It's not what you know but who you know.
Truer words have never been spoken.
I came to Torea Bay under the enlightened delusion that I could make a living based on my talent. Unfortunately, that hasn't worked out so well thus far. Instead I make a living at a dirty little diner underneath the dirty little apartment I can barely manage to pay rent on.
My home consists of a small kitchen, which is no big tragedy seeing as I can't cook, a living room with a collection of mismatched furniture left over from the previous tenants and a few touches I've added over time, and a bedroom that isn't actually enclosed behind a door or a wall. The bathroom requires gold medal gymnastics and sheer luck to use as well. While there is space to be had - it seems to have been allocated oddly by the builder. Of course that may be why I can afford it on measly waitress salary.
I was in Torea Bay for about a week and had used up almost every bit of money I had when I stumbled into the diner. I had all of a dollar left to my name with no job and no place to live. I didn't even have money to run back home at that point. Thankfully Dingley, the owner, took pity on me and offered me a small breakfast, a job and the abandoned apartment upstairs all at once.
It wasn't glamorous or likely to propel me closer to my dreams but it was likely to keep me fed and off the streets so I tried to make the best of it. I wasn't that great a waitress at first and usually worked the early morning shift so my schedule got all sorts of crazy. After Dingley blew up my phone and attempted to bust down my door due to oversleeping, I decided it would simply be easier to stay up until four in the morning instead of trying to wake up then. I could crash right after my shift and be awake for the night life instead of the day life. I was living the life of a vampire without all the perks of immortality and money.
Of course I was also broke so my choices of bars was limited. I couldn't afford a cover charge and was lucky if I could afford anything more than water really. But it was nice to go out and meet a few people and pour my heart out to the occasionally attentive barmaid.
"So I came here because it's as far as I could get really but I want to be an actress..." I said, sipping on the club soda in front of me.
"All you girls wanna be actresses...what ya doin' to get there huh?" she retorted. "Workin' at Dingy's Diner ain't gonna get ya nowhere child."
I frowned into my drink. "Yeah well I gotta eat..."
"Sounds like ya had plenty o' food back home...an' love. Ain't gonna get none of that here." she turned away from me to serve someone else.
Maybe she was right, maybe I should have listened to her. Of course I didn't. When have I ever done anything particularly smart with my life? I reasoned that I was trying at least. I had an agent after all! Not that she was a good agent really. Every few months she called me about some commercial or print ad and I went to every single casting call. Half the time it ended up being some perv wanting us to take our clothes in the name of advertising but sometimes something real came out of it.
Like the Public Service Announcement I did for the local science lab - not that I got much in the way of money from that one but it was something I could put on my resume; Violet Dust, unnamed scientist.
After nearly a year I had enough practice at the diner to not drop my customer's meals in their laps and was bringing home decent tips now and then. I was able to stop frequenting the dives and actually go to a bar and order a real drink. And it was just a block away from my apartment!
Also within a block of my apartment was a fabulous spa I could never really afford but always longed to go to. I'd heard from a number of people that some of the local celebs went there and even a year of serving greasy breakfasts hadn't dimmed the stars in my eyes. Finally, after a particularly good week and working a few doubles, I made my way over to the spa and peeked through the windows enviously.
After paying for the most basic package, I was permitted beyond the curtains and into a changing room where I changed into my swimsuit. Every hot tub in the place was occupied with someone or several someones so I walked over to the nearest one and slid carefully into the water alongside the other occupant. She had thick sunglasses on to hide her eyes and her head was laid back so it rested on the edge of the tub, I wasn't sure she even knew I was there. I shrugged and leaned back myself to enjoy the caress of the bubbles on my skin.
I looked around the place a few times but most everyone had glasses or broad hats on that obscured their faces so I returned my attention to the woman across from me. Some in the lines of her face and her coloring was familiar to me but I couldn't place her without seeing her eyes.
"Do you make a habit of staring at people?" she asked, her voice was silky and light. I could hear a light chuckle behind the question as well.
"Sorry." I said quietly and turned my attention toward my now extended foot. I wiggled my toes just about the surface of the water and watched the small ripples form.
She shifted slightly when her phone trilled to life. She glanced at the caller ID and scowled but climbed out of the hot tub anyway. She walked away with her phone, leaving the rest of her stuff at the edge of the tub and after a moment I turned to see if I could catch a look at her. To my surprise she'd whipped off her sunglasses and I could certainly place her now!
Coral Charm was an up and coming starlet in town and the person everyone wanted to come to their clubs lately. Her name was on everyone's tongue even though the extent of her acting resume was a small part in a recent blockbuster. Most people knew her because of her relationship with Lava Vermilion and all the gossip surrounding it.
After what seemed like an unpleasant conversation she returned to the hot tub and slid back into her place. We were both silent for awhile after that and I thought for sure she'd drifted off to sleep under the soothing rock of the bubbles. "Are you doing anything tonight?" she asked suddenly.
"Huh?" I sputtered, floundering to sit up straight.
"I'm having this party and half my guests bailed for some other deal and you look pretty and the right type so I was wondering if you want to come...that sounds really crazy right? Sorry I asked..." she looked away and blew out a puff of air.
"I'm not busy..." I said with a weak, goofy smile.
"Great!" She jumped out of the hot tub with new vigor and dried off enough that she could manipulate the keys on her phone. After I gave her my number she texted me the the address and directions to her place. "Thanks again...um..."
"Violet...you can call me Vi..." I offered. We said goodbye shortly after that and I practically skipped the hundred yards or so back to my apartment to get ready.
I arrived majorly early to Coral's house but she let me in anyway and thrust some platters into my hands and recruited me to help her set up while she went about making dinner.
We chatted about useless things as we waited for the other guests to arrive but as all the setting up was concluded I found myself fidgeting nervously mostly. "Don't worry Vi, nobody coming tonight bites....unless you want them to of course!" she said with a giggle as the doorbell rang.
Oddly enough the first person to arrive was a familiar face - and not one I'd only seen on screen! Surf Torrent, a celeb sure but also the father of my sister Amethyst's child was standing in front of me! I hadn't spoken to Amethyst in months so I hung back from him, I wasn't even sure he would know or recognize me! He came up to me and smiled pleasantly. "Amethyst will be happy to know you're okay." he said quietly.
Our conversation was cut short by the influx of more guests - the most notable of which was the very same Lava Vermilion! I suppose I should have expected to see him at one of Coral's party but my eyes still glazed over a bit at the sight of him. I was having a total fan girl moment and totally missed the fact that he had a completely different girl wrapped around his arm. I didn't miss the fire in Coral's eyes though as SHE noticed. Apparently their on again, off again relationship was back in the off column and she'd missed the memo.
She smiled at everyone as she made her way across the room and hooked her arm in mine suddenly. "I need you to talk to someone." she whispered fiercely in my ear. Once again she'd caught me off guard as she pushed me in Lava's direction. I looked back at her helplessly and she nodded her head toward Lava as she moved in on his date.
"Well well, I thought I'd met all Coral's pretty girlfriends" Lava said raising his eyebrows and turning on the charm.
It was incredibly difficult to resist Lava's many charms but I reminded myself of how he'd arrived at the party with a date he hadn't looked for in the thirty minutes we'd been talking. I had notice Coral and some other girl steering the aforementioned date off toward another room and she hadn't returned with Coral. I wonder what had happened to Lava's girl-of-the-night.
Lava, however, was unconcerned with her fate even as Coral and her co-conspirator giggled loudly from the kitchen. Coral even shot me a thumbs up sign as Lava leaned in toward me flirtatiously.
The night only got odder from there really. Coral had no problem with Lava flirting with me and even suggested I "go for it" when I brought it up to her. I'm guessing I wasn't privy to the details of their relationship and I wasn't sure I really wanted to be. Surf and I talked a bit more and I asked him to pass on my love to Amethyst as I was leaving.
I had the next morning off so I tucked myself into bed when I got home, feel mentally and physically spent from the long day. Despite, or maybe because of, my exhaustion my dreams were particularly vivid that night.
"One minute!" I called out in the direction of the only customer in the diner. Why I felt completely haggard with only one customer was beyond me.
I retrieved his pancakes and collected a collection of syrup offering on my way to his table. I was so focused on serving his food that I didn't take notice of his features, only that he was a police officer. "Anything else officer?" I said, already turning toward the counter to get the coffee pot.
I heard his fork clinking against the plate as he ate. "Maybe just one thing." he said, his voice oddly familiar.
"Yeah?" I asked spinning around toward him.
He caught me in his arms and my eyes went wide as my throat went dry. "You." he said with a smirk.
"I-I don't think we have that on menu..." I stammered as I stared into Nepal's gorgeous eyes.
"Maybe it can be today's special?" he joked, pressing his lips to mine and silencing any rebuttal I tried to make. He pulled me up and I automatically wrapped my legs around him as he moved toward the nearest table.
"I-Th...I guess that could be arranged." I said nervously as he kissed my neck. I felt the string of my apron being tugged at and soon fell loose.
I woke up from the dream with a start and immediately turned toward the other side of the bed. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, it was empty. I slid my feet into my slippers and padded toward the bathroom where a cold shower was waiting for me. "If only dream were reality." I muttered as I stepped into the frigid water.
Much to my surprise, my cameo appearance at Coral's party caught at least a couple eyes because my agent started calling more often, suggesting I make appearances at various clubs. It was her opinion that I should make myself either a gal pal to Coral or a girlfriend to Lava and frequenting the clubs they went to would be the best way to do that. It's all in who you know...
Most nights I seemed to be one club behind them or I showed up just after they left but I tried not to let that tamper with having a good time. They weren't the only celebrities in town after all!
I was dancing at one of their most notorious hangouts when I spotted the Coral's orange conspirator from the night of the party snapping away. I glance around the club for the subject of her pictures but didn't recognize anyone.
And that's how I met Autumn Persimmon. She was actually considered somewhat of a paparazzi considering she stalked most of Lava's entourage but she wasn't selling her pictures to the papers (usually), she was working for Coral.
"Isn't that somewhat illegal?" I asked after she'd spilled the whole story to me. There may have been a few rounds of drinks involved in getting her to talk.
"Maybe but Coral doesn't do anything with them...that I know of anyway. And Lava assumes I'm just a regular photographer I guess. He's even turned and posed a few times. I don't know - they have a weird thing going on..." Autumn said.
"So why me? I mean I've only met Lava at the party and Coral herself pushed me on him." I asked, sipping at my drink. She just shrugged but she was wobbly on her chair. I guess she was a light weight! I offered her crash space on my couch for the night and she was too far gone to object.
I left her a note as I left that morning, I was a little nervous to leave her alone in my apartment but I didn't have much worth stealing and nothing that would even interest a paparazzi. She came down to the diner a few hours later looking a little worn but mostly sober anyway.
We actually became friends after that and she would feed me information Coral and Lava's whereabouts in exchange for a space on the couch. And she paid rent! I didn't ask for much since I had no bedroom to offer her and I'd been on that couch before. It couldn't be comfortable to sleep on every night!
She also introduced a laptop to the household, something I'd been sorely missing. I had no computer or money for one so if I wanted to get on the internet or do anything remotely technological I had to go to the library - which didn't have evening hours so usually I missed my chance.
I started checking and responding to my email everyday finally, a fact that made my dad happy. My mom still refused to use the computer....or to talk to me. She hadn't really spoken to me since I left and Dad just kept telling me to give her time whenever I called to check on the twins.
Since I was back in the modern communication era, Dad started sending me pictures and tidbits about their lives and I nearly started crying a few times. It had been a year and a half since I'd left and they had grown so much in that time!
"Cute kids..." Autumn said, making me jump at her nearness. "Your niece and nephew?"
"Something like that." I muttered, closing my browser and the laptop quickly. "I'm gonna go get ready...we still good to go for tonight?"
"Sure." Autumn said, her brow furrowed in confusion.
"Good. I'll be ready in thirty." I said hurrying into the bathroom. I dropped onto the toilet seat and buried my face in my hands as the tears started to flow. What kind of mother was I?
After a good five minutes of blubbering and self-pity, I stood and washed my face a couple times trying to hide the evidence. I fixed my hair a bit before heading back to my bedroom to get dressed.
"Vi...I think you're supposed to look like you're having a good time..." Autumn said as we danced and bopped with the music that was pulsing from the speakers.
"Huh? Oh...sorry." I said glancing toward the bar. "Guess my mind is somewhere else."
"Well let's grab a drink..." she hooked her arm in mind and I let her pulled me along toward the bar and didn't protest as she ordered for me.
My mood didn't really improve and we called it a night early. I took off for home while Autumn went in the direction of another club.
Even though I had to work in a few hours, I changed into comfortable clothes and crawled into bed, hugging the extra pillow to my chest.
"Violet." he said from behind me. I knew instantly that it was a dream - but it was so real I wanted to believe otherwise. I watched the sky violently burst with colors as the sun started to ascend. "Vi...come on babe look at me."
"Sit with me a moment Nepal." I said, my back still to him. To my surprise, I felt his arms twine around me and he rested his chin on my shoulder for a moment before we sat down together.
"What's wrong love?" he asked as I ran my fingers along the studs on his jacket. It felt so familiar, so real.
"I miss you." I said quietly before turning my attention back to the rising sun. I laid my head on his shoulder and felt the tears spring to my eyes again. "I miss...I miss everything..."
"Then come home Vi. I'll be there waiting..." he said.
Cinder's Point of View
I'd known she was getting closer to snapping and I just kept pushing her to try harder! How could someone not love their own children? This was all my fault, I'd pushed Violet away from us and her own children. "What have I done?" I asked myself again.
"It was her choice Cin. It's what she needed to do..." Val said pulling me into his arms.
Thankfully Cobalt and Zuli didn't seem overly perturbed at first. In fact Cobalt seemed entirely unaffected by his mother's departure but Zuli had always been a little more attached to Vi - or tried to be anyway. Violet had been pushing her away for months before she left but that didn't stop Zuli and I from trying.
Not long after Vi ran away from home, her old boyfriend started showing up at the house. I was leery about letting him in and even wondered if he was the twins' father but Zuli seemed to like him from the moment they met.
Cobalt, on the other hand, was his grandpa's little boy. Val seemed to have Cobalt hanging off his leg, hip or arm every moment of the day and it was terribly sweet to see him with a toddler again.
I kept thinking Violet would show back up at any moment but as the days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, I could see the change come over Zuli. Every now and then she'd ask for Mama and I had no words to comfort her or explain.
I summoned Val from the cellar and together we got the kids ready and strapped into their strollers intent on distracting then both with a trip to the park.
It was going really well until it was time to leave. The sky was quickly getting dark which meant these two little berries needed to be tucked into their beds soon. "Zuli honey, it's time to go."
"No!" she said with all the firmness her nearly two year old self could manage.
"Yes darlin', we have to go home so you and your brother can take baths and go to sleep." I said nicely but firmly.
"You not my mama! Mama wouldna make me go! I wan my mama!!!!" she screeched. More than one pair of eyes turned toward us and the tantrum throwing toddler.
"You will NOT speak to your grandmother that way young lady!" Val said firmly, Cobalt already snuggled on his shoulder.
Her lip quivered for a few moment and her face was an odd mix of angry and sad but she reluctantly allowed me to pick her up off the bouncy toy after that.
Her attitude didn't improve much though. Even with the occasional stern word from Val and visits from Nepal, she was a stubborn, willful little thing. She took to asking about her mama nearly almost everyday in fact and every negative response put her in an angry tailspin so the rest of the day would be pure torture. Cobalt, on the other hand, was a happy, joyful little child and took to every thing with a smile.
The package from Violet came just before their third birthdays, the first acknowledgement I'd seen her make that she actually had children. Inside were two funny looking dolls and cards for each of them. There was also a letter but I handed it off to Val. I couldn't bring myself to read her words. Instead I scooped up the dolls and took them into the nursery to place in their cribs. Neither was awake yet so I hoped they'd be a nice surprise anyway.
Zuli was the first to wake up and spied the doll. She stared at it curiously for a full minute before she reached out to poke the odd glowing ball at the top.
They spent most of the day playing with their newest toys and Val and I explained that they were from their mother. Zuli instantly started looking around for her and wandered from room to room a few times before she realized that the doll had come INSTEAD of Mama. She frowned at the doll and shoved it away for a full hour before her curiosity got the better of her.
Though Cobalt soon lost interest in his and returned to his more familiar toys. Zuli grew very attached to hers in time and never let it go. Turq came with us to the store, to the park, everywhere and Val and I were constantly checking to make sure Turq was still with us. It's not like we could replace him if he accidentally got left behind somewhere!