Chapter Ten: A Family Encounter
"You know, you girls play really good."
Sadie observed, as Topaz and the rest of the band cleared away their belongings. "I'll give you that...you were awesome."
"We do our best." Topaz dimpled. "It's been a long tour, though. I'm not kidding, Sadie...we've been up to our necks in it this time out and Jetta says we still aren't guaranteed a good chart placing. It's murder."
"Guess I never thought of it as so much work." Sadie admitted. "I...really am sorry about what I said, Topaz. A lot of things have happened to me, and I've been hurt by a lot of people. I...I should trust in you more."
"It's forgotten." Topaz smiled. "Now, let me introduce you around, huh? I want you to meet the rest of Jewel properly."
"Are you sure?" Sadie looked shy at this idea, but Topaz nodded.
"Sure." She agreed. "Hey, guys! Can you get over here a moment? I wanna introduce Sadie to you all."
"Do you think she's brave enough?" Nancy raised a drole eyebrow at this. Topaz laughed.
"Yeah, I think she can take it." She bantered back. "Okay...Sadie, this is Nancy Pelligrini, she plays lead guitar and she's the real music genius of us, she writes all our songs. This is Sylvina Martescu, otherwise Sylva or Syl - she's my best friend in the world and she plays keys...and this is Elizabeth Santiago, otherwise Copper, and she plays drums. If you ever need a hug, she's the one to go to. Girls - Sadie."
"Hi." Copper sent the nervous employee a warm smile. "You rescued Topaz on the trains yesterday, didn't you? Good thing you did else we'd've been stuck this morning!"
"You mean you wouldn'tve looked for me?" Topaz pretended to sound hurt. Sylva giggled.
"Nah, not for long. We were out, 'member?" She returned. "Hi, Sadie. What did you think of our set?"
"I loved it." Sadie admitted. "I'd heard your song play on the radio but it was twice as pretty in real life. Topaz...you are such an amazing singer. I wish I could sing even half that well."
"Topaz won't admit it, but she's one of the best singers recording in California by a mile." Copper said with a grin as the Canadian blushed. Nancy nodded.
"Tis why we signed her on as a Jewel in the first place." She agreed. "You play any musical instrument, Sadie?"
"Guitar." Sadie nodded. "Accoustic guitar. But...well, I'm very out of practice. My mother taught me...before she died, and I've only played it on and off this last year. Was thinking of taking up lessons again, but..." She frowned. "I'm never going to play like you do, that's for sure."
"You never know unless you try." Copper told her. "And anyhow, what Topaz said is true. Nancy is a musical genius...she plays half a dozen instruments better than the rest of us can play our own."
"Speak for yourself." Sylva raised an eyebrow. Nancy grinned.
"I'm not arguing." She said with a wink. She paused, then, "Will you play a little for us?"
"Me?" Sadie looked stunned. "I..."
"Go on, Sadie...maybe Nancy can give you some advice." Topaz said encouragingly. "She taught me to play bass - I knew about six chords when I joined the band, but now I can get by and playing music is not my gift."
"Not sure it's mine, either." Sadie looked apprehensive, as Nancy held out the golden electric guitar. "Are you sure I won't break it? I never played an electric one before."
"It's fine." Nancy grinned. "It's been through a lot of stuff with me, it can take it." Carefully she re-affixed the lead to the amp, then, "Don't worry about the buttons and knobs, just play a little, like it was an accoustic." She instructed. "I wanna see what you can do - that is, if you don't mind."
"I'll try." Sadie said doubtfully. "But I'm really not very good."
"You can't be much worse than me." Topaz pushed a free stool across, perching herself on a nearby table. "Here."
"Thanks." Carefully Sadie sat down. At first nervous and all too aware of the importance of the instrument she was holding, she fumbled her first chords, but after a phrase or two she seemed to relax more, and slowly and softly she played the tune to a folk song her mother had taught her when she had been a child. None of the girls knew the song, but they were touched by it's soft melody all the same. As she finished playing, she found herself receiving applause and she blushed.
"It wasn't that good." She protested.
"You hold the thing like you were born to play it." Nancy told her, as she took the instrument back. "What was the song?"
"Oh, a folk song Mum taught me." Sadie shrugged. "I don't remember the words now. She was a folk singer, back before she married Dad and had us to worry about. She used to sing to us at night, and when she taught me to play, she taught me those. It...kinda doesn't go on an electric guitar, huh?"
"Well, unpracticed and raw as you might think you are, I think you should definitely get those lessons." Nancy grinned. "You obviously have it in your blood, Sadie."
"You think so?" Sadie looked taken aback. "You think it was ok?"
"You sounded great to me." Copper grinned. "I don't pretend to know much about guitars, but I know when a tune is played well, and it sounded fine, if a little odd on the electric guitar."
"Maybe I will, then." She decided. "You know, Topaz was right...you guys are all really nice. I didn't know what it'd be like to meet you - Jess told me you were big in the States and I've heard it too...but you're not bigheaded at all."
"We don't have time to be." Sylva groaned. "We're worked to the bone!"
"I 'eard that, Sylvina." Jetta put in warningly, an amused grin on her face. "'Ere, you 'ave a break for lunch...an' you 'ave the rest of today off, so don't gripe."
"We have free time?" Sylva's eyes lit up. "No way! Finally!"
"Sadie, can you suggest anywhere good for lunch?" Topaz asked. Sadie considered, then nodded.
"Sure." She agreed. "It's about time I got lunch anyhow...I could show you? That is...if...if you don't..."
"We'd love you to." Copper assured her with a smile. "Thanks, Sadie. We're right behind you."
Twenty minutes later, as the girls settled themselves at a table at one of Sadie's local haunts, Topaz turned the conversation over to the city.
"Birmingham sure seems like it's one of England's bigger cities." she observed. "I mean, it's not like London, but it's pretty big, huh?"
"It's the second city." Sadie nodded. "I...kinda wondered, actually, since you mention London, how it is your business manager is a londoner? I thought you were based in the US."
"We are." Nancy nodded. "But Mom was born in England." She smirked. "As if you can't tell that when she opens her mouth. But see, she met Dad in...must've been around eighty eight, or eighty nine...and she married him out in the US. So though she's still British as they come at heart, she has American citizenship through him too. She's worked at Misfit Music since before I can remember."
"You're her daughter?" Sadie looked startled. "Now you say it, I see the likeness, but you talk so American, I didn't guess."
"She doesn't sound so purebred American to me." Sylva observed. "She was born and raised in Cali, Sadie, but she doesn't sound a bit like any other Californian native. Heck, Mom was born in Cali and she has the local accent all right, but Nancy's is something totally weird."
"It's not weird. It's unique." Nancy defended herself. "I like the way I speak. Anyhow, Mom says I sound like a true blue yank - her words."
"I guess that makes you half-English." Sadie offered a shy smile. Nancy nodded.
"Yep." She agreed. "My Dad's Italian-American - hence Pelligrini, and to be honest my brother's American as they come, but the English side of my heritage has always interested me. Mom and I are close, see."
"It must be fun for you then to come play here." Sadie decided. "Do you have family here?"
"Mm." Nancy nodded. "A cousin, Taylor, and my grandfather lives in London, though I've seen him only once in my life. I'm not sure there is anyone else. I've tons of relatives on my father's side through Gran...but Mom doesn't seem to have much living family."
"That's sad." Sadie said softly. "She lost her mother...doesn't she miss her? I know I miss mine."
"Mom never got along with her parents." Nancy shook her head.
"When I first met Jetta I thought she was kinda clinical." Copper decided. "But she's not...she just doesn't go in for the sentimental and emotional displays. My family are very expressive in terms of feelings and bonds and it's a total different setup, but in her own way she's really kinda sweet."
"I'll tell her that." she threatened. "Wonder how much she'd fine you for calling her sweet!"
"I don't think she'd be amused." Nancy admitted with a grin. "My mother's never had time for what she calls emotional claptrap. How she explains being married more than twenty years is beyond me, but there you go."
"She knows her job." Topaz observed. "And to be honest most of the time I'd rather deal with Jetta than with Phyllis. She owns our music company." She explained to the bemused Sadie. "She has more money than most of the United States put together and boy does she know how to make her opinion felt!"
"Aunt Phyl isn't that fierce." Nancy objected. "I know she comes across kinda scary sometimes, but I dunno, I've always liked her a whole lot. I think she's had it harder than people realise. Yeah, she's rich, but in case you haven't noticed, money isn't real important to her."
"No...she's more concerned with being top banana." Sylva nodded. "And so usually, she is."
"She sounds scary." Sadie admitted. Copper laughed.
"She scares me too." She responded. "But she's the person to be associated with in the music whirl in LA, trust me."
"If you say so." Sadie smiled.
"You ever been to the States, Sadie?" Sylva asked. Sadie shook her head.
"No...never been anywhere." She admitted sadly. "I'd love to see more places, but I really don't know much about anywhere outside of the places I've lived. Sad, huh?"
"Kinda." Copper nodded. "It's a shame, because there are some beautiful parts of the world." She grinned. "I'm so excited with this tour of ours going to Spain...because my Papa's family was from there - Valencia - and I have the chance to see it, finally."
"I didn't realise you were Spanish." Sadie looked startled.
"Well, I'm Mexican American really." Copper dimpled. "Mama's family are Mexican-American and I'm American, though bilingual...I don't really think of myself as Spanish or European in any way. Papa was born in the States too - he was a second generation Spanish-American, so I s'pose my ties with Europe are fairly tenuous."
"Sounds complicated." Sadie replied. Copper laughed.
"Guess so." She agreed good-naturedly, as the waiter came to deliver their order of food. "Oh, lunch!"
"Finally." Sylva remarked. "I can't believe how hungry I am!"
"We can." Nancy grinned. "You eat like a pig!"
"Pig yourself." Sylva retorted.
"Sorry, Sadie. This is how they generally are." Topaz cast Sadie a sheepish smile. Sadie smiled back.
"It's okay. I'm still kinda awed you wanted me to spend lunch with you." She admitted.
"Why?" Nancy demanded.
"Well, you're celebs."
"So?" Sylva shrugged. "Any friend of Topaz's is a friend of Jewel's, Sadie."
"For once I agree." Nancy grinned. Copper nodded. Topaz laughed.
"See, you're an honorary member of the club now." She teased. Sadie blushed.
"You guys are sweet." She said shyly. "When you gave me your email, Topaz, I wasn't sure if you were just being polite and whether you'd actually email me...but now I guess I'm learning different."
"Course I'll email you." Topaz promised. "It'll be fun."
"This is a cosy group." A fresh voice interrupted the conversation, and the five girls glanced up to meet the teasing grey eyes of Nancy's cousin, Taylor Conway.
"Taylor! What on earth are you doing in Birmingham?" Nancy exclaimed, almost choking on her sandwich in her surprise. Taylor laughed.
"Don't kill yourself on my account, Aunt Sheila wouldn't be best pleased." He teased. "Two reasons. I came here because Vi and the girls are playing the NEC Arena when you girls are - you're their warmup act, right? And of course, I wanted to see you."
"Hi Taylor. Long time no see." Copper smiled at him. "Pull up a seat."
"Don't mind if I do." Taylor returned the smile, casting Sadie a curious look. "Who's this? New Jewel?"
"Noo...nothing like that." Sadie hastened to correct him, embarrassed and flustered by the remark.
"Sadie's a new friend we made since we came here...we played her work this morning." Topaz explained. "I take it Cameron told you we were in Birmingham at the moment?"
"Yes." Taylor agreed, for he and Cameron were great friends despite a seven year age gap. "But there's another reason for me being here right now than a desire to see my cousin. I wanted to talk to you too, Nance."
"Talk to me?" Nancy looked startled. "What gives? Is this about Vi? You chickening out? Because if you are I am not gonna be the one to break it!"
"Nothing like that!" Taylor held up his hands. "No, this is something else. Can I steal you away for a little while?"
"She's eating." Sylva protested.
"It's a sandwich. I can eat and run." Nancy shrugged, taking a hurried bite to finish her first sandwich and scooping the second up, getting to her feet. She swallowed. "Okay, I'm coming. Guys, where can I meet you?"
"Depends how long you'll be." Copper cast Taylor a questioning glance. Taylor frowned.
"Not sure. I might need to find Aunt Sheila too." He replied.
"Better be back at the hotel then." Nancy decided. "Okay, I'll see you girls there. Jewel's work is done for the day, anyhow, so it should be all right. We were just gonna shop, and shopping with Syl is generally the stuff of nightmares."
"Get lost then. See if I care." Sylva poked out her tongue.
Nancy just shot her bandmate a sweet smile, following her cousin out of the restaurant. However, once outside she cast him a curious look.
"Why the cloak and dagger stuff? What's up?" She asked.
"I'm sorry to spirit you away." Taylor looked sheepish. "But I didn't think I wanted to discuss this in a group situation. It's since Dad's death, I've been doing a lot of research into our family tree, you know? Trying to see if there's anyone else out there. I kinda feel a bit isolated here with you folk in America, and I wanted to find myself some other family."
"There's Grandpa." Nancy pointed out.
"Yes, I went to see him." Taylor agreed. "And what he told me was the last thing I expected, Nance. In fact, he asked me if I could get in contact with your mother...and I figured the easiest way to find Aunt Sheila was to find you."
"Makes sense." Nancy acknowledged. "But why does Grandpa want to see her after all these years? They've not spoken since Grandma's funeral and even then things were strained...what's the deal?"
"I'll tell you what he told me." Taylor said slowly. "And then maybe you'll understand the situation a little better." He unlocked his car, swinging the door open for her to get in, then clambering in the driver's side. Carefully he explained all he had discovered, and slowly Nancy's eyes opened wide with disbelief and surprise.
"All of this...Grandpa told you?" She asked at length. Taylor nodded.
"Yes." He agreed. "He even showed me proof...stuff which he'd had put away for ages, he gave me a whole folder full of official documents which prove it all. Birth certificates, death certificates. He said Dad found out about it all, not long before everything with you and your mother...and came demanding his share of the money. When he realised there wasn't any...well, he went after Aunt Sheila through you..."
"Because Mom's money was still intact." Nancy breathed. "And if something were to happen to her, maybe he'd have been able to claim, since I'd know nothing of it."
"Right." Taylor agreed. "I can't prove it, but that's what I think Dad was thinking."
"So what now? Do we tackle Mom and tell her? Or what?" Nancy asked.
"No..." Taylor looked thoughtful. "Grandpa said he wanted to tell her himself. Said it was something he felt he needed to do...keep some promise or other, I don't know. He didn't enlarge on any details. But I promised if I could I'd get in touch with her. I thought if I told you the deal you could convince Aunt Sheila it was important for her to pay a trip to London before you guys leave."
"I'll do my best." Nancy said slowly. "Mom's pretty stubborn, but I'll try. That's the best I can do."
"Well, let's hope it's good enough." Taylor put the car in gear. "Because right now we're going to find her."
Chapter One: Jewel In England
Chapter Two: Lovesick
Chapter Three: A New Sensation
Chapter Four: Cameron
Chapter Five: Sadie Gets A Warning
Chapter Six: A Little Love Advice
Chapter Seven: Topaz Makes A Friend
Chapter Eight: At The Halfway House
Chapter Nine: A Shock For Sadie
Chapter Ten: A Family Encounter
Chapter Eleven: Copper Gets A Fan
Chapter Twelve: A Burns Family Secret
Chapter Thirteen: Thicker Than Water
Chapter Fourteen: A Phonecall