Seconds Away Page 41

’’They\'d probably treat you like gold,’’ I said.

’’And you think I want that those horrible phonies inviting me to their parties and having to sit with them at lunch? How could I ever trust anyone, if they knew? How could I ever think anyone would like me for me?’’ Ema turned away. Her shoulders slumped.

’’What?’’ I said.

’’When I first heard that your uncle was watching my mother, do you know what I thought?’’

’’No,’’ I said.

’’I thought that maybe you knew the truth. That you knew all along I was Angelica Wyatt\'s daughter and that\'s why you started being nice to me.’’

’’I didn\'t know,’’ I said.

She kept her back to me.

’’Ema, look at me.’’

She turned back toward me slowly.

’’I didn\'t know,’’ I said. ’’It doesn\'t matter to me.’’

’’Okay,’’ she said softly. ’’So why did we become friends?’’

’’I don\'t know. I guess I\'m drawn to total pains in the butt.’’

Ema let herself smile. ’’Me too. But do you see what I mean?’’

’’Yes,’’ I said, my head still spinning. ’’But it seems a little extreme. And how do you get away with it? How does the school not know?’’

’’My official name now is Emma Beaumont, not Emma Wyatt. The house is in my grandmother\'s maiden name. My mother sort of leads a secret double life. One, the glamorous movie star. Two, the normal mom. We are very careful about how we meet up. This house is secluded. She can come by car or directly by helicopter.’’

I said nothing, but something must have shown on my face.

Ema moved closer to me. ’’Tell me what you\'re thinking.’’

’’You want the truth?’’

’’Yes.’’

I sort of shrugged, stopped, and said, ’’Why didn\'t you tell me? I mean, I get the Troy and Buck argument. But I trust you with everything. After all we\'ve been through, everything I\'ve told you . . .’’

’’It feels as if I betrayed you,’’ Ema said.

’’Yes.’’

’’Would it help if I told you that I was going to?’’

I didn\'t reply.

’’Or that I was trying to find the right time? Would it help if I told you how hard it is for me to trust anyone?’’

’’I understand all that,’’ I said.

’’But not fully,’’ Ema said.

’’It\'s okay.’’

Ema looked away. I saw tears in her eyes.

’’It\'s okay,’’ I said again.

’’I want to show you something . . . maybe that will help explain it.’’ Ema opened up a closet. She looked back at me. ’’You\'re a lot taller than me. Do you mind getting that shoe box down? The one on the far left.’’

’’This isn\'t necessary,’’ I said.

’’Please just do it, Mickey, before I lose my nerve.’’

I walked over to the closet, plucked down the shoe box from the top shelf, and handed it to her. In the center of the room was a couch. She sat on it and invited me to join her.

Ema opened the box and pulled out a clipping. It was from a tabloid and read: ANGELICA WYATT\'S SECRET BABY SHOCKER.

She pulled out another: WHO\'S ANGELICA\'S REAL BABY DADDY? Then another: ANGELICA\'S SECRET LOVE NEST IN FRANCE. Another: EXCLUSIVE! FIRST PICS OF ANGELICA\'S BABY! One said that Ema\'s father was Angelica\'s costar in her current movie. Another claimed it was the British prime minister.

’’This is hard to talk about,’’ Ema said.

’’Then don\'t.’’

’’No, I want to tell you. I want you to understand why Mom and I did what we did.’’

’’Okay,’’ I said.

She held the clippings in her hands. ’’They never left us alone. My whole life, the tabloids followed us around. We\'d go to the park, the paparazzi would be with us. I\'d go with my mom on set, even closed ones, and then someone with a high-powered lens would snap my picture. It was . . . suffocating, to say the least. I started having nightmares. I saw a shrink. My mom even quit the business for a little while. She retired to watch me, but that just led to more rumors about her. And the truth is, she loves being an actress. Even as a kid I got that. I didn\'t want to take that away from her, you know what I mean?’’

’’Sure,’’ I said.

’’It was a hard decision, but eventually we decided to live, well, like this. Mom started a rumor that I was living at a boarding school overseas.’’

’’So who lives with you here?’’

’’My grandparents. And, uh . . .’’ She looked a little embarrassed.

’’Uh what?’’

’’I guess he\'s an assistant of sorts. He helps out too. His name is Niles.’’

I remembered him from my previous visit Niles the butler. We fell into silence. I was thumbing through the articles, not sure how to raise the next question. ’’Should I ask you the obvious?’’

There was a hint of a smile on Ema\'s face. ’’You\'re wondering about my father.’’

’’If it isn\'t my business . . .’’

’’I don\'t know who my father is. My mom hasn\'t told me.’’

Again with nothing to say, I went with, ’’Oh.’’

’’I know. She said she\'ll tell me one day when it\'s right. But not now. We\'ve had plenty of battles about it, believe me. I want to know, but Mom freaks out when I ask her. Like she\'s really scared for me to know.’’

’’What would she be scared of?’’

’’I don\'t know,’’ Ema said, as if considering it for the first time. ’’But for now, well, I\'ve let it go. I mean, what can I do?’’

’’Right. I understand.’’ Another thought occurred to me. ’’When you found out that information about the San Diego paramedics, you didn\'t want to tell me your source. Was it . . . ?’’

Ema nodded. ’’Yup. When you use Angelica Wyatt\'s name, it is amazing what doors open.’’

It made sense, I guess. I was still looking through the articles, especially the ones that featured pictures of young Ema. ’’I can definitely see you in these pictures,’’ I said.

’’But I look different, right?’’

’’I guess.’’

’’You can say it, Mickey.’’

’’Say what?’’

’’I looked thinner,’’ Ema said. ’’I looked more . . . normal.’’

I didn\'t reply.

’’That was part of all this for me,’’ she said.

’’What was?’’

’’Dressing all in black. Dyeing my hair black. The jewelry, the tattoos. Maybe even putting on weight. I didn\'t want to be that kid who got ambushed. I wanted to be someone different. So maybe it started as a disguise, but I like the way I look now. It\'s somehow more me, you know? So now I don\'t know if I do it as a disguise or maybe I just dress like I always wanted to.’’


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