"She's still not back."
Aja replaced the curtain with a sigh, turning back towards the cluster of people in the mansion lounge. "Where do you suppose she got to? I don't like to think of her out there alone at night."
"Aja, she isn't a child now." Shana reminded her. "She's a grown woman and she's capable of finding herself somewhere to stay for a night whilst things calm down. Besides, if you ask me, she's probably gone to Stormer at the Gabor place. I heard that Pizzazz was out of town and you know Kimber and Stormer have been hanging out together a lot recently. I'm sure that's where she is."
"I suppose you're right." Aja dropped down into a chair. "Jerrica still at Starlight Music?"
"Yes." Raya nodded. "She said there were still forms to do and letters to proof and sign."
"I think it's a lot more likely that she's trying to avoid a head to head too." Shana said wisely.
"This is crazy." Aja sighed. "We're Holograms, we're like sisters! We don't fight! At least, not like this we don't! Usually it's all about whether Kimber's shoes are worth the fifty bucks she paid for them or what style of song we should be laying down next. I don't like this at all."
"It'll blow over." Shana decided. "Jerrica and Kimber are blood sisters and you know as well as I do how important that bond is. It will work out as soon as both of them cool off."
"Maybe it will, but what about next time?" Aja demanded. "And the next? To be honest, it's been this way a lot in recent weeks. None of us know if we're treading on eggshells or not and Jerrica...she has such a bee in her bonnet about the Misfits and our truce. I know we settled it behind her back, kinda, and I know that she's always liked to be in on things and somewhat at the helm, but it's getting ridiculous. Not to mention old."
"I've felt that side of it too." Raya admitted. "It is a pity."
"Yeah." Shana looked pensive. "Finally they're no longer our bitter foes and now this. It is kinda strange. I find myself spending more and more time with Regine just to avoid the stress."
"I think maybe we all just need a vacation." Raya suggested. "We work too hard and too much and this is what comes of it. We are all just human beings, after all."
"Perhaps Synergy could give us some advice. Jerrica confides in her." Shana suggested.
"Synergy wouldn't break a confidence, no matter what." Aja shook her head. "Besides, this is our problem, not Synergy's. If we can't solve it on our own then we're not very good friends, are we? Something's definitely up with Jerrica and we just need to make her talk to us and get it out of her system, instead of snapping. Maybe Raya has it right. Maybe a vacation is what we all need."
"What do you suppose will come of the song?" Raya wondered. Aja shrugged.
"I dunno. It's such a dumb thing to fight about." she replied. She stood.
"I'm going to call the Gabor place, make sure Kimber's there. It's close on eleven o' clock."
"Okay." Shana nodded. "But I'll bet you anything that's where she is, Aja."
"Probably, but I just want to be sure." Aja looked rueful. "Call me an overprotective big sister, if you like, but I want to make sure she isn't in any trouble."
"Sometimes, you know, I'd easier believe the kid was your sister rather than Jerrica's." Shana remarked. Aja pursed her lips, nodding.
"Sometimes it feels that way to me too." She admitted. "I think it's because Jerrica has so much on her shoulders. Not just the music company, I don't mean in that way. But Jerrica still feels guilty over the way she and Jacqui parted, and now Emmet's gone too she feels like she owes it to both her parents to keep an eye out for Kimber. What she doesn't realise is that Kimber isn't the high school kid she was. She's twenty two soon...and that's plenty old enough to resent big sister playing Mom all the time."
"I think you just summed it up." Raya looked grave. "Jerrica loves Kimber dearly and Kimber also loves Jerrica, but I do not know that they always understand each other as well as they could."
"Right." Aja nodded her head. She scooped up the phone receiver. "She's always been the eldest sister - even when Shana and I came into the picture, Jerrica was the "big" sister. She likes to be in control - I don't think she always realises that she can't control Kimber forever."
"If you ask me, everything's blown up at once." Shana observed. "Jerrica's lost control over the Misfit/Hologram feud, because we cancelled it out whilst she was away. Perhaps we shouldn't have, but it's done now and I believe for the best. She's also losing control over Kimber - which is why I think she lashed out so badly about the kid's shopping trip with Stormer earlier. The two things are colliding head to head."
"The whole problem is that Kimber isn't a kid." Aja looked pensive. "Oh well. No doubt it will blow over."
She dialled in the number of the Gabor mansion, putting the receiver to her ear as she waited for the receiver to be picked up. It was on three rings, and Roxy's brusque tones came down the phone.
"Yeah, whaddya want?"
"Hi, Roxy." Despite herself, Aja hid a smile at the Misfit's phone etiquette. "It's Aja. I just wondered if you'd seen Kimber?"
There was the sound of a chuckle, and then,
"Well, I think she's hidin' behind the sofa right at the minute, under a blanket." Clearly Roxy was highly amused. "She and Stormer weren't quite up to my horror marathon. Why?"
"She didn't come home, I just wanted to be sure she was safe." Aja's tones were laced with relief. "Hey, can I speak to her a moment?"
"Gladly. You're payin' for the call." There was the sound of the receiver being dumped down on the unit with a resounding thud and a yell of "Kimber! Get your wimpy butt out from under that blanket, Aja's on the phone!"
There was a responding call, too muffled for Aja to make out, and then the sound of footsteps. The receiver was scooped up, and a second voice came down the line.
"Kimber, you had us worried." Aja's tone was reproachful, despite how much she was longing to laugh at Roxy's summons. "You should've called to tell us where you were."
"Oh, gee, Aja, I'm sorry." Kimber sounded contrite. "I was gonna, then we had pizza, cos Stormer wanted to eat early, then Roxy dragged us into the lounge to watch horror movies and I've spent most of the last hour hiding behind the couch...she has scary taste in movies! I clean forgot about calling you - are you very mad?" "No, we're not." Aja relented. "I'm glad you're safe and sound over there."
"Well, I won't be sleeping much tonight." Kimber assured her. "I'm gonna be checking all round my bed for huge great hairy spiders too. Eww..."
"So we'll see you in the morning then, if you survive the rest of Roxy's horror flicks?" She asked.
"Yeah, I guess." Kimber paused, then, "Jerrica home?"
"No. She's working late."
"Oh, I see."
"Did you want to talk to her?"
"No...probably best I do that tomorrow, when we've had a night's sleep between us and we're both fresher and clearer." Kimber sighed. "I don't want to row with her, Aja, I just think she was being unreasonable."
"Between you and me, I think so too." Aja sighed. "But listen, Kim...I think Jerrica has a lot on her plate at the moment too. Raya, Shana and I were just talking about it. Talk it out with her tomorrow, and then for heaven's sake don't be late to any more runthroughs for a bit, huh?"
"Don't worry. Stormer's lending me her spare alarm clock." Kimber laughed. "So I should be nice and prompt from now on."
"Good." Aja responded. "Well, I'll let you get back to your movie...see you tomorrow!"
"Like I want to go back." Kimber said darkly. "It's gory and creepy. Okay, Aja. Tomorrow."
"Night, Kimber. Sweet dreams."
"I hope so. You too, and say hi to everyone for me." Kimber responded.
"Will do." Aja agreed. Gently she set down the receiver, passing on the message to her companions, and re-taking her seat.
"She's calmed down." She concluded. "She sounded like she wanted to sort things out with Jerrica properly, too. I think that everything will be worked out in the morning."
"That's good to know." Shana observed. She yawned, stretching. "If noone minds, I'm gonna head to bed. It's been a long day and I don't fancy making small talk with Jerrica when she gets in. She must be shattered."
"Okay. I think I might take a shower then come up myself." Aja nodded. "The girls are all in bed anyway. Raya, you stopping up or you gonna hit the sack too?"
"I think I'll follow Kimber's example and settle with a movie for a while." Raya dimpled. "I'm too wound up with everything to sleep and there's nothing a good romance movie can't put right."
"G'night then." Shana grinned. "Happy watching."
"Gracias." Raya returned the grin. "Buenas noches!"
An hour into her film, Raya was aware of the sound of a key in the
lock and then, not long afterwards the click of the living room door.
She turned, seeing Jerrica in the doorway and casting her a smile,
stopping her tape.
"Hola." She greeted her friend. "You're late back tonight."
"Don't you start on me too." Jerrica groaned, dropping down into an empty armchair and burying her head in her hands. "I don't need another row."
"Believe me, I don't want to fight." Raya assured her. "You and Kimber, well, you will work it out. Siblings do fight, after all."
"I tried to find her after she stormed out, but I couldn't." Jerrica admitted. "I have no idea where she went, it was like she vanished into thin air. What time did she come in?"
"She...didn't." Raya bit her lip. "She said it was for the best - I think she wanted to give you a chance to calm down too. She said to Aja that she wanted both of you to get some headspace before you talked it over."
"Maybe she's right." Jerrica admitted. "We both kinda lost it earlier, didn't we?"
"You have much work." Raya said diplomatically. "And Kimber is impetuous, especially where her music is concerned. Perhaps we all just need a vacation? We've been so busy lately, I think we all feel it."
"No time to take one." Jerrica rubbed her temples. "Much as I'd like to agree, Raya. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what happened earlier. I guess we will just have to talk it out tomorrow. I'm too wiped now, even if Kimber was home I wouldn't be able to mount a coherent conversation." She paused, as if just registering fully Raya's words about her younger sister. "Out of interest, where is she staying tonight? A hotel or something? She must've told you."
"Not exactly a hotel." Raya faltered. "She is spending the night at...at a friend's house."
A spark of anger flashed into Jerrica's tired blue eyes as she interpreted Raya's reticence.
"The Misfits." She muttered. "I bet..." She glared at Raya. "I'm right, aren't I? That's where she's gone?"
Raya looked all the more uncomfortable at the directness of her companion's question, and she flushed red under Jerrica's quizzical gaze.
"I knew it!" Jerrica clenched her fists. "Oh, I should have seen this from the start! I should have stuck to my first instincts about Stormer! This is all just another big Misfit scheme, I just know it! They're pretending to be on a truce with us, so they can sweet talk Kimber through Stormer and make us fight! In fact, I bet it was Stormer who put Kimber onto the whole saxophone idea and suggested Jetta! Ooh, why didn't I see this coming! I should never have let those girls be friends! Stormer's just using Kimber for one of Pizzazz's schemes! And did you see how she has the girl dressing? Kimber's gonna wind up in a whole lot of trouble if this isn't stopped soon!"
"Jerrica, please, calmate!" Raya exclaimed. "The Misfits and us, we have a genuine ceasefire, I swear! We worked with them to rescue you and Pizzazz and we learnt so much about each other...none of us wanted to keep up the fight. And Kimber and Stormer are of similar age - they want to be friends and I think it is muy buena for Kimber to have a friend her own age as well as us! She's always complaining about being the baby of the group."
"So, you're in on this whole scheme as well?" Jerrica put her hands on her hips, but Raya was wise enough to realise that her friend's irrational accusation came from her fatigue, and she shook her head.
"No, Jerrica, there is no scheme." She said gently. "You, Aja, Kimber and Shana are my best friends and I would betray none of you. I know you know that. You are just very tired and it's making you confused. In the morning..."
"I might have known you'd take their side." Jerrica interrupted. "You've always been soft in the head about things like this, always wanting to think the best of people." "Si, that is true, but Jerrica, I would not jeopardise the group for it!"
"No?" Now Jerrica was building momentum, and was barely aware of what she was saying. "Remember when Clash was masquerading among us as some film student? Whose idea was it to let her come along, huh? Yours, unless I miss my guess! And look what almost happened! Hah! I should know better than to listen to anything you have to say."
Raya's eyes opened wide with hurt and shock at this, filling with tears as they did so.
"I am sorry." She murmured. "I did not mean..."
Jerrica bit her lip, registering that her friend was on the brink of crying, but she could not take the words back. She shook her head.
"Forget it." She said abruptly. "It doesn't matter."
"I was only trying to help." Raya swallowed hard.
"I know." She admitted. "I just..." She trailed off, shaking her head again, and leaving the room before the drummer could say anything else. Raya watched her go, then she buried her head in her hands.
"I would never hurt the Holograms." She whispered. "Jerrica...she didn't mean it.