"Twenty minutes, girls."
The studio employee poked his head around the door of the changing
room, eying Jewel with a warm smile. "You all ready to perform?"
"Just about." Sylva returned the smile with her usual flamboyant grin.
"No problem." The studio employee winked, then withdrew from the room.
Nancy rolled her eyes.
"Do you have to flirt with every guy you meet?" She demanded. "I mean,
is it inbuilt into your programming? Honestly!"
"He was cute." Sylva shrugged. It was two days on, and an uneasy peace
had settled over the Starlight Mansion. The necessity to rehearse the new
song, and Copper's naturally peacable nature had meant that she had made
a halting and brief apology for her outburst in the hour before the car
had arrived to pick them up for the show, and, although she had given no
hints as to why she had made the choice she had, Topaz had been quick to
accept it on behalf of them all. The singer, though she had said nothing
to her companions, was the one who was most suffering from the stress of
the situation, for her nights had been sleepless more than once recently
and that very morning she had awoken from her tossing and turning with
a decidedly uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. Blaming it on her
own bad cooking skills, for the row had meant they had had to cater for
themselves for the whole of the two days instead of cooking in their usual
team manner. Copper was the only Jewel with natural cooking skills, though
Cynthia's computer databanks gave her a workable knowledge of cuisine which
she was often game to put into practice, but the girls enjoyed working together
to produce a meal and the house had seemed very strange and empty without
the usual happy banter and cheerful conversation. Since her apology, Copper
had been quiet, but had made an effort to join in the conversation with at
least a little of her usual enthusiasm and Nancy had not wanted to make things
worse, so her worries about her friend's secrecy had been pushed to the back
of her mind. After all, she had said to Topaz as they had slipped into the
back of the car, it would not be good for Jewel to be fighting live on air,
and they were too big business in Los Angeles now to allow a mediocre stage
"He was kinda cute." Topaz said now. "Copper, what did you reckon? He
seemed okay to me."
"I don't know, I wasn't really looking." Copper admitted. She cast Topaz
a tiny smile, for she knew only too well that the bighearted Canadian was
doing her best to bring her out of her depressed mood and into the conversation.
"Sorry, guess I can't play this round of hunt the hot guy."
"Syl can play all by herself." Nancy remarked.
"So?" Sylva shrugged. "Why shouldn't I? I'm free and I'm single and
I'm gonna enjoy it."
"Well said." Topaz chuckled. "Hey, busy night tonight!" As the door
swung open again to reveal Dean Stacey himself. Hearing Topaz's remark,
"Can't not wish my favourite girls luck." He said with a grin.
"Thanks." Nancy returned the grin. "Though I guess we don't need it...if
we don't know our songs by now, well, we might as well give up and go home!"
"Such modesty." Sylva giggled. Nancy shrugged.
"Not that." She said. "Just that it's more down to practice than luck,
"I think Syl is teasing you." Dean reached out to pull her to her feet,
kissing her on the forehead. "Hey, I also wanted to see you girls for
another reason. Cool Trash has the whisper that you kids are in the middle
of some blood feud - and no, I don't know what they're referring to, because
the article was very vague and implied more than it said, but I'd keep tabs
on that if you have any press appearances. I know things have been rocky
between you and Aaron, Copper, so watch out for that, okay?"
"Thanks, Dean. I appreciate it." Copper said softly. "You...won't ask
questions about that on air, will you? I mean..."
"Copper, I only know about you and Aaron unofficially, because I'm seeing
Nancy." Dean told her gently. "I know when to draw the line between respecting
friendship and a hot story, don't worry. Besides, I've plenty to ask you
about today. There's the new single, the new album, and this whole story
about the wedding at the Starlight in June...which I do want to ask you all
about, so be warned!"
"Well, that's a pretty safe topic." Topaz smiled. "Though the Teenangels
have only played here spasmodically, so I don't know if everyone will know
who Violet is."
"I think you'd be surprised. There's been a lot of talk about it, and
of course, that the guy she's going to marry is Nancy's cousin, so that creates
even more gossip." Dean grinned. "And you should know by now that anything
at the Starlight is news these days." He glanced at his watch, "I gotta
go, but I'll see you backstage in a few, all right?"
"Sure." Nancy nodded. "Thanks for not airing our dirty laundry in public
airspace. We all appreciate it, you know."
"Just for the record, Dean, there's no blood feud." Copper added quietly.
"I might be fighting with Aaron but Nancy is still my best friend...at
least, I hope she is?" There was a note of doubt at the end of her sentence
and Nancy hesitated, then nodded.
"Of course." She agreed. A relieved look touched Copper's dark eyes,
and she smiled.
"Good." She said. "I didn't mean to hurt Aaron, really. It just...I couldn't.
Please, don't ask me why. I just..."
"It's fine. It's between you and him." Nancy put up her hands. "The less
I know, the less I'm involved, and besides, I'm still hoping you work it
out." She turned her attention to Dean. "I guess I'd better let you go,
"It would help, if there's to be a show today." Dean agreed, amused.
Nancy sent her bandmates an awkward look, then, carefully, she kissed
her boyfriend properly. "Okay, well, good luck to you too, huh? And we'll
see you in a few."
"Woo, where are the tabloids." Sylva grinned wickedly.
"Oh, shut up, jealous." Nancy snapped. Dean laughed.
"Okay, I'm outta here before it does get down to claws." He said. "See
you soon, okay?"
"Bye, Dean. We'll keep 'em from scrapping, I promise." Copper laughed,
and for the first time in the last week the sparkle returned to her eyes.
True, it was still muted, but it was there, and Topaz decided that maybe
things would be all right, after all.
"I hate this waiting." Nancy sighed, glancing at her watch once he
had gone. "I'd rather be backstage."
"Only cos you want to be with Dean." Sylva said archly. Nancy shrugged.
"I like Dean." She said stolidly. "Any reason why I shouldn't?"
"Well, I'm sure his fan club all hate you and want you dead." Sylva
giggled. "But no, guess not. At least he's a decent guy."
"Yeah, he really is." Nancy agreed, a slight blush touching her cheek.
"I don't like how high profile we are sometimes, but I'd rather take that
than nothing at all."
"Sickening." Sylva grimaced.
"How long?" Topaz asked at that moment.
"Ten minutes? Twelve?" Nancy shrugged. "My watch is slow."
"Okay." Topaz nodded, reaching for her bass and idly plucking it. "Anyone
seen my pick?"
"On the table, by the door." Copper pointed.
"Cheers." Topaz got to her feet, moving over to get it, but a wave
of dizziness overtook her and she reached out frantically for some support,
grabbing a nearby chair and closing her eyes as she tried to regain control.
"Topaz?" Copper was alert immediately, pushing her own preoccupations
aside as her concern for her friend took priority. "Are you all right?"
"Dizzy." Topaz managed, and Sylva hurried to help her friend sit down.
"Woo, that's better. Sheesh, what was
that? I just felt like I
was gonna pass out all of a sudden."
"You want a drink or something?" Nancy looked concerned, fishing around
in her bag for her mineral water and handing it out. "Here."
"Thanks." Topaz took the proffered bottle, taking a sip. "That was
"How do you feel now?" Copper asked.
"Same as before." Topaz shrugged. "Dizziness gone."
"Same as before...which is?" Nancy raised an eyebrow. Topaz smiled
are too sharpwitted for your own good." She scolded. "I'm
"You don't look okay. You look pale as heck." Sylva said bluntly. "I
didn't notice it before, but you do."
"Have you been feeling bad since you got up?" Copper asked gently.
"Not bad, exactly. A little queasy now and again." She replied. "I
figured that it was something I ate...I mean, I cooked my meal last night,
and I'm not the world's best cook. I probably gave myself food poisoning
or something." She grinned wryly. "I'm not sick, I'm just nauseous, don't
worry. I'll be fine. I'm probably only faint because I couldn't face eating
anything for breakfast."
"The amount you usually eat, you're probably right." Now that the crisis
was over, Sylva laughed. Topaz swatted her playfully.
"You're a fine one to talk." She scolded.
"I hope it isn't my fault." Copper looked anxious.
"Why would it be?" Topaz demanded. "Don't be silly, Copper. I'm a lousy
cook, you know that!"
"I meant...because of...well, everything." Copper coloured. "I'm sorry,
"Believe me, kid, it's far more likely to be my cooking than anything
you've said or done." Topaz told her dryly. "Besides, no harm done."
"Are you gonna be cool to sing or do you want me to take the vocal?"
"I..." Topaz considered. "Do you mind singing?"
"Nope, it's cool." Sylva shook her head. "I'll sing if you want me
"Thanks." Topaz grinned. Then she bit her lip. "Ooh. Actually..."
"What?" Nancy asked sharply.
"I think I'm gonna renege on what I just said. 'Scuse me."
With that she bolted from the dressing room, leaving her bandmates
"We have a problem." Nancy said quietly. "I'll go tell Dean."
"Good idea." Copper frowned. "Ask him if it's possible to play our
video or something this week and just do an interview? I'm half afraid
she'll faint on air if she's feeling that ropey."
"See what Topaz says first." Sylva suggested. "Because she'll play
if she can, Copper...best let her decide."
"All right, but I'd go get Dean anyhow." Copper nodded. "Nance?"
"I'm gone." Nancy nodded, disappearing from the room. The crisis had
broken down the last of the awkwardness within the band, at least for the
time being, and all attention was focused on the Canadian's sudden and
uncharacteristic illness. Within a few seconds, however, the singer returned,
eying her bandmates sheepishly. Sylva, generoushearted as ever sent her
a concerned look.
"Are you really sick?" She demanded. "I mean, do you not wanna do this
show? We'll cope if you don't."
"I feel better." Topaz shook her head. "Just one of those things. I'm
a bit icky inside but not like I was...I think I'm okay." She glanced around.
"Gone to tell Dean you're feeling bad." Sylva replied. Topaz groaned.
"Well, we didn't know how bad you were feeling." Copper reasoned. "Or
if you were up to it this morning. Do you want to play or not?"
"I'll play, but don't ask me to sing." Topaz replied. "I'm not remembering
the words too good...I think I'm having a blonde moment."
"Well, I'll sing, if you're sure." Sylva shrugged as the door swung
open to reveal a worried looking Dean, Nancy in tow.
"What's the situation?" He asked quietly. "Topaz...Nancy said you're
not feeling so hot."
"I feel better than I did." Topaz owned. "But Syl's gonna sing for
me. I'll be fine if I'm at the back with my bass and the cameras are following
her. It's not for long, anyhow."
"Are you sure?" Dean asked her gently. Topaz nodded.
"Can't let Jewel down." She said with a grin. "No, really, Dean, I
feel better for throwing up, gross as it sounds. I think I ate something
bad yesterday, that's all. I'll be fine. It's settling down already."
"Well, all right." Dean shrugged. "Your call." He glanced at his watch.
"And we're about due out there. Ladies, care to accompany me onset?"