|New Beginnings, Old Connections|
|Name:||New Beginnings, Old Connections|
The limo cruises down the hill-edged lane heading into Bridgeport. Inside the black status symbol is a small family of three: Nicholas, Victoria, and Holly Alto. Despite their high-class vehicle, they are confused, sleepless, and disgruntled, because, though they'd never admit it to the people they are going to meet, they have just fled their home in terror for life as they knew it.
"Nick," Victoria says, "Please tell me that our new house is already brought and servants already arranged and everything."
This is so unlike Vita's usual cool, poised self that it startles Nick. "Yes, it is. Marco arranged everything."
"Good." Vita pours herself a glass of juice from the minibar and sips it. "So. Who exactly are these people, and why should we trust them in our current...predicament?"
Nick sighs. "I've told you, Vita. They're my family--my brother, sister-in-law, their children, and my father. We can trust them. They...They do roughly the same kind of work we did in Sunset Valley."
"That's why I don't trust them," Holly, the daughter of the family, puts in. "I thought we were trying to turn over a new leaf here, for one thing. For another, they could easily turn us in, or blackmail us."
There's a bit of a silence before Nick says, "As only one of those points was valid, I'm going to ignore the other. But they can't turn us in/blackmail us because I've got quite a bit of dirt on them too." He grins. "They're not the only ones who know about someone else's businesses."
Holly sighs and puts her head in her hands. She'd thought that just maybe her parents could be a little less criminally inclined in this new city, but they apparently have no such intentions, and the talk about blackmailing family reminds her painfully of how out of place she is in this unscrupulous family. Her kindergarten teacher when she first started going to school was a kind but firm woman who had become a role model for the young girl and taught her better than to follow the family example. Still friends years later, both women were sorrowful at their separation. All Holly can do now is hope that the good is deeply enough instilled in her. She wants a life for herself: a loving husband, a few children, a nice suburban home and maybe a job at her own daycare. She can't have that if what happened to her parents happens to her.
The Alto couple's limo was driving by their warehouse base, they with every intention of going in to work when they noticed the flashing red and blue lights and saw several policemen herding their underlings out in handcuffs.
"Simmit, Nick!" Vita burst out. "Those sim Landgraabs must've informed on us. What do we do?"
Nick knew that his crime supported his public life entirely. Without it, he'd be left destitute and scorned. And his wife and daughter would be too. "We have to get out of town," he snarled. "We'll go to Bridgeport...I'll call my family there. They'll arrange for us to stay."
"For how long?" Vita asked, while the limo started again. The driver knew that his employers wanted to get out of there.
"We can never go back, Vita, if that's what you're asking. I know we've got business here, but we can start up again in Bridgeport."
The pair went home, collected Holly and a few possessions, and left town.
They've been driving for four days since. Sleeping in the limo, eating in the limo, arguing in the limo, worrying in the limo. Secretly Nick isn't so sure about whether his family will really welcome him back with open arms, or if they simply feel obligated because he's their son/brother/brother-in-law/uncle. Besides, Vita and Holly are strangers to them. Holly, well...Holly isn't even legitimate. Vita's stepdaughter, Nick's ex-girlfriend's love child. In a family with an almost Victorian code of family honor, that's shame--Plus Holly's tendencies towards the lighter side of life, they may toss her back into the street like a stray dog.
By this time the limo's pulled into town fully, drawing attention from those hoping for their favorite celebrities but unable to see past the heavy tint of the windows. They cross the bridge and at last pull into the island of Bridgeport; full of expensive homes and high-class people. Vita's glad more than ever that she's found time earlier in the day to fix her hair and change her clothes. The limo stops in front of a brownish-red edifice, in front of which stands seven people--one more than was expected.
There's a man much like a thinner, slightly younger, less worn version of Nick with a beard rather than mustache. Next to him is an equally well-dressed woman with a sophisticated manner and light brown hair pulled up to the top of her head; next to her is a girl about Holly's age but seeming older with her beautiful appearance and rosy formal dress, and the girl is holding the back of a wheelchair. There are two older-teenage boys dressed in dark slacks and white shirts, one seeming ill-at-ease, the other bored.Standing in the foremost is a very...Ostentatious, loud, middle-aged woman. Her hair is wild, cropped, and the same color as Holly's. Her face is sort of chubby, like Holly. But the differences are large. Obvious implants, a sense of fashion more suited to a woman fifty pounds thinner and twenty years younger, and a cigarette between her fingers.
Vita, having never seen the woman before, actually knows who she is before Nick does. "Nick?" she whispers uncertainly. "Is this your ex?"
Then it occurs to Nick that this overweight, underdressed, aging woman used to be the gorgeous girl he dated in college. "Good lord," he says. "I think it is."
Candace Birmingham rushes the nearest Alto, poor Vita, and hugs her, getting cigarette smoke all over the agitated woman who shoves away as quickly as possible. Candace then runs, jiggling, at Nick and hugs him too. "Nick!" she cries nasally. "Oh, you got fat. Really. I haven't changed a bit, though. Still cray-cray old Candy." Then she turns and notices a cringing Holly, who she hugs with equal verve. "Oh, is this my little daughter? You got fat, too. Fatter than when you were a pudgy little baby. I remember leaving you in the back of your daddy's car, hon. Oh, he was mad when he heard you crying. Called me right up and yelled, so...I changed phone numbers, moved to Bridgeport, and found these stuffy old bores. And their stuffy bore daughter, and their stuffy bore father. And now I live in a luxury house and eat as much real lobster as I want."
Holly's jaw drops. Mother? She's always assumed she got her looks from a grandparent...No matter how mismatched, she's assumed Vita was her mother. They'd never told her differently. And now she finds that this...Unbearable creature had given birth to her.
"Come on inside, guys," The man, Nick's brother Marco, says, trying to break the tension. "See your new house."
The ten people approach the front porch of the luxurious home, one of them the very pale man, in the wheelchair pushed by the pink-dressed teen. They all enter and position themselves throughout the livingroom, everyone trying to sit far from Candace. Holly, Nick and Vita really study the people around them. Besides the just plain irritating ex-girlfriend, and Nick's brother Marco, there are five people. The brunette woman is Mary, his wife, and their three children are the teens. The lovely, sophisticated girl is Dina. The nervous boy is Jacob, the oldest child, and the more confident one is his brother Percy. All extended family the Altos are encroaching on.
It takes Nick far too long to place the man in the wheelchair. While meticulously groomed as befits his status, his appearance is best described as depressing. His eyes have lost so much color they look literally cloudy. He has age spots that are startlingly dark against his skin, and veins creep up the sides of his face. His cheeks are hollow, and the darknesses under his eyes are as much from sleeplessness as age. This man, Nick's father, is clearly dying. When Nick recognizes him, he gasps. Marco meets his brother's eyes, his expression conveying regret, sympathy, and a little resentment.