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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31





Chapter Nine

            'Here's the deal,' Michael said, his worldly green eyes fixed firmly on his daughter's face. Deal? Madison had no idea what he was talking about. She was already upset enough, she didn't need to hear anything else.

            They were sitting in the restaurant of the palatial Plaza Hotel. She'd ordered a mimosa to drink, and eggs over easy with bacon and sausage to eat. Now the food sat on a plate in front of her, abandoned- because she couldn't touch a thing. And the mimosa was almost finished.

            'Yes, Michael,' she said, staring back at him, her green eyes alert.

            He was on his second cup of coffee. For the first time she noticed he had dark shadows under his eyes, and tiny flecks of grey in his jet black hair. Was her handsome father finally getting old?

            No. not Michael. It was impossible.

            'I never thought I'd tell you this,' he said, his voice serious enough to match his expression. 'Somehow it didn't seem necessary. But now that Stella has taken this step, you should know the truth.'

            'The truth about what?' Madison asked, wishing that this wasn't happening. 'About you and me,' he said steadily. 'About our family.'

            She felt queasy. Something bad was going to come out of his mouth, something she didn't want to hear. 'You know, sweetheart, I've always loved you and I always will,' he said. 'You're very, very precious to me.'

            In a rush it came to her. Oh, God! he was about to tell her she was adpted.

            So that's why she'd had to call them Stella and Michael all these years. That's why they'd never wanted to be called Mommy and Daddy like normal parents. Of course. It all made sense.

            Her stomach lurched. Her hands were clammy. She felt sick and faint all at the same time. This was so bad, the last thing she'd expected.

            Pull yourself together, she told herself sternly. Get a grip and listen to what he has to say. 'Yes?' she said blankly. Spit it out fast, Michael, because I cannot stand the suspense.

            He gave a long drawn-out sigh. 'This isn't easy,' he said, tapping his index finger on the table.

            You think it's easy for me? She wanted to yell. You're about to tell me I'm adopted, and you're sitting there telling me it's not easy. Screw you! Michael! I hate this.

            'Here's the thing,' he said, his eyes still fixed firmly on hers. 'Stella..she's, uh..she's not your mother.'

            No big surprise. She waited patiently for him to add, And I'm not your father, but rest assured that we desperately wanted you. In fact, we chose you. Picked you out. Isn't that the kind of crap adoptive parents usually came out with?

            'so, you adopted me,' she said, barely able to get the words out. 'No,' he said, vigorously shaking his head. 'I'm your father. Your real father.'

            This was all too weird. 'You are?'

            She murmured faintly. 'You bet I am. I never would have abandoned you. Never.'

            'I -I - don't understand.'

            'Let me try explaining,' he said, taking a gulp of coffee to fortify himself. 'I .I was a single guy. I had a girlfriend, Gloria. Well, Gloria and me, we were cosmic twins. Inseparable. We grew up together, did everything together. Eventually we made a baby together.'

            Now her world was really spinning. He was telling her that Stella wasn't her Mother. How could that be?

            A long pause before he continued. 'That baby was you, sweetheart.'

            'Met?' she said blankly.

            'I was involved in something at the time that wasn't exactly legitimate. It was a mess, and when you were six months old, the people I was dealing with decided they had to punish me.'

            'Punish you?' Madison said, frowning. 'For what?

            Ignoring her question he continued with his story. 'The deal was that, uh, either I gave them what they wanted, or they'd take away my family. I didn't believe them- besides, I had both of you well protected. Anyway, one day Gloria managed to get out of the house without anyone knowing. She wanted to buy me birthday present. That's when they shot her.'

            'Who shot her?'

            'It's too complicated to get into now. It was a long time ago- twenty -nine years. They killed her. The bastards killed her.'

            'Oh, God!' Madison cried.

            'Truth is,' Michael said, 'I've never gotten over her. And Stella knew it.' Madison felt like she was in the middle of some insane soap opera as she listened to his story. Everything she knew was crumbling around her. Stella - the beautiful Marilyn Monroe- like Stella - was not her mother. And who was Gloria? She wanted to see a picture, find out everything about her. What happened when she was shot? Did she die immediately or was she injured?

            Oh, God, so many question, and who was going to give her the answers? Her mind was racing in a million different direction, and at the same time she was sick to her stomach and totally lost.

            'A year later I met Stella, who was everything Gloria wasn't,' Michael continued. 'When we started talking about marriage I gave her the conditions. If I married her, she had to become your mother in every way. And no more kids. You were it. She agreed, but I know she was never there for you the way Gloria would've been.' He shrugged hopelessly. 'What could I do? And now.' his voice hardened' ..the bitch has betrayed me. And believe me, as far as I'm concerned, she's dead.'

            All of a sudden Madison had a blinding headache. Maybe it was the mixture of champagne and orange juice. Maybe it was simply starting at this man whom she now realized she didn't know at all. For God's sake, was this her life? All these years had she been living a lie.

            'I - I have to go home and- digest this,' she managed, standing up. 'Don't run away from me,' Michael implored, grabbing her hand. 'I need you, sweetheart. I've always needed you.'

            'Maybe you do,' she said, feeling a sharp pain burning within her. 'But this is too much of a shock, and I have to deal with it on my own.' Pulling her hand away from his, she stood up and hurried from the restaurant.

            Outside on the street everything seemed different. She didn't know what to do or where to turn. All she really wanted to do was burst out crying.

            Why do you want to cry? A little voice within her asked.

            Because I don't know who i am an any more.

            Jamie and Peter spent almost the entire day cruising around Barney's. After one of Peter's drinking bouts, he got a strong attack of the guilts, and to assuage them he spent freely.

            Jamie took advantage of every moment. She charged boots, jewellery, shoes, sweaters and a long blue cashmere coat- which when she snuggled into it made her look like a blonde Russian princess.

            'You do know you're the most gorgeous girl in New York?' Peter told her admiringly. 'And I'm the luckiest man alive to be married to you.'

            Jamie smiled. Why had she ever suspected him? He was the best, and they had the greatest marriage . just because he'd gone off sex for a few weeks didn't mean there was another woman. Plus last night he'd made up for it. And how!

            No. There was absolutely no reason for her to meet with Madison's detective. Peter was one hundred percent a loyal and loving husband - he'd proved it to her today.

            They left Barney's at last, both loaded down with packages. 'Madison said something about meeting us later,' Peter said as they stood herside searching for a cab.

            'Is your phone on?' Jamie asked.

            'Of course it is,' he said, patting his pocket.

            'Then she must've got tied up.'

            'About time!' Peter said with a dirty chuckle. 'Hasn't it been rather a long dry spell?' 'You know Madison,' Jamie said airily. 'She's very particular about the guys she gets involved with. Especially after David.'

            'I liked David,' Peter remarked.

            'How can you say that?' Jamie said.

            'I told you I had dinner with him and his wife one night when you were in Boston with Anton, didn't I'

            'No. You didn't tell me.'

            'I meant to.'

            'How could you, Peter? That's so disloyal.'

            'He kept on calling me, and I had nothing else to do, so we went to Elaine's.'

            'What's his wife like?'

            'Blonde, big overbite, enormous tits. Real, I think.'

            'Ha!' Jamie scoffed. 'You guys always think they're real. Those kinds of girls never have real tits. They're man-made for sure.'

            'You're being bitchy, sweetie.'

            'Look,' she said, waving frantically, 'there's a cab - grab it!'

            on the way home they necked in the back of the taxi while the driver pretended not to watch them in his rear-view mirror. Jamie was almost inclined to tell Peter that she'd been about to put a private detective on his tail. But then she thought he probably wouldn't appreciate it, so she managed to keep her mouth shut.

            'What would you like to do tonight?' she asked when they reached their apartment. 'We have no plans.' 'That's what I like,' Peter said with a great big grin. 'No plans. My kind of evening.'

            'We could send out for Chinese,' Jamie suggested. 'Rent a video.'

            'Which one?'

            'Anything with Brad Pitt.'

            'And I'll watch anything with Charleze Theron.'

            'Then we'll rent two videos, and order in tons of Chinese food. I'm starving. You do know we didn't even stop for lunch?'

            'You wouldn't let us,' Peter pointed out. 'You were too busy buying out the store!' Jamie waited until Peter was in his den, then she snuck into her bathroom and called Madison. The answering -machine picked up.

            'Cancel the meeting on Monday,' Jamie whispered. 'I'll call you later. Or phone us when you get this message. Whatever you do, don't mention anything to Peter.'

***

            Madison arrived home Anton hour later and picked up Jamie's message. Goddamnit! Why had she volunteered to get involved in the first place? Jamie was like a yo-yo -up and down. One moment Peter was cheating, and the next he wasn't. Who gave a shit? Her life was falling to pieces, and all Jamie cared about was canceling some appointment with a private detective.

            Slammer greeted her as though she'd been away for a year. She sat on the floor next to him and rubbed his back. He immediately turned on to his side, legs akimbo, waiting for her to scratch his stomach - his favourite thing in the entire world.

            'You're a funny old thing, aren't you?' she said.

            Why hadn't Michael told her the truth when she was young?

            Why had he forced Stella to live a lie?

            Memories of the woman she'd thought was her mother kept flitting through her mind. Her first encounter with a boy- Stella had sent her out with the maid to buy one at Bloomingdale's. Her first crush when she was twelve - Stella had been totally uninterested.

            Now it became clear why she'd had no real closeness with her mother, it was because Stella was not her mother, had no desire to be her mother, was probably jealous of Gloria and hated the connection.

            Then there was Michael. So handsome and charming, always over-compensating, always ready to listen to anything she had to say and be on her side.

            Now she knew why. Guilt. Pure guilt.

            She kept on going over the things he'd said.

            They shot her.

            Who were they? And why would anybody want to shoot Gloria?

            Michael had said he was involved in something that wasn't so legitimate. What could that possibly have been? Did he have more secrets she didn't know about?

            Obviously. And obviously he was pretty good at keeping them, since she'd never suspected any of this. It was all a terrible shock.

            Having Anton analytical mind was a help; she grabbed a yellow legal pad and pen and started making a list of all the questions she planned to ask him. Were he and Gloria ever married? Did she have relatives? Were the people who shot her ever caught? Prosecuted? And if not, why not?

            Oh, Jeez! There was so much she needed to know. This was almost like preparing for Anton interview, only this interview would be the most important one she'd ever conducted.

            She decided that when Michael called she'd ask him to come by her apartment. When he arrived, she'd sit him down and very calmly find out everything. Full disclosure. No more secrets. The truth would set her free. Only then would she be able to get on with her life.

            

   


Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62