Whitefern (Audrina #2)@V.C. Andrews Page 0,1

did complain, nor did he ever criticize my sister or make her feel silly or foolish. If anything, he liked females hounding him. I had no illusions about my father. He was always a woman’s man. He would always flirt, even with me when I was older. Of course, Sylvia was special. Perhaps he should have tried harder to have her become less dependent on him. A girl can love her father, adore him, but at some point, she has to step out into the world with independence, or she will not mature and enjoy what other love awaits her.

No one, including me, had much confidence in Sylvia developing an independent existence or finding the love of another man. She had been born prematurely and was mentally slow. Once everyone viewed her that way, she’d become comfortable with that image. She liked being babied so much that she never tried too hard to become a mature woman with a mature woman’s responsibilities. At least, that was my theory. Everyone criticized me for it. Arden, in fact, once accused me of being jealous of my father’s affection for her.

“Maybe you think he’ll turn her into ‘my sweet Sylvia’ or create a Sylvia Two,” he said, with that wry smile on his face that usually irritated me. “He thinks he’s God and can change anyone to his liking.”

But accusing me of jealousy wasn’t fair. With the exception of my father, no one ever loved or treated my sister more tenderly than I did. She used to follow me around the way she was then following him. Perhaps that was why I didn’t openly criticize her or try to get her to be less fawning. Many times, I was tempted to do what Arden wanted and tell her to stop clinging so hard to our father. Let Papa breathe, I wanted to say, but I swallowed back the words. She probably wouldn’t have understood it, and if it was explained to her, I was afraid she would go into one of her hysterical fits of sobbing and others would accuse me of the same thing Arden had. I feared even Papa would admonish me.

So when I saw Papa die in front of us, I looked quickly at Sylvia, anticipating an outburst of sorrow from her.

But then I realized she had no idea he was gone. She still clung to his hand. She shook it softly, expecting him to open his eyes and smile at her as he had done only minutes ago.

I put my arm around her. “He’s gone, Sylvia,” I said, my lips trembling and tears streaming down my cheeks. “Papa has passed on. You have to let go of his hand. He’s gone.”

She looked at me, scowled, and then looked back at him, but she didn’t move, nor did she let go of his hand. The words apparently made no sense to her. I knew what she was thinking: How can he be gone if he is still here in his bed? Sylvia always took everything literally, expecting the truth to be straightforward, the way children did.

I looked to Dr. Prescott. He was frustrated because he had come too late, and he sat on the other side of the bed, his hands pressed against his cheeks, his shock of graying brown hair as wild as weeds from running his thick fingers through it with frustration. He was only a year younger than Papa, but lately, he’d looked ten years younger and was far sprier. He wasn’t as tall as Papa; few men were. But these last months, he had looked taller.

The kind doctor raised his head to look at us, his eyes swimming in sorrow far beyond what any doctor would experience after losing a patient. Physicians, probably more than anyone, lived with the inevitability of death. It was like dogs barking at their heels. He leaned over and closed Papa’s eyes. Then he gently took Papa’s hand from Sylvia’s and put it over Papa’s now-still chest and then his other hand over that.

“I told him he needed a stent. I finally had him convinced to go into the hospital . . . this Monday,” Dr. Prescott said, shaking his head and looking down at Papa. “But I knew he would put it off again and again. Stubborn man.”

He had rushed over after I called to tell him Papa wasn’t feeling well and was weak and pale. I’d mentioned he was having trouble breathing. Dr. Prescott had thought we should send