Elliot Martescu pushed open the door of the front lounge, casting a glance around him for his wife. "Mary, are you home, dammit? I need to talk to you."
"I'm here, Elliot."
Mary emerged from the back study, casting her husband a quizzical look. "I was working on a song. What's wrong? You look wound up."
"I am wound up. I'm surprised you're not, too." Elliot held out the creased sheet of paper in his hand. "You're always shut away writing those blessed songs of yours and I'm wondering if you're even paying attention to what's going on in the real world."
"I write songs as my job. You know that." Mary took the sheet, smoothing it out. "What's this?"
"You don't need to. I earn enough to keep us and you shut yourself away far too often." Elliot said firmly. "You're always using it as an excuse to get out of corporate dos. But as for what that is - it's Sylvie's last math quiz. She's failing. Again."
"She's never failed a class yet, Elliot." Mary said simply, glancing at it then back at her husband. "But she's not good at math. We can't all be. What about it?"
"What about it?" Elliot raised an eyebrow. "Here's what about it. Mary, it's not that Sylvie isn't smart. She is. She's just lazy. She's fifteen years old and her head's all into what boy she wants to go to the next dance with, rather than her studies. In a few years she and Anna will be seniors and looking at colleges. Do you think any Ivy League school would even look at her with this kind of GPA?"
"Maybe the one you should be talking to about this with is Sylvie." Mary handed back the quiz. "I agree that she shouldn't be failing a subject simply because she's not paying attention. But there is a lot of pressure, Elliot. You're really good at it, and so is Anna. I wasn't so bad at it myself, once upon a time. But she's totally missed the gene. She does struggle with it, because I've heard her and Anna going over their assignments together. Annie helps her a heck of a lot, you know. I think Sylvie works harder than you realise she does."
"I have my doubts." Elliot shook his head. "And I do intend on talking to her about it, too. But I'm surprised you haven't."
"I didn't know." Mary shrugged. "Where did you get it, anyhow? I haven't seen it - and the girls aren't home from school yet."
"It was on her desk."
"You went through her room?" Mary's eyes opened wide. "Elliot, she's fifteen! What happened to parental trust?"
"I wasn't going through her room!" Elliot retorted. "I almost tripped over one of her army of jackets coming in this afternoon, so I was returning it to it's mothership. I just happened to see the paper as I left, that's all. Don't think I go spying on my kids - but in this case, I'm glad I did find it! I work long hours, Mary, and I trust you to keep an eye to the kids in things like this, because you've always said it's how you prefer it. Well, you're doing a damn fine job if one of them is failing a class!"
"If you have issues with my abilities as a mother, Elliot, don't beat around the bush. Let's hear them." Mary's eyes glinted with indignant anger. "At least I'm around for them. You're in another state half the week, and when you are here you're tired and cranky or working on something else."
"Is that worse than you shut away writing songs you have no earthly reason to be writing?"
"I write them because I love music, and it makes me happy!" Mary exclaimed. "And let's look at this, Elliot - if my husband was around more often, and was more supportive of me and my twins, then maybe I wouldn't feel so drawn to write quite so often. Did you think about that?"
"Oh yes. Put it all on me, like always." Elliot grimaced. "It's not enough that the money I'm making will pay for our girls to go to college and get good careers without sticking them in debt, I'm also expected to carve out hours that don't exist in the week to hang around here, holding everyone's hand?"
"It would be nice if you thought about it, sometimes." Mary said coldly. "Meantime, what are you going to do about Sylvie's quiz?"
"Do? Ground her. What else?" Elliot said darkly. "And I expect you to back me up on it."
"When do I ever do anything else?" She asked wearily. "If you think it'll help. But don't take her to pieces. She's just a kid. Not every kid is cut out for intensive studies."
"She manages to put in an hour and a half almost every night on that damn piano." Elliot pointed out. "If she showed that dedication and interest in her schoolwork she'd have a 4.0 like Anna does, and we'd not be having this conversation."
"Conversation?" Mary raised an eyebrow. "I thought we were having an argument."
"Dammit, don't be pedantic." Elliot sighed. "Don't you care what kind of reports your kids bring home?"
"Of course I do, but Elliot, it matters much more to me that they're happy." Mary spread her hands. "And..."
She faltered, then shook her head. "I hear voices. They're home. Go talk to Sylvie about her quiz, okay? And I'll back you up if you ground her. But I don't want them to hear us going at it like this. That's not going to do any good."
"Fine. I'll do so." Elliot fingered the paper absently. "But make sure you do back me up, Mary. I'm not going to take this kind of laziness from a kid who's two years away from being a senior. We need to nip it in the bud now."
"Whatever you think is best, Elliot." Mary sighed. "I'll be in the study, finishing my song."
Elliot cast her a pained look, but said no more as his wife turned on her heel, retreating once more into the back room. Then, with a glance down at the quiz, he headed out into the hall to where the twins were putting away their coats and shoes, bantering together as they did so.
"Sylvina?" He said softly. "I want a word with you."
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