Chapter Five
In The Genes

 Jesta stared around the bright, sunshiny sitting room in silence, taking in her surroundings with a watchful, wary eye. It was the next day, and, much to her chagrin she had only arisen two hours earlier, the flight having taken more of a toll on her unaccustomed body than she had expected. Upon arrival at the Santiago home, she had withdrawn to the guest room Carmen had offered her to unpack, but she had done little more than curl up on the bed and fall asleep. Noone had disturbed her, and she had known nothing till she had stumbled down the stairs in search of food, disorientated and confused by her surroundings.
For a split second she had wondered at her activities the previous night, and who she might have spent it with. But then it had come flooding back to her, and she had turned to make her way back upstairs, determined that noone should see her in her dishevilled state.
She had been out of luck, for as she had reached the top of the stairs she had almost run straight into Carmen herself. The actress had said nothing about her apparel, merely greeting her with a smile and the remark that she had discovered some files which she thought the English girl might be interested in.
So, two hours later, dressed and finally breakfasted, here she was.
As it happened, she was alone in the main sitting room, for Carmen had gone to seek out the folders she had mentioned, and Copper had chosen to help her, rather than keep the houseguest company. Jesta did not care. It was better, she mused, to be alone than have to put up with the forced sweetness of a sister she didn't really want.
There were photographs on the mantle, and, as curiosity got the better of her, she got to her feet, heading over to examine them. She quickly recognised Copper, and easily assumed the other two children must be the other Santiago offspring - her siblings not yet met.
A photograph on the end of the shelf made her pause, and, after a moment of hesitation, she scooped it up, eying it closer. This was her father, she knew that from all she had already learnt, but in a different role than the one she had grown to think of him as. He was, in her mind, the rich studio director who had several hit films to his name. But this was the family man, with his arm around his wife and a warm smile on his face. In the foreground sat the three children, and Jesta noticed that Copper gripped her father's other hand. It had been professionally taken, but there was still something of a homey charm to it, and despite herself she felt a pang of envy for the childhood that she had been denied.
Then she hardened herself, putting the photo back.
"A name and my money. That's who he is." She muttered, moving across to the window. "And that's all he'll ever be."
"I'm sorry it took so long."
A voice from the doorway made her turn, seeing Carmen watching her. "There are so many documents and Esteban's stuff has not been touched for some years. Not since probate."
A flash of pain touched her blue eyes, and Jesta surprised herself by feeling a moment of compassion for her father's widow. Then it was gone, and she shrugged her shoulders.
"No matter." She said quietly. "You know more of this than I do. Tell me what the deal is, huh? What did he put by for me? I was led to believe there was something."
"Yes, there was." Carmen nodded, sitting down on the floor and indicating for Jesta to follow suit. Copper stood in the doorway, as if unsure if she was welcome or not. At length she decided to retreat, closing the door and leaving them to their discussion. For this, Jesta was glad. She had had just about enough of the Jewel shadowing her since they'd left Los Angeles.
Once they were alone, Carmen paused.
"Tell me, chica - what do you know of your father?" She asked softly.
Jesta looked startled. Then her gaze narrowed.
"What do you think?" She demanded. "He's a guy who was never there, and now he's dead. But he was rich, and he left me money. That's what I know."
Tears touched Carmen's eyes, and she shook her head.
"I wish he was here to explain to you." She whispered. "I really do. He wanted to be very much."
"Well, he wasn't." Jesta shrugged, uncomfortable with her companion's emotion, but unable to ridicule it in the way she would one of her own generation. "So that's that idea. Didn't you say you had the paperwork?"
"I have everything you need to access your money." Carmen nodded her head, forcing the tears back. "But I made him a promise, Jesta. He told me that, if ever I should come across you, that you were to know how hard he searched for you. How much he loved you, and how much he wanted to give you a family here with us."
Jesta snorted.
"I'm sure you would have loved that." She said bitterly.
"I would have taken you in, yes." Carmen looked surprised. "You were his daughter. What else would I do?"
"I've never been anyone's charity case!" Jesta reacted to this. "Not ever. I didn't need your charity then and I don't need it now. I'm here for Dad's money. It's owed me. Dammit, it's owed me for all the years he could have done something but did nothing! So I want my paperwork, and I want to get out of this place. That's why I came, and why I put up with your stupid, sickly daughter all the way on the flight here. So now you see what your husband's other child is really like, don't you? Still so sure that you'd want to play protector now?"
Carmen pursed her lips, eying her companion thoughtfully. She shrugged.
"The decision was not mine or his to make. Your mother made it." She said at length. "She took you away and hid you from us. There was nothing to be done."
"What?" Jesta blanched. "She did what?"
"Esteban had his attorney on the case. A private detective. Friends in the business in the UK." Carmen counted on her fingers. "All trying to find you, and bring you home. It consumed so much of him for a time. He was so frightened of what would become of you. All he had to prove you were his was your mother's word, yet he believed it anyway. But when you disappeared, all his hope was gone. He had no choice but to let go. You were gone."
Jesta swallowed hard, biting back the mixture of rage and hurt that swirled inside of her. Instead she reached a silent hand out for the folder, and, wisely, Carmen pushed it her way.
"You know, it is always hard to tell with a baby how they will grow to be." She mused, half to herself. "And you do not look like Este the way Copper does. But I see him in you, chica. Your jaw, your is there. His faith was justified. You are his daughter."
"Thanks for telling me what I already know." Jesta muttered, but she kept her gaze down, focused on the documents in her hand. "This is it? All I need?"
"There will be forms and things for you to sign." Carmen reached for a box, rummaging through it then finding what she needed. "Here you are. I went over these last night and signed my portion of them, while you slept off your flight. As Esteban's executor, you need my authorisation. He was so determined about this. When he died, he made sure I knew that this was how it was to be. Not a lawyer, but me. He was..."
She faltered, then,
"I think he feared someone impersonating you, and trying to claim it falsely." She amended. "And he felt that I would know if you were who you claimed to be."
"Someone?" Jesta's head shot up at this. "Like who?"
"He...was not specific." Carmen faltered, and Jesta's brows knitted together.
"Yes he was." She corrected. "But you don't want to tell me."
"It isn't my place to."
"Well, who else is going to?" Jesta demanded. "He's not exactly here to do it, and your precious Copper didn't know anything about all of this till I did!"
Carmen sighed.
"He was afraid of your mother." She said reluctantly. "He wouldn't say why, exactly, only that he was afraid she'd go to lengths to get your money. And he was determined it should be yours...not hers. He seemed sure that if she got it, you'd see none of it. He did give her some, when she first wrote to him. But..." She shrugged. "He didn't trust her. And then you disappeared."
Jesta turned this over in her mind for a moment.
"Well, he probably got that right." She said flatly. "The stupid bitch would've gone after it if she'd thought of a way to do it."
"I think I was most afraid she might use you to get it."
"Well, you can bury that thought right now." Jesta retorted. "She's never had much of that kind of control over me. I've made myself what, who and where I am - she had nothing to do with it. And there's no way I'd give her something like this. She's sucked enough of my money, time and patience out of me for most of my life. This is mine, and mine alone. And God, I deserve it."
"You do not love her, do you?" Carmen's tone was gentle.
"That's not your business. I'm not your business." Jesta recoiled from the sympathy in her companion's tone. "So quit it."
She hesitated, then.
"Please." She added. "You don't understand, so don't try. It's better not to. I came for a reason. Let's not make it any more complicated than it has to be. Once this is done, I'm out of your hair and you've done your duty by your husband. So we're all happy, then. Okay? That seem fair to you?"
Carmen eyed her companion for a long while. Then she spread her hands.
"If it will make you happy." She agreed. "Ven. I will explain to you these papers and all you need to understand to claim what is yours."

In the kitchen, Copper had just drained her glass of lemonade when there was a knock at the door. Confused, she slipped off her stool, heading out to the hallway.
"I'll get it, Mama!" She called, reaching for the latch and slipping it aside, opening the door and letting out an exclamation of delighted surprise.
"Luis!" She cried, hugging her brother tightly. "Oh, did you come to see me?"
"I knew you were visiting Mama this week, so I thought I'd come say hi." Her brother's eyes twinkled back at her. "See how you've survived since the wedding. Aaron with you?"
"" Copper shook her head, leading the way into the kitchen and pushing the door shut behind them. "No, he had a project to work on back home and I thought it was better I do this trip alone."
Luis looked concerned.
"There isn't a problem between you two, is there?" He asked anxiously, as he helped himself to a glass of lemonade. "You've only been married since March, Copper, don't tell me you're fighting already!"
"Huh?" Copper stared. Then she laughed. "No! Oh, no! I see where your thoughts are, but no. I came alone because it was short notice and, well..." She paused, lowering her voice. "Luis, what has Mama told you about...things recently?"
"Mama?" Luis's brows knitted in confusion. "What do you mean, exactly?"
"Has she spoken to you about...about Jessica?"
"Oh. That." Luis's eyes darkened. "Yes. She invited me over for dinner last weekend and explained it all to me very carefully. Don't tell me you're involved in all of this, too? I was under the impression that this was Papa's big bad dark secret and that he hadn't told any of us."
"It's as new to me as it is to you." Copper shook her head. "And as new to us as it is to Jessica herself."
"What?" Luis stared. "You've been in contact with her?"
"Yes." Copper nodded her head. "In a sense I already knew her, though I didn't know who she was till more recently. It spilled out without either of us expecting it. I confronted Mama about it, and she told me what she knew. She said she would speak to you and Ros, too - I didn't realise she'd done so without telling you that Jessica had been found."
"Well, obviously she didn't think it necessary that I know." Luis shrugged his shoulders. "In truth, I kinda hoped she wouldn't be. That Mama had just had the urge to tell us out of conscience, or something. I should have realised there was more to it than that, but I guess I didn't think."
"Some hotshot reporter you're going to make, then." Copper teased, but her eyes were grave. "Listen, Luis. Jessica came back to Detroit with me. She..."
"She's here?" Luis's expression became incredulous. "You brought here here? To Mama's house? Here? Why?"
"I would have thought that was obvious." Copper looked confused. "Mama was Papa's executor, and Papa left the girl money."
"Oh, so she's hitched her way up here to come and claim her rightful inheritance, is that it?" Luis's lip curled. "Papa's dead, Copper - does she even care about that? I would've thought that it would matter to you. Or did she just come here to grab what she could get?"
"I'd say that about sums me up."
A fresh voice, cold and hard came from behind them, and both turned to see Jesta standing in the doorway of the kitchen, watching them.
"I'm a callous bitch from England who's taken it upon myself to trot all the way across the Atlantic just to bring misery and upset to my dead father's family. Because he's long since dust, I don't give a damn about anything he ever did, nor do I really give a rat's arse about his stupid, over-spoilt children. I've plotted for a long time to come here and ruin all of you by blackmailing you if you didn't give me what I wanted, and I might yet kill you all in your beds if it meant I thought I could run away with more of my Daddy's money."
Sarcasm dripped from her words, and she fixed Luis with a poisonous stare. "Does that satisfy you?"
"Do you think you're funny?" Luis met the gaze with one of her own.
"Not at all." Jesta shook her head. "Perhaps I'm deadly serious."
An icy smile touched her lips.
"Luis, I presume. Your mother was telling me how you're going into the press. How nice for you. I hope you take great pleasure in ruining other people's lives. No doubt you'll begin with mine, since we've evidently got off on the wrong foot."
"Jesta, please..." Copper sent her an emploring look. "Luis, this is Jessica. She's our sister, remember that. Whatever Papa kept from us, this isn't the time to..."
"No, Copper. You're my sister." Luis shook his head. "Rosita is my sister. This," he jerked his head in Jesta's direction, "Is what I said earlier. Papa's big bad secret that had to be hushed up. Why do you suppose he did that, huh? Was he proud of it? I don't think so. And no wonder. Look at her."
"Luis!" Copper protested.
"Yes, look at me." Jesta nodded. "This is what happens when you're not spoiled and pampered at every stop along the way. What I am is what I've made myself. None of Daddy's boy, Mummy's girl nonsense with me. I'm..."
"You're Dad's bastard baby and you're dressed like some kind of hooker." Luis shot back, anger in his eyes. "But I don't know if I should be surprised or not. Mama didn't say much about your mother, but I'll bet I know what sort of a person she was, if you're anything to go by. A con-artist, that was the impression I got. Someone who'd sell their own soul if it meant a tidy profit or a favour from someone tall, dark and handsome. I don't know why you're here, except to extort money from Mama. She loved Papa and you're here to take advantage of it. I knew it the moment Copper said you were here. Copper's never been able to turn down a hearfelt request, and of course she feels sorry for you. So might Mama. I'm not so easily fooled, though. There are three children in this family - you hear me? Three. Not four. Get your money and get out of our lives. We don't need you digging around in Papa's memory and stirring up things for Mama again."
For a moment there was a deathly silence. Then Jesta shrugged her shoulders.
"Fine." She said simply. "Whatever you say."
She headed purposefully towards the door, where she paused, turning back.
"For the record, I never asked to be part of your crummy family, Mother's boy." She said quietly. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather be dead."
"Jesta, wait!" Copper exclaimed, but Jesta swung open the front door, heading out into the street.
"Oh, for God's sake, Copper. Let her go." Luis grimaced. "She's not part of this family. I'm not so stupid as you might think I am. I know who Jesta is - I've heard enough about her in press reports and, more importantly, from your emails. I know she's a troublemaker and I know she's caused you no end of hassle. I knew as soon as she came in on us who she was. For all we know she might not even really be Papa's Jessica. This might all be an elaborate con to get Mama to hand over Papa's money and take advantage of all of us. She'll be laughing in the press tomorrow at what a fool you and your group are - did you think of that?"
"And what if she is?" Copper's voice shook "What if it isn't a coincidence that his name is on her birth certificate? What if it's not fluke that she has Papa's nose and Papa's chin? What if the reason she's exactly the right age to be Jessica Talley is because she is Jessica Talley?"
"I don't understand you." Luis shook his head. "Are you taking her side?"
"I don't know." Copper got to her feet. "What I do know is that my brother, who I love very, very much has turned himself into a monster this afternoon. Jesta mightn't be my best friend in the world, but she is family, Luis. And I know what Papa would want us to do. What he did want us to do. I know what he asked of Mama, and I know that, had he lived, he would have asked it of us too, eventually. We were just too young. He didn't want to burden our lives with his secret while we were growing up...and he never got to tell us."
"Copper, whether she is or not, she's still the girl who's caused you no end of trouble." Luis shook his head. "She's still Jesta. What her genes say is irrelevant. She's not Papa's daughter any more than Aaron is Papa's son. You want her to be, because she shares his DNA, but she isn't. She's not one of us. She's not a Santiago."
"Well, if you're an example of how a Santiago behaves, then maybe she'd rather not be. Perhaps she's right." Copper's expression became cold. "And more, Luis, I am beginning to think I'm glad to have let go of that name, too. You can do as you can sit and worry about being a good Santiago. But I'm Elizabeth Pelligrini now."
"So you'll turn your back on Papa and on all of us, for the sake of that girl?" Luis stared. Copper shook her head.
"No, Luis. You turn your back on Papa." She said quietly. "Me...I will find out for myself whether Jesta can be my sister or not. But, whether she is or not, she can never have the chance now to know her father. He's gone, and we're the only things she has left to tell her about him. I don't know what her mother was - I only know that whatever she is like, she's scarred Jesta for life in some way."
She shrugged.
"And right now, I'm going to go find her. She's out there in a city she doesn't know, and she'll get cold, lost and maybe even hurt. She's Mama's guest and I'm not going to allow that."
She pushed open the door, grabbing her jacket from it's peg and slipping it over her shoulders.
"Bye, Luis. Think it over."
Prologue: July 12th, 1991
Chapter One: A Long Flight
Chapter Two: Family
Chapter Three: A Day Out
Chapter Four: Flashback - Esteban's Quest
Chapter Five: In The Genes
Chapter Six: Confidences
Chapter Seven: Flashback - A Tragic Truth
Chapter Eight: A Tentative Bond
Chapter Nine: Some Truth
Chapter Ten: Flashback - This Is Farewell
Chapter Eleven: The Memorial Garden

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