Chapter Six: The Answer
Justin opened the door of his hotel room, a look of surprise on his face. "I didn't expect...how did you know where to find me?"
"Can it. We gotta talk." Roxy pushed past him into the room, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him with her. "I wanna know what business you got turning up like this and trying to interfere in my life."
"Do you believe I'm telling you the truth?" Justin asked softly. Roxy paused. Then she reached into her purse, pulling out the photograph and tossing it down onto his bed. Carefully Justin scooped it up.
"That...that's me!" He realised. "That's my Mom...and that's Dad, I guess. Looks like him, only younger, of course. Where did you get this! I never saw this picture before!"
"Never you mind. That's my business." Roxy snapped, snatching the picture back.
"So you do believe me!"
"I have a choice?" Roxy demanded. "I don't like this, Justin, but I figured maybe you could tell me stuff, so that's why I'm here. Just don't think I'm all sweet on you suddenly, cos I ain't. This is a purely business visit."
"Well, all right." Justin nodded. "What do you want to know?"
Roxy frowned, then,
"You said you met Dad...what did he say about me?" she asked.
"Not as much as I'd have liked to know." Justin admitted. "He asked me if I was in touch with Roxanne...I asked him who Roxanne was and he told me about what had happened, your mother's fall and his incarceration. He said he had some things for you which were your mother's - they're in the trunk of my car, actually, and I remember him admitting that he was afraid you hadn't survived. That's pretty much it."
Roxy was silent, digesting this.
"Do you want me to get the stuff?"
"No." Roxy shook her head. "No, I don't. I'm just here to find out what I can. I don't wanna get emotionally involved in any kind of family." She spoke the word with contempt.
"Okay." Justin shrugged. "It's your call. I can keep them till you're ready."
"Why did you come looking for me?" She asked at length.
"I wanted to meet my sister." Justin said simply. "I always hated being an only child, not even knowing my Dad. I didn't even have a stepfather till I was seventeen. I know Mom and Dad fought and things had broken down...when he got assigned new orders she didn't want to go with him and they split up. Mom only told me he was in prison when I was fourteen - I think she was afraid of how I'd react to it. She told me then that she didn't believe he was capable of murder, said he wouldn't hurt a fly, and now I've met him I'm positive that she's right. He says he didn't hurt your mother, Roxy...he loved her very much."
"I don't believe he did." Roxy shrugged. "Don't matter, mind you. You do the time for it, then you might as well have done the crime."
"I think losing her broke his heart." Justin reproached her. Roxy rolled her eyes.
"Like I care. I don't know my parents.. They're just names to me."
"What happened in your life, Roxy, to make you so cynical of family?" Justin looked interested.
Roxy closed up.
"None of your business!" She snapped.
"Of course it is. You're my sister."
"Hardly. So we share blood. Big deal."
Roxy moved across the room to the cabinet at the far side, running her finger along the top of the pile of books Justin had placed there. They were notebooks, relating to his work, she assumed.
"You can look. They're not private." Justin told her.
"I don't want to." Roxy withdrew her hand. "I don't care what you do at work."
"They're not all work. This one's personal...my notes about the Pelligrini family." Justin extracted one, holding it out to her. "Here...take a look. You might find it interesting."
"Stop patronising me!" Roxy retorted, knocking the notebook out of his grasp. Justin looked startled.
"Patronising you? I wasn't aware that I was!"
"Hah." Roxy snorted. "You're just another stupid person with stupid books who thinks he's something special because of it. I'm going. This has been a waste of my time."
"Roxy, hang on a moment!" Justin called her back. "If you don't mind me saying, that was a really weird way to react."
"Think what you like, I don't care." Roxy snapped, reaching the door and fighting with the handle. "Damn this thing, why won't it open?"
Justin came up behind her, gently removing her hand from the door.
"There are instructions right above it, on how to turn the key and open the thing." He said quietly. "But I guess you didn't see that, huh?"
"No I didn't. So?" Roxy bristled, entirely on the defensive now.
"So...I'm beginning to wonder exactly how much you can read, Roxy."
"How dare you!" Roxy flared up. "My life is none of your business, you hear me?"
"But I can help you!"
"No...you can't." Her anger draining, Roxy sank down onto the end of the bed. "Noone can."
"Maybe I can." Justin sat down beside her. "You see, Roxy, I had trouble learning to read as well. I didn't learn till I was eight, and even then I was slow and it frustrated me. I even flunked out of school the first time around. Then, I was working this summer job playing office boy at this research institute near where I grew up, and I got talking to one of the professors who worked there one evening. He was interested in hearing about my problems with letters and he told me about something called dyslexia. I'd never heard of it, but it sounded a whole lot like what I had - letters switching around and words not making sense. He helped me a lot, and thanks to him I had the confidence to go back to school and get my diploma. Otherwise I wouldn't be where I am now. I went to college, got my media degree and fell into photography...I was very lucky."
Roxy stared at him for a moment, then,
"Dyslexia?" She repeated blankly.
"Yeah." Justin nodded. "Apparently a lot of people have it, but it's not often picked up on. Dyslexic kids have a different perception of things - this professor said that many of us are artistic and creative...I guess that's why I was drawn to photography like I was." He paused. "Do the letters switch about for you, too?"
Slowly Roxy nodded her head.
"It drives me crazy." She admitted. "People've always called me dumb and I dunno, maybe I wondered if it was true. Even the kids in the remedial classes could read something. All except me."
"You can't read at all?"
"I can recognise my name and a few bits and pieces. Sometimes it's easier than others, and sometimes, if I focus real hard I can work out a word...but when I go back to it again later it looks different and I can't make it out any more." Roxy twisted her hands together. "Do...do you think I have it?"
"I'd say almost definitely." Justin nodded. "It runs in the family. Dad said Grandpa was illiterate, so I guess he had it too...he also had a sister who struggled with reading and writing, but she's died now so I can't get in touch with her to find out the deal. But Roxy, I could at least learn to read some, even if it took me longer to get there. You really can't?"
"I can't." Roxy agreed quietly. All fight was gone from her demeanour, and the sorrowful look in her brown eyes made Justin's heart reach out to her.
"Tell me." He said softly.
"Tell you what?" Roxy turned those helpless eyes on him. "I never learnt. End of story."
"Do you want to?"
"I guess. But I can't."
"I'm sure you can, Roxy. You just have to get the right kind of help." Justin responded. "You can't do it on your own. It sounds to me like you have it more than I do...no wonder you couldn't just knuckle down and learn to read."
"Help?" Roxy looked suspicious. "What kind of help?"
"Maybe I should put you in touch with the professor." Justin mused. "He sure helped me."
"No!" Roxy shook her head, a note of panic in her tone. "No strangers! I have a reputation...have you any idea how awful it'd be if everyone knew I was illiterate?"
Justin was silent for a moment, then,
"Well, let me talk to him and ask his advice." He amended. "I won't mention your name. Maybe I can help you, if you'll let me."
"I guess." Roxy agreed cautiously. Though she didn't like to admit it, a bond had begun to grow between them since her confession of her illiteracy and his gentle reply. For the first time she began to wonder if maybe having a brother wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.
"Why do you wanna help me?" She asked finally.
"Because you're my sister, and I like you." Justin shrugged. Roxy looked startled.
"Really? You barely know me!"
"True." Justin acknowledged. "And I have a feeling there's one hell of a lot more to get to know. But I like you anyway, Roxy. I like that you're independant and spunky and not all clingy and wet." He looked rueful. "I was half afraid what Mom said would come true and I'd wind up with two of you trying to find me a wife!"
"A wife? Hah!" Roxy snorted. "What do you need one of them for, anyway? Marriage and family and all of that is a waste of time, if y'ask me!"
"That's precisely the independance I mean." He replied. "Perhaps you'd like to enlighten my mother to that idea."
Roxy paused, then,
"You like your mother?"
"Sure. In a lot of ways she's my best friend." Justin nodded. "There only ever was her and me growing up."
Roxy sighed heavily.
"What's up?" Justin looked startled.
"Nothing." Roxy replied. "Just...I guess I was wondering what my mother was like."
"I wish I could tell you." Justin frowned. "But I can't, Roxy. I'm sorry."
"Don't matter." Roxy shrugged. "Not like I need her or anything. Just curious, that's all."
"A lot of unanswered questions, huh?" Justin asked gently. Roxy rolled her eyes.
"You have no idea." She replied.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Pizzazz, 'ow much longer are you gonna take in there?" Jetta
on the door of the Gabor Mansion main bathroom, an irritated look on
face. "The car's 'ere...we're gonna be late!"
"Quit complaining, I'm ready!" The door swung open to reveal the missing singer, an equally annoyed look on her face. "Where's the fire? We've still got a few minutes!"
Jetta rolled her eyes.
"C'mon." Was all she said, however, and the two Misfits made their way out to the waiting vehicle. Roxy and Stormer were already inside, and Roxy glanced up at their arrival.
"You took long enough." She observed off-handedly.
"I'm ready. Quit it." Pizzazz snapped, slipping into the back behind Jetta and then instructing the driver to go.
The Misfits were playing a clubdate in the centre of Los Angeles and in a moment of impulse Roxy had invited Justin along.
Well, in actual fact she'd told him about the show in the most nonchalant manner possible, but he had taken the hint and had promised to be there. He had never followed the music craze, and he was interested to see what their performance was like.
And then, there was Jetta.
Try as he might, Justin had not been able to erase the thought of her from his head. He had not seen her since the photoshoot, but she had left a lasting impression, and if he was honest to himself, seeing her was almost as big a part of tonight as seeing Roxy play. They had talked for hours in the end, Roxy opening up bit by bit as time had progressed, and he had gleaned that a painful childhood had ended abruptly at fourteen when she had taken the decision to run away. A few more subtle questions, and Roxy had admitted to being abused and on occasion scared out of her skin by her guardians, and Justin had found it difficult not to get angry with these unknown people. People who, as Roxy had talked, he began to realise had probably had something more to do with the death of Sarah Marten than had William Pelligrini.
But his immediate priority was Roxy and Roxy had needed reassurance, however tough she appeared.
"So if she wants me to go see her play, I'll go." he had resolved. "Who knows? Perhaps I'll learn something."
By the time the Misfits arrived, the crowd was buzzing. Pushing through autograph hunters and squealing fans, the four girls took centre stage underneath the dazzling lights, Pizzazz taking the microphone from its stand and pausing, surveying the crowd.
"Hello, Los Angeles!" she exclaimed. "It's time we showed you some real American rock and roll! Hit it, girls!"
Amid cheering fans, many of whom began to dance, the group launched into one of their more recent hits, and from his seat by the bar, Justin watched with interest. A stab of pride hit him as he watched Roxy play. His sister, the rock star. He had never imagined that.
"But she's good, dammit." he acknowledged, taking a sip of his drink. "Why did I never get into the Misfits before? This is good stuff!"
The next song had a strong sax line, and, try as he might, Justin could not help focusing his attention on the British Misfit. Now he berated his ignorance. Jetta was every bit the rock star.
"No wonder they wanted her in the Misfits." he observed. "And no wonder she got all stinky with me when I asked her about her sax!"
Once the set was finished, he headed over to the stage. Roxy was nowhere to be seen, having dragged Stormer off to find something to eat, but he soon located Jetta, who was carefully putting her saxophone away. Something in the gentleness with which she ministered to her instrument did not gel with the snappy sarcastic Jetta he had encountered the other day, and he wondered at it.
"Hi there." He ventured. "Jetta started, turning.
"You!" She exclaimed, putting her hands on her hips. "What're you doin' 'ere?"
"I came to see your set." Justin said smoothly. "I wanted to congratulate you. You pay a mean sax."
"Wouldn't be much good in this profession if I didn't, duckie." she said dismissively.
"True. But I guess I see now why the sax isn't such an odd rock instrument."
"Good for you." Jetta closed her sax case with a snap, lifting it and eying him thoughtfully. "You done?"
"Look, I don't know what your deal is, but I 'ave a life, an' if it's all the same to you I'd like to go lead it." Jetta's tones were laced with sarcasm.
"Would you let me buy you a drink?" Justin didn't know how, but the question seemed to come out of it's own accord. Jetta looked startled. Then her eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
"Why?" she demanded. "What do you think you're goin' to get out of it?"
"Nothing!" Justin exclaimed. "I just thought..." he paused. Dammit, what had he thought? "It seemed like a friendly thing to do."
"Oh, you were feelin' friendly, were ya?" She asked. "Well, if you're so desperate to buy me a drink, I ain't complainin'. Jus' don't think you got a date out of it, cos I'm a busy girl an' I don't got time for groupies."
Justin frowned, riled slightly by her attitude.
"Did noone ever taught you how to accept an offer gracefully?" He asked quietly. Jetta looked startled, then angry.
"Listen, creep. I don't know what your game is, but I ain't playin' it with ya. I'm a big girl, I can look after meself, an' I don't need you 'angin' round and 'arassin' me."
"I dare say you don't." Justin agreed.
"So what's the deal?"
"No deal." Justin spread his hands. "I just came to compliment your playing, as I said."
"Well, you needn't bother. Honey, you are not my type." Jetta looked amused.
"I'm amazed you have a type at all." Justin responded. "But it's fine. If you're going to just be hostile, I'll leave you alone."
Jetta watched him head off across the club, a strange expression on her face.
"What the 'ell was that all about?" She wondered.
"What's up?" Pizzazz, drink in hand appeared at her left side at that moment, perching herself on the corner of the stage. Jetta grimaced.
"That creepy camera guy is 'ere. I think...I think 'e was 'ittin' on me."
"Hitting on you?" she demanded. "That creep? He'd never dare mess with one of us! He's a wimp and a nobody, and we're stars."
Jetta glanced in the direction that he had gone.
"He's weird in the 'ead." she decided at length. "Showin' up at our gig like this. Who does 'e think 'e is, anyway?"
"Beats me." Pizzazz shrugged. "You told him to get lost, huh?"
"Too right I did!" Jetta exclaimed. "I don't know what he's after, but 'e ain't gettin' it out of me!"
"Looks like he ain't too bruised from the attempt." Pizzazz observed thoughtfully. "Ain't that him, talking to Roxy?"
Jetta looked startled. Glancing across the crowded club she saw that Pizzazz was right. Angrily she clenched her fists.
"The nerve of 'im! What does he think 'e's up to, messin' with us?"
"Well, if you ask me he's lookin' for more than a drink." Pizzazz looked amused. "And don't forget he's one of Eric's bosom pals all of a sudden. Wouldn't surprise me if he turned out to be another total sleaze."
"If he's interested in Roxy 'e must be more weird in the 'ead than I thought." Jetta muttered. She'll re-arrange 'is face!"
"Well, she don't seem too inclined to do that right now." Pizzazz responded. "She's talking to him about something." She cast Jetta a sidelong glance. "Jealous, Jetta?"
"No. Relieved." Jetta shook her dark head. "She can 'ave 'im. 'Ere, I'm goin' to get me a drink. Watch me sax, will you?"
"What do you think I am, your unpaid minder?" Pizzazz demanded. Jetta rolled her eyes.
"Jus' do it, for God's sake!" she exclaimed. "I'll be back in a mo!"
As she approached the bar, she almost ran headlong into Justin once again. Casting him a look of utter contempt, she turned her back on him very pointedly, pretending she hadn't even seen him.
But, if she was totally honest, the encounter had unnerved her some. Few guys dared to tangle with the Misfits; that was part of why she felt so safe within the band, for her conscious emotions were not generally called into play on any level above superficial. Even fewer men tended to answer them back...but Justin had done both.
"Pizzazz is wrong." She decided as she ordered her drink, dismissing autograph hunters in the process. "'E ain't no wimp. An' somehow I got the feelin' we ain't seen the last of 'im yet, neither. Whatever 'is game is, I don't think 'e's done playin'."
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)