"A one off, she said."
Nancy flicked her pen idly against her pad of manuscript paper, gazing
out at the dark Californian sky with a sigh. "I knew it. I knew that there
was more to it than just a one off film premier."
"She's still not back?" Sadie glanced up from her book, looking surprised.
"I thought she said she'd be home by seven tonight?"
"Well, I think we made a mistake in telling her Jewel had tonight off."
Nancy said quietly. "I hate to say it, Sadie, but it's been at least five
nights in seven. I know she's worked late two of those, and that's understandable,
but private dates at that Banning guy's place, and dinner parties with the
director...are those kinds of things really important?"
"We don't know much about the movie business. Maybe they are." Sadie shrugged,
coming to sit by the window. "I know she wants to make a real go of this,
Nancy. Maybe she's letting herself get carried away a little more than she
"Well, I said it once, and I'm saying it again." Nancy set her manuscript
down with a thump on the table, folding her arms. "I love Topaz and all that,
but I am not compromising my music or my band because she's not taking responsibility
for her daughter. You know Hollie spent one night last week at the Foundation?
All night? Topaz never came to pick her up, and Kimber wound up calling
here to make sure there hadn't been any kind of accident. And then, when
she does pick her up, the kid is dumped off here, and she's off out again
an hour later. It's not our job to change Hollie's diaper, or feed her, or
play with her!"
"No, it isn't." Sadie looked thoughtful. "Perhaps we should have a word
with her. You're right that she's spent a lot of the last few nights out
"Well, if you include the first premier she went to, Sadie, this is the
seventh in two weeks." Nancy grimaced. "Possibly the eighth, actually. And
I don't begrudge her her new career, but I'm honestly starting to dread
when the phone rings. Not just that, but I don't dare tell her when we're
not working these days, because the next thing I know we've a small redheaded
bundle dumped on us for the night. Babies are not my favourite thing as it
is. I don't expect to be playing nanny when I should be writing songs!"
"What are you moaning about now, Nancy?" Sylva pushed open the door of
the lounge, casting the two girls a questioning look.
"Topaz." Nancy said succinctly. "And her sudden amnesia when it comes
to the fact she has a small baby to look after. Did she call at all tonight,
to explain where she is? It's gone eleven."
"She left a text on my phone, but when I tried to call her it was switched
off." Sylva responded with a sigh. "I hate to admit it, Nancy, but you're
right. It's bugging me too. Jack was going to take me out this week but I've
not been able to accept him on the days he has free because last night I
was watching the kid at the last minute, and tonight he has to work. This
isn't like Topaz, either. She's been such a good Mom since Hol was born."
"Has she?" Nancy demanded. "We don't know what kind of a Mom she was when
we were in England or in Morvania. But what we do know is that Cynthia seems
to spend more time than anybody raising this poor kid. Have you noticed that?
Cynthia seems to know Hollie better than anyone - how do we know that when
we were touring abroad, Cynthia didn't get landed with the baby's care then,
too? How many sick days has she had to take this week to cover for Topaz's
irresponsibility? Mom and Aunt Phyl are going to get suspicious sooner or
later. Cynthia's never sick - they must think she's suddenly gone down with
glandular fever or something."
"Cynthia's with the kid now." Sylva acknowledged. "Hollie was crying again,
so I guess it was the teeth...I don't know where she gets all her patience
from, I really don't. I know she's a mainframe under all that make up, but
still, it would drive me mad if it were me, having to reschedule my life
around someone else's kid."
"Copper actually felt guilty that she and Aaron had a date tonight." Nancy
added. "Which is ridiculous, right? We have a night off, and she's perfectly
entitled to see her fiance. But she felt guilty, since we were stuck babysitting.
How screwed is that?"
"Something needs to be said." Sadie said softly. "I don't think it's occured
to Topaz quite what's happening, but I'm sure that once we explain to her..."
"I tried hinting around it this morning." Sylva pursed her lips. "Okay,
I didn't come right out and say it, but I did kinda suggest that maybe Hollie
would like to see a little more of her. She just told me that it's crazy,
being so busy, but that she's doing it for Hollie in the long run, so she
can stay in Los Angeles."
"How is she doing anything for the kid, if the girl doesn't get to see
her Mom at all?" Nancy demanded.
"I can't answer that." Sylva sighed. "Don't yell at me, Nance, this isn't
my fault. Hollie isn't my baby any more than she is yours, and it's not up
to me to play Mom to Topaz, and tell her what to do. She's older than me,
she should know better."
"I think she's missing Cameron." Sadie reflected.
"She's been missing Cameron since Violet's wedding." Nancy shrugged. "It's
no excuse. Sadie, I know you want to play peacemaker here, but it's not going
to work. Topaz has to take some responsibility for her daughter sooner or
later. Otherwise all that happens is that welfare step in and take the baby
away for good. Kimber is already a little suspicious about what's going on
here, with the amount of time Hollie's being left at the Foundation. It
only takes a concerned word from her to someone else in the same business,
and pow. That's that."
"Could they do that?" Sylva's eyes opened wide. "I mean, Topaz is a single
Mom, and she does have to work. Wouldn't they make some allowances?"
"Allowances for what? Topaz has spent less than an hour with the kid over
the last few days." Nancy replied. "I don't want it to happen, Syl, but I
can see it coming. Can't you?"
"I think it's kinda drastic." Sadie chided. "We'll talk to her when she
gets in tonight, that's all. I'm sure we can work it out and everything
will be fine. Being a Mom isn't easy, after all. She's still learning -
cut her some slack."
"All right." Nancy sighed. "We'll talk to her when she gets in, then,
and see what she says."
"Topaz is a reasonable soul. I'm sure we can work it out." Sadie responded.
"Work what out?"
Cynthia appeared in the doorway at that moment, sinking down onto the
nearest seat with a sigh. "I'm exhausted."
"Work out how to tell Topaz that she has to take more responsibility for
Hollie." Sylva explained. "You look drained. Is it possible for a computer
to get frazzled?"
"I am discovering the meaning of the word with increasing frequency."
Cynthia said ruefully. "I've had to reboot my projector three times this
evening, and I could really do with powering down and resting my circuits
for a while."
"If you want to go kip, Cyn, it's okay. We'll keep an eye to Hollie."
Sadie suggested. Cynthia shook her head.
"I wish to have a word with Topaz directly." She said. "I am concerned
that the child's ill temper is not simply to do with her teeth. I think she
is running a slight temperature, and her chest seems somewhat wheezy. It
is my opinion that she has contracted a cold, and I wish a mother's opinion
on the subject."
"Good luck." Nancy rolled her eyes. "She's still not back. Apparently
it's not yet seven, in whichever time zone Topaz's brain is living in at
"I think I just heard a car." Sadie leant over to peer out of the window.
"Yes, I thought I did! Big black limo...that's not what Topaz left the house
in this morning, is it?"
"Doubtful." Nancy turned to look. "That looks like the car of an egotistical
movie star trying to compensate for something."
"You mean Travis Banning?" Sylva demanded. Nancy nodded.
"Mr Wonderful himself." She agreed. "I thought there was nothing between
him and Topaz?"
"That's what she said to me." Sylva agreed. "But I'm starting to wonder
myself, to be honest."
"It is not a match I would recommend." Cynthia said decidedly. "All my
research into him indicates that his acting skill cannot be questioned, but
that he is not the most pleasant of company. In fact, if I was to draw a
close character match from my files, I would liken him to the man running
Rebel Records at this time."
"Rory Llewelyn? Ew." Sylva grimaced. "If Travis is that kind of a guy,
why is Topaz wasting her time on him?"
"Contacts, maybe? Publicity? Who knows?" Sadie shrugged. "Besides, you'll
be able to ask her yourself in a minute. There goes the door."
"With a bang loud enough to wake the dead." Nancy grimaced, getting to
her feet. "Right, that's it. You'd think she'd care to remember we have a
baby in the house!"
"Nance, let me go." Sylva held up her hand. "I know you're ticked, but
she's my best friend, and I ought to try getting through to her."
She cast Cynthia a glance. "Cyn, you coming?"
"Certainly." Cynthia got to her feet. "Lead the way."
Topaz was in the main hall, removing her coat, hat and boots as the two
girls approached her, and from the way she was fumbling with her boot zip,
Sylva realised with a flash that her friend was not entirely sober.
"Topaz, what time do you call this?" She asked quietly. "You told us you'd
be back at seven."
"Syl!" Topaz started, her hand flying to her chest. "Don't do that! You
"Keep your voice down! Hollie is asleep!" Sylva hissed. "Topaz, it's late!"
"It's not twelve yet." Topaz responded with a shrug. "Not that late. I
"You've been drinking." Cynthia looked disapproving.
"So? I'm twenty two, it's not illegal." Topaz put her hands on her hips.
"What is this? The third degree?"
"You told us you'd be back at seven. We didn't know where you were."
"I sent you a text." Topaz frowned. "Didn't I?"
"Yes, but all it said was that something had come up and you'd be later
than you expected to be." Sylva replied. "I tried calling your phone, but
it was off. Where did you get to?"
"Travis and some of his friends invited me out. It was good publicity."
Topaz leant against the newel post, her gaze going between the two girls.
"Did you stop and think that maybe you should be spending a little more
time with Hollie?" Cynthia asked gravely.
Topaz looked startled.
"Hollie? I'm doing this for Hollie!" She exclaimed. "You know that!"
"I told you once, keep your damn voice down!" Sylva snapped. "Look, Topaz,
tonight was our free night. Hollie isn't our responsibility, and yet you
dumped her on us as if she was."
"Were you going out?" Topaz looked contrite.
"No, but that isn't the point. You can't expect us to just grab her while
you go off getting drunk with some actor or other." Sylva responded firmly.
"You know that. She's your daughter, and we have this arrangement so that
she doesn't interfere with Jewel's work. Well, she is starting to interfere."
"So I'll call Kimber tomorrow and have her keep the kid at the Foundation.
No biggie." Topaz shrugged.
"Tomorrow?" Cynthia raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing special. Just a press engagement." Topaz dismissed it with a
careless gesture. She stifled a yawn. "I'm kinda tired, guys - can this
wait till morning? It's been a long day."
"For us too." Sylva reminded her.
"Before you go to bed, Topaz, I must talk to you about Hollie a moment."
Cynthia said slowly. "It is of some importance."
"What's up?" Topaz sent the hologram a quizzical look. Cynthia indicated
"Will you come up with me to see her? I believe she is a little feverish,
and I am not sure, but I think she might have something of a cold."
"A cold?" Topaz stared, then rolled her eyes. "Kids do get colds, you
"I know, but I would prefer to know that you have seen her and given your
opinion." Cynthia said levelly. "Please?"
"Oh, all right." Topaz sighed. "I'm coming. Syl, put my boots in the closet,
would you? I gotta go play nurse."
With that she followed Cynthia up the stairs, leaving a bewildered Sylvina
staring after her.
Cynthia pushed open the door of the room where the infant slept, quietly
creeping over to the crib and switching on the soft nightlight. She put her
hand to Hollie's brow, frowning.
"She still seems hot, and I do not think it is just teething." She murmured.
"What do you think?"
Topaz peered at the baby, touching her cheek gently. Hollie did not stir.
"She seems okay to me." She said at length. "Babies do get colds, you
know, Cyn. I think she's fine."
"Are you sure? I thought I heard her wheeze."
"Cynthia, stop fussing!" Topaz only just remembered to keep her voice
down. "I'm tired and you're making a fuss over nothing! Kids get colds all
the time, and that's all it is. She'll be fine by the morning, you'll see!"
"Cyn, I know you're a computer, and computers don't get colds, but kids
do! It's nothing to call the tabloids about!"
"Considering the number of days I have been forced to miss work over the
last couple of weeks, Topaz, I am well acquainted with the concept of the
common cold." Cynthia said quietly. "But perhaps you are right, and I am
overreacting. She has been bad with her teeth, and you know better than me
how the human metabolism works."
"I should think so, being that I am one." Topaz agreed. She yawned again.
"And now I'm going to bed, so if you don't mind, I'd like some privacy."
"Very well." Cynthia sighed. "Good night, Topaz. No doubt we'll continue
the conversation in the morning. Jewel are leaving early, to appear on Dean's
show, but I shall be here to wake you, no doubt."
She turned on her heel, leaving the bedroom and closing the door behind
her. Pausing outside, she shook her head slightly.
"I might be just a computer, but I hope she is right." She murmured. "I
did not like how flushed the child seemed earlier on. But perhaps it is
just difficult teething, after all."
She slipped her watch off her wrist, setting it down on the hall table.
Then, with a sigh, she powered down her hologram, focusing her energy on
shutting down her mainframe for a well earned night's rest. As she did so,
she became aware of muted voices, as the rest of the house's inhabitants
headed up to bed.
"Well, in the morning, when Topaz is more sober, I shall address the pressing
issue of Hollie's care." She mused to herself. "But for now, my circuits
need to sleep."