"What do you think, honey?" Lianne asked, as Veronica walked through the door and put her bag down. Her mother was stirring a red sauce in a saucepan that filled the air with a spicy scent.
"About what?" Veronica asked.
"We're having spaghetti bolognese for dinner, and I'm trying to decide on the music. Do you think I should go with the classic - Frank Sinatra, or something more modern - Il Divo?"
"We have Il Divo?" Veronica queried dryly, her forehead wrinkling.
"Sinatra then, definitely. Come Fly With Me?"
"Good choice!" Lianne said brightly, walking over to the CD player and picking it out.
Veronica hopped up on the kitchen stool, breathing in the aroma drifting across the air, her stomach rumbling.
"I registered Holly's last name as Mars, not Kane," Lianne informed her softly as she busied herself with ripping open a package of crimped noodles. Sinatra played quietly in the background.
"Oh," Veronica replied in surprise, before she attempted a small smile. "Thank you."
Veronica had discovered there were different kinds of exhaustion. The kind you got from pulling an all-nighter, rushing to finish a last minute paper and you needed some coffee and a shower to make it through the rest of the day. There was the painful type, after a twelve hour shift, where your life depends on crashing on a sofa somewhere. Then there was the kind that builds up from the very recesses of your bones after more than a day of forced insomnia. You feel it with every breath, every blink. Things begin to look spectacularly comfortable; the cafeteria floor, the desks in class, the middle of the road. Your body aches just by being. Veronica couldn't bear to look at herself in the mirror anymore, the dark circles under her eyes becoming blacker by the day. She found herself staring longingly at the grass as she sat at the edge of the blanket.
Parker had suggested Tuesdays should be picnic day and much to Veronica's disgust everyone had gone along with it. She couldn't believe Logan put up with that crap, she thought everyone stopped thinking picnics were cool in the fourth grade. Parker had gone to town with the assortment of goodies laid out. Even Wallace had shown at the prospect of free food. Mac sat leaning against Bronson, picking at her marinated tofu that had been provided for her. Logan was sprawled out, enjoying the sun, and Veronica's eyes flickered over him, appreciating the shirt he'd worn that was tight enough to show his ripped muscles underneath. She unconsciously licked her lower lip, before she caught herself, and reached out for her can of Skitz.
Logan had been acting strangely since they arrived. He'd been sickeningly sweet to her, passing her different items of food to try and keeping up a constant stream of chatter. On the other hand, there was a tense silence between Parker and Logan, and when they'd had to speak; he'd been terse and antagonistic, as if he was trying to purposefully cause an argument. Veronica couldn't help the flicker of relief at the fact there was trouble in paradise already, while feeling slightly confused at his attitude towards herself. It was clear Parker was getting angrier as time wore on.
"Alright if I join you?"
She looked up, her hand above her eyes as she squinted in the sun to make out Weevil.
"Bring any lunch? It's the rules," Veronica said in a sarcastically perky voice, moving up to make space.
"I have my sandwich," Weevil said, showing a squashed-looking cheese sandwich, which had been wrapped in a clear bag.
"Where do you normally spend lunch anyway?" Veronica asked, pushing the metal tab on her can back and forth.
"Sleeping in my car," Weevil said with a shrug.
"Aw, did you get lonely?" Veronica mocked.
Logan looked up as if he'd only just noticed Weevil sitting there. "Shouldn't you be fixing something?" he asked with a bored expression.
"Logan! Don't be rude," Parker chastised quickly, as if she'd been dying to tell him off for something, before looking up at Weevil. "I don't think we've met," she said with a bright smile.
"This is Weevil," Veronica said, gesturing towards him. "He went to high school with us. And this is Parker, Logan's girlfriend." She was proud of herself at the casual way she'd managed to say it, without rolling her eyes, gagging or banging her head against the ground.
He raised his eyebrow in greeting, looking vaguely interested. "How do you do it Echolls?"
"Do what?" Logan rose up from the blanket, a familiar challenge flashing in his dark eyes.
"Make them not realise you're a pendejo."
"My wholesome good looks and charm more than makes up for it. You know, I don't see anyone queuing up for you. Ex-con not a turn-on?"
"I do just fine, thanks for your concern," Weevil replied with a sarcastic smile.
"So, let's change the subject," Mac cut in.
Weevil turned to look at Veronica. "How's the baby settling in?"
"What baby?" Mac queried, her forehead wrinkling.
"Ah, yes, the baby," Veronica said dryly. "Well, I was on tour with U2 this summer, as you all know. Bono and I had a bit too much tequila one night, and the rest, as they say, is history..."
"I didn't know it was a secret," Weevil said, ignoring her.
"It's not," Veronica said, shaking her head. "It's just a bit weird to slip, so hey, my mom had a baby with her ex-boyfriend and guess where they're living at the moment, into a conversation. Not very natural, you know?"
Her eyes immediately met Logan's. Shock flittered across his face, before a level of understanding settled in its place.
Her mom was lying asleep on the couch when she got home. Holly was fast asleep in her bouncer, Lianne's foot resting at the edge of it. She only seemed to get to sleep if someone sat and rocked her, and they'd all discovered sitting on the sofa while using their foot to do it was a hell of a lot more comfortable than crouching down.
Veronica crept in, slipping her shoes off and putting them away. She glanced over at Lianne. The sun coming through the windows cast a glow across her face. She looked younger in her sleep, relaxed, and Veronica could almost fool herself into believing her mother was really back. The one that made everything better with a few words or a gentle hug. She missed her bubble of bittersweet denial that had come over her the last time her mom had returned. Now she was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, with an ache in her chest that wouldn't go away. Veronica wanted desperately to believe that this was it. She finally had her family back together.
She checked her watch, noting it was almost time for the next feed. Lianne hadn't been breastfeeding Holly, although she claimed she wasn't drinking. Veronica fetched a bottle of milk from the fridge, ready to be heated up when the baby awoke.
On the spur of the moment, she pulled her camera out of her bag and snapped a shot of her mom, before she carefully put it away again. The last photo she'd got of Lianne was a few weeks before Lilly died, and Veronica had destroyed it not long after her mom had disappeared into the night.
She picked up the lead hanging by the door and immediately Backup trotted over, from his position on the floor. She stroked his head as she fixed the lead on, slipped her shoes back on and headed out the door.
His knee ached with every step towards the bar. He had twisted it a few weeks ago picking up a heavy tool box, and it had steadily felt worse as they wouldn't allow him to take time off work to let it heal.
Weevil had found the bar a mile or so from campus, hidden down a dingy side street. The neon sign above the doorway flickered briefly, fulfilling every stereotype about the crummy bar.
The air was thick with the stench of alcohol, smoke and a slightly sweet pungent scent. He limped over to the bar, and ordered a beer. The barman looked like he'd seen better days, the wrinkles on his skin broken up by the occasional shining scar. His hair was a soft white colour, that would have befitted a kindly grandfather, but the dark glint in his eyes spoke volumes. Weevil slid the note across the slightly sticky bar, and picked up his glass.
He took a sip, closing his eyes briefly as the cool liquid slid down his throat, washing away a day's worth of grease and grime. Weevil scanned the bar, taking in the two quiet men sitting in the corner playing a game of poker; the rowdy group of college kids, egging each other on to down shots of a brightly coloured potent liquid and finally a slender blonde leaning miserably against a booth.
It wasn't until he reached her that he recognised her as the girl he'd met a few days ago. She looked fed up, unlike the slightly annoyingly chipper attitude she'd sported before.
"Can I get you another drink?" he asked, eyeing her empty glass.
She glanced up at him, seemingly started. "Oh, uh, sure…" she started, before she stopped herself, shaking her head. "No, thank you."
"Really? Seemed like you wanted another there," Weevil pointed out with a small smile.
"I shouldn't, but thanks anyway, Weevil."
"The feminist in you rearing its head?"
She smiled, a sweet smile with a slight edge of bitterness that Weevil took to instantly. He'd seen shades of that smile before on Lilly, on Veronica.
"So what are you doing in a dump like this?" Weevil queried, letting the drink issue go and sliding into the booth opposite her. He avoided touching the table, which usually had an accompanying, suspiciously sticky layer. Just like every other flat surface in the joint.
Her shoulders lifted in a half-hearted shrug. "Just wanted to find a place that suited my mood. And when I tell my parents about it, it will really piss them off, which is a nice bonus." Parker twirled the straw around her empty glass before meeting his brown eyes. "You and Logan don't like each other, do you?"
"What gives you that impression?" Weevil asked teasingly.
"What happened?" she asked curiously, tucking a length of her blonde hair behind her ear.
Weevil sighed. "It's complicated. I don't like the way he treated this girl I knew once."
"I don't like the way he treated her either. Do you know he bashed her headlights in? Turned the whole school against her? Constantly bullied her?"
Parker's eyes widened in shock. "No way. He wouldn't do that. Veronica wouldn't let him treat her badly anyway."
Weevil snorted. "She wasn't always like that, you know. Anyway, you can be the strongest person on earth, but if everyone turns on you, there isn't much you can do about it."
Parker was silent for a second, taking it in. "Why would she date him?"
"Because she's fucked in the head? I don't know. Ask her," Weevil said with a shrug.
"Well, who was the other girl?"
Weevil looked away briefly, before he met her blue eyes. "Ever heard of Lilly Kane?"
"That rich girl that Logan's dad was accused of murdering?" Parker said, her forehead wrinkling slightly.
"You've seen the E! True Hollywood story then?" he commented.
"Yeah, well they left a few things out. You should have seen the bruises Logan put on her while they were dating," he spat out. "I assume it's him that's upset you?" he asked. "He's not worth it, believe me."
"I think I need a drink," Parker said shakily. "Maybe a few."
Veronica stifled a yawn as she padded through to the kitchen. Holly had been crying most of the night, and by the sound of it, Lianne had just decided to sleep through it. The warm smell of bacon and eggs met her, making her stomach rumble.
"Morning, honey," Keith greeted her. "Would you mind waking your mom up before it gets cold?
"Mm," Veronica sleepily agreed, walking back towards what had been her dad's bedroom. She knocked on the door and was met by silence.
She turned the door handle, and peaked around. The bed was neatly made. A feeling a dread tightened in her stomach as Veronica stepped through. The bags were gone, her dad's bathroom cleared of all feminine belongings. The only thing left was her baby sister's cradle. Veronica peaked over the edge of the bassinet, and was surprised to feel an avalanche of relief to see Holly still there, staring up at her with wide blue eyes.
Veronica reached down and gently lifted the baby up. She could smell the soft scent of her powdery skin, mixed with the bland, clean smell of Johnson's baby shampoo.
She turned and walked back towards the kitchen, Holly still in her arms. Her dad looked up with a smile. "Hewo, did you sweep well?" he said in his best baby voice, that Veronica would have rolled her eyes at any other time
"She's gone, dad," Veronica said dully. She was surprised at how much it hurt, as she thought she'd been expecting it the whole time.
"Gone?" Keith echoed.
"She didn't leave a note this time. Shocker, huh?"
"Oh," Keith said, sitting down heavily on the stall, his mouth slightly agape.
"What the hell are we going to do?" Veronica sighed, glancing down at the warm bundle in her arms again. Holly stared back curiously.
The cornflower blue sky was covered sporadically with bright white puffs. The sun cast a luminous light across the college campus, suffusing everything in a golden glow. The weather in Neptune always seemed to be spectacularly good when Veronica was in a shitty mood, probably just to rub it in. She spotted Wallace walking towards her and smiled, waving slightly. The smile brightened as she noticed he was carrying two cups.
"Hey, V," he greeted. "I come baring the gift of caffeine."
"Has anyone ever told you how much you rock, Fennel?"
"Eh, it might have been mentioned a few times. So how's it been?" He shot her a sympathetic look.
She shrugged. "I'm not sure if it's better or worse than last time. I guess this time it was expected, but now there's Holly…" She sighed. "I mean, dad's the sheriff, as temporary as it is, he can't just take a few months off to bring up a kid. And he shouldn't have to." She let out a little laugh. "Oh, god, I'm so being emo girl right now."
Veronica frowned, catching sight of Weevil and Parker walking towards the parking lot together. "Since when are they BFF?" she asked, and Wallace turned to look.
"Strange," he agreed. "Want to go check it out?"
Veronica nodded, giving him an apologetic look. "It's too weird not too."
Waving goodbye to Wallace, she hurried after them, but they were out of sight by the time she got there. Veronica hurried up and down the cars, scanning curiously for them. She spotted Weevil's car at the end of the row, and ducked behind a car to watch it. After awhile, the door opened and Parker emerged. Veronica ran along to the next car – a large SUV that covered her perfectly and allowed her to see better.
Veronica's heart thudded in her chest. Parker's hair was a mess, and she watched as she reached up and tried to straighten it with her fingers, before pulling out a mirror to fix her lipstick. Weevil emerged a minute later, looking pleased with himself as he locked the door. Veronica had seen plenty of guilty parties emerge after "the act" and she had a pretty good idea of what had gone on last night.
She fought the urge to fly over there to hit them both with whichever objects happened to be nearby. Instead she stormed over to Weevil's car, her fingernails digging in her palm.
Weevil glanced up and seemed to take in the look on her face.
"Don't," she hissed, shaking her head. "How could you, Parker?"
Parker's eyes widened. "Veronica, it's not what it looks like."
"Yeah, I've heard that one before!" She glared at Weevil, shaking her head. "She's Logan's girlfriend."
Weevil's lips twisted into a grimace. "So? What loyalty do I owe him?" Parker whipped around to glare at him angrily, before she gathered her stuff.
"No doubt you're going to think what you want to!" Parker snapped at Veronica, before she rushed off towards the halls.
"Why do you hate him so much?" Veronica asked Weevil in disbelief, and then quickly added, "You know what, I don't want to know about some ridiculous grudge that should have been buried years ago. It's pathetic. You can work on your own case, too."
She turned to leave, before she looked back at him. "I thought more of you, Weevil." He had the decency to look ashamed as she marched away.
The trees loomed in the distance, casting dark shadows across the pathway. Veronica sat drumming her fingernails nervously on the picnic table, her stomach rolling painfully. She heard his footsteps before she saw him, the sound as familiar as her own. He turned down the footpath she was waiting at and her heart began to beat furiously.
"Hey," he greeted, coming to a halt at the table. He looked around curiously. "What's with the must-meet-now dramatics? Secret espionage a-foot?"
She smiled slightly, motioning for him to sit down. "Not quite." She waited until he'd settled in, before she hesitantly met his eyes. "There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just get on with it. I saw Parker today…." She paused, struggling to find the words.
He raised his eyebrow. "And that required a covert meeting?"
"She was with Weevil," Veronica finished in a rush. His eyes widened. "I saw them," she confirmed. "I'm so sorry," she said sympathetically.
There was a long drawn-out silence, every second painful.
"You're unbelievable," Logan muttered finally. "What is this? Some jealous attempt to break us up?"
"No, Logan," Veronica denied flatly. "It's true."
He stood up quickly. "Same old Veronica. Has to pull everyone down with you when your life is screwed up." Logan swung his leg over the bench, throwing her a disgusted look. "You just can't stand to see me happy!"
"Oh, fuck you. You both deserve each other," Veronica snapped, jumping up and storming off before he could.
"Why won't she stop crying?" Veronica bit out, stepping backwards away from the crib so quickly, she knocked over a glass and sent it flying. She bent to scoop it up, as Keith moved Backup out of the room and out of harms way.
"I think it's most likely colic," Keith replied, rubbing his face with his hand as he spoke. "It's common in babies this age."
She walked into the kitchen, and put it in the trash can. Keith followed her, and sat down heavily on the stool.
"I'm too tired to even think about dinner," he admitted.
Veronica bit down on her lip hard, and then let out a sigh. "We can't do this," she said, shaking her head.
"It's okay, we can order in," he said, reaching for the phone.
"No, Dad, I don't mean dinner." Her voice sounded desperate even to her own ears. "I'm twenty years old, in college. I need to finish, I want to finish," she corrected. "I got a call last week. I got the FBI internship."
Keith's face lit up, as he jumped up from his stool, pulling her into a hug "Honey, that's amazing! My daughter, the fed!"
She couldn't help smiling at his excitement, until he pulled away. "How am I supposed to go away? Am I meant to take Holly with me, look after her while filing paperwork and fetching coffee?"
"I can take care of her," he said immediately.
"You work full time, dad. We can't afford childcare, and you can't quit your job – we wouldn't even have a house to put her in."
He rubbed his hand over his face. "I know, I've been thinking about it too. I don't know what to suggest." His face was a picture of misery.
The word span around her head, pushing and prodding before she finally took a deep breath and said what Keith wasn't. "There's always adoption."
He was silent.
"How can we take care of her?" Veronica said.
"You shouldn't have to be dealing with this," Keith sighed heavily. "She shouldn't be your responsibility."
"She's not yours either," Veronica pointed out. "What about Jake? Oh god, what am I saying?" she said, shaking her head. "Celeste hated me, and she'd hate Holly even more."
"Cliff wrote to his lawyer, in some hope of getting childcare support out of him. His lawyer sent a letter back, and reading between the lines – he's out of the county and unlikely to be returning anytime soon."
Veronica's shoulders slumped, her last hope vanishing. "It doesn't seem like we have a choice," she said dully.
"Do you think she looks better in the little pink dress, or the yellow?" Veronica asked. "Oh, they both look sweet." She rummaged around in the drawer, before she spotted a third option. "Or this? It matches her eyes."
"I don't think it really matters which one," Keith said dully.
"Plus, she'll probably puke on it within a half hour," Wallace pointed out, with a small smile.
Veronica stared at the dresses indecisively, before picking up the blue one. She slipped it on over Holly's head, and smoothed it down.
"What do you think?"
Wallace nodded. "Perfect."
A knock on the front door sounded, and Veronica tensed, clutching Holly to her. She gently stroked the top of her soft blonde curls.
"I'll get it," Wallace offered when he saw neither Veronica or Keith move.
"She can't be here already," Veronica said, breaking the sharp silence in the air. "I haven't even said goodbye yet."
Keith laid his hand on her shoulder. "We can change our minds still," he said carefully.
She bit down on her lip for a moment, before anger bubbled up in her stomach. "Do not make this harder than it already is," she snapped. "We can't take care of her. I'm already clearing up mom's mess; I shouldn't have to parent you too."
His hand snapped away, looking visibly stung. "Right, let's get this over with then," he said shortly, looking up as Wallace entered with a dark-haired lady.
"Hello, Mr Mars, I'm Anne Bridges. I've come to collect Holly," she said kindly. She looked over at Veronica. "And you're Veronica, her sister?" She nodded in response. "We'll be placing Holly into a foster home, until an appropriate family can be found for adoption."
Veronica looked down gently at Holly, meeting her blue eyes, so much like her own, that she herself had inherited from Lianne. She ran her finger around Holly's face, the same heart-shape as Lilly's. Duncan's chin. Her sister was a strange mix of so many important people in her life.
"Here you go," she said tightly, passing her across to Anne, before she left the room and walked straight out the front door. She heard footsteps behind her, and Wallace caught up with her as they carried on.
He didn't say a word, just walked with her until she couldn't walk any longer.
Veronica reached out and slowly stroked Backup's nose, as he sat next to her bed. She lay sprawled out, breathing slowly. Her head thumped painfully in harmony with her heart, and her eyes felt gritty and dry. She was tired, but couldn't sleep. It was especially difficult when she jumped every time there was the slightest noise, expecting to hear Holly's shrill cry fill the apartment. But disappointment smacked her in the face every time she realised it was a neighbour shuffling around, or her father stirring in his sleep.
Guilt gnawed at her, excruciating, constant. She'd done exactly what her mother had done – abandoned her. Given away her own sister.
How could she ever forgive herself?
Logan's nose wrinkled as he caught a whiff of his scent, as he stumbled to his feet. He lurched across the room, almost crashing into the table. The assorted bottles wobbled dangerously, threatening to tip on to the floor. He ignored them, snatching up an almost empty bottle of vodka and poured the rest into a glass. Taking a swig, he grimaced at the foul taste. He felt another rush of fury as Parker's face seemed to hover before him, laughing mockingly. But he knew Parker. She was feisty in her own way, but he couldn't see her cheating on him. And with Weevil, of all people.
He slammed the glass down, abandoning it in favour of lifting the bottle direct to him mouth, tipping his head back and letting the cool liquid rush down his throat. It wasn't the first time Logan had thought the best of a girl, and been wrong. He knew how to fucking pick 'em. Blonde, beautiful and ready to stab him in the back. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand, and found himself flopping back down on the sofa. He covered his face with his hand, letting out a little groan as a knock sounded on the door.
"It's open," he called but regretted it as the door slid open to reveal Parker standing there.
"Hello, Logan. It looks like you've already spoken to Veronica?"
She'd been the perfect girlfriend. Fun loving and sweet. Someone who was thrilled by a picture on a cake and a party in his hotel room. Parker had made it easy to go through the motions of a happy relationship without too much effort, without the fear of being hurt. Her hand rested on her hip. She was dressed in a red sleeveless top, understated but sexy, as if she'd dressed to look pretty without trying to look like she'd made too much of an effort. She wasn't hard to read. He'd been through it all with Lilly.
Something had changed though. There was a finality with the way she was looking at him.
"Yeah," he replied, mussing his hair with his hand and sitting up.
"And you believe her?"
"Actually I said she was jealous, we had an argument and she said we deserved each other," he answered with a sheepish smile. Parker's mouth dropped slightly open. "Having said that, Veronica's not malicious without a reason. She must have seen something."
Her hand dropped from her hip and she fidgeted with her purse. "Nothing happened. We ran into each other in a bar, got a little worse for wear…" Parker shrugged. "We ended up falling asleep in his car. She saw us arriving at college. I'm not a cheat," she said firmly.
"I didn't really think you were," he sighed, with a flicker of a relief that a second girlfriend hadn't cheated on him with Weevil. There was a moment of silence.
"He told me some interesting things about you, though," she suddenly blurted out.
He smirked. "Oh, this will be good."
Parker looked uncomfortable before she finally met his eyes, yet she looked stronger somehow than he'd ever seen her before. "Did you bash Veronica's headlights in?" The words hung in the air between them for a second before she went on, "Did you turn everyone against her?" Logan's throat felt like it was lodged shut. She opened her mouth again and his stomach twisted with dread. "He also said you hit your other ex, Lilly." Each charge was like a lash against his skin. Painful, like sliding a piece of jagged glass against his unhealed wounds.
He finally managed to let oxygen fill his lungs again and he savoured it briefly before dispelling it with a bitter laugh. "I did nothing but worship Lilly," he said frankly. He shook his head in resignation. "What do you want me to say to the rest? It's true," he confirmed.
"Why?" she asked incredulously.
"Why what? Why does she still talk to me? I don't know." He let out sigh. "Look, it's one of the biggest regrets of my life, but it's really between Veronica and I."
Parker gritted her teeth visibly, letting out a breath of frustration. "I'm your girlfriend."
Logan climbed to his feet, trying to ignore the remnants of alcohol that still seemed to be swilling around his brain. "I'm not the guy you think I am, Parker," he said softly and she looked down on the floor, biting her lip. "I can try as hard as I can, but I can't be who you want. I can't love you."
Her blue eyes were filled with tears when she met his again. "Because you love her?"
He paused for a moment, before he nodded. "I'm sorry."
"Well, I guess that's it then," Parker murmured finally, before turning on her heel and closing the door quietly behind her.
Logan sank back down on the sofa, his face buried in his hands.
The knock echoed loudly in the cool evening air. He tucked his hands back in his pocket as he waited for the door to open.
Logan felt a stab of shock at Veronica's appearance as she stared at him dully. She looked pale in the dim light, but he could see the dark circles clearly outlining her eyes. Her hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail and she was dressed in baggy clothes that emphasised her small frame.
"Come to offer more insults?" she said hollowly, even as she stepped away and padded back towards the sofa, leaving Logan to close the door behind them. He followed her steps and dropped down next to her.
Logan hesitated for a moment, before he reached out and put his hand on hers, stupid arguments forgotten. She looked down at it, her eyes glazed. He felt nausea to the pit of his stomach, unable to comprehend the girl in front of him. She reminded him of a broken doll. Her head turned to look at him, fractionally quicker than her eyes were to meet him.
Her voice was barely a whisper as she murmured, "I've done something horrible."
Logan could see the desperation shining from her eyes, written across her skin.
"What?" he asked simply.
"I gave my sister away. I'm just like my mother." She looked horrified after she said it, like it was her worst fear realised.
"Oh, Veronica." Logan allowed his other arm to slide around her, clutching her slight warmth against him. He pressed his lips against the top of her head, which came to rest against his chest. "You're nothing like her," he promised.
"We just don't have the money right now to bring up a child. Childcare costs a fortune; dad can't give up his job and afford to live, not to mention the endless list of other reasons why it's a bad idea. One of the worst things is the way dad is looking at me though," she admitted as a tear slowly slid down her cheek. "Like he's so disappointed in what I've done. And he's right, I didn't fight hard enough." Her forehead creased as she sighed. "I took the easy way out."
"It sounds like you took the hard way, actually."
She shook her head, with a small whimper of protest. "I could have quit college, and looked after her. It would have been difficult, but not impossible. I could have done cases on the side."
"You shouldn't have to drop out of college, Veronica," Logan said angrily. "I can help," he said weakly, before he snapped to attention, pulling away from her, his eyes lighting up with excitement. "That's it, I can help."
"What? Don't be ridi…"
"Let me do this, Veronica," he interrupted vehemently. "I can pay for childcare costs, help you out. You can stay in college; your dad can still work."
Veronica let out an incredulous laugh. "It wouldn't work…"
"Why not? You can't keep her because you don't have the money, but I have."
"I'm not a charity case," she snapped.
He sighed, rolling his eyes. "For god's sake. You've been one of my best friends since you were twelve. I've loved you since…" he stopped abruptly, before he added tenderly, "Just let me do this. Please?"
She hesitated. Her hand was gripping his tightly, which Logan didn't think she was even aware of.
"I don't think it would be a good idea."
"Why not?" he demanded
"I can't be in debt, Logan. Not to anyone. I'd have to pay you back, with interest."
"Interest for throwing away on gambling and booze?" He smiled to show he was joking. "I don't want paying back, but if it's the only way you'll agree to it, then we can work something out. Without interest," he said determinedly. He gently tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "We'll sort this out."
Veronica let out a small hiss of relief, before covering her face with her hands. Her sobs came hard and fast, as Logan gently stroked her back, looking on helplessly.
Five Months Later
"Veronica," Keith called, "I'm leaving soon!"
She opened her bedroom door and walked over to the side. She pulled out a packet of Coco pops, and began filling a bowl.
"Morning, honey," he dad greeted, before he slid a box in front of her. "This came for you in the mail." He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. "I'm off to work now, be good."
She smiled cheerily. "Don't do anything I would do," she answered. "And arrest at least three people. You've been getting sloppy."
Veronica began to unfold the corners of the brown paper covering the box. "Please be a pony, please be a pony," she chanted jokingly.
Keith grabbed his keys, picked up his last slice of toast, and headed out the door. "When are you getting over the pony thing?" he shouted to her, as he closed the door.
"Uh, when I get one," she called back. Veronica pulled away the paper to find a plain white box. She took off the lid, and found a fluffy lilac teddy-bear. Picking up the bear, she examined it and found a small handwritten label.
'To Holly, with love from your big brother. xxx'
Veronica stared at it in shook for a brief second. How the hell did Duncan know about Holly, let alone her name? She examined the box, carefully looking under the lid for any hidden notes. She felt a jolt of disappointment when there was nothing there. Veronica quickly scanned the packaging and found there was no postmark, only her address typed out.
If Duncan knew about Holly, then it was obvious he had a contact at home. The name morphed into her mind instantly. Clarence Wiedman. And if he knew, then Jake certainly knew about his daughter.
Her jaw set angrily as she dug her cell phone out of her bag and punched in a familiar number.
"Veronica, please don't tell me you've been arrested again. What is it for this time, for stealing diapers?" Cliff ribbed.
"Cliff, can you get in contact with Jake Kane's lawyers for me please?"
"Uh, sure," he answered. "What for?"
"I want you to get the message to him that I know he knows about Holly. And if he doesn't pay back the child support he owes, I will have no choice but to go public with the fact he has an illegitimate daughter that he hasn't paid a cent towards," she said angrily. "The Kanes may have had their share of scandals, but abandoning a baby for over six months while living it up abroad will affect his profits."
Cliff made a noise as if he was scribbling her words down. "Is that all?"
"Well, make it sound less… threaten-y," she added, calming down slightly.
"I'll get on that right away," Cliff said warmly.
"Thanks, Cliff. You're the best," Veronica replied, ending the call. She picked up the teddy and placed it in Holly's toy box with a soft thump.
The cloudless sky was a stunning shade of turquoise. Veronica followed the skyline down to the horizon, but it was difficult to tell where the ocean began, the reflection merging. The sea was perfectly calm, after days of perfect surfing conditions.
"Can you pass me the sun lotion?" Veronica asked, unable to muster the energy to even turn to face her best friend. There was just something about the heat that sapped her strength.
Wallace slowly opened one eyelid and his gaze fell the bottle. "That's just lazy, Vee," he chastised, shaking his head, and closing his eye again.
Veronica smiled sweetly. "You could just put the extra cream on Holly, and forego me moving altogether." She was propped up on the towel, using her elbows as support, her head tilted up towards the sun.
Her best friend tutted loudly, but moved to do as she asked. He opened the bottle and began slopping the lotion over the small child sitting between them, happily playing with her bucket and spade. He rescued Holly's pink hat from the hole she was pushing it in to, to put it gently back on her head, carefully smoothing down her fluffy blonde hair.
"You're making food when we get back," he grumbled.
"Mm, I'm too hungry for that," Veronica replied sleepily.
"Your boy toy, two o'clock," Wallace said, before he wrinkled his nose. "I don't know why I said that."
"Coz you're weird?" Veronica offered, finally putting the effort in to sit up. She turned and offered Logan a small wave, as he walked across the beach to him. "He has food," Veronica said with a dreamy smile, spotting the fast food bag he was carrying.
Logan reached them, and bent down to press a kiss on Veronica's forehead. "Going for the lobster look?" he teased Veronica, as he reached out and ticked Holly. Holly returned his gesture with a gappy grin, while slapping him in delight. "Or just waiting for someone else to do the work for you?"
"You know me so well," she returned, digging in to the bag.
"Share already," Wallace demanded eagerly, and she passed him his portion. "Excellent."
"Yeah, no problem. Don't either of you thank me, or anything. Just begin to stuff your faces," Logan pointed out sarcastically.
"Food is good," Veronica smiled, waving a fry at him. "Oh!" she said excitedly. "Guess which new word Holly said today?"
"Metamorphosis?" Logan suggested.
"Nah, it's gotta be bourgeois, said in disgust. She is Veronica's sister," Wallace laughed.
Veronica shook her head. "You know you're both going to hell, right? Can't I just be proud of her?"
"Of course you can," Wallace indulged. "It's not like we can stop you anyway."
Logan smiled at her look of irritation. "What was the word?"
"Well, I'm not going to tell you now," she huffed.
Veronica noticed Holly's face beginning to screw up, a sign of an all out temper tantrum. She quickly reached forward and put her sister's spade back in her small hand, relieved when Holly happily began to wave it around.
He shook his head, ignoring her put-on bad mood. "Did you want to go and see a movie tonight?" he asked casually.
"An actual date?" Veronica asked, her smile brightening instantly. "We haven't had one in ages."
"So it's about time we did." Logan said, reaching forward and stealing one of Veronica's fries. "American Gangster is on."
"Oh, I want to see that!" Veronica agreed. "And we could go to that new pizza place that opened for food." Veronica turned to Wallace with a hopeful look. "My dad is going out tonight…"
"I knew this was coming," Wallace complained with a laugh. "Yeah, I'll baby-sit. But you owe me one!"
"I always do," Veronica smiled, turning to Logan and slipping her hand into his.
Thank you so much for reading! I really appreciate your thoughts and feedback. It means a lot to me.