"What, exactly, possessed you to dye your hair magenta anyway?" I asked again. V had come to my house in a panic the night before the big custody date complaining about her hair. It wasn't until she pulled out the ponytail that I saw the vivid color for what it was!
"I...I don't really know Gin! It was SUPPOSED to be temporary but it won't come out!" Veronica was scrubbing her head violently for the third time - with my dad's shampoo this time! "It was just to try something new and...gah, it's not coming out is it?"
"Um..." I tried to look hopeful but she wasn't buying it, as evidenced by the small roar as she got out of the shower. "Maybe when it dries...it's wet now and it's hard to tell..."
"It's not THAT hard to tell that it still looks purple Gin," Veronica said with a frown.
I put my arm around her and pulled her closer. Looking at her reflection in the mirror, it was hard not to giggle a little bit though. It was really...colorful. "Well maybe we can arrange it in such a way that it's not too obvious..."
A light knock at the door interrupted my thoughts, "any luck girls?" My dad had caught a glimpse of the train wreck and had been the victim of shampoo theft not fifteen minutes earlier.
"Not as much as we'd like," I called back through the door.
"Well there's pizza when you're ready." In a few moments I heard his footsteps on the stairs.
Veronica was still picking at her hair mournfully, I wasn't sure she even heard the exchange. "Come on, get dressed and we'll grab some pizza before formulating a plan of attack."
"Pizza?" V asked, confusion spread across her face. Though I didn't elaborate, she followed me into the bedroom and started for her jeans. She stopped at the mirror by my dresser to stare once more though. Fed up, and hungry, I tossed a pillow from my bed at her head. "Wha?!" she spun around in surprise. I was ready when she came at me with another pillow though!
I had the advantage over V though because she kept pausing to try and keep her towel on! It finally got to the point that I called a cease fire so she could put on actual clothes. Though she won't admit it, I think she was grateful. "You'll come tomorrow right?" She was in the bathroom getting dressed when she asked, catching me off guard. "I know it's a school day and everything but..." she poked her head out from behind the door, "can you?"
"Sure - I mean I'll have to ask Dad but yeah, I'll be there," I didn't want to think about what my teachers would say as I racked up yet another absence for the year.
"Good, everyone will be talking about me and around me...I just want a friend there."
As it turns out, my dad had been requested at the hearing due to having to take temporary guardianship of her last year so it was easy enough to tag along in the morning. When we got there, Veronica was twisting and tugging at her hair self consciously while her aunt looked around anxiously. I grabbed V's hand as I sat beside her and gave it a strong squeeze. "Oh am I glad you're here..."
"You okay?" I asked.
"A jumble nerves mostly," V said, her hands trembling slightly. She caught me looking at them and smiled, "see? All nerves."
"Do you know what you're going to say?" I knew she'd been stressing about this date and what would come of it for months.
"She'll say exactly what's in her heart," her aunt said reassuringly. Veronica's hands stilled and relief spilled across her face as she drew from her aunt's years of strength. While I would hate to see her have to move, I sincerely hoped the judge ruled in favor of V's aunt. It was clear, to me at least, that V was in a better place while actually being cared about by someone.
The tender moment was broken up by Ed Meyers voice as he came off the elevator. Even knowing the Meyer's family as long as I'd had, I couldn't readily recall a time when Veronica's dad wasn't on the phone or obviously working and now was no exception.
Leeann Meyers followed after her husband, preening her hair and checking her nails in the process. It was a wonder she didn't trip over her own feet with as little attention as she paid to the world around her.
Seemingly unbeknownst to them, the four of us watched the duo for several moments before they took notice of anyone around them. Ed waved casually to his daughter - not bothering to stop talking for even a moment before walking off down the hall, arguing the whole way. I felt a little sorry for the person on the other end of the call.
Prompted by her Aunt, Veronica stood to greet her parents - or mother anyway. "Oh my darling Veronica!" Leeann stretched her arms out, assaulting all of us with a horrid mixture of alcohol and free use of perfume.
"Ugh...seriously, no..." Veronica pulled back, waving off the hug her mother had offered.
Clearly miffed by the rejection, Leeann scowled - mostly at V's aunt. She looked past us toward her husband but realized she wasn't likely to get any help from him. "So this is what you've been doing? Turning my own daughter against me?" Her critical eye roamed over V's appearance scornfully, "and what have you done to her hair?" Again, Leeann placed all the blame on Aunt Linda.
"Oh no..." V groaned and shrank back toward the benches as her aunt closed in. She seemed to be mustering up the strength to rebut her mother but Aunt Linda closed in first.
"Have you been drinking Leeann? Bit early isn't it?" As Linda moved closer, Leeann backed away until they were a few feet away from us - not out of hearing range unfortunately. "How dare you come here acting like that..."
V leaned against me and tried, desperately, to tune them out but it was pointless as their voices seemed to carry throughout the hall. "What is she even wearing?"
I gave Leeann a cursory look and grimaced. "I'm not supposed to do the thing where I lie to spare your feelings here right?"
Veronica laughed and shook her head, "no, not at all. I mean look at it - I don't think I even have something that short! And the cleavage...come to think of it..." Veronica tilted her head to the side and then lowered her voice to a whisper, "I think she may have gotten a boob job..."
I burst into a fit of giggles, causing the fighting trio to stop and look at me for a fraction of a second before resuming their spat. Thankfully, the case was called into the courtroom and the parties were divided by the aisle before it could escalate much further.
"That's Mrs. Parsons," Veronica whispered as an older lady was summoned forward by the judge. "She's the Youth and Family services officer assigned to this. She's been out to the winery a couple times and is supposed to give her assessment of both potential living conditions."
"I already have your numerous reports Mrs Parsons," the judge was saying when I tuned back in to the proceedings, "and I've read over them thoroughly. Before I make a decision, is there anything you'd like to add?"
"No your honor," she said.
"Very good, Ms..." he glanced down at some paperwork and then back toward V's parents' attorney. "Ms. Cho, your turn..."
The young Ms. Cho turned and nodded to her clients, summoning them forward. "My clients, the minor's biological parents," she stressed the word biological, no doubt hoping it would bear weight with the judge, "have come to..."
The judge waved off her words, "we all know why we're here today Ms. Cho - please don't waste any of our precious time."
Before she could recover her posture, the shrill ring of Mr. Meyers' phone interrupted everything. To everyone's surprise, he actually answered it! In the middle of a courtroom!
"Mr. Meyers, I do hope your daughter's future is more important than that phone call." Veronica's dad held up a finger as if to put the judge on hold and then continued to talk. "I think I've got a clear picture of your clients' Ms. Cho - have a seat."
"But your Honor...!"
"Have. A. Seat. Ms. Cho." She sat - in fact, I almost expected her to sit exactly where she'd been standing. "Good, now, Mr. Langford - I believe you represent the minor's great aunt? Go ahead."
"If it's alright, I'd rather let my client speak for herself?" He waited for the judge to agree before summoning Aunt Linda forward. As she passed, she took Veronica's hand and pulled her forward as well.
"Your honor, my niece is only a few months from being eighteen and a recognized adult - all the arguing back and forth about what is best for her is all well and good but I think she ought to have a say in all this." Linda said, nodding reassuringly at Veronica.
"I agree with you Mrs. Duran," he turned his gaze on Veronica and smiled, "what do you think young lady? Do you have anything you'd like to say about the next few months of your life?"
"Well there are certain aspects about my parents' house that would appeal to most teenagers...namely that they're never home," V said, looking down at her hands. "And at first that was pretty awesome - I mean lots of freedom and all right? But is awfully lonely and...depressing. Though I don't want to have to move away from my friends," she glanced back at me and smiled.
"Is that one of your friends?"
"Yes sir, she's...she's probably my best friend. As much like a sister as I could have ever hoped for." Veronica straightened her shoulders, "I'd choose my aunt - even though that means moving and not graduating here. She's the first family member who's ever actually shown me love - and discipline - your honor."
"Thank you young lady, that was very well said. Based on the reports I've received from Mrs. Parsons and Mr. Bartlett, among others - I'm inclined to agree with you. It is the ruling of this court that Veronica Meyers will remain in the custody of her paternal great aunt, Linda Duran, until she is eighteen years of age or graduates from high school - whichever comes first." The gavel came down hard on the wood and the lawyers instantly began shuffling their papers into briefcases.
Mr. Meyers was still out in the hall with his phone and Mrs. Meyers looked stunned at the sudden ending of the whole affair.
Dad treated all of us to a slightly late celebratory lunch after all the paperwork had been filed and submitted. By the time we left the restaurant school was so close to ending that Aunt Linda and Dad both agreed we could bail on our last class of the day. We'd already made plans to meet the rest of the gang after school in the cove to watch some meteor shower Tim was jazzed about so V and I headed that direction. At the crest of the hill, V stopped and shook her head, "ya know - I'm not really up for this tonight..."
"Oh, okay...we can just head back to my house then," I was a little disappointed at missing out but didn't say as much.
"Nah, you go ahead Gin. I should probably go start packing up the rest of my stuff at my - well my parents' house. I'd just be a downer for everyone anyway..."
"You sure V? I could come help you," I offered, "ward of the parentals if they try to get in the way..." I joked.
Veronica laughed feebly but shook her head, "they won't be home anyway. They never are remember? Really Gin...tell everyone the good news and I'll see you tomorrow okay?"
I hesitated, not wanting to leave my friend alone when she was feeling so conflicted but I had no words to offer up as an argument.
"Seriously Gin...just go on, I promise I'll be fine and will see you in school tomorrow!" she nudged me away with a fake smile on her face.
With nothing else to be said, I gave her a firm hug and then walked the rest of the way down the hill alone. When I looked up toward where I'd left her, she was gone. Todd was the first to spot me, waving as I approached. "Hey Ginny! Where's V? What happened?"
I could tell that V's absence had them all curious and assuming the worst - whatever that was in their minds anyway. "The judge awarded custody to her aunt until V's birthday. She said she wanted to go finish packing up her stuff."
They all nodded, though from the looks of confusion on their faces they didn't buy the excuse any more than I had. Erik came over and wrapped his arm around my waist, relieving me from more questions thankfully. "Missed you today."
"You mean you missed making out with her between classes," Todd teased. Erik ran after him and we all laughed when they both tripped and ate sand in the process. It wasn't quite dark when Tim pointed excitedly at the first signs of the meteor shower. Todd and Erik spread out the blankets and the three of us sat while Tim showed Nai'a how to use the telescope.
Periodically I looked over to where V should have been to point something out but, of course, she was absent. And in a couple weeks that was going to become a permanent absence I guess. I frowned and snuggled closer to Erik, trying not to think about it any more.