In the centre of the city, Sylva walked slowly along the main high
street, tears pricking at her own eyes as she ran over the conversation
with her sister in her head. Sammi's words at the airport also rang in her
ears and she swallowed hard.
"Is that really how she sees me?" She wondered aloud, crossing the road and heading towards Central Park. "A bossy airhead who spends too much, and doesn't understand what 'real life' is about?"
From somewhere, she heard a voice shriek her name, but for once she was oblivious to the calls of the fans. For the first time in a long while she wanted to be left alone, to come to terms with some of the bombshells her twin had sent her way. Secluding herself in a quiet spot, she curled up beneath the branches of a big sycamore tree, burying her head in her hands as the tears began to spill down her cheeks.
"I was only trying to help." She whispered. "Is she right? Is that really what I am? Hell, I had to pretend I had a boyfriend to come with - how sad and pathetic is that? And I asked a heck of a lot of Logan to do it, too. Maybe she didn't want to make me her maid of honour. Maybe she felt she had to, because we're twins and all. Maybe Sammi had a point after all. Perhaps I do try and run her life...only I didn't realise it!"
She did not know how long she sat there, watching absently through troubled blue eyes as people passed through the busy park, each bent on their own errand. A jogger panted past the tree with barely a glance. A mother with a small child walking a dog, an elderly couple strolling in the afternoon sun. Sylva was oblivious to all of them. As the crowds began to dissipate, she heard the ring of her phone and, stretching over to grab her bag she pulled it out, hitting the accept call button.
"Syl?" Logan's voice came down the line, anxiety in his tone. "Dammit, I've been trying to call you all afternoon - what did you do, turn this thing off?"
"Call me?" Sylva struggled to concentrate on his voice. "Did you? I've had it on - but I didn't hear it ring. Are you sure?"
"Damn sure." Logan agreed grimly. "Where the hell are you, girl? The reception's awful!"
"Under a tree." Sylva said absently.
"Central Park." Sylva took a deep breath. "Logan, I spoke to Anna. She blew out at me...we had a big fight and I don't know if I can go back there tonight. Or at all, to be honest. I don't think she even wants me at the wedding - she keeps brushing me off and she pretty much told me I was selfish and controlling and shallow."
Her voice shook, and she swallowed hard. "Can...can I come to the hotel? Please? I don't want Mom to know we had an argument like that...or Dad. I don't have anywhere else to go, and...I don't want to be alone any more."
There was a moment of silence, then,
"Yes." Sylva's voice was little more than a whisper, as she fought to keep a hand on her tears. "Can I?"
"Stay where you are. I'm coming over there and you can tell me what happened." Logan said quietly. "Then we'll go back to the hotel and get something to eat. It's almost six, Syl - I've been trying to reach you for the last three and a half hours. Noone had seen you and you weren't picking up your phone."
"I honestly didn't hear it ring." Sylva sighed. "Thanks, Logan. At least someone still likes me."
"I'm sure Anna still does, too." Logan told her firmly. "But sit tight. I'm coming to get you."
"Okay." Sylva sighed again. "Guess I'll see you in a few."
She switched off the phone, tossing it down onto the grass. Sprawling out on her back, she slipped her hands under her head, gazing up at the sky through the criss-crossed branches.
"Have I really been sitting here all afternoon, staring at nothing?" She wondered aloud. "It didn't seem like that long...I've had no lunch but I'm not even hungry. Just empty. Hollow. Like I just lost a big part of me. I was so afraid that Anna marrying and settling in New York would mean losing her. Perhaps I was more right than I thought."
"I think that's crazy."
Logan's voice interrupted her musing and she glanced up, startled.
"That was quick!"
"I wasn't far away." Logan dropped down beside her. "I was scouring the area for you when I called - I wanted to be sure you weren't simply shopping. As soon as I realised you weren't, I figured it was a bit more serious than losing track of time. I called Anna's - John said he hadn't seen you since he got back from lunch, and Anna wasn't around to ask. Then I spoke to your Mom. I didn't worry anyone - I just said I wanted to doublecheck a dinner time. But I was worried, Syl. I didn't know where you'd gone."
Sylva pulled herself into a sitting position, resting up against him, and instinctively Logan put an arm around her shoulders.
"So what happened?" He asked gently. "Anna just went for you?"
"No...I was trying to tell her that she was taking too much on." Sylva glanced at her hands. "That her life was more important than her work and if the work was really getting her down, she should give it someone else and not worry about it. She went off at me. She said some...some things I don't really want to repeat. And it hurt, Logan. I mean fighting with someone I care about always hurts. But Anna...is part of me, and I'm part of her. At least, that's what I thought. And now I feel like...like the person who matters most in the world to me hates me, and really doesn't want me to be in her wedding."
Logan hugged her tightly.
"I doubt that's it." He said softly. "I think Anna's wound up tight as a spring and she just let it out on you, that's all. She probably didn't mean the half of what she said."
"Maybe, but she's never lashed out at me before." Sylva looked troubled. "We never had a fight like that before. Not ever. I didn't like it."
"Well, it's getting chilly out here, so I vote we go back to the hotel, order something from room service, and talk somewhere more private." Logan got to his feet, pulling Sylva up with him. "It's a long time since lunch and I'm getting hungry."
"I'm not really hungry." Sylva admitted. "But all right. I guess it is getting late. Thank you for coming to my rescue, Logan. I guess I'm really glad I brought such a good friend to New York."
"Always at your service." Logan winked. "Come on."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Well...come on in."
Jesta pushed open the door of her hotel room, casting Copper a bitter smile. "Take a seat. Make yourself comfortable."
"Don't try and be nice." Copper said quietly, stepping into the room and, after a moment of hesitation, taking a seat on the end of the bed. "I want to get to the bottom of this. I want to know where you got that letter from, and I don't know why you dragged me back here, but I want to know what the game is."
"It was turning into a very loud and very public discussion." Jesta snapped. "And with that Cool Trash guy in the vicinity, I wasn't going to take any unecessary risks. Just because I might sell your stories to the press doesn't mean I want to make my own one right at the moment. This isn't a scheme or a game. I told you I was doing some research. It's a private thing. It's not to do with music. My boss, he thinks it is. But it's not that. Someone owes me some money...and I'm trying to track down someone who can help me get it. That's all."
"I might have known this was about money." Copper sighed. "I should leave now."
"And you know what'll happen if you don't."
"Would you really do that?" Copper looked pained. "Just to get a damn letter translated into English?"
"It's not just a letter to me." Jesta said thickly, dropping down on the other side of the bed. "And you know what it said, so don't pretend you don't. If your Pop wrote it, you must know more about this than I realised you do...which makes me curious, too. I need answers as much as you do. I think you're doing some holding out on me...and the deal was that you'd translate the letter for me."
Copper said wearily, holding out her hand for the sheet of paper, and Jesta pulled out the sheaf from her pocket, extracting the right one and handing it across the bed. Slowly Copper unfolded it once more, spreading it out on her lap.
"Carmen." She began.
"Just a quick note to let you know what the latest news is. I'm writing
in brief because I'd rather give you the details face to face - forgive me
for not trusting Natalie but having met her and seen the baby, I'm sure that
there's something more at work here than either of us were prepared for.
I'll save the rest of the details for when we meet - being in different continents
at this of all times is the most difficult thing. Garrett has mentioned the
idea of custody and I think it's something that needs to be properly discussed.
There are still many pitfalls, but one thing I have no doubts about - the
baby is who Natalie claims she is, and it's torn the can of worms wide open.
I'll close now. Call me paranoid but I get the feeling that someone's already on the case."
Jesta's eyes narrowed, and she snatched the letter back. Slowly she ran
her finger along the lines, pausing where she found her mother's name.
"Natalie." She murmured. "You know, you might just be telling me the truth. So what do you know about all of this, Copper? If your Dad's involved, you must know something."
"I'm completely lost." Copper protested. "You give me some letter that you've had stolen from...God knows where, to be honest. Why? What is it about? How the hell should I know? I don't know anyone called Natalie. I didn't know all of the people my Papa worked with, so she could have been anyone. What is the deal with all of this, anyway? Why does this letter mean so much to you?"
"Because Natalie is my mother." Jesta snapped back. "The baby...that's me. That's why."
"You?" Copper's eyes widened. "Why would my Papa be writing about you?"
"That's what I want to know, too." Jesta's eyes narrowed. "So the stakes are getting a bit higher. You tell me what you know, and your secret stays a secret...but don't mess me, Copper. This is important information."
"When will you believe me? I don't know anything about this." Copper grimaced. "Papa died eight or nine years ago now, you know. I was just a teenager. It could've been to do with anything. What bothers me is why you have it. It's not addressed to you...or to your mother."
"No...it's not." Jesta admitted, re-folding the letter. "A friend of hers took it and sent it along to her with a covering letter. It was with her papers in her flat, when I cleared it out."
"Cleared it out?" Copper looked startled. "Did your mother die?"
"No. She went to prison. Again." Jesta said brusquely. "Go on. Look all shocked and horrified. It's life."
Before Copper could make any kind of response, the chime of her telephone alerted her to the fact she had a call and, pulling her bag up onto her bed, she rummaged through it for the small cell phone, pulling it out and hitting the accept button. As she did so, a flurry of papers and cards tumbled out onto the bedcovers, and she reached for them with her free hand, trying to make some kind of order of them.
"Hello? Nance, that you?" She said. "Listen, I'm tied up with something at the moment - can I call you back? I...I'm organising the landscaping for the garden and I told Aaron I'd have something to tell him tonight, so I better get back to it."
Jesta rolled her eyes, idly reaching for Copper's belongings and flicking through them. Copper made a grab for them, but Jesta held them out of her reach.
"Nance, I have to go." Copper cast Jesta a glare. "Honestly. I'll call you tonight though, and you can tell me what's up with the song rhythm. Okay? Good. Sorry to bail, but this is really important."
She made another grab at the papers, and Jesta chuckled, shuffling back on the bed.
"Not a chance." She mouthed. "Can't you get rid of her?"
"I'll speak to you later, Nance. Yeah. Promise." Copper terminated her call, pushing her phone back into her bag and sending Jesta another glare.
"Give me back my stuff." She demanded.
"You didn't tell Nancy where you really were." Jesta toyed with the edges of an envelope. "I didn't think Jewels lied to each other."
"She'd think I was out of my mind if she knew where I actually was." Copper snapped back. "Will you give me those already? I've translated that stupid letter and it means nothing to me, so give me my things and let me go. I did promise Aaron to see about the garden this afternoon, so you're really getting in the way."
"Charming." Jesta rolled her eyes, absently turning over the envelope in her hands. "I..."
She paused, her brow furrowing.
"E. Santiago." She murmured. "Oh, and I almost believed you then when you said you didn't know any more about this. If you don't know, Copper, what's this about?"
"Excuse me?" Copper stared. "Are deluded rantings a normal part of your greeting process or did I turn over a whole chapter at once? Now what's the deal?"
"E. Santiago." Jesta said darkly. "That can't be a coincidence. In fact, isn't it as good as fraud? What is this, some kind of benefit cheat or something? Ripping on someone who's dead?"
"I beg your pardon?" Copper's eyes became big with confusion. "Dead? What are you talking about?"
"This." Jesta tapped the letter. "If you know nothing about all of this, tell me why you have a letter addressed to a dead person in your purse."
"A dead person?" Copper repeated, nonplussed. Then she snorted. "Don't be crazy. If I was dead, how would I be having this conversation with you? Gee, maybe you do need medication."
"You?" Now it was Jesta's turn to look confused. "What do you mean?"
"E Santiago. Elizabeth Santiago." Copper took her chance to retrieve her letter and cards, pushing them back into the purse. "It's a letter from the hospital...it always takes them a while to get their records straight."
"Elizabeth Santiago?" All colour drained from Jesta's face. "I thought you were Pelligrini! Copper Pelligrini!"
"Copper is my stage name. A nickname, like Jesta." Copper shrugged her shoulders. "And Pelligrini is Aaron's name. I'm Mrs Pelligrini...but I was born Elizabeth Santiago. Why...what's wrong?" As she registered Jesta's expression. "Jesta, what?"
Jesta uttered a string of curse words, fumbling in her own bag for her cigarettes and lighter.
"Can I have a translation now, please?" Copper raised an eyebrow. "What's wrong with my name? And what's all this dead person stuff? I'm lost again...can you at least give me a hint here?"
"I didn't know you were Elizabeth Santiago." Jesta lit a cigarette, speaking in a dull, almost dazed monotone. "I thought that E. Santiago was Esteban. Esteban Santiago."
"Papa?" Copper's eyes widened. "What about Papa?"
"That exact thing." Jesta swallowed hard. "So Carmen...Carmen is your mother?"
"So that letter was from your Dad...to your Mum?"
"Guess so." Copper shrugged her shoulders. "Though what it's referring to is beyond me. He just seems...unwilling to say much in case something happened to intercept the letter. Which obviously it did...so he was right. If Natalie is your mother, Papa must have known her and maybe she worked on one of his films? Did your Mom act before...well, did she?"
"No. She worked on an airline. As a flight attendant." Jesta shook her head. "Got busted a few times for trafficking drugs, got into them herself...basically made a mess of everything."
She laughed bitterly.
"And I happened, which she's never failed to remind me, screwed things up wonderfully for her." She added. "I'm guessing the only reason she kept me at all was because she thought she'd get something out of it. Money. Only I figure she never did. My Dad didn't want to know - or anyway, there was no communication beyond a few letters via a solicitor, back when I was a tiny baby. But when I found all this stuff, I decided it was about time a rich father paid out to me what I damn well deserved, putting up with the crap my Mom brought home all the time. Doesn't that sound fair enough to you?"
"I suppose I see your reasoning." Copper frowned. "But what has this to do with me?"
"Apparently a lot more than I bloody thought it did when I asked you to translate this." Jesta said darkly. "Look. This might explain it better to you."
She pulled open the drawer of her bedside cabinet, flipping open a small box and taking out a yellowed sheet of paper. "Here. My birth certificate. That should make it all crystal clear."
"Birth certificate?" Copper took the paper, unfolding it. Her hand flew to her mouth as she registered what was written there, and she shook her head, dropping it onto the bed as if it was on fire.
"No way." She whispered. "No...no way. That's not possible! Your father...is my father?"
Prologue: April 1st,
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