"Two twenty, miss."
Sylva stepped out of the yellow taxi cab, glancing up at the big hotel building. Rummaging in her pocket for change, she paid the driver, heading up the front steps and in through the big revolving doors.
"This place almost reminds me of work." She decided, amused. "Just as many people flitting all over the place. I can almost imagine Phyllis standing in the stairwell barking orders at some intern or other. I wonder if Mom's seen the connection since she's been here. It's kinda funny."
She sauntered up to the desk, casting the man on duty a grin.
"Hi. I was wondering if you could tell me if Mrs Martescu is in, please?"
"Yes. She's in room 618." Sylva nodded. "I'm her daughter."
"Is she expecting you?"
"No...I was just hanging out in the city and I thought I'd drop by." Sylva dimpled. "Is she in?"
"Her key's checked out, Miss...I think you must've missed her." The young man looked apologetic. "Want to leave a message?"
"No, it's all right." Sylva shook her head. "It was just on the off-chance anyhow - I'll call her later. Thanks anyway!"
"No problem, Miss. Have a nice day."
As she turned away from the reception desk, she heard someone call her name and she turned, trying to place the speaker in the crowd.
"Sylvie!" A man was striding across the lobby towards her and, as she registered him, a smile touched Sylva's lips.
"Dad!" She exclaimed. "Oh, I forgot you were staying here too!"
"So I did get the right twin then?" Elliot cast his eldest girl a sheepish smile. "It's been so long since I last saw you, I wasn't sure if my eyes were playing tricks. But that didn't look like an outfit Annie would wear."
"I'm Sylvie all right." Sylva's eyes danced at this. "You're getting better at this telling us apart thing, you know."
"Maybe." Elliot rubbed his chin ruefully. "Or maybe I just see your face staring out of so many billboards that it's been imprinted on my memory permanently which twin you are."
"Or that." Sylva grinned.
"Did you come by to see your mother?"
"Yes, but she's not here." Sylva shrugged. "So I'm at a loose end."
"That's what I hoped." Elliot admitted. "Will you let me buy you a coffee in the hotel cafe? I know we've patched up things over email and phone, but we haven't spoken face to face since your Mom and I decided we were splitting up and, well, you know how that went."
"Yes. I got hit by a car." Sylva remembered with a grimace. "Sure, Dad. That'd be nice. I was hoping I'd get a chance to see you while I was here, anyhow...I mean other than at the wedding. And things are so crazy at Anna's. She and John are going over RSVPs and stuff and I had to get out of there. The details were starting to give me a migraine."
"Yes, you're definitely my Sylvina." Elliot looked amused. "Come on, then."
"So, how's things with you in DC?" Sylva asked, as they took seats in the big hotel restaurant, Elliot having placed orders for coffee. "Work going well?"
"Pretty much." Elliot agreed. "Though I've been delegating a lot more of late. I've hired in three or four young execs to take some of the workload."
"You did?" Sylva stared. "How come? I thought you loved the office!"
"Well, I do, but I did a few really long shifts and realised that I could spend my entire life behind a desk and just wither away there." Elliot pulled a face. "Plus I had a review with my doctor, and I'm on treatment for high blood pressure. He said it was the workload, and so I've taken steps."
"Are you all right?" Sylva looked anxious. Elliot nodded.
"Yes. It's been better since I reshuffled things at work, and started to come home at a decent hour." He agreed. "I guess I'm not getting any younger and it's starting to tell on my body, that's all. I'm fine, Sylvie."
He gestured at her.
"But then, it's kind of ironic that in a sense, you've taken after me that way as much as you have your mother." He mused. "You must work crazy hours yourself sometimes."
"I do." Sylva nodded. "But it's never quite the same hours, Dad. I love this job - I couldn't do anything else. I'm not as smart as Anna, but I can sing and I can play. And I have such a total blast out there in the public eye...what else could I be?"
"Well, I'm sorry I didn't understand that sooner." Elliot admitted. "But I am proud of you, you know. It's quite a big thing with me - the young guys in the office used to think I was some old fuddy duddy exec until they realised I was Sylva's father. Gave me some street cred, when they put two and two together."
"Well, there, you see? I'm helping my Daddy's career." She teased. Elliot laughed.
"Yes, it does seem like that." He agreed. "It's good to see you, Sylvie. Really good, I mean. I know Cali's a long way away, but let's not make it so long until the next time, huh? I shouldn't have to see my eldest girl only when someone in the family gets married."
"For sure." Sylva nodded. "I'd love you to come out to Cali sometimes, you know. Unless..." She paused, then, "Unless it's awkward to, because of Mom."
"You see a lot of your Ma, huh?" Elliot asked lightly. Sylva nodded.
"Yes." She agreed. "She's working for the same company, and well, I do go over there quite a lot. Aunt Roxy isn't often in LA, and, well, she's kind of on her own otherwise."
"I hope you don't think that means, you know, I don't care if you're on your own. It's just..."
"It's all right." Elliot told her gently. "Anna does the same errand with me, quite often. She'll come spend a weekend in DC from time to time. More recently she's brought John along, too. He's a good man for her, Sylvie. But then if you're staying there, I'm sure you know that?"
"I like him." Sylva nodded. "He seems to really love her."
"What about you?" Elliot rested his chin on his hands. "Any young men in your life?"
"Maybe." Sylva reddened again. "I'm...not sure, Dad. Working my kind of job, well, makes it hard. But I did bring a guy to Anna's wedding. Logan. He...he's pretty cool. He's a friend of our road manager, and he lives in LA. He works with computers."
"You'll have to introduce me."
"Uh...sure. I guess so."
"Has your mother met him?"
"Then I certainly should." Elliot's eyes were teasing. "So you can have a balanced view."
"Okay. I guess it'd be all right." Sylva said hesitantly. Elliot frowned.
"I know I jumped on you a lot when you were in school over guys and how often you dated." He said softly. "You're a grown up now, and I'm not going to do it, I promise. I just want to be a part of your life, if you'll let me."
"Oh, Dad, I know that. And I didn't mean to make you feel jerky." Sylva reached over to squeeze his hand. "We're fine these days, I promise we are. I'm just...you know, kinda coy about Logan at the moment. Mom only knows him because she came to Copper's wedding and he was Aaron's best man. That's all."
"Coy doesn't seem like you." Elliot eyed her keenly. Sylva glanced at her hands.
"I know." She admitted. "It's just...complicated."
"What about you? Anna did say you were dating at one point - are you now?"
"No...not at the moment." Elliot shook his head. "Would it bother you if I was?"
"I don't know." Sylva pursed her lips. "I hadn't really thought about it till Annie mentioned it, but by the time she did you'd already broken up with the woman, so I didn't really worry about it. I suppose not. It's like you said - we're both adults now. And I don't really like you and Mom both being off alone, either. No, I guess if you found someone, it wouldn't bother me. It'd be weird, yes...but it's cool. I'd deal with it."
She spread her hands. "Same as if it was Mom. It'd be odd, but I'd get over it."
"Is your mother seeing anyone?" Elliot asked. Sylva looked startled.
"No, not as far as I know." She replied. "Why?"
"No reason." Elliot smiled. "I just wondered if you'd had experience first hand of getting over it. That's all. I know how close you and your Mom are."
"Well, I'd like to be close to my Dad again, too." Sylva said reproachfully. "So you make sure you come see me sometimes, okay? I know we used to have arguments over my grades or my dating or whatever but we used to have some good times too. And that was when I was a teenager, Dad. I'm not that now. Sure, I still buy a lot of clothes and stuff...but I am saving money too, and I'm not going out with every man who walks past the door. You know, we all grow up."
"So we do." Elliot laughed. "All right, Sylvie. It's a definite deal. Maybe this year I'll come to Los Angeles for Christmas and spend some time with you - what do you think?"
"I think that it'd be nice." Sylva dimpled. "Besides, you haven't really met my friends properly, and I'd like you to. A lot's gone on since you and Mom split up."
"So I can see." Elliot paused, then reached across the table to touch his daughter's cheek. "You and Anna have both grown up so pretty...I was always afraid of that with you, when you were younger. That you'd get people's attention, you'd trust the wrong person and get hurt. When you took off like that to Los Angeles, I was so angry, but I was frightened, too. I didn't know what we'd done wrong with you, to make you so impulsive and reckless. And yet, here we are, and I'm finding that Roxy was right all along. Sending you to LA was the right decision...and I'm glad to see it."
"I'm glad you realise it." She bantered. "Though I won't tell Aunt Roxy you said she was right. She'd never let it go."
"No, she wouldn't." Elliot was rueful. "I haven't seen her since the divorce. It's possibly the thing I'm most glad to be away from, in truth. I never did like Roxy."
"Why not?" Sylva looked surprised. "She was around such a lot when I was small, I figured you must be cool with her. I know she was always Mom's friend, but..."
"Well, Roxy is hard to argue with." Elliot glanced at his hands. "And she was a good friend to Mary, I know that. Probably that's why I put up with her as much as I did. But we never got along, Sylvie. When I married your mother, Roxy refused to speak to her till you were almost three years old. She hated me from the moment we met, and nothing that happened as time went on changed her opinion of me."
"Or mine of her, for that matter." He added. "I was worried she'd rubbed off on you a little too much."
"Maybe she did a bit." Sylva looked thoughtful. "But I think wanting to do this was in my blood more, Dad. Anna and I both are big on music and stuff, just in different ways. That's from Mom...it has to be."
"Yes." Elliot nodded. "And you've both put it to good use."
He winked at her.
"Which means, my girl, you're just as smart as I always told you you were!"
"Well, maybe it's a different kind of smart." She said, taking a sip of her drink. "It doesn't involve exams and stuff, so I can live with it."
She pursed her lips.
"You know, Annie is really wound up over everything at the moment. You've seen more of her recently than I have...is this normal for her since she left college or what?"
"No...but she has been a little on edge recently." Elliot considered. "I've seen it too. I think she's trying to juggle too much and a wedding is no mean feat to organise." He looked sheepish. "Guess she took that from me."
"Well, she needs a time out." Sylva sighed. "It's supposed to be the happiest day of her life, not the most stressful. If it's getting to her that bad, maybe she should just say forget it, and run off to Vegas or something. That's what I'd do. If I had all this stuff to deal with, I'd grab my guy and be outta state before you could blink."
Elliot looked amused.
"Yes, I believe you would." He agreed. "But you and Anna couldn't be more different that way. She's a planner...and her wedding will probably be perfect because of it. Just having you around might help take the edge off it a bit, I think. You and she always did balance each other out quite well."
"That's what I'm trying to do." Sylva nodded. "I'm finding my chief job as maid of honour is getting the bride to take a chill pill!"
Elliot took a sip of his own drink, nodding across the hotel.
"We have company." He murmured.
"We do?" Sylva turned, then she rolled her eyes. "Oh great. Don't tell me that word has got round New York that I'm here? Brilliant. I thought I'd be incognito, with Anna here all the time and stuff. She told me when she first moved to the city people thought she was me a lot, but they don't so often now. I figured I'd be safe."
"Well, doesn't look like it." Elliot grinned. "You are distinctive, you know. You always dressed differently, but it's become more so since you've been living apart. That's how I knew it was you from afar."
"I guess it doesn't help that Ann had her hair cut for the wedding, either." Sylva rolled her eyes. "We are identical twins again, aren't we?"
"I guess you are, underneath all the make-up and hairspray." Elliot agreed. "You know, they're coming over. Does this happen a lot in LA?"
"All the time." Sylva nodded. "Like you wouldn't believe."
"Sylva?" The fan approached nervously. "Is...is it you?"
"It was when I looked in the mirror this morning." Sylva slipped into professional Jewel mode, casting the woman a grin. "You got me."
"I don't want to disturb you, I just...could I get your autograph, please?" The woman held out a napkin and pen. "I'm a big Jewel fan and I read in Cool Trash that you were in NYC, but I didn't think it was for real, you know? But you are...are the others here too?"
"No, it's just me, I'm afraid." Sylva took the napkin, neatly looping her name across it. "There. My sister is getting married, so I'm kinda on vacation. The others are still in LA."
"Oh well." The woman shrugged her shoulders. "Thanks for signing it for me, anyway. It's cool to have met you. I hope your sister has a great wedding!"
"So do I!" Sylva agreed. "I'll pass on the good vibe!"
The woman smiled shyly again, then hurried away, napkin in hand.
Elliot eyed his daughter with interest.
"You know, I could have been having coffee with your mother for a moment there." He observed, once the fan was out of earshot. Sylva looked confused.
"She was just as smooth and professional when people approached her, too." Elliot explained. "And it would happen, when we were dating more than after we were married. I used to get annoyed, sometimes, but she told me it was as much part of her job as constantly having memos or phonecalls was part of mine."
"Well, Phyllis and Jetta would skin me if I was rude to a fan." Sylva admitted. "It's all about positive PR. But even though that one had lousy timing, I kinda enjoy meeting them and signing things and stuff. Maybe I'm a huge attention seeker, but it's true. I like it anyway."
She glanced at her watch.
"I ought to be heading back to Anna's, in case she's found something useful for me to do." She added, drinking the last of her coffee and scooping up her doughnut. "I'll have to eat and run, I guess, if I can find a taxi."
"Well, mind you find one with a cabbie who can drive." Elliot told her. Sylva laughed.
"I'll do my best." She promised. "Thanks for this, Dad. It was nice...not just the coffee, but spending time together. I didn't know what it'd be like when we saw each other again properly, but it's been cool. Make sure you book those plane tickets for December, okay? I want to see you."
"I promise." Elliot responded. "I told you. It's a deal."
As the musician made her return to Anna's house, she ran over her conversation
with her father in her mind. A slight smile touched her face as she did
"It's so nice to be back on terms." She murmured. "I knew we were, but it felt good to do it face to face. I've missed him...though it's weird to think that. And in time for Anna's wedding, too. Just to make everything picture perfect."
The cab drew up in front of Anna's house, and Sylva quickly paid the driver, rummaging in her pocket for the key her sister had given her for her stay. Slipping it into the lock, she pushed open the door, stepping into the hallway and removing her boots and jacket. As she did so, however, she heard the sound of raised voices from the den and she paused, a frown crossing her face.
"I can't keep having this argument with you, John."
Sylva slipped back against the wall, listening as she distinguished her sister's voice, tired and unhappy. "Do you trust me? Because dammit, if you don't, why are you marrying me?"
"All I asked was for you to do something about Colin before we step down the aisle." That was John, Sylva realised, and he sounded angry. "I can't share you, Ann. Don't you realise that?"
"I'm not asking you to!" Anna's voice rose in pitch. "Oh, for heaven's sake, don't you understand anything?"
"I think you don't understand." John returned quietly. "And there's no sense in this discussion continuing. I've a meeting I'm already late for, and we'll sort this out when we've both calmed down. But I mean it, Annie. Something has to be done about Colin...and for good."
There was the sound of footsteps, and Sylva grabbed open the door of the shoe cupboard, slipping inside as the den door opened. John stalked past her, grabbing his coat off the coat rack and heading out of the house, shutting the door with a bang.
Sylva stepped out of the cupboard slowly, pushing the door shut and leaning up against it.
A voice startled her and she turned, seeing her sister watching her. Anna's face was streaked with tears and instinctively Sylva came to hug her.
"Annie, what in hell was that all about?" She asked. "I don't think I ever heard you and John go at it before."
"You heard all that, huh?" Anna offered a weak smile. "I'm sorry you did. It's no biggie, Syl. Wedding jitters, that's all. It's getting to us both a little...making us both a bit crazy."
"Are you sure?" Sylva held her sister at arm's length, fixing her with a searching gaze. "It sounded like a doozie."
Anna dropped her gaze.
"It's nothing important." She responded firmly. "And not your problem to worry about. It's just pre-wedding nerves, I promise. All couples spat a little before they tie the knot. It's just...wanting everything to be perfect. That's all."
"You don't want to talk about it?"
Anna managed another wan smile.
"What's to talk about?" She asked. "I'm fine. Honestly, Sylvie, I am. And I've a whole lot to do...so I better get going myself. I'll see you later, all right? And don't worry. Everything is okay."
"Well, if you say so." Sylva relinquished her grip on her sister reluctantly. "But chill out, okay? Your big day is coming up and that's more important than work deadlines. I've told you that."
"Yes, I know. But I'd like to meet both, if possible." Anna shrugged. "I better get a move on."
"Okay, sis." Sylva spread her hands. "I'll see you when you get back. Logan and I might go somewhere for dinner, so I don't know if I'll be here to eat. But I'll see you later on, for sure."
"All right." Anna nodded. "Then have a good time!"
Once she was gone, Sylva bit her lip, shaking her head slowly as she reached into her bag for her mobile phone. As she dialled Logan's cell number, one nagging thought kept playing at the back of her mind.
"So if it's just wedding jitters," She mused, as she waited for her friend to pick up. "Who's Colin?"
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