Chapter Nine: Press Conference
"I'm not looking forward to this."
Sylva took her seat on the dais, a troubled look in her blue eyes as she registered the number of reporters clustered before them. "I can't believe that Zoe would think this of me. I've sent her three texts since the row, guys, trying to get her to talk to me for the sake of the video, and I've got one response, telling me to go drive off a cliff. Other than that, nothing, and she won't answer my calls."
"She's upset. I'd leave it a day or two." Copper advised, slipping into the seat next to her. "Though you're right about the video. We do need to get it settled up."
"If she'd accused me of that, I wouldn't be texting her. I'd be hopping mad and I wouldn't speak to her again." Nancy said bluntly.
"You don't mean that." Topaz scolded. Nancy nodded.
"I do." She responded. "If you ask me, too, the only person who has a problem with Zoe being gay is Zoe. None of us actually care much either way. It isn't like she assassinated the president or something. Sheesh!"
"That's precisely why I'm not really mad at her." Sylva admitted. She looked confused. "It's not like me, but she was really upset the night of the wedding, and I guess, in her situation, I would react the same way, because it does look bad. It does look like I betrayed her. It's only the fact that I am me, and therefore know for a fact I didn't do it, that makes me keep trying to get through to her."
"Profound, as ever." Nancy rolled her eyes. "Oh, I dare say you're right, Syl, for once. It's just a goddamn nusiance."
"Okay, girls, shut it." Jetta shot them a look at that point. "I'm going to get this thing started, and for God's sake, don't make this situation any worse!"
She turned to the crowded reporters without waiting for a response, calling for their attention and briefly outlining the purpose of the press conference. Then she sat back down, indicating that they could begin.
"What I think everyone here wants to know is is there any truth in the rumours about Jewel having a huge bust up with Zoe Montgomery, and is it because of the recent press allegations about her sexuality?" A petite, pinched faced woman with glasses asked, casting the girls a piercing glare. "There have been a lot of stories flying, but we'd like to know exactly what the truth of it is."
"Zoe's private life is no business of Misfit Music or of Jewel's unless she chooses to make it." Topaz said levelly, meeting the glare with a slight smile. "As for the press allegations, we have no comment to make on those grounds. Zoe is the only one who knows if there is truth behind them and it would not be for us to speculate."
"So Jewel were unaware of this apparent affair with dancer Fiona Daniels when the story broke?" A man in a pinstripe suit asked. "Some are saying you were involved in the press scandal."
"Then they're lying." Sylva's eyes narrowed. "Because not one of us said anything to any reporter about Zoe, and that's the truth."
"It was not something we ever discussed, and I know that it never crossed my mind." Copper said softly. "I don't think any of us were aware of it until it was right on top of us. I didn't know anything about it until it hit Cool Trash."
"So there is no truth in the story that you have, in fact, fallen out with Miss Montgomery?" Cool Trash's own representative asked.
"There are many things that need to be settled upon before our new video goes into production, and we have a lot of wrinkles to iron out." Copper said vaguely. Nancy rolled her eyes.
"Too true." She agreed. "We want this single release to be special. You all know by now that we've received an award nomination, and we want to prove we're worthy of that nomination. We don't know yet if Zoe will produce our video for the new song, but we all hope so very much. She's the best there is, after all, and we always enjoy working with her."
"What are the plans for the new single? Is the rumour that it's to be from the forthcoming album correct?"
"It's called Reveal, and yes. It's from our new album, which we're still laying down." Topaz nodded.
"We like it very much and we hope other people will, too." Sylva added.
"Hard to promote a song, surely, without a video?" Someone from the back of the room piped in. "Surely there is some urgency to resolve matters with Miss Montgomery?"
"As far as Jewel are concerned, there are no matters which need to be resolved." Copper said quietly, meeting the reporter's gaze full on. "None of us have any ill will towards Zoe, nor did we have anything to do with the press splash. We hope that, whatever is happening in her personal life, she is able to come to a decision about it - and of course, we would love her to produce Reveal's video. That's all we can really tell you."
"But you've not really told us anything. Would you say your relationship with Miss Montgomery has been strained in recent weeks?"
"Not at all." Copper shook her head. "But then, I've been rather distracted from any other relationships. The wedding at the Starlight has taken up a lot of all of our time and attention, and we've all been preoccupied with that. And, of course, in my case, deciding that it won't be the last wedding the Starlight Mansion ever holds."
"What do you mean?" Spying a story, the woman with the glasses demanded. "Are you saying there will be another marriage soon at the Starlight Estate?"
"Not imminently, but my boyfriend Aaron and I became engaged over the last few weeks." Copper placed her hand on the table to display the ring, meeting Jetta's gaze as she did so, and taking comfort in the reassuring, approving nod she received. She had not really wanted to publicise her engagement so soon, but she had felt that it would be the only way of distracting press attention from the matter at hand, and, when consulted, Aaron had agreed. As she eyed the press, she realised her gambit had paid off, for every eye was on the ring and pens were hastily scribbling notes on paper.
"When did he propose?" One man asked. "Was it romantic? What did he say? How do you think your fans will react?"
"Aaron is always romantic, and we became engaged a few days before Violet's wedding." Copper said with a smile. "As for how the fans will react, well, I hope that they will support me and be happy for me. I love Aaron more than anything, and I know that this is the right thing. We plan a long engagement, because both of us are so busy, and it's so soon after Violet's, anyway...but it's all very exciting."
"Will Jewel be your bridesmaids?"
"I would like to hope that the other girls from Jewel, and our lighting technician Cynthia Benton will all be my maids." Copper cast her companions each a grin, receiving relieved and grateful smiles in return, for she had successfully driven the topic of conversation onto a safer discussion.
"How did you and he meet?" One of the reporters wondered.
"Oh, at the airport, when I first came to LA." Copper responded. "He's Nancy's brother, and our road manager. We've known each other ever since Jewel began, or thereabouts, and we've been together since six months after that. I couldn't imagine being with anyone else."
"Are you worried about how this will affect your rock babe status in the American music industry?"
"Me? A rock babe?" Copper stared, and despite herself, Nancy laughed.
"Copper is too modest to answer that." She said, amused. "But she and Aaron are the perfect couple. She's the only sister in law I'd happily welcome with open arms into my family."
"That's enough questions." Now Jetta interfered. "My girls are busy, they 'ave album tracks to lay down this afternoon, and they can't stay 'ere wastin' their time with you folk all day. Thank you all for comin' - I hope your minds 'ave been put at rest."
"Mine hasn't." Sylva grimaced. "I want to go round to Zoe's and shake some sense into her."
"Now, that sounds more like Sylva." Nancy observed. Sylva sighed.
"I dunno, Nance. To be honest, I'm hurt over everything. I bet it was Flame that told her it was me, but then, Zoe needn't have believed her. God only knows what the truth of this is, and we might lay down our album tracks, but what good is that going to be if we can't make a video for Reveal? It's too soon to be playing it live, and channels will be demanding our tape. What do you think we will do? Diablo's new song is already tipped for the top and we have to compete."
"Don't worry. Jewel will compete." Nancy said darkly. "I don't know what it is, but something tells me that Diablo witch is conveniently wound up in all of this. You saying that reminded me of something...aren't they from Connecticut?"
"Yes...what of it?" Copper frowned.
"What did Zoe say the girl's accent was, the one who sold the story to the press?"
"New...oooh." Copper's eyes widened. "Stefana? How would she find out?"
"How does she ever find out anything?" Nancy shrugged. "Fact is, we have a New Englander who fits the description, and who has the spite to do it. Syl, you're an airhead sometimes, but you're not spiteful. Stefana is. I bet you anything you like she found all of this out somehow, and is using it to spite Zoe - and subsequently, us."
"Oooh, that bitch." Sylva's eyes narrowed in anger, oblivious to Nancy's dig as indignation welled up inside of her. "That utter bitch! It would be just like her!"
"It does sound plausible, but we don't have any proof." Topaz sighed. "And without that, we can't exactly go around making accusations."
"Pity." Sylva grimaced. "I'd like to make some with my fists."
"I'd join you. My song is getting sidelined because of all this craziness." Nancy agreed.
"Well, for now I vote we do as Jetta said, and go work on the album tracks." Copper sighed. "And hope that, in the meantime, Zoe comes to her senses."
"What do you want?"
Flame pulled open the door of her apartment, staring at her visitor with irritation and surprise. "What, do you expect me to give you the scoop on this whole press scandal so that you can reveal it to the nation come seven tomorrow morning? Is that it? Well forget it - I have nothing to say."
"I'm not here to do anything of the kind." Dean cast her a reproachful look. "I'm here on quite a different errand, Flame. Please, may I come in?"
"What if I don't want you to?"
"Then I'll sit out here till you let me." Dean shrugged. "Because I've been thinking this over, and I can't let matters stay this way."
Flame glared at him, but he met her glare with an even smile of his own, and finally she sighed, allowing him inside.
"If only to prevent more gossip." She growled. "What do you want?"
"I'm here to talk some sense into you, since Zoe isn't listening to me." Dean took a seat on her sofa, casting her a thoughtful look.
"Zoe and I are none of your - or anyone's - business." Flame snapped. "See all that happens when she talks it out with someone? It winds up all over the national press!"
"Yes, but that has nothing to do with me, and I really don't think it has anything to do with Sylva either." Dean responded. "I spoke to Nancy this afternoon too, and she says Syl is quite upset about the whole insinuation that she'd do something like this. I've known Zoe a lot longer than you have, and I've known Sylva a good long while, too. I don't think there's a single chance that Sylva would ever betray someone she cared about like this, and you were wrong to jump to that conclusion."
"Don't you listen to me? It's none of your business!"
"It's every bit my business. Zoe is as good as my sister." Dean held his ground. "And whilst Jewel and their video do concern me, Zoe is the real reason I'm here. She's in love with you - are you just going to walk out on her like nothing ever happened? Like it didn't matter? Like there was no relationship at all? Are you really that heartless?"
"Will you butt out of my business!" Flame reacted to this. "I don't want to talk to anyone about this, least of all Zoe! I made it clear at her apartment how I felt about this and you were there, so don't pretend you don't know. I told her before, if it ever went public, it would stop. My career..."
"Right now, Flame, I couldn't give two hoots about your career." Dean interrupted her. "Because if I'm honest, I'm disgusted that you would use someone for so long and then just dismiss her when things got hard. How do you think that looks? Zoe has said nothing to the press about you, even though the poor girl seems to spend most of her time crying and being angry at the moment. If being a dancer and having people believe something about you thats not even true is more important to you than someone who thinks the world of you, then I've wasted my time coming here. Zoe said you'd been together a year, and I believed that there was enough between you that you'd calm down and realise that she was more important than your image. I guess I was wrong."
Flame stared at him, then,
"You don't understand what it's like for me." She said bitterly. "Ever since Mom died, I've had to fight for everything that I ever had. Sure, I had help from her friends from time to time, but most of my life I've been on my own. D.J's helped me and we're good friends, but there's this image in the business that we're an item, and now that safety is split apart. Dancing was the only dream I ever had, and it's a career where your image matters. It's always been my life, and there are some real bitches who are on similar circuits to me. Can you imagine how awful it'd be to have them all making jibes at me about this?"
"And what about Zoe?" Dean asked gently. "Don't you feel anything for her at all?"
Flame bit her lip.
"I shouldn't be talking to you about this." She muttered. Dean shrugged.
"Look, I appreciate what you've just said, but Flame, you've not been alone at all for the last few years. I don't know much of D.J, but from what Zoe's said he's a nice guy, a good friend to you. The Teenangels are your friends, too. And Zoe...Zoe loves you, whatever you think of her. She's put her life, her friendships, everything on the line because this whole mess has split you up. She won't speak to Jewel, even though I know that Sylva had nothing to do with this. She hardly answers the phone when I call her, she's basically shut herself up in her apartment and even Connie hasn't got a hold of her lately. That's all because she fell in love with someone who, it seems now, never loved her in return."
Flame was silent for a moment, but the expression in her eyes was stricken, and Dean knew he'd hit home.
"Well?" He pressed her. "Is that how it is?"
"You know it isn't." She admitted at length. "I've never been in love in my life before, Dean, so it's not easy to know if this is love or something else, but a year is longer than I've ever been with anyone. If you really wanna know, and God knows why I'm telling you, but she made me feel safe - my life's always been so crazy." She glanced at her hands. "I'm not ready for the publicity, because I don't know yet what this is about. I don't know if I'm experimenting with Zoe, or experimenting with guys. She said to me the night of the wedding, when we were talking things out at her place, that she thought I was attracted to both and I think she's right. That's why it's so confusing for me. I need to know that this is the right thing."
"Then how will you find out, if you don't take a chance? Running away won't solve it." Dean said matter of factly. His expression softened. "I believe you do love Zoe, you know...and I know she loves you. The press scandal is unfortunate, but maybe in the end it will prove a positive thing. Zoe's said to me that hiding it all has begun to take it's toll on her, and she'd begun to get jealous and possessive over you - you were fighting a lot more." He shrugged, getting to his feet.
"I have to go to the studio, because I'm helping Connie with her show tonight, but I just want you to think it over." He said finally. "I can't and won't interfere in your relationship to the extent of telling either of you what you should do. I just think that, if neither one of you are happy, this can't go on like this. It seems to me that you're a fighter - you're strong, independant and brave. Are you going to let one little press rag destroy your happiness?"
With that he was gone, and Flame got to her feet, moving to the window. In the distance, she caught sight of the big building bearing the Misfit Music logo, and she sighed.
"God knows." She murmured. "I wish I knew where to take things from here."
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