Chapter Eleven: Professor Milton

"Roxy, will you quit your mooching around like a lost mother hen?" Pizzazz demanded, her tone impatient. "You've been walking around like someone ate your canary all week, don't tell me you miss that creep brother of yours?"
"I don't need him or anyone." Roxy bristled. "I'm just mad that Jetta messed with his head, that's all." She sent Pizzazz a glare. "Butt out, will you?
Pizzazz rolled her eyes, tossing a nearby cushion at her bandmate and getting it flung back for her trouble. She was sick and tired of her companion's sulking; it made any kind of Misfit practice difficult and in truth Jetta's absense was also paining her. Roxy and Stormer had the habit these days of teaming up and it had made the singer very out out to see the two girls settle themselves down in the lounge with guitar and synth, evidently discussing music. It was even more galling to Pizzazz that Roxy did not snap at Stormer.
Bored with the conversation, Roxy headed out of the room and up the stairs to her bedroom, shutting the door behind her. As she did so, she caught sight of a hastily scrawled number on a scrap of paper beside her bed. She sat on the duvet cover, scooping it up.
Professor Milton's number.
She sighed. Justin had given it to her before they had begun to argue and in truth the guitarist was torn between her pride and her desire to read. That morning, she had almost made the call, but Pizzazz had made another of her snide remarks, suggesting that the bass player would never be able to make it as a solo performer and in the row that had followed she had forgotten all about it. Determined and obstinate, Roxy had now decided once and for all that she was going to do a solo record, and more, she was going to do it her way, too.
"That'll show Pizzazz and Jetta and Eric and everyone else who thinks I'm dumb." she muttered, glancing at the piece of paper again and sighing. "Oh, what the hell? Can't hurt, surely?"
Slowly she picked up the phone receiver, dialling the number and waiting impatiently for it to be answered at the other end.
It seemed forever, but it was only a moment or two before it was picked up and a woman with a falsely cheery tone to her voice was on the line.
"Cut the crap." Roxy was in no mood for niceties. "I wanna speak to Professor Milton, not you."
"Can I ask what your call is pertaining to?" The nice edge had all but gone from the woman's tone.
"Mind your own business!"
"The professor is very busy, and..."
"So'm I, you know." Roxy interrupted. "Listen, woman. I ain't playing games with you. Are you gonna put me through to the Professor or not?"
There was a pause, and a sigh, then,
"Oh, very well." The woman sounded resigned. "Can I take your name?"
"They call me Roxy."
"That's all I'm givin' you. Roxy. Okay?"
There was another sigh from the other end of the line.
"Please hold." The woman said. There was a click of a button, and soon the phone was answered by a man with a gruffly pleasant voice.
"Ernest Milton...may I help you?"
"I...I dunno." Now she was in direct contact, Roxy's nerve began to waver. " brother gave me your number. He thinks you can."
"I see." The professor obviously did not see at all. "Tell me, my dear...what's your name and in what capacity did you want my help?"
"Roxy. Roxy Pelligrini." Roxy twisted the phone cable uncomfortably around her finger. "And..."
"Pelligrini? Ah, I know that name! You must be the sister of a young man who used to work here...Justin. Am I right?"
"Yes...that's right."
"I wasn't aware he had much family." The professor sounded quite interested. "But, come to think of it, I did take a call from him the other week...about someone he knew who was struggling with reading and writing. He felt sure dyslexia was the reason...can I ask if he was talking about you?"
"Yeah." Roxy acknowledged awkwardly. "I...I ain't dumb though, you gotta know that! I just...I just can't read."
The professor laughed.
"My dear, intelligence is not the issue here." He told her gently. "Now, what kind of help did you want from me?"
"Justin said you helped him to read properly."
"Yes." The professor agreed. "And you want me to do the same thing for you?"
"I guess so. I..I wanna read." Roxy admitted.
"Tell me, my dear, whereabouts are you?"
"California...Los Angeles." Roxy replied.
"Really?" The professor sounded pleased. "Why, that is a stroke of luck!"
"It is?"
"Yes. I'm due to do a talk in California this weekend. I don't see myself letting down a relative of young Justin's, so how about we meet up while I'm in town and talk this through, see what the situation is?"
"O-okay." Roxy said, a little unsure. " big deal, okay? I mean, I...I kinda don't want the press horning in on my business. I'm a Misfit, you know." This last added with some pride.
"Are you?" The professor sounded nonplussed, then, "Oh! You mean the rock group! Justin did mention that you had a keen interest in music."
"Yes, that's right." Roxy found herself preening. "But I don't want a got it? I don't want people to know..."
"That will be fine." The professor assured her. "I understand. If you give me your number, then I'll call you when in California and we can see where things go from there."
Roxy obediently related her number, then terminated the call in her usual abrupt fashion, stopping to think. Whatever Justin had said to the professor, it must have been good. She had not expected it to be so easy.
"He seems okay." She acknowledged. "Like Justin said he was. An' if I can learn to read, well, I'll damn well give ol' big nose Jetta something to choke on!"
"Roxy, you okay in there?" That was Stormer, and Roxy called her in, casting her a smile.
"Sure, I'm fine." She said airily. "I had a business call to make, that's all." She reached for her jacket. "Hey, you wanna go get pizza or somethin'? I'm starved."
"Sure, sounds good." Stormer smiled. "Shall I ask Pizzazz, or are we leaving her here?"
"Nah, she can come. She's got the money, after all, she can spot us a meal." Roxy grinned. "It's cool with Jetta away, like old times, and I feel like celebratin' something tonight. C'mon...let's go!"

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"Bleedin' great."
Jetta gazed up at the big departures board, pulling a face. "Wonderful. Like I 'aven't spent enough of this damn day flyin' an' 'angin' around a blinkin' airport! Why is it they always cancel the flippin' plane when I'm tired an' 'ungry an' I want to go 'ome? And why is it I can never get a direct flight from London to damned California if Pizzazz ain't 'ere wavin' 'er credit card about. Stupid damn American airlines! Stupid British Airways! Stupid damn planes!"
She glared at the departures board with very bad grace once more, then slumped down into a vacant seat. It looked like she was stuck in New York for the night.
Much as Jetta relished the freedom to travel the world that her career gave her, she disliked having to make connecting flights. She had found it impossible, however, to get a seat on a direct flight from Heathrow to LAX, so she had taken the next best thing, a guaranteed connection in New York.
Well, that had been the plan. But, with an electrical storm thundering overhead, all flights had been cancelled, and Jetta was well and truly grounded.
Experienced enough with American airports and storms to know that there would be no plane out till the morning at best, she knew she had to find somewhere to spend the night. Sleeping on airport seats was not her cup of tea, but out on her own away from the band she lacked the same financial clout to convince hotels to give her priority. Here she was just another annoyed traveller, and there were plenty of them.
After enquiring impatiently as to when the next flight to LAX should be and getting little joy from the harried airport employee, Jetta decided that she had little choice but to make the best of a bad job and try her luck with a hotel for the night after all. Trouble was, she half suspected many other stranded passengers had already had the same idea. She only hoped that she'd find somewhere nearby...she didn't want to be out in the storm more than she had to be.
However, her fears proved correct. After finding a third hotel fully booked up for the night she began to wonder what she should do or where she could go. Many phonelines were already down, and calling Los Angeles for help was an impossibility, but she had no wish to return to the airport.
As she left the reception desk, she heard someone call her name.
She groaned. Oh great. Just what she didn't need.
"What are you doing here?" The photographer approached her, taking in her tired features and storm-damp hair with some surprise. "Are you all here? I almost didn't recognise you with your hair like that."
"I don't 'ave to dress like a Misfit always, you know." Jetta told him acidly, fingering a lock of her wavy dark hair absently. "And no, we ain't. I'm on me own. If you don't mind, I ain't got time to stop and chat...I 'ave to find an 'otel to stop the night in, since this damn storm's cancelled me flight 'ome."
"The weather sucks. It changed so quickly." Justin looked sympathetic. Jetta shrugged.
"Either way, I'm stuck and I can't 'ang around makin' small talk with me archenemy's brother." She said dryly. "Will you get outta me way?"
"Aren't you gonna tell me what brought you to New York?" Justin asked.
"Well, it weren't you." Jetta told him bluntly. "I flew in from friend got married."
"You flew eight hours already?" He demanded. "You must be beat!"
"Well, I ain't feelin' very pretty." Jetta agreed dryly.
"Look...why don't you just come back to mine with me?" Justin did not know what possessed him to say it, but something about the sight the bedraggled, tired Misfit appealed to his protective side. Jetta raised an eyebrow.
"Stay with you?"
"I have a spare room, don't worry. "Justin smiled, guessing her thoughts. "And I'm heading back to California myself tomorrow, weather permitting, because I have some things to discuss with Roxy. I decided I needed to go back and settle a couple of things. I can probably give you a ride back to the airport, and it just seems logical. It's not far from here."
"I ain't got a choice." Jetta shrugged, seeming resigned. "Ta, Justin. No funny stuff, mind! I'm just too beat to put up a fight." She stifled a yawn. "What are you doin' 'ere, anyhow?"
"I was doing promotional photographs here for the hotel owners when the storm came down and killed the power." Justin explained. "Kinda ruined the whole shoot idea, so we decided to call it a day. I got some great shots, anyhow. I just packed up and was about to go when I saw you."
"Oh, I see. Makes sense." Jetta offered him a tired smile, Laura's words ringing in her head as she did so and confusing her all the more. "You 'ave a car with you?"
"Sure. Follow me."
Justin could not believe his luck. Despite his frustration in Los Angeles, his feelings for Jetta had only grown in the time they had been apart, and he had been wondering how to approach that issue when he returned to California. To find her in New York had been unexpected, but welcome all the same. "Say, you eaten?"
"No...not unless you count the slop they give you on aeroplanes." Jetta shook her head, pulling a face as she slipped into the front seat of his car, the thunder rumbling violently overhead and the rain coming down in sheets.
"Well, reason I ask is that the power is pretty much likely to be shot at home and I can't cook anything." Justin replied. "There's probably something I can find to offer you though, if you're starving."
Jetta sent him a sidelong glance, her eyes narrowing thoughtfully.
"What would Roxy say?" She asked.
"I told Roxy before I left LA that I wasn't going to be used as any kind of reason to carry on your silly feud, by either of you." Justin said neatly, pulling his car into the parking lot of the apartment building and killing the engine. "And I mean it, so don't you go trying to stir things up, either!"
"Who said I was trying to stir things? She started it!" Jetta was indignant.
"That I don't believe." Justin said dryly. "C'mon, run for the door. I got your bag - we can talk inside, away from the bad weather."
Jetta's expression was rebellious, but she saw the sense in Justin's words and did as he bade her.
Once inside, however, she made her feelings known.
"Look 'ere, Justin, just because you got me 'ere an' I ain't got no other place to go tonight does not mean you can give me a lecture about Roxy. You ain't my brother, you're ' it? An' you obviously don't know the girl if you believe there's anything likeable about 'er. She's 'ard as nails to the core an' just as obnoxious!"
"I might not have known my sister as long as you have, but I can tell you you're wrong." Justin told her firmly. "Roxy is tough, stubborn and independant, but she's also creative and intelligent and she knows how to get the best from life. She has fighting spirit and I'm proud of her, if you wanna know."
"If it weren't rainin' like crazy out there I'd leave." Jetta spat out. "I don't need you tellin' me 'ow wonderful the witch is!"
"Roxy's no witch." Justin frowned. "No more than you are. I told you, Jetta, I didn't want to be torn between the two of you. I like you both...and more, I respect you both - but not when you start behaving like high school children. Truth of the matter is you're both jealous of each other."
"Jealous?" Jetta was enraged. "You tell me one thing Roxy's got that I ain't, Justin Pelligrini! I ain't got no reason to be jealous of some illiterate idiot from Philadelphia's bad area an' you know it!"
"Do I?" Justin spoke quietly, raising an eyebrow. Jetta bristled.
"Yes!" She retorted. "Or you damn well should know, if you 'ave any brains at all!"
A smile touched Justin's face, infuriating his companion all the more.
"Well, I've only known you girls a little while, but it sure seems to me like each of you hate each other so much because you're vying for position in the Misfits." He said slowly. "Stormer's the songwriter, Pizzazz sings...but you two are kinda on a par. Roxy feels like you pushed in on her gig, and you're sensitive about the fact you joined up after the rest, because you know they can be a band without you. So, stalemate."
"How dare you assume you know what I think!" Jetta exclaimed. "Who's been tellin' you stuff about the Misfits, anyway? Sure, they were a band without me, but they're better with me, an' I ain't got nothin' to prove! I've enough talent to go it alone if I ever 'ad to! If Roxy's got a problem it's 'er deal, not mine!"
"Noone told me anything." Justin informed her calmly. "I just worked things out from the little bits and pieces that I do know." He walked into the dimly lit kitchen, opening the cupboard. "You hungry?"
"Oh, go to hell, Justin." Jetta snapped. "Don't patronise don't even know me! Where's the spare room? I've 'ad enough of your company!"
"Straight down the hall, on the right." Justin replied with a half smile. "Bathroom's opposite, if you want to take a shower. Sweet dreams!"
"Grr!" With a growl, Jetta flounced out of the room, banging the door behind her. Justin chuckled. Much as he liked Jetta, he could not resist teasing her a little. After all, he mused, it was no more than she'd done to him.
Jetta, for her part, was both confused and dismayed. Why had he gotten her so riled up?
"Damn him!" She muttered, tossing her bag down onto the floor and hunting through it for dry nightclothes. "Damn 'im! Where does 'e get off bein' so damn impossible!"
She changed quickly, determined not to go near the shower while she knew Justin was nearby. Sitting down on the bed, she fished out her hairbrush, brushing out her thick dark hair in front of the mirror, her mind elsewhere. As she did so, her anger and frustration began to cool into uncertainty and she paused, eying her reflection quizzically.
"What is wrong with you, girl?" She demanded. "Let this creep don't need it! Stop letting 'im get to you!"
But the question remained. Why did being with Justin tease her emotions into action so easily?
"Well, enough of it." She decided firmly, tossing her hairbrush carelessly onto the unit. "I'm goin' to bed and to sleep. This can wait till mornin'...I'm beat!"

Chapter One: Just One Wish
Chapter Two: Roxy's Ambition
Chapter Three: New York
Chapter Four: An Unexpected Meeting
Chapter Five: Roxy's Treasure
Chapter Six: The Answer
Chapter Seven: Justin
Chapter Eight: Jetta's Game
Chapter Nine: The Ultimatum
Chapter Ten: Laura's Wedding
Chapter Eleven: Professor Milton
Chapter Twelve: One Night In New York
Chapter Thirteen: Conflict!
Chapter Fourteen: Heartbreak
Chapter Fifteen: A Reunion
Chapter Sixteen: A Fragile Peace

(The Misfits and Holograms and other animated Jem characters are copyrighted to Hasbro Inc. Justin and all characters who do not appear in Jem episodes are my own creation. This story is copyrighted to E.A Woolley (2001)