Chapter Ten: An Old Flame
"Something definitely happened last night."
Nancy pushed the door of her car shut, locking it and following her companions up the front steps of Misfit Music. "Don't you think so? We were locked in our room...then Cynthia appears all smug and 'I know something you don't' and lets us out...and Diablo aren't playing any more! What the hell was all of that about?"
"Not a clue, but I'm glad Cyn is on our side." Sylva grinned. Copper nodded.
"I knew she was up to something." She agreed. "I vote we don't ask too many questions. Our show last night went really well, so briefing this morning can't be a scolding for that."
"More likely it's about the single release and promotional appearances." Sadie suggested. "Isn't that what you do when you've a new single in the works?"
"You're catching on fast!" Sylva cast the new member a grin. "It's getting so close to Christmas now, though...I hope we will have Christmas Eve free. I want to spend some time with Mom and I feel like we've hardly seen Topaz over the last few days."
"Agreed." Copper frowned. "I hope she doesn't feel we're neglecting her."
"It isn't like we're choosing to do this." Nancy reminded her. "We've been working, that's all."
"Work can be a real bummer." Sylva rolled her eyes.
A voice from down the path startled the group and as one girl they turned, Sylva blushing a deep scarlet as she recognised the speaker.
"Hi Jack." She murmured. "What is it? I'm kinda working?"
"We'll go in without you, give you a moment or two space." Copper said in low tones. "We'll tell Phyllis you're locking the car or something...go on. You need to sort this out with him!"
"But Copper..." Sylva put out a hand in protest, but Copper shook her head.
"It's Christmas. At least talk to him." She murmured. "Come on Sadie, Nance. Let's go."
"I've tried to call you, but I can never get through to your phone." Now they were alone, Jack sent Sylva a troubled look. It was some time now, he mused, since the big fight in the city park, when Sylva had tried to tell him the truth about his fiancee's behaviour towards his daughter. He had taken it badly, reacting against Sylva and taking his anger and frustration out on her. When his rage had cooled, he had regretted his harshness of tongue, but it could not be taken back, and when he had discovered that she had told him the truth, it had only made him feel worse.
"That's because I didn't want to talk to you." Sylva faced him honestly. "You hurt me pretty bad, Jack. I had to deal with that."
"I know I did." Jack looked down. "Listen, Syl...what you told me about Melanie was a shock. I thought she was everything perfect for me and for Courtenay...and I didn't want to believe that I could be wrong. I know I took it out on you, and I'm sorry. In the end, you were right."
"I know that." Sylva murmured. "I would never have interfered otherwise."
"Courtenay's missed you."
"I miss her too. Every day." Sylva said frankly. "But I didn't want to risk Melanie hurting her more because of my involvement with you all. And then you were angry and you told me you didn't want me anywhere near your daughter ever again...so I complied."
"I was wrong."
"Well, there are some mistakes that you can't just take back, Jack." Sylva's eyes were damp with tears. "I never fell in love until I met you. Not properly. I dated and flirted and yes, I do both of those things. Yes, I like to enjoy life and live it to the full. I might still be a child and there is a lot I don't understand. But I fell in love with you...and you don't seem to understand that. I never interfered in your relationship with Melanie because I loved you, and wanted you to be happy. I only said something when I did because I saw her hit Courtenay and I didn't believe she had the right or the reason to do so. I still don't."
"No, you were right." Jack replied. He sighed.
"I'm not good with women, you might have guessed." He said at length. "I lost my best friend over this, Syl...is it going to be like that forever?"
"I'm not sure I've forgiven you yet." Sylva admitted. "It hurt me too deeply, Jack. Way too deeply."
"It didn't even occur to me till that encounter in the park that you might have feelings for me." Jack pursed his lips. "Or that I might be fonder of you than I admitted. Maybe that was why I reacted like I did. I was way more comfortable with you than I was with Melanie, and so was Courtenay. I don't know. I made a mess - I'm good at it. Please, Sylvie...can't we even be friends again. Not even for Court's sake?"
"It's something I have to think on." Sylva offered a ghost of a smile. "I miss Courtenay a lot, and I'd like to play with her again. She's the little sister I never had. But I don't know if I can be around you yet. I never got hurt by a guy before, not like this. I don't like it and I don't want a repeat. I know I'm still in love with you, you see...and whilst I feel like that, well, I know I can still get hurt."
"I see." Jack sighed, then, "Well, you know my number. If you want to change your mind, or talk, or come play with Court, drop us a line, huh?"
"I will." Sylva nodded. "And Jack? Maybe in time we can be friends. I'm just too vulnerable right now."
"I understand." Jack nodded. "I guess I knew that was always the possibility."
"Say Hi and Merry Christmas to Court for me?" Sylva begged. "And..." She reached in her pocket, pulling out a twenty dollar bill. "Here. Buy her something from me. Will you? I'm not mad at her and never was...I want her to know that."
"I promise." Jack took the note, folding it and pocketing it. "Thanks Sylvie. And Merry Christmas. Maybe in the New Year there'll be better hope for us, huh?"
He turned on his heel, heading slowly back down the street. Sylva watched him go, wiping away the tears that had begun to silently fall.
"Maybe." she whispered. "But for now I have to pull myself together and get to work...thank God for something to distract me!"
Inside the studio, the three remaining Jewels had congregated in Jetta's
office, taking seats whilst they calmly awaited the arrival of their fourth.
Jetta settled herself behind her desk, eying them with some amusement.
"I assume you did bring Sylva?" She said at length.
"Yeah. She's...coming." Copper nodded. Jetta looked thoughtful.
"Okay." Was all she said, however. "May I gather from your peacock smiles that you know 'ow damn well your performance was last night? I've 'ad a lot of people phonin' an' emailin' this mornin' to try and secure you on television and radio slots around the next few weeks, so you did good."
"Are we going to be working all Christmas?" Nancy looked horrified. "Mom, we want to spend some time with Topaz! Her baby is due soon, and..."
"Relax, brat, you'll get your 'oliday." Jetta laughed. "You've got Christmas Eve an' Christmas Day off, although we've you scheduled to play the Spectacular in the city centre on the 26th. The bods who organised that asked us for a decent surprise act...we figured you girls were the best option. Also the afternoon of the twenty third, at present, an' the mornin' of the twenty sixth. You're booked up till New Year's Eve, but you ain't playin' New Year's Day or the day after. Personally I don't care when you play around then, since I'll be in New York an' Pizzazz will be 'andlin' everything."
"Well, it could be worse." Sadie decided. "We get Christmas itself off, if nothing else."
"We do?" Sylva pushed open the door, slipping inside. Jetta eyed the girl's damp lashes thoughtfully, but said nothing. As she often liked to remind her husband, there was no sense in prying into her employees personal lives without due cause.
"Yep, we have a two day break." Copper told her. "So plenty of time to spend with Topaz and family."
"Good." Sylva looked content. "And hopefully to celebrate a number one hit!"
"Well, if we were that good last night, then we can certainly hope." Nancy observed. "So long as my writing cuts it, I don't see why we shouldn't hit the top spot. After all, we've a good following in Cali and we know the publicity wheel backwards. I think we can give it a real go...particularly with Diablo dropping out of last night's show."
"Look who's the little businesswoman." Jetta looked amused. "You know, before you girls got 'ere, Pizzazz an' I were discussin' 'ow much things 'ave changed over the years. It's 'ardly surprising that you look at these things so matter of fact, Nance - you practically grew up at Misfit Music!"
"I remember coming here a lot as a kid." Nancy owned. "But I don't think I came here when I was really small - did I?"
"You were three, or thereabouts, when I first landed you on the company." Jetta laughed.
"What was Nancy like when she was three?" Sylva looked interested.
"Hrm. She was...interestin'." Jetta cast her daughter a teasing look.
"Oh God, Mom, don't you dare!" Nancy flushed red. "You can't sit and churn out baby stories - please!"
"Aww, c'mon, Nance." Copper wheedled. "I'm sure you were cute as a kid. I've seen the photos of you and Aaron when you were small and you were adorable...you can't have done that many embarrassing things."
"She wanted to run the company, if I remember rightly." Jetta chuckled. "But yeah, I suppose cute is one word for it. Hell, I remember the first time you met Pizzazz face to face...now that was something worth seein'!"
"What's she doing here?"
Pizzazz stopped dead in the doorway of her friend's office, taking in for the first time the presence of the small girl sat in the corner, studiously examining the crayons in her hands. "Jetta, this isn't a damn nursery, you know! Why isn't that..." She pointed, "At the creche?"
"Because she's 'ere with me." Jetta glanced up from her computer, casting her friend a calm look. "It's okay. She's bein' good. I told 'er if she weren't I'd send 'er back to daycare an' it did the trick."
"Why ain't she there now?"
"Because the other kids 'ave been messin' 'er up an' Aaron's been gettin' into strife on 'er behalf and they're just kiddies. I don't want to start war in the creche." Jetta shrugged. "Besides, Justin ain't in LA till Friday an' the bitch who runs the creche asked me to take my 'delinquent' somewhere else. So I'm stuck with 'er 'ere."
"Delinquent, huh?" Pizzazz cast Nancy a curious look, as the child raised big brown eyes to her green ones. "What did she do?"
"She was just being Nancy." Jetta shrugged. "She don't interact with the other kids. If you ask me she's brighter than the lot of 'em an' they don't know 'ow to 'andle 'er. She doesn't want to do finger paintin' - if they make 'er she does it on the walls - an' when she wants to sit down with 'er picture books they take them off 'er an' tell 'er to go play with the others. So she 'as a tantrum over it..."
"She sounds like a proper little Misfit brat." Pizzazz smirked, perching on the desk. "How long is she gonna be IN here though? We've a meeting at two!"
"I won't be able to come." Jetta admitted, closing her file and shutting down the computer. "I'm sorry, Pizzazz, but that;s one of those Mother things I can't escape. Three an' an 'alf year olds can't come into corporate negotiations, not even ones as clever as Nancy is."
"Great." Pizzazz rolled her eyes. "So I'm stuck handling them on my own. Real great."
She pursed her lips. "Just what I want."
"Well, look at it like this, Pizzazz. Milton Randall is a good lookin' bloke an' you 'ave a way with men like 'im. I'd probably get in your way." Jetta shrugged, sending her companion a knowing smile. Pizzazz frowned, shaking her head.
"No...no, not tonight." She responded. "I have plans already."
"Oh?" Jetta's expressive eyebrows shot up. "What kind of plans?"
"Ones you don't discuss in front of a three year old brat." Pizzazz retorted.
"I'm not a brat an' I'm nearly four." Nancy piped in at that moment, holding up a small fist with four fingers held aloft. "Daddy says I'm a big girl now."
"Nancy, pipe down." Jetta cast her a pointed look. "Remember...creche..."
"Not going to the creche." Nancy shook her head very pointedly, dumping her crayons down and getting to her feet, coming to the desk. Clumsily she clambered up into Jetta's lap before Jetta realised what she was doing. "I'm helping Mommy."
"Oh, are you?" Pizzazz laughed at the expression on her friend's face, though inside she felt a pang. Jetta's bond with her daughter often reminded her of the daughter she had given up herself five years before, and it was a memory which was still painful. "Maybe I should employ your kid, Jetta, she might give me less lip."
"Only if you want your documents written up in blue crayon." Jetta retorted. "Nance, 'ow am I supposed to get anything done if you're up 'ere, huh?"
"Wanna help." Nancy pouted.
"You can help by stayin' down there an' doin' your pictures." Jetta told her firmly. "Then I can get me work done an' we can go get lunch at one at McDonalds like I promised."
"Wasn't drawin' pictures." Nancy shook her head. "I was writing my name."
"You're three. You can't write." Pizzazz snorted. Nancy scowled.
"Yes I can!" She retorted, putting tiny hands on her hips and mimicking a very Jetta-like glare. "I can write my name! Mommy showed me how!"
"Can she?" Despite her determination not to be interested in Jetta's girl, Pizzazz found herself feeling curious. Jetta looked thoughtful.
"After a fashion." She said finally. "'Ere, Nance, show your Aunt Phyllis on that bit of scrap paper, okay?"
"Aunt what did you call me?" Rage filled Pizzazz's green eyes, but Nancy obediently took the proffered pen and paper, studiously shaping the letters of her name. Though a little eccentric, all five characters were clearly recognisable and Pizzazz stared.
"Dammit, Jetta, what are you trying to do, raise a damn genius?" She demanded.
"She wanted to know." Jetta shrugged.
"Aunty Phyllis how do you write your name?" Nancy looked curious. Pizzazz was taken aback.
"Show me?" Nancy pleaded, holding out the pen.
With a moment of hesitation, Pizzazz took the pen, and then, with a strange look on her face, she carefully wrote her hated birthname on the sheet of paper, handing it back.
"It hasn't got a F." Nancy's tiny brow creased in confusion, pronouncing the letter phonetically as she did so. "Where's the f?"
"Ph can be F as well, Nance." Jetta took the pen, underlining the Ph. "See? Same sound, different way of writin' it."
"Oh." Nancy fell silent, absorbing this.
"You know your ABC huh kid?" Phyllis was still struggling to regain her composure. Much as she tried to resist it, she found herself strangely drawn to the spirit and uniqueness of this dark haired child.
"I watch Sesame St." Nancy told her with a self-important nod. "Big Bird teached it me."
"When is she four?"
"September." Jetta replied. "Why the interest, Pizzazz? You refused to damn come near 'er pretty much so far."
"Well, if she's stuck in my company disrupting business I've a right to ask questions." Pizzazz was flustered. "I'm going for lunch. I'll see you back here at quarter to two and dammit she'd better not be here all week!"
And with that she was gone, flouncing out of the office and banging the door behind her.
"Is Aunty Phyllis cross?" Nancy raised quizzical brown eyes to her mother's grey ones.
"No, she's always like that, love." Jetta lifted the small girl off her lap, placing her back on the floor. "Now you go back to your crayons an' paper an' let me finish sortin' me mail, then we'll go get lunch. Okay?"
"Okay." Nancy nodded, obediently taking up residence with her crayons again. She scrutinised the piece of paper Pizzazz had written on, then, "I'm gonna write Aunty Phyllis's name"
"Oh you are, are you?" Jetta raised an eyebrow. "Why's that?"
"I like her." Nancy shrugged, grabbing at an empty sheet of paper. "I want to make her a present."
"Aww, Nancy, that's adorable!" Sadie exclaimed. Nancy buried her head
in her hands.
"I will never be able to go out in public again." She groaned. "Mom, did you have to dredge your memorybanks for an example of me being a stupid brat of a kid, huh? Didn't you know that the first rule of motherhood is never to embarrass your daughter in front of her friends?"
"Really? I thought that it was one of the perks." Jetta laughed.
"Perks of what?" Phyllis pushed open the door, slipping into the office. "Oh, you girls are finally here! You took long enough."
"And she's the one that's late. Charming." Sylva murmured to Sadie, who giggled.
"Mom was embarrassing me horribly by talking about when you and I first met." Nancy grimaced. "Nothing major."
"Yeah, I remember. You were a little madam." Phyllis laughed.
"Oh, don't you start!" Nancy begged. "Aunt Phyl, not now! I thought we had work to discuss!"
"We do, but it's all in fun." Phyllis perched on the desk. "Lemme think...what was it you said to Jetta about her language?"
Pizzazz drummed her fingers on the desk, considering the exchange in
the office. She had barely let herself take notice of Jetta's little girl
before, for the reminders of Emily were still strongly lodged in her brain.
However, something about the small child's attitude and demeanour had intrigued
her. Most children were afraid of her, but Nancy had not been a bit perturbed
by her presence.
"She's just like a little Jetta, too." She mused, frowning. "Except for her eyes, they're so dark, like Roxy's. But when she put her hands on her hips - it was just like Jetta, when she's in a temper with me."
There was a knock on the door and startled, Pizzazz glanced up.
"Come in?" She called.
Slowly the door swung open and, much to the executive's surprise and consternation, the object of her thoughts trotted calmly in and up to the desk. She was carrying a piece of paper in her hands, and she pushed it across the desk towards Pizzazz, as if it were the most normal thing in the world to be there.
"I made you something." She told the bewildered executive. "I wroted your name."
Wordlessly Pizzazz picked up the piece of paper, glancing at the haphazard writing and she swallowed hard.
"So you did." She murmured. "Does your mother know you're here?"
"No." Nancy did not seem bothered. "She was talkin' to someone on the phone and I wanted to show you what I did."
"How did you find me?"
"I read your name." Nancy said importantly. "It's on your door in big letters."
Pizzazz stared at her, realising the small girl was right. Then she smiled.
"You're bright as your ma, you know that?" She observed. Nancy grinned.
"Daddy says I'm too clever for my own good." She confided. "I don't like the other kids at daycare though. They're stupid. They can't write their names."
She clambered up into the empty seat, settling herself and fixing her companion with a quizzical gaze.
"What you doing?"
"Well, I was working." Pizzazz told her wryly, getting a grip on herself. "But I kinda had a visitor."
"Me." Nancy giggled. "I like being a visitor. Mommy said it'd be boring for me at work with her but it isn't. It's fun."
"You think so, huh?" Pizzazz asked. "Believe me, kid, it ain't so much fun when you have things to file. You can sit and play all day. You don't have to worry about bills or tax forms."
"Mommy doesn't like bloody bills." Nancy said, and Pizzazz burst out laughing at the child's innocent use of her colleague's favourite epithet.
"Your Ma won't love you for saying that word." She observed.
"But Mommy says it all the time." Nancy looked genuinely confused. "Is it a bad word?"
"Well, I just wouldn't go round saying it too much." Pizzazz grinned. Despite herself she was becoming fond of this unusual, self-possessed child, with her big, clever brown eyes, and the straight black hair which was bobbed to her shoulders and held back from her face by a yellow headband.
"I'm gonna draw a picture." Nancy told her. "So I can 'member comin' to Mommy's work."
"I'm gonna draw Mommy an' Aunty Phyllis an' Nancy." Nancy nodded. "I'm special, I gots to come in the offices. Only grown ups are meant to come here. Mommy told me so."
"You're going...to draw me?" Pizzazz stared. Nancy nodded again.
"Of course." She agreed.
"Because I like you." Nancy said with a smile. "You're nice."
"'Ere you are." At that moment Jetta swung open the door, glaring at her daughter. "What in 'ell are you doin', wanderin' the corridors like this? I thought we 'ad an agreement, Nancy Pelligrini!"
"I came to show Aunty Phyllis what I did." Nancy did not seem at all distressed by her mother's tone. "She said I was clever."
"You're a bloody nusiance, that's what you are." Jetta muttered. "Come on. We're goin' to get you some lunch an' you're gonna behave this afternoon, you got me? Else it's the creche!"
"Bloody is a bad word. You're naughty." Nancy informed her, slipping neatly off the chair and going to join her mother. Pizzazz hid a smile at Jetta's expression, for her colleague looked stunned at the child's words. Then she shrugged, scooping the girl up.
"Maybe it is, love, but sometimes when you've got a naughty kid it makes you say naughty words." She said. "Come on, you little 'orror. We'll get you an 'appymeal an' then you're stayin' in me office all afternoon. You understand?"
She rolled her eyes at Pizzazz.
"Sorry. I'll lock me door this afternoon."
"It's all right." Pizzazz shrugged. "She made me laugh. Kid's got the right stuff in her."
"Okay, that's enough, dammit!" Nancy exclaimed. "Quit teasing me, will
you? You said we had work, so what work?"
"Eager today, Nance?" Jetta grinned at her daughter's discomfiture, then she relented. "Okay. Tomorrow mornin' you're doin' an interview with Cool Trash magazine. I'm afraid you'll be at KBST in the afternoon, an' then your evenin' is fairly free. This evenin', we want you back 'ere by around seven, to see the final version of the video before it goes off to music channels. Zoe said it's edited up pretty damn good, an' everything is well on course for a Christmas hit, even under such a tight schedule."
"KBST? I hate them." Sylva groaned.
"Yeah, well, no telling them you want to burn them down, all right?" Phyllis eyed her pointedly.
"That is so not what I said." Sylva muttered. "But don't worry. I'll be good."
"You really think we can sneak in there and snaffle this number one from under everyone's noses?" Sadie asked. Jetta spread her hands.
"Jewel 'ave done it before." She said simply. "An' they can damn well do it again!"
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
Chapter One: Back In Los Angeles
Chapter Two: Christmas Plans
Chapter Three: Like Old Times
Chapter Four: The Truth About Anna
Chapter Five: The Video Shoot
Chapter Six: Topaz's Sensation
Chapter Seven: Sadie's Tattoo
Chapter Eight: An Unlikely Team
Chapter Nine: Misfit vs Devil
Chapter Ten: An Old Flame
Chapter Eleven: Topaz Again
Chapter Twelve: A Christmas Present