Well, hey there everybody!
A quick note about upcoming posts:
Finishing up the Petals recaps is taking top priority. I will not be doing the Christopher’s Diary stuff until after Petals is through.
SO. It’s Paul’s birthday, which means that Cathy is overexerting herself trying to make it perfect, since our girl never met a situation that she couldn’t absolutely fill with nervous energy. She skips ballet in order to get home and start helping Henny (read: getting in the way in the kitchen) with Paul’s Very Fancy Birthday Dinner, featuring a complicated jambalaya recipe and two cakes. Well, it’s one cake, but she has to make two since the first one is a disaster. Henny seems less than impressed by Cathy’s cooking skills. Chris comes in but has a strict timetable as he has to be back at school before curfew, and Cathy leaves him in charge of setting the table (making sure to note that it’s “beneath his dignity” while she goes upstairs to get pretty. I don’t like Chris, but man, Cathy sure doesn’t seem to like him much either, sometimes.
Cathy, being Cathy, goes all out in beauty prep for the party and notes that after she’s done with hair and makeup no one would have known she was seventeen. CATHERINE, NO.
Also: PAUL, YOU KNOW EXACTLY HOW OLD SHE IS. YOU KNOW.
Spoilers, I guess? Ew.
They fuss around with the decorations some more and then settle in to wait for Paul to arrive for his surprise party. Why would these kids ever throw a surprise party?! Paul never shows up and eventually Chris has to leave and Carrie (who now has her own purple and red room!) goes to bed. Cathy sits up with Henny for a while until the housekeeper too turns in. The food is apparently just drying out in the oven this whole time, like…just eat it, guys. Paul doesn’t show up until ten and ohhhh brother, does he walk into the perfect Catherine storm. Now, a couple things first. To be fair to Paul
to be FAIR TO PAUL, he’s been in Chicago at a conference and had no idea that the kids were planning anything. Also, it’s not like he really could have easily called since it’s what, 1965 or something and he’s probably been on a plane this whole time, AND he does seem genuinely upset that he’s ruined a surprise. That’s all the fairness Paul gets.
Oh and he’s only three hours late? It’s 10 pm. Everyone had to go to bed by 10 pm? I mean, Carrie yeah, but everyone else? How long was dinner going to be? Exactly one hour?
Cathy lights into him for being late and for going to the conference at all, noting that she’s covering up how much she loves him and how worried she was by being angry. Oh ew, no, Cathy. Turns out his flight was delayed, but he’s really sorry, and can’t they just enjoy dinner together anyway? So they sit down to eat and there’s champagne and Cathy’s put 26 candles on the cake instead of 42 because she wants Paul to be 26, and Paul’s grown a mustache just because Cathy has been hinting that it might look nice, and then I faint dead away because it’s all so inappropriate and this is a book that ends with siblings getting married. Cathy is faltering just a little in her seductress role and brings up a nurse (Thelma Murkel, the world’s least sexy name) with whom local gossip links Paul. Good ol’Cathy went down to the hospital and lurked around Thelma’s floor for a couple hours staring at her and doesn’t think she’s so great. Cathy…no. You’re industrious, I’ll give you that, but no. Paul laughs at Cathy’s story and she gets emboldened by his reaction (and all the champagne) and thinks smugly that poor old 29-year old Thelma doesn’t stand a chance. Yeah, she’s basically a mummy.
Paul opens his gifts and Cathy, with help from Chris, has made a crewel piece depicting Paul’s house; Paul loves it and raves over it, and Cathy can’t help but remember The Grandmother’s reaction to the piece that they had made for her. She starts to cry a little but hastily covers it up so that Paul won’t realize how much work she put into her appearance. Learned from the best, huh, Cathy? Paul decides that it’s too nice to go to bed yet, so does Cathy want to take a walk in the garden? NO. But of course she does. Paul calls her Cath-er-ine, like Chris does, and asks when Julian is next in town. Next week, is the answer, and Paul pretends that he’s not jealous of how handsome and talented Julian is. Cathy tells him that the time she spends with Julian depends, since sometimes she wants him and sometimes she doesn’t. Paul teases her a little but Cathy goes cold and tells him that she doesn’t want to depend on love or romance; she wants skills that will see her through so that she never has to depend on a man or lock her children away in order to inherit money. Such specific goals.
This is what I do admire about Cathy, though. I don’t always approve of her drama or of her many, many schemes (sitting in a hospital wing for hours? HOURS?) but she works hard at her dancing. I like that the world of ballet isn’t but so romanticized–it’s long, long hours, painful practices, and all with the knowledge that it’s not going to last that long. She is so determined not to end up at all like Corrine, and while she is more like her mother than she wants to admit (or possibly even realizes, at this point in her life), it’s pretty realistic that she’s both eager to experience love and yet extremely wary of the very idea.
But it’s nevertheless completely wrong that she and Paul sleep together. Which is what happens, eventually, here. Paul tells her not to let her feelings towards Corrine make her hard; that women should be soft and caring and let men protect them (I haaaate Paaaaaul) and then she goes off and swings on the swing wildly until she falls off, because it’s Cathy and of course she does. They go inside and Cathy tells Paul that she wanted to get him a Cadillac for his birthday but she couldn’t afford it, so instead he can have her. I got nothing, guys. She’s so confused. She’s so young. Paul is a monster for letting things continue, but he does and suffice it to say that she’s disappointed that it’s not all bells ringing and that she considers it an act of freeing Christopher, which is one of the saddest moments in the book, to me. They never have a chance to disengage from each other, not really, and all they do is hurt themselves trying.
They continue in secret, and Cathy is afraid to even look at Paul when Chris is around since she’s sure he’ll know and she’s worried what he’ll think of her, even though she hates to admit it. Thanksgiving comes, and during one family discussion, Paul asks the trip what they want for Christmas. Cathy already has her wish list all ready: she wants to go to Foxworth Hall. Carrie starts to cry and Chris refuses to “open old wounds”, but Cathy tells him that her wounds are not healed, and won’t be “until justice is done”.
Cathy wants to go and see if there’s any evidence at all of Cory’s death. She’s tired of Chris pretending that Cory died of pneumonia and not arsenic poisoning even though he’s the one who told her that Corrine was poisoning them. Paul points out that if Corrine checked Cory in under a false name that they might not be able to locate the records, but Cathy thinks that Corrine would have used the same name on both the hospital records and the burial records, so they just have to look for a child of the right age. Come on, guys, we all know Corrine never took Cory to the hospital. Paul can probably get access to the records, being a doctor and all, but is Cathy really sure she wants to do this? Of course she is, because it’s a likely terrible idea that she thinks will ultimately help Carrie, so sure she wants to do it. So to Virginia they go, and scour the hospitals, but of course there’s no record of any 8-year old boy dying in that time frame. Chris tries to end the trip without actually seeing Foxworth, but there’s no dissuading Cathy.
They arrive within view of the Hall and Cathy points out all the various landmarks to Paul and is bitterly disappointed that none of their paper flowers caught fire and burned down the house after they escaped (wait for it). Carrie begins to scream and crying, wanting their mother since that’s where they used to live with Momma and Cory, and they’re forced to leave since she’s so upset. Good idea, Cathy, great stuff. Back home, Cathy worries that her relationship with Paul is sinful and wonders why human beings are forced to stifle so much of themselves in the name of sin, but Paul assures her that it’s not; and I respect him reassuring her since she’s been given so many negative connotations to sex, but at the end of the day YOU ARE HER FOSTER DAD and ugh, Paul. Cathy hopes that there can be hope for she and her siblings to heal and grow and find love.
One evening, Cathy is practicing at the studio when Julian shows up and is his usual gropey self before telling her that he’s told Madame Marisha that Cathy is ready to move on to New York and he’s ready to take her there–no strings attached (unless she wants them). Ugh. Cathy gets the leads (Clara and Cinderella) in both of the company’s winter performances and she debuts as Cinderella and is of course amazing. AND, important note, is amazing partnered with Julian. At the after-party Julian raves about their work together and tells her again that she’s ready to come to New York and join his company up there, under the leadership of Madame Zolta. Cathy’s hesitant, since she wants to finish high school first, and asks what Zolta is like. Julian talks her up as a sweet and considerate little old lady, which is, shall we say, not entirely true. Julian asks Cathy what all her hard work has been for, if she’s just going to stay here in this small town. She has to admit that it’s a good question. Cathy agrees to join Julian in New York after she’s graduated.
She graduates in January of 1963 (I do love an actual stated year) and I have no idea why January, but there it is. Cathy asks Paul why he doesn’t mind spending his money on them and he says it’ll be worth it when Chris is a great doctor and Cathy is a famous ballerina. And Carrie…will hopefully marry a nice local man and Paul can see her all the time. Ooof. Poor Carrie. Cathy asks if Paul will go back to Thelma when she’s gone and he’s like “Maybe” which is kind of hilarious but at least he’s honest? He assures Cathy that he’ll never love anyone like he loves her. Carrie responds less than positively, screaming at Cathy that she’d promised they’d all stay together and demanding that Cathy take Carrie with her. She’s only calmed when Paul assures her that he and Henny aren’t going anywhere. At the airport Paul tells Cathy not to have any regrets, but to concentrate on her dancing and, when she does move on, to do so with someone her own age. I concur.
And then it’s time to say goodbye to Chris. They hug and Cathy thinks at him to let her go, that it’s all over now and they’re just siblings to each other, that the world is full of other, non-sister women for him. She knows he gets all that even though she doesn’t say it, and he tells her not to be her usual impulsive self and to concentrate on her dancing. So don’t like, marry anyone in a rush or anything like that. Nothing like that. She gets on the plane with Julian and he chooses that moment to admit that maybe Madame Zolta isn’t the motherly character he painted her as, but that they’re going to be fine and they’ll be the most famous dancers ever in no time. I’m sure it’ll all go swimmingly.
Up next: New York! Dancing, dancing, dancing! Paul’s sister! Cathy is possibly impulsive!