Thicker Than Water
Chapter Eleven:
In Translation

"It's a nice day today."
Copper settled herself in more comfortably the booth of the restaurant, casting her husband a conspiratorial grin. "And I'm glad you could play hooky for an hour or so to join me out here for lunch. I know that with Syl out of state Jewel's stuff has been at a minimum, but Phyllis seems to have you just as hard to the grindstone as ever at the moment."
"She does." Aaron looked rueful, taking a sip of his drink. "And she doesn't know I've left the building, because she took off for a meeting in San Fran just about an hour ago. Mom doesn't mind me fraternising with my wife, but Aunt Phyl is paranoid that any time spent together in work hours is going to result in an army of little Pelligrinis and more disruptions for her music company. Honestly, I don't think she's got over what Topaz put her through with Hollie yet."
"More likely what she went through herself, having Emily." Copper set down her fork, resting her chin in her hands pensively. "Maybe we should tell her that there's really no risk of that happening. It might make her lighten up, if she knew that I probably can't have kids - or not at the moment. Not till we get down to seeing specialists and all of that stuff."
"I know, but you were the one who didn't want to talk to her about it." Aaron touched his wife's hand gently. "And it's all right, really. I think deep down she knows that we're going to have a proper relationship, like any married couple. There's nothing she can do about it. She just likes to be in charge. That's all. And it doesn't hurt to humour her a little. She does pay our wages."
"So she does, in a manner of speaking." Copper nodded her head. "She just seems to have you and Cynthia especially busy these days."
"For Cyn, I'm glad that she does." Aaron admitted. "The busier she is with other things, the less pensive she is. I know she says she's over Jerrica and all that, but I don't think she's quite as logical about it as she'd like to be. She'd have me believing she's cached it somewhere where it can't get at her, but I don't think it's that simple. Keeping her occupied seems the best cure."
"We just have to give her the time to deal with it." Copper agreed. "It was a big deal breakdown she had, after all."
Aaron glanced at his watch, then rolled his eyes.
"I ought to be heading back." He admitted, leaning across the table to kiss his wife on the nose. "Even Mom won't have patience with our lunch breaks if I'm late back and claiming over my time allowance. Are you staying in the city, or heading home?"
"Home, probably." Copper pursed her lips. "Since I've some free time, I'm going to have a walk round the garden and see where the landscapers need to come in. We keep saying we'll do something to the wilderness out there and it's about time we did, so I might give that some thought. And it's not too blazing hot today, considering it's the end of June. It seems like the perfect time."
"Okay, you do that." Aaron nodded, reaching in his pocket for a handful of bills and tossing them down onto the table. "There, and I'm outta here. I'll see you later - probably around sixish, with any luck. Don't go too mad on the garden plans, okay? We want it to be manageable and I don't want to have to be calling in an army of gardeners to keep it tidy."
Copper giggled.
"I promise." She agreed. "Simplicity first. And I'll call the guy about de-weeding the pool, too, while I'm at it. Might as well make myself useful, while Jewel are at a loose end."
"Sure." Aaron grinned. "The sooner that's done, the sooner we can relax by our pool instead of gatecrashing the Starlight to do it."
"Right." Copper nodded. "And it'll give us the perfect excuse to hold a pool party."
"Was that your idea, or Syl's?" Aaron raised an eyebrow. Copper laughed.
"Guess." She responded. "But don't worry. It'd be a very private pool party!"
Aaron looked amused.
"Yes, I'm sure." He agreed ruefully. "Okay. This evening, then?"
"Of course." Copper's eyes twinkled. "Take care and don't let work drive you mad!"
"Do my best." Aaron rolled his eyes. "It's not easy when you're trying to install new software for someone who wants the newest and best but hasn't a clue how to use it."
With that he was gone, and Copper chuckled, shaking her head slowly.
"But she does insist on it, he's right." She murmured, reaching for her own purse and counting out enough money to make up her half of the bill. "I guess that's just Phyllis. It's just a pity my husband is the one who'll probably spend till Christmas explaining how it works!"
"That was cosy."
A fresh voice interrupted her thoughts and she turned, seeing Jesta leaning up against the wall, her arms folded across her chest. Consternation flitted into Copper's eyes.
"Jesta?" She exclaimed.
"Well done. Ten out of ten for observation." Jesta said lazily. "Are you busy?"
"I will be." Copper's eyes narrowed. "What do you want?"
"Just to talk to you." Jesta dropped down into Aaron's vacated seat. "Can you manage a grown up discussion, or is that too much to expect from a Jewel?"
"Honey, I manage to run my own home. I can certainly manage a conversation." Copper said acidly. "Though I didn't think talking was entirely your style."
"Good. I'm glad you understand my way of doing things. It saves time." Jesta seemed unperturbed. "Listen. I need a favour from you."
"A favour?" Copper's eyebrows shot up. "Aren't you taking entirely the wrong tack about this? Most people who want favours ask nicely for them. And what makes you think I'd want to help you, anyhow? You like making life difficult for us whenever we set foot on British soil...and you've done a fair bit of mischief here in the USA, too. Why would I want any part in one of your schemes?"
"Woah, backtrack, Jewel." Jesta held up her hands. "This ain't a scheme. It's a research project I'm doing, that's all."
"Research?" Copper's expression could not get any more incredulous, and Jesta laughed.
"Yes, research." She agreed. "Guess it probably didn't occur to you, but I do read. And something I read recently has great interest to me."
"I saw you at the library." Remembrance flashed into Copper's dark eyes. "Nancy and I both did. At the microfilm...what kind of research? And what has this to do with me?"
"Simple." Jesta made herself more comfortable in her seat, reaching into her bag for a pile of papers. "Like I said, you know how I work. I don't mind causing you trouble - no end of it, in fact - if you don't help me out."
"We can deal with your kind of trouble." Copper said darkly. Jesta raised an eyebrow.
"Okay. Let me be a bit more blunt." She said contemplatively. "How does this sound, as the headline in tomorrow's Tribune?"
She gestured. "A Jewel's pain - The truth about Copper's infertility."
Copper blanched.
"What?" She whispered. "What do you know about that?"
"Oh, I improvise." Jesta shrugged carelessly. "You shouldn't talk about it in such a public place, even with your other half. People can hear you. People like me take note, and then use it against you."
"You wouldn't!"
"I would." Jesta smirked. "I don't care what the world knows about you. But if you help me out, I won't do anything about it. Those are my terms. Are you on my wavelength now?"
Copper sighed, rubbing her temples.
"Okay." She said at length. "What kind of help are we talking about?"
"Nothing brain-busting." Jesta held out a sheet of paper. "It's in Spanish. I don't speak a word of it...tell me what it says."
"Tell you what it says?" Copper looked confused.
"Yes, bozo. Translate it for me."
"That's it?" Slowly Copper took the sheet. "That's all you want me to do? Just...translate it into English?"
"Yes. Gee, are you always this dense?"
"Jesta, why didn't you just ask me to?" Copper pursed her lips. "I thought you meant trouble when you dropped in on me, and you wanted me to do something bad. Translating from Spanish - nothing easier. You could have just asked. You didn't need to threaten me with blackmail."
"But that's how I work." Jesta shrugged. She paused, then,
"You'd really just have done it, though? If I'd asked?"
"Damn." Jesta rolled her eyes. "I could have saved that blackmail piece for something bigger."
Despite herself, Copper smiled.
"Maybe you're not so smart as all that." She responded, smoothing the letter out on the table. "Now let's see. It's not so long...I..."
She frowned.
"Hey. Hang on a minute. Jesta, where did you get this?"
"Huh?" Confused by her companion's sudden change of attitude, Jesta looked startled.
"This letter. Where did you get it?"
"That's none of your business. Your job is to tell me what it says."
"What are you playing at?" Anger sparked in Copper's dark eyes and she pushed the sheet away. "This is one of your games, isn't it? Just a silly game to see if you can get at and upset me as much as possible! And for a moment there I thought maybe you were on the level!"
"Hey, back up!" Jesta exclaimed, grabbing up the paper. "Did you forget your medication or something? What gives?"
"I want to know where you got that letter!" Copper's voice shook. "And don't tell me that you don't know what's in it. Of course you do! You've set this all up!"
"Copper, I have no idea what's in the goddamn letter!" Jesta shot back. "It could be a shopping list for all I know. I don't speak a word of Spanish, so quit freaking out at me and just tell me what it says!"
Copper eyed her companion mutinously, and Jesta's eyes narrowed.
"The Tribune." She added. "Tomorrow. Front page."
Copper swore under her breath in Spanish, then snatched the letter out of Jesta's grasp, casting it another glance. She bit her lip, swallowing hard.
"What are you trying to play with me?" She asked softly. "Jesta, where did you get this letter? I mean it."
"I found it."
"That's not your business. Just translate it already, will you?" Jesta was starting to lose her patience.
"It's a...a short note." Copper's voice trembled. "And...and it was written..."
She faltered, shaking her head.
"It was written," She whispered. "By my father."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

 "Well, that was painless."
Across the country, in New York, Sylva slipped an arm into Logan's, leading him towards the door of the church. "I dunno. Anna and John seemed more into it in there than they were last night. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they did make up their fight and they were both just nervy this morning."
"Weddings are a big deal thing." Logan rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "But you know, it's amazing what a late night chat can fix between couples."
He grinned, raising an eyebrow, and Sylva punched him playfully on the arm.
"You have your mind in one area." She scolded him. "Stop being male for a moment, will you?"
"Kinda hard, it's in my chromosomes." Logan chuckled. "But all right. I think Anna and John were on the same wavelength today. Perhaps it wasn't as big a fight as you thought it was."
"One thing is just bugging me about it, though." Sylva sighed. "Colin. Who is this dude? I daren't ask for fear of causing another argument, but I didn't like how sad Annie looked when I got in. Fighting with someone you care about is the pits...she looked really wretched."
"Well, so talk to her." Logan nudged her, nodding in the direction of the doorway, where Anna was speaking to the best man. "You're twins. Ask her."
"I dunno." Sylva looked pensive. "This wedding seems all about avoiding arguments, did you notice that? Sammi and me. Anna and John. Mom and Dad. And noone's started taking vows yet. It gives me such a bad feeling, and I can't explain why."
"Then all the more reason you should talk to her." Logan reasoned. "If you're worried. You've told me about twin intuition - maybe that's what this is. Hm?"
"Perhaps..." Sylva hesitated, casting a fleeting glance around her. Logan saw her, however, and grasped her by the hand.
"Listen, I won't go chasing after Sammi now I know who she is." He told her seriously. "It's a shame you feel how you do about her, because she seems a nice enough chick. Very together, considering all the crap she's been through - that's why I didn't twig who she was right away. But it upsets you, and you're my friend. I don't want to upset the boat here, so I'm gonna go back to the hotel and take a shower. While I'm here in New York, I'm your date and I'm gonna be a perfectly faithful one. No straying eyes, and no straying hands."
Sylva looked startled. Then she blushed.
"I was looking for Sammi." She admitted. "Gee, how well do you already know me?"
She reached up on tiptoe, kissing his cheek.
"Thank you for understanding." She murmured. "I'm sorry it's awkward for you."
"Syl, being friends with girls is always confusing, awkward and often incomprehensible." Logan looked rueful. "But hey, I'm getting used to it."
He winked at her.
"I'll call you later, if you like, and buy you dinner. Isn't that how a boyfriend behaves?"
"Yes." Sylva blushed again. "But it's my treated me last night."
"Oh, this is a democratic, equal opportunities relationship?" Logan teased. "Well, be my guest. I won't argue against it. But I will call you. And we'll discuss it...okay?" "Okay." Sylva nodded. "Thanks, Logan. I'll ask Annie for somewhere nice in the city. She's bound to know a place we can go."
"Do that." Logan agreed. "Bye!"
"Logan off somewhere?" Anna's voice sounded at Sylva's shoulder and the older twin turned, casting her companion a grin.
"Yes...back to the hotel for a shower." She agreed. "Though we're going to dinner later. Do you know anywhere in the city? We went to the only restaurant I know last night, and I don't want to be repetitive."
"There's a nice Mexican restaurant out on Wroxham Avenue." Anna said thoughtfully. She pursed her lips. "John took me there for our last anniversary. The tacos are to die for."
"Mexican sounds good." Sylva dimpled. "That's something I miss at home. Copper's cooking! Since she moved out we've had to do a lot more ourselves and trust me, she's a damn good cook."
Anna didn't reply and, shooting her sister a sidelong glance, Sylva slipped an arm around Anna's shoulders.
"Something up, sis?" She asked gently.
"Something is eating at you. I know it is, so don't tell me that it's not." Sylva said softly. "I've known you too long - we shared a womb, remember? Will you tell me?"
"Nothing's wrong." Anna shook her head. "I'm just worried about final arrangements and my deadline at work. That's all. The project has to be in the day before we go on the honeymoon, and it's not nearly done yet."
"So forget about it. It's not important."
"It is important, Sylvie. Very important." Anna rubbed her temples. "It's my responsibility to get these things done on time. Even getting married is not a good excuse to be unreliable and if I want the big stuff to come my way again, I have to be punctual with it."
"Work is not more important than life, Ann." Sylva shook her head. "Remember Mom and Dad? Work drove them apart. His work. Her work. Their complete lack of being around each other more than they had to."
"So what are you saying?" Anna pushed Sylva away, anger in her blue eyes. "That I'm a workaholic and I'm going to wreck my wedding before it's begun because I care about a deadline? Sylvie, I know your work isn't exactly like mine, but I thought you'd got a sense of responsibility since you went multi-platinum. Or are the press stories right? Are you still playing the high school floozie with credit cards to blow on every available item? The real world isn't on the end of a till receipt, you know."
Sylva reeled back, as if stunned.
"Woah! Annie, listen. I just..."
"No, you listen to me for once." Anna shook her head. "You have got to get used to the idea that things aren't quite the same any more, Syl. We're not kids. I don't have to come running to you for everything and you don't need to tell me how life works. It's not all about you these days. You're not the prom queen cheerleading captain any more, with everyone hanging onto your every word and forgetting I even exist. I'm more than just Sylvie's damn sister...even your boyfriend called me your clone! I'm sick of it! I have a degree, a good job, and I'm going to be married. I'd say that my life is pretty much set without your guidance, wouldn't you?"
Hurt flared in Sylva's expression.
"No, I'd say you're doing what Mom and Dad always did, and pretending to the world that everything is okay." She shot back. "You and John are having problems. You're fighting. You were in tears last night. Your project is driving you to distraction, so don't tell me that this is the perfect job. And just because you got a degree - don't you ever come Dad over me about that! My career is just as valid as yours and I'm just as independant! I'm sorry that means people over the globe know my name - that's just what I do! I chose this life, you chose yours, so don't get mad if people don't know you exist. You have to make them notice you, if you want them to care! It was the same in High School - so don't pretend otherwise! I practically had to drag you out into the open just to give you any semblance of life. How many times did I blood some idiot's nose because they ripped on you?"
She bit her lip, angry tears welling in her blue eyes.
"As your twin, would you expect me to do any less for the person I love most in this entire world? And maybe I am trying to 'interfere' in your life, if that's what you call my advice, but forgive me for actually wanting my kid sister to have a happy ever after!"
Before Anna could respond, the older twin had turned on her heel, stalking down the path in a high temper and into the main city. Remorse flooded through Anna's body and she hurried after her, but by the time she reached the main street, her sister was gone into the crowd.
Anna dropped back against the wall of a nearby shop building, closing her eyes against her tears.
"So much for going it alone." She muttered. "Where did all that come from? She's right...this problem with Colin is turning me into something I don't like, and I'm hurting everyone I love because of it!"
Anna jumped, glancing up and sighing as she saw Sammi watching her.
"Hi, Sam." She murmured. "I guess you didn't catch me at the best time."
"So I see." Sammi hesitated, then slipped an arm around the younger twin. "Something wrong?"
"Something...everything." Anna swallowed hard. "I just had a fight with Sylvie. Last night it was John. I feel like everything is falling apart...bit by bit."
"Are you having second thoughts about getting married?" Sammi's eyes opened wide. Anna shook her head.
"No. No, not at all." She responded, reaching up to wipe away her tears as yet more began to fall. "I love John like nothing else, Sam. But...I have a problem with someone at work interested in me, and he makes John jealous. It's caused friction, that's all. I have to deal with it, but with everything I've been putting it off. I guess I've realised now that I have to do something about it. I just don't know what."
"Men can be slime." Sammi said with feeling. "But listen, if Sylvie's being insensitive...I know how she can boss you around."
", it was me in the wrong." Anna shook her head. "I laid into her and it wasn't fair. Syl was just trying to help, like you."
She groaned. "And I'm gonna head off home before I bite your head off too and upset three people I care about in the space of twenty four hours. I don't really want Mom to see me like this, so can you distract her for me? John's going to lunch with his Mom and Brian, so he won't be looking for me."
"I promise." Sammi's eyes softened. "Look. Go home, take a hot bath and chill out. It'll seem clearer if you take time out to think about it. And trust me, nothing is impossible to get through. I've thought it enough times in my life and I'm still keep that in mind, okay?"
"Okay." Anna faltered, then she hugged her cousin tightly. "Thanks, Sammi. I'm glad you came to New York."
"So am I." Sammi offered a smile. "If just to give you a pep talk. And Ann, honestly, if Sylvie can't help, you have my phone number. We've always been friendly, and, well, I want you to have a happy wedding too."
"I appreciate that." Anna smiled through her tears. "It just seems like so many things in my way at the moment...and I hate fighting with the people I love!"

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Silence greeted Copper's remark, as Jesta stared at her with a mixture of suspicion and incredulity.
"Your Dad?" She echoed. "He wrote that? How can you be so damn sure? The writing is awful!"
"It's his writing." Copper murmured. "I think I'd know. He was my Papa, you know. And that's his signature. I must have seen him scrawl that on a zillion cheques when I was growing up."
"Gee, what it must be to grow up pampered." Jesta rolled her eyes. "So do you know what it says?"
"Are you going to tell me or do I have to play twenty questions?"
"Jesta, what is all this about?" Copper asked softly. "Why do you have something my Papa wrote at all?"
"I..." Jesta faltered, her eyes narrowing as she recognised a figure in the doorway. "Wait. I know that guy...he works for Cool Trash. I've done business with him before."
"So? I thought making scandals was your thing." Copper folded her arms. "Why care if he's here now?"
"I'd rather this wasn't put about. Not till I get to the bottom of it and get what I want." Jesta shook her head. She got to her feet, pulling her jacket off her chair. "We're going back to my hotel room and we'll sort this out there. It's quieter. Less nosy press."
"And what if I don't want to go anywhere with you? I did have things to do today, you know."
"Well, you know what the Tribune will be printing tomorrow morning." Jesta shrugged. "Your call."
Copper sighed, but got reluctantly to her feet.
"Fine." She said at length. "Let's go."


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