Study Guide

The Rules of Survival Lies and Deceit

By Nancy Werlin

Lies and Deceit

He says Nikki looked him up and down when he opened the door. She had you in her arms, and, smiling over your head, she introduced herself. "Murdoch McIlvane? Listen, I know this'll sound crazy, but someone I know thought I ought to meet you. And so, well, would you like to go over to the L Street diner with me and Emmy for coffee? Right now?" (8.5)

Murdoch and Nikki's romantic relationship is built on a foundation of lies, so it's no wonder that it fails to last. Still, the kids are really hoping that it works out—for their sake.

You know what I was hoping for? I bet you can guess, Emmy. I wasn't just hoping for Murdoch to stay with us. I was hoping I'd wronged Nikki all these years. That maybe—like us—all she'd ever really needed was Murdoch. And then she, and we, could all be normal. (8.23)

Matthew, Callie, and Emmy even start to deceive themselves during the calm when Nikki is dating Murdoch. They start to wonder if they've been unfair to Nikki all these years, and hope that she really is a good mom underneath all that violence.

She pretended to be normal, our mother, during most of those weeks she was with Murdoch. She tried hard, which was something I'd never seen in her before and was the thing that made me hope for the impossible. But she didn't, or couldn't, cover up her personality perfectly. (9.1)

Nikki tries really hard to seem normal and nice in front of Murdoch… but of course it doesn't last. She gets tired of the whole act and eventually drops it, revealing the crazed, erratic monster within.

And I didn't need to look at Callie to know what she was thinking. There had been no telephone call from Rebekah—the phone hadn't rung at our apartment all night. And as to our mother not wanting to leave us home alone, well, it had never bothered her before. (11.23)

This is a really awkward situation for the kids. They totally know that Nikki is lying—and that Murdoch doesn't want them there—but they can't say anything to contradict Nikki because they don't want her to lash out at them.

"She loves her kids." Ben's voice was stronger as he convinced himself. "In her own way. Our best bet is to let things be. You have to admit, she's a lot of fun sometimes. It's not all bad. Your aunt Bobbie's right downstairs." (14.41)

Talk about some serious self-deception. Ben has been around Nikki a lot, and he knows that she can be unpredictable and violent… and yet, he still refuses to believe Matthew when he says that they're all in danger.

"Did Murdoch ever try to molest you?"

"What?!" I turned and stared at her, my mouth gaping open.

She smiled. "Should I call Social Services and report him? I could do that, you know. I could report Murdoch for child abuse." (16.14-16)

Nikki obviously has no qualms about lying. She doesn't feel guilty at all for making false claims about Murdoch—including going to the police and saying that he beat her up. She even toys with the idea of accusing him of molesting Matthew. That's just sick.

"But you need a father, Matt," he said softly. "A real father. All of you do. And it wasn't okay that I stepped in there and pretended for a little while. Not when it wasn't real and I knew it wasn't real." And now he <em>was</em> crying. (25.54)

Murdoch doesn't feel badly about breaking up with Nikki, but he definitely feels badly about breaking the kids' hearts. It's obvious that they expected him to become a father figure, and he feels like he lied to them when he left.

And this is where Aunt Bobbie surprised me for the first time. "Nikki was a big liar when we were kids," she said thoughtfully. "I can't even remember how many times she got me in trouble, saying I'd done things I hadn't." (27.39)

Not everyone falls for Nikki's old tricks. Matthew is surprised when Aunt Bobbie believes him, but she's known Nikki forever. She grew up with Nikki and knows what a huge liar she can be.

"She tells you this real horrible story. She's being tortured by this man. He's her ex-boyfriend, or her ex-husband, whatever. She's afraid of him. He's jealous and he's mean. She tells you stuff that's really awful about this man. He beat up her kids, or maybe he hit on her little daughter. He beat her up, too." (37.40)

Matthew just doesn't get how Nikki convinces dudes to beat up Murdoch, but Ben patiently explains to him that she just tells a bunch of lies. She gives men this horrible sob story, and they get all hyped up to defend her honor.

How did Nikki find you? I don't know for sure. Maybe she called your old school and asked—in her professional, bureaucratic receptionist voice—about the transfer of records. It doesn't really matter now. All we really know is that she showed up at your new school, before I got there, and took you away. (47.2)

Nikki is one smooth operator. Even after she's gone to jail and has had the custody of her children revoked, she still manages to track them all down. She uses her powers of sleuthing (and deception) to find Emmy and snatch her away.