A Movie Starlet
Chapter Seven: Jewel...and Jack

"Please give a warm welcome to LA's darlings of rock and roll - Jewel, everybody!"
Lights glimmered across the television set as Jewel struck up the introduction to their latest single, 'Fallen' amid the cheers of the crowd. Flushed by the excitement of performing live, Sadie took the microphone, launching into the opening verse of their latest number. Nancy had thrown her heart and soul into her writing since the group had returned from their adventures in Morvania, eager to capture a little of what she called 'European flair' in her writing. The result was a catchy, high-tempo song, which soon caught the audience's interest and imagination, and before the song was through the whole auditorium was alive with rhythmic clapping.
As they finished their performance, Connie beckoned the four-piece group over to her couch, greeting them with warm smiles as she did so. Mother of Jewel's video artist, Zoe Montgomery, Connie's interest in the group was always high, and they were among her favourite local guests.
"Well, you girls have rather saved the show tonight, with one thing and another." She said playfully. "And what a rescue! That's one hell of a song! Can I ask what the inspiration for it was?"
"Most of these things come out of Nancy's imagination." Sadie cast Nancy a smile. "But I think that there are elements of our recent performances in Morvania in this one, too."
"Sadie's right." Nancy nodded. "Even though it was quite a stressful visit for us, with everything going on, it was also a very enjoyable view at another culture and another way of life. Winning the contest out there meant a lot to us, and I wanted to put a little bit of that into what we did tonight."
"The song you performed in Morvania - 'Someone' - will that ever see a single release in the United States?"
"We've decided not." Copper shook her head. "We're releasing it in Europe, to spearhead our new album, which the song will appear on. But we all liked this one better for America, and we realised that it had been a while since we had a catchy, up-tempo song, so that's why we decided on doing it this way around."
"Jewel are recovering, then, from all the changes flung your way since Topaz left the group last October?"
"Oh, yes." Sylva grinned. "We love Topaz to death, and we're thrilled about her movie role, but Jewel has to go on, and we've done so. I can honestly say that everything in England and Morvania have cemented a special bond between us as a quartette now, and we'd not be without Sadie at all. Everything's worked out for the best, all in all, and it's great."
"I'm loving it." Sadie agreed. "It was a huge surprise to me when 'Someone' won in Morvania, considering it's the first song I've properly written for the group. And Nancy's helped me such a lot with my composition...I'm hoping that maybe a couple more of my songs will appear on the album."
"I can almost guarantee they will." Nancy's eyes twinkled. "Sadie's a better writer than she thinks she is, and there are some perfect songs we've been bandying about, that I think just might make the cut on this disk."
"So, it's business as usual?"
"Something like that." Copper nodded.
"What about you, Copper? Any date set yet for you and Aaron?"
"Not at all." Copper flushed red. "We're both agreed on a long engagement, because we're both still young and have a lot of things to organise before we can settle down together. We've no plans for it to be in the imminent future."
"Is it awkward, working with your fiance so closely? I know he's here tonight." Connie cast an amused look across the set to where Aaron, out of shot, was starting to dismantle Jewel's equipment. "Doesn't it mean you see too much of each other?"
"Actually, with everything we do, I don't think we see each other enough." Copper admitted, sending Aaron a sheepish grin as the cameras zoomed in on him, taking him by surprise. "But it's fine. We like working together."
"Well, we're out of time, so my thanks to all the guests tonight, and of course, we'll see you again at the same time, same place Friday." Connie grinned at the cameras. "So tune in next time, when we'll have an exclusive interview with Diablo singer Luca Ranieri about plans for a European tour, and much much more!"
As the credits rolled, Jewel headed across to where Aaron was still busy sorting out the equipment.
"Need a hand?" Sylva asked, and he glanced up, casting them a grin.
"As many hands as are willing." he agreed. "I appreciate why Cynnie cut out on tonight, and I won't tell tales on her to Mom, but I could've used her help this evening. It was hard enough getting your stuff set up in time to play, and now it all has to come down again."
"Well, in the circumstances there was nothing else to be done." Sadie reasoned, reaching over to help disconnect the cables from the amplifiers, neatly rolling them up. "This was a last minute engagement, after all, and we pulled it off okay. Cynthia's taken care of Hollie and Topaz has done her bit to promote her film by appearing wherever it is this premier is being held."
"Yeah, I'm sure that was a real hardship for her." Nancy rolled her eyes, unhooking her guitar. "I'm sure she's hating every minute of it."
"Meaning what, Nance?" Sylva cast confused eyes across at her bandmate. Nancy shrugged.
"Nothing particularly. Just it struck me that we've had a hell of a long day, and now we're going to go home, dead beat, after having to clear our own equipment...to a baby who's teething and who will likely scream all night long. Did that not occur to anyone else?"
"Hollie lives with us, Nance. We know the cons of living with her, but we want Topaz to stay." Copper chided. "And she did tell Syl it was just a one off. I don't think we can begrudge her a night out. She's spent a lot too much time holed away with Baby since she came, if you think about it. And she missed out on England and Morvania, too. It's just one evening, and we handled it. No biggie."
"Maybe not." Nancy acknowledged. "And I'm not blaming Topaz, guys. It's just that if she's setting out her own career now, she's gonna be keeping different hours from the rest of us. Next time something important springs up, well, who's to say if we will be able to handle it? And at the end of the day I think a lot of Topaz, but I'm not going to compromise my music - and Jewel - to take care of her daughter. That's her job, not ours."
"Nancy, you're getting crabby." Sylva scolded. "One night short handed and you're preaching doom and gloom already! It's not going to be like that. This was at short notice, true, but so was us playing tonight. And Topaz is our friend. That's more important, surely?"
"I know it's important." Nancy nodded. "I guess I am just beat."
She stifled a yawn.
"I was at the studio before seven this morning writing - we've been practicing most of the day and now it's almost ten at night and we still have to cart all this stuff away. Going home to Hollie's cries is not my ideal choice."
"I don't think any of us want to do anything more than go to bed and sleep." Sadie admitted. "But Hollie doesn't cry that much, considering she's teething. She's actually a fairly good baby, all in all. My niece Megan was a whole lot brattier."
"Well, Hollie's just getting started with the teeth thing." Nancy shrugged. "I dare say you guys are right and it'll be okay. After all, that's why we settled on this arrangement, isn't it? So that Jewel could go on without having to bother about rescheduling around a baby."
"Right." Copper nodded. "And that's what we're gonna do. We just have to get used to the way things are now, that's all. Then everything will be fine."
"I don't suppose you girls could use a hand?"
A fresh voice startled the group, and they turned, Sylva letting out a gasp as she registered who was watching them. Jack Miller was leaning over the barrier that seperated audience from the stage, a slightly trepidant smile on his face.
"We could use all the help we got." Nancy told him bluntly. "One of our backstage crew is otherwise indisposed."
"Then can I help?" Jack asked.
"Syl?" Copper sent Sylva a questioning glance. Sylva hesitated for a moment, then shrugged.
"Thanks, Jack." She said finally. "But where's Court? You didn't just leave her, surely?"
"No. Mom has her tonight. I got tickets to see the show - it's my night off." Jack vaulted the railing, coming to join the group on stage, and with one accord, Sadie, Nancy, Aaron and Copper moved to the far side of the dais, in order to let them talk.
 "Tell me what to do, and I'll do it. I hoped I might have a chance to talk to you, actually, after our encounter the other day."
"Why are you really here, Jack?" Syl paused in where she was struggling to dismantle her keyboard, eying him in some confusion. "Just to talk to me?"
"Yes, pretty much." Jack nodded, moving to help her with the stand. "Here, I got it...you can unfasten it now."
"Thanks." Sylva deftly unfastened the clips, folding the stand neatly away. "But why? I don't understand - doesn't anyone use a phone any more?"
"If you'd forgotten, Syl, you don't answer my messages, and whenever I call, your phone seems mysteriously to be switched off." Jack said evenly. "I know I upset you, and I know you've every right to hate me till the day that I die, but I'm not just going to give up and walk away. You and I were pretty good pals before the whole Melanie business, and Courtenay misses you like hell."
He paused, then,
"Mom paid for my ticket tonight. She's sick of me fussing over the way you and I screwed up our friendship, and even sicker of Courtenay looking mournful and asking why Sylvie never comes to play any more. When she heard you were playing she told me to come down here and sort things out one way or another."
"You screwed it up." Sylva pushed the keyboard into it's holder with an emphatic bang. "I merely told you that your fiancee was mistreating your daughter, and you threw a fit at me."
"I know, Syl, I know!" Jack rolled his eyes. "And even if I didn't, you've not let me forget it. But that was a long time ago now. Can't you even forgive and forget now? Not even for Courtenay's sake? She misses you like anything, and...so do I."
Sylva paused, eying him carefully. Then, she sighed.
"I miss you guys too." She admitted. "We had a blast, before the fight. But..."
"Do you still have...you know...feelings for me?" Jack's tone became awkward.
Sylva sighed.
"Not like it was before." She responded at length. "Sad, I guess, that I never got to make anything of it - after all, you were the first guy I really fell for. But I guess I'm over it, Jack. I'm kinda sorry if it made you feel, well, odd about things."
"I didn't know how to deal with it." Jack admitted. "And then when I broke up with Melanie and you weren't there, it hit home what I'd done. But..." He held out his hand. "I want to put that in the past now. Can't we shake hands and make up? Please?"
Sylva pursed her lips, then nodded, taking his hand and shaking it resolutely.
"All right." She agreed. "Friends again. I guess it couldn't hurt, and I don't want to let Courtenay down."
Her eyes twinkled, and Jack grinned, relieved to see a spark of the old playful mischief in her expression.
"Dependant, of course, on how willing you are to take me out to dinner some time this week to seal it."
"I'll call you." Jack winked. "If I can get through!"
"Well, there's one happy ending, at least." Copper murmured, slipping her lucky drumsticks into their stick bag. Sadie glanced up, then smiled.
"Yes, I suppose it is." She agreed. "I wish Topaz and Cameron were so easy."
"Me too." Copper admitted. "Still, at least she has tonight off, huh? Even if we are short handed, she needs a break from everything. I reckon it'll do her good to go out tonight - and who knows? Maybe this Travis guy will turn out to be more than just a business acquaintance for her."
"You think so?" Sadie looked surprised. Copper shrugged.
"I don't know." She admitted. "But she deserves it, so maybe. I'd like her to be happy."
"Me too." Sadie nodded. "Me too."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"You looked very pretty tonight, Aurora."
Travis held open the door of the big black limousine, waiting for his companion to climb inside, then following suit, pulling the door closed behind him. "I have to admit I wasn't sure how you'd handle the pressure of all this, but you did just fine. Very impressive."
"Well, I might be new to acting, but I'm not new to showbusiness." Topaz reminded him with a smile. "It's different in some ways, being a singer, but tonight was fun. I really had a good time, and the movie was awesome. Your friend is a fab actor."
"He's not so dusty." Travis inclined his head slightly to acknowledge her words. "This was one of his better films, I must admit."
"It was just so nice to get out and relax for once."
Topaz gazed out of the window at the crowds of people, as they slowly drew out of the layby and onto the main road. "I haven't done it for a while. Things...well, I just haven't been able to. I didn't realise how much I missed just letting my hair down and, well, having fun."
"There are a lot of stories about the old crones at Misfit Music." Travis observed. "They work their artists hard, I hear."
"Yes, but that's not it." Topaz sighed, then, "It doesn't matter, really. What time is it?"
"A little after two." Travis examined his rolex, casting her a smile. "We could go back to my place for a drink, if you'd like. My driver is scheduled to pick me up at seven tomorrow for filming, and it wouldn't be a stretch to take two, instead of one."
"Stay over at your place?" Topaz looked startled. "Whyever for?"
"Well, I thought we might run over your script, and the scenes for tomorrow." Travis told her smoothly. "I'm not tired, and I feel that we have a good chemistry on set. I want everything to be just perfect."
"Oh. I see." Topaz sighed, then, "I wish I could. I can't, but I wish I could. I should have been home over an hour ago, as it is."
"You have a curfew at the Starlight Mansion?" Travis shot her a strange look. "Are Misfit Music that strict?"
"No, it's a self-set curfew." Topaz shook her head. "I have to be up early before work tomorrow, to take...well, I have to run an errand before I get on set, and I'm hopeless at waking up first thing as it is. If I overslept my alarm..."
"Surely the errand could wait?" Travis pressed her gently. "If you're worried that I have an ulterior motive, Topaz, I assure you that I am a complete professional."
"I believe you." Topaz told him earnestly. "It's just..."
She paused, biting her lip. Somehow, in the back of his impressive car, with the glitz of the premier not far behind her, she felt loath to explain her situation as single mother. Explaining Hollie would, she reasoned, require explanation of Cameron as well, and somehow she did not think that the great Travis Banning would be at all sympathetic.
"Besides, tonight I'm a star, I'm not changing diapers or waiting for her to scream. Tonight is my night off." She told herself. "It's not his business whether I have a daughter or not. I said I didn't want her in the public eye, didn't I? I don't have to tell people if they don't already know. It's not important."
"Just what?" Travis eyed her curiously.
"Tonight I can't." Topaz shook her head. "I wish I could, but I made a promise and I have to keep it. But I do appreciate your help, you know. And you've been sweet to me tonight, introducing me to directors and other people. You were right about me needing to come."
"I often am." Travis shrugged carelessly. "Very well, then. I'll drop you back at the Starlight. But perhaps we could schedule for some time in the week? I've been told you have something of a voice about you, and though I've not heard any of that music you did before, I'm curious to hear you sing. Since we have a duet, it does make sense for us to spend time together working on these things. Don't you think?"
"When you put it like that, it makes perfect sense." Topaz acknowledged. "All right, we'll work something out. I'm sorry about tonight, Travis, I just can't do it."
"I understand." Travis told her graciously. He turned his attention to the scenery outside. "It's a clear night."
"It's beautiful." Topaz agreed. "Reminds me of the first night I spent in America, after I signed with Jewel. I just sat out on the hotel balcony and really took in the fact that I was going to be a star, and that everything was going to be different from now on. I guess then I never anticipated moving on from music, but sometimes life throws things at you."
"Carmen Santiago is a very famous actress, and much respected in the profession." Travis observed, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a packet of cigarettes, lighting one and offering the pack to his companion, who shook her head.
"I don't, thanks."
"Suit yourself." Travis shrugged, dropping the cigarettes back into his pocket. "But as I was saying, Carmen is a true professional. But, believe it or not, she was once a drummer in some eighties rock group. A few people make the switch successfully. I'd like to hope you'll be one of them."
"I believe it." Topaz said softly. "Her daughter, Elizabeth, plays drums for Jewel."
"Really?" Travis looked surprised, flicking ash into the small gilt ashtray. "A small world, then?"
"Very." Topaz nodded. "But I'm starting to realise that showbusiness is."
"It;s all about who you know." Travis agreed. "And here we are, the Starlight Mansion. Thank you for tonight, Aurora."
He winked.
"You won't regret my friendship, I assure you."
Topaz flashed him a smile, climbing carefully out of the limousine and thanking the driver who had opened the door for her.
"Thank you, too." She told Travis. "I'll see you tomorrow."
She headed up the path, pausing at the top as she watched the big car drive away. Then she slipped her key into the lock, pushing open the front door and stepping quietly into the front hall, taking off her coat and hanging it on it's hook.
"You're late back."
A voice came out of the darkness, making her jump, and she turned, meeting Cynthia's violet gaze. She frowned, nodding.
"I'm sorry. Later than I intended to be - it ran on a bit." She admitted. "Thanks for bailing me out tonight, Cyn. Was she good?"
"She was frettish. I think her teeth are bothering her." Cynthia said with a smile. "But she was not naughty, and she went to sleep fairly quickly. I'm sure she'd like you to say goodnight to her, though. I suspect that not having Mommy to put her to bed didn't help her temper."
"Well, even single mothers deserve a night off every now and then." Topaz reasoned, as she unbuckled her sandals. "And it was a lot of fun, Cyn. I met loads of important people, got my photo taken by tons of reporters, and I felt important again, you know? Like for the last few months I've just disappeared back into the closet to gather dust, while Jewel have gone on regardless. It wasn't like that tonight, though. I can't explain it, but it was...nice."
"And I suppose the company of the famous Mr Banning didn't harm that feeling, either?" Cynthia teased. "I know that he is very well thought of in the profession."
"He was a gentleman." Topaz owned. "I don't think I could ever see myself with him - you know, in a romantic sense - but despite the fact he knows how good an actor he is, he's gone out of his way to help me out. He wanted me to go back to his tonight, but I have to take Hollie to the Foundation in the morning." She yawned. "Don't suppose you can wake me? I'll probably sleep through my alarm as it is. I have more alcohol in my system than I should have, considering I've a drive to do in a few hours, but I don't suppose it will matter. I'm not drunk."
"I will endeavour to wake you before I leave." Cynthia promised. "But now you should head to bed. It is already late!"
"That's where I'm going." Topaz grinned. "Night, Cynthia. Thanks again."
Cynthia watched her friend head up the stairs, a thoughtful look crossing her clever features.
"I wonder where this is going to lead us." She mused. "Why do I get the feeling that tonight might not be the one off Topaz thought it would be?"


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