Thicker Than Water

Chapter Two:
Samantha...and Jesta

"That was a mind-numbingly unproductive day." Jessica Talley frowned at her reflection in the mirror, parting her hair into two tails and then letting it fall messily back over her shoulders. "We spent three hours at that market hunting out the spice Aja wanted for her stupid meal...why do you let your Mum send you on errands, anyhow? Sheesh, it's not like you're a kid these days, Sammi. Why do you let her push you around?"
"I don't let her push me around." Samantha Phillips lounged in the doorway of the bedroom. "She didn't ask me to go - I offered. Okay, I might not be all into this Chinese thing Mum is so fond of, but I do love the food and besides, she and Dad have been pretty supportive of me, considering everything that's gone on over the past year or more. And it was nice to take a time out. The Teenangels are still pulling themselves back to something like normal since Mum took over Starlight Music and signed us onto the label. We've been working so hard...I didn't mind taking a couple of hours off to not think about music."
"That doesn't sound like you." Jesta raised an eyebrow. Her companion shrugged.
"Well, between my music and trips to the spice market, it stops me thinking about this trip to New York looming on the horizon." She admitted, sinking down onto her friend's bed. "My cousin's wedding is all I need after the year we've had - forced company with Sylvie, for a start."
She grimaced.
"Not quite my cup of tea."
Jesta snorted.
"So don't go." She said lazily. "Noone said you had to."
"No, but Mum and Aunt Mary will expect me to, and Annie would be hurt if I didn't." Sammi sighed. "It's not her I'm fighting with, after all. It's not fair to take it out on her, just because her sister has a mouth like the Grand Canyon."
"Well, your call." Jesta shrugged. "For myself, I'm sticking it out over here. Those contacts that Diablo girl gave me so long ago now are exactly what I need to create a name for myself in America, and I intend to do just that. This is something I know I can do and I want it, too. Being a star in Britain isn't enough any more. I want the world."
"You've always wanted the world." Sammi sat down on the end of the bed. "But I'm glad Mum doesn't know you're here, or that I'm spending so much time with you...especially considering her official capacity these days. Amber's told her enough about you, and I don't think she'd approve."
"Your Mum should be damn glad you wound up with me." Jesta said acidly. "Otherwise you might yet be stuck on the bottle."
"We won't go there." Sammi shook her head. "That's past. Let's not bring it back up."
She lounged against the headboard, watching her friend braid her bright coloured hair. "Didn't you have a meeting with Whatson this afternoon?"
"No." Jesta shrugged. "He thinks I do, but I told him where to go. It's not like there's a rush to get this American drive started. I mean, no offence, but you girls have way more to think about than what I'm doing at present, and if you're swanning off to NYC, the Teenangels won't be on my back for a bit. I can do this at my own pace." She grimaced. "Besides, he has some crackbrained idea about me writing a song in Spanish, because apparently it's the latest thing."
She sighed.
"Jewel released a song with Spanish lyrics, it gets out across the world and suddenly everyone's doing it."
"Ohh. So this is why suddenly you've lost all enthusiasm for pumping out a huge hit, huh?" Sammi pursed her lips. "I wondered where that had suddenly come from. Though God knows what that guy is thinking, Jess. How are you going to get away with performing in Spanish? You're about as Spanish as paella made at an east end restaurant."
"Well, that's all you know." Jesta dropped her hairbrush back onto the unit, turning to face her friend. "If you want to know the truth, Sammi, another reason why I pushed Whatson to have me out here like this was because of something I found at Mum's place. My birth certificate."
"I think I'm lost somewhere here." Sammi looked confused.
"My father is Spanish." Jesta's lip curled into a scornful smile. "Or rather, his family is. I never knew the old bitch had kept all that stuff, and she never told me when I was growing up, but from what I managed to gather among her things is that he was a rich guy, too. He sent her some money - god knows why. To keep her mouth shut, probably, about the fact I existed. I think he's some bigshot and I could use having a bigshot for a father round about now. If he's got as much cash as the stuff Mum had lying about suggested...I could make some serious good money on this guy. I just have to find him."
"You're gonna blackmail your own father?" Sammi's eyes widened. Jesta snorted.
"He's not my father." She said dismissively. "You have a father. I don't. I never even met the guy...he's just a name. Why should I feel any kind of loyalty to him, anyway? If he had the bad taste to sleep with my mother, he's asking for trouble. Besides, what did he ever do for me? I never saw any of the money he sent Mum. Probably it all went on drink or drugs anyway. It's about time he made up for that." She shrugged. "And this is too good an opportunity to pass up. If I have a rich Dad, I want some of the profits."
"So if he's Spanish, why America?"
"He's here. His family are Spanish...but Mum had two letters from him postmarked California." Jesta replied. "They weren't real detailed letters - I think there were pages missing. But here seems as good a place to start, and Whatson is keen for me to get to work on a new single, so killing two birds with one financially beneficial stone is always fun."
She pulled a face. "Unfortunately, of course, I had to tell Whatson that my Dad was over here in order to convince him to up sticks and leave the British market alone for a while. I let slip that he was Spanish and he jumped all over it, saying that it was the perfect climate to release some kind of latin single. So here we are. He expects me to produce a song in a language I don't speak, while I'm here to dig out my father and make some cash before I even think about releasing an American song."
"Well, and I thought my life was complicated." Sammi said dryly. "Perhaps being worked to the bone for a while isn't so bad. Do you need any help finding this Dad of yours?"
"You speak Spanish?"
"Then I doubt you're gonna be much help." Jesta shrugged. "Don't worry, I'll find him. I have his name, after all. How hard can it be?"

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

 "Syl, you've been taking your room to pieces for the last hour and a half."
Aurora Stapleton stood in the doorway of her friends bedroom, eying with some amusement the chaos that was ensuing within. "Are you coming out of your closet today, or do we need to change your address with our fanclub people?"
"Hah, very funny."
Sylva emerged from her walk in wardrobe, casting the blond girl a grimace. "I'm trying to find something for Annie's wedding, Topaz, if you must know. I dragged poor Logan all over town today looking and still didn't find anything that was right. I'm back at square one, and though there's some really fab stuff in here, there's nothing that feels right for Anna's reception."
She sighed, dropping down on the bed. "I've made a real mess, haven't I?"
"Well, it does look like Hollie has been playing in your laundry again." Topaz laughed. "What about your usual plan B?"
"Huh?" Sylva looked confused.
"Raiding everyone else's clothes." Topaz's eyes twinkled. "Or did you do that already?"
"No, I didn't." Sylva admitted. "And it did cross my mind. But I can't think of anything any of you own that would be the right dress, either. Plus, you and me aren't even the same size since Hollie was born, Copper's moved out, and Nancy's wardrobe is generally too scary to go near. That leaves Sadie and she told me if I go into her closet again without her permission, she'd brand me. She's out, so I haven't."
She shrugged her shoulders defeatedly. "Who would've thought, with so many clothes, that I'd still not have anything to wear?"
"Well, it looks to me like you'll have to go shopping in New York." Topaz pulled her friend to her feet. "Want a hand putting these things away? Hollie's already asleep, so she won't need me for a while."
"Okay." Sylva agreed. "Thanks. I'll be here all night, otherwise."
"If you ask me, Syl, it's more than just finding an outfit that's bugging you." Topaz said speculatively, as she slipped a hanger through a blue patterned dress. "Isn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, usually you're pretty hot on the perfect outfit." Topaz said with a shrug. "You know your style and you usually find what you're looking for." She gestured. "Hence the mess - you have more clothes than anyone I know. Anna's wedding is a big deal to you, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is." Sylva looked pensive. "It's like I told Logan earlier - I don't want people looking at me and wondering why it is Annie's getting married and I'm, well, not. Plus, my twin sister is getting married, so it's not just any old ceremony. It's like part of me is walking down the aisle. And...I just want it to be special."
She groaned. "I guess also, I hoped by finding the perfect outfit and trekking across the country to look fabulous, I'd also help convince myself that it's okay, Anna marrying John. I know she's so happy with him - Ive met him only the one time, when I visited them, but he's so the right guy for her in so many ways. I just...part of me doesn't want her to do this, because it means she'll permanently be tying herself to the East Coast. Getting her to visit is hard enough as it is and I miss her. I suppose I hoped when she was done with school she might come and join Mom and me here."
"Obviously Anna hasn't thought the same way." Topaz said gently. "You might be twins, Syl, but you can't always make the same decisions. Anna chose to go to college, get her degree...and there she met John, and now she works in New York, which is where his family is, right? She's got her future all worked out. If it makes her happy, to stay there - can't you be happy for her, too?"
"I am happy for her." Sylva glanced at her hands. "I really am. But till she went to college and I came here, we were always together. Same homeroom at school, even. Every grade, we went up together...even if sometimes Annie had to sit my exams for me or help me with my assignments to make sure I passed Math or Spanish. I love Jewel and being with you guys - but I do miss that. And going to her wedding, well, it's like..."
She trailed off, frowning.
"I don't know."
"Like someone else is jumping into your twinship?" Topaz suggested gently. Sylva spread her hands.
"Maybe." She acknowledged. "It's not that I'm possessive, or anything. But...Anna needs me a lot less these days, and I kinda liked it when she asked my advice on things. It's not that I want her to be needy or clingy and unable to make up her own mind. I guess I'm just a bit jealous that she's gotten so much better at it than me when it comes to the big decisions...that's all. It so wasn't that way in school. Its odd."
"But if it was you getting married, Syl - would you expect Anna to feel this way?"
"Honestly, I don't think that she would." Sylva sighed. "I think it's just me. Since I fell so hard for Jack, I've been all over the place with men. I don't have those feelings for Jack any more - if I did, I couldn't still hang out with him and Courtenay when we both have the time to do it. But it woke me up to the fact that there's another kind of being with someone than just the flirting and dating I did in high school. And I want that...I just never seem to get it."
"Noone ever said that'd be easy." Topaz set the clothes aside, sitting down on the bed and pulling her friend down beside her. "Look at me and Cameron. Even now we're on 'just friends' terms...and that's agony for me, I won't lie to you. But after everything, what else can we do? If it's that or nothing, I'll take it. Being in love isn't always a good thing."
"But then I see Copper and Aaron - or Anna and John." Sylva leant up against her friend with a sigh. "And I just want a piece of it, too."
Before Topaz could answer, the bleep of Sylva's phone made them both jump, and Sylva ferretted around under a heap of tops and blouses, finally pulling out the noisy item. Sending her friend a sheepish look, she hit the accept button, putting it to her ear.
"Syl, it's Logan." The caller's voice came crackling down the line, teasing and playful as ever. "And you are going to owe me from now till the end of time, girl. I called my boss."
"Oh!" Sylva's eyes widened. "Does that mean...can you come?"
"I can come. But like I said, you owe me big."
"Okay, okay." Sylva replied impatiently. "But he was okay about it?"
"He said I was owed the time and when I told him my girlfriend's sister was getting hitched, he let me have it." There was an ironic note to Logan's voice, and despite herself, Sylva blushed.
"Don't." She retorted. "Look, I'll call you later and tell you all the stuff you need to know, okay? Times, etc. You realise you'll need to book into a hotel there? I mean, Anna wants me at hers, but it's not a big place and even Mom opted to go to a hotel, to avoid a crush."
"I've been looking at places online. Where abouts is Anna? I don't want to be too far from where you are, if it can be helped."
"West St Boulevard, between seventh and tenth." Sylva replied. "And the rest I'll look out and give you later, if I can. My room, er, looks like a tornado hit it."
"Still looking for the perfect outfit?"
"And failing utterly." Sylva sighed. "But something along those lines."
"Well, good luck." Logan sounded amused. "I gotta go. I'm going out tonight with some of the guys from work, but I'll take my cell, so you can give me the relevant data. And hey, think of it this way. You're taking one heck of an interesting date to Anna's wedding."
"Oh, shut up." Despite herself, Sylva grinned. "Ok. Talk later. Bye, Logan."
She terminated the call, tossing the phone down onto her bed and meeting Topaz's curious gaze with a sheepish one of her own.
"What was that about?" the singer asked. Sylva shrugged.
"Not much." She said slowly.
"Long call, for not much."
"Well..." Sylva hesitated, then, "Logan's coming to Anna's wedding with me. As....kinda as my date."
Topaz's eyebrows shot up into her fringe.
"As your date?" She repeated. "Syl, since when?"
"Since earlier today." Sylva lowered her gaze, not wanting to meet her friend's eyes. "When I asked him if he would."
Topaz let out a low whistle.
"I didn't realise you and he were at that stage. I thought you were just friends." She admitted. "When did it progress to proper dating, Syl? You usually tell me all this kind of stuff."
It was impossible for Sylva to go much redder, but she shrugged.
"It's just a date. For Anna's wedding." She said at length. "That's all. Nothing else.'s not...I mean..."
"I don't think I've ever seen you go all coy on me before." Topaz looked interested. "You must like him more than I thought."
"Topaz, stop it!" Sylva exclaimed. "Honestly, it's not at all what you think."
"Oh?" Topaz pursed her lips. "Well, you're being escorted to your sister's wedding by a guy you've been hanging out with a fair bit since he moved to LA...a guy who's pretty cute, too, by all accounts. It has all your hallmarks, Syl. What am I supposed to think?"
"Oh, forget it." Sylva sighed. "He's coming to the wedding, that's all. I guess I owe him a trip to New York after I dragged him shopping for hours earlier, looking for something to wear."
"Let me get this right. This guy actually braved shopping with you?" Topaz demanded. "He must be keen."
"I said stop it!" Sylva begged. "Look, don't tease me about Logan, okay? I just needed a date for the wedding and he was available. It's cool to take a guy who's a friend. Even a cute guy."
"Well, whatever you say." Topaz held up her hands in mock surrender, though there was amusement dancing in her blue eyes. "So shall we get back to putting your room straight, huh? After all," she winked. "We need to find the perfect outfit to impress Logan at Anna's reception."
"If you want to find yourself eating my pillow, you're going the right way about it." Sylva blushed again, raising her pillow as if to carry out her threat. Topaz laughed.
"Okay, okay, I'm done." She relented. "But seriously, there's nothing wrong with taking Logan to NY. I mean, there are much worse guys. You don't need to get embarrassed about it."
"Well, I'd rather not discuss it." Sylva said firmly. "So let's talk about what I'm going to wear, instead. Do you think any of these outfits are any good on me?"
"I told you already that your taste is impeccable, Syl. And you always look fab when we go out, whether it's publicity or leisure." Topaz shrugged. "I think that you'd wow the whole ensemble with most of the outfits in here, and that's the truth. And you know I'd let you go trawl through my closet, but like you said, it's no good these days. Since I had Hollie I can't get back to a five no matter how I try, so that's that out of the window."
She shrugged good-humouredly. "I guess she was worth it, if just to keep you out of my clothes!"
"Charming." Sylva pouted. "I...hey, was that the door?"
She got to her feet, hurrying to the window.
"Yes! Sadie's home...and I can ask her if I can go through her stuff! She has some really cool clothes and, come to think of it, there is this one dress she bought the other week that'd go with the sandals I got today..."
With that she was gone, and Topaz chuckled, getting to her feet and following at a sedate distance.
"I wonder if she's serious about Logan." She mused, heading down the stairs to the front lounge. "She did go very red, and she did take him shopping for this wonder dress - which was odd if she's not. And now he's going to New York. I really wonder...does Syl like this guy more than she's been telling any of us?"


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