Thicker Than Water

Chapter One:
Sylva's Request

 "It's no use."
Sylvina Martescu dropped down on the plush seats that stood outside the dressing rooms of the big designer store, casting her companion a helpless look. "We must have been to every store in town, Logan, and I still cannot find the exact right dress to take with me to New York. It's stupid! This is Beverly Hills, not some hillbilly backwater. I should have found something by now...all I've got to show for this morning is a pair of very cute sandals which, right at the moment, match nothing I own!"
Logan Matthews eyed her thoughtfully, amusement sparkling in his eyes.
"Finished?" He asked at length.
"Yes." Sylva groaned. "For now."
"Good." Logan sat down on the bench beside her. "Aaron wasn't kidding when he asked me if I had a death wish, coming shopping with you. I was under the impression this was going to be a quick trip to pick up a dress for your sister's wedding reception, then lunch. Now," he glanced at his watch. "It's almost half past three and I'm starving. You must be too...and my feet are protesting at the fact they've walked the same stretch of Beverly Hills at least five times. What do you say we give it a break for the time being, and go get something to eat? I don't think my brain can stand seeing another line of clothes racks."
A sheepish smile touched Sylva's lips.
"I'm sorry." She said, getting to her feet. "I lost track of the time. It was sweet of you to come with me this morning, Logan...I didn't intend it to be quite this crazy. Only Anna's my twin sister, and, well...I want to look right."
She scooped up her shopping bag, linking her free arm in his. "And I should treat you to...well, it won't be lunch, exactly, but whatever it is, after your patience with me this morning. I'm just so conscious that in a week I'm flying out of state and time is running out. It doesn't look cool if you have to buy these things when you get know what I mean?"
"Well, to be quite" Logan laughed, as they made their way out of the clothes store and down the main street towards a popular restaurant. "But I'll take your word for it."
He grinned.
"Honestly, Syl, whatever you wear you'll make look stunning. You know that and so do I. Maybe you should stop fretting about it. After all, Anna's gonna be more worried about exchanging vows with this dude than she is about what her sister's wearing to the after party."
"I know." Sylva looked pensive. "I'm the one who's fashion crazy, and she's the one who..."
She trailed off, shaking her head. "I guess it's more than that, Logan. It's just strange, that's all. Anna and I grew up together and the whole of that time, well, she was really kinda shy with other people. She didn't go on a date - not a proper one - till we were juniors in high school, and then I had to do a lot of prodding to make her even speak to the guy on the swim team she liked. And now..."
"And now she's getting married?" Logan raised an eyebrow. "Well, I woulda thought you'd be happy for her, Syl. I mean, it looks like your prodding got her in the right direction - right?"
"I know." Sylva sighed. "I guess it just feels funny. I mean, this will be the second wedding I've been to where I've not had an escort, and the third one in as many years. It's bad luck, surely, to go to so many weddings and never be the bride? This will be my second time as a bridesmaid, and though I'm looking forward to it, it'll be strange, too."
Logan nudged her playfully.
"You mean that you miss being the Prom Queen type that all the guys in the halls swooned over?" He teased. Sylva's cheeks pinkened.
"Sometimes." She admitted. "But I don't think that'd do, honestly. I mean, Anna's marrying John. That's for life. And look at me...I'm not even dating. How does that look, huh?"
"It looks like you're well into your career and not rushing anything." Logan said soothingly. "You're not unpopular, Syl. You have loads of friends, lots of people think the world of you. It's not like you're going to your sister's wedding as some loser who sits in the shadows and weeps into her cocktail. You'll be the life and soul of the party, and they do say weddings are a good place to meet people. Well, perhaps Mr Right will be at Anna's wedding."
"No good if he is." Sylva grimaced. "He'd be in New York and I'm here in Los Angeles."
"You're determined to be miserable over this, aren't you?" Logan's eyes danced with amusement. Sylva sighed.
"Guess so." She admitted. "Oh, let's go get something to eat. Food always cheers me up, and I'm having no luck on the other front."
"Your wardrobe is legendary, if the others are to be believed." Logan told her. "There must be something in there you haven't worn yet."
"Yes, but Logan..."
"Okay, okay." Logan held up his hands. "It's Anna's wedding and you want something new and special that makes everyone sit up and take notice."
"Something like that." Sylva agreed. "Though I don't want to steal attention from Annie, Logan. It's not about that. I just want to...well..." She pinkened again. "Match up to her. And that's something I've never said before in my life, so don't go repeating it."
"I won't." Logan assured her, pushing open the door of the restaurant and leading her over to a corner table. "And as for who's paying for this meal, I said I'd pay and I meant it. I'm a gentleman, Syl, and I keep my word." He winked. "Even if you underestimated how long your little shopping emergency was going to be."
"I said I was sorry." Sylva protested. She giggled. "You should have listened to Aaron. Why did you come, anyhow?"
"Because I happen to enjoy your company." Logan mock-toasted her with an empty wine glass. "And I couldn't abandon a damsel in distress."
"None of the others would." Sylva looked pensive. "Not even Topaz. I think after five years living with me they're wise to what this kind of shopping trip's gonna entail. I did think Topaz would come  - but she said something about Hollie having a doctor's check-up. So...I guess the kid does come first."
"Everyone's growing up, huh?" Logan asked. Sylva started, then nodded, scooping up her menu and glancing at it absently.
"Yeah, I suppose so." She agreed. "Aaron and Copper are married - for heaven's sake, I caught Copper going over curtain swatches in our rehearsal break yesterday, for, if you please, the 'guest' room of their house. How domestic is that? Topaz is raising a toddler who's trotting all over and building quite a vocabulary. Cynthia...Cyn's been kinda on and off ever since Jerrica died, to be honest. I think it's had a lasting effect on her - she's not quite as sparky as she usually is, and sometimes I don't like to bother her - she seems preoccupied. Sadie's constantly spending time over at Alex's whenever they can grab a moment's free time, and they're disgustingly together and committed about everything. Nancy..."
She paused, pursing her lips.
"Nancy doesn't operate on the same rules as the rest of us." She said finally. "But whatever rules she does follow, she's following them without worrying about anything else. And then there's me." She sighed. "Stuck in a same ol' rut with no hot guy, no lovey-dovey relationship and no damn dress for Anna's reception. Sucks, doesn't it?"
"Woe is you." Logan chuckled. "And I'm not so very different, you know. I had a steady chick back in Wisconsin - you know that - but honestly, since Jenna and I broke up, I kinda wondered if I'd lost my edge. I mean, I was hot property in High School." He raised an eyebrow. "Ask Nancy if you don't believe me."
"Silly." Sylva swiped his arm. "And it's not the same thing. You don't have a twin sister getting married in a few weeks, and you're not going to the wedding solo."
"So don't go solo." Logan shrugged. "Take someone with you."
"I'm not with you."
"Topaz or one of the others not want to visit NYC?"
"Oh, that would be the icing on the cake." Sylva groaned. "It isn't just Annie who'll be there, Logan. My cousin Samantha is invited as well. I am not going to let her see me taking one of my girlfriends across the country for a wedding because I was too sad to get a date."
"So take me then." Logan looked unconcerned, flipping open his own menu and running his finger down the list of meals. "I've not been to New York since I was seven. Might be fun."
"Logan, you are kidding." Sylva glared at him, and Logan held up his hands.
"What? A guy can't try and get a free vacation?" He asked innocently. "Anna did send you two plane tickets...and you know your Mom made other arrangements to go out there."
"Mom's already out there. Mother of the Bride and all that." Sylva sat back in her chair. "You have nerve, you know that? I shouldn't have told you that I had an extra ticket. No wonder you came shopping with me today!"
"Hey, I swear that was spur of the moment." Logan shook his head with a grin. "I was pushing my luck, but I was kidding. I just meant that you don't have to go alone. You don't need a guy on your arm to make people like you or notice you, Syl. You're a celebrity - people love you to death as it is. Go and just be you. Why not?"
Sylva was silent for a moment, considering.
"Well?" Logan pressed.
"What are you thinking?"
Sylva pushed her menu aside.
"I'm thinking that the seafood salad would be a good choice." She said slowly. Logan shook his head.
"I meant about my stunning advice."
"Oh..." Sylva pursed her lips. "Maybe you're right. I don't need a guy on my arm - or anyone, for that matter - to be cool. I do love a party and it's something I'm good at, socialising. Even if a lot of the people there are Anna and John's friends from college. And, well, as Maid of Honour, I'll probably be pretty busy leading up to it all - if there's any organisation left that Mom and Anna haven't already seen to, that is."
She looked sheepish. "Organisation wasn't big on my side of the twin split. Annie got my share while I got her share of reckless idiocy."
"Well, you said that and not me." Logan laughed. "So you're okay, then?"
"Yeah." Sylva rested her chin in her hands, then she sighed. "No. I admit it, Logan, I'm shallow. I don't want to travel all that way alone and have people think that I'm the loser twin because Annie's found her dream guy and I'm still single. And I especially don't want Sammi to get her claws into me. After the last time we spoke - well, she owes me one, and this could be a pretty public place for a bitch-fight."
"Sammi wouldn't do anything to wreck Anna's wedding, would she?" Logan looked surprised.
"No...she wouldn't." Sylva acknowledged. "But discredit me?" She flushed red. "I said some stupid - and, er, not nice things to her last time we talked. I guess it would be understandable if she wanted to...well...get back at me."
"I don't understand how girls work that way." Logan shook his head slowly. "You seem to make just a heap more trouble for yourselves."
"Well, at least we don't like to roll on top of each other in mud and pretend it's sport." Sylva said absently. Logan laughed.
"Touche." He admitted amiably. "Though, you know, rolling in mud..."
"Don't finish that sentence." Sylva pointed her spoon at him warningly. "You'll regret it."
"Okay, okay. I won't." Logan grinned. "We should order, by the way. Seafood salad?"
"Yes." Sylva nodded, as Logan raised his hand to attract the attention of a waiter.
"You know," She continued, once they had placed their orders. "Maybe I dismissed it too quickly. You know...out of hand."
"Dismissed what?" Logan looked puzzled.
"Your idea."
"My idea? Which one?" Logan raised an eyebrow. "You must be in trouble if you're considering advice I gave you with any seriousness."
"Stupid." Sylva swiped him with her menu. "I meant about the extra plane ticket."
"Why don't you come with me?" Sylva rested her chin in her hands, meeting his gaze with an earnest one of her own. "It'd be fun. We'd have a blast."
"Syl, I was joking." Logan looked surprised.
"I know, but what if you did come?" Sylva asked. "I mean, it would be a shame to waste the plane ticket."
"I do have a job - I have to work, else I'll get the sack." Logan frowned. "Remember, I lost my job in Wisconsin because of Aaron's wedding."
"Yes, but you keep saying you're owed weeks back on all the unpaid overtime you've done since you started." Sylva said, making her eyes big and beseeching. "Please, Logan? It would be a blast, and, well, it's not like taking one of the girls. I mean..."
She faltered, going scarlet, and Logan's face took on a look of comprehension. He let out a low chuckle.
"Oh, I see." He said, amused. "You want me to go with you and play the gallant love interest - is that it?"
Sylva glanced down at the tablecloth. She did not reply.
"Syl, don't you think lying to people - to your sister - is a bad idea?"
"I didn't say I would."
"No...but that's what it'd amount to in the end."
"Logan, we're friends, right?" Sylva's tone took on a pleading note, as she met his gaze with an anxious one of her own. "I've not slept much this week for worrying about this, and it might seem like a silly, girl problem to you but it's a real one to me. And we are friends. Yes?"
"So will you help me? Please?" Sylva begged. "It would only be for a week or two, and you don't have to kiss me or anything. it up a little. I mean, you're a cute guy, and...well, people will expect..." She trailed off, biting her lip.
"This really is important to you, isn't it?" Logan's teasing tone died away. Sylva nodded.
Logan sighed.
"Look, I'll speak to my boss." He said at length. "If I can't get the time off, well, I can't. But boy, Syl, will you owe me after this one."
"Thank you." Sylva's eyes shone with embarrassed relief. "But not a word to anyone, Logan. I mean it. If it's not sad turning up alone - it's worse turning up with someone you've asked to pretend to be your boyfriend."
"Not a word." Logan agreed. "Our secret."
"Thanks." Sylva reached across the table, squeezing his hand. "And I'll pay you back, I promise. It means a lot."
"Well, a trip to the Big Apple might be fun." Logan mused. "And hey, I never turn down a party!"

Prologue: April 1st, 1997
Chapter One: Sylva's Request
Chapter Two: Samantha...and Jesta
Chapter Three: Flashback - Junior High
Chapter Four: In The Big Apple
Chapter Five: Flashback - Sammi's Eighth Birthday
Chapter Six: Flight
Chapter Seven: Anna
Chapter Eight: Flashback - The Martescu Home
Chapter Nine: Old Wounds
Chapter Ten: Jesta's Clue
Chapter Eleven: In Translation
Chapter Twelve: Flashback - Thick As Blood
Chapter Thirteen: A Friend In Need
Chapter Fourteen: Anna's Secret
Chapter Fifteen: Wedding Day
Chapter Sixteen: Flashback - First Kiss
Chapter Seventeen: Crossing The Line
Chapter Eighteen: Colin
Chapter Nineteen: Settling Up