Jetta folded and unfolded the note in her hands, pursing her lips as she ran over the contents once more in her head. It had been brief and to the point - but more than that, it had been completely unexpected.
She frowned, glancing down at the crumpled piece of paper once more.
'Jetta' [it read]
It's probably safer if we keep our distance from each other for a few days, till you know who has cooled down. I don't want to get you into more trouble than I have to, and she's on a serious warpath - so don't worry if you don't hear from me for a day or two. I'll be in touch when the smoke's cleared, I promise!
"Dear John." She muttered under her breath, tearing the sheet in two and tossing it into the waste paper basket in the corner. "Or in this case, dear Jetta. What does he think 'e's doing, the wimp? Does 'e really think that, if 'e hides from Pizzazz and we don't see each other, she'll calm down and be cool with it? She'll just take it as a victory and make it twice as hard for us."
She sank down onto her bed, curling up against the pillow as she thought things over.
"Maybe it's more than that." She acknowledged slowly. "Maybe 'e's more of a wimp than I thought 'e was. Perhaps Pizzazz has scared 'im...or maybe 'e's got the message that I'm way too much for 'im to ever handle. Either way, 'e's got some nerve. If he thinks 'e can ditch me with a scrap of paper, 'e's got another thought coming to him. I'm a Misfit...noone ditches on me. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let Pizzazz stop me from hangin' with whoever I want to!"
"Are you coming out today, or are you spending all day in your room?"
A sharp voice from the doorway startled her and she turned, a scowl touching her lips as she registered her companion.
"I thought that there was a no-bitching rule before nine o' clock." She snapped back, climbing off her bed and reaching for her boots. "Or is this a new company policy, huh? Jaw out the chief exec before she even gets to work?"
"I'm not trying to jaw you out, Jetta." Pizzazz's tone was rich with impatience. "I expected you downstairs ten minutes ago. We're going and I'm driving - and we're playing music this morning. Tax forms and whatever are going to have to wait - you'll have to get to those later. We have an album to worry about, and I want it out."
"No more than I do, love." Jetta sighed, sliding her boots onto her feet and following her companion out into the hallway. "Whether you believe me or not. Though I wish you'd realise that I ain't got a time machine. I can't spend all day in studio playin' music with you an' then trot off to the office an' file reports or do whatever. There ain't enough hours in a day, an' I need to sleep an' eat at some intervals in-between. Don't you think it's time you thought about hirin' someone else? An assistant or something? Because if you ain't gettin' off your backside to do those files...they ain't gonna do themselves. An' God only knows I can't do the lot of them."
"I'm looking into it." Pizzazz said, in tones that made Jetta doubt her sincerity. "And you've managed for the last few months. What's wrong with doing it now? Why do you have to keep being difficult, Jetta? I'm trying to stop our group dissolving into a hole in the ground and all you want to do is whine!"
Jetta was silent for a moment, then she shook her head.
"I promised Stormer I wouldn't argue this with you again, and I ain't goin' to." She said flatly. "There's no point, anyhow. Bottom line is, I can't 'andle everythin' the way I was doing before if the Misfits are runnin' a full schedule. An' they would 'ave been doin' that since Christmas, if one of us 'adn't decided to take some time off to 'ave a baby."
"Shut up." Pizzazz snapped. "Someone will hear you."
"In this 'ouse? Who else is 'ere?" Jetta shrugged her shoulders. "Jus' you, me, Roxy an' Stormer. An' we all know. We all lived with the 'ormones. I want to get the Misfits runnin' as much as you do. I've been dyin' to get up on stage again for ages, an' you 'ave no idea how 'ard it is, workin' in that office without someone to go to for 'elp if things get manic. But it wasn't my fault the group was on hiatus. It was yours. An' if you know that - as Stormer says you do - then get to grips with it an' realise 'ow much we've all done to keep things goin' in your absence. You've been bloody useless for six months or more. You can't expect us not to 'ave worked out our own way of managin'."
Pizzazz reeled as if struck. Then she bit her lip, and for a long while the two girls continued down to the waiting car in silence.
As they reached the front door, however, Pizzazz shook her head.
"None of us asked for Eric to be an asshole and a jerk-off." She said quietly, in tones that suggested her emotions were only just being held in check. "Do you want me to say I'm sorry for the rest of eternity? Because I ain't gonna say it. That's not how I work. This is my company and my group and dammit, whatever's gone in between, I'm going to run both of them and run them well. Nobody is going to say that Misfits' Music is a failure and that the Misfits are a flop. Somehow we're going to make it work and if you ain't up to it then that's not my fault, either. You have a headstart on me, Jetta. You know how that damn company works. You know what to sign, who to speak to, and how to fill in a tax form properly. I never did it before. Eric always did, when he was here. So get over yourself, all right? I'll get there. We'll get there. But not if you don't keep whining at me. And definitely not if you keep talking about Emily. Get that into your head, will you? It's in the past and it's over with. Forget about it, because I have."
With that she flung open the door with some force, stalking out of the front door and over to the waiting Misfit van.
Jetta paused in the doorway for a moment, a strange look on her face. Then she shook her head slowly.
"Maybe you're right." She muttered. "But that doesn't mean I'm not allowed my own life as well as my life with the company. I wish you'd stop trying to control my social life - then Justin would stop sending me cryptic notes and I'd stop thinking about him when I should be focusing on the music we're going to play."
"Jetta! Are you coming?"
That was Roxy, and with a sigh, Jetta crossed the tarmac to the vehicle, clambering in the back and pulling the door shut with a clang.
"I'm coming." She agreed firmly. "Let's hit the road."
The studio technicians were already setting up by the time the band arrived and, with impatience in her tones Pizzazz gave them her instructions, pausing only briefly to look over what had been set up before demanding the sheet music from Stormer and that they all tune up to play.
"The less time we waste doing this crap the better." She said flatly. "There's too much to do to be coasting it, so I wanna hit it right the first time - you with me? Sooner we lay it down, sooner the Misfits are back in business. Everyone in the US is going to know we're here...else I'll wanna know the reason why."
Jetta settled herself in a corner, carefully assembling her saxophone as she glanced over the contents of the case for a fresh reed. Across the studio, Stormer was setting up her synth, playing various chords for Roxy to tune her strings into key. Noone voiced a word of argument to Pizzazz's statement and somehow the singer seemed mollified by this unquestioning obedience. Her demeanour relaxed a little, and she scooped up the microphone, running her gaze once more over the lyric sheet.
"We're ready when you are, Pizzazz." It was Stormer who first broke the silence, glancing up from her instrument and casting the singer a smile. "Are we going to start with the newest one - the one you wanted us to release? I know we ran through two or three over this last week - but I'm guessing we're going with that one?"
"It has bite." Pizzazz nodded her head approvingly. "So yeah. We'll knock it dead and then worry about the others."
She glanced across the room.
"Jetta? Are you with us? Your sax in tune? We're ready to rock?"
"Huh?" Jetta jerked to attention, then grimaced. "Oh. Yeah, I think so. Sounds okay to my ear, anyhow."
"Then wake up, space cadet." There was a hint of irritation in Pizzazz's voice, but also a teasing note and for a moment, the tension in the studio dissipated some. Jetta managed a return smile, her expression rueful.
"Sorry, love. Was thinkin' about them tax forms." She said dryly. Roxy raised an eyebrow, a slight smirk touching her lips as she interpreted the real reason behind Jetta's distraction.
"Justin's stupid letter." She mused, then out loud she said, "Well, I'm ready and I'm going to go from that to hungry if we don't do something else. It ain't far from hungry to angry and I don't want to be spending the whole day in here. So lets do it, huh? This song kicks ass, and the Misfits ain't done much ass-kicking for a while."
"Right then." Pizzazz raised an imperious hand to the technicians, who took her signal and scurried into position, soon giving her an answering 'OK' sign. A smile touched Pizzazz's lips at this.
"All right!" She exclaimed. "Hit it!"
* * * * * * * * * *
"So what exactly is going on between the two of you?"
Justin cast a rueful look at his companion, sitting down in the corner chair and indicating for her to do the same. His visitor did as she was bidden, tucking grey-wisped black hair behind her ear. Her expression managed to convey both concern and amusement at his predicament, and he knew that she had been in this position before.
"Not much." Was his frank answer now. "And with you turning up on my doorstep, Mom, probably even less. I didn't expect you for another fortnight - I know I told you you were welcome in Cali, but I expected to have time to make up the spare bedroom before you got here!"
"Well, my plans changed." Gianina made herself more comfortable, taking a sip of her coffee. "And if I can't come to my son, where am I to go? Besides, from your recent phone calls I knew something was up. I know you, my boy. And I know when it's girl trouble, too. I've seen far too much of it over the years. Why you can't just find a nice girl and settle down is beyond me. You keep playing with fire...and then I have to pick up the pieces when you get burned."
"I'm not burned." Justin's male pride rebelled against this. "Give me some credit for running my own life, will you? Jetta and I aren't the problem. The problem is tensions at her workplace. The girl who runs the show is not happy about all the time she's been spending with me. I don't want to lose my job over it, but more, Jetta could get herself thrown out and deported if she treads too hard on executive toes. I guess you could say we're both in a bind."
"I see." Gianina pursed her lips, pausing to regard her son with the soft brown eyes that had never yet needed glasses. "So what are you doing about it?"
"As I said. Not much." Justin said with a shrug. "I wrote her and told her that we should maybe take some space from each other for a little while. Without jumping in there and causing more tension, I didn't see how else to do it. It's partly my fault in a sense. I brought her a chain back from my trip to Reno and her boss happened to see it when I gave it her. I understand there was a doozie of a fight...and I don't want to break up the Misfits."
"Mm." Gianina took another sip of coffee, setting the mug down on the table beside her. "And what did Jetta think when she got that letter?"
"No idea. Haven't seen her." Justin admitted. "I bribed Roxy to give it to her and I know she's good for her word, so I know Jetta's had it. But otherwise...that's it. Nothing at all out of the Gabor place for two days. Why?"
"Nothing." Gianina shrugged her shoulders. "I just thought you liked this girl. That's all. It was the impression I got, anyhow. The way you talk about her."
"I do like her. You know that!"
"Well, I doubt she's liking you much at the moment." Gianina said bluntly, fixing her son with a meaningful look. "Am I losing my wits or is this the same girl as had issues with commitment and family and trusting in people? It was you that told me Jetta wasn't sure about the whole relationship deal, I think? Not a magazine or some fevered hallucination?"
"No, that's right." Justin looked confused. "What's your point?"
"Well, did you or did you not just write her a letter telling her to keep away from you?"
"Not exactly, but..."
"You're damn near thirty years old." Gianina continued relentlessly. "And you're sending a girl a note as if she's snuck out of gym class to meet you behind the bleachers and you're afraid the principal is on his way. And I thought I raised a son with sense and sensitivity!"
"Well, tell me that I'm wrong, then?" Gianina looked at him expectantly.
"I did it to protect her."
"Did she ask you to protect her?"
"I admit I only met her the once, but I was of the opinion that Jetta was well able to protect herself and her interests fine." Gianina pursed her lips. "She's an intelligent, savvy young lady. Sometimes you remind me too much of your father, you know. Always thinking that you have to step in and sugarcoat things for us - that you know what's 'best'. Well, that wasn't the impression I got of your latest belle."
"I'm not trying to live her life for her." Now Justin looked confused. "Mom, you don't get it. She's British. Her paperwork is all tied up with Misfits Music. If she annoys the boss too much, she might get deported. Back to what? A country and a city where her family don't give a damn and she has no job or prospects. I don't want that to happen!"
"And didn't you tell me that only in the last few months she'd had a significant promotion at that company she works for? Alongside her musical obligations?" Gianina asked innocently.
"Well, yes, but..."
"But that happened whilst you were going out." Gianina shrugged. "War cries, my boy. That's all it is. If there was any serious risk of Jetta losing her visa, then that would not have happened. She's needed and valued where she is. Whether or not she complies with the restrictions put upon her is up to her. If she wants to spend time with you then no doubt she will, regardless. Unless, of course, you do something hairbrained like..."
"Write her a letter." Justin finished sheepishly. "Okay. So you think I've misjudged the situation completely?"
"I think I'm seeing why you're almost thirty and still not married." Gianina teased him playfully. Justin grimaced at her.
"That's not helpful." He reproached. "I thought I was doing the right thing. I like the girl a lot. Hell, I'd go so far as to say I'm in love with her...though she doesn't like me using that word too much, especially in front of other people. I didn't want her to get hurt. That's all. And now you're saying that she's gonna read it in a completely different way from how I meant it?"
"Undoubtedly. She's a completely different person." Gianina said blithely.
"That doesn't help." Justin retorted.
"Well, you're old enough not to need your old Mom's advice on these things." Gianina said matter-of-factly. "If I had a letter like that, I'd be stinking mad at the guy right now. So, if I were you, I'd find a better way to explain yourself. If the girl has issues with trust, you're not helping them by messing her about. And if you're serious about her, you shouldn't be messing her about. That's simple common sense. I'm surprised you can't see it for yourself."
"Hrm." Justin eyed his mother thoughtfully for a moment, then took a sip of his drink. Gianina laughed.
"See, it's a good thing I came to town two weeks early." She added. "And you needn't worry about the spare room. My son might be nearing thirty, but I'm not old or helpless yet. I can make up a bed just fine, thank you - and I'm sure you have plenty of things to do in the meantime."
"Well, I can't go speak to Jetta, so I guess I'm going to be developing film." Justin said ruefully. "She and the others are working on their latest album and I know from Roxy it's been pretty intense. I'll just have to swallow it and hope she's cooled down by the time I see her next. Providing you're right...and providing she is mad."
"If she's mad, and she lets you see that she is, you probably stand a chance of fixing it." Gianina said wisely, getting to her feet and scooping up her empty coffee mug. "If she tells you everything is fine - you might as well step out of the arena."
"And I thought I was more than old enough to do without my Mom's advice on these things." Justin bantered. Gianina grinned.
"Nevertheless, there's wisdom in the old dog yet." She returned. "I think I'll go for a walk, and then I'll see about setting up that bedroom when I get back. I've never been to this city...I'd like to take a look around."
"You won't get lost?" Justin looked anxious. "It's a crazy city, you know."
"Yes, and the one I come from is just as crazy." Gianina said comfortably. "I'll be just fine, so don't worry about me. I've not got to this age by being a soft touch, you and I both know it. I'll take a street map and go for a wander. I have a good sense of direction, and I'll be back before you know it."
"Well, as ever, you know best." Justin smiled. "I guess I'll catch you later...I'll be in the darkroom, developing my last roll of film."
"Oh, I'll be just fine." Gianina's eyes twinkled. "Trust me."