"Thank God I had Paul to escape to," Cathy gushes. "And I wasn't going to let Julian take the joy from this Christmas. For this was the time Paul and I had agreed to announce our engagement, and the only person who could ruin my happiness now was Chris." AND HE WILL.
What did Andrews give her readers this Christmas? A gift montage! Oh, Ginny, how did you know?
To everyone, from Paul: an enormous cabinet color TV, so that they can watch Cathy perform the televised Nutcracker in color.
Ostensibly in honor of Cathy, yet something the whole family can enjoy year-round! A gift that keeps on giving. I applaud you, sir! A+.
To Cathy, from Chris: a gold heart locket with a tiny diamond in the lid, plus some bad poetry. Chris makes a point of telling her he paid for it with money earned from bussing tables between classes at Harvard or Princeton or whatever Old Ivy school is saddled with his bottomless creepitude.
I give you gold with a diamond that you can barely seeThat is . . . not quite as creepy as your usual displays of affection, Christopher, but it's not as purely innocent as throwing her a buttercup in memory of your daddy. Also you rhymed "see" with "sea" and used "you" and "thee" to refer to the same person in the same sentence, which is so not on. C+ .
But the gem would be castle-sized if it expressed all that I feel for thee.
I give you gold because it endures, and love like the eternal sea.
To Carrie, from Cathy: a red velvet princess-styled dress.
Cathy claims to have gone through "every shop in New York" to find a dress that would fit Carrie, although I'm sure that's hyperbolic, given the number of shops in NYC. Also, Carrie's thirteen or fourteen here, but she loves the dress and is later shown hugging it in her sleep, so I'll give you an A for effort, minus a letter-grade for forgetting age-appropriateness, leaving you with a solid B.
To Chris, from Cathy: an ugly-ass handmade sweater.
See me after class.
(On second thought, the hideous blue turtleneck Chris wears on the stepback cover might be the Christmas sweater from this scene. Sorry for bashing your fashion sense in that entry, Chris. I should have known it was Cathy's fault.)
To Cathy, from Paul: a grey fox coat, for New York winters.
It's a swank gift, but I'm going to go with Chris and say this is the sort of present a man gets his mistress, not his ward. On the other hand, it is a gift of impeccable taste and practicality, although I'm still wondering what's Paul's yearly take-home if he can afford a fur coat AND a new color TV in the 1960s. I'm giving it a provisional B-.
Over the course of this chapter, Chris has either three or four incidents of pure creepy jealousy. I'm unclear on the precise number because Cathy and Chris have two conversations that are essentially identical. To wit, they have the same argument they've had every other chapter since the beginning of the book: Chris is all "you're mine,there is no one else for me " and Cathy is all "no, it's over, go find another girl" and Chris is all "WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS DEFY ME, WOMAN?" This conversation has happened nine hundred times since the book began and no new insights have come of it, yet the author feels we either haven't gotten the point or we're not yet tired of it. For ease of reviewing, I am going to combine these two scenes, so those of you reading along at home will notice the divergence.
Incident One: When Cathy opens Paul's gift, Chris storms out of the room, stomps off upstairs, and slams the door, no doubt to brood like a Cullen over his unrequited love.
The second incident comes when they're all watching Cathy's pre-recorded performance of The Nutcracker on their new TV set. Chris makes a snarky remark that Julian and Cathy are a little too passionate on stage together and that Cathy needs to "turn that guy off, and quick!"
I . . . I think I need my bullet points.
- Chris is getting jealous of a televised performance of his sister's role in a piece of classic theater.
- The Nutcracker is a tame children's fantasy where the romantic subplot is very innocent and idealized, and he's still suggesting Cathy was too sexy. God help us if she ever does Salomé.
- This is an almost textbook example of a man trying to control a woman's sexuality in all ways.
- Chris's attempts to control Cathy's sexuality is what led to him raping her in the attic: he saw that she was attracted to a man that wasn't him and used sex both to punish her for straying and to "ruin" her for this potential rival.
- From his very language, he's implying that Cathy "turned Julian on" and that it is now her job to turn him off again, even though the sexual interest is all one-sided on Julian's part and Cathy has expressed time and again that she wants nothing to do with him.
- Again, the idea that a woman who turns a man on is then responsible for turning him off is Chris's attitude toward his attraction to Cathy. He's not responsible, y'all! He can't control himself! She's just too damn hot!
- . . . . and then we recall that Chris fixates on Cathy because she looks like their mother and oops, there goes my lunch.
Chris comes up with an amazing litany of reasons why the marriage is a bad idea, trying to couch them as concern for Cathy while damning himself with every word. Paul is too old for her (quoth Chris); he will be "old and dried up sexually" just as Cathy reaches her sexual peak; she'd be better off with Julian rather than such an old man (remember this last part, as it will come back to haunt us later). Besides, if Cathy doesn't plan on having children, then it doesn't matter who she marries, so she might as well marry Chris, right? As if the potential for genetic mutation is the only thing keeping her from marrying him.
Cathy counters this argument with the baffling accusation that Chris has no right to judge her relationship with Paul since Chris slept with Ho-Bag Yolanda. I wasn't even aware that Chris had been in the same room with Yolanda, and a quick skim-through reveals that this is not some scene I simply overlooked. But the logic here, I assume, is "how dare you question my judgement when you're obviously so misguided that you sleep with avowed ho-bags?" Or perhaps "how dare you accuse me of being a ho-bag when you don't seem to judge other ho-bags for their ho-baggage!" Or even "at least I'm not as big a ho-bag as the ho-bags you sleep with!" Cathy of course is not a ho-bag, because she only sleeps around out of love.
|You're one or the other, so you might as well pick!|
Cathy heads back to New York to prepare for her upcoming performance in Romeo and Juliet. If you've ever seen professional ballet up close, it is an ugly, ugly business, and Andrews nails it: Julian and Cathy, exhausted, frustrated, dripping sweat all over each other, are at each other's throats after practicing the same routine for hours. Julian screams that Cathy can't do anything right; Cathy counters that Julian's being too rough with her and lifts her arms to show him how her armpits have been rubbed raw with lifting. Other than the dialogue, which is classic Andrews hokum, this is probably one of the most strongly written scenes in the entire book. Don't say I never said anything nice about this series.
This short scene is significant for reasons other than the atypically vivid writing. A few days ago, Cathy tells us, Julian tripped her, causing her to hurt her knee. Now she can't trust him enough to go limp when she leaps into his arms. This single small mention will develop into a chronic knee condition that will last for the next two books. While the bad knee keeps cropping up, the origin of the injury is very underplayed. In fact, I only just found this one sentence during this read-through. For years I thought Cathy's knee injury was another one of those scenes Andrews didn't bother to tell us about. Looks like I was wrong.
We skip ahead to opening night. Naturally, she and Julian are terrific and sensational and in all ways perfect.
After curtain-call, Cathy dashes to her dressing room, where a strange, elegant woman woman waits for her. The woman introduces herself as Paul's estranged sister Amanda, whom we know only from a throwaway line two hundred pages ago. Cathy instantly knows she means trouble, and she's right. Amanda denounces Cathy as the latest in Paul's long history of very young mistresses dating back to Poor Damn Julia.
Cathy shouts back, "I know about Julia! He's told me. If she drove him to others, I don't blame him; she wasn't a real wife; she was a housekeeper, a cook--not a wife!" Um. Honey? Did you and I hear the same story? Because in the one I heard, the only way she "drove him to others" was when she asked him politely to stop raping her.
Amanda agrees with me. Julia was a wonderful woman, she says, whose only sin was murdering her own son, and even that can be forgiven because Paul drove her insane. Now the entire town (I'm assuming Paul's hometown, not New York; New York wouldn't give a shit) is talking about how the good doctor knocked up the underaged girl he adopted. OMG CARRIE?!
No no no, of course it's Cathy. Amanda claims that the hospital records state that Cathy's bleeding-on-her-feet was actually a miscarriage and that Cathy had an abortion to remove a two-headed, three-legged fetus that Paul now keeps in a jar on his desk. Which doesn't sound like the most sensitive thing to display openly at a family practice, but okay, whatever, my dentist has a display of misshapen human teeth in her office.*
Cathy, naturally, flips out. One of her greatest fears after Chris raped her was that God might punish them with a "monster baby." Moreover, she's actually seen this fetus in Paul's office and knows Amanda is telling the truth.
While Cathy's stunned speechless, Amanda delivers the knock-out punch: Cathy can't marry Paul because Julia is still alive. She gives Cathy photos of a withered Julia lying in a hospital bed hooked to machines, trapped in a vegative state but still very much alive and still Paul's legal wife.
All in all, this scene is fucking awesome. It's everything an Andrews novel should be: melodramatic, gruesome, morbid, lives ruined, dreams shattered, all topped off with a living dead woman and a two-headed baby in a jar. The only thing I wish is that we'd had a little more build-up with Amanda, since her brief mention two hundred pages ago was perhaps too little to establish her in the readers' memory, but once she came on the scene . . . wow. Stone-cold, girlfriend.
As soon as Amanda leaves, Cathy all but breaks her ankle getting to the telephone so that she can have a calm, mature discussion with Paul about all the things she's just been told. Paul quickly reassures her that Amanda's just trolling. Cathy hangs up, her love for Paul stronger than ever.
. . . nah, I'm kidding. She doesn't talk to Paul. She just marries Julian first thing the next morning.
NO. REALLY. SHE UP AND MARRIES THE GUY SHE DOESN'T TRUST ENOUGH TO PICK HER UP AND CARRY HER ACROSS A STAGE.
CATHY WE SERIOUSLY NEED TO FIND YOU A SASSY GAY FRIEND** OR SOMETHING BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE WORST DECISION-MAKING SKILLS I HAVE EVER SEEN IN ANYONE OVER THE AGE OF TEN OR WHO WAS NOT CURRENTLY ON METH.
Immediately after the wedding--as in immediately, as in the luggage is strapped to the roof of a cab with the meter running while they say "I do"--the dance troupe flies to London to perform with the Royal Ballet. At no point are we told that Cathy might have clued Paul in on the little change in wedding plans.
Short tangent: Andrews' writing suffers from severe claustrophobia. It presents a desperately narrow world-view that lacks any larger context than Andrews' own limited experience, and again, implies that the only experience is interior experience, which could explain why some Andrews' girls seem so damn self-centered. Recently I re-read Ruby (I'm not sure why), and noticed one of the critical differences between Neiderman's writing and Andrews': when a Neiderman heroine goes somewhere, the narrative provides us with some establishing topical details. Ruby wanders through the French Quarter admiring the beautiful 18th century homes, the grey Spanish moss hanging from the live oaks, the music coming out of open doorways, the wrought-iron fence railings. When she eats a gourmet meal, she describes crawfish etoufee and shrimp po'boys. In contrast, when Heaven goes to her first restaurant, the most imaginative dish on the menu is plain roast beef and chocolate pudding.
Similarly, when Cathy goes to London, the only detail she provides is that the plumbing sucks. We don't even find out what ballet the troupe performs, only that Cathy played the lead and was, as usual, perfect.
In London, Julian displays textbook abusive-husband symptoms, up to and including following her into the bathroom, which he sees as perfectly reasonable since it's not like he doesn't know what she's doing in there (one could argue that if he already knows what she's doing in there he doesn't need to follow her, but somehow I suspect that observation would end with a beat-down). On the plus side, Julian is truly awesome in bed, so . . . yay?
Within twelve hours of the wedding, Cathy regrets her decision. Yet again, this is something for which to blame Mommy Dearest, on account of her mother was impulsive and made poor decisions and now Cathy is doomed to repeat her mistakes and I'm sorry, hon, but you really can't pin this one on Mommy Dearest. This was your own stupid.
And the marriage only goes downhill from here. Coming up: I think we're going to make it all the way to Part Four, where Cathy finally starts getting around to that revenge thing she talks so much about. Also, all the men in this story who were not previously rapists turn out to be rapists! SPOILER ALERT.
*They were horrific. One of them looked like a starfish.
**Ha-ha-ha, when I originally wrote that line I had no idea there was a Sassy Gay Friend for Black Swan but once I found it, I had to link to it.