Jetta glanced at the woman behind the counter in surprise, then, realising that she was expected to speak, she frowned, shaking her head.
"No. No...just the capuccino." She said slowly. "I'm not really hungry, an' I ain't got long to drink it anyway."
"That'll be two eighty then please." The girl offered a smile, and Jetta dropped the change into her outstretched hand, scooping up her drink and moving over to an empty table by the window, taking a seat and resting her chin in her hands.
They had been working on the song for several hours before Pizzazz had finally relented to Roxy's demands for food and given the group a lunch break. Though it was barely forty five minutes, it was better than nothing and Jetta had taken the chance to get some space and peace and quiet away from the other Misfits. The music had gone well and she had pulled off a difficult sax solo perfectly the first time, but she still felt hollow and displeased inside. Justin's letter still echoed through her thoughts, and try as she might she could not push it aside.
She took a sip of her drink, gazing absently out across the street at the busy passers by. It had all been so much easier, she reflected, before Justin had come to Los Angeles hunting for his sister. For a moment she allowed herself to blame Roxy wholeheartedly for her predicament. Then, with a sigh, she shook her head.
"Me own dumb fault for even speaking to the guy." She muttered. "Let alone everythin' else. I should've never let 'im talk me into bed. Nothin' but trouble, men. And why should I care if he's puttin' distance between us? Isn't it what I keep tryin' to do every time 'e trots out that bleedin' L word? Lord knows I don't understand - but whatever it is, I don't like it any. I wish things could just go back a year. Pizzazz wouldn't 'ave messed up with Eric. We'd catch him embezzlin' before he 'ad a chance to drag us through the mire an' I woulda 'ad the sense to toss Justin when other things came into my life. It just sucks."
She took another sip of the cappucino, setting the mug down on the table before her. So lost in her thoughts was she that she did not notice that she had company at her table until the newcomer spoke her name. She started, staring up at the speaker with a mixture of surprise and annoyance that quickly became confusion as she recognised her visitor.
"Gianina?" She ventured. "What in Christ's name are you doin' 'ere?"
"Hoping I might run into a familiar face." Gianina said blithely, dropping down into the empty seat opposite before Jetta could mention her preference for solitude. "I'm visiting Los Angeles for the first time, you know...it's easy to get lost and I'm not sure I've been reading the map right."
Jetta's eyes narrowed.
"An' why are you really here?" She asked warily. "Did Justin send you out after me with another cryptic message? Because if 'e 'as something to say to me, he'd better find the balls to do it 'imself."
"Justin didn't send me anywhere." Gianina's expression became one of amusement. "Though I can see why you'd think that. We've only met on one brief occasion, and you have no reason to think that I might seek you out just to chat. In truth, my son didn't know I was arriving until I did...I wasn't due to visit for another week or two, but I thought I'd come now. Loose ends, you see. And I've been dying to see this place. I've heard so many things about LA that I had to come and see for myself."
"I see." Jetta pursed her lips. "You do know that I don't believe a word you're sayin'?"
"Oh, it's like that, huh?" She remarked. "Jetta, I promise you...I think Justin would be rather mortified if he'd thought I'd come chasing his girlfriend down in order to pass on a message for him. He's a bit big now for that kind of thing."
"But you didn't run into me here accidentally." Jetta folded her arms, meeting Gianina's gaze with a quizzical one of her own. "I've not long before I need to get back to work, you know...so if you've somethin' to say, you probably should say it."
"My thoughts exactly." Gianina agreed. "In truth, I did come looking for you. And no, Justin doesn't know that I did, but once I realised what a moron my son was making of himself, I thought I should at least try and limit the damage."
"Well, at least we agree on that point." Despite herself, a smile touched Jetta's lips. "He sent me a letter, you know."
"So I understand." Gianina nodded. "I've already told him what I thought of that, too."
She met Jetta's gaze and her tone changed, dropping it's teasing note as she became more serious.
"He didn't send me to say this, but I'm his Mom and I've a bad habit of being an interfering old woman sometimes." She said quietly. "Your life is none of my business, so you're quite free to tell me to mind my own and get lost. I would understand if you did. It's just, well, sometimes men are stupid. It's part of who they are, bless them, and they can't help it. I don't think he meant to upset you...but I could tell by the way you were sitting when I came in here that he had. It was all over your body language."
"It was?" Jetta's retort died on her tongue at this, and she stared at the older woman in surprise and dismay. Gianina nodded.
"Blatantly." She agreed. "Look, I don't know what your side of things is, regarding my son. But I do know that he talks about you with more affection and fervour than he's ever talked about any girl before. His interests are mine, and I want to see him happy. I came here looking for you today in order to tell you that...but I think, having spoken to you, that him being happy would also help you be happy, too."
"I don't need him, you know." Jetta said frankly. "I've never needed anyone in my life and I ain't about to start with it now."
Gianina's brown eyes grew wise with comprehension.
"I see." She said with a smile. "And I should stop meddling, I know. But he's the only son I have, and really, he's very fond of you. He'd probably die of embarrassment if he knew I was talking to you about this...but it's true."
Jetta's eyes flickered with something close to surprised pleasure at this. Then she frowned, shaking her head.
"I don't like being sent letters via his stupid sister." She said flatly. "If 'e 'as a problem, he can come speak to me like a man. I'm not twelve years old. I don't do note passin'."
"That's what I told him, more or less." Gianina nodded. "We're both in agreement that he's an idiot. But he's an idiot with a lot going for him and a big part of why he moved to Los Angeles was to be closer to you. So it would be a shame, don't you think, to throw it all away over one bit of male idiocy?"
Jetta paled, her eyes becoming big at this.
"He did what?" She whispered. "He moved here...to be close to me? I thought it was Roxy he came to Los Angeles for!"
"Yes, in the beginning." Gianina feigned nonchalance, though Jetta did not notice her companion steal a glance at her from beneath lowered lashes. "But you were the deciding factor, you know. He wanted to see if he could make things work with you, after all."
Jetta bit her lip, chewing on it absently as she turned this over in her head. At length, she shook her head.
"I think you've got a bloody funny idea of what Justin an' I do together." She said finally. "You seem to think we're some lovey dovey couple who go out for romantic dinners on anniversaries an' spend hours cooin' to one another down the phone. We ain't. It's not like that and it never will be, if I 'ave my say in it. I don't fall in love...it's not something I do. I don't know if I even believe in it, most of the time. Certainly I ain't never seen any proof that it exists. An' I know you're Justin's Ma, Gianina, an' you want an 'appy endin' for your son, but trust me, I ain't that kind of girl an' you 'ave things wrong. He's been a git, yes, an' I'm glad you let 'im know it. But whatever 'e might 'ave said to you, 'e came to Los Angeles for Roxy an' for his work. Not for me. We were barely even speakin' when 'e made that decision. You're mistaken."
"Well, perhaps I am." Gianina shrugged her shoulders. "But you know, I'm sure that I'm not."
She offered Jetta a smile, then got to her feet.
"I know you're busy, and I won't intrude further." She added. "It was nice to see you again, and to talk...maybe we'll do it again sometime."
Before Jetta could say anything else, Gianina was gone, leaving the Misfit reeling as she contemplated all that had been said.
"Could she be right?" She wondered aloud. "Did he come to LA because of me? If 'e did, 'e kept that dark. Oh Lord, what did she 'ave to come jump me like that for? Now I'm twice as confused as I was before an' I need to get 'im out of my 'ead! We're Misfits. We're layin' down our album an' that's all that matters right now. Oh, dammit! Justin Pelligrini is takin' up way too much of my thinkin' time and it 'as to stop!"
She got decidedly to her feet, draining the last of her coffee and heading out into the bustling streets, crossing the road as she made her way back towards the imposing shadow of Misfits Music. As she reached the entrance, she paused, gazing up at the black glass veneer with a thoughtful, pensive look. Upstairs, she knew, the rest of the Misfits would probably be waiting for her.
"But right now, I can't focus on them or on those stupid songs." She realised, pushing open the door half-heartedly and heading up to the desk. "I can't remember a single note at the minute. All I can think about is that damn woman an' Justin's dumb letter and dammit, I'm goin' to resolve this once and for all!"
She headed purposefully up to the desk, casting the man on duty a brief, harried smile.
"Marcus, do me a favour, will you?" She asked. Marcus nodded.
"Sure thing, Ms Burns - what's doing?"
"I've just taken an urgent message from one of our sponsors." Jetta crossed and uncrossed her fingers behind her back. "I have to get onto it right away else the whole thing might fall through. Can you get a message to Miss Gabor and let 'er know there's been an urgent change of plan? Tell 'er it's vital that I speak to them today...otherwise we might lose the whole deal."
"Yes Miss. Can do." Marcus offered a grin, scooping up a nearby pen and scrawling the message on a sheet of headed notepaper. "Will you be coming back here this afternoon?"
"Depends how long my meetin' takes." Jetta shrugged her shoulders. "Tell Miss Gabor that they shouldn't wait for me...I'll see 'em back at the estate after."
"Ta. I owe you one." Jetta returned the grin with a rueful one of her own. "And now I better get a move on. I don't want to be late."
She turned on her heel, making her way back out into the sunshine. For a moment she paused, as if debating whether or not she had made the right decision. Then her resolve hardened and she stepped out onto the road, hailing a taxi and telling him to drive her to Justin's address.
"If his mother is out and about round the city, he should be alone...workin' or otherwise." She muttered, as the car drew onto the front forecourt of the apartment building. She ferretted in her pocket for the right change, handing it to the driver and pushing open the door of the vehicle. Then, her mouth set in a grim line, she headed into the building and up to the floor where her hapless partner made his home.
She hesitated, then knocked on the door.
At first there was no answer, but as she knocked again, she became aware of his call and the sound of footsteps moving towards her. The latch was slid back and the door swung open to reveal Justin, dressed in darkroom clothing. He let out a surprised exclamation at the sight of her, but she pushed past him and into the flat, pushing the door shut behind her.
"Well, you still remember my name then." Jetta wheeled on him. "I wondered, since you didn't seem to know where I lived well enough to bring me your own little messages."
"No, Justin, I won't pardon you." Jetta pushed him up against the door, anger sparking in her grey eyes. "What do you think you were playin' at, huh? Sendin' me a stupid little note in your sister's back pocket, an' then runnin' an' hidin' in the bushes like you really think it's going to improve the situation? How old are you? How old do you think I am? You know where I live...if you've got somethin' to say to me, I'd appreciate it if you'd say it to my damn face an' not send Roxy, of all people, with a memo!"
Justin stared at her for a moment, digesting this tirade. Then he offered a weak smile.
"Mom did say she thought you'd be mad." He acknowledged carefully. "But you needn't have been, Jetta. I was just worried that Pizzazz was going to throw one too many fits at you and kick you out, that's all. I know you need her for your work permit, and I thought..."
"That you could play the alpha male an' make decisions for the both of us." Jetta interrupted him, putting her hands on her hips. "I'm not your little woman, Justin. I don't need lookin' after. Pizzazz is my problem, she ain't yours. I can 'andle 'er. Odd as it may seem, I managed to argue with 'er just as much before I met you as I've done since. The difference is, I didn't 'ave you sittin' there like some King decidin' what was what."
Justin held up his hands.
"Woah! I'm sorry!" He exclaimed. "I thought I was helping."
"Do I look helped to you?"
"No, you look mad." Justin admitted.
"Good guess." Jetta shot back. "And there's another thing, Mr Pelligrini! Is it, or is it not true that you came to Los Angeles to be nearer to your sister? Because I 'eard a rumour that you moved 'ere because of me...an' it ain't a rumour I like!"
Justin stared at her. For a moment he didn't speak, then,
"Who told you that?"
"That ain't none of your business." Jetta told him coldly. "Jus' answer me, will you? Tell me the damn truth, for once, and quit protectin' and patronising me! I don't need it an' I don't need you! I thought you were straight with me - I don't need another person in my life lyin' to me and tellin' me what to do!"
Justin eyed her long and hard. Then, with a sigh, he dropped down onto the couch.
"I came to Los Angeles for a lot of reasons." He said simply. "I wanted to see more of Roxy. I wanted to be adventurous, try something new in a city that appealed and go freelance - since I already had some connections here, with Eric and Jerrica Benton and everything else."
"But...?" There was a warning note in Jetta's voice. Justin shrugged.
"But I fell in love with you." He said frankly. "And yes, Jetta, I came here to be close to you, too. If you don't like that, I'm sorry. But I would have thought it obvious."
Jetta blanched. She muttered something unrepeatable, then,
"And you didn't think to tell me that? That I might have some problem with you jumping into my life like that?"
"Far as I was concerned, I just made the decision to move states." Justin said acidly. "I'm pretty sure you had a say in whether we started sleeping together."
"Don't try and be smart with me!"
"I'm not, you stupid girl." Justin sighed again. "Jetta, I didn't come to LA to wreck your life. I came here for the reasons I told you I did. And yes, I fell for you. Hard. I know that bothers you, but it's the truth and I'm not ashamed of it. It's how I feel and it's how I've felt for a long time. You've known that and if you've chosen to ignore it, well, that's up to you. I didn't tell you to hook up with me. I didn't tell you to sleep with me in New York - you made those decisions. And if you're so unbothered by me and by my interference in your life, why are you standing in the middle of my apartment yelling at me about sending you a letter and being honest with you?"
Jetta faltered, then she swore.
"I'm not stupid. I told you not to patronise me." She retorted. "I don't care 'ow you feel, Justin! I don't want to fall in love with you or any guy. And if you didn't pick that up already, take it in now. I'm not your property or your woman and I don't need protectin' or anything else. Just because you can't control 'ow you feel don't mean the rest of us can't either."
"Are you wanting us to stop seeing one another then?" Justin asked bluntly.
Jetta stared at him for a moment. Then she frowned.
"Did I say that?"
"I don't know." Justin admitted. "I'm a bit lost."
Jetta rubbed her temples.
"Why are we even 'avin' this argument?" She demanded. "Why did you 'ave to be a moron an' send me a stupid letter in the first place? Things were fine before you decided to strut your male ego around the place!"
"Well, I'm sorry if I made a mistake." Justin said levelly. "But I didn't know that you and Pizzazz had always had a relationship like this. I thought there was a risk of you losing your position and your green card. And I admit it, I didn't want to lose you."
He bit his lip, then, "It would have taken time to get paperwork to follow you to the UK. And by the time I got there, well, you might not have wanted to know me any more. I didn't want to take that risk."
Jetta opened her mouth to retort, but at his final words she was struck speechless, gawping at him in dumbstruck amazement. Despite himself, Justin grinned.
"You look funny like that." He told her.
"Shut your mouth." Jetta warned him. "Crap, you're really serious, aren't you? You would come after me, an' all?"
"Of course I would." Justin nodded.
"That could be constituted as stalkin'."
"It could be." Justin shrugged. "Or it could just prove what I was trying to tell you before...that you're important to me."
Jetta sighed. She sank down into an empty seat, running her fingers absently through her thick dark hair.
"I don't like it when you say that." She said slowly. "I don't know how to deal with it, an' I don't see why I should 'ave to. It makes me uncomfortable, Justin."
"I know it does." Justin nodded. "But while we're being honest with one another, I'm throwing it out there. I'm not going to lie about it, Jetta. It's there and it's how I feel. I can't change that."
Jetta pursed her lips.
"And the letter?"
"I'm sorry if it upset you. It wasn't meant to."
"I wish I bleedin' well knew why it did." Jetta admitted ruefully. "And for the record, all you've probably done with your smart ass ideas is make things worse. I've bunked off practicin' and recordin' this afternoon to 'arass you 'ere. I needed to get this off my chest...all of it, because it was drivin' me mental. I left a message that I was meetin' with a sponsor, but if she finds out I was 'ere, I'll be for it."
"Well, stop sayin' that. Once is enough. More than that you sound like a plaintive kitten." Jetta told him laconically.
"Are we still fighting?"
"For now, I guess we're not." Jetta sighed. "I just...wish things weren't so damn confusin' sometimes, that's all."
"Mom said that if you were mad at me when we spoke, I'd have a chance of salvaging something." Justin remembered. He gave a rueful laugh. "Would you believe how relieved I am to be yelled at?"
"Your Mum gets about." Jetta told him wryly. "She jumped me in town already."
"She didn't?" Justin looked stricken. "Oh God, what did she say?"
"Nothin' much. Just wanted to say hello." Jetta shrugged. She glanced up at the clock.
"Perhaps I ought to get back to Misfits Music. I can always say it was a false alarm an' they bailed on me." She mused.
"You could stop here. I'm about done developing film for the day." Justin suggested. Jetta raised an eyebrow.
"I'm too wound up an' your Ma might walk in the door any moment." She said firmly. "Not a good idea."
"I wasn't thinking that." Justin scolded playfully. "You know, we could just talk."
"Ain't we just done that?" Jetta demanded. Justin shook his head.
"No, we fought." He responded.
"Not much difference in my experience." Jetta snorted. Justin laughed.
"Well, have it your way." He said. "Heaven forbid I should influence you to do anything else."
"Oh shut up, you git." Jetta retorted, but there was a mixture of relief and amusement in her grey eyes. "You think you're so clever, don't you?"
"Sometimes." Justin agreed.
"Well, you won't be smirkin' 'alf so much when I dream up what exactly you're gonna do to make up for all this letter stupidity." Jetta told him lazily. "So be warned. I'm thinking big."
"Well, there is one thing." Justin pursed his lips. "That I could suggest...if you were up for it."
"Oh?" Jetta raised an eyebrow. "And that would be?"
"Yesterday I had a call from a regular client of mine in Nevada." Justin made himself more comfortable in his seat. "You know, he was the guy I worked for when I went to Reno lately?"
"Yeah, yeah, get to the point." Jetta dismissed this with a wave of her hand. "What about it?"
"Well, his latest bunch of advertising shots have sent his business sky high." Justin grinned. "He's had so much interest of late, he's still reeling from it. Anyhow, the bottom line is that he's offered me a week's reservation in one of his hotels, as a sort of thank you."
"For free?" Jetta stared. "Wow. I need your kind of friends."
"Yes, for free." Justin agreed. "And I was wondering if you'd like to come with me."
"To Reno?" Jetta demanded. "Are you kidding? I ain't 'ad an 'oliday in forever!"
"No, not Reno." Justin shook his head. "This particular hotel is in Las Vegas. But can you get the time away? The dates he gave me aren't more than a month from now, and I know you girls are busy."
"I don't care if we're still in studio right up to the day before." Jetta said firmly. "Las Vegas is even better. You know, I ain't never been? Passed through, but never stopped. It'd be a blast."
She paused, eying him doubtfully.
"And the flights?"
"I'll go book them tomorrow." Justin responded. "You just make sure you can get the time off...I'll worry about the rest of it."
"I'm paying for mine." She said simply.
"You don't have to."
"No, but I want to." Jetta folded her arms. "Just to remind you that I earn my own money an' I'm not dependant on you or anyone for anything."
"Well, sure. If you feel that way, fine." Justin nodded. "I'll buy them, and you can pay me back."
"Fine." Jetta nodded. "And don't worry about me getting the time off. I pretty much own the leave book at the moment. Noone gets time off without my signature - conveniently enough for me, that means I don't 'ave to go chase it up with Pizzazz."
"I guess your new job does have some perks, then."
"A few." Jetta agreed. She sighed. "Shame it's only a week, really. What was the date again? A month...so...Hallowe'en?"
"Just after." Justin responded. "First week in November. It's well timed, actually - the week after that I'm off to Michigan for two weeks to do those lake shots for a nature magazine - it'll be nice to go fully refreshed."
"I don't think we've any music dates then, either." Jetta furrowed her brow as she tried to remember. "Hallowe'en we do. Nothin' after that. It should be fine."
"Then I'll see about the flights first thing tomorrow."
Justin got to his feet, crossing the room to where she sat. He held out his hand to her and, after a moment of hesitation she took it, allowing him to pull her to her feet. Gently he kissed her.
"I'm glad we stopped fighting, and that you're not mad at me any more." He said softly. "And I am sorry I messed up with the letter. Next time I'll come shout it at you in person, okay?"
"Okay." Jetta nodded her head. "And I'll let you off. This time. But only because you mentioned Las Vegas. Meantime, I should go back to Misfits Music and say that there 'ad been some scheduling mix up with the sponsors. Your Ma will probably be back 'ere soon and I don't want to run into 'er twice in one day, thank you."
"I thought you liked my mother."
"I do, when she's not stalking me round the city." Jetta said dryly.
"Call me tomorrow and let me know 'ow much the plane ticket
make sure I 'ave the time off to go. Whatever Pizzazz says, I ain't
it for the world!"