Jetta glanced up from her desk, pushing aside the letter she had been skim reading as she cast her visitor a questioning look.
"There's a call for you. Line one." The intern offered a tentative smile, then darted out of the office, leaving Jetta to roll her eyes, reaching lazily for the receiver and scooping it up.
"Jetta." She said bluntly.
"No, I think that's you." Her boyfriend's teasing tones came down the line, and Jetta grimaced.
"Oh, it's only you." She bantered back "I thought Pizzazz blocked you from calling me here? I coulda sworn you were on her list of 'restricted numbers'...she'd call you when she needed you, and that was about it!"
"She did, but I'm calling from the payphone across the street." Justin sounded amused. "I just booked the tickets. Any problems getting the time?"
"Nope, first thing I did this morning was write it in the diary and fill in the paperwork." Jetta assured him. "It's all set."
"So I'm forgiven, then?"
"Maybe." Jetta twisted the phone cable around her finger. "I guess that depends on what kind of a trip we 'ave. I expect to see some serious Vegas action, so you'd better not be hopin' for too many quiet nights in. I've 'eard a lot about this city and I mean to experience as much of it as I possibly can."
"Better bring some cash, then." Justin teased. "The casinos are pretty big business in Las Vegas, or so I'm told."
"Justin, one thing I know all about is 'ow to gamble." Jetta said ruefully. "Believe me, I ain't bringin' no cash that I can't win back on...and that's a promise."
"Sounds interesting." Justin laughed. "All right. I only have two quarters in my pocket, so I'm afraid I'm short and sweet today. But Pizzazz hasn't blocked it?"
"She don't know a damn thing about it yet. I'll mention it in passing to Stormer later, as if it's been planned an' booked for months, an' then when you know who rumbles it, she'll think it's been on the cards forever." Jetta laughed. "Don't worry about me. It's fine. I'll be more than ready to go after the busy chaos we got round 'Allowe'en."
"Yeah, I think Pizzazz has me booked in a couple of days beforehand for more stills." Justin agreed. "All right. I'll call you at home later - and hope that someone sociable answers the phone."
"Some 'ope in our 'ouse." Jetta snorted. "Listen, I got a better idea. How about you buy me dinner an' we'll discuss it then?"
"Why is it whenever you have an idea, I wind up spending money?" Justin sounded amused. Jetta chuckled.
"Because you made a mistake an' women 'ave long memories." She told him. "Besides, I'm worth it - or I'd better be, else you'll be 'earin' about it."
"Fine, we'll do dinner." Justin relented. "There's a new Ristorante on fifth that I want to check out, anyhow. And you're right, it's probably better we discuss this away from the enemy camp."
"Exactly." Jetta said decidedly. "Which place is this? Shall I meet you there?"
"Would it be patronising if I picked you up?"
"No, it'd save me gas...I'm running low." Jetta said ruefully. "Plus I don't know where I'm goin'...so, come for me around eight? I'll sneak out if I can. We've nothin' on tonight an' I don't see me leavin' 'ere before 'alf six, so that gives me a chance to shower an' change."
"Eight o' clock it is." Justin agreed. "And I'm out of change, so I better go. Till tonight!"
"Tonight." Jetta echoed. She set the receiver back in it's cradle, resting her chin in her hands as she contemplated the situation.
"Dinner and a vacation. Men are stupid." She muttered to herself, amused.
"Which men in particular?" A voice from the doorway made her start and she glanced up, shooting Stormer a frown.
"What are you doing there?"
"Looking for you." Stormer said with a shrug. "That phrasing that Pizzazz went nuts over yesterday...I've rewritten it, and I wanted to give you your copy. I think she plans on us re-doing this tomorrow...or tonight."
"Well, she'll be doin' it without a sax player tonight. I 'ave plans." Jetta said firmly. Stormer raised an eyebrow.
"I thought you and Justin weren't speaking?"
"Who said they were with Justin, and what keyholes have you been earwiggin' at?" Jetta demanded. Stormer laughed.
"A little bird told me." She said with a careless shrug. "So if it isn't Justin, who is it?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?"
"It is Justin, then." Stormer grinned. "I thought so. I'm glad you patched it up."
Jetta glowered at her bandmate.
"We're going out for a meal, and to discuss our trip." She said flatly. "Nothin' snazzy. Just grub an' plane tickets...but I ain't cancellin' it for Pizzazz's neuroses. The track sounded fine yesterday. If she wants it redone, fine, but it's 'appenin' in office hours."
"Roxy said the same thing. She has a bike rally and she was just as unamused." Stormer said thoughtfully. "And hey, wait a minute! Trip? What trip? You're going outta state?"
"Not right this minute, no." Jetta shook her head.
"But you are travelling?"
"We're going to Vegas in November. Didn't I tell you?"
"No, I don't think you did." Stormer furrowed her brow. "Is that why there are no concert dates between Hallowe'en and the middle of November? I wondered about that...seemed strange we'd have such a drought."
"Well, now you know." Jetta grinned. "But it's better not to mention trips out of Cali with blokes to Pizzazz until it's too late for her to sabotage them so..."
She put her finger to her lips.
"Let me 'andle that."
"For sure." Stormer laughed. "Ooh, but Vegas? Wild. You ever been?"
"No...one place we've never played since I joined the group." Jetta shook her head. "An' I don't get to go anywhere unless it's as part of Misfit enterprises, so it seems...so this will be the first time I've 'ad a chance to see it. I've 'eard tons, of course...I can't wait, to be honest. It's supposed to 'ave one 'ell of a nightlife."
"Oh, and it does." Stormer dimpled. "But how come you're going there? It seems a bit, well, random?"
"It's down to a friend of Justin's." Jetta shrugged her shoulders. "He runs hotels in Nevada and he offered Justin free accomodation in one of them as a thankyou for some work he did...something like that. Either way, we just got to pay for the plane tickets. And apparently it's a flash 'otel...so...'as a jacuzzi, a pool, a bar, an' all of that kind of stuff. Snazzy restaurant, in 'ouse casino - the works."
"Well, I hope you have a good time." Stormer remarked. "And I won't say anything to you know who till you have. I might even think about taking a day or two off myself then...if we're not playing, or anything. I haven't had a proper vacation in a while, and I don't get to visit people very often."
"Craig?" Jetta raised an eyebrow. Stormer reddened, shaking her head.
"No. He's touring in Israel at the moment, and that's a long way to go for just a few days." She said. "It's one thing to do it when we're on tour, but I don't want to spend a vacation that way. No. I wasn't thinking Craig."
"Who, then?" Jetta frowned, then she pulled a face.
Stormer's blush deepened.
"He has asked me to." She admitted. "A couple of times in letters and over the phone. I might...well, just for a day or two, you know? Nothing major. I don't even know how he feels about me, but..."
"Spare me." Jetta held up her hand. "Go, do what you like...try beddin' him, see if that works. But spare me the lovesick details, all right? I don't want to vomit all over the tax returns."
It was impossible for Stormer to go any redder, and Jetta laughed at her expression.
"Well, you're a big girl now." She said innocently. "And there are some things you really ought to find out before you waste too much of your time on a guy you barely see."
"You didn't want to discuss it, and now nor do I." Stormer retorted, getting to grips with her composure. "Enjoy your dinner date, Jetta...and if you have a chance to look over the manuscript, then even better. We can lay down the new version tomorrow and everyone's happy."
"Fine." Jetta relented. "I'll take a look at it...I'll be ready. I can sight read if need be - it won't be a problem."
"Good." Stormer looked relieved. "Then I'm going to go find Pizzazz and tell her we're good to go tomorrow morning then."
"Not a word about Vegas!"
"I promise." Stormer nodded her head. "Right. I'll see you later."
"Possibly much later. Dependin' on 'ow much talkin' we do." Jetta mused. "All right."
Stormer rolled her eyes, then withdrew from her friend's office, leaving Jetta to glance over the changes to the music score.
"Simple enough. I can 'andle that fresh tomorrow without a problem." She decided. "Right now, back to forms...I need to keep Pizzazz in as sweet a mood as possible before I drop the bombshell on 'er that we're goin' away!"
* * * * * * * * * *
"So where are you going this evening, exactly?" Gianina cast her son a curious glance, setting down her newspaper as she watched him fiddling with his tie. "Somewhere fancy, obviously, judging by the fact you're dressed up like a movie star."
"I'm not." Justin paused in his efforts, casting his mother an amused grin. "I'm just used to dating celebrity by now. Jetta's a Misfit. That seems to be a byword for wild haute couture in this state. I don't know how much Pizzazz spends on their designers, but I do know she's had six or seven big names working on Misfit garb since I came to California, and I'm not about to be shown up. Unfortunately it also often means there's press around, and though noone's quite put the tabs together and realised Jetta and I are more than business acquaintances and friends, you never know what tomorrow's gossip columns will say."
"I'm surprised they haven't picked up on it." Gianina pursed her lips. "I could tell them a few things, you know. I never knew you take two hours to get ready for a simple dinner date before."
"Well, you're my mother." Justin laughed. "And you have a slight advantage. You don't mind me going out tonight, Mom? I know it's leaving you rather at a loose end, but then..."
"But then, you're in Jetta's bad books and you need to do some serious toadying." Gianina said astutely. "It's quite all right with me, my boy. I'm impressed that you've talked her into it so soon, actually. If I were her, I'd have every right to be mad at you still."
"I'm not sure if she is or if she isn't." Justin finished adjusting his tie, reaching for his jacket. "We did have a long talk about it and cleared the air but..."
He sighed, sinking down on the end of the sofa. "Mom, tell me something. Why did you go after Jetta in town the other day? What did you say to her? She said she'd seen you, but she brushed me off when I asked her what you'd said."
"I did what any good mother would do." Gianina smiled innocently. "Passed on my best wishes to my son's girlfriend."
"No, you did more than that." Justin shook his head. "Come on, Mom, own up. She came haring into my apartment full of all kinds of challenges and grievances and something must have sent her up there. What did you say?"
Gianina's eyes narrowed, as she considered. Then she shrugged.
"I told her a few home truths." She said simply. "Starting with the fact you were a dolt, and moving on from there."
"Oh God." Justin buried his head in his hands. "Mom, do you have any idea how embarrassing that is? That my mother is running around Los Angeles trying to sort out my mistakes? It's my life...don't you think by now I can run it on my own?"
"Well, Jetta wasn't speaking to you before I accosted her." Gianina said calmly. "And now you're having dinner. So perhaps you should be thanking me."
"But dammit, why did you do it at all?" Justin demanded. "God only knows what she must've thought!"
"In truth?" Gianina looked thoughtful. "I was testing her."
"Yes." Gianina nodded. "I wanted to see...well, just how deep it ran."
"How deep what ran?"
"Her feelings for you."
"Mom!" Justin's eyes widened with horror. "Tell me now, what did you say to her?"
"Nothing that she probably didn't already know." Gianina shrugged her shoulders.
"It was you who mentioned the fact I came to LA because of her, wasn't it?"
"I might have said something along those lines." Gianina was unrepentant. "I don't quite remember clearly."
"Well, I've seen you hurt and messed about too many times in the past." Gianina said frankly. "I'm your mother and I have an interest in your happiness. Your taste in women has driven me round the bend for enough years, and you know it. You keep losing your heart to women who play with you and lead you a merry dance, before messing you over and leaving you to start again. Why do you think you're still a bachelor, at thirty?"
"Maybe because my mother is too interested in my love life." Justin groaned. "Mom, I can make my own mind up about girls. If you don't like them, that's your problem...but it's not your business to intervene."
"Oh, I like Jetta." Gianina assured him. "Most particularly because I think she's got more depth than many of your last girlfriends put together. I don't say you've got her wrapped around your finger - quite the opposite, actually. I'd say you were probably well wound around hers. But if it means anything, she passed my test."
"I dread to think what that means."
"It means she's not indifferent to you...therefore I feel happier that she's not going to rip you into little pieces."
"And you think I don't know that much myself?" Justin sighed. "If you weren't my mother, I swear I'd stick you on a plane back to New York. I love you to death, Mom, but Jetta's already twitchy about family and family connections. If you're too full on with her, she'll scare off."
"I don't think so." Gianina shook her head. "Jetta loves you, son. She's just scared to admit it. Otherwise, why would she come in here and demand answers from you? I knew that, when I said what I did, it would either send her running for the hills - or your apartment. She chose the latter."
"Again, I wish you hadn't got involved." Justin said quietly. "It's not a question of whether she loves me or whether she doesn't. It's gaining her trust and holding on to it. That's the challenge. She's been hurt before - in ways I don't really understand. And I know you mean well, but you need to back off. I'm serious. I can handle this...I have to. If I'm going to keep Jetta, I need to make her trust me enough to fully open up. And I'm not going to do that if you're stalking her round the city."
"I doubt I did much harm." Gianina said with a shrug. "But all right. It's your relationship, and I won't interfere any further. I just think you could both be much happier if you stopped playing games and dancing around things, and made some decisions."
"And patience is one of my strongest attributes." Justin grinned, getting to his feet. "Don't worry, Mom. It's going to work. I'll make it work. I'm not ready to give up yet. Jetta means more to me than any woman I've ever dated before, and if it takes till we're fifty, I'll keep trying."
"I hope it won't take that long." Gianina observed pensively. "I'd rather like grandchildren."
"Well, I've told you before, you'll just have to wait and see what transpires." He said firmly. "And now, I must go. I have to pick her up and it's getting close to eight. You'll be all right here on your own?"
"I'll be fine, and you know it. I can cook." Gianina stood, reaching up to kiss him on the cheek. "Good luck, my boy. Jetta needs to know what a treasure she has in you."
"If you told her that, I'll have to kill you." Justin teased. Gianina laughed.
"I promise, I didn't." She said solemnly. "Have a good evening. I'll see you later."
"Yes. Night, Mom. Thanks for understanding." Justin responded. He scooped his car keys up, heading for the door. "With any luck, after tonight everything will be fine between us."