Chapter Seven: A Confrontation
Copper peered out of the window of Misfit Music's main studio, a frown on her face. "I'm sure we said ten o'clock...didn't we?"
"We did." Nancy agreed, glancing up at the big clock on the wall. "It's only five past, though, and there are roadworks to the south. Maybe she's just delayed in traffic."
"I fear not."
Cynthia's voice came from the doorway, her digitally perfected features creased in an uncharacteristic frown. "I fear that something else has maybe caught hold of her attention."
"Something else?" Sylva looked up from where she had been idly brushing her curly hair, pulling it back from her face with a star shaped hair clip. "Like what, Cyn? What's a bigger deal than work?"
"Life? Love? Family?" Topaz said darkly. "Any one of the above."
"Topaz, please, stop it." Copper begged. "Cameron wouldn't want you moping here, you know."
"I know." Topaz sighed. "I'm sorry. I am trying, I promise."
"As for what might concern Zoe, I fear this is the answer." Cynthia held out a ragged copy of Cool Trash magazine. "I discovered online that there was gossip about her, and I located this, left on the front step of Starlight Mansion when I left this morning for work. It seems someone left it there for us to see, but you girls were not yet awake, and I did not like to trouble you about it then. Had I read it before I left, perhaps my mind would be changed."
"An article about Zoe?" Sylva's expression became anxious. "Oh no...Cyn, tell me, what...what is it about?"
"Zoe's love life." Cynthia said gravely, holding it out. "See for yourself."
"Oh my." Copper peered over Sylva's shoulder as the keyboardist scanned through the article, horror growing in her young heart. "Is any of it even true? Is Zoe really involved with that Flame girl?"
"Flame?" Topaz's head jerked up at this. "You mean to say Zoe's got a girlfriend, not a boyfriend at all?"
"Flame is a class A flirt. She's worse than Syl." Nancy remarked offhandedly. "Cool Trash make up rubbish all the time, I'd forget it if I were you. Zoe probably doesn't even know who the girl is."
"They work together on videos from time to time, because Flame has danced on our videos before now." Topaz said softly. "And there's no smoke without fire."
"Besides, there's a covering photograph." Copper said, pointing to the offending page. "It looks very much to me like this is the secret Zoe has been keeping from us all for the last few months."
"And now it's not a secret any more." Cynthia said sadly. "I believe that, so long as she harms noone, it is no business of the outside world how she chooses to live her life. Why are the press always so eager to print everything as a scandal? I confess that the human interpretation of love is a little beyond my comprehension at times, but is it such a bad thing, if Zoe feels that for this Flame girl?"
"If you'd met the girl, you might change your opinion." Sylva said darkly. "As Nancy said, she's a class A flirt. I don't deny I can flirt too, but I have my standards and limits. She's the kind of girl who I can imagine jumping into bed with the first guy she came across."
"Or girl, apparently." Nancy added.
"I never thought it would come to this."
A fresh voice startled them all, and they turned as one person, seeing Zoe watching from the doorway. Her green eyes were full of hurt and anger and, catching sight of the magazine in Sylva's hands she crossed the studio floor, snatching it away and ripping it in two, tossing it to the ground.
"I hope you're damn proud of what you've done." She seethed.
"Me?" Sylva stared at her. "What did I do, Zoe?"
"I knew you hated Fiona, but that didn't give you an excuse to break us up like this." Zoe ignored the bewildered look in her friend's blue eyes. "I can't believe that I trusted you and you let me down! Fi was right, you do have a big mouth and I should never have trusted you! Now everything is ruined...everything!"
"Woah, girl, hang on a minute!" Sylva held up her hands. "Are you suggesting that I was responsible for that story in Cool Trash this morning?"
"Well, tell me who else did it!" Zoe demanded. "I called the magazine and quizzed the people there. They said the girl who leaked it was an American, a girl with a New England accent, and you are the only person who knew who even remotely fit that bill! Hell, even that bitch Jesta didn't stoop to putting us all over the presses! I really thought I could trust you!"
"But I had nothing to do with it!" Sylva protested. "Zoe, I swear! Cross my heart I didn't! Why would I? You're one of my closest friends - why would I betray something so personal?"
"Syl knew about all of this?" Nancy raised an eyebrow.
"See, I didn't even tell them!" Sylva exclaimed. "What makes you think that I'd tell some sleazy magazine if I didn't even tell my own best friends and housemates, huh?"
"I don't care what you say. You are the only person who could have done it." Zoe retorted coldly. "And thanks to you, I've lost Fiona, I've lost my privacy and the whole world is now talking about my private life and whether or not I'm really having an affair with the girl!"
"Zoe, get a grip. If Syl said she didn't blab, then she didn't." Topaz rose to her friend's defence. "We all know she likes to gossip and talk but if she gives someone her word then she will keep it and that's that. If she knew about this before today, she made no indication of it to us, and there's no way in hell she'd leak it to a magazine. She's not like that!"
"Thanks, Topaz." Sylva shot the singer a grateful look. Copper nodded.
"Zoe, I know you're upset, but I'm sure when you calm down you'll realise how mad the idea is." She wheedled. "Syl wouldn't do something so catty or spiteful as this. It must have been someone else. Someone must have overheard you telling her, or something. I don't know. Whatever happened, I'm sure Syl has nothing to do with it."
"Well, I might have known you'd rally to her." Zoe's voice was dripping with sarcasm. "Maybe you were all in on it, I don't know." She shrugged. "Either way, I know what I know. Nobody else could have blabbed. It's a pretty big coincidence that it all comes out within days of me telling her, and that the person who leaks the story happens to speak with her accent, too!"
"If you ask me, it sounds like Zoe has a few issues to get to grips with." Nancy said quietly. "It's no big deal to me who you want to sleep with, Zoe, it's your life, but if you have that much problem with it yourself, how in hell do you expect anyone else to accept it either? Besides, what I do take issue with is you attacking one of my bandmates without due cause. Sylva might be a blabbermouth and a flirt and she might say things she shouldn't, well, all of the time, but there is no way in hell she leaked this story to the press. I would stake my life and my songwriting reputation on that. She's a Jewel and Jewels just don't do that kind of thing."
"If that's how you feel, then you can find yourself another video artist." Zoe shot back. "Because I came here today to tell you that I quit! I want nothing to do with you or your stupid video and I hope you don't win your damn award, either! Music and fame, that's all this is to you, isn't it? But this is my whole life we're talking about! My life splashed across the American press, just because someone can't keep their mouth shut! Some friends you turned out to be!"
With that parting shot, she turned on her heel, stalking out of the studio in high dudgeon and banging the door shut behind her. There was a moment of silence, then Sylva sighed, rubbing her temples.
"Thanks for sticking up for me." she murmured. "Nance, what you said meant a lot. And I give you my honest word that I had nothing to do with this at all. Yes, I knew that Zoe was seeing Flame, she told me at the wedding, but I promised her I wouldn't tell anyone and I haven't."
"You didn't even confirm the story in the magazine, when Cynthia brought it up." Copper remembered. "Don't worry, Syl. Zoe is just upset and confused and she will calm down and realise she's talking nonsense. She didn't mean it, I'm sure."
"I think she meant it." Topaz said quietly, scooping up the ripped pieces of the magazine and dropping them into the rubbish bin. "We've lost a friend and a video artist, all because someone decided it would be fun to paste her private life all over the presses."
"But who?" Cynthia asked. "Sylva does talk with a New England accent, and although I am quite convinced in my own mind that she had nothing to do with this, it was a logical conclusion for Zoe to jump to in her panic."
"Someone must have overheard at the wedding, that's the only thing I can think of." Copper pursed her lips. "But who? Everyone there was a friend of Violet or Taylor's...there wasn't anyone there who'd do something like this, was there?"
"Not as far as I know." Sylva shook her head. "Besides, Copper, we were quite alone. I remember that. I made sure noone was about before I dragged it out of her, and before we talked things through. There was nowhere anyone could have hidden to eavesdrop - I would have seen them, or Zoe would have." She groaned. "This is great. I've lost Jack because I tried to tell him the truth about Melanie. I've lost Zoe because I tried to help her with her relationship with Flame...what am I going to lose next? You guys?"
"Noone's losing anyone." Topaz said quietly. "If Zoe is crazy enough to believe that you did this, then that's her problem, it's not ours. We know you didn't do it. Besides, I don't think you'd even have had the chance. This must have been leaked to the presses last night, and you were with me most of it. The whole idea is ludicrous and impossible." She indicated Nancy. "I think it was overly blunt, but Nance hit the nail on the head. Zoe hasn't come to terms with her own sexuality yet, and that's why she's lashing out. She's addressing the wrong issue, though. When you work in the public eye, you're fair game to snooping reporters, and who knows what they might have dug up on her, anyhow? What they told her about a leak might have been a flat out lie. But these things happen. Press scandals rise and they fall. If she was really secure with all of this, she'd have simply shrugged it off. The fact she went so crazy tells me she hasn't settled with it in her own mind yet."
"I would never have pegged Zoe to be gay." Copper admitted. "Although, when I think about it, it does make a certain kind of sense. I don't know, I guess I never thought about it. And she never really said anything much about it, either. It's come as a bit of a surprise."
"A surprise, yeah. A shock, probably. But nothing excuses the display of temper she gave us in here." Nancy said quietly. "I'm damn proud of this song, guys, and I want it to have the best video there is. Zoe is the best in the business...and she's also one of our closest friends. But she has serious problems with herself if she can believe that one of us would betray her. Especially since Syl didn't even mention it to any of us. Right now I'm more angry with her for being stupid and causing us logistical hassle than I am shocked that she's having a fling with Flame. This is showbusiness. It happens."
"One of my best friends in high school turned out to be gay." Topaz agreed. "He was a darling though, and I often suspected that he was that way inclined." She shrugged. "So what do we do now? Wait and see if Zoe calms down? Go talk to Phyllis and Jetta? What?"
"I guess we wait and see what happens. Give it twenty four hours and hope she sees sense." Copper sighed. "What else can we do? Nancy's right. Zoe is the best."
"I wish she'd never told me." Sylva admitted.
"I don't think her telling you had anything to do with this." Topaz told her friend firmly. "In fact, it's probably an entire coincidence."
"Scant comfort when she believes it's my fault anyway." Sylva looked troubled. "I hope she doesn't take this out on us any other way, guys. She was pretty mad."
"How could she?" Nancy demanded.
"Well, she knows that Topaz is pregnant." Sylva spread her hands. "She's pretty much the only person outside the group who does know yet, aside from you, Cynthia."
"I don't believe she will stoop that low." Topaz shook her head. "She's just upset." She sighed. "Let's just hope that this settles itself down soon, huh! We have a song to produce and an album to cut, and I don't like to lose a friend any day of the week, let alone two days in a row! Let's hope Zoe comes to her senses soon - Jewel need her!"
Out in the parking lot, Zoe had taken refuge in her car, burying her head in her arms as she cried out the tension. She was not naturally confrontational, and arguments upset her badly, but she was hurt, angry and confused, and Nancy's words about her own uncertainty had hit home.
"I wish I'd never got involved in show business." She sobbed, banging her fist on the dashboard in her frustration. "It's nothing but damn trouble!"
Unbeknownst to her, a dark dressed figure had observed her angry exit from the music company, and, as the video artist cried, the watcher nodded her head slowly in satisfaction.
"Who would have thought it so perfect as all that." She murmured to herself. "It never occured to me that she would blame Jewel for the scandal, but that must be what's happened. Why else would sunny tempered, goddamn bubbly Zoe Montgomery stalk out of Misfit Music, head held high? Oh, this is too, too perfect! Maybe I can get a bonus from Rory for this, if it means that their new single is delayed. I had heard a rumour that they were due to start a new one soon. I never stopped to think that that wimp Zoe might have told Jewel about her relationship...I should have done. It makes this all the more beautiful."
She cast Zoe another pitiful look.
"Oh, for God's sake, how much water you got in you? You'll flood Los Angeles if you keep that up!" She muttered. "Like anyone actually cares who you're sleeping with, anyway. I could care less if you were bedding Phyllis Gabor, to be honest. Just so long as it's good scandal material for me, you can do whatever you like."
She slipped back into the shadows out of sight, lighting a cigarette to contemplate her next move.
"This is good, but I have to think like a saboteur a little more." She decided. "Which means that my next port of call is Luca. I have to ascertain that this juicy baby rumour I've unearthed is nothing to do with him, because it just occured to me that Zoe, being as close as she is to this wretched group, probably knows everything about it. Wouldn't it be a perfect addition to the rift, if Jewel thought Zoe had leaked that out of retaliation? If I play my cards right, I could definitely get some good results out of this." Her eyes glinted thoughtfully as she took a drag on her cigarette, flicking ash onto the ground. "Say, I wonder if Topaz has told the music company yet...there's something I should look into. Luca first, though...I have to be sure about this before I spread about what I know. I've learnt that lesson...sabotaging Jewel is fine, but I won't harm Diablo for anything!"
Chapter One: Zoe And Flame
Chapter Two: Spying For The Enemy
Chapter Three: Connie
Chapter Four: Back To Work
Chapter Five: A Broken Heart
Chapter Six: A Shock For Zoe
Chapter Seven: A Confrontation
Chapter Eight: A Second Leak
Chapter Nine: Press Conference
Chapter Ten: Revelations
Chapter Eleven: At The Starlight