Here we are at long last–it’s Petals on the Wind, y’all!
Our story picks up almost immediately after Cathy, Chris, and Carrie escaped from the attic and hopped a bus to Florida. It’s November of 1960, Cathy tells us, so somewhere out there I like to think a certain Miss Ruby Landry is just starting her own wacky adventures. Even though they’re free the kids can’t quite relax, they’re too scared and uncertain, and poor little Carrie just curls up on Cathy’s lap and gets sicker and sicker. Chris keeps trying to reassure Cathy that everything is going to work out but she’s too focused on getting her revenge one day. There’s that Catherine single-mindedness we all love! Just as they pass into South Carolina Carrie throws up all over herself. Oh cripes, Carrie. Cathy has some napkins in her bag so she cleans her sister up, then hands her to Chris so that Cathy can clean up the floor. When she’s done she tries to stuff the napkins into the seat crevice (nice, guys) since the window won’t open, but the bus driver sees her and yells at them. She ends up sticking them into one of her bags (ew) but Carrie is getting worse and Chris thinks she’s going into shock. One of the other passengers starts to bitch about the smell and it’s clear that the bus driver doesn’t know what to do. They still have a few hours to Sarasota and Cathy doesn’t want to lose the money that they paid for the tickets. Which…is fair, but also slightly cold? While they’re trying to figure out a plan, one of the other passengers, an older woman, gets up and comes back to check on Carrie. The woman (Henny) can’t speak, though she can hear, and she gives Cathy some rags to help with the clean up and writes them a note telling them that Carrie needs a doctor and, coincidentally! her “doctor-son”, who is an awesome doctor, will take care of her.
Can you feel it? That creeping feeling of creep? It’s Dr. Paul. He’s coming.
While this is going on some of the other riders are yelling at the bus driver to get Carrie off the bus and to a hospital, but he’s worried about going off of his route because he needs his job. Henny goes up to the front with a note threatening that Carrie’s family will sue him and the bus company if he doesn’t take Carrie to the doctor. He gives in eventually and is directed to the city of Clairmont and into a neighborhood of big fancy houses. The trio isn’t convinced that Henny’s led them to the right place, but she seems pretty positive so they get off of the bus and collect their things. They walk up to one fancy house in particular and see a man sleeping in a chair on the porch. Henny goes up to him and tries to wake him up, motioning to the kids as she does so. Cathy notices a “For Patients Only” sign on a set of doors and guesses that he’s a doctor who has offices in his house (way to go, Cathy) and she and Chris whisper back and forth about who gets to wake him up. Cathy gets the honor.
How different could things have been if Chris had decided to be the one who woke Paul up? Instead of him imprinting on Cathy like a creepy little duck maybe he just would’ve wanted to be BFFs with his new foster son? I’m just sayin’, is all.
So Paul wakes up and gives the trio a once-over (focusing waaaaay too much on Cathy) but leaps to doctorly attention when he sees the state Carrie’s in.
Aw man. Okay, wait, he’s right, I am. So Paul doesn’t just give Cathy a once-over, he flat out checks her out. Face then legs then chest then face again then hair. It’s gross. THEN when Chris busts into the moment and demands to know if he’s the doctor, Paul snaps out of it and starts examining Carrie. So gross, this guy.
Chris explains that Carrie’s been unconscious for a few minutes and that Henny (who Paul notes is his housekeeper and cook) brought them to Paul’s house. Paul leads them to his offices and tells them to undress Carrie in one of the examination rooms. He gives her a quick physical then leaves her to sleep while he talks to her siblings. Cathy decides that the best immediate course of action is to take off the three outer layers of extra clothes she’s wearing until she’s down to one nice dress. Smooth. Paul is…shall we say, taken aback and asks if she always wears that many clothes or only on Sundays. “Only on the Sundays I run away” is her response, noting that they only have two suitcases and need the room for things that they could pawn. Cripes Cathy.
Paul naturally assumes that they’re running away for the usual kid reasons, like they were denied some treat or other, but all Chris will say is that it’s a long story (you THINK) and that Carrie’s the important thing now. Agreeing, Paul tells them that Carrie is very sick and if it wasn’t a Sunday he would already have her in the hospital for testing. I’m…99% sure that hospitals admit emergency patients on Sundays, even in 1960. It’s just this thing I think I know. He suggests that they call their parents. Chris tells him that they’re orphans but that they have money. Paul’s like yeah, you’ll need it because Carrie will likely need to be the hospital for several weeks in order to ascertain what’s wrong. C&C are rightfully terrified and Paul gets all snarky and asks if they’re still orphans. Oh bite me, Paul. Chris gives Cathy a “Don’t say a word” look and tells Paul that yeah, they’re still orphans, so just tell them about Carrie! Paul wants to ask them a few questions first, like what their last name is. Chris introduces them as Dollangangers and defensively says that while Carrie may be small for her age, she’s eight years old. Paul’s had enough of this though and lays it out: Carrie is really sick and if they want her to get help then they have to be honest with him. Chris and Cathy are too scared to tell him their back story though, so he gives in and asks innocuous questions about how frequently Carrie’s thrown up and what her last meal was. (breakfast of hotdogs with everything, chocolate milkshakes, and french fries, living large) Chris is vague about how long Carrie’s been sick and Cathy’s getting more angry by the second, realizing that Chris will still protect Corrine no matter what. Paul starts laying out a few truths about how sick they all look yet they’re wearing super expensive clothes and jewelry and he notices how angry Cathy is and turns the questioning to her. It’s the right move because Cathy lets it all go. Cathy gives a fairly good recounting of the trio’s adventures and tells Paul about the arsenic-covered donuts. She insists that he can’t’ call the police because then they’ll all be separated and they tell Paul about the plan to go to Florida and work in the circus. Paul does NOT laugh in their face but instead offers to let them live with him while they’re undergoing medical treatment. Mmmm HMMMMM He makes his voice get more Southern and Cathy buys it entirely, until, that is, he mentions that while Chris can earn his keep by working in the garden, Cathy can help Henny cook. Cathy gets pissed OFF and bursts out that she’s going to be a prima ballerina, not some man’s cook and baby-maker, and Paul’s like ooookay so you’re going to be a ballerina and Chris is going to be a doctor and you’re going to accomplish this by moving to Florida? Cathy and Chris are won over by this logic and the Dollangangers move in with this strange man they literally just met.
So about Paul. Now, obviously, there are DARK SECRETS about Paul that are going to be revealed over the course of the book and I don’t want to get TOO spoiler-y, but can we all agree that he’s starting off rough? He ogles a fifteen-year old girl and then invites her to live with him. I will grant that his desire to help them is genuine and he does develop legitimate fatherly feelings towards Chris and Carrie, but his entire relationship with Cathy is just inappropriate from the get. Plus, he’s always trying to give her “motherly” chores regarding Carrie, like telling an unhappy Carrie (when they go shopping and can’t find purple and red clothes for little girls) that Cathy will sew her some. Say what? I am perfectly willing, however, to acknowledge that my opinion of Dr. Paul is almost entirely predicated on what I know about him, so I’ll swallow that for now and move this along.
PS HE IS SO NOT A WIDOWER
They move in and Paul gives Cathy and Carrie a room to share with twin beds and the first night the older Cs have a hard time parting, since, to be fair, it’s the first time they’ve slept in separate rooms in almost four years. Chris is worried that Paul will suspect something but Cathy assures him (albeit maybe a little weakly) that there’s nothing to suspect because it’s over. Carrie can’t sleep alone in the twin bed, so Paul and Chris have to push the beds together to make one large bed before she can sleep. As time passes though, Cathy tells us, the space between the beds gets bigger and bigger. Aww Carrie. However, that first night, Cathy wakes up at midnight and goes down the hall to Chris’s room and gets into bed with him, asking him just to let her lie there for a minute or two until she feels better. Naturally they start making out. You guys. Chris, of course, blames Cathy for coming to his room in the first place (“What do you think I’m made of? Steel?” UGH) and she goes back and cries in her own bed. Oh boy. Dr. Paul buys Cathy some ballet art for her walls and gets Carrie a red vase with some plastic violets in it (let’s all assume that looked better in person than it sounds) and tells them that they can decorate however they want and that they can get the room repainted in the spring. Cathy is awkward about this, since they’re not planning to be there come spring, they’re planning on being healthier and getting out of there, but when she voices this Dr. Paul gives her a guilt trip and Carrie glares at her so boy oh boy this family has a lot going on.
Paul takes Carrie to the hospital and she makes up stories about the tests and whatnot to her siblings, who have to remind her that while they never lie to each other, they don’t tell outsiders about their life in the attic. Carrie admits that she told Paul about Cory, and he subsequently questions Chris and Cathy about Cory’s illness and death. He tells them he gave the hospital a cover story (about how the three took arsenic by accident, so they must think these kids are brilliant) and he tells the pair that while Carrie is going to be fine, she probably shouldn’t join the circus and he has to examine the two of them as well. What we get from the examination scene are the following two pieces of information:
1. Cathy notes that, in his professional capacity, Paul’s eyes don’t “follow her around”. Gross
2. Cathy hasn’t had her period in over two months, though she assures him that she’s never been regular. (This is important later, I promise)
The kids get more used to being at Paul’s house, putting on weight from Henny’s cooking, and Chris dealing with Paul taking his place as head of the household (ew, but also understandable). Moving along, it’s now Chris’s 18th birthday and Paul throws him a nice party that makes he and Cathy feel ever more guilty since they still plan to leave. Chris and Cathy sit together after the party and Cathy can tell that Chris doesn’t want to leave, namely because he won’t be able to become a doctor otherwise, but Chris has caught onto the whole “Paul stares at Cathy all the time” thing and is pretty much against that. Cathy finds it secretly “fascinating” that men Paul’s age are into younger women (YOU ARE FIFTEEN YEARS OLD STOP IT) and is like “Oh but doctors have tons of nurses around to bang, so he won’t bother with me”. That is…so faulty. and weird. Now, I get that with her brain trained on revenge, Cathy is likely to find things like “Oh I could control men like my mother does” interesting, but it’s just uncomfortable how naive she is versus how calculating she wants to be. Chris decides that they should test Paul: tell him that they’re leaving and see what he does to stop them and that way determine if he really wants them to stay there or if he’s just helping them because he thinks he should. They decide to do this the following evening as they’re sitting on the porch with Paul after dinner. Cathy asks Paul if Henny knitted the sweater he’s wearing and he explains that, no, the sweater was a birthday gift from his sister, Amanda, who mailed it to him from across town. She didn’t give it to him in person because she hasn’t spoken to him in 13 years, not since his wife and son died in an accident. RED. FLAG. KIDS.
Chris starts to tell Paul that while they’re grateful and will pay him back, but Paul cuts him off and says that he’s seen this coming and has been afraid every morning that they would be gone. He’s looked into becoming their legal guardian, which would involve proof that their father is dead AND the consent of their mother. This is not good news for them. However, he’s careful to note when he sees how upset Cathy is, the court will notify Corrine and give her three weeks to come to a hearing. If she doesn’t come, then Paul will get custody. Cathy’s all then you will definitely get custody because she’s not going to come, but will you really want that? Paul has a nice speech about how lonely he’s been since his family died and how maybe it was fate that Henny was on that bus, and while this wins Cathy over for the most part, Chris points out that Paul would probably have a hard time getting married again with three random kids attached to him. Paul doesn’t want to get married again (BIGAMY BEING A FELONY AND ALL SPOILER ALERT) and he mentions that his wife’s name was Julia and his son’s Scotty. Cathy asks if they died in a car accident like her dad and Paul says it was an accident, but not in a car. MMM HMMMMMMMMM. Paul points out how hard life will be for them if they leave and they think on it, but the decision is made by Carrie, who after all, is a little kid who doesn’t really care about education and dance classes but just wants to stay with this guy who has actually cared about her. And that’s totally fair. Of course, Paul ruins this lovely moment for the readers by assuring Carrie that he’s always wanted a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes AND LOOKS AT CATHY OVER CARRIE’S HEAD.
I told you.
Next we get what would be a great montage if the Petals movie wasn’t going to skip all of this not that I care or anything, of Paul taking the kids shopping at Christmas. Paul and Cathy take Carrie to get clothes while Chris goes to the men’s department, but he comes running back when Carrie lets out one of her signature screams. See, the girls’ department doesn’t have clothes in her favorite colors of purple and red, just in pastels, and she begs Cathy not to make her wear baby dresses. Paul tries some weak “Oh but I like pastels on little girls, you can wear those brighter colors when you’re older” but Carrie ain’t buyin’ it and is about to let another scream go when another customer suggests that Carrie could have her clothing custom-made. This is when Paul volunteers Cathy, like, dude, you’re a big rich doctor. Hire that shit out. Come on. Cathy is pretty appalled at that and so, hilariously, is Carrie, who notes that “Cathy don’t know how to make good clothes”. Chris points out that Carrie’s being unfair, as Cathy can do anything she sets her mind to, and Cathy keeps quiet as Paul buys a sewing machine (but no fabric or thread or patterns or buttons) and makes a crack about how Cathy can sew her own clothes too. Why is everyone suddenly giving Cathy such a hard time? Chris continues the trend when she buys makeup and high heels and I admire her restraint for not smacking either of those tools.
At home, Cathy puts on one of her new dresses for dinner and thinks about how much more these new clothes mean than the ones they used to get at Foxworth Hall. Those past clothes were always fancy and expensive, but were just symbols of Corrine’s guilt. This line of thought moves to thinking about Cory, and how Corrine’s greed killed him, and then suddenly Cathy remembers that Bart Winslow is from South Carolina. She runs downstairs to look at an atlas and learns that Bart’s hometown of Greenglenna is Clairmont’s sister city. Fate indeed. Cathy realizes that Corrine will likely be in Greenglenna at some point in the future and that, with Cathy’s new allowance, she can afford to get a subscription of the paper that covers the society doings near Foxworth Hall, giving her access to Corrine’s comings and goings. I really wish she’d set up one of those obsession walls that people always have on TV. You know?
Am I trying to figure out how to make one in MS Paint? Yes, yes I may be.
As the weeks till the hearing move on, Paul is tutoring Chris so that he can enter a special pre-med program and Paul decides to send Carrie to a private school where he’s on the board of trustees, so that they can be sure she’ll be taken care of and not harassed for being small and different.
Wait…Paul. You’re sending the little girl with attachment issues and trust issues and screaming issues to a private boarding school away from the only family she has, the family from whom she couldn’t bear to sleep in a separate bed? And you’re on the board of trustees for a girls’ boarding school? What, just because?
Paul is the Yellow King.
Surprising absolutely no one, Corrine doesn’t show at the hearing and Paul is granted custody. That night, Cathy cries into her pillow, having held back in the courtroom, crying for the days when Chris the Elder was alive and they were all so happy and loved. She cries for Cory, which makes her stop, hardened by thoughts of revenge. She decides that this year she’ll send Corrine a Christmas card and sign it “The three alive Dresden dolls you didn’t want, plus the dead one you carried away and never brought back”. Maybe streamline that one a bit, Cathy, just maybe a little? She gets up and goes out to the veranda, where she finds Chris. They hug and he tells her that he kept hoping that their mother would show up at the hearing with a “reasonable explanation”. Christopher. What??? Cathy speaks for us all with a “A reasonable excuse for murder? How could she dream up one clever enough? She’s not that smart.” HA. Then they make out again. YOU GUYS. Chris tries to get Cathy to come to his room and she tells him that they can’t make their parents’ mistakes and that they have to learn to love other people. Cathy realizes, though, that Chris can’t let himself love anyone else and that it’s up to her to end this, even if it hurts him. YES. Exactly this, good work, Cathy! Although she after she goes to bed that night she can hear him calling her (oh good they’re telepathic now) and goes back to his room where she gets in bed with him again. And once again she runs off after Chris insists that there will only ever be the two of them for each other, now and forever. Cathy wonders why she went to Chris’s room at all (and so do we) and tries to reassure herself that she’s not evil like Olivia always said. She’s not!
And on that pleasant note, so ends Part I. Coming up in Part II: Dancing! More dancing! Paul starts to wonder if maybe Chris and Cathy have a slightly weird relationship! Madame Marisha! And, because we needed more creeps: JULIAN.
See you then!
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True Detective picture from http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/true-detective-best-moments