Chapter One: Meeting The Press
"I can't believe I'm really going to do this."
Sadie Monahue glanced at her reflection in the mirror, sighing. "I don't feel a bit ready, you know."
"Well, it's only a test run, so don't fret too much." Her companion, Aurora Stapleton assured her, casting her a grin and coming to sit beside her. "It's a while yet before you join Jewel properly, after all - I have another few shows to do and we've a lot still to show and teach you before that. It's only the end of September and my baby isn't due until January first. Sadie, the car will be here for us any minute, and I want to be sure you know how to handle questions from the press. If they ask you how you came to join the group, what do you say?"
"That I played for Phyllis and Jetta and they liked my sound." Sadie said promptly. "No mention of rushed visas or anything like that."
"Okay, good." Aurora, or "Topaz" as she was better known to Jewel's fans smiled approvingly. "And what about if they ask about your relationship with the band?"
"That's easy." Sadie dimpled. "I love you all to death!" She hugged her companion. "Especially you. I don't know how I will ever repay you for putting my name into the hat and getting the others to agree."
"I didn't have to do much persuading. They like you." Topaz told her playfully. "Silly. But you're helping me too. After all, in a few months, I'm going to be "Mom" to a tiny little baby, and, much as I'm going to miss Jewel, I know this is the right choice. I think I was most worried because of not knowing who would replace me in the group, but I feel totally okay with it being you."
"I will do my best not to let Jewel down." Sadie promised. "I will practice hard and smile in my photoshoots and say only nice things about people in press interviews." She shrugged. "At the moment I only have nice stuff to say anyway about you folk and the folk at Misfit Music. I'm not as homesick as I was when I first arrived - things have been too busy!"
"Well, you look great. Every bit a Jewel." Topaz assured her. "And so long as you answer their questions with a smile and let us help you out, it will be fine."
"Do you think...that people will like me?" Sadie looked hesitant. "I mean, I'm just some girl from England noone has ever heard of - why should they care what I do?"
"Well, there are a lot of reasons." Topaz said gently. "First off, from the point of view of the press, you've just joined California's biggest selling rock band. Jewel are big business, so that automatically makes you big business." She smiled. "And from the point of view of the fans? Well, get used to the idea of people in states or countries you've never visited idolising you and pinning your picture up on their walls. Signing fans autographs is pretty amazing - first time someone asked me for my autograph it blew me away. But they really are that way. They write letters, send pictures, ask questions...and its nice to answer as many as possible ourselves if we can, because they care and it'd be bad if we didn't."
"Wow." Sadie's blue eyes took on a look of shock. She swallowed hard. "It's a really big deal, isn't it? Me becoming a Jewel. It's not just hanging out with cool people and getting new clothes...it matters, doesn't it? People...use you as a role model."
"Yes, they do." Topaz agreed. "I've had more than one girl tell me they want to be a singer like me in the past."
"Oh dear." Sadie bit her lip. "I'm not a good role model for kids, Topaz."
"Why not? I think you'll be fine." Topaz scolded her. "You need more self belief!"
"No, you...don't understand." Sadie sighed. "Oh well, I suppose it isn't important. But I smoke - that's not good for kids to pick up, I don't want them copying that, and..."
"So make it clear in press interviews that you hate the habit but have found it hard to quit." Topaz shrugged. "Make it a reason for them not to want to smoke, because "Garnet said it sucks"...rather than something they wanna copy."
"I didn't even think of that." Sadie sounded startled. "Wow, I need to think of things in a whole different way now, don't I?"
"Yep, but we'll soon teach you how to handle the public eye." Topaz assured her. "And that," As the sound of a car horn echoed from below, "Sounds like our ride, so lets go, huh? Don't fret - you'll be fine!"
"Okay, if you say so." Sadie cast herself a last grimace at the mirror reflection, then obediently followed her friend out of the bedroom and down the hall, stepping carefully down the stairs in her pink edged boots and out to the waiting black limousine. The other three Jewel girls were already inside and they cast their remaining pair a grin.
"We wondered if you girls were coming." Sylvina Martescu, the group's keyboardist put in playfully.
"I was just giving Sadie a pep talk on how to wow the press." Topaz laughed. "She's gonna be fine, though, I know it."
"I hope so." Sadie admitted, glancing out of the window as the big car pulled out of the arc-shaped driveway of the big white manor house. "It's occuring to me how much I'm going to have to earn my keep if I'm going to do this job properly. The stakes are pretty high. I mean, you guys are already loved and respected across America but I have to prove to everyone that I'm worth this faith you've put in me...I don't know if I can do that."
"Well, if you can't, you left it late to tell us now, girl." Nancy Pelligrini, the youngest member of the group and it's guitarist and songwriter said philosophically. "So we better make the best of it and train you up, huh?"
"You'll be fine, Sadie." The final member of the quintette, percussionist Elizabeth Santiago, or "Copper" assured her. "First press conference is always the hardest - it'll get better and easier the more you go on and before you know it it'll be second nature. Trust me, you'll be great."
"How long do these things go on for?" Sadie cast the gentle drummer a questioning look. "Are we going to be there for hours, or...?"
"It depends how it goes, and how quickly Phyllis or Jetta decide to whip us outta there." Sylva said simply. "I suspect there will be a lot of people there, cos we're adding a new member and well, Jewel rock. I totally see what Phyllis means about making sure people know it's not a rift with Topaz, too...so I guess that we'll stop there till we make sure they know the deal."
"It's been a busy week for Misfit Music." Nancy mused. "Mom and Aunt Phyl signed Latisha onto the label on Monday, by the way - so she's gonna be working hard on a single for before Christmas. Now we're announcing our new member too." Latisha Rowenall had participated in the talent sweep that Misfit Music had held in order to try and find a suitable new Jewel, but had come to the conclusion herself that the band was not for her and had dropped out of the race on her own. She had gained Nancy's respect, however, and the songwriter had offered to put in a word for her with the music company authorities.
"I'm glad for her, she was so sweet." Copper reflected.
"Also, though, that's something else Mom wanted me to pass on to you." Nancy remembered. As daughter of former Misfit and chief executive of Misfit Music, Sheila "Jetta" Pelligrini, it was not uncommon for tidbits of important information to be passed her way. "We're to take the line that Sadie's involvement in the talent sweep was as the candidate elected by Misfit Music as Latisha's replacement. Okay? We don't want people thinking the contest was rigged because it wasn't, it just happened that none of the competitors were suitable and Sadie was, that's all. Aunt Phyllis released a statement to the press this morning to rebuff the accusation that the new Jewel position was a "done deal", explaining that Latisha dropped out of the competition and that Sadie was her replacement."
"That's not true, though." Sadie objected. "I wasn't even in the talent sweep."
"Yes, you were." Copper said gently. "Its not a lie, Sadie. We chose you unanimously, based upon your abilities and the fact that we all liked you best. There were no bribes, no payoffs and no promises. With Latisha dropping out and Rory Llewelyn's cousin being discredited, the whole sweep became something of a farce anyhow, and we were all agreed that there would be no new Jewel simply by default. The wellbeing of our band harmony is worth a lot more than that. Phyllis and Jetta said themselves that if none of the locally based people were right, they would look further afield rather than compromise Jewel's success. It came to the point where they had to do that - that's all. By agreeing to our choice, Phyllis made you part of the talent sweep, trialed you and accepted you as the newest member of our group. It was all above board."
"But all of that that Copper just said is very boring, complicated and no reporter is gonna care about the technicalities." Sylva agreed. "The simplified version is that you replaced Latisha - or Bryony - in the talent sweep, and that's how you came to be a Jewel."
"I see." Sadie looked thoughtful. "It makes better sense the way Copper explains it, but I can see how the press might ignore that side of it in the hunt for a scandal. I suppose I have a lot to learn about how showbusiness works, haven't I?"
"You sure do." Nancy nodded. "Starting with the fact that it's not telling the truth that matters, but the way you tell the truth."
"Oookay." Sadie pursed her lips. "I'm taking this all on board, don't worry, and I'll do my best to remember it."
"Within ourselves, Sadie, it's fine to be real." Topaz told her quietly. "To yell, scream, cry, laugh, fall in love and be disillusioned. But for the public, well, anything like that is immediately a sign of weakness and an excuse for a prying reporter to bash out a story. The implications of that are good for the sales of the magazine, but bad for all of our sanity."
"I guess I see." Sadie paused, then, "Sadie is who I am with you folk, Garnet is who I am to the public. Right?"
"You got it." Copper grinned. "Oh, don't look so apprehensive! It isn't as bad as it sounds, or as complicated. We're pretty up front and open with our fans about things because we've never had much we've needed to hide from them, and because we like replying to fan email or fan letters and answering public questions on tv shows, we don't tend to get the worst of the scandal sheet press poking their noses in. Something only becomes a scandal if it's kept hidden and it gets unearthed. There are very few things that we consider sacred enough to keep private."
"Like the identity of my baby's father, for his sake." Topaz agreed. "It means I'm a victim of tabloid speculation forever, but I'm used to it now and it doesn't worry me like it did at first."
"Sadie, are you all right?" Sylva asked curiously, for the English girl had paled a little at Copper's words.
"What about...well...things that happen in the past?" She murmured.
"What, you mean like that jerk ex boyfriend of yours beating on you?" Nancy asked bluntly. Sadie swallowed hard, then nodded her head.
"Yes. Like...like Neal."
"Well, that's his problem, not yours." Nancy shrugged. "He hit you, he's the jerk. Nothing you did wrong - if the press find out, it will probably work in your favour anyhow."
"Nancy, I think it's a bit more serious to Sadie than just a press opportunity." Topaz chided.
"I know that." Nancy nodded. "But I mean, from the point of view of the press. If they find out, chances are they'll take her side. She has nothing to worry about." She glanced out of the window of the car.
"And here we are." She observed. "Judging by the swarming insects about the place, we're bang on cue."
"Don't say things like that so loudly, we want them on our side today." Copper chided her, as they got out of the car and headed towards the group of 'insects' Nancy had derisively observed - a cluster of motley reporters waiting anxiously and eagerly at the doorway for some prior hint as to what was going to be said. Their interest in the group doubled as they registered Sadie's presence and, not used to such attention, the British girl shrank back, afraid and intimidated by their intrusive lenses and shouted questions. Sylva exchanged looks with Topaz, and with one accord they flanked their newest member, affording her some protection as they neatly fielded the reporter's enquiries with vague, noncommittal answers. Sadie shot them a grateful look.
"Thanks." She whispered. "Kinda flung me in at the deep end."
"You girls took your time." Jetta Pelligrini was waiting in the doorway of the music company, ushering them along the corridor to the big conference room where all press meetings were held. "I expected you 'ere five minutes ago, what kept you?"
"Sadie was a bit nervous, I was giving her a pep talk." Topaz explained. Jetta eyed Sadie thoughtfully, then,
"Listen, kid, all you need to know is this. If they ask you a question you can't answer - always find somethin' 'armless to tell them. If you can twist the question onto a different topic, even better. Never lose your rag with the press, they'll take an 'ate at you and spite you in the next day's edition. An' most of all - look 'em in the eye when you speak to 'em. Whatever you say, an' 'owever true or otherwise it is, always make 'em believe you're sincere. Okay?"
"Okay." Sadie swallowed hard, then, "I guess I'm ready then, aren't I?"
Jetta grinned at her.
"That's the spirit." She said approvingly. "Girls, make yourselves comfortable. I'm goin' to let the bloody creatures in."
With that she was gone, and the five girls obediently took their seats on the makeshift podium. Sadie reached for her glass of water, taking a tentative sip.
"If I pass out or throw up, do you think anyone will notice?" She asked plaintively. Topaz cast her a grin.
"Well, you can try it and see." She said playfully. "It's not that bad, Sadie. Believe us! We've done a lot of these. The real hard work comes when you tour and when you're dealing with live interviews on television. Press will come and listen to what we say today and write what they want to, regardless."
"So if they take a hate at me, I'm gonna be mincemeat? Great." Sadie groaned, setting down her glass and rubbing her temples.
"Sadie, if you wanna have a mental breakdown over this, you're welcome to - America is a free country - but could you wait till after the press conference?" Nancy said dryly. "Because I hear them coming, and we'd like you to make a good impression."
Before Sadie could retort, the doors of the conference room swung open, and Jetta, with a bustling crowd of noisy reporters in tow entered the room once more, taking her seat at the end of the dais and waiting for the reporters to settle themselves. If she was honest, she did not enjoy sitting in on press conferences, though she was undoubtedly the best candidate for the job within the company's administration, and for this reason often got coerced into taking part by Phyllis Gabor herself. She was deeply suspicious of the motives that drove the local and national tabloid and scandal sheet press, and disliked them interrupting her already busy day with their interfering questions. Finally, she held up her hand for quiet, getting to her feet and gesturing towards the group.
"Ladies an' gentlemen of the press, you 'ave been invited to Misfit Music this mornin' for a very particular reason. We are happy to introduce to you the newest member of our biggest selling rock group, "Jewel". This is Sadie Monahue, or "Garnet", and she will be taking Topaz's place in the band from later this Autumn. Feel free to ask the girls anythin' you might wanna know."
"Garnet, is it true that Misfit Music have followed the example of Jetta and recruited you from across the Atlantic?" One reporter asked. Sadie offered a shy smile.
"I can't deny it, as soon as I open my mouth I stand out a mile." She admitted. "I was born in Birmingham, England, but I...I was living in Los Angeles when I played for Phyllis and Jetta and they approved me as a candidate for Jewel."
"How does it feel to be the latest member of the band?" Another reporter questioned.
"I'm in a dream. I never expected to be the one sitting here facing you guys today." Sadie said honestly. "They keep telling me how much work it's gonna be, but right now I'm still in another world over it all. It's a major buzz!"
"Topaz, how do you feel about all of this? Is the rumour of a rift true?"
"Rift? With these girls?" Topaz asked. "No way. These girls are like my sisters, and that's that! I'm happy enough that Sadie - Garnet is joining the setup and I cast my vote in her favour. It was a unanimous choice by all four of us, with the support of our backing team as well. There is no rift."
"So you don't feel pushed out of the group by this?"
"I chose to leave the group." Topaz said quietly. "They didn't choose me to leave. It's a decision I made because I want the best for them and I want the best for my baby. I can't be a young mother and juggle the work of the band without causing intereference and complications in schedules. These girls have been nothing but supportive of me and my hormones over the last few months, but..." She cast her companions a rueful grin, "I can't let my needs upset the success of such a thriving rock act. Garnet is more than capable of holding up her end, and Jewel will be fine in her hands."
"Goldie, how does it feel to have fresh blood on the books?"
"Well, it will make writing very interesting." Nancy said frankly. "Topaz is almost our sister, and we will miss her more than we can ever say, but Sa...Garnet is a natural with the guitar and she has improvisational capabilities, too...so I think that we might add a new edge to Jewel's sound. We've had a couple of jam sessions since we elected Sadie into our little family, and she's proven then that she can create melodies and ostinatoes of her own on the spot. An invaluable trait for a new bandmate to have where a busy composer like me is concerned!" She cast Sadie a conspiratorial grin. "I might even drag her off to help me write occasionally."
Sadie stared at her companion, dumbstruck, and Sylva laughed.
"We're not beginning work on a new-sound Jewel single for a while yet, we want to get Sadie into the groove as it were first, and obviously Topaz isn't leaving us until after we play the local gala celebrations." She said. "But when we do, look out for it. It'll be a hell of a number, and that's a promise!"
Meanwhile, we've decided to release the track that we're going to play at Topaz's last live performance with the group." Copper added. "We're releasing it with a special goal in mind - to celebrate the imminent birth of the first baby Jewel and all it's proceeds are going to go to the Starlight Foundation, to help support other young kiddies."
"Garnet, the rumour is that you're the secret artist Jewel hired to do the Exotic album cover - is that true?" A woman asked, casting Sadie a friendly smile, and making her feel a little more at ease. She nodded.
"Yeah, I did." She agreed. "Although time was kinda rushed, I did my best and thankfully these girls liked what I came up with."
"She's a girl of many talents." Sylva put in.
"What of the other girls in the talent sweep? Miss Gabor made a statement this morning to dispel the rumours about a fixed contest, saying that Garnet was the replacement for Latisha Rowenall, who dropped out of the race of her own accord. What exactly is the situation?"
"It isn't much of a contest if there isn't competition." Nancy said calmly, seeing that Sadie was looking slightly uncomfortable and overawed by this question. "Latisha is a nice girl with a lot of talent and she has signed a solo contract with the company. I hear she's working on some music already, so I'm sure you will hear plenty of her in the future. She's a star in the making, but she realised that Jewel wasn't for her and we wish her every success."
"As regards the other two girls, they were both exceptionally talented and will also go far in the music business." Copper added. "We were saddened when family matters forced Bryony to drop out of the race, whilst we all felt that Casey had the overwhelming talent to make it as a solo artist, and that being Jewel's bass guitarist would probably not prove the best plan for either her or us in the long run. She was a very sweet girl and we enjoyed her company, but at the end of the day, we made the right choice." Her brown eyes softened. "But you can write this in your press releases - Casey Spiller will be a star, we have every faith in that."
"That's enough questionin' for now, we've plenty to do." Jetta held up her hands at that moment. "You will 'ave further chance to speak to the girls over the next week or two, that's a promise, but for now we 'ave a lot of things to arrange. Thank you all for comin'!"
"See, that wasn't so bad." Topaz murmured as the disgruntled reporters reluctantly left the conference room. Sadie sighed.
"I'm glad it's over." She admitted. "And that they didn't ask too many searching questions of me. I don't think it'd be too good if people knew that I came here illegally."
"Well, that's not relevant now." Nancy chided her. She paused, then, "Sadie, Mom came here illegally in 1987. Aunt Phyl did the same for her as she did for you. Mom wound up marrying Dad and now none questions her status in this country - technically she has American nationality through Dad, even though she's still a Brit at heart. But don't worry about it. The press never knew or cared that Mom came here without paperwork, because it was all settled up fairly quick. The same is true of you."
"I guess so." Sadie agreed. "Okay, then what next?"
"Well, I vote we hit Los Angeles, get ice cream and celebrate you surviving your first encounter with the press." Sylva grinned. "Anyone for double choc chip?"