Chapter Four: Shopping Trip
It was dark.
All around her, through the dim smoke and haze, she was aware of people calling her name. Taking a step backwards, she found herself up against a brick wall, as the figures began to emerge from the drifting mist. As the haze began to clear, she could make out first Aaron and then his beautiful fiancee, their eyes bright with excitement. Both were dressed in wedding attire, Copper's hair thick with rice and pulled back beneath a silken veil. In the strange light, she looked ever more beautiful, and try as Stefana might to attract Aaron's attention, the road manager was oblivious to her calls. She took a step forward, reaching out for them but the floor in front of her seemed uneven and she stumbled, watching helplessly as Aaron and Copper vanished from sight. She was on her feet in an instant, but someone was pulling her back and she swung around, meeting a chilling gaze.
He was like nothing she'd ever seen before, his eyes gleaming with anger and amusement all at the same time as he grabbed her around the throat, bringing his gaze close to hers.
"We said three seventy, doll." He hissed. "Pay up, else the world will know what kind of a girl Stefana Ranieri really is."
"Get off me!" She struggled, but it was futile. Through the mists she could make out another shadow, and with a jolt of realisation she recognised her brother. His expression was dark, his eyes foreboding and his demeanour one of disappointment.
"You've let me down. Let Dad down." He told her coldly. "You're not welcome here any more."
"Luca, wait!" As he turned to walk away, Stefana struggled once more against the demon who held her - for yes, he was a demon, now she looked at him more closely, and not a man at all. With all of her strength she pushed him off, running after her brother and grabbing him by the arm.
"Luca, wait, you don't understand..."
"I understand." Luca paused, casting her a hollow look. "You're not who I thought you were after all."
"But...you promised Dad..."
"Dad wouldn't want you if he knew what you were involved in." Luca shook his arm free. "I don't need you. Diablo don't need you. We don't need people like you dragging us down."
"I always knew she was trouble." That was Madeleine, she recognised the accent, even if she could not see the singers face. "I told you, Luca, she's no good for the band."
"She's just a little girl, playing grown up games." This time it was Clay she heard. "Come on, Luca. We don't need her any more."
"You owe me three seventy, doll." The demon had caught up to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and sending her a meaningful look. "You got me? Three hundred seventy bucks, else the whole world will know."
"Let me go!" Stefana fought to push him away, but he shook his head.
"Nope, you belong to me now. Noone else wants you." He told her. "You belong to me."
A fresh voice interrupted the conversation, and Stefana gazed around her for the speaker. It sounded like Marissa, but everything was confusing her, and she didn't know...
"Steffi, wake up! You're having a nightmare!" This time Marissa's words penetrated right through Stefana's dreamstate, waking the other girl up with a start. She sat up in bed, breathing hard, as she registered that it had been nothing more than a hallucination, figments of her imagination taunting her sleep and her dreams.
"You were having a nightmare." Marissa repeated, sitting down on the end of the other girl's bed and casting her a concerned look. "You woke me crying out. Are you okay? You look freaked."
"That's the last damn time I buy sleepers from that guy." Stefana muttered, rubbing her temples. "God knows what was in them, I had a hell of a dream."
"I thought you'd quit using sleeping pills. Stef, you don't know what they're cut with!" Marissa sounded alarmed.
"Well, I don't use them much." Stefana responded quietly. "Just tonight I was so damn beat I had no choice. Too tired to sleep and all of that."
"No wonder it was so hard to wake you. I must've been trying for ten minutes at least." Marissa remarked. "Stef, please don't use them again, okay? It's bad enough you take what you do, without making matters worse. We don't need you hooked on more than one thing."
"I'm not hooked on anything." Stefana snapped, reaching over to switch on her bedside lamp, and glancing at the dial on the clock. "Three o' clock?"
"Yeah. It's still late, and I don't think you woke anyone else." Marissa told her. "What was the dream about, Stef?"
"Doesn't matter." Stefana shook her head. "Tisn't like it meant anything. Just a drug induced hallucination, that's all. I should've known better than to go to that guy, his stuff is usually crap as hell, but I didn't have much choice. I'm practically broke as it is, and he was cheap."
"How can you be broke?" Marissa stared at her. "We only got paid three weeks ago, and our new album is selling like crazy!"
"Well, it's fine for you. You have a writing credit." Stefana was bitter. "The rest gets split five ways and it ain't much when it comes to living costs, I'll tell you. I gotta pay my share of the household expenses, not to mention gas for my car and I've been using a lot of that lately. Then there's cigarettes, and everything else. It doesn't hang around."
"I can't believe you've spent all that already." Marissa looked troubled. "I know I get royalties for writing, like Clay, but still, there was a big cut this month from the album profits. Maddy and Luca don't seem challenged for money, and Maddy bought new boots and a brand new dress just this week, not to mention the fact she's put a down payment on a new car. You can't tell me that you haven't been paid enough, and I know Rory doesn't give advances on wages, so I know there's no way you spent it that way."
"Well, it's gone. All right?" Stefana retorted. "I have about enough to buy cigarettes this week, and that's it."
Marissa bit her lip.
"How much are you spending on drugs, Steffi?" She whispered.
"It's none of your business!" Stefana flared up at this, folding her arms defensively across her body. "Enough to get what I need, that's all. I'm not some out of control addict, Marissa, I can control what I take. Just the stuff can be damn expensive."
"So don't buy it at all." Marissa reasoned softly. "There are so many more things you could spend that money on, Stef! What about that gorgeous top you saw in Beverly Hills last weekend, huh? You've hardly bought more than the odd item of clothing here or there for ages, and that's not like you - we used to go shopping for clothes a lot!"
"Well, the top was okay, but I don't have the money." Stefana said flatly. "It's not my fault if Rory is stingy when he's dishing out wages, after all."
"You didn't tell me how much you were spending." Marissa murmured.
"No, I told you it was none of your business, and it isn't." Stefana snapped. "I don't ask you how much you spend on, I dunno, sending stuff to your sister in Japan, or new shoes - which you have bought at least seven new pairs in the last two weeks, so tell me that isn't a shoe addiction beginning right there!"
"One of those pairs was for you, and you haven't paid me back yet." Marissa looked troubled. "I'd forgotten about that."
"Well, forget it again, okay? I won't be paying you back this month." Stefana reached for a pile of scrunched up paper on her bedside cabinet, tossing a couple of sheets her friend's way. "See? Statement for my bank balance. You believe me now?"
Marissa took the proffered sheets, smoothing them out and squinting at them in the dim light of the lamp. As she made out the figures, her expression became more troubled.
"Stef, over the last few weeks you've made six or seven big withdrawals." She said quietly. "No wonder your account is this empty."
"Well, a girl has to have a life." Stefana defended herself. "I go out, go to clubs, drinks cost money you know."
"Yeah, I know, but we all do that somewhere along the line." Marissa indicated one large sum with her finger. "Since when did that cost this much though, Steffi?"
"Oh, gimme that." Stefana snatched the sheets back, dumping them down on her cabinet. "It's my money and I can spend it any way I choose, after all. Besides, it's not as bad as it looks. The guy I get them from is just being a pain about the price at the moment, that's all. I'll sort him out."
Marissa eyed her friend thoughtfully. Even in the dim glow of the lamp she could make out the dark shadows beneath her friend's eyes, and, in her nightgown, with her dark curls tousled and messy, and her arms crossed defensively in front of her, she looked strangely fragile and vulnerable. A mixture of tiredness, apprehension and despair mingled in the green eyes, and Marissa began to seriously wonder if her friend had lost weight, for she seemed so delicate.
"I just worry about you." She said at length. "Like any good friend would."
"Well, I wish you wouldn't bother." Stefana said bluntly. "As if it isn't bad enough, living with goody two shoes Madeleine and that creep drummer who thinks he's so damn clever. I don't need you fussing over me, Mari. Luca plays Dad enough."
"Luca doesn't know what you're messed up in."
"No, and he isn't going to, all right?" Stefana glared at her. "Stay out of it, Mari, I mean it! You gave me your word you wouldn't betray me, so keep it, all right?"
"I would never break a promise." Marissa responded, though she seemed troubled by it. "Though I'm starting to think it was one I should never have made. I think you have a problem, Stef - that it isn't just a casual habit any more, and it isn't even a mild addiction. I think you're more hooked on these things than you think you are, and I think it's going to hurt you if you don't get a grip on it soon."
"Listen to me, Marissa." Stefana grabbed her friend by the shoulders, fixing her with a dark look. "I have always been able to take care of myself, and dammit, I've always had to. I know what my body can take and what it can't, and I'm fine, all right? It's not as if I'm messing up Diablo - we both know that I played a damn good set the other night, and even smart ass Clay admitted I was rocking the show. It's not interfering with my work or anything else, so why should you worry? I'm fine, and the sooner you accept it, the better our friendship will be. All right?"
"Fine." Marissa sighed. "I don't suppose I'll convince you, so I might as well head back to bed."
She got to her feet, heading to the door, but then she paused, turning back.
"I will still worry about you, though." She said quietly. "If you're not going to do it, someone has to."
With that she was gone, and Stefana flopped back onto her pillows, reaching over to turn off the lamp. She closed her eyes, but her body was still unsettled by the bad dream, and try as she might, sleep would not come.
"Damn Marissa. Now I'm wide awake." She muttered. "Besides, where does she get off telling me what to do? I'm fine...and I don't need help! Not from her, and not from anyone. I'm fine!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"I still can't believe I'm trying this thing on."
Nancy glared at her reflection in the mirror, eying the pale pink dress with some distaste. "Copper, you're a sadist! What in hell do you want, bridesmaids or blancmanges?"
"You look beautiful, Nance." Copper scolded, coming to examine her friend more closely. "And besides, I haven't made up my mind that this is the dress yet. Just it would go so well with the wedding dress we saw earlier, and I'm beginning to think that might be my dress."
"Can I take it off now?" Nancy begged. "When you asked me to come dress shopping with you, I thought you meant for you, not for me! I only came along because I'm one of your maids of honour, but I'm beginning to regret it!"
"Sure, you can take it off." Copper laughed. "Thanks for playing guinea pig, though. I needed to know how it looked on, and it really is a gorgeous thing. Besides, it's a delicate colour and it won't clash with anyone's hair this way. I'm almost decided."
"Yuck." Nancy rolled her eyes, disappearing into the dressing room. "You dare tell anyone what I did this morning, okay? I don't want the whole world knowing about this!"
"Fair enough." Copper agreed good-naturedly. "I appreciate your help."
"What time are we meeting Sadie and Syl?" Nancy asked from behind the curtain, as she returned to her more comfortable jeans and top. "You could have had one of them try this monstrosity on, you know."
"I know, but we're pressed for time this afternoon, since I have to go to the florists, and then Aaron and I are signing the house lease at four." Copper said pensively. "With Cyn at work, Topaz busy with Hollie's vaccination this morning, and Syl and Sadie already arranged to go shopping for shoes, I needed help at short notice. You were the perfect choice."
"If you say so." Nancy pushed back the curtain, the dress over her arm. "Here. Are you buying it today, or what?"
"No, I'm going to go back to look at the wedding dress once we've met Syl and Sadie, and make a decision." Copper decided. "But first I think you deserve a coffee, so shall we head to a nice coffee shop and relax?"
"That's the sanest idea you've had all morning." Nancy handed the dress back to her friend, a look of relief touching her brown eyes. "Honestly, the things I do for my brother's wedding!"
Fifteen minutes later, both girls were sat in a booth in a local coffee hangout, discussing the plans for the wedding and oblivious to the number of local residents who had noticed with some excitement that there were celebrities in their midst. Beverly Hills was a favourite Jewel hangout these days, and it was not uncommon to encounter one or more of the band there shopping, but with Copper's high profile wedding on the horizon, they were bigger business than ever before.
"I still wish that Logan wasn't coming." Nancy grimaced, setting her drink down on the table.
"Why do you hate him so badly?" Copper looked curious. "I know some of the guys at school used to give you a hard time, Nance, but I don't get it. Surely Logan wasn't one of them?"
"No, he didn't pick on me as such." Nancy pursed her lips. "Aaron would've knocked his head off if he'd tried it, in truth. You know how he was my bodyguard in school."
"Yeah, I know." Copper agreed. "So what?"
Nancy's cheeks pinkened.
"I'm not sure I should tell you." She said quietly.
"You can trust me." Copper coaxed. "And I won't tell anyone else, I'm just curious. It's not like you to develop such a violent dislike to people these days, not without good reason."
"Well, I have a reason." Nancy sighed. "I suppose I might as well come clean and tell you, since I have no idea if he will when he arrives. I'm worried about Syl getting her paws into it, because I'll never live it down...but I had a crush on the guy when he and Aaron were seniors."
"I see." Copper looked thoughtful. "No, actually, I'm not sure if I do. I mean, people do have crushes. What about it?"
"Well, he kinda got to know about it." Nancy glanced down. "Some of the bitch cheerleaders in my grade broke into my locker to mess my stuff around one recess and they found my diary. That's when I quit keeping one, because all of my secrets got all over the place for the next three or four weeks. One of them was my crush on Logan, and they told him." Her cheeks reddened. "They even tried to set me up with him, but obviously, it never happened. Logan was one of the popular crowd - he was on the basketball team, and all the girls thought he was some superstar. He got a basketball scholarship when he went to college, though Aaron said that he wound up majoring in computer studies, thanks to wrecking his knee in freshman year. Anyhow, it was all very embarrassing, and I just know he was laughing to his friends about it. Not Aaron, of course, but the other guys. I was the school freak, and noone in their right mind even spoke to me unless it was some bitchy remark - that was how it was. I was the joke of the entire school for ages."
"That's horrible." Copper's brown eyes opened wide with sympathy. "I can't believe they stole your diary!"
"Well, they did." Nancy shrugged. "Those were the kind of bitches I went to school with."
"No wonder you hate cheerleaders so much." Copper pursed her lips. "I remember you laid into Syl about the fact she was one when you first met...I always wondered why exactly you were so hostile towards them, since I remember the cheerleaders at my old school weren't all bad guys."
"Oh, that was just one of their pranks. I went to school with them four years." Nancy said bitterly. "But it's beside the point. None of those bitches are coming to Aaron's wedding, because he considered most of them airheads and not worth his time. Logan, on the other hand..."
"Nancy, it was a long time ago." Copper said gently. "We all have crushes in high school, but you were what, sixteen then? You're twenty two now, and you're going steady with Dean. That's all in the past, and I doubt Logan even remembers it."
"I bet he does." Nancy grimaced. "It was the talk of the school for long enough."
"Well, even if he does, it doesn't mean he's going to make a thing about it." Copper reasoned. "And even if he did, well, I don't think you're the same Nancy Pelligrini he knew back then. Remember, Mackenzie said you'd changed and that was what, three years ago now, near enough? I don't think you have anything to worry about."
"Maybe not." Nancy said pensively. "But I'd die if Syl knew. Ive always prided myself on avoiding all that high school nonsense, all the who's going out with who and who's dating who stuff."
"You're too proud sometimes." Copper grinned. "But I really don't think it'll be a problem. Besides, Syl has grown up over the last few years, too. Her experiences recently with guys have proven to her that it's not just a case of a pretty smile and a flirty comment to get a decent date. She's learnt that real love is tough and that she can't always have the guy she wants...I don't think she'd be as mean as you think."
"Perhaps not." Nancy conceded, draining the last of her drink. "But we'll see."
She gestured towards the doorway. "Speaking of Syl..."
"Hey there, bride to be!" The synth player breezed across the coffee shop to the girls' table, Sadie in tow and her hands full of bags. "How's your morning gone, huh?" "Not too bad. I think I've found a few possible dresses for me and for you guys." Copper's eyes twinkled, and she moved up to allow the two girls to sit down. "I don't suppose I need to ask how your morning went, do I?"
"Syl tried on every single pair of pastel sandals she could find." Sadie grinned. "But in the end we wound up buying suede boots, and blue evening shoes."
"Well, the sandals were all right, but they kinda pinched, and I'm not sure they were me." Sylva admitted. "And you can talk, Sadie! How long did we spend looking at earrings in that french jewellers?"
"Touche." Sadie laughed. "I love shopping in LA!"
"It looks like you spent a fortune." Nancy said dryly. "Did you actually find anything for the wedding at all?"
"No, not exactly, but I found this perfect little black number for Copper's hen night." Sylva's eyes twinkled. "It will go so well with the diamond choker I got last week...that's so delicate and this dress is just...wow. So it wasn't a wasted trip."
"Yeah, I can really see how a little black dress comes under shoe shopping." Nancy rolled her eyes. Syl, you have enough little black dresses to clothe the entirety of the world's poor."
"I don't have that many." Sylva looked hurt. "Besides, I like to change my wardrobe, and it isn't like I waste things. Anything I'm done with goes to charity or some kind of fund raising auction, so I'm not quite the little miss shallow you think I am. I've done my bit for the community over the years!"
"She does have a point." Copper agreed. "Syl does give a lot of her old stuff to good causes, Nance."
"True." Nancy conceded. "I suppose it's something that the rest of the world get to benefit from her extortionate credit card bills."
She cast a glance around the coffee shop, realising for the first time how many looks were being cast their way.
"I vote we go and look at this dress Copper likes." She murmured. "We're being stared at, and unless you want to fend off the attack of the adoring mob..."
"Not today, we've too much to do." Copper frowned. "Okay, let's go. Sadie, Syl, I'd appreciate your input, though I really do like this dress. It's chic as anything."
"Well, lead us to it." Sylva grinned. "If anyone knows fashion, it's me!"
"Modest as ever." Sadie giggled, getting to her feet. "Come on, then. Let's see this wonder dress!"
Prologue: Steffi's Vice
Chapter One: The Bride To Be
Chapter Two: A Little Piece Of Hell
Chapter Three: Jewel
Chapter Four: Shopping Trip
Chapter Five: Copper's Dress
Chapter Six: A Devil Strikes
Chapter Seven: Gaynor To The Rescue
Chapter Eight: A Shock For Marissa
Chapter Nine: Wedding Plans
Chapter Ten: A Blow For Steffi
Chapter Eleven: Logan
Chapter Twelve: The Final Straw
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
Copper, Nancy, Sylva, Anna, Blade, Raesha, Sirena, Topaz, Aaron, Sophie, Justin, Elliot, Rosita, Luis and any other characters in this fiction which do not appear in the animated Jem series are copyrighted to me (E.A Woolley) as of January 2002 <unless otherwise specified> and are not to be reproduced without permission ANYWHERE. Jetta, Pizzazz, Stormer, Roxy, Raya and all other original Jem characters are the copyright of Hasbro Inc, Sunbow, Christy Marx and the other writers of the Jem series. The future world of Pizzazz, Raya, Jetta, Roxy, Stormer, Clash, Synergy, the fate of Jem and her memorial are all copyrighted to me. The future world of Kimber and Shana is copyrighted jointly to myself and Gemma Dawn.
The concept of 'Jewel' is entirely my own, and any apparent link with any fictional or actual person or persons of this name is entirely coincidental. Equally the characters in this fiction are not based on any real life individual.
The concept behind the future world of Danse, Aja and Craig, the idea behind Jerrica's futureworld and the split of the Holograms is copyrighted to Gemma Dawn, whose Teenangel Outsiders fiction is directly twinned with Just a Dream. The character Sammi and any of the other Teenangel Outsider characters mentioned in this fiction are entirely copyright to Gemma Dawn and appear here only with her permission.
Pay her page a visit!