A sound heart [is] the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. –Proverbs 14:30
New York is a city famous for its fast-moving, diverse crowd, and for the good times that are to be had there. The Sunday afternoon of August 6, 1999 was no different from a typical New York day until officer Cohagen strolled by the high-class apartments of 165th street with his six-year-old daughter. Cohagen, a portly, honest man with a large mustache, was in the midst of explaining the Y2K crisis to the tot when she cut him off, pointing upwards.
"Look, daddy!" the excitable small girl exclaimed, pulling her hand away from her father as to clap excitedly. "Up there! An angel!"
"Baby-doll, you can't see angels," Cohagen reminded, but tilted his head back to have a look none-the-less. "What in the devil is she doing!?" he suddenly outburst, eyes widening at the sight above.
Standing on the roof was by far the loveliest human being Cohagen had ever laid eyes upon. The sweet lolita appeared to be dismantling the guard rail surrounding the building. As the piece came loose, she gently pushed it over the side and watched it topple to the ground, causing Cohagen's little girl to cry out in surprise. Cohagen grabbed his daughter's wrist and took an instinctive step back. Several New Yorkers stopped as to glance upward, looking for the source of the gate just in time to see an angel fall.
The unnaturally pale body hit the ground with a sickening thud accompanied by a series of cracks and pops. Time stood still for several minutes before a cool, dark liquid spread from her lifeless figure.
"Daddy!" Cohagen's girl cried, breaking the stunned silence. "She's bleeding!"
Nicole Valentyne's Diary
June 2, 1999
Two or three Christmases ago, Grandma bought our family matching journals. At the time I thought the very concept of diaries a stupid one, but since her death these past two days I feel compelled to join the rest of my "family" in this obsessive documentation. At the time I had unwrapped the gift, I asked Grandma how one would even start a journal. She advised I begin with a brief introduction of myself and my life, so here it is.
My name is Nicole Valentyne—but most people call me "NV," my initials—my name is NV and I hate my little sister. Really, that's all my entire life centers on. Allow me to explain.
The instant she was born, my mother prayed to God in thanks for such a beautiful baby. Much to my dismay, the little intruder was awarded the grand name "Morgana-Alexandria Valentyne" because even the nurses had told mother my little sister would be something spectacular someday, and sure enough she is.
She could walk and talk with ease by six months, and by then we'd discovered she had an unnaturally gorgeous singing voice and a knack for the piano. In kindergarten she was the smartest girl in her class and, because she was still cute as a button, we began to enter her in beauty pageants. She couldn't win them all, but by second grade she'd made enough to pay for the college of her choice all the same.
Mother, determined to live out her own wildest fantasies through my baby sister, by then had invested in an acting couch on top of her vocal lessons, because all the best talent scouts insisted she was the best since Shirley Temple.
Only two short years ago, father openly confirmed who he loves best by purposefully ditching me after school in favor of watching one of my sister's modeling shoots. When I asked why he forgot to pick me up, he simply replied that he hadn't, but rather he felt watching my sister was more important. I should have seen it coming, of course, because of how he looks at her—wistfully. It's almost sickening. Why doesn't he just marry her?
My mother's favorite daughter was clear from the moment Morgana was born. I never did wonder about mother's thoughts, and once I'd let the hard truth sink in, I stopped caring about either of my parents.
Honestly, the only member of this house I can stand is Maria, our maid. She's a quiet girl, usually keeps to herself, and the only thing in the world she even gives half of a damn about is raising enough money to return to her family in Honduras and support them. While I realize she's not exactly an ally, at least she isn't constantly fawning over my dearest sister.
June 5, 1999
I have awful, wretched news! Morgana just returned from California with mother took me out onto the balcony and that's where she told me.
"Nicole," she started with a sweet smile—another thing I despise about her is how she is never rude or mean to anyone—"I am going to put my acting on hold for a while in order to focus more on my writing and modeling here in New York. The paparazzi was becoming dreadful, anyway, and this way I could spend more time with you. I've missed you a great deal, you know."
Sure that she hadn't missed me at all, I found it impossible to smile back at her. "But darling, you've written two best-selling novels and a collection of poetry already," I reminded.
"Well, yes, but," she giggled as if she were telling a joke, "I've stared in twice as many box-office smashes."
"What about your record deal?" I asked, desperate to give her an excuse to leave and return to Hollywood. The only time I can be even remotely happy is when Morgana-Alexandria is all the way across the country.
"They promised I could take a break after my second CD," she informed, "and I've already put out two."
Naturally, I am horrified.
June 17, 1999
School is finally out. Morgana discovered she has a knack for baking recently and made me some brownies in honor of my time off. Little *****, I don't see what she's so happy about. She has her own private tutor, after all.
July 1, 1999
The 4th is fast approaching and today is one of the greatest in my life. Sister dear is very sick. Really, she hasn't seemed well since she's been home, now that I think about it, but yesterday it finally got to her and since then she's been in bed. It's not good timing, really, because somehow word got out last month about my sister's identity and more and more people are coming by every day to see if it's true. Maria has about had it, I think, with answering the door every minute. Even poor Maria is forced to take care of my stupid sister.
But I digress. Why is today the best of my life? Because I finally got the courage to ask a cute boy from church to come to my house! Just for a 4th of July dinner, nothing fancy, but he accepted none-the-less! In fact, he actually seemed pleased!
July 5, 1999
I am in a horrible depression. Even these words feel heavy and come with great effort. I only write in hopes that getting my problems down on paper will soothe me.
Nick arrived on time, smiling. We said our hellos… then he immediately asked if he could see my sister. So he must have heard… no wonder he accepted. I smiled politely as I went numb and lead him to Morgana's room, lifelessly explaining that she was ill and couldn't visit long.(p> Later that evening, father was very, very mad. Nick is a year older than I at 18, and my sister is only 14. He was furious with me for introducing her to an older boy. I know, of course, that this is total bull ****. Dad never wants her around boys of any age—but if he says that he'll come off as controlling and so he tones it down. And thus, he shouted at me in private for well over an hour and a half before grounding me until further notice.
July 13, 1999
I'm still confined to my room. I can't leave for anything. Maria brings all of my meals up to my room. Father steps in every now and then to remind me of my wrong-doing. Mother, on the other hand, probably isn't even aware that she hasn't seen me for a week. She isn't really good at paying attention to me, too busy fawning over her perfect daughter to have much time for me.
Sometimes I wish I could go back and remember a time before my sister was born. I was only three when she took over my life, so my memories are scant, but I imagine that my parents loved me very much. I imagine they played with me all the time, I'm sure they huddled together over my crib in my early years. Father was probably kind of controlling, but he wasn't the nut he is now, because he only had to worry about plain and simple baby me instead of an inhumanly perfect little ***** like Morgana. Grandma told me once that I had a million toys when I was a baby… God, I'd give up the world just for a few vivid memories of what that kind of love was like.
I don't know that I should write in here anymore, it's not making me feel better like it used to…
August 5, 1999
I feel a great, great relief today. Finally, I told that little wretch what I've wanted to say all my life!
You see, today was the first day I was allowed out of my room. Eager to stretch my legs, I went for a long walk. Upon returning, Morgana greeted me at the door.
"Niki! I made you some cookies," she informed me with a smile. I made my best effort to ignore her, but she followed me, tray in hand, to the kitchen. "C'mon, have just one?" she begged. I took one from her—I would have done anything if it meant she'd leave me alone.
She watched me, smiling. "Well?"
Of course, they were delicious, and for that reason I hated them. "Horrible," I informed, forcing a smile at her.
"Oh… well, you can spit it out, I will just make a new batch." "Whatever," I answered, swallowing and turning to leave. I was finally out of that prison, I wasn't going to let her ruin my day.
"You know…" she grabbed my arm to stop me. "Sometimes I am very proud of my work, of my talents, of how I look… but the pressure is impossible—I hate it. That's why I was sick… The only reason I even keep going is for you. Aren't you happy?"
I suppose it was the irony of the question that made me snap. "Happy!?" I laughed. "Happy? I hate you!" I shouted. "You've given me nothing but anguish from your very birth! Every time I turn around, I hear your name. The people at school all call me 'that-movie-star's-sister' or 'that-famous-singer's-sister'. Remember Nick? He only came over here because he wanted to talk to you, and now every day he asks to come see you again. Mom and dad love you so much there's no longer room for me. Don't you dare look at me like this is a shock to you! You've known it from the very God damn beginning."
"I…" she stared at me, feigning surprise. "But honestly, I really like you." "Then why don't you ever stand up for me, you stupid *****?" I asked, feeling my fists ball up. "Mom and dad adore you! They kiss the ground you walk on! At any time you could have made life better for me, and then maybe I could have forgiven your rude entrance to my world, but you never. Once. Stood up. For me." And with that I stormed up the stairs, and here I am now.
I'm sure she'll run off to tell father about it, and I know he'll be upset and perhaps beat me within inches of my life, but it was worth it. It was all worth it. I doubt it, but I can only pray that for once in her life, even for just a second, Morgana-Alexandria feels what it's like to live the life of NV.
Mr. Valentyne's Diary
June 4, 1999
My baby is returning! My baby is coming home!
I was so, so angry at my wife for taking her away from me to California in the beginning of this year, but I am soothed now to know that she'll be returning by tomorrow!
I wanted to go with them in the first place, actually, but my wife reminded me that NV would be left behind. I pleaded with her to allow me to leave Maria behind to watch NV, but now that I think about it, Maria isn't exactly a reliable woman. Actually, I have suspicions that she might be stealing from us…
I'm almost finding it difficult to believe she's really coming back. While she was gone, I watched all of her movies over and over again, trying to keep depression from setting in. I know it sounds absurd that I think about my daughter so much, but isn't it natural for a parent to feel a kind of anxiety when such a sweet and beautiful girl is so far away? How can I protect her when she isn't even in the same time zone?
But no matter. She'll return shortly. I'll do my best to persuade her to stay.
July 2, 1999
I am doomed to hell for sure. I spent all of yesterday and last night praying, but I'm not for sure that it matters at this point.
You see, I have wandered away from God. The sins of the flesh had over-run my mind… again. I wandered so far from the Lord in heaven that the devil could take hold. I am pleased to have found God once more, and I have sworn that I will not stray again, but I already have too many times. I'm starting to think that I should give up and let the devil have his way with me.
It happened like this. My wife was off buying some supplies for our baby Morgana, as we do frequently (it's constant work to keep our daughter lovely, and we spend so much on lotions, vitamins, special hair care products, top of the line makeup) and I knew she would be out for a while. I called Morgana in to my room, thinking I would watch some of her movies with her. There's little in this world that can even compare to how I feel when I praise her acting, the smile that comes over her face… She entered my room reluctantly, I suppose she's still sore at me for what happened before she left…
I asked her to sit next to me, and she did. We got to talking, and I asked her how she was, how California had been treating her. As she talked, she gestured with her hands and her pretty voice rose and fell in a conversational way… she was so pretty. I suppose she almost brings me back to a time when my useless wife was once that lovely, but that woman never amounted to much… Not that it matters, our lovely daughter is far too talented to be mistaken for my wife at any stage in her life.
I reached out to smooth Morgana's hair, and really that's how it started. I meant it innocently, as a comforting gesture, but as I ran my fingers through her hair… it was so soft, it's so hard to take my hands off of my daughter. Tentatively she reached out to move the hair from my eyes, as well, but she looked so nervous. I only meant to comfort her, honest, and so I wrapped my arms around her. "Are you okay?" I asked, but she didn't answer.
After that I could hardly stand it anymore. I laid her beautiful body on the bed and started kissing her.
"Hey, no!" she protested, trying to squirm away. "I don't want to!"
Frustrated, I paused only for a minute. I wasn't thinking like myself anymore, no, the devil had control of me. All that was going through my head were ways to make that beautiful little girl mine again. Remembering her selflessness, I quickly said, "If you don't, I will ask NV…"
And with that, Morgana started to cry, but stopped protesting.
She's so cute when she cries.
July 3, 1999
I had never been so scared in my life.
You see, I filmed my encounter yesterday with Morgana… I am always filming her, even when she was a girl I filmed her every move (that's how we discovered her acting talent at first) but as I was watching the film of myself with my daughter, I saw that I had left the door cracked slightly. I saw a pair of eyes peer in at us. My wife was out, NV is always in her room, and besides, everyone in my family has green eyes—the eyes in the door frame seemed to be very, very dark brown. Maria's.
I wept for a total of three hours. For sure Maria would tell my wife, and then my little girl would be taken away from me. God was punishing me. There was no way to avoid my fate. I considered hanging myself over and over again, but that's when I remembered her journal. Two or so Christmases ago, my mother bought my entire family matching journals, and we've always considered the servant Maria to be part of the family. I believe that my wife is the only member of this household that had never bothered to use one, I'm certain I've even seen NV stash hers away at one time.
I crept into Maria's room while she was scrubbing the kitchen (a feat I knew would keep a thorough maid like Maria busy for a long, long time) and searched her room. I found her journal in the most obvious place: beneath her pillows. I took it back to my room and read the entire thing. I then wrote an entry of my own, letting her know I'd read it, and placed it back beneath her pillow.
If she dares utter a word to my wife, I have some pretty damning dirt on Maria that the authorities would be interested in…
June 20, 1999
It's the six-year-anniversary of my coming to America, and as a present I received one of the biggest scares in my life.
Immigration came by our house. Rarely do they stop by a nice neighborhood like ours, they usually police the over-crowding ghettos, but today one knocked on our front door. When I saw his truck come in, I wanted to cry. I was sure he was coming for me. Nervously I opened the door for him, prepared to give him a lie, and if that didn't work, a sob-story, anything.
"Hola, sir," I smiled, then cursed myself for using Spanish, but it couldn't be helped. I prayed to the Lord in heaven to keep me from shaking, to keep me from giving myself away. "What brings you here?"
"I heard all kinds of rumors and I was just wondering… does Morgana-Alexandria Valentyne live here? My daughter is a huge fan…"
Words could not express my relief.
It's not that I'm particularly fond of this country… I do enjoy it here, it's a nice place to live… but that is not why I am here. I am here out of necessity. I will return to Honduras as soon as I can. I just need to raise enough money to put my sons through school… I don't want them to suffer through the hell that I had all my life. I want them to have better.
I am willing to do anything, anything for my boys.
While I am grateful of the pay that the Valentynes have awarded me, it is docked my room and board, and I am not making money fast enough. If I don't hurry, I might not have the time to raise enough money to fly all the way back to Honduras, then put my boys through school. I must find a way to make money faster…
June 27, 1999
I found it. I found a way to make money quickly… and I am ashamed. I was cleaning Mr. and Mrs. Valentyne's room when I noticed a particularly pricey necklace laying on the dresser. Without thinking I picked it up, and before I knew it, I had pawned it off for nearly $700… I am not a bad woman. If you would have asked me about thieves, a year ago I would have turned my nose at the mere thought… but it can't be helped, I am desperate. I need to make more quickly. Even if it means stealing. I will try to do so gradually, take one small thing every other day. I'll keep these things for a while in my dresser, and if they are discovered missing, I will simply 'find' them while I am cleaning. No one would ever suspect me, I know it.
God, forgive me…
July 5, 1999
God help me. Oh God, help me. I witnessed the most heinous, awful thing in the world. I didn't believe it at first, I gawked and I stared. I am sick to my stomach. Sick. Sick, sick, sick.
Mr. Valentyne and his daughter… Oh lord help him, help her! An innocent baby, what the hell could he have been thinking? She's nothing but an innocent child! I can't even describe what I saw…
But it gets worse. I can't tell a soul. Turn back a page! Mr. Valentyne knows, he knows everything. He's read my diary. If I divulge this information, this terrible, God awful secret, I'll be deported for sure. I am selfish, thinking of only my sons, but I can not help it. All I can do is pray. Pray, pray, pray.
I will lie awake night after night, and the guilt will eat me alive—but I must hold out until I have enough money. God help her.
I've hid my diary better. This is the only comfort for me in a time of absolute insanity.
July 7, 1999
Neither of the Valentyne children seem well.
Mr. and Mrs. Valentyne fuss over Morgana, and Mrs. Valentyne shares her puzzlement with me over what could be making her little girl sick. I know why Morgana is ill, and I don't think I can hold onto the secret much longer, but I can't think about that anymore, or I'll become ill…
NV also seems unwell. She is confined to her room for lord knows how long for introducing Morgana to a boy. Personally I think it's a stupid punishment, Mr. Valentyne must be worried that if Morgana has close friends, she'll tell what has been done to her…
No one seems to notice how depressed NV is… which is probably why she is depressed. The poor girl, no one ever seems to pay a bit of attention to her. I feel sorry for her, but it isn't my place to say anything.'
July 16, 1999
Not much has changed. NV is still in her room, but at least Morgana is showing signs of improvement. The poor, poor girl… thinking about what happened has kept me up at night… I've barely slept, I can hardly keep my eyes open now.
I must bring NV's dinner to her.
July 24, 1999
I've made up my mind. I can't harbor this secret any longer, if it's not the death of the poor child then it shall be the death of me. I feel guilt constantly burning inside me.
I will work here for only a month more. As long as nothing I steal is noticed as missing, I should have enough money in about a month's time. On August 24, I will tell everything, and I will return to Honduras with the money.
I hope that the authorities will act accordingly. Chances are that both girls will be stripped from that evil man's custody… The mere thought pleases me to no end, not only because Morgana will never have to suffer that kind of evil lust again, but because things will improve for NV as well. Every day she's stuck in that room, I can see that she withers away. She must feel so… unloved, her own parents don't even want her. I can't imagine what it's like for her. But what can I do until my own boys have been taken care of?
August 1, 1999
At the rate I'm going, I might have the money in just one more short week, by August 8 I could be ready to tell my secret. So far, nothing I've taken has turned up missing. I'm excited beyond belief! My only hope is that I'm not too late to save the girls' innocence…
Morgana-Alexandria Valentyne's Diary
August 6, 1999
This is the last entry I will ever write in this diary… these are the last words I will write ever. Forgive if my handwriting is difficult to read—it's hard to write crying.
Every movie, every CD, every poem, every thing I baked, all the pageants I've starred in—useless! Empty! I hated all of it, every single minute of it. It made mom happy, it made dad happy… but NV has hated it all along. Oh god, everything I've done was for nothing!
Dad never really loved me for me, no, to him I was just another piece of moving meat. He couldn't get any out of mom, their marriage had all but failed years ago—no, I'm just available for him to take advantage of, that's all he's ever cared about me for!
And mom? To be honest, I'd never liked mom. In fact, I hate her. All my life she's pushed me, pushed me, and pushed me. Every time I put out a new movie or book or whatever, it brings her one step closer to the spot light. Why do I hate mom? Because she hates me. Everyone thinks she adores me, but I can see it in her eyes every time I walk down the runway or pose for a magazine centerfold. She hates me. Not only am I famous, beautiful—everything she's not—but I took her place as the wife, too. Stupid, stupid woman! I never wanted to act as daddy's wife! I hate it! Oh God, I feel so dirty, nothing but a stupid whore. But NV, oh, he threatened to take Nicole! Not NV, I love her so much, I couldn't stand the thought of him taking NV, the mere IDEA of my beloved sister facing anything like that kind of pain, like that dirty, nasty feeling that never washes away…
To be honest, I had myself fooled for years. I thought for sure that if I worked hard enough, I could make life easier for my sister. I'm not totally stupid, I could tell she was unhappy. I made sure that I became a sensation—I wanted to give her a better life. By second grade I had enough money to send her to the college of her choice. I dropped my name wherever convenient to try to attract people to the house—I knew that daddy would never let me keep a friend, but I was sure I could find some for NV—but it's all vain! Vain! Vain!
God, I'm such an idiot. I hate myself. I hate my existence. Was I just born some kind of evil, worthless piece of human? I can't even make one person—the person that matters the most—happy? No, instead I made her miserable! Miserable! She hates me, and God, does she deserve to.
But no, I'm not quite beat yet. No matter how useless I am, no matter how ugly, stupid, and worthless I am, I will make Nicole’s life better. I will, I will, I will.
If you've found my diary, and you're reading this message—will you please publish it? If not in a book, then in a magazine? On the internet? I want everyone in the whole world to know that I died for NV!