Chapter Eight: Jetta's Game
"Place is busy tonight."
Thus Pizzazz as the Misfits set up their equipment, ready to perform. "We got a good crowd. Looks like Eric did his PR job for once."
"It's about time." Roxy muttered, toying half-heartedly with her guitar's strings, then drumming her fingers on it instead. Pizzazz sent her an irritated glare.
"Are you gonna play or sulk tonight?" She demanded. "C'mon, Roxy, grow up, will ya? We got a set to play here, and we ain't playing it without bass!"
"Get lost." Roxy snapped, returning her attention to the tuning of her guitar with very bad grace. "I'll be ready, so shut your face."
"Temper, temper." Jetta smirked. Unbeknownst to Roxy, she alone understood the reason for the bass player's recent bad mood, for, upon re-entering the house the previous evening she had heard the final part of the conversation between the two siblings and had stored the information away for later use. She resented the remarks made about her family - a sore point for her anyway - and was determined now to even the score in the best way she knew how - spiting her bandmate by flirting with her brother.
Justin was here in the crowd, she knew that already, camera in hand. He had said that he wanted pictures of the band to take back to New York with him, and she was glad that he'd decided to make a show. It meant that she could begin her plan in full view of her hapless bandmate, and she had already decided to strike as soon as the set was over. Justin, she mused, would not know what had hit him. Though she had never opened her heart to a man, Jetta knew how to pull strings to get her way, and she was fairly confident that it would provide few obstacles to tackle Justin. After all, the guy had more or less admitted he had feelings for her.
"Should be a piece of cake." She told herself now, checking that her reed was tightly in place behind the ligature, and playing an experimental note or two. "That'll show that streetrat what's what!"
Stormer cast a troubled glance between her two bandmates. Though Roxy had not confided in her as to what was wrong, she knew something must have happened to upset the apple-cart even worse between the two Misfits, and the air was tense. Roxy in a full temper could be as difficult to handle as one of Pizzazz;s spoiled tantrums, for she had a tendency to be obstinate beyond persuasion, and the young song writer had no mind to be in the midst of trouble tonight.
"You shut your face too." Roxy snapped in Jetta's direction at that juncture, and Pizzazz rolled her eyes.
"C'mon, kiddies, quit fighting. It's time to show this club how much we rock." She instructed, her tone one of irritation. "So let's do it!"
In the audience, unobserved by most of the other patrons, Justin prepped his camera almost automatically, his thoughts elsewhere. He and Roxy had not spoken much more than a few words since the previous night's revalation, and he was somewhat unsettled by it. Already he knew that Roxy was important to him, but the same streak of Pelligrini obstinacy ran strong in his character, and he was determined not to let his sister's opinion prejudice either his thoughts or his actions. One part of him acknowledged the fact that Roxy had known Jetta longer, but did she know her better? He sighed. The young Briton was so hard to figure out, somehow. She was strikingly pretty, openly hostile...and yet there were those flashes of vulnerability which had aroused his curiosity. So who was the real Jetta, then?
"Perhaps I need to go back to NYC and get some perspective in all of this." He mused with a frown. "I'm not sure how that will help, though, when there's so much to learn about Roxy and I can't get Jetta out of my head. I don't want to hurt my sister for anything...but I can't just let this go. I wish I could, but I can't!"
He turned his mind to taking photographs for a few minutes, trying not to pay any extra attention to the sax player. Before he knew it, the set was done, and the band had disappeared off stage before his lens to sample some of the nightlife for themselves.
He turned, a startled look crossing his face as he surveyed the object of his thoughts watching him, her arms folded. "What you doin' 'ere with your snappy, 'eh?"
"Taking pictures, what else?" Justin smiled. "I want a memento of my sister in action to take home with me when I go, and also to show Dad."
Jetta looked amused, glancing around her.
"Roxy doesn't seem thrilled with the idea of bein' caught on camera." She observed. "She an' Stormer 'ave scarpered someplace, as usual."
"Why are you talking to me?" Justin looked suspicious. "I thought you hated the sight of me."
"Guess it ain't good for the Misfits if I start takin' an 'ate to me colleagues' relations." Jetta purred smoothly. "In any case, I feel sorry for ya, bein' Roxy's brother an' all. It must be one major drag."
"You needn't, you know." Despite himself, Justin was both curious and amused by her play. "I'm quite fond of her."
"Each to their own." Jetta observed flippantly. "Listen. I was pretty 'ostile to you before, an' I wanted to call it quits. Can we settle it over a drink?"
"Well, I guess I still owe you one from the other night." Justin replied with a laugh.
"Yeah." A strange sparkle touched Jetta's grey eyes as she observed Roxy across the club. "Look, 'ow about we get outta here an' go someplace quieter? Can't 'ear meself think in this noise, an' I got me sax to think of too."
"Sure." Unaware of Roxy's gaze on them, Justin nodded his head. "You know this city better than me, where do you suggest?"
"Le Klub Cool is just a couple of blocks away." Jetta replied. "I 'ope you got wheels...I came in the limo with the girls."
"Yeah, I got my hire car." Justin agreed. "This way."
As they crossed the club towards the door, Jetta turned to meet Roxy's gaze, her expression one of triumph. Roxy clenched her fists.
"Lemme at her!" she exclaimed.
"What's wrong?" Stormer looked startled.
"Jetta's run off with my brother, the sly cow! They just left the club together!"
"So?" Stormer looked confused.
"So she's doing it to get to me, Stormer, I know it!"
"So don't let her." Stormer said sensibly, turning her attention back to her lemonade.
"And allow her to screw Justin over in the process?" Roxy demanded. "Drag the Pelligrini name through her trashy games? I don't think so. C'mon, we're gonna find them!"
"Roxy, wait!" Stormer grabbed her bandmate by the arm. "They could have gone anywhere, and Justin's a grown man. He can make his own choices. Besides, it'll only be an innocent little drink. They barely know each other."
"Justin has a crush on her." Roxy admitted. "I dunno how, but she must've found it out and she's playing him for all he's worth."
"I don't see what you can do. If you go and make a scene, Roxy, and Jetta is doing this just to bug you, you'll have played right into her hands, won't you? You know how clever she is. If you show up in whatever place they've gone to and scream at her she'll play the victim. Let it go. Justin's sensible and knows his own mind. And, you could be wrong about Jetta's intentions. Perhaps she just wants to be friends with him."
"Yeah, and pigs might fly." Roxy muttered. "Don't be naive, Stormer. It's only too clear what exactly she wants from Justin, and it ain't friendship!"
"You don't know that." Stormer chided. "C'mon. Let's go find something to eat and forget about them, huh? It'll be fine."
Across town, Jetta had observed with some satisfaction that they had not been followed, and, taking it as a victory, she had settled herself at a table in the club, in too good a mood to care that the live act were their hated rivals the Stingers. Justin had kept his word, buying her a drink, and taking a seat next to her. Too clever not to realise that Jetta's approach had been inspired by more than a simple desire to placate her rival's relatives, he was still keen to take his chance to get to know his companion as much as he could.
"You never told me what brought you to America, you know." He observed. "Aside from money, and that's hardly a reason. You're clever enough to know coming to the States doesn't guarantee you riches."
"True enough." Jetta agreed. "But music was the career I wanted, an' 'ere seemed as good a bet as any. My meetin' with the Misfits was a fluke, really, but one that made me gamble to come 'ere pay off."
"Your parents must be very proud of all you've achieved."
"Me parents ain't nothing to do with it!" Jetta snapped.
"I'm sorry...did I say something I shouldn't?" Justin looked concerned. Jetta frowned.
"Me an' me family 'ave nothin' to say to each other." She said curtly.
"Oh, I see." Justin paused, then, "That's kinda sad."
"You wouldn't think so if you'd met me family." Jetta retorted. "I'm the only Burns who ever did any good out of all of 'em!"
"Burns? That your real name?"
"No, it's Marilyn Monroe's." Jetta said, her tone rich with sarcasm. "What do you think?"
Justin laughed, confusing his companion in the process. She had expected to unsettle him, but instead he was unsettling her.
"Okay, I suppose that was rather a given." He conceded amiably. "I'm sorry. So you're Jetta Burns, then? Pretty name."
"Sure, but it ain't mine." Jetta said dryly. "Me folks ain't nice enough to give me a name that I'd care to live with. Me real name's Sheila...Roxy'll tell ya that if I don't."
"Sheila, huh?" Justin looked taken aback. He eyed her thoughtfully, then shook his head.
"No, I can't see you as a Sheila." He said finally. "It doesn't suit you in the least. Jetta is far more you."
"Tell me about it." Jetta took a sip of her drink.
"Roxy told me you have a brother, too."
"My brother ain't none of your damn business!" Jetta snapped, and Justin realised that he'd hit a raw nerve. He held up his hands in mock surrender.
"Hey, I come in peace!" He joked. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry."
"Then change the subject." Jetta responded. "Why the hell did you come to Cali, anyway? Bit of a big coincidence, turnin' up 'ere an' suddenly findin' your long lost sister livin' just around the corner."
"It wasn't a coincidence." Justin admitted. "I encountered some of your associates in the business back in New York...Jem and the Holograms. Their guitarist Aja told me about Roxy."
"The 'Olograms, huh?" Jetta smirked. "Compulsive do-gooders, that lot."
"I was under the impression from Roxy that relations between you all had improved somewhat." Justin grinned. Jetta paused, then nodded.
"Guess so." She acknowledged. "Nah, I ain't got no problem with the 'Olograms these days, though in truth I still can't stand that witch Jem. Pizzazz can't stick 'er, neither. Jem's problem is that she thinks she's better than us...well, she ain't."
"I didn't really get talking to Jem, but Roxy was similarly negative towards her." Justin looked amused. "Not a tiny bit of jealousy, I trust?"
"Nowt to be jealous of 'er for. The Misfits rock, or 'aven't you been listenin'?" Jetta returned.
"Well, maybe you're just too different from each other to click." Justin suggested. "Perhaps like you and my sister?"
"I wouldn't give Roxy the satisfaction of botherin' about 'er." Jetta said coolly. "She's a nothin' who can't even get 'er letters in the right order."
"That's not her fault." Justin chided. "There's a condition in the Pelligrini family that makes reading and writing difficult...it has nothing to do with intelligence."
"If you say so." She said. "Personally I still prefer the theory that she's thick in the 'ead."
"Why do you hate her?" Justin looked interested. Jetta frowned.
"Why do you care?" She countered. "I just don't. She's trouble. In any case, it don't matter what I think, does it, if you like 'er so blinkin' much you come all the way from New York to see her!"
There was both bitterness and wistfulness in the saxophonist's tone, and Justin was too shrewd not to notice it. He frowned, considering.
"Yes, I like her a lot." He agreed quietly. "But I like you too...even if you are rude as heck to me!"
He finished on a teasing note, leaving Jetta startled and confused. Didn't this guy take offence at anything she said?
"I'm interested to know what made you hate each other to begin with, that's all."
"She began it." Jetta shrugged.
"If she'd 'ad 'er way, I'd never 'ave been a Misfit." Jetta replied, raising her grey eyes to Justin's brown ones and finding something there which encouraged her to open up a little. "She did 'er best to keep me out. Lucky for me, Pizzazz ain't one to be argued with once she's made up 'er mind, and she wanted me in. So 'ere I am. An' Roxy's never forgiven me for it. I 'ate 'er because she 'ates me an' it's too much bother to try an' play nice. Ask anyone I know, and they'll tell you nice ain't a part of my makeup. Roxy's easy to wind up an' I don't like the girl, so I 'ave me fun with her." She looked him straight in the eye. "Now what do you say to that?"
"Well...how mature of you both." Justin responded dryly, riling Jetta's temper once more.
"What's that meant to mean?" She demanded. Justin grinned.
"You don't scare me, Jetta." He said lightly. "So you needn't try and intimidate me. You're too pretty for that scowl."
This was the last thing the saxophonist had expected and she stared at him blankly, struck speechless by his temerity. Justin laughed at her expression.
"You look like a goldfish." He observed. "What's up? Aren't you used to guys talking straight with you? Or are you more used to dictating their responses?"
"You 'ave some nerve, Justin Pelligrini." Jetta snapped, once she had regained some composure. Justin nodded.
"I know." He agreed. "Got me into strife plenty of times before. But I'll be honest with you, Jetta. Nice doesn't do anything for me. I've never been into girls who act all prissy and sweet. I like a girl who can fight back."
"Yeah, well, who says I like you?" Jetta demanded. Justin spread his hands.
"Noone." he replied with a smile. "And I'm not so arrogant as to assume I know what you think of me, either. But I've enjoyed this conversation here tonight, it's been an eyeopener. The more I get to know you, the more I think there is to know about you."
"You'd do best taking your big nose out of my life!"
"Perhaps." Justin shrugged. "But I've never been one to follow the easiest path." He laughed. "Could be why I'm still a bachelor at twenty eight going on twenty nine...what do you reckon?"
"I reckon you're a git." Jetta said bluntly. "An' bein' Roxy's brother does you no favours, neither. I don't know what game you think you're playin' with me..."
"No games, Jetta." Justin shook his head. "I'll leave that to you."
"What?" Jetta stared at him.
"I'm merely trying to match you blow by blow, and I don't think I'm doing too bad." He grinned at her confusion. "I've only had one pint so I think I'm safe to drive. Can I give you a ride home? Your sax is safe in my trunk, don't forget."
"Guess you can." Jetta agreed grudgingly. "But only cos it's less 'assle for me."
She got to her feet, scooping up her purse. "Come on. Let's blow this joint."
"You know, you speak Americanisms with a beautiful British accent." Justin looked amused as he led the way out of the club. Jetta snorted.
"I speak English." She corrected. "Okay, maybe I picked up a word or two 'ere an' there, but I don't speak much different from when I were back 'ome. We don't all talk in posh old fashioned good show an' ol' bean accents in England, you know."
"I'm aware of that. You're not the first Briton I've ever met." Justin smiled. "I've never been to England myself, mind you, so I suppose I'd be hard pressed to tell you what was and what wasn't native speak." He pushed open the door of the club, allowing her to go through first. "I like your accent, by the way. It makes you unique."
"In Cali, perhaps." She said dryly. "In London it's nowt special, trust me."
"Guess not." Justin acknowledged. "But then, we're not in London."
He met her gaze as he said this, and there was something in his eyes which made Jetta uncomfortable, like he was seeing deeper into her than her calm collected veneer. She was only too glad to slip into the front seat of the car, for she had a nagging feeling that she was not wholly in control of the situation. Justin had foxed her manipulations by speaking as bluntly to her as she had to him. But, oddest of all she had found herself liking him more for it. Not that she felt any real attraction for him, she told herself firmly as she rolled down the window, letting the cold night air ruffle through her hair. But he had proven better company than she'd expected, even if he did ask a lot of annoying questions about her family.
"One in the eye for Roxy, too." She mused, as they left the club. "Not a bad night, all in all."
Inwardly, she wondered what Roxy's reaction might be, and she didn't have long to find out. She was barely in the door when the irate bass guitarist appeared at the top of the stairs, Ignoring Jetta with a contemptuous silence she stalked out to her brother's hire car, and from the raised voices Jetta guessed that her game had been at least a partial success. Roxy was seething. She moved closer to the door to hear the exchange.
"I told you not to spend time with that witch!" She heard Roxy yell.
"Roxy, it's not really your business." Justin sounded tired. "I like Jetta, and America is a free country."
"You think she gives a damn about you?" Roxy exclaimed. "This is all because you're my brother, you know. I warned you not to get messed up with her and I knew you should never have let on who you were! She's only gonna screw you over and humiliate you both."
"Roxy, you mean a lot to me and I don't want to argue with you." That was Justin. "So drop it, please. It's been a long night. I only bought her a drink, anyway. It's not like we've eloped or something, for heaven's sake."
"I wouldn't put it past her to try it." Roxy snapped. "Just so she could leave you at the altar!"
"Listen to me." Justin replied. "I think you're wrong about Jetta. I think you never gave her a chance, so she never gave you one. She's fun to be with and I like spending time with her. There's more in her than you've ever let yourself see."
"She's got to you!" Roxy exclaimed, a note of helplessness in her tone. "God, how dumb are you? Can't you see through her lines?"
"Roxy, it's late." Justin replied gently. "We can discuss this tomorrow."
"There's nothing to discuss if you're too dumb to see through it." Roxy folded her arms. "Do what you want. Be seduced by that piece of trash. See if I care."
"Jetta's not trash, any more than you are dumb." Justin chided her quietly. "There's something that's making her hold back what she really thinks about things, that's all, and you don't know her as well as maybe you could. I'm not saying whose fault anything is, but I think if you both made more of an effort you'd find more to like in each other. Now look. You're my sister, and I respect your opinion but I'm not going to let you tell me how to live my life. If Jetta messes me over, well, you can tell me you told me so and I'll bow to your greater opinion. But I'd rather learn my lesson the hard way than not bother at all." He frowned. "I'm gonna head back to the hotel now, so I'll say goodnight. Sleep well, Roxy, I'll speak to you tomorrow."
Jetta slipped away from the door, and up the stairs at this point to avoid being seen by either Pelligrini. Her mind was whirling. Not only had Justin defended her honour, he had threatened to look deeper than her cool, disinterested cover and this unnerved her. Shutting herself in her room and putting her instrument safely away, she sat down on the bed, contemplating.
What had that evening been all about? And more, what the hell had possessed her to try and play mind games with Justin Pelligrini?
(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)