"And we have a very special guest this evening, everybody - please put
your hands together for an old friend and welcome Topaz to the show!"
A lump in her throat, Topaz slipped across the television set to the couch, casting Connie a trepidant smile as she took her seat, making herself comfortable. It was three days now since the day when she had feared losing her baby daughter, and now all danger was at an end. Hollie had been discharged that morning, and the following day Topaz would return to the film set - but it was a wiser Topaz now for the long days of worry she had endured. Even now, whilst she was speaking to one of California's most popular tv show hosts, her mind was on the small baby back home at the Starlight Mansion, in the willing care for the evening of a relieved group of Jewel musicians.
After all, she told herself, they had all understood why this interview was important.
"Well, Topaz, it's been a while since last we spoke." Connie winked at her guest. "And I'm sure you know that I'm going to ask you about this week's press reports. It's well known that Jewel members - past and present - have something of a love affair with the local media, but there have been some controversial issues raised this week. How do you react to press like that?"
"I want to set the record straight." Topaz said with a slight smile. "I can understand why the reports have said what they have done, because things have been too crazy for me to come out and refute them right away, and these things snowball."
"Is it true that you've missed several days working on the film set? And what is the truth behind the claim that your movie role is simply to satisfy immigration?"
"I have missed three days filming, yes." Topaz's pretty blue eyes became grave. "The reason for this is simple. My daughter has been seriously ill over the last few days, and it's only today that she's been well enough to return home from hospital. Milton has been very understanding with the whole situation, and he gave me the rest of this week off, so that I could be there for my daughter's needs. Hollie is still very young and for a while, well, it was touch and go."
She swallowed hard, for the memory of her daughter's ill health was still recent in her mind.
"As for the immigration claims, I want to settle that, also." She added. "Whilst I love America dearly, my daughter's needs will always come before anything else in my mind. I am not trying to fool immigration at all. My residence permit has a year and a half to run, and my work permit is fulfilled by my employment with Misfit Music, who have cooperated with the production company in the making of this movie and through which I will be releasing a song from the official soundtrack before the end of the month. For the time being, there is nothing questionable in either one of these documents - the press have obviously misunderstood the situation."
"Now for the juicy gossip - you've been seen at several public engagements on the arm of the fabulous Travis Banning of late. What would you say to people who are linking your names together?"
"Travis...and me?" Topaz grinned. "I don't think he'd thank you for that any more than I would. He's definitely not my type, and my concerns are with my daughter. Travis has given me a lot of advice and I am grateful for that - but that's as far as it goes." She shrugged. "Sorry to disappoint on that count."
"So is this the start of a big movie career for you then, this film? Are you ready to make a permanent move away from the music industry or do your loyalties still lie there?"
"To be honest, Connie, I'm not very sure where things are going to take me yet." Topaz responded honestly. "I have to put Hollie first and then see what comes up. I've loved working on the movie, but I'm not entirely convinced that I'm cut out for acting as a full blown career. In fact, if it wasn't for Morgan and the support of Milton Warrington himself, I probably would've drowned already in all the new things I've had to learn."
"Morgan?" Connie looked interested. "Morgan O'Sullivan?"
"Yes." Topaz nodded. "She plays the lead villain on the film."
"Some press might say that she was something of a villain in real life." Connie remarked. "What would you say to that?"
"It's nonsense." Topaz dismissed this with a grin. "Morgan is one of the sweetest people you could ever work with, and despite all the big films she's done, she's not a bit conceited or anything like that. In fact, she came to the hospital when Hollie was sick, to be support for me, even though she'd already worked a long day on set. She's been a good friend to me and I hope we can work together again somehow, even if I don't make the jump into acting as my full blown profession."
"And to the single - what is it called?"
"It's called 'Only If It's Real." Topaz grinned. "It's a solo song that my character - Isabel - sings in the film and it's a beautiful melody."
"Would you sing it for us tonight?" Connie asked. Topaz nodded, eyes twinkling.
"It'd be my pleasure." She agreed.
* * * * * * *
"You were good on there tonight, you know."
Sylva told her as the tired singer-cum-actress returned home, tossing her jacket onto the hook and heading into the lounge. "Your interview, I mean. You nailed everything that Travis jerk leaked into the press without badmouthing anyone."
"I did my best." Topaz nodded. "Is Hollie asleep?"
"Fast asleep, and happy as can be." Sadie assured her. "Don't worry, Topaz. Tonight we didn't mind playing sitter for you."
"Well, I'm grateful you could." Topaz dropped down onto the couch. "But it isn't fair of me to ask you to run round after me and my baby all the time. I know I've taken advantage of all of you of late, and I'm sorry for it. I never meant it to happen that way."
"Will you finish the film?" Copper asked softly. Topaz nodded.
"I put pen to paper and I don't intend on breaking that contract." She agreed. "I just won't be attending so many extra-curricular activities, that's all. Besides, after having read what Travis got into the papers, I'm not sure I want to be a part of that world anyway. I'm realising how safe I had it before!"
"So you're gonna go back to singing, then, when it's done?" Nancy wondered. Topaz shrugged.
"That depends on a lot of things." She said gravely, then, "I've been doing some serious thinking, guys."
"Oh-oh. Sounds dangerous." Sylva quipped, ducking the cushion her friend tossed in her direction.
"I mean it, silly." She scolded. "It's not a joke."
"Thinking about what, Topaz?" Sadie asked.
"My future, mostly. And Hollie's future, too." Topaz shrugged. "Listen, you guys. I left Jewel so that Hol wouldn't interfere with what you were doing, but she's interfered with you more than ever since I went back to work. I won't pretend that being a single Mom drives me potty from time to time, but she's my baby and I chose to have her, therefore it's me she should be driving potty, and not all of you."
"So?" Nancy raised an eyebrow. "What of it?"
"Well, this 'solo career' thing was supposed to be the solution to the problem." Topaz said earnestly. "But instead it's only made things worse. And I got to thinking, even if I didn't go on with the acting after this movie, and just went back to singing, I'd still be causing chaos. Touring, for example. An artist can't sit in one town forever, can she? And late night concerts, too. It's just impractical and I didn't want to face it before."
"What are you trying to tell us, Topaz?" Copper looked anxious. "What do you mean?"
"I'm going to hand in my notice at Misfit Music, once the movie is over." Topaz met the redhead's gaze with a sombre one of her own. "It's the only thing I can do. Hollie's too young and I'm too immature to be a working Mom without causing all of you chaos. It's the only solution to the problem."
"But you can't do that, you idiot!" Sylva exclaimed. "They'll send you back to Canada as soon as your paperwork goes stale!"
"I think Topaz knows that, Sylva." Cynthia put in quietly from her corner. "I believe she is willing to embrace that possibility."
"You mean...go back to Toronto?" Sylva's eyes widened. "But you can't, Topaz! You...you just can't! You belong here, in LA, with us! You can't go to Canada - you'd be all by yourself!"
"No, I'd have Hollie." Topaz shook her head. "And more importantly, Syl, she'd have me, which is what all of this is about."
"Are you serious about this?" Sadie asked. Topaz nodded.
"I'm afraid so." She said softly. "What else is there to do?"
"Well, you could grab the nearest American guy and marry him..then you'd be able to stay." Sylva told her. "I'm sure that Copper would share Aaron or Nancy Dean if it came to it."
"Syl, stop talking nuts." Despite herself, Topaz laughed at this. "You're being silly. And I'll miss all of you like mad, but I said when Hollie was on the way that there would be sacrifices. I just have to be grown up and make them, that's all. After all, you guys have each other. Hollie...only has me."
"When you put it that way, I see what you mean." Copper sighed. "I don't want you to go any more than Syl does, Topaz, but Jewel will suffer - and suffer badly - if the current situation has to continue."
She bit her lip.
"Whatever happens, though, you will still be my bridesmaid, won't you?"
"You couldn't keep me away." Topaz agreed. "I promise, Copper. Wherever I am in the world, I won't miss your wedding."
"It sucks." Nancy said flatly. "Topaz has been with us since almost the beginning and she's part of the family now. There must be some loophole that would mean she could stay in LA and still look after Hollie. There must be!"
"If it were you, or me, or Syl, it would be easy." Copper said sadly. "We were born here, we hold American passports and noone would kick us out of the country if we wanted to settle down and have a family. But Topaz is reliant on paperwork to keep her here, and if she isn't working - well, we all know the details of that. We've been over it before."
"Perhaps I'm part of the problem?" Sadie asked hesitantly.
"You?" Topaz looked startled. "I don't understand, Sadie, why would you be part of the problem?"
"Well, Jewel have...have carried on with me playing bass." Sadie said slowly. "So, well, the group has been able to continue without you, Topaz. If I hadn't come to LA, I would never have got involved in Jewel, and you wouldn't be out on your ear like this. It's my fault."
"That is the stupidest thing I ever heard you say, Sadie, and you've said some stupid things over the last few months." Nancy said bluntly. "Don't be dumb. Topaz left Jewel to have a baby, you came in to resolve the situation. In no way are you at fault."
"But if I wasn't there, Topaz could come back to Jewel and things would be how they were before." Sadie persisted. "Just I'm in the way."
"How could I come back to Jewel? I have a six month old baby to worry about." Topaz frowned. "I appreciate the sentiment, Sadie, but you're making no sense. Jewel are better off with you than they ever were with me, anyhow. You can write a little, play guitar properly, and sing. Me, I was always just a voice, however much bass Nance tried to drill into me."
"But if I was to leave..." Sadie frowned. "I said at the time that if you ever needed to come back I'd step down, and I will if it will resolve things. I don't want you to go back to Canada, Topaz, I'd feel to blame."
"Well, don't." Topaz said firmly. "Hollie is the issue here. Not whether or not you're in the band."
"Noone is leaving Jewel." Copper held up her hands. "We went down that road before and it sucks. Sadie, you're a Jewel and we want you in the band, okay? None of us will let you quit, however noble your reasons for doing so."
"Besides, you have the same paperwork issues as Topaz." Nancy pointed out. "It wouldn't help anything."
"I suppose not." Sadie looked wistful. "I just wanted to help."
At that moment, a cry came from the baby radio on the mantlepiece, and Topaz was on her feet in an instant, heading up the stairs to tend to her daughter's needs.
"We have a problem." Sylva remarked once she was gone. "Can't we talk her out of this?"
"I'm guessing not." Copper looked troubled. "What can we say? She's right on most counts."
"But she has noone in Canada." Sylva protested. "She doesn't speak to her Mom, her stepdad...anyone up there. She'd be isolated and miserable and she can't have put away enough money from Jewel to live out her days without working, surely? She had medical bills, as much as anything else."
"She has the tab for the movie yet. Aunt Phyl seemed to think that'd be big bucks." Nancy murmured absently. "But that isn't the point. The truth is that none of us ever wanted Topaz to leave Jewel, let alone Los Angeles. I was afraid of this happening if she had the baby. That eventually she'd decide to hare off to Canada because she no longer had anything to keep her here."
"She has plenty to keep her here." Sylva objected. "Us!"
"Topaz had a nasty fright recently." Cynthia said gravely. "It has reshuffled her priorities and awakened her to her maternal duties. Hollie must come first in whatever she decides - it is brave of her to recognise that fact."
"Well, I still think she could have stayed with Jewel." Nancy sighed. "No offence to you, Sadie, because I haven't any regrets about bringing you on board. Just it seemed so unnecessary at the time. We'd have to live with the baby whatever happened, since she was staying here. Just if she was with Jewel still, we'd be keeping the same hours, more or less. Surely it'd have been easier to manage?"
"Easy enough to say with hindsight." Copper said sadly.
"I did say I'd leave." Sadie added.
"If you mention leaving one more time, Sadie, you'll get a cushion in your mouth." Sylva threatened. "Who else will I drag on endless shoe shopping hunts if you go back to England?"
"Topaz?" Sadie suggested. She sighed. "She belongs here. You guys adopted me, but she really belongs."
"So do you." Cynthia sat down beside the blond girl, squeezing her hand. "And that is all to be said on that matter."
"As Copper said, Sadie, noone is leaving Jewel." Nancy nodded. "So get it out of your head right now."
"All right." Sadie frowned. "It was just an idea."
There was a moment of silence, then,
"You know, I believe Nancy has made an excellent point." Cynthia observed at length.
"I did?" Nancy looked startled. "Care to point it out to me?"
"It was what you said about Topaz and her schedule if she had remained with the band." Cynthia explained. "Jewel work with Misfit Music and vice versa, whereas this film has involved outside agencies and different agendas. Jewel keep the same working hours, most of the time, and involve the same background staff - myself and Aaron included. Would it be such a wild jump, therefore, to see that as the solution to this problem?"
"Cynthia, either explain properly or I'm going to reinstall your language drive." Nancy rolled her eyes. "What do you mean?"
"Simply that Topaz was a Jewel before, and surely could be one again, given the right circumstances."
"Five Jewels?" Sadie asked. "But..."
"Well, we began with three." Nancy pursed her lips. "Do you think the press would take umbridge at us if we tried to bring her back into the frame? I mean it's one thing to add one new member, but two?"
"This wouldn't be adding a new member, though." Sylva's eyes had lit up with hope at this. "It'd be bringing back an old member! And it's not like there isn't a precedent! Look at Jem and the Holograms!"
"Syl's right." Copper nodded. "Jem kept Mama on as drummer even when Shana decided her career in fashion wasn't working out and wanted to come back to the band. The Holograms were already four when Mama joined them - noone made a fuss about a fifth member."
"But Jewel already added a fourth, then replaced her with a fifth." Nancy looked troubled. "Do you reckon Mom and Aunt Phyl would go for it?"
"I reckon that they'd do a fair bit to keep Topaz on their books." Copper said wisely. "We all know that she's rated as the best singer in the state at the moment, however modest she is about it herself. It must be worrying them that she'll decide to leave their employ because of her personal situation. I reckon they'd grasp it with open arms."
"Will Topaz, though?" Sadie wondered. "She seemed to think it impossible when she headed upstairs."
"True, but we'd need to think it out." Sylva responded. "Hollie's important and we've all been made to realise that lately. Moreso, I think, we've realised that whatever happens Hollie is a part of things now, and we have to accept that. Even if that means that sometimes the baby takes up our time as well as Topaz's."
"I think it's worth sacrificing a little peace and free time to keep Topaz where she belongs." Copper said with a shrug. "What about the rest of you?"
"I haven't been able to write much here since the kid was born, but I don't mind working at the music company if need be." Nancy shrugged. "I'm not loving the idea of being babysitter, Copper, but I hate the idea of Topaz leaving even more. If Aunt Phyl and Mom agree to the idea, I'm with it."
"Me too." Sylva nodded. "As if you have to ask! Hollie's a doll, and Topaz isn't going anywhere if I can possibly prevent it!"
"I'm with Syl." Sadie nodded. "Wherever she was born, this is where Topaz belongs."
"I also have no objections." Cynthia shook her head. "It remains to be seen what Topaz herself says, but it appears we at least are unanimous in this."
"Unanimous in what?" Topaz pushed open the sitting room door, pausing as she registered their expressions. "What? Is my hair standing on end or something? After today it wouldn't surprise me."
"We have a proposition." Cynthia said quietly. "Between us we have worked out a possible solution to your problem."
"Oh?" Topaz raised an eyebrow, dropping down into a free chair. "I have to hear this."
"Come back to Jewel." Sylva said simply. Topaz stared.
"Did you lose your mind somewhere between me going upstairs and coming back?" She demanded. "What about Hollie?"
"Well, if you were with Jewel you'd keep Jewel hours and we'd all be able to chip in without interfering in our schedule." Copper explained.
"But touring? And what about during the day? Or evenings?"
"Where possible, Topaz, I am willing to help." Cynthia said quietly. "I can take my vacation time to coincide with Jewel's touring, since I am unable to project my solid form out of Los Angeles, so I will be quite willing to look after the little girl if I can. Misfit Music have an excellent creche, also, and Kimber will always have her at the Foundation if nothing else is possible."
"I've left her at the Foundation too much already."
"But Kimber knows the music business and she will understand." Cynthia said with a smile. "I will speak to her myself, if you like, and explain the situation. I know she will help - she has a good heart and will not let me down."
"But...five Jewels? Won't people think it kinda...strange?" Topaz asked.
"We don't care if they do." Sadie said firmly.
"Sadie's right." Sylva nodded. "We want you to stay in LA, and if this is a way to guarantee it, then we want you back with open arms, okay? Forget what people will think about it. Shana could go back to the Holograms and you can come back to Jewel once the movie is done. Okay?"
Topaz paused for a moment. Then she hugged Sylva tightly.
"Okay." She agreed. "If that's what you want, that's what I'll do."
"Once a Jewel, always a Jewel." Copper grinned. "I'm glad, Topaz. We'll discuss it with Jetta and Phyllis tomorrow and sound them out about it. Nancy's good at persuading them, so I'm sure it won't be a problem. Phyllis thinks a lot of your voice, anyhow."
"Well, then that probably settles it." Topaz laughed. "I guess Hollie and I are here to stay!"
A MOVIE STARLET
Chapter One: A Surprise For Topaz
Chapter Two: Make or Break
Chapter Three: Audition
Chapter Four: First Day
Chapter Five: Travis' Plot
Chapter Six: Making Choices
Chapter Seven: Jewel...and Jack
Chapter Eight: Topaz Shines
Chapter Nine: Trouble
Chapter Ten: Crisis
Chapter Eleven: Morgan Explains
Chapter Twelve: Topaz's Future