Chapter Five: Sheila's Decision
"Well, someone's happy this evening."
Laura glanced up from her magazine, sending her friend an amused grin as Sheila entered the sitting room, whistling an upbeat tune as she did so, and sinking down into an empty seat. "What's got you so cheerful?"
It was four years on, and things had changed. Sheila was no longer nineteen, reliant on her parents to provide a roof over her head, and vulnerable to her brother's whims. She had become a young lady of twenty three years, independant and decisive, who had taken her future into her own hands and had moved out of her parental home to share a flat with Laura and another friend Stuart who she had known since she had been young. Still devoted to her saxophone, she had joined a local band, the Tinkerbillys with a view to furthering her musical aspirations, but she still worked long shifts at the cafe to make ends meet, and was often more tired and grumbly than upbeat and cheerful.
Laura too had noticed a change in her friend's character since that fateful night when Jeremy had shown his true colours. Though nothing had changed between them, and their friendship was still much as it ever had been, she had noticed Sheila draw herself back from other people, and though she was genial to them on the surface, she had not extended her trust to anyone in the whole of the four years. She had not forgotten the lesson Jeremy had so harshly taught her, and though she never spoke of her brother, Laura knew she had not forgotten him, either. It was not uncommon these days for a stranger to perceive her as cold and heartless, but Laura knew better, and sometimes worried that Sheila would isolate herself completely from the world in which she lived. She had always been prone to dreaming up her own fantasy world...Laura was very afraid that one day Sheila would lose sight of the line that divided the real from the dream.
This was not to say that her friend had lost any of her sharpness. On the contrary, she was as shrewd and cynical as ever, never taking things at face value and always exploiting her opportunities to her best ability. She had become quicker of temper, too, more willing to raise her fists than she ever had as a child, and many of the people she met these days found her somewhat intimidating.
Not Laura. She knew that Sheila had simply adopted a harder line when dealing with the world, afraid to be hurt again.
The dark haired girl returned the grin now, relaxing back in the chair.
"Wouldn't you like to know." she returned. Laura nodded.
"Yes, that's why I asked you, you twit." She said, laughing. "C'mon, spill. Did you get a pay rise or something?"
"Pay rise?" Sheila snorted. "Fat chance. Nah. In any case, I ain't stickin' that job much longer than I got to...and with a bit of luck that might be soon."
"Oh?" Now Laura was intrigued. "Meaning what?"
"Meaning that the Tinkerbillys have a tour date." Sheila paused for effect. "In Los Angeles."
"In America? Really?" Laura's eyes almost popped out of her head. "But when? How?"
"Jerry 'as a friend over there who works in the club scene." Sheila responded, naming the group's keyboardist. "He pulled some strings and so we're goin' out there for a few weeks to play. I 'ate to think what the club will make of the racket Allie makes when she tries singin', but still, too good a deal to turn down."
"Wow, neat." Laura looked impressed. "But hey, how are you going to afford the plane ticket out there? It's gonna be expensive to fly to the States, you know. And what about a passport?"
"I got me passport still from the last time I went to France." Sheila replied. "And it's going to cost, I know, but I think I can just about do it. In any case it..." she paused. "It'll only be one way."
"What?" Now Laura was alert. "One way? Sheila, you telling me you're not coming back?"
"I wasn't plannin' on it." Sheila agreed slowly. Laura's eyes widened again.
"But...but Sheila, you can't! What about everything here? What about...well, what about Stuart and me? And what are you going to do out there? To stay in the States you need a resident permit, a work permit, all kinds of paperwork...have you thought this through?"
"Yeah, I have,and I know all of that." Sheila nodded. "But sometimes you gotta take a gamble, Laura. If we're honest, there ain't much for me 'ere. I've barely spoken to me folks since I moved out, my job stinks, and even the Tinkerbillys ain't the best noise around. I...I will miss you, but that's the only thing. Everythin' else I can't wait to be rid of."
"You're never going to come back?" Laura demanded.
"Well, we'll see." Sheila frowned. "Depends on whether I can get somethin' goin' out there. Somehow I'll work things out."
"Have you told the Tinkerbillys that you're quitting?"
"Not yet, so you mustn't either. I ain't gonna tell them till we're out there and there's nothin' they can do about it." Sheila shook her head. "It's six weeks before we go, and in that six weeks I'm gonna sort through what I 'ave, decide what I need to take with me, and sell off anything else so I got some cash when I'm over there. See, I 'ave thought about it. You know this is what I wanted, Laura...you are happy for me, aren't you?"
"Of course I am. I want you to get your dream." Laura nodded her head. "It just won't be the same around here without you, that's all."
"It'll be okay." Sheila shrugged. "Can't get sentimental, Laura. Gotta move on. I...I want to leave everything behind, start over. The last four years I've 'ad nothing but 'assle for being the sister of a convicted jewel thief. I've 'ad to work night and day, not to mention practice with the world's worst musicians to get this opportunity...I gotta take it while it's there. I know it's takin' a chance - a big chance. But I don't see as I 'ave any choice. If I wanna get into the music business properly out there and start a whole new life for meself, then I have to leave this place behind." She gestured around her. "Not like there's much too leave."
"I can tell your mind's made up." Laura sighed. "Okay. Do you need my help at all, then? I might as well be a good friend for the time we have left...when you're rich and famous, you won't forget me, huh?"
"Like I could." Sheila snorted. "You know full well you're the only person I trust...why would I forget you?"
"Good. Keep it that way." Laura came to hug her friend. "You know I want what's best for you, and if this is it, then go for it. Just if things go pearshaped, you can always come back, you know that?"
"I know." Sheila nodded. "But I don't intend to let it. Something'll be out there, it's just a case of sticking it out and being patient a little while longer, that's all." She grimaced. "At least it'll give me the chance to get rid of bein' Sheila Burns. I'm sick to death of bein' Miss 'ooh are you the sister of that bloke who was banged up for theft a few years ago' Burns. Everyone round 'ere knows that name's associated with trouble - me parents' gamblin' debts, me brother's criminal record...I want rid of it. All of it."
"So who are you going to be, then?" Laura looked interested. "You don't have any other surname...or are you just going to adopt your middle name and be Rose Burns instead?"
"As if!" Sheila snorted. "Bad as Sheila, is Rose! Nah, I've 'ad enough of the whole real identity thing anyway. I'm jus' going to be Jetta from here on. It's me stage name anyway...I don't see why I shouldn't."
"No. Just Jetta." Sheila shook her head. "Nothin' else. Noone can trace me back to 'im, then. I can be whoever the 'eck I want to be."
Laura looked troubled.
"You can't just erase who you are." she said softly. Sheila looked stubborn.
"Why not?" she demanded. "It ain't as if there's anything worth rememberin'. I don't get on with me family, they're a bunch of crooks and cheats and liars and noone would ever give me a real chance if they knew about them. Why not be someone else, huh? Might be fun."
"Well, I guess you know best." Laura sighed. "Okay...but to me you'll always be Sheila. It's too much of an 'abit for me now to change it."
"I know." Sheila nodded her head. "But then you won't be out there in the US, so it won't matter." She got to her feet. "Want a cuppa? Pity we don't 'ave somethin' stronger, I'm in the mood to celebrate."
"Sure, tea would be good." Laura agreed. "And we'll see about givin' you a proper send off before you go, don't worry." She paused. "You got the determination to make it big, Sheila...just stop treatin' the world like they're your enemy, huh? You won't get nowhere unless you trust people."
"Hah." Sheila rolled her eyes. "I don't need to trust anyone to be a star, Laura...I just need to show 'em what I can do. And I will...don't you worry about that. America, 'ere I come!"
PART THREE: BACK IN THE CITY
Chapter Nine: The Misfits In London
Chapter Ten: On Every Screen...
Chapter Eleven: A Musical Reunion
Chapter Twelve: Jealousy
Chapter Thirteen: An Old Acquaintance
Chapter Fourteen: Doing London
Chapter Fifteen: Sabotage!
Chapter Sixteen: The Final Straw
Chapter Seventeen: Opening Night
Chapter Eighteen: Jetta
(The Misfits and Holograms and other animated Jem characters are copyrighted to Hasbro Inc. All characters who do not appear in Jem episodes are my own creation. This story is copyrighted to E.A Woolley (2001)