Aaron paced across the floor of his apartment, his expression creased
in a troubled frown. "Damn her! Why didn't I know about this? Why
We've been going out long enough! You'd think that, with the number of
conversations we've had about family and the future, that she would have
told me about this!"
He dropped down onto the couch, resting his head in his hands. He
had been hardly able to believe Stefana's story, but, with a few minor
modifications, she had outlined what she knew, and her sincerity was undoubted.
He had looked for any sign that the guitarist might have gotten the facts
confused or wrong entirely, but as she spoke, he knew that she spoke the
truth. Her words explained everything that had changed in Copper's behaviour
since the night of Sylva's party, when his world had come crashing down
"She can't have children." He murmured numbly, shaking his head slowly.
"Where does that leave me, then? Why didn't she tell me, damn her? Why
? We could have talked about this! Instead of leading me
on and making me - hell, everyone
! - believe that she would marry
His eyes narrowed.
"And Topaz knew...so maybe I'm the only one who didn't know this terrible
secret of hers. Damn her, did she tell my kid sister too? Has Nancy
really known this all along and made a moron out of me too?"
He got to his feet as the doorbell rang, stomping into the hall and
flinging open the door. Aaron was not one to often lose his temper, but
it was still there, bubbling beneath the surface, ready to rise up in
defence of Pelligrini pride. He had used it to defend his sister in their
schooldays more than once, when harsh words and actions had aroused his
protective instinct. Now, however, he was hurting himself, and he glared
at the unfortunate visitor as if she was a harbinger of yet more doom.
"What do you want, Nancy?" He demanded. "Come to gloat at me some
more, have you?"
"What deranged idea is floating around your skull now?" Nancy regained
her composure, pushing her brother aside and stepping into the apartment,
pulling the door shut behind her. "I came to talk to you, can't I do that
"That depends." Aaron snapped back. He grabbed his sister by the shoulders,
meeting her brown eyes with angry grey ones.
"Did you know?"
"I beg your pardon?" Nancy stared back at him. "I thought this was
my brother's apartment, but I think I found the lunatic next door instead.
"Nancy, quit it with the sarcasm!" Aaron exclaimed. "I need to know,
did you know already?"
"Copper?" Nancy looked stricken, and Aaron's grip tightened.
"You did! You knew and yet you didn't tell me! You let your own brother
get humiliated and..."
"Shut your face, idiot." Nancy cut across him, wrenching herself free
of his grip. "I found out yesterday and I found out from Topaz, who also
found out yesterday. None of us knew a thing about anything till then."
She frowned. "Hey, how did you
find out, anyway? Did you ask Copper,
or something? Cyn said you were on the lookout for her, which is why I
came here. I wanted to talk to you about this."
"Steffi told me."
?" Nancy's eyes widened. "Why in hell would she know?"
"She said she overheard Copper and Topaz talking. She thought I should
know." Aaron shrugged. "I asked her to keep the whole thing quiet, because
I don't want to look even more of an idiot when - if - it hits the press
and she swore she'd keep her mouth shut. I'm glad I at least had one
friend with enough courage to tell me the truth. I only wish my so called
had done so." He shrugged. "Though as it stands I suppose
she's my ex
girlfriend, isn't she?"
"Stefana is a troublemaker." She said bluntly. "And that's the only
reason she told you about this, to upset things worse."
"But Copper can't have kids. That's true, isn't it?"
"It's probably true. It's not definitely." Nancy replied. "As far
as I know from what Topaz told me, she's not sterile but her chances of
conception under natural circumstances are very low, if not imaginary.
I shouldn't be talking to you about this, but since you already know, I
figure I might as well limit the damage that that Diablo bitch has done.
Copper doesn't know that I know about this, Topaz only told me because she
thought I might be able to work out a way of broaching this with you. Well,
now I have."
"You're late." Aaron muttered.
"Better that than not at all." Nancy took her brother by the arm,
dragging him into the lounge. "Sit, and start behaving like a human being,
"Nancy, you have no idea how I'm feeling at the moment." Aaron obediently
sat down, his expression troubled. "She didn't tell me...something so important
which could change our relationship so much, and I never knew. Why did
she keep it from me? We've talked about kids and family and the future.
Why didn't she say anything to me?"
"Those are questions I can't answer, only Copper can do that." Nancy,
realising her brother was upset, dropped the chiding tone, sitting down
opposite and curling up contemplatively on the sofa. "But from what I do
know, Aaron, she's only known for sure recently. It's been something, at
least in my mind, that she's denied to herself and tried to forget about.
Your proposal just made her realise she had to be real about this." She
"I don't understand, though. Is it an inherited thing? What gives?
How could she know and yet, not know?"
"She had cancer, remember." Nancy told him. "Chemotherapy does things
to people other than cure cancer. Sterility is one of those things. I
had Cynthia pull up some pages on the net about it, before I left to come
over here. It's horrible stuff."
"I forgot about her cancer." Aaron admitted. "She's so healthy and
vibrant and full of life...you don't think she could ever have not been."
"You're still in love with her, aren't you?" Nancy realised. Aaron
"It doesn't take someone of your intelligence to deduce that." He
snapped. "We've been going together ages...you don't just get over that
kind of a relationship."
"Well, then do something about it."
"What's to do? She made her choice."
"Yes, but now you know why."
"And I don't see how it changes things. Copper can't have kids and
I want kids. In the end it'll only end in tears." He frowned. "I don't
know, either, if I can forgive her for the way she handled this. She could
have been honest and told me her fears. Instead she's left me feeling useless
and stupid and that doesn't bode well for any kind of reconciliation."
He spread his hands.
"Maybe in the end it is best we split up. Right now we've never felt
more like strangers. Who knows, maybe I was wrong. Maybe she isn't my
"Really?" Nancy raised an eyebrow. "Well, fine, if that's how you
feel. If you want a baby machine rather than a wife you love and respect,
I'm sure there are plenty of airheads waiting to throw themselves at you."
She got to her feet, moving to leave, but pausing as she reached the
doorway and turning to fix her brother with a pointed look.
"Think about it, huh?" She said quietly. "About what's really important
to you. Dad's always said that a couple that means anything can overcome
anything. It's up to you."
"No, I'm not gonna say or do anything more." Nancy shook her head.
"You're a big boy now, you can handle your own problems." She raised a
smile. "Besides, I have a hen night to get ready for, and we both have
our cousin's wedding to think of, whatever you're feeling about this.
So pull yourself together huh, and start acting like a Pelligrini, instead
of a wimp. Taylor doesn't have much family to call on, and I'll be damned
if the family he has at the wedding is moping into his champagne."
With that she was gone, Aaron staring after her as her words sank in.
He got to his feet, pacing across to the window and glancing absently out,
across the busy city to where he could faintly see the logo of Misfits
Music on the horizon. As he stood there, he found himself remembering the
first time he had met Copper, at LAX airport, when he had been sent to meet
her after she had been called for audition. She hadn't been a star then,
he remembered, just an excited hopeful, full of ambition to prove herself
as the kind of drummer his mother and Phyllis had been looking for. He
had never been one to easily fall in love, but he had been attracted to
Copper's beauty and sweet nature right from the start, and when she had
told him some months later that she, too, felt the same, it had seemed so
perfect. They had maintained their relationship throughout many different
situations, and he sighed. Whatever else he knew, he knew he would always
"And that means I have a tough decision to make." He mused. "Can I
forfeit the chance to be a father, for her sake? Do I love her enough
to do that, without regretting it later and making us both more miserable
than things are now? And can I risk the humiliation of being rejected
a second time? Does she mean that much to me that I have to try? I wish
I knew what to do. Taylor's wedding isn't far away and I want this resolved...but
How can I be sure if Copper is really the woman I'm meant to marry?"
Half past four.
The girl cast a glance at her mobile phone, a frown crossing her face
as she drummed her fingers on the table of the small Los Angeles coffee
house. They had arranged for four o' clock, and she was becoming impatient.
"Anyone would think," she muttered to herself. "That this wasn't important."
She glanced at her watch once more, as if to reassure herself that
she had not misread the time, and that she really had been waiting for
thirty five minutes. It wasn't as if, she mused, she didn't have plenty
of other things to do.
"Dammit, if I get stood up again..." She clenched her fists. "It's
hard enough keeping this a secret! I wish I had someone I could talk to
about all of this! It's crazy enough, when I stop and think about what
I'm doing, let alone talking to anyone else about it! If only you weren't
so damn hung up on your image! I'm starting to wonder who you care about
more - me or yourself!"
She turned her head to look out of the window, hoping for some sign
of the person she had agreed to meet, but there was no sign of them. She
"I should be at Rebel Records in ten minutes, to sort out this wretched
Diablo video." She realised. "Dammit, I'm not gonna just sit around and
wait! If you can't even call me to let me know..."
At that moment, as if on cue, the phone beeped, making her jump. She
scooped it up hurriedly, eying the flashing 'text message' icon with a
"Not even got the courage to call me now?" she muttered. "What am I,
She hit accept, skimming over the two lines of text, her anger growing
as she did so.
"Something came up, sorry. Speak to you soon."
Her eyes narrowed as she read over it again, then she hit the reply
button, rather more savagely than she had intended.
"If you gave a damn you'd bother to keep your engagements." She typed
back, hitting send and then switching her phone off. Getting to her feet,
she slipped it into her bag, glancing once more at her watch and heading
out of the coffee shop.
"If you think I'm gonna keep putting up with this, you got another
think coming." She muttered under her breath as she unlocked her car,
slipping into the front seat and revving the engine. "I have a life and
a job too, and I'm not going to sit around like some floozie whilst you
flirt with and probably sleep with every damn chick in the city. I'm not
gonna be used. Either you make up your mind what you want from me, else
I'll start making decisions of my own!"
A voice startled her, and she wound down the window of her car, meeting
Sylva's curious look with a glower.
"What on earth's eating you? You look ready to kill." The synth player
"Well, if I said it didn't matter I'd be lying, but I can't really
talk about it." Zoe sighed, resting her hands on the steering wheel. "Someone
bailed on me and now I'm running late for a meeting at Rebel Records. To
be honest, I'm debating calling in and saying something else came up and I
can't make it. I'm in no mood to mess around with Diablo and particularly
that Stefana girl."
"Okay, who are you and what have you done with my friend Zoe?" Sylva
demanded, putting her hands on her hips.
"I'm sorry, Syl." Zoe looked weary. "It's not been the easiest of weeks
in some ways and I've way too much work on for the heat. On top of that,
there's everything for Vi's wedding..." She shrugged. "You know?"
"Yes, I do, but I also know it's not like you to get wound up like
Sylva walked around to the passenger side of the car, opening the door
and slipping inside before her friend realised what she was doing. "Come
on, Zoe, talk to me. You don't usually act like this."
"I know." Zoe bit her lip. "It's complicated, though." She shrugged.
"Just leave it, huh? It's evidently not as important as I thought it was."
"There's something weird in the air at the moment." She mused. "Everyone
is getting into fights and losing tempers and it's really not great considering
Violet has her wedding soon."
"I know, which is why it's best left alone." Zoe shrugged again. "You
wanting a lift someplace? Cos otherwise I suggest you get out."
"I think you need a break." Sylva decided. "Look, call Rebel Records
and cancel on them, huh? Then lets grab swimsuits and stuff and go hang
out at the beach. A good afternoon in the sun, without any work hanging
over you, and you'll feel much better."
Zoe looked thoughtful for a moment, then she nodded.
"All right." She agreed, scooping up her phone and turning it on, dialling
the number of the music company. "Sounds good to me."
Once she had called Rebel Records, she put the car in gear, pulling
off the pavement and onto the road. After picking up Sylva's beach wear
at the Starlight Mansion, they paused at Zoe's own apartment building and
the video artist headed inside to grab her own belongings, leaving Sylva
waiting for her outside.
Zoe had not been gone long, when a beep from her phone startled Sylva
and, not thinking anything of it, she reached across to pick up her friend's
phone, hitting the accept button. It was not uncommon, after all, for
her to answer Zoe's phone when they'd been out shopping in the past, and
she had often taken text messages for her friend too. This one, however,
was from an undisclosed number, and it's message was cryptic enough to
arouse Sylva's curiosity.
"Zoe, don't be like that. It wasn't on purpose. Call you later. Xx."
The synth player's brow creased as she set the phone back down on Zoe's
seat, turning the message over in her head. It sounded very much to the
experienced Sylva as if it had come from a boyfriend, and that Zoe's earlier
bad temper had been caused by a lover's tiff.
"But she's not mentioned any boyfriend to me." She mused. "Though,
come to think about it, she's very firm about making sure we know that
she isn't looking for a date for the wedding. That's strange. If she has
a guy on tap, why isn't he escorting her to the wedding and reception?
Why has she asked Ryan?"
At that moment Zoe returned to the car, and, after a moment hesitation,
Sylva told her about the text. The change in Zoe's composure was immediate,
and she snatched up her phone, switching it off and shoving it into the
"Noone asked you to answer it." She snapped. "It's my phone, not yours!"
"You've never stopped me before." Sylva looked bewildered. "What's
all this about, Zoe? Who was the message from?"
"Some no good deadbeat who thinks that standing people up is fun."
Zoe muttered, putting the car back in gear and screeching out of the parking
lot at such speed that Sylva had to grip onto her seat to prevent being
flung against the door.
"Woah, girl, you trying to get us both killed?" She demanded.
"Like anyone would really care."
"Zoe, snap out of it! What is this, Ms Hyde coming out? What gives
Zoe's eyes narrowed, then she seemed to remember herself, and she sighed.
"God, Syl, I'm sorry. Like I said, it's been a hell of a week."
"Who was the text from?"
"Noone." Zoe shrugged. "Or at least, that's what I think of them right
at the moment, anyway."
"Is that why Ryan is taking you to the wedding? I didn't realise you
were seeing someone."
"Well, we're fighting rather than seeing each other right now." Zoe
muttered. "Syl, forget about the text, okay? I can't tell anyone about this,
they'd only yell at me and tell me that it was wrong. If people knew, then
more people than just me could wind up getting hurt, and I might be angry
but I'm not that much of a bitch. It's my own fault in a way, getting involved
with someone who isn't entirely sure that they can commit to me how I want
to commit to them. I should have seen it coming. I'm probably not the first
person to be strung along in this way and I doubt I'll be the last. So leave
it, huh? It's not important. I'll live."
Sylva pursed her lips, but seeing that Zoe did not want to enlarge
on the subject any more, she obediently changed the subject, asking her
companion about her outfit for the hen night. Inwardly, however, she was
turning over her friend's words in her head. As she did so, a startling
idea came to her, and she cast Zoe a surrepticious look, remembering her
reaction when she'd returned to the car and realised the keyboardist had
seen the text.
"Is she seeing a married
man?" She wondered, her eyes becoming
big. "Oh God...is that why he won't take her to the wedding? Is that why
she won't tell me about it?
Hell, is Zoe the other woman?"