Chapter Nine: The Ultimatum
"Roxy, what's wrong?"
Stormer glanced across the studio at her friend, a look of concern on her face. Roxy, who had spent the previous half an hour staring off into space, jerked to attention.
"Is something up? Your mind doesn't seem to be on music today." Stormer replied. "Are you sure you want to work now?"
"God, I dunno." Roxy frowned.
"Is it Justin that's bothering you?"
"Yeah. Stupid fool." Roxy glowered. "He's so dense and Jetta is such a witch. I know last night was just to get at me, but he won't listen!" She played a sequence of chords idly across the strings of her guitar, then paused, her expression dark. "Men suck."
"Perhaps Justin's in love." Stormer suggested. Roxy snorted.
"He's a Pelligrini." She replied. "Not some dumb romantic. And they've only known each other a week. No, Jetta's got to him somehow and made him think that he likes her. Ooh I hate this!"
Stormer paused for a second, then,
"What can you do?"
"Does Justin know your views?"
"Know? I've told him twice what a witch Jetta is!"
"Then you've done all you can and have to let it go." Stormer said sensibly. In any case, I don't think Jetta's a witch. Don't you think it's romantic that Justin came all this way and wound up meeting someone?"
"Quit being a sissy, Stormer." Roxy snapped. "Romance ain't nothin' to do with it! My brother's being a dope and Jetta's manipulating him to get on my nerves. That's the truth of it."
She played a violent and confrontational sequence on her bass. "And that's what I think of it! If she doesn't leave him alone I'm gonna have to sort her out good and proper!"
Despite herself, Stormer laughed.
"C'mon, Roxy. Justin can fight his own battles."
"I don't care." Roxy said obstinately. "This is one fight I'm gonna make sure I win."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"So, what happened last night?"
Pizzazz perched on the windowsill of Jetta's room, her expression curious. "Roxy never trailed ya...what did you guys do?"
"Nothin' much." Jetta shrugged carelessly. "'E bought me a drink, we jus' chatted a bit...that's all."
"What a drag." Pizzazz snorted.
"It weren't that bad." Jetta shrugged again. "'E 'as some nerve, mind you. Thinks 'e can get the better of me."
"Hah. Noone gets the better of a Misfit." She said confidently. "Except another Misfit. Roxy was raging when you guys left last night."
"Cool." Jetta smirked. "I'll teach her to make comments about me family."
"Speaking of family, who was your letter from this morning?" Pizzazz looked curious. "It was postmarked England...don't tell me you've gone all sweet on that family of yours now!"
"Hell no!" Jetta exclaimed. "No, it were from Laura."
"Oh." Pizzazz pulled a face. Laura Cunningham was Jetta's childhood best friend from the London council estates she had grown up on, and the two girls still kept in touch despite the distance and the differences in their lifestyles these days. "What in hell does she want?"
"She invited me out to England for a weekend." Jetta replied simply. "It's short notice, but I know we ain't got nothin' on the cards for the weekend she 'as in mind."
"You ain't going?" Pizzazz demanded. "Why does she want you so bad all of a sudden?"
"She's gettin' married." Jetta shrugged. Pizzazz grimaced again.
"Okay, lemme get this straight." She said slowly. "You are going to go all the way to England...for a damn wedding?"
"Yes." Jetta nodded.
"Why? You gone soft on me?"
"God, no." Jetta shook her head. "No, but I did promise Laura I'd go when she an' 'er bloke, whatever 'is name is 'ad a date settled."
"Why don't you jus' blow her off and say you had a recording session or something?" Pizzazz demanded.
"Because it's Laura." Jetta shrugged. "An' that's that, Pizzazz. I'm goin'. I phoned up an' booked my flight out already, so there's nothing you can do to change it." She pulled a face. "It'll probably bore me to tears, but I gave me word an' I'll go. Might be nice to 'ave a bit of an 'oliday."
"Bah." Pizzazz rolled her eyes. She had never understood Jetta's loyalty to Laura, and in truth felt somewhat threatened by it.
"I'll be back in time for studio recordin'." She promised. "I got the dates in indellible ink in me diary."
"The Misfits always do stuff together though." Pizzazz pouted. Jetta shrugged.
"Can't always." She remarked flippantly. "It's just a damn weddin', Pizzazz, an' it ain't even mine. I'm goin' and that's that. Okay?"
"Oh, whatever." Pizzazz rolled her eyes. "Like I care two hoots about your stupid friend's wedding."
There was emphasis on the word friend,and Jetta grinned.
"Trust me, love, if it weren't Laura's an' I 'adn't given me word I wouldn't bother with it. I don't want to go, but I said I would. At least it ain't no church do, nothin' fancy. I think I can 'andle that without barfin', and there's bound to be a good reception party after, if I know Laura."
"Hah, you just want to go because of the party after, don't you?" Pizzazz smirked. Jetta shrugged.
"Seems a shame to go all that way an' not." She said, grinning. "'Ere, I'll bring you back some weddin' cake, okay?"
"Gee, thanks!" Pizzazz retorted. "Hey, you gonna take loverboy along with you?"
"Loverboy?" Jetta looked blank.
"Oh, 'im." Jetta frowned. "Don't be daft. Trust me, I am way out of his league. I only messed with 'im last night to bug Roxy an' you know it."
"Well, he might be a loser and a wimp, but he takes good photos." Pizzazz acknowledged. "Eric sent me a few proofs to choose the ones for the new album posters, and they came out damn good. But then, he had damn good subjects, didn't he?"
"Can I see?" Jetta sounded curious. Pizzazz nodded.
"Sure, I'll go get them." She agreed, disappearing and reappearing a few moments later with a long A4 brown envelope, the Gabor address scrawled lazily on the front in Eric's looping hand.
"How come 'e mailed 'em?" Jetta wondered as she took the envelope, reaching in to pull the photos out."
"He said in the covering note that he didn't want to, and I quote, 'let me near the negatives." Pizzazz growled. "Cheek of it!"
"Oh, I see." Jetta looked amused, remembering the last lot of negatives her bandmate had unwittingly wrecked in a fit of temper. "Hey, these ain't 'alf bad, are they?"
"Told you." Pizzazz responded offhandedly. "I hate to give Eric credit for anything, but this was one good freebie."
"You're telling me." Jetta flicked through the pictures, pausing at a couple to look at them more closely. "I s'pose this means Eric will 'ire 'im again."
"Guess so." Pizzazz nodded. "But hey, who cares? He's just the photographer. So long as the pictures come out good, what's the problem?" She smirked. "Don't you like posing for your secret admirer?"
"Not so blinkin' secret." Jetta laughed. "An' it's 'is problem, not mine." She handed the photos back. "I'm glad to see 'e does 'ave a use, though."
"Yep." Pizzazz agreed. She stood. "Well, I'm going out to the pool. You coming?"
"In a minute. Lemme change." Jetta nodded. "I'll see you down there."
"Suit yourself." Pizzazz shrugged. "Later, Jetta."
Once the singer had gone, Jetta sprawled on her bed, resting her chin in her hands. The photographs had indeed been good. She had no expertise in photography, but still, looking at them with her untrained eyes had made her acknowledge that much.
"'E's good at 'is job an' 'e'll work with the Misfits again." She murmured. Then she frowned. "Well, so what?"
No answer came to her immediately and she sighed, rolling onto her back and putting her hands behind her head as she contemplated. Laura's wedding had come at a perfect time, she mused. It would give her a chance to get away from California and from Justin and the whole Roxy problem. The manipulative web she had begun to weave so skillfully had become tangled in her mind and she was no longer sure who was pulling which strings. Justin, she admitted reluctantly to herself, was not the fool she had initially taken him for, and she wasn't sure she could keep the upper hand. It was rare that she either liked or respected a guy who came on to her, but, albeit grudgingly, she found that she both liked and respected Justin. And yet, she was infuriated by his cheek as well.
"He had to be Roxy's stupid brother." She muttered with a frown, glaring at the hapless ceiling as if it were personally responsible. "If 'e weren't, I'd never 'ave met 'im and this wouldn't even be on my mind. 'E's as blinkin' stubborn as she is, an' all" But 'e ain't gonna be played with, or not for long. The way 'e talks back to me, 'e must know what I'm doing! Maybe I should give it up as a bad job before I lose track of things completely."
She frowned, rolling onto her front and resting her chin in her hands as she recalled the dispute of the previous night.
"Why in hell did he defend me?" She wondered. "An' what did 'e mean when 'e said I don't say what I really think about things? What does he know about it, anyhow? I'm a Misfit! I don't care what people think of me and I say what I damn well want!" She cursed. "Damn 'im, why am I even thinking about this, anyway? Last night was nothing, and he's less than nothing. Drop it, Jetta, before you drive yourself mental."
She reached for the phone receiver, asking the operator for the code to England, and dialing Laura's number. She needed a distraction, and fortunately her friend was home. After assuring the other Londoner that she had every intention of flying out for the wedding and had already booked her flight, she found herself broaching a quite different subject.
"There's something else I want to talk to you about." She began hesitantly.
"Oh?" Laura sounded interested. "What kind of thing?"
"I..." Jetta paused, hearing Pizzazz impatiently calling her name. "I can't talk now, Laura, Pizzazz wants me. But I...I'll talk to you about it when I see you, okay?"
"Sure." Laura agreed. "If you like. Till then, Sheila. Take care an' 'ave a safe flight, won't you?"
"I'll do me best." Jetta responded. "Bye, Laura."
She set down the phone receiver, sighing and burying her head in the duvet cover. What was going on? Why had she even thought of mentioning things to Laura?
"For somethin' that's nothin', it's takin' up a hell of a lot of my thinkin' time." She muttered, grabbing her bathing suit, then hesitating. "This is stupid! It was one irrelevant night out and that's it. Get a grip, girl! Justin Pelligrini ain't nothing in your life and that's the way you want it to stay."
She dropped the swimsuit back down onto her bed, grabbing her jacket instead and slipping on her boots. She needed some time alone to sort this out, and some fresh air to clear her head. Hurrying down the back stairs, she yelled to Pizzazz that she was going for a quick walk, then slipped out of the front door before her bandmate could protest. Somehow she knew there was no peace and quiet to be had at the Gabor Mansion.
Having lived in Los Angeles for a couple of years, she was well acquainted with the area and she headed along the pavement towards a popular local hangout. As she put her hand on the door, she heard someone call her name, and, a frown on her face she turned to face Roxy's brother.
"Hi." Justin offered her a smile. "I didn't expect to see you here. Roxy said something about songwriting this morning and I assumed that meant full band participation."
"Whatever Roxy was talkin' about, providin' she knew herself, it don't involve me." Jetta responded curtly. "I came out to get some air and to clear me 'ead...alone."
"I can take a hint." Justin winked at her. "I'll see you when you're feeling more sociable, then. I've got to call by Misfit Music to talk to your Mr Raymond this afternoon anyway, I think he liked the photographs, so it's likely we'll work again in the future."
"It's possible." Jetta nodded slowly.
"But you don't relish the idea?" Justin raised an eyebrow.
"I don't care either way." Jetta shrugged. "Get the picture?"
"Yeah, I do." He agreed, amused. "Later, Jetta. I'll let you have your little walk."
He turned to go, but she grabbed his arm, riled.
"What did you mean by that?" She demanded.
"By what? I just said goodbye." Justin eyed her innocently. Jetta scowled.
"Don't even try to mess with me." She warned. "Noone has ever done that and come up on top."
"Really?" Justin sounded interested. "That's quite a record, you know."
Jetta rolled her eyes, letting out a frustrated groan.
"Oh, shut your face." She ordered. "I ain't botherin' with you, now or ever. You got that? Leave me alone."
She turned, very much on her dignity, and stepped into the road, determined not to turn around. So focused was she on her cool, disinterested demeanour that she failed to pay attention to the busy road, or the cry of look out. Before she knew what was happening, someone had pushed her out of the way of the car, sending them both toppling to the ground and missing the vehicle's wheels by inches. The driver yelled some obscenity out of the window, then put his foot down on the accelerator pedal, screeching away into the distance.
Jetta turned to face her rescuer, speechless with shock and confusion. Without a word Justin helped her to her feet, leading her across the remainder of the concrete road to the other side, and sitting down on the wall, pulling her down beside him.
For a moment there was just silence, but finally the Misfit regained use of her vocal chords.
"I'm gonna be bruised all over tomorrow." she remarked absently.
"Did I hurt you?" Justin seemed anxious. Jetta laughed hollowly.
"That's a joke." She said wryly. "You saved me life, Justin, an' you know it. I never even saw 'im coming."
She dusted herself down. "Guess I owe you one."
"Nah. Forget it." Justin shrugged. "I was just closest at the time, that's all, and to be honest I didn't have to think about it, I just did it." He looked sheepish. "People do tend to call me kinda impulsive, you know."
"Well, this time it paid off." Jetta observed. She paused, looking thoughtful.
"You could've been 'it too." She realised. "Why put yourself at risk like that?"
"I don't know." Justin admitted. "Perhaps because I didn't want anything to happen to you?"
"Don't be mushy." She instructed. "I'm shook up enough without you turnin' me stomach too!"
"You're something else, Jetta, you know that?" he said. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine." Jetta nodded. "Don't look at me like that! I ain't no wimp, I'm not gonna faint or nothin'!"
"That's good to know." Justin grinned. "I'm not sure I'd know what to do with a fainting damsel in distress."
"Good thing I ain't never been one, then." Jetta remarked bluntly, getting to her feet and examining her laddered tights. "Bah. Third pair gone this week, an' all!"
Justin shook his head in amusement.
"So I owe you a pair of tights too, do I?" he teased. Jetta hit him playfully.
"Daft git! Of course not. Me own damn fault for gettin' in the way. There's a reason I don't like wearin' skirts an' tights and this is it!"
Justin eyed her keenly.
"Maybe I better escort you home." He offered. "Just to be sure you're really all right."
"I'm fine." Jetta said dismissively. "I told you. Jus' bruised an a bit scraped 'ere an' there. Nothin' major." She grimaced. "I guess I better 'ad go 'ome, an' all. Can't go out in public with tights lookin' like this, can I? Not when the press could be anywhere with their snoopy cameras."
"Hey, speaking as a photographer I resent that!" Justin protested, laughing.
"Yeah, but we pay you to snap us...an' we don't generally throw things at you till you go away." She paused, eying him. "Yet."
"Charming." He teased. "Well, come on. I'll come back with you anyway, if you've no objection, and see if I can hunt up my sister at all. Mind an escort?"
"Guess not." Jetta was flippant. "Jus' walk that side of me, an' then noone will see me legs."
Justin rolled his eyes, amused.
"Whatever you say." He agreed. "After you!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"What the hell is this about?"
Roxy tossed the newspaper down in front of her brother, anger clear on her face. "What did I tell you about that creep? And here you are, all over her in public! What are you trying to do to me?"
"Nothing!" Justin protested, scooping up the paper and glancing at the story which had so incensed the Misfit's temper. Roxy's lack of literate ability had meant she'd judged the situation by the picture alone, but, it soon transpired, the scandal-hunting journalist who had penned the story had jumped to a similar conclusion. He groaned, pushing the paper aside.
"Look, Roxy, it isn't what you think happened." He said slowly. "She almost got hit by a car and I pushed her out of the way. That's all."
"Hah." Roxy snorted, clearly not convinced. "You shouldn't have bothered yourself. She's so damn thick skinned the car woulda bounced off her."
"Roxy, stop this. You're not being fair."
"What's fair, then?" Roxy shot back. "You come into my life and you think you can mess about in it as you like but you can't, okay? The Misfits are my business, my turf. You don't mess with it. And you don't mess about with Britain's queen of trash!"
"I like Jetta!"
"Yeah, well you can rest assured that she don't like you." Roxy curled her lip in disdain. "You're just a means for her to upset me, that's all, whether you like it or not. That girl has no ethics or code of honour or anything in her. She lies and manipulates and cheats and I'm not having one of my family screwed over by her!"
Justin paused, knowing enough of his sister's eventful life to know that she lived by her own rigid, if unusual concept of honour and was generally bluntly honest to the point of impudence when she spoke. He knew that his interest in Jetta pained her, and a small part of him felt bad for it, but all the time his Pelligrini obstinacy refused to be told what to do by anyone, least of all his own kid sister. Justin had always lived his life on his terms, resolving to make his own mistakes along the way. Had Roxy realised it, she would have seen the great similarities that lay deep in their characters, and that these were the root cause of their dispute now.
"Listen, Roxy." Justin said now. "I'm twenty eight years old, don't you think I can make judgements for myself about people? I appreciate your warnings, but I have to find these things out for myself."
"You listen, Justin." Roxy's eyes narrowed and she snatched up the newspaper, ripping it in two. "You have a choice. Leave Jetta alone, or get out of my life. I don't need a brother and I don't want one who's gonna be dumb enough to be sucked into Jetta's games!"
"That's not fair!"
"Life ain't fair." Roxy replied inexorably. "Your call, Justin. Me or her."
"Roxy..." Anger sparked into Justin's dark eyes. "Fine, if that's how you want it. If you girls are so immature that you can't settle up a pointless spat then that's your problem. I'm going back to New York and I'm gonna wait till one of you gets a sense of maturity...if you ever do!"
With that he stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him. Soon afterwards, Roxy heard the bang of the Gabor Mansion's front door and despite herself she flinched at her brother's anger. She had had no idea that Justin possessed such a hot temper.
"What was that about?" Pizzazz appeared in the doorway of the lounge, a look of curious interest on her face. Roxy scowled, tossing the scraps of the newspaper at the singer.
"None of your business, butt out." She growled, pushing past the elder girl and paying no attention to the singer's angry exclamations. She stomped up the stairs to her bedroom, slamming the door hard behind her and picking up her bass guitar, strumming angry, forceful chords till her own rage began to cool. As she calmed down, the music became more cohesive and eventually she set the instrument aside with a sigh. Even the triumph of having composed the start of a new song did not replace her unrest at the row with Justin. Independant as she was, Roxy had begun to like having him around. Placing the blame for it safely on Jetta's shoulders, she flopped back against her pillows closing her eyes.
"Damn men." she muttered. "Why do they have to make life so complicated!"
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)