t there. She sees Vera back on the lawn, reading a book, and hears something deeper in the forest that she assumes is Sylvia, and she goes hunting for her, thinking that her little sister is playing a game with her. Audrina runs through the woods, getting more and more disoriented, before she comes upon a golden raintree and she realizes that it’s deathly quiet in the woods. She “smells death” then and goes tearing through the woods towards the house screaming for Sylvia. Along the path she finds a cluster of pink roses, which only grow in the woods by Billie and Arden’s old cottage. She puts it together that while she was traipsing along towards the river, Sylvia must have gone to the cottage. A storm is blowing in, and Sylvia’s got her handy feral instincts, and so would have headed home once the storm started coming. Audrina thinks to herself that of all days for Sylvia to become independant of her, it had to be this day. Audrina races the storm home, looking for Vera on the lawn to ask her about Sylvia, but Vera’s not there.
Audrina makes it into the house just in time, the storm hits once she’s through the door. The house is extremely dark, and just as she’s debating finding and lighting a kerosene lamp, she hears a scream and hears something clatter down the front stairs. Audrina runs forward to try and catch whatever it is, but hits a out-of-place chair instead. This is strange since she and Billie are careful to always put everything back exactly where it was. She heads forward again and stumbles over something soft on the floor. She crawls around trying to figure out what it is, and her hand touches something sticky and warm, and a head full of curly hair. It’s Billie. She’s dead.
Audrina holds Billie’s body and cries for a while, getting turned about in her head as she confuses Billie and Aunt Elly over and over. When she finally looks around, she notices Billie’s red cart lying a few feet away. It was Billie’s habit to come down the stairs pulling the cart behind her and Audrina wonders numbly if she fell doing that or if she misjudged her position at the top of the stairs. Audrina also notices that Billie’s mascara is smeared, as if she’d been crying, and so is her scarlet lipstick. Who had made Billie cry if Damian wasn’t around? (That’s so healthy) Audrina is jarred out of those thoughts when she hears Billie’s cart and looks up to see Sylvia riding it around. Audrina flips out, demanding to know what Sylvia’s done, if she pushed Billie to get the cart, but Sylvia lolls her head around and tries to speak (and can’t), then shrinks away from her sister and Audrina snaps out of it and apologizes. Vera finally shows up at the top of the stairs, wrapped in a towel and holding her freshly painted nails out in front of her, and wants to know what’s going on and who was screaming. Audrina tells her that Billie fell and Vera comes downstairs and uses her mad nursing skills to assure Audrina that, yep, Billie’s dead. She also mentions that when she was in the tub earlier, she could have sworn that she heard Sylvia screaming too.
Audrina stares again at her little sister, who is happily shuttling about on the cart, singing the playroom song to herself, and asks Vera what else she heard. Billie yelling at Sylvia to leave the cart alone, Vera says, but of course she never does, since she’s always wanted it. “And now she has it.” Audrina looks up again and Sylvia is gone, so she runs off to find her as Vera calls Damian at the office. And wondering what Sylvia has done, we conclude.
RIP, Billie Lowe. Seriously, folks, nix the stairs.