Damian starts his story on the day that the First Audrina was raped, but did not, as he’d always said before, die. (Our Audrina: “Where is she then??” Damian: “Shut up a little,”) Audrina came home and though she wasn’t able to say much more than “Boys”, Lucky (who had been waiting at the door for her to come home and was the first to see her) was able to figure out what had happened. Lucky whisked her daughter away upstairs, where she unfortunately told her daughter that “Papa doesn’t need to know”, which immediately caused Audrina to believe that he father would be ashamed of her for what happened and she began to scream that she wished that she was dead. Lucky then drew a scalding hot bath and proceeded to scrub at her daughter with a hard brush, taking skin with it. During all of this, Elly was downstairs with the twenty birthday party guests, whom she told that Audrina was sick and couldn’t attend, and the guests all went home angry, some taking their presents with them. Nice friends. Elly didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she called Damian at work and told him what she suspected, and he came home in time to see Audrina all red and raw from her mother’s bath and Lucky coming at her with a bottle of iodine. He flipped out at Lucky, who had not only messed Audrina up physically, but who had also implanted the idea that Audrina was now unclean into her head; and his anger scared Audrina, who ran away from him up to the cupola, where she tried to jump out of the window.
Damian stopped her, but it was obvious that she was not going to be all right. Lucky hadn’t wanted to take Audrina to the police and have her examined and humiliated, and Audrina refused to name her attackers so that Damian could go after them. Lucky and Damian decided that, since the physical evidence had been washed away, they would just keep Audrina at home so that no one would ever find out about what had happened. Damian muses a little about what an amazing little girl that Audrina had been before she was assaulted, and how afterwards she didn’t eat, she wouldn’t leave her bed, she stopped going to school, she broke every mirror in the house, and she destroyed all of her male paper dolls and drove her male cat away.
Audrina is stunned by all of this information, and assumes now that the First Audrina is in fact Vera, which confuses her since Damian doesn’t even like Vera. Damian (somehow) does not roll his eyes, and tells her:
“My sweet Audrina…haven’t you guessed yet? Haven’t I explained and explained and given you all the clues you need? Vera is not my First Audrina…you are.”
Audrina, naturally, does not take this well.
She holds up the weekly visits to the First & Best’s grave as evidence that this is all BS, but Damian assures her that there’s no one buried in that grave, because the First & Best, nay, the Only Audrina is her. Audrina loses it. She starts thinking about that day in the woods, about why God didn’t save her/her sister, if she was being punished to liking to wear fancy dresses and run faster than the boys…and she takes off outside in what is naturally a raging thunderstorm. She heads for the cemetery so that she can see once and for all if anyone is in that grave. Arden follows her and he’s apparently known everything the whole time, because he tells her that there’s no older sister down there and she has to face up to that. Audrina attacks him (yesssss), but he fights her back and they slap each other a few times before, of course, having weird violent sex on top of her ostensible sister’s grave. There goes another soul fragment, guys.
Afterwards, all muddy and bleeding (how hot), Audrina pulls what’s left of her clothes back on (which reminds her of the day in the woods HOW HEALTHY) and she and Arden dig up the First & Best’s grave and, sure enough, it’s empty. They go back to the house and clean up, and Arden’s all “See, now we’re okay! You know the truth and we’re having sex and stuff, so everything’s cool now, right? Right?”, but Audrina isn’t deciding anything until she’s heard the rest of Damian’s story. Audrina and Arden go back up to the cupola, where Damian (and now Sylvia) are looking out of the windows for her. Audrina demands to know why and how Damian messed with her head so entirely. See, after one terrible experience with electro-shock therapy, Damian decided that the only way to bring his little girl back was to convince her that the rape had happened to someone else. Using a cunning course of old newspapers, sleeping pills, and sitting with her in the rocking chair and convincing her, Damian managed to, in his words, “reshape” Audrina into her old self, “clean and pure, sweet and loving”. He let her keep certain memories, like the day that she met Arden, and told her that she was only seven years old so that she would be easier convinced that there had been an older sister. Damian cries a little here, since he had it so hard. He did the best that he could! he tells Audrina, who can only think “The best that he could…the best that he could…” to herself. He gave her her virginity back, that has to mean something, right? Not so much, Damian, not really, not comparatively.
Audrina is trying to deal with all of this and she starts crying, so Damian gathers her up on his lap and rocks her back and forth. It’s at about this point that Audrina looks up at the doorway and sees Vera standing there. Audrina flashes back to the morning of her ninth birthday, to Vera watching her get ready for school. Vera tells Audrina that she should wear her fancy petticoat with the matching panties to school, but Audrina doesn’t want to. She already thinks it’s bad enough that Lucky is making her wear her fancy dress to school that day, when the other girls are just going to make fun of her for it. Vera says that no, it wasn’t Lucky’s idea, it was hers and Lucky ate it up since she thinks that it’s a great idea to show the villagers that Whitefern girls can still dress it up. As she’s getting on the school bus, Vera tells Audrina to “enjoy her pedestal”, as today will be the last time she can stand on it. After today, Audrina will be “just like the rest of us–not quite so pure anymore.” Audrina realizes that Vera set her up.
She accuses Vera of telling the boys which path she took home from school, and Vera yells back, saying that it’s over and done with and was Audrina’s own fault. After all, how could Vera know that Audrina would disobey Lucky and take the path through the woods home? Damian breaks in and advances toward Vera, saying that he’s heard rumors in the village over the years that someone in the Adare household was the one who betrayed Audrina. He’d always suspected the boy from the village who did their yard work, but of course it was Vera–who else would have motive? “We bred a viper in our midst”, Damian says. Vera starts backing up towards the door now. Lucky had always insisted that Vera was innocent, but it’s too much of a coincidence that those boys would choose Audrina’s birthday to attack her, unless they were tipped off.
Vera screams at Damian that she’s his daughter and he knows it, and she hates him. She’s always hated him, just like she’s always hated Elly. She’s hated every day that she’s lived in Whitefern, and even that check that Damian gave Elly–it wasn’t any good. Even his money isn’t any good! Damian warns her to keep her mouth shut, or she’ll regret it. He remembers, then, that after Audrina was attacked it was Vera who came to him and told him that Arden had been there that day, and had abandoned Audrina. Vera laughed and gloated when she told him, and he’d forgotten until just now. Vera leaps at Damian and screams some more:
“What the hell do I care what you think? You gave me nothing after Audrina was born. You treated me as if I didn’t exist once sweet Audrina came home from the hospital. I was shoved out of the pretty room you’d had fixed up for me, and it was turned into a nursery for her. …Not one kind word did you ever say to me. …I wanted you to love me, and you refused to love anyone except Audrina.” Vera throws herself into Arden’s arms, crying at him to take her away, saying that she isn’t really bad, she just wanted revenge, she just wants to be loved, the kids used to call her Mrs. Glass… It’s too little, too late for Vera, though, and Damian rushes at her, “roaring”. Vera shrieks and tries to run away, but she turns her ankle on the thicker sole of her left shoe and she falls down the spiral stairs that lead up to the cupola. Arden rushes down to her, followed by Audrina, Damian, and Sylvia, and cradles Vera’s head on his lap. “Take me away from here, Arden”, she whispers before blacking out. Arden runs to call and ambulance and Vera is, once again, taken to the hospital.
Audrina lies alone in her room while Arden is at the hospital. He returns hours later, and wants to talk to her about Vera. Almost every bone in Vera’s body was broken in her fall down the stairs, and Vera is dead.
Something in Audrina breaks like my heart, since she had always tried to treat Vera like a sister. She feels sorry for Arden, but she can’t let him dissuade her from what she’s decided to do. Arden tells her that Vera did give them something before she died: she told the police (who were there questioning Arden) that she’d tripped and fallen, that it was her own fault. Given that how many other falls there have been in that house, she really did help them out there, even though she did trip. But Damian was chasing her. Oh it doesn’t matter. Arden makes to get into bed with Audrina, but she tells him to leave her alone while she figures her stuff out. Plus, she reminds him, even if no one pushed Vera, Vera was the one who pushed her. And Aunt Elly, since Audrina’s now remembered hearing the kitchen door closing that morning, and if Billie and Damian had married, Billie would have inherited his money, so there’s Vera’s motive for that one too. Arden leaves. Audrina gets up to go and check on Sylvia, and finds her in the playroom singing. They stare at each other a little bit, then Arden comes in and demands to talk to Audrina. Sylvia gets the hell out of that scene.
Arden tells her that he’s been dreading this day for years, the day that she finds out the truth about his cowardice. See, he was on his way to her party and he was so excited and then the big boys wanted him to hang out and whine whine whine he freaked out and ran and he’s totally sorry and please just forgive me and let’s let it go. Audrina is having none of that, though, since Arden has twice failed to save her from people who wanted to hurt her, and she doesn’t intend to give him a third try.
Coming up: the conclusion of My Sweet Audrina.