Chapter Six: Nancy Confesses


Rory Llewelyn cast a glance around at the assembled musicians, rubbing his chin absently. "I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that your performance on Connie's show the other night was a huge success. This new single is racing up the polls as we speak and is well tipped to be the weekend number one on the Billboard chart. Jewel are not releasing anything, so I'm pretty sure we've got it in the bag - none of that Gabor woman's sly games to contend with this time around. I must congratulate you all. Your hard work of late has really begun to pay off."

He sat back in his chair, eying them all keenly.

"Even Stefana seems to have settled on an admirable work ethic." He added. "Do you think we can keep this up?"

"I work harder than you do most days, bonehead." Stefana said flatly. "And of course our single is gonna be a hit. We blew them away on Connie's show, and half the crowd already knew the words. It's been playing everywhere. If we're not number one, I'll be demanding a recount."

"Well, so far everything looks as good as it could possibly be." Rory ignored the insult, folding his arms across his chest. "Madeleine, I trust that your aunt's recent misfortune has not impacted on her work for your big concert at the Arena?"

There was no answer, and Rory frowned, his gaze flitting to the Diablo singer. She was clearly miles away, her gaze fixed absently on something over his left shoulder, and he could tell at a glance that she had not taken in any of the conversation. His frown deepened.


"Maddy, wake up." Clay reached over to nudge the singer, jerking her out of her daze. She stared at him.

"What?" She demanded. Clay raised an eyebrow, then nodded towards their employer.

"Rory asked you a question." He said, faint amusement in his tones. "What time did you get to bed last night? You're lost."

"Oh." Madeleine flushed, meeting Rory's gaze with an embarrassed one of her own. "I'm sorry, Rory, I wasn't listening. I spent most of last night helping Tante Regine to put things back together and I guess I've not really had a chance to drop and kip yet. I didn't mean to be out of it."

"Well, since it's so unlike you, I'll let it go this time." Rory pursed his lips. "I was asking you about Regine, as a matter of fact. Do we have any progress report on your Arena costumes? I'd like to get some photo opportunities beforehand, if at all possible."

"Mine and Marissa's are finished. She had some stuff to do on Clay and Luca's, and she was working on Steffi's before the...the break in." Madeleine faltered slightly. "But it's upset her, Rory, and shaken things up. I don't know how much she's thinking of our concert at the moment. I have to admit that, since I saw her house, I've not thought about much other than her break in either. It came as quite a shock."

"I was under the impression that she was not at home when it took place." Rory's brows knitted together. "The Tribune's article..."

"No, she was at work." Madeleine shook her head. "But how would you like it if you came home and found your house ripped to shreds, Rory? All her stuff, her belongings, messed all over the place. Private things...things personal to her tipped all over the floor, or missing. Keepsakes, trophies, things like that! Do you really think you'd come into the office the next morning as if nothing had happened?"

A slight smile touched Rory's lips at her impassioned speech.

"I worked with the Misfits." He said acidly. "I was well used to having my things rifled through at a moment's notice. Besides, Regine has an obligation. If she cannot complete the costumes by the agreed date, I will have to cancel it and move elsewhere."

"You can't do that!" Madeleine looked horrified. "With the burglary and everything, her accounts are more or less all frozen. She needs the money till the insurance comes can't just cut her off!"

"Then she had better deliver on time." Rory said simply. "I'll ask you to relay that message to her, the next time you speak - no doubt it will be sooner than I'll have time to call."

Madeleine frowned, her expression tight-lipped, as if she wanted to say more, but dared not. Satisfied, Rory turned his attention away from her, glancing at Clay instead.

"And all the tracks you want to play are well-edited and rehearsed?" He asked.

"We've got them down." Clay nodded his head. "We'll be ready."

"Good." Rory looked approving. "Then that's all I wanted to see you about. If Farah is out there, will you send her in, please? I have to congratulate her directly on the effectiveness of this particular music video."

With that he gestured towards the door and, exchanging looks, the five musicians filed out into the corridor, Marissa closing the door behind her.

"He's in Lord and Master phase." Clay rolled his eyes, once they were safely out. "Great."

"Farah, he asked us to send you in." Marissa cast a grin at her sister, who pulled a face in her direction. "Don't worry. I think it's good...he seemed to like your video."

"This time. Thankfully." Farah grimaced again. "Later, you guys!"

As she disappeared into the office, Luca cast Madeleine a frown.

"He was rough on your aunt." He said quietly. "Do you think Regine will come through for us?"

"I don't know." Madeleine admitted. She bit her lip. "It's not really high on her priorities or on mine right now. I'd as soon perform in bin liners if it meant this burglary didn't happen, Luca. You should have seen her house. Papers, junk, bits and pieces everywhere. Her belongings ripped out...her partner's service medals tossed all over the bed and the floor of her room. Folders missing, curtains shredded..."

Her voice shook, and she faltered.

"It was horrible." She murmured.

"Poor Regine." Marissa looked sympathetic. "And she's all on her own...she must've been freaked to come home and find it."

"She was." Madeleine agreed. "Shana's agreed to let her stay for this week, otherwise I'd have insisted she came to our place. Odd as that might be for us, I wasn't going to let her stay in that house. Not like it is now, not when she's on her own."

"We wouldn't have minded." Clay assured her. "Did they tell her if they have any leads?"

"Not as far as she can ascertain." Madeleine sighed, looking suddenly tired. "Apparently there have been a string of them, and not much has been left behind at any one scene. They think they're connected, but honestly, with homicides and drug runners and whatever else, they don't hold out much hope of nailing a suspect. If one comes by, they'll grab him - but their resources are already swamped and they don't have the evidence to chase it up fully."

"Well, if there's anything we can do to help out while she's trying to put things back together, let us know." Luca said gently. "I know she has you, and she's lucky she does, but you didn't get home last night till late and you look worn out as it is. We don't mind helping. Regine's your aunt, and that makes her Diablo family. Besides, she's done enough favours for us in terms of costume and wardrobe over the last few years. It's the least we can do."

"Thank you, Luca." A faint smile touched Madeleine's lips. "But we're all right. I...I can handle it."

Stefana pursed her lips.

"In this city, it ain't difficult to break into anywhere, if you're careful about it." She said thoughtfully. "If we could find out who took her stuff, we could probably go get it back. I mean, it must be possible, right? Someone must know something. What if we posted a reward? Then we'd get her junk back, she'd be happy enough and Diablo could play their show in the right threads. Do you reckon?"

"We're not going to play cat burglar, not even on Regine's behalf." Luca shot her a dark look. "Not even with your prior experience. In fact, especially because of your past experiences. This is for the LAPD to deal with."

"Well, you were the one wanting to help." Stefana pulled a face. "It was just an idea."

"Luca's right." Madeleine sighed, glancing at her hands. "And we wouldn't know where to start. Posting a reward would just generate more unwelcome publicity. It's bad enough that Regine's high profile and it's already in the presses. That would just make it worse."

"Mad?" Luca stared at her. "Are you telling me that, if you did know something, you'd take up on Steffi's crazy idea?"

"No..." Madeleine shook her head, though her tone wasn't entirely convincing. "Of course not. I'm just saying, we don't know any more than the LAPD. We're really stuck...and there's nothing we can do."

"I could ask Darren." Stefana suggested. Madeleine's eyes opened wide with horror.

"Not a chance! Not in this lifetime!" She exclaimed. "He's exactly the kind of newspaper intrusion we don't need! Tante Regine has been through enough without him peering through her keyhole asking for quotes. Bad enough his rag already printed the story. No, Steffi. Leave it alone. I don't want anything to do with Darren McMillan. Talking to him is playing with fire on a whole new level and Diablo's never yet come off best in the encounter. Promise me you won't say anything to him."

"Chill. I won't go ask him anything." Stefana shrugged her shoulders. "It was just an idea. I'd like to have a costume to wear at the Arena, if it's all the same to you."

"Right now, Stef, there are more important things." Madeleine said firmly. A haunted expression touched her dark eyes. "Including the LAPD finding this creep before he hurts someone else."

"Well, hopefully they will." Luca pursed his lips. "Look, you guys, do you need me urgently for runthrough right now? Or are we taking a break?"

"That sounds like an ominous question." Clay raised an eyebrow. "Why? You want to bunk off studio?"

"Yes." Luca admitted. "If you don't mind."

"I'm guessing Emily must have something to do with this?" Stefana's tones were accusing, and Luca spread his hands.

"Guilty." He admitted. "I've been thinking over the stuff you said to me the other night, Mad - that I should talk to her and whatever. So after we played Connie's show, I did. Left a message on her machine and hoped she'd call me back."

"And she did?" Madeleine turned opaque eyes on him. Luca nodded.

"This morning." He agreed. "She said she was taking Mike to nursery for the first time at nine, but that she'd be free at eleven and if I had things to say to her, she'd listen to them then. Do you guys mind? It's about on half ten now."

"Emily is not more important than Diablo." Stefana frowned. Luca looked sheepish.

"Maybe she is." He admitted. "Or as important. I've really missed her since we fought in Canada, Stef. I know that was partly my bad as much as hers, but I've hated it."

He sent Madeleine a rueful grin.

"The other night kinda spurred me on." He added. "I realised how easily I can make a mess of things by just not saying anything, and not getting involved. So I figured, well, go for broke. The fact she actually returned my call this time is something positive. At least maybe this time we can hash it out and see what's what."

Madeleine's expression became pensive.

"I'm glad our chat came to some good." She said slowly.

"Are you all right with it?" Luca asked anxiously. "I mean, me going off after Emily, after..."

"After what, Luca?" Madeleine interrupted him, shaking her head. "There's no reason to ask me that question. I told you - On Angel's Wings was written a long time ago. I want you and Emily to work things out. Really."

She smiled, but there was a slightly wistful flicker in her dark brown eyes.

"So you better get off and meet her, before she thinks you stood her up." She added. "I could use some time free from practice, anyhow. I'm going to go home, try and take a nap and then head back over to Tante Regine's, see if she's learnt anything new. I guess that means we reconvene in studio tomorrow morning?"

"Works for me." Clay shrugged. Stefana grimaced.

"Let me guess. Now you and Marissa are going to go off and do something nauseating and couple-y for the rest of the day." She said darkly. "Thanks a bunch. What am I meant to do?"

"I don't think either of us said that." Marissa exchanged an amused look with her boyfriend. "Maybe I'd rather go shopping for shoes."

"Or you could always go help Maddy at Regine's." Clay suggested. "Quicker that's sorted, quicker she might get down to your costume."

"Me? Tidy?" Stefana raised an eyebrow. "Why do you think those two things go in the same sentence?"

"I guess I'm an incurable optimist." Clay laughed. "But you could. If you were feeling altruistic."

"It's fine, Clay." Madeleine shook her head. "I think it's easier if it's just Tante Regine and me, anyhow. Going through her personal effects, and all of that..." She shrugged. "It's just better that way."

"There." Stefana folded her arms. "Maddy doesn't want my help. So?"

"So I guess I could do an afternoon shopping for shoes." Clay said resignedly. "So long as you don't try and make me wear heels!

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"Is that for Mom's party?"

Robin pushed open the door of his girlfriend's bedroom, pausing as he registered her appearance. Clothes were strewn on the bed, and Nancy held a dress in her hand, half-heartedly holding it against herself as she glanced at her reflection in the mirror. "It looks pretty, Nance. You gonna wear that?"

"I don't know." Nancy sighed, dropping the outfit down onto the bed and sinking down next to it. "Dressing up isn't my area of expertise, and I don't have Syl or Topaz to ask for a second opinion. Party dresses aren't really my thing, and I have no clue what you wear to a fiftieth birthday party in the deep south."

"Like it matters what's traditional." Robin snorted. "Wear what you want, Nancy. Mom won't mind, and nor will I."

"I don't want to look out of place." Nancy chewed on her lip. "I know a lot of people will be there."

"It's not a Grammy nomination." Robin took her by the hand, pulling her to her feet. "It's just a party. Seriously. It's not that big a deal."

"Yes, it is." Nancy said softly. "I kinda got the impression that the whole of Carrowville were coming to this shindig, Robin. It's like my presentation party to your couldn't be a bigger deal. I just want...well...not to show you up."

"What is this?" Robin looked startled. "Nance, this isn't you talking! What happened to the girl who does her own thing regardless of what other people think? The award winning songwriter who gave me attitude from the moment I set foot in Los Angeles? Where is she today?"

"Back in California." Nancy muttered. "I don't know...everything is so different here."

She grimaced.

"I went out in the yard earlier to pick some flowers for Mary Jane, for the table tonight." She added. "Got bitten by something. Next door's kid laughed at me, and called me an idiot."

"Next door's kid?" Robin frowned. "Gareth? That kid's always been a brat, Nancy - he throws things over the fence at Allie when she's playing in her pool. Don't tell me you're freaked out by a seven year old?"

"Yes." Nancy admitted. "I guess I am. I guess because he's right. I am an idiot. I shouldn't even be here. I don't belong, and no matter what I do, I'm never going to belong, am I? I don't fit into your world one little bit, and people aren't going to accept me. Even if they pretend to be nice, they'll really be wondering why you brought me here. And why I'm so stupid to think I can fit in."

Robin stared.

"Gareth did all that to you?" He demanded. "I'm gonna have serious words with his father - what else did he say?"

"Nothing." Nancy shook her head impatiently. "Robin, it's not about some seven year old brat. It's about seeing sense. This is your town and your world, but I'm blatantly an outsider. People all know each other...but they don't know me. I get stared at wherever I go."

"Don't you get that in LA, too?" Robin raised an eyebrow. "You're the songwriter and guitarist for a pretty damn popular rock act, Nancy. You can't tell me noone stares at you back in Cali."

"Of course they do." Nancy nodded. "But there I know why they're staring. Here...I don't know if it's because I'm Goldie of Jewel or if it's because I'm the city freak and they want to get a good gawp at me before I go home."

"Don't you think you're being kinda harsh on my town?" Robin asked lightly. Nancy sighed.

"It's how I feel." She said at length. "Copper said I should tell you how I I am. And Rob, I don't want to offend your mother, but..."

She faltered, then,

"I don't want to go to her party." She admitted. "I...I actually want to pack up and go back to LA. This was a bad idea. It was a mistake, letting you talk me into coming here when we've not defined our relationship properly to each other yet. Trying to do so for your family was was wrong. Totally wrong. I...I want to go back home, Robin. That's the honest truth. I don't want to stay in Carrowville and be a laughing stock."

Robin's expression became incredulous.

"Go back...?" He echoed. "Are you telling me that you're gonna run back to Los Angeles with your tail between your legs simply because some brats stare at you and a seven year old called you an idiot? Who are you? Because you're not the woman I thought I was dating...not if you're so easily scared away!"

"Then that's another reason why I should leave." Nancy said chokily. "If even you don't want me here, the best thing is that I pack and go to the airport. Tonight, if I can book a flight. Then I can't show you up at your Mom's party, and everything will be okay. We can always talk when you get back to LA."

Robin shook his head slowly.

"I don't understand." He said quietly. "What's going on, Nancy? Is it really so awful being stuck in small town Arkansas? I didn't think you were going to be a snob about this - is that what it's about? This isn't the huge metropolis you're used to, so you're turning your nose up at it and its people because of that?"

"Of course not!"

"Then what is it?" Robin demanded. "Me?"

"No! I love you!" Tears pricked Nancy's eyes. "Which is why I came here. I thought you loved me too - and maybe you do. But...but you need to understand, Robin...I can't stay here. And if I went to your Mom's party, well...I don't want to wreck her birthday by being a laughing stock. She was kind to want me - and Mary Jane has been sweet to put me up here when she didn't know me. But I'm not happy, and noone here would miss me if I left."

"I would miss you." Robin looked bewildered. "Did that slip your mind?"

"Well, you'll know where to find me, won't you?" Nancy said softly.

Robin hesitated for a moment. Then he frowned, shaking his head.

"No." He said firmly. "There's something else. I know you, Nancy. Tell me the truth - you've never held it back from me before. Tell me what's really going through your head, will you? If it isn't me and it isn't Carrowville, tell me what it is."

Nancy looked troubled. She pulled her hands away from his grip, moving to the window.

"You have a lot of friends here." She said slowly. "Don't you?"

"Of course. I grew up here." Robin was confused. "Is that it? You don't know anyone? Because after Mom's party..."

"No." Nancy shook her head. "Having friends has never been a big issue to me. I don't need other people to be happy somewhere."

She sighed.

"I think it would be better for you if I left." She added unsteadily. "People really don't want me here."

"Why would you think that?" Robin's brows knitted together.

Nancy turned to face him.

"Because they told me so." She said softly. "I'm your city slut and no real replacement for Sian. She's their cherished memory. I'm an intruder. They don't want me here. So I'll go. And then noone will hate you for bringing me to Carrowville."

A mixture of emotions crossed Robin's features, and he was by her side in a moment.

"Someone said that to you?" He demanded. "Who? Dammit, Nancy, why didn't you tell me?"

"Because maybe they're right." Nancy sighed. "Maybe I don't care enough that Sian died, or that this was her home. Maybe I shouldnt be here - maybe it is insensitive. Maybe it would be better for me to just go. There might be a scene at your Mom's party, otherwise...and I don't want to be the cause of that."

Robin muttered a curse.

"Tell me who said those things." He spoke in low tones, wrapping his arms around her comfortingly. "I mean it, Nancy. I want to know. Because I brought you here in good faith and nobody had any right to say them. You understand me? Nobody."

Nancy bit her lip.

"Anton Mulhavy." She admitted.


"When I went for my walk yesterday." Nancy owned. "I went to the park to take some photos. He accosted me beneath the tree - said I was trampling his sister's memory, more or less, and that I wasn't wanted. He thought you had a nerve bringing me here...and that whatever I did, I'd never be as important to you as Sian was."

Robin was silent for a moment, digesting this. Rage sparked in his eyes.

"I have a nerve?" He exclaimed. "What does he think he has, talking to you like that? You're here as my guest, and it's not even his business! How dare he talk to you like that!"

Nancy took a deep breath, steadying her emotions.

"But in a way I shouldn't be here." She said sadly. "I haven't felt like myself since we got here. I don't understand anything. It's all foreign and I'm out of my depth. I wasn't going to tell you about Anton, because you and he are friends and I didn't want to cause ripples or wreck your homecoming. But I feel alien here. Mary Jane and your Mom, they've been nice to me. But everyone else stares at me like I have two heads. I can't help thinking they're all comparing me with Sian...and I'm not coming off very well."

Robin pursed his lips.

"I wish you'd told me last night." He said. "I'm sorry, Nance. Carrowville is a friendly town...people have no right to treat you that way."

He grasped her hands again.

"Promise me you won't leave?" He asked. "It means a lot to me to have you here. And if you go, then Anton will have won."

Nancy closed her eyes briefly.

"I don't want to let you down." She admitted. "Being in love with you is kinda scary sometimes, because I do feel like I'm in Sian's shadow. And you know that...I've said it before. But being here has kinda emphasised it. They all have Sian stories to tell. It's like she's everywhere in this town."

"Well, now you know why I came to Los Angeles." Robin said ruefully. "Because I couldn't face it either. So maybe we have that in common."

He bent to kiss her.

"I wasn't sure when I came back how I'd feel about Sian or being in Arkansas again." He added. "Whether I'd feel regret, whether all the stuff would come back. I was as nervous as you were, in a way. That's one reason I wanted you to come. I didn't want to come here alone. I wanted someone with me - someone who understood my new life. Someone who was important to me. And I still feel that way. That I want you here, with me. I'm stronger that way."

"Really?" Nancy looked doubtful.

"Really." Robin nodded. "So please, don't go. I promise, noone else will be rude to you. Especially not at Mom's party."

Nancy sighed.

"All right." She said reluctantly. "I won't go. But I hope you're right."

"Trust me." Robin clenched his fist behind his back. "I guarantee it."

Prologue: Flashback: University of Connecticut, Winter 2009
Chapter One: Starcrossed
Chapter Two: Tante Regine
Chapter Three: Flashback: University of Connecticut: Winter 2011
Chapter Four: The Poem
Chapter Five: A Shock
Chapter Six: Nancy Confesses
Chapter Seven: Flashback: Break Up
Chapter Eight: Blackmail
Chapter Nine: Conflict
Chapter Ten: Flashback: Assanti Meddles
Chapter Eleven: Pay Off 
Chapter Twelve: Stefana Gambles
Chapter Thirteen: University of Connecticut: Finals Week
Chapter Fourteen: Cracks
Chapter Fifteen: A Tiny Piece Of Truth
Chapter Sixteen: Flashback: Forever Changed
Chapter Seventeen: Secrets Will Out

Chapter Eighteen: Fall Out

Chapter Nineteen: Flashback: A New Life

Chapter Twenty: Darren Admits

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