Part II starts with a time jump. Yes really. Another year goes by, ostensibly full of barre exercises, reading lessons, and awkward gazing. As do all of our years, right? Chris and Cathy have started laying out on the attic roof between the corner where two wings meets and they can’t be seen (though they’re careful only to do it when the servants are off) in order to get sunshine and air, but the twins freak right the hey out when their siblings try to take them out too, so no Vitamin D for them. Oh and they’re likely doing this naked because Cathy telling us about the roof visits is immediately followed by the admission that they’re not being as careful about modesty and the rules as they should be. Cathy realizes that she’s a teenager and has no idea what a naked woman looks like, so one day while Chris and the twins are in the attic she strips and starts to do ballet positions in front of the mirror. Sure, okay.
Naturally she feels the prickly sense of creep on the back of her neck and there’s Chris in the shadows watching her. Oh boy. Part II just goes right for it, huh? There’s a lot of super inappropriate once-overs and Cathy’s not sure how to react because she doesn’t want to seem like a prude and have Chris make fun of her. BOUNDARIES. BOUND. A. RIES. You’re allowed to grab a towel! You’re allowed to yell at him! I just…I…okay. I know I’ve talked about this before and I honestly don’t want this to become the “Megan preaches about power dynamics” blog, but this is the shit that makes me wince when I read someone’s search query about when Chris and Cathy “make love” in this book. I will grant that in later books their relationship changes a bit (though it’s never really any healthier, even setting aside the whole SIBLINGS aspect) but in this first book it is all Chris-is-a-creeper, all the time. Cathy thinks that it’d be depriving Chris of something if she covers herself up! Yes, she gets into it eventually (argh what a sentence) but she’s still scared of the grandmother, scared of what’s happening, and even scared of Chris a little and yet she STILL feels like she’s the bad guy for shutting this down. You’re not, Cathy.
OKAY SORRY MOVING ALONG
Cathy holds her dress up in front of herself, Chris wonders aloud how she’s gotten so pretty, and then OF COURSE the Grandmother walks in. This won’t be good. Olivia starts hissing about sinners and hellfire and asks Cathy how many times she’s let Chris “use” her body GAH and naturally Cathy has no idea what that means (though it’s clear from his blushing that Chris does). Olivia starts fixating on Cathy’s pretty hair (uh oh) and Chris stands up for them, denying that they’ve done anything wrong and calling Olivia the wicked one for always assuming the worst, grossest things. Olivia storms out then, but both of the big kids know that it’s not over. The twins come downstairs to watch TV while their siblings wait for the door to open again. Sure enough, Olivia comes back, but not with the whip that Cathy was expecting–with a giant pair of scissors.
Olivia orders Cathy to come to her, saying that she’s going to cut off all of Cathy’s hair as punishment for her pride. Cathy is horrified, both because she loves her hair and has been growing it since her father said that he liked it, and because she’s had numerous nightmares about this very thing. And because her crazy grandmother is wielding giant scissors, that must be pretty scary too. Chris threatens Olivia with one of the chairs, telling her that she’s not touching a hair on Cathy’s head. Olivia is less than impressed and gives them an ulitimatum: Cathy loses the hair or else no food or milk for a week. Cathy tries to plead that the twins haven’t done anything wrong and that Chris didn’t walk in on her on purpose (HA) so Cathy alone should be punished without food. Besides, there’s no way that Corrine will let this happen anyway, right? Cathy doesn’t have a lot of faith in her mother, though, since Corrine hasn’t visited in ages AND her visits have been further and further apart anyway. Mother of the Century.
Olivia isn’t here for Cathy’s arguments and just repeats her terms: Chris cuts off Cathy’s hair or else none of them eat for a week. Chris refuses and Olivia leaves, putting the scissors up on the dresser. Chris tries to cheer his sister up, reminding her that they have some food squirreled away in the attic and that they can save what they’d already been given for today. That night Cathy has a succession of awful nightmares and she wakes up to discover that her head has been covered in tar. Yeah. You read that right. Her HEAD has been COVERED in HOT TAR. Good lord, Olivia. Once Chris has calmed Cathy down from her justified freak out they put the pieces together: Olivia’d snuck in while they were sleeping, stuck Cathy with a needle full of something to knock her out, then gathered all of her hair on top of her head and poured the tar over it. Who the hell just has tar?? This is some fucked up stuff, I’m sorry. I mean…damn. C & C calm lil’ C & C down and send them off to watch TV while Chris attempts to do something about this whole mess. Cathy sits in the tub all day while Chris pours various things into the water (at one point encouraging her to pee in it since the ammonia might help oh my GOD) while the twins whisper twinly in a corner and eventually he’s able to get the tar out, though it takes lots of Cathy’s hair with it and what’s left is brittle and almost-white.
The grandmother doesn’t come back, though. To try and trick her in case she checks on them, Chris cuts off the front of Cathy’s hair and they hide the rest in a scarf, hoping that Olivia will just assume that Cathy’s embarrassed, but she never comes and their food starts to run out. Not only is there no food incoming, Olivia also stops bringing soap and clean linens and toilet paper, leading the kids to resort to using pages torn from books. Naturally then the toilet backs up, though they do manage to fix it. These poor kids, man. They drink water from the sink and sleep most of the days in order to stave off the hunger, but eventually Chris is forced to feed the twins his own blood. I MEAN COME ON. That’s intense. I don’t care for Christopher, I don’t think that’s a secret, but damn, that’s love right there. I still don’t want to read a book from his POV though. Cathy refuses to drink the blood and the two of them decide that when the moment’s right, they’ll each tie a twin to themselves and try to make it out of the windows. In order to gain strength for this, Chris skins the mice that they’ve caught in their traps and leaves to get salt and pepper, with Cathy remaining with the twins. But! When Chris comes back to the attic, he’s got food! Lots of food too, milk and soup and sandwiches, AND, surprise surprise, four powdered sugar donuts. Cathy is amazed that Olivia would give them sweets, but wonders if it’s her way of making amends. Yeah… not so much with that.
As they’re feeding the twins, Cathy comes to the realization that while she and Chris were just playing house with the twins before this ordeal, that’s all changed now. She and Chris are the twins’ parents, in every way that matters, especially since it now seems clear that Corrine doesn’t care about them. It appears that Chris knows this too, having even put away the picture of Corrine that he’d kept beside his bed. (UGH CHRIS) When they head back downstairs they discover that Olivia has smashed all of their mirrors. Such dramatics, Olivia. Days go by and their food, including donuts, comes regularly again. The twins are obviously not ever going to be the same, but Cathy tries to keep everyone’s spirits up. One night after the twins are asleep, Chris suggests to Cathy that the two of them try to sneak out and go swimming in the nearby lake that Corrine had once mentioned.
If you can leave the attic, THEN GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. I know the twins flip out when you try to take them on the roof, but come ON. Going swimming, I swear to god. (although, from the trailers, it seems like this scene is going to be in the new movie, so that’s cool. Details!)
ANYHOW. So they make it down and go swimming in their underwear (Chris is maybe ever so slightly disappointed that they’re not skinny-dipping), then they have a long talk about fireflies and their parents and love at first sight and Cathy checks out Chris’s legs (STOP THAT) and eventually the conversation turns to where Chris thinks their mother might be. He obviously doesn’t want to talk about it and gets irritated when Cathy wants to know if he still loves Corrine. He says that he does, and that he still has faith that she’s coming back. Oh Chris. Cathy’s unimpressed and decides they should go back. On the way back they realize that this little jaunt has given them back some hope and Cathy points out that this means that they don’t have to wait for their mother and can leave at any time. THANK you. Chris doesn’t want to talk about that. Of course. So they head back up their rope of sheets and because they were just talking about hope and escaping, that’s Cathys’ cue to slip and lose her footing as she’s making her way back up, and though she makes it up in the end, she’s (understandably) shaken. Lord know we can’t have too much hope.
One day a bit later Chris and Cathy are hanging out in their bedroom while it’s rainy and gross outside. Chris is looking out of the window, which isn’t allowed, and Cathy is daydreaming about her perfect future, which involves a lot of emerald bathtubs and ballet dancing. Cool cool. Cathy wants to know why, since they’re stronger now, they don’t try to leave, but Chris doesn’t want to hear it. We find out that Corrine has been MIA for two months. Chris asks Cathy where she’d most like to go and then rants a little about all of the rules they have to live under, and how the only thing that keeps him going sometimes is thinking about the money. Cathy’s like “There is no amount of money worth all of this” and Chris bitches at her that while she might be able to get by on her talent, HE has to go to med school and that costs MONEY, which, your little brother and sister were drinking your BLOOD two weeks ago, maybe money isn’t everything? He wants to know how exactly he’s supposed to support all of them if they run away and Cathy insists she’ll help, and Chris gets in a nasty bit of “What can you do, worthless girl” before Olivia walks in and demands that he get away from the window. He yells at her and they have some words, where she tells him that she hates his name because it was the name of the man who stole her daughter and Chris the Elder and Corrine’s actions were what caused Malcolm’s heart problems; Chris doesn’t care and calls her a hypocrite, then she leaves. Cathy rightfully notes that this can’t possibly end well and Chris points out that since Olivia is scared of the attic, they’ll just hide there. Oh but she’s back already, with a switch, and tells him that if they hide in the attic she’ll starve them again, then whip them all.
Chris allows her to whip him so that she’ll leave the others alone, but when Cathy can’t stop screaming Olivia comes over and demands that she strip and get whipped too. Cathy does so, but not before warning her grandmother that a time will come when she is just as helpless as Cathy is now, and Cathy will have the power.
Oh hey, there you are. So Olivia beats Cathy and it’s terrible and she passes out, and when she wakes up Chris has sent the twins up to the attic to play and he and Cathy take care of each other’s injuries. And then they make out a little. Yeah. Cathy stops it before anything really unfortunate can happen and swears that nothing ever will, though she’s not 100% confident about that. Noooo Cathy, you can do it! That night she dreams about Sleeping Beauty and finding her prince and thinks that there has to be some other prince for her.
One that’s not her brother.
Thank y’all again for 2013! Have a very Merry Christmas if that’s your thing, and a very Happy Holidays if it’s not.
OMG YOU GUYS IT’S ALMOST TIME FOR THE NEW MOVIE. As a bonus, here’s a screencap I took of the ’80s version, which I apparently titled “holyshitahouse”. Oh me.
Coming up: Cory gets a pet! Chris finally sasses Corrine! Chris hates makeup! Carrie…is around! AND GUYS SALLY DRAPER IS CATHY DOLLANGANGER
See you then!