"THE STEM OF SIN" by Alessandra Azzaroni

© 2002 by Alessandra Azzaroni aazzaroni@hotmail.com http://au.geocities.com/vcastairwaytoheaven/index.htm



Written in Australia. This story contains characters created by Virginia Andrews. There are also quotes from Garden of Shadows. Please send me an email if you would like to know when this story is updated.


Alas, that Swan Room was not allowed to be mine. That struck me deeply. Never before had I not been given something I wanted. And so the thing I wanted most I couldn't have.
Mother understood how much I wanted it, though. And so she let me in there, where I often pretended I was preparing for a grand ball, or just wondering what my grandfather's second wife - the one who supposedly haunted the room - was like.
Since Mother let me, it was nice to feel that she was on my side. After all, I knew she disapproved of Daddy spoiling me. But how could she resist giving into me, too? I knew I was charming, but the bait I used was my beauty. Blond beauty was difficult to ignore, and at that age I carried it with the innocence of the angels. Yet gluttony was, and always will be, a sin. So maybe I truly was sinful from the very beginning.
Maybe Mother was a little jealous of my beauty, but she still loved me, I knew she did. And I, too, loved her. She was my mother after all, and I needed a female ally in Foxworth Hall, someone I could talk about "girly things" with. I had my friends at boarding school, but at home I only had Mother to talk to about such things.
And so one day when I was fourteen, I ran out to my mother's garden, where she was cutting the last of the summer chrysanthemums. "Mama, I've become a woman!"
She looked up at me from under the wide-brimmed straw hat she wore when gardening. "Darling, what are you talking about?"
"Mama, I'm in a womanly way!" When I saw how shocked she was - but why would she be? - I felt the need to further explain myself to her. I giggled shyly. "Mama, I've got my period. Now I'm really a woman."
Mother wordlessly took my hands in hers; maybe she could feel my excitement that I was finally somewhat grown up. "Mama, make me a garland for my hair to celebrate. In the olden days, didn't you used to do that to celebrate big events?"
I didn't wait for an answer. I broke our hands apart, and gathered the flowers Mother had cut. I wove the stems together, entwining blossoms of all colours with experienced hands that had done a lot of daisy chain making in my schooldays.
Now that I was a woman, I expected that a man-woman relationship would soon follow. I wanted to know about true love between a man and a woman. Was it real, or was it just a myth? After all, I could look at my parents but the term "true love" would never come to mind if I tried to describe their relationship.
I went over and sat on the ship rock that decorated the centre of the garden. "Aren't you going to tell me all about love now, Mama? Aren't I ready now? Oh, I have so many longings inside me, I feel like I could burst."
"Love, Corinne? You're only a child."
"But Mama, I'm so filled with questions. I'm so…" While trying to figure out how to say things, I fastened bright forget-me-nots to my golden locks. "I'm so curious to know everything."
"When a man kisses you, Mama, do you just die inside?"
"When he takes you in his arms" - I embraced myself, leapt to my feet and danced around the flowers as if I were in Foxworth Hall at a very special ball - "do you feel like the ground is dancing with you? Mama, I must know! I'll just die if I have to spend the rest of my life in Foxworth Hall. I want marriage. I want love. I want to go dancing every night. I want to be taken on cruises to exotic lands where the women don't wear blouses and the men beat drums." In my head I could easily imagine a Caribbean, Polynesian or Melanesian island. "Oh, I know Daddy would never approve, he wants me to be his little girl forever, but you know I can't be. You must have once wanted those things too, Mama. You must have wanted a man who swept you off your feet, who promised to love you forever and ever, who made the world shake and tremble every time he touched your hand. Does Daddy make you feel that way?"
"Your father-"
"He's so handsome, I bet, I just bet and" - this time I brought my mother into dancing with me - "I bet you were just wild about him." At that moment I was wild with my exuberant dreams that I hoped would come true, they just had to!
But Mother stopped the dance, and she looked somewhat tortured. "Mama," I said, "promise me someone will love me, some wonderful young man will win my heart. Promise." I suddenly bent over, for a cramp had bulleted me near my pelvic area.
"Womanhood brings pain along with its joys, and every month you'll be reminded of this. You know, Corinne, relations between a man and a woman are more complicated than you can ever imagine. It's not just flowers and rainbows, though we might wish with all our hearts it were. As the poets have always told us, love more resembles a rose, with harsh, hurting thorns beneath its bright, beautiful blossom. For some of us, the thorns are hardly noticeable, so sweet is the scent of the rose, but for others the rose is small, and shrivelled almost before it's bloomed, and we are left with a bush of thorns, like tiny needles poking your heart-"
"But Mama, the pain's already gone. I know you know everything about life, Mama, and I know you're trying to protect me. But I know something in my heart, and I just know it's true. I know I'm going to be one of those special lucky girls - I mean women - who have a special, special love, pure and bright, an all-life-long true love. And I know that when it comes I'll be ready, and I'll do anything, anything, anything to claim it for my own. Oh, Mama, I can tell things aren't always fine between you and Daddy. But that doesn't mean it has to be that way for me, does it?" I felt as though Mother was trying to scare me out of love. "Does it, Mama? Won't it be different for me?"
She gave a slight smile. "Of course, Corinne, of course it will be different for you. For you have the gifts all women long for - beauty, sweetness, innocence, a loving heart-" She hugged me tightly. "Come, dear, let's go inside. Have you taken care of your situation?"
"Oh, Mama, of course. Mrs Tethering gave me the necessary, and of course you know, Mama, all the girls at school talk about nothing else. Oh, I'm so happy this happened just in time before I return to school. I may have left a girl, but I'll be returning a woman!"
We returned to the house, and as we climbed the front steps, Mal came up on the driveway on a shining black motorcycle. Mother and I were both surprised, as Daddy had absolutely forbid this. As always, I was excited by the thought of the forbidden, and wanted desperately to ride along.
Mal must have been easily able to tell this. "Hey, Corinne. Want a ride?" He revved the motor temptingly.
"Oh, Mama, Mama, can I?"
"Corinne, you are a young woman. It's so dangerous. I forbid you-"
"Mother!" Mal said. "I'll just take her for a spin around the driveway. Don't be so old-fashioned."
"Can I? Oh, please, Mama?"
"Do you really think this is how a lady behaves?"
"Lucy McCarthy's brother has a motorcycle and he sometimes drives her to school and the McCarthys are really rich and prominent and Daddy even says so and-"
Mal revved the motor again. "Mother," he said, kicking up dust, "it's only around the driveway. I'll drop Corinne off at the gate, and she can walk back. Besides, if you don't let me take her for a ride, I'm going to make you get on."
He and I both laughed, and Mother said warily, "Only around the driveway."
"Oh, thank you, thank you, Mama," I squealed, and I climbed onto the bike and gripped Mal tightly around the waist. Almost instantaneously, the bike pulled away from Mother, kicking up gravel and sand.