Chapter Three: Sirena And Michael
"Make up, shoes, jewellery, new clothes..."
Sadie paused in front of a mirror, self consciously eying her reflection as she did so. "Wow, you guys. This is more expensive stuff than I've ever had in my life before. Are you sure this is the kinda stuff Phyllis was talking about?"
"Money isn't an object to Aunt Phyl when it comes to promoting her bands and proving her company rules the roost." Nancy assured her. "Don't worry. And you look fabulous, Sadie."
"The press conference feedback printed up very well." Cynthia glanced up from her seat on the end of Sadie's bed, lowering the magazine she had just been reading. "You girls seem to have convinced the press that something major is brewing in the Jewel camp, and that can only mean more positive publicity, surely?"
"I think so." Copper agreed. The four girls had just returned from their afternoon spent shopping in some of the local designer stores, kitting Sadie out in her brand new wardrobe in readiness for her first photoshoot with the group. Since they had returned Sadie had insisted on trying on her new clothes again, secretly hardly able to believe that they were really hers.
"Well, I didn't exactly come to America with much junk, but I never expected to get a job which included a clothing allowance." She said now, sitting down beside Cynthia. "May I...see the magazine?"
"Certainly." The pretty hologram cast her a grin, holding it out. "A first memento to your life as a star, I think."
"Yes, that's why I want it." Sadie glanced over the article, then hugged the edition tight to her chest. "I want to scan it and send a copy to my sister for my nieces to see back in England!"
"Has Alyssa forgiven you your unique way of moving home yet?" Nancy dropped down onto the bed, reaching out for a handful of biscuits from the packet that lay on Sadie's nightstand.
"Yeah, she has, in light of everything that's happened since." Sadie nodded. "She was angry at first, but she really just worried about me being safe and, now she knows that I am fine with you folk, she's okay with it. It's just a case of missing her and the girls very badly."
"You're still homesick, huh?" Copper asked gently. Sadie nodded her head.
"Yeah, especially at night." She agreed. "This is why Topaz and I have so many tete-a-tetes after dark. She has midnight munchies and I don't like being alone. It's fine when I'm in the hype with all of you lot, but when you're all alone things press on your mind. I was exploring Misfit Music earlier on and I wound up at the creche - my mind is on Shari and Megan a lot. I spose that's natural though, right? They mean a lot to me. And there are other things too. Things like the fact that in a couple of months my first nephew is gonna be born and I'm not going to be there..."
"Well, you will be here when Topaz has her baby." Cynthia pointed out. "And though it is not a nephew or a niece for you, Sadie, it will still be a special and exciting time. Starlight Mansion has not had a baby born here before, to my knowledge."
"She and Syl will be back from the hospital soon." Copper observed. "I hope all went okay this morning."
"Everything went just perfectly."
Sylva herself pushed open the bedroom door at that moment, stopping dead at the sight of Sadie all dressed up. She clapped her hands approvingly.
"Nice outfit!" She exclaimed. "You have good taste, Sadie!"
"These guys helped." Sadie blushed, glancing once more at her reflection self-consciously. "You reckon this would be okay for a photoshoot?"
"Yes, I reckon it will be just fine." Sylva agreed. "You look extremely glam and chic and European, if you want my opinion."
"How can you look European?" Nancy snorted. "Syl, you're talking nonsense again."
"Where's Topaz?" Cynthia asked.
"Downstairs, getting a drink and fawning over her baby scan picture." Sylva grinned. "I came to see if anyone was about and heard voices in here, so I figured I'd come say hi. Everything was fine this morning, the baby looks great and Dr Finnan says she can go ahead with her plans for the baby's birth, so that's relaxed her a whole lot."
"She has a picture?" Copper's eyes widened. "Already?"
"Yeah, she sure does. Cute little mite, too." Sylva's eyes twinkled. "Come on downstairs, I'm sure she'd show it to you."
"Does she know whether the baby is a boy or a girl yet?" Sadie asked, as they followed the synth player downstairs to the main salon. Sylva nodded.
"Yes, but I'll let Topaz share her big news with you. It's not mine to break." She said. "I will say this, mind you. It got me all goose-pimply, seeing baby Stapleton up there on the screen and realising how it's gonna change things for all of us when it's born. Not just with Topaz leaving the band, but in other ways too."
"Well, I have the kid to thank for me even being where I am right now." Sadie said fervently. "Remind me, I owe the baby an ice cream, just as soon as it's old enough!"
"If you ask me, this baby is going to get majorly spoiled." She observed, amused. "It's going to have four live in foster aunties - five, if we count you, Cynnie, and I suppose you do qualify as a member of the family."
"I would like to think so." Cynthia nodded her head. She reached out to push open the door of the salon, poking her head inside and casting the mother-to-be a smile.
"Hello there - Sylva says you have some news for us." She said, pushing the door back to allow her companions to enter. "And that you have something from this morning as a souvenir, too."
Topaz glanced up from the picture she held lovingly in her hands, her blue eyes damp with tears. She nodded.
"Yep." She agreed, casting them all a smile. "And it's gonna be a girl!"
"You look beat."
Sirena paused in washing up Michael's baby plates, stifling a yawn and casting the speaker a rueful grimace. Dark haired, green eyed and genial of temper, Luca Ranieri had only broken through Sirena's defensive shell when she had been at her most vulnerable, but these days they were good friends, and it was not uncommon to find Luca hanging out at Sirena's flat during his free time. Luca was the frontman of Misfit Music's biggest rivals, Diablo, but it was only his sister Stefana who took the rivalry seriously, for Luca preferred a quiet life, and in truth was wholeheartedly in love with the dynamic solo singer. Sirena had once been signed to Rebel Records too, but a row with it's owner, Rory Llewelyn had sent her onto her mother's company's books, where she had proven herself every bit the star she had begun as, when working for the enemy.
"You're perceptive today." She observed. "What gave it away? Me almost falling asleep into the washing up bubbles, or the fact I haven't yet yelled at you for walking dirt into my nice clean carpet?"
"I did?" Luca looked stricken, turning around to examine the floor behind him. "Whoops. Sorry, Em. I'll clean it up, I promise - where do you keep the vaccuum cleaner in this place?"
"Hall closet." Sirena said absently, emptying the sink and placing the last baby bowl on the rack to dry. She rinsed her hands, drying them on a towel and sighing, putting a hand to her head. "I'm totally and utterly wiped. I ran through that song six times today, then I had to lay it down, and the machine played devils, so I ended up doing it four times over before my vocal was good enough for them to begin working with. Then of course I had to collect Mike from the creche, and he was hungry, so he screamed all the way home because I wouldn't buy him an ice cream from the vendor across the street. To be honest I had a headache then - I could happily have throttled the little brat."
"He seems happy enough now." Luca finished cleaning the carpet, pushing the cleaner away and glancing into the lounge, where the small boy was seated in front of the television, watching Sesame Street. In one hand he held a half eaten chocolate biscuit, and in the other was clutched his cloth teddy bear. "Perfectly calm."
"Well, he's been fed now." Sirena indicated the biscuit. "That's an after dinner snack. I think he must be growing again - he ate everything I gave him and still wanted a cookie."
"He's a growing boy, what do you expect?" Luca laughed. "Hey, listen. How about we leave the apartment behind for the afternoon and go spend some time down at the beach? I know you're tired, but the sea air would do you good. Besides, you know how much Mike loves to play in the sand and hunt for seashells to throw into the waves. It'd be a fun afternoon out for both of you, and it would probably tire him out so thoroughly he'll go straight to bed tonight without any fuss."
"Chance would be a fine thing." Sirena sent her son an affectionate look. "But you're definitely tempting me. If nothing else, Luca, I want to spend some time with Mike that means something. Him sitting in front of the television whilst I do the dishes isn't exactly quality time with my son, and I work so much I worry he doesn't know me."
"You can't be everywhere at once, Em." Luca told her gently, coming to her side and putting a gentle hand on her shoulder. "You do great for Mike and he loves you, you know that."
"Well, I do my best, but I always hate taking him to the company creche or the Foundation." Sirena sighed. "I know he doesn't mind so much now, but as he grows up, maybe he will. I'm seriously considering hiring some help, to be honest, to make sure he gets a little one to one attention, even if I can't be there to administer it."
"A nanny?" Luca looked startled. "Do you think that's a good idea?"
"Well, Mom had a nanny growing up. Several, actually." A wry smile touched Sirena's lips. "It was her suggestion, to be honest. I've been mulling it over, weighing up the pros and cons. On the one hand, it would kill me if Mike got attached to some other woman instead of me...but then again, I know he needs someone to pay him individual attention, because he's a bright boy and he deserves that much. I think that this might be the only solution."
"If you think so." Luca glanced at Michael, looking doubtful. "He's your son, I guess you know better than me what he needs."
"What does that mean?" Sirena raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing." Luca spread his hands. "It just never occured to me that Mike was lacking in any amount of love or attention, that's all." He grinned, dipping his finger in the bubble residue and dabbing it on his companion's nose. "Now, chill out and let's go to the beach, huh? I'll drive. What do you say?"
"I say if you dare play face paints with washing up bubbles again, I'll make you drink the rest of the bottle." Sirena glared at him.
"Aww, Em, I was only trying to make you smile." Luca protested. "You're all tensed up...come on!"
"All right, all right!" Sirena rolled her eyes. "We're coming, okay? Go get Mike's shoes for me, would you? I'm gonna clean up the chocolate beard he seems to be making for himself, and unplug the television."
"Sure, no problem." Luca nodded, disappearing into the hall, and Sirena crouched down at her son's side, carefully lifting him up into her lap. Sesame Street had finished airing by now, so Michael turned his attention from the screen to his mother, casting her a quizzical look.
"We're gonna go play at the seaside with Luca." Sirena told him, taking a tissue from the table and wiping his mouth clean. "Oh, look at you. Chocolate coated Michael, that's what you are!"
The baby giggled.
"Like cock'let." He told her firmly.
"Yeah, I know you like chocolate. You're just not supposed to paint yourself with it." Sirena laughed, scooping him up more firmly in her arms and getting to her feet, leaning over to unplug the television set as she did so. "Luca's gone to find your shoes, and then we'll go and find some nice shells and pebbles for you to play with at the beach, huh? Maybe we'll even get to make a mini sandcastle!"
"Beach! Beach! Beach!" Michael clapped his hands together excitedly, then, "Ice cweam?"
"You are the greediest piglet alive, Michael Gabor." Sirena rolled her eyes as they reached Luca in the hallway. "You've just had dinner, you've had a cookie and you still want ice cream?"
"Ice cweam." Michael agreed, banging his fists against his mother's arm as he did so. "Mamma, want ice cweammmm!"
"Well, we'll see." Sirena relented. "Maybe before we head back home, so long as you behave, huh?"
Luca held out the tiny white trainers and carefully Sirena slipped them onto wriggling feet. Then she grinned.
"Okay, I think we're ready to go." She decided. "Sun, sea and sand, here we come!"