I found this among Ali's things when I finally found the strength to go and collect her and her things from Mark's after the events of Aurora. It comforted me to see how she felt about me, written down in her own hand, just a few hours before her death. We had been going through a trial separation, after a huge fight over her lingering feelings for Joel, and I had been feeling a tremendous amount of guilt and upset over the fact that I'd not been there for her during the last few days of her life.

I include a message of her note here, as it seems fitting to end a book celebrating Ali's life with her words. This is the way that I will always remember her.

Sitting up in bed, admiring the wedding band that you slipped on my finger all those years ago, I feel...I know that you are the best man for me. You make me happier than anyone else has ever done, from the moment I became Mrs. Ross, there wasn't any other man that came close.

I love you, and you make me feel...god I don't even know...just when I'm with you I feel secure and calm for the first time. There's no game playing, and we're thinking about life in the same way. You love me despite all my quirks and insecurities, I don't have to put on a show with you. It just feels right: I know that you wanted me to be sure, that I truly loved you, and not Joel, and I can honestly say that I do. 

It's taken me a long time to be able to admit it to myself, never mind admit it to you, but I'm ready now. I love you, and couldn't imagine wanting another man the way that I want you. You make everything simple, and give me a sense of peace I never found with Joel. Okay, I'm rambling now, and I need some coffee.

You are the finest, strongest man I've ever met, and I pray to god that we're together for many years to come.  

Copyright Emily Morris 2016

 

Gary Mackay's point of view

The phone rang as I was turning onto the highway, and I pressed the button for the speakerphone “Hello?”

“Hi. This is Gary Mackay here. I thought of a story for the book about Alicia.” His voice filled the car, as I sped on my way to meet with Tiffani, Alicia’s adopted daughter.

“Alright. What is the story about?” I pulled over so that I could start my tape recorder, unsure if I would be able to remember it without assistance.

“It’s about my dad and the days after his death.” Gary took a breath before continuing. I pulled back into traffic, letting the tape roll, as he talked. “I couldn’t help but be jealous of the bond between Ali and Joel, while I was growing up. Dad moved us around so much, that it was nearly impossible to make friends.” I could hear the pain in his voice, and knew that interrupting might mean he would clam up. “It took dad dying for me to see that I had a bond with her too.” He paused again, “It all became clear the night of his funeral.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well…um I’ll send it to you via email. It’s a bit…” he stopped mid sentence,

“Hang up on the reporter chick, we’ve gotta go,” Joel’s voice was audible in the background and then the dial tone resounded in my ear. I switched off the tape recorder sighing in disappointment. I know that the Mackay brothers have more stories about Alicia, which can fill in a lot of the gaps. Seconds later my phone beeped, showing that I had a email.

The coffin rolled through the curtains, my dad going on his final journey. “Before…before he…” I stopped, trying to recover myself even as tears streaked my cheeks. “Did he say anything to you?”

I glanced over at my stoic brother. Joel stood on the other side of Alicia. She was still recovering from the accident, but she had still come, to support him. “No.” Joel didn’t take his eyes away from the place where dad’s body had disappeared, but a little of the anguish had disappeared from his face. I glanced down to see that Alicia had taken his hand, squeezing lightly. 

I was sitting along in the motel room, forty minutes later waiting for Alicia to come back with dinner. Joel was in the bathroom, cleaning up. I had just started to think about my dad, sadness swamping over me again when the door opened and Alicia entered, weighed down with several bags. “Hey Gary. I got you a salad shake and a couple of oranges to keep your vit c levels up.” She threw the fruit across as she spoke, producing them from inside the clean brown bag.

“Thanks Ali,” she crossed over to me, carrying a greasy brown bag in one hand and the salad shake in the other. I made room for her to sit beside me on the bed, as she handed me the salad shake. I didn’t quite see how she stayed so slim, as she squirted some mayo onto her turkey burger.

“What are you going to do now?” she threw the sachet away. 

“I don’t…I don’t know,” I hadn’t even thought about it. The last twenty four hours, hell the last week had been a whirlwind of emotions and I had hardly had time to draw breath. 

“You can come and stay with me while you figure it out if you want,” she took a bite of her burger while waiting for my response. 

“I don’t know if I…” I trailed off, as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay with her. Part of me just wanted to run back to Harvard, and see if I could still get into med school, while part of me wanted to carry on dad’s work, and see if I could solve the mystery of mom’s murder. 

“Well the offer is always there. Just think about it.” 

I looked right at her, blown away by how forgiving she was, and her offer. “Thanks Ali,” I said after a few seconds “I thought you’d want to be as far away from us as possible. After what dad did…” I didn’t like to think about the events directly before the accident. I couldn’t bring myself to think about her, covered in blood after dad had…

The unfinished sentence intrigued me as I continued reading.

“It wasn’t your dad’s fault.” Ali set her burger aside, and faced me directly. “Yeah it scared the crap out of me, but you and Joel are part of the family, you’ll always be family okay? No matter what.” She squeezed my hand, nothing but honesty and love in those amazing eyes. 

Joel entered the room then, drawn by the smell of the food “Hey Joel,” I pulled my hand back, when I saw him standing there. 

“Didya get me a burger?” he sat down on Ali’s other side.

“I got you a double bacon cheese, fries and a six pack.” Ali dug in the other greasy bag, tossing him a Styrofoam container. 

“Where’s the pie?”

“Right here.” She produced a apple pie from a plastic bag, setting it down on the bedside table. “I wanted him to get one of his five a day.” Joel laughed for the first time in nearly a week, and she smirked, clearly proud of herself. We sat in comfortable silence, eating for a few moments, until she said “Anything on the telly?” her voice was muffled, as she reached for the remote. 

Joel snatched it away, and flicked the tv on, channel surfing for a Knick’s game “Perfect.” 

“I’m gonna go for a walk.” I wasn’t in the mood to watch them argue over the Bulls versus the Knicks’. “I can’t stand basketball and I’ve a lot to think about.” I cast a grateful smile at Ali before leaving. 

Copyright Emily Morris 2016

Tiffani Ross' point of view

Tiffani Ross isn’t what I expected. I’m not sure what exactly I expected, given that I’ve not seen her in the press for years. Alicia kept her out of the limelight as she did all of her kids, during their formative years, and Tiffani seems to have kept that private life going even after reaching her teenage years.

She stands to meet me, holding out one hand, and I have to do a double take. She is physically the polar opposite of her adoptive mother, but there is still something of the warmth that Alicia seemed to exude each time I saw her on television. “Do you want a cup of coffee?” she asks, “I’ve been mainlining cups for the last couple of hours, so I probably shouldn’t have any more, but I’m betting that you could do with one, if you’ve really been interviewing all the people that were important to my mum,”

I’m a little taken aback by the stream of words, still recovering from the long drive, and eagerly accept the cup of black coffee that she’s offering. The first sip clears my head enough for me to start to listen to her story about the first time that she met her mother.

Ali is the first thing that I have a conscious memory of, the feel of her sweater under my fingers when she picked me up, lifting me away from the damp floor of my family’s kitchen, the place that I had been for three weeks. From that moment on, she became my mother. She was the one solid and positive influence on my life, raising me to be myself, regardless of others’ expectations. 

She was already raising Mary, but I never, not for a moment felt like I was any less her child, than she was. Alicia offered me the exact same opportunities that she gave to Mary, and took just as much interest in my hobbies and interests that she did with my sister. 

She stopped moving quite as much, giving us a permanent base in Paphos, and taking us with her if the business trip fell in the school breaks. I had set foot on every continent on Earth, by the time that I was eleven, and was fluent in four different languages. Alicia taught me Greek and Italian, her two native tongues, as well as giving me a crash course in Norwegian, before I spent the summer there, when I was twelve. 

Copyright Emily Morris 2016

Oriana Dawn's point of view

Oriana Dawn is in many ways different to her biological siblings. We meet in her office, as her schedule is very full. She was the only one of Alicia’s children that took a position in the Amour Federation, founded by the Swan family, and is currently the North American head of operations. The office retains quite a few touches of her mother’s time there, and I spot the framed family portrait hanging on the left hand wall, the instant that I walk in. “I’m glad that you could make it,” she stands as soon as I walk in, and holds out a hand with a smile. “Mary said that it was easy to talk to you,” She’s dressed far more formally than Mary was, in

I’m glad to hear that, as I can’t imagine that it is easy for any of the interviewees, but especially Alicia’s biological family, to talk to me. “She’s a sweet girl.” I say finally as I take a seat.

“Mary’s the heart of the family now that mum’s gone.” She pours us both a cup of very strong coffee, much to my surprise. I accept the cup gratefully, it’s been exhausting trying to follow Alicia’s path, and I’ve only just started learning about her. “She’s the one that keeps us together, despite the fact that after losing mum, the family scattered across the world to fill the gap she left.”

“It’s obvious that your mother was loved by many people,” I take a sip of the coffee, “It’s not been very easy to schedule interviews with them all,”

“You haven’t,” she stirs her coffee, not taking her eyes off me, “You haven’t interviewed Mark Hartley, or the people that worked under her in the Amour Federation,”

“Your father thought that it might be too painful for them to recall certain details, given that she died while on business for them.”

She shakes her head, “You’re missing a big chunk of who she was if you don’t talk to them. They were important in her last profession, and obviously Joel was vital to her, even as a kid.”

“I shall try to get interviews with them, but Joel’s only been interested in sending a short story to me, so far.” I still don’t know whether that story is something that he made up, or not, given the part about Alicia stabbing him in the shoulder. “Do you have a story to share?”

There’s a knock on the door, and the intercom beeps, “Sorry to interrupt Miss Ross, but there’s a urgent call from the London office,”

I received this short email, when I’d got back to the hotel.

My mom was a whirlwind of motion, it’s true, taking us all over the world, once we were old enough to understand, and take things in consciously. Some of my favourite memories were when we were staying with Aunt Hayley, in Paris. I will always remember what Aunt Hayley told me, when she realised that some of my French classmates were making fun of me, because of who my mum was. ‘Oh Ana, you can’t live your life in fear of what some will say. You’ve gotta do it your way, blaze a trail for others to follow, not follow everyone else’ 

 

Copyright Emily Morris 2016

Rosa Yates' point of view

Entering the elegant brick building which houses Trinity School, I feel insecure, and a little jealous. I would have loved to go to school in a place that looks like this, I was stuck with a glass and plastic monstrosity. I have only just entered the foyer, and am glancing around, when I hear a distinctive Brooklyn accent behind me. "You're the reporter ain't ya?" I turn to face a very beautiful woman, and sigh silently. All of Alicia's friends seem to have been very photogenic, as though they should have been models, rather than teachers, lawyers, cops and so on. "Rosa Yates." She turns on her heel, while I'm still holding out my hand for her to shake. I follow her down the corridor, and into a large empty classroom. Someone is reciting poetry in the room next door, I dimly recognise a line or two as being Ginsberg's, a after effect of my parents' being fans. "We have to be quick, cause I'm teaching in twenty minutes." Rosa takes a sip of the coffee she's holding, as we sit down at the nearest table. "You said on the phone that you were after stories about Ali, what kinda stories?"

"Anything that you are willing to share. I think that Mr Ross just wants to give all sides of his wife."

Rosa opens her mouth, and then a curly haired woman pokes her head around the door, "Rosa, I've been looking for you." Relief spreads across her face, "Carter's on the phone for you. He says it's urgent."

"Oh what is it now?"

"I have no idea, he just says that he needs you,"

Rosa leaves, with the curly haired woman, tossing a hurried "I'll email the tale to ya," over her shoulder.

The thing I remember most about Ali, is how good a friend she was. She was always the one to organise me, Hayley and Kim, the driving force behind most of our outings. The day I lost my job at Brearley, she was the first one to phone. In fact I had barely left the head's office before my phone went off. "Hey Rosa," it was a relief to hear her voice, as she had been out of contact, in San Paolo for the month preceding. 

"Hey Ali, what's goin' on with you?" I was glad of the distraction, as it meant that I didn't have to deal with the false sympathy that a lot of my former colleagues would have offered. It was my own fault after all, that I got fired. 

"Meet me for a coffee wouldya? I've got something I need to ask you," Jim was the only one that met my eyes, but he was stuck in conversation with Melissa, and so I strolled out of the main doors without a incident. 

"What?" 

"Just meet me Rosa. I'm in Oslo's, with a cup of that green tea crap you like," it didn't take me long to get to Oslo's, my pace quicker than normal, because I was eager to see my friend again. Ten minutes later I was sitting opposite her at my usual table, laughing as she laid out her plan. Twenty minutes after that, we were on the road, heading out of New York, with the radio blaring while Hayley and Kim sang along tunelessly in the backseat. 

I've barely finished reading Rosa's email, before I get a response to the request for a interview that I sent to Paula Ryan, a friend that Alicia made while working for Green Industries, just after she graduated. Paula's now working at Axel Plastics, but wants to meet me at Boulud Sud.

Copyright Emily Morris 2016

 

There’s something unusual about Paula, the minute I meet her, I just can’t quite put my finger on it. Her tiny frame and delicate features, are striking, but it’s something about the way that she conducts herself. It makes her different to most of the people that I’ve met so far, the wisdom in her eyes making her seem older than she is. I’ve only been in her presence for a few minutes, though before I feel utterly at ease.

The luxurious surroundings, and the obvious wealth of the other diners, doesn’t seem as important anymore. She smiles, exposing perfectly straight and gleaming teeth. “I have to confess I’ve already ordered some food. I was starving,” A glance down at the menu, tells me what I really already knew, that I can only afford some of the side dishes. The waiter comes over, but he’s carrying a tray full of food. “I hope that you’ll join me, seeing as I ordered the Med Mezze,”

It takes a little while for the waiter to fit all the dishes onto the table, and I take the opportunity to switch the tape recorder on. “You wanted to speak about Alicia? It’s become a topic of some discussion between us all, we were surprised that Theo decided to commission this book,”

“Why?”

“Because there’s certain things that I wouldn’t have thought that he wants to let the world at large know.” Paula comments before she rips a piece off the herb falafel, popping the bread into her mouth.

The smell distracts me, and I’m unable to resist dumping a large spoonful of the babaganoush onto a plate. “Did you like Alicia?”

“I can’t imagine that you’ll find too many who didn’t like her, well if they actually knew her.” Paula laughs, “I knew from the moment that I met her that there was something special there, and that she would be a important part of my life.”

“I thought that she was a colleague of yours.” I rip a chunk off the falafel, dipping it in the babaganoush and take a bite.

“No.” Paula takes a sip of her water, and then reconsiders, “Well yes, we worked together but she also became a good friend. She actually introduced me to my husband.”

It’s only then that I spot the wide band on her fourth finger, the diamond big enough that I can’t believe that I missed it before. “How long did you work together?”

My phone goes off before she can reply, and I blush in embarrassment. I had thought that I had turned it off before. I’m about to do it, when I realise that it’s a message from Oriana, Alicia’s youngest daughter. She’s been uncertain about whether she wants to do the interview, but wants to set up a time. I quickly type a response, to set up a time to meet her tomorrow. “Sorry about that.” I glance up to see that Paula’s on her own phone, her tiny fingers flying across the keys.

“It’s fine, my husband actually wants me to meet him a little earlier than I thought.” She finishes her text. “I wrote the story I want to tell down, just in case though.” She drops her phone into her bag, and then produces some papers which she passes over.

Smoothing a nervous hand over my skirt, I shift once again on the hard chair. I’m not sure that I’m the right person for this position, given the statuesque and not exactly friendly women that otherwise seem to work here. Part of me wants to quit, despite the fact that it’s only my second day. My stomach growls, loudly as I realise that it’s probably now safe to go to the cafeteria, given that the other girls on the floor will have had their salads. 

The instant I push open the door, though I realise that it’s not late enough. There’s a brunette queuing up, and I brace myself for the same comments as I got yesterday, as I take a tray. “You wanted to avoid the DD’s too?” she asks the instant that I’m next to her.

“What?”

“The other girls in the PR department. There’s a competition between them as who can lose the most weight before the summer, and it doesn’t exactly make them the nicest people.” The brunette takes a bowl, and fills it with the delicious smelling clam chowder. “You’re Paula right?”

“Yes.” 

“Alicia.” She swipes her card at the till, “I’ve worked here for a couple of months, and know some of the things to avoid, if you want some advice,” I fill my own bowl and follow her over to the nearest table, already knowing that she’s the first friendly person I’ve met here. 

Copyright Emily Morris 2016