Chapter Eight: A Shock for Marissa

"I didn't realise that we knew so many people."
Aaron, in the middle of sorting out the huge mess of envelopes that littered the floor of the Starlight Mansion's front room, paused in his work to send his fiancee a rueful smile. "We've sent out half of them already, and yet we're still inundated with invites and envelopes and God knows what else!"
"Stamps." Copper pushed the book his way. "We've gotten the international invites out, Aaron, but most of our guests are coming from inside America, and aside from the Teenangels, I doubt that anyone from abroad will fly in, anyway. Dad's parents probably won't come - I barely know them, but it's courtesy to invite them anyway."
She finished lettering the invitation in her hand, carefully setting it down on the table for the ink to dry.
"Writing in them neatly is the pain." She added. "Do you have the envelope for my family in Detroit, Aaron?"
It was three days after the attack on Copper's wedding dress, and, after much deliberation, the bride to be had decided not to tell her fiance about what had happened, preferring to forget the whole traumatic incident as quickly as she possibly could. It had upset her badly, and she had cried herself to sleep that night, but Gaynor's quick pencil and gentle humour had helped to put aside the drummer's grief in the quest for the perfect replacement, and the wound had begun, slowly, to heal. The couple had settled at Starlight Mansion to sort through the remaining invitations, and Aaron had taken the morning off from Misfit Music for, as he had observed, there were a lot of them to get sent out.
"It would've been worse without Synergy's printer." Aaron observed now, pushing the requested envelope across the floor. "Here. It's only addressed to your Mom and Ros, though - aren't you inviting Luis? I thought he was your best man!"
"He is, but he doesn't live at home any more." Copper grinned. "He's twenty one, Aaron, and he has an apartment with some friends near the University of Michigan, where he's studying now. I've already done his invite - it's sitting here waiting to be jammed into the mailbox with all the rest."
"I've done Logan's, and Gran's." Aaron glanced over the signed and sealed envelopes. "Aunt Roxy, too. I don't know if she'll come, but I'm going to invite her anyhow. Same goes for Grandpa in Pittsburgh." He pursed his lips. "Mackenzie - who will pose you no bother at all, Copper, since when I phoned her to tell her about our impending date, she told me that she's marrying her fiance Paul at the end of July. He's coming to ours, too, as her date."
"Fine. I'm glad that she's happy and settled." Copper grinned. "Who else have you got there?"
"A few old school friends. Noone Nancy might brain." Aaron laughed. "Folk from work...hey, Jewel getting an invite?"
"Of course. Have to do these things properly." Copper's eyes twinkled. "And Cynthia is getting one also. Then there's Zoe, Dean, Ben, and anyone else I can think of in the meantime."
"I'm glad we got the foreign invites off." Aaron mused. "I'm fairly sure the Teenangels will come, and if they can't for any reason, I think Taylor will make an appearance. So long as Cameron doesn't lose me the same way as he lost Taylor, I think things will be...what?" As he registered the startled look his fiancee was sending his way. "What's up, Copper? Did I misspell your mother's address or something?"
"When did Cameron get into all of this?" Copper slid the invite into the envelope, sealing it and adding it to the pile.
"Well, he's my friend - he always has been. Why?"
"You invited him to the wedding?" Copper's eyes opened wide. "Does Topaz know about this?"
"Why should she? It's our wedding, Copper, not hers." Aaron looked confused. "I know that there's some bad blood between them, but this is our wedding day and I'd feel rough not inviting him. Unless you'd forgotten, he did play a big part in us getting back together and getting engaged in the first place."
"I know he did." Copper looked troubled. "And I suppose you're right. He should be invited. Oh well, maybe he won't come."
"Copper, what's this about?" Aaron caught the look in his fiancee's eye, and he set down his burden, coming to sit beside her. "I know Topaz is your friend - mine too, as it happens - but I don't understand why this is bothering you so much."
"Cameron doesn't know about Hollie." Copper said at length. "Topaz broke up with him to protect him - she didn't want him throwing away his education to worry about her and the baby here. Aaron, Hollie looks so much like her father, he'd only have to see her to know that the baby was his and that he'd been lied to."
"I didn't realise it was as messy as all that." Aaron frowned. "I figured they'd just fought about the baby, since he hasn't really talked to me about it, and I haven't asked her. I didn't know that he didn't know, if that makes sense."
"He knows she has a baby, I think. He just doesn't know it's his." Copper said at length. "Syl met him in a club in England when we were touring and I think that's what she said about it. She wasn't all that clear, to be honest, but you're right, it is messy." She sighed. "I should have told you about all that before, but as it happens, I agree that Cameron shouldn't be left off the invite list. Topaz will just have to work out something, I suppose."
"It would only be a couple of weeks, after all." Aaron agreed. Copper nodded.
"Right." She said doubtfully. "Well, no doubt it will be all right. And what's done is done, you can't uninvite the guy now. As I said, maybe he won't come."
"Maybe not, but I'd still like him to." Aaron shrugged. "And they're both adults. I'm sure it'll be fine."

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"I'm really hating this chord sequence."
Luca grimaced at his guitar, running the plectrum absently across the strings. "Clay, why did you have to write such a goddamn evil bass line for this one? How many changes in key signature are you trying to get in here - a new world record, or something?"
"Yeah, something like that." Clay looked amused. "Besides, it wasn't just me. Mari and I worked for ages on getting the bassline to work right, and that was the only way we could do it. Sorry, Luca. We thought you could handle it."
"Maybe, if I wasn't laying it down at Rebel Records in an hour or two." Luca pulled another face. "Oh well, I suppose I'll get through it." He fingered a few notes. "So long as I remember where to change, it shouldn't be too bad."
"It's a beautiful song, though." Madeleine set down the lyrics. "What inspired it, or shouldn't I ask?"
"Just...things." Marissa glanced up from her keyboard, her expression troubled. "I thought about all the hard times we've had as a group, and, well, other hard times people have, and I wanted to make it real. Clay thought the lyrics were kinda over the top to begin with, but when you put them with the tune, I think it works out. And it was important for me that they stay that way, Maddy."
"I like them this way." Madeleine assured her. "I love your phrasing, you know that. And I'll try to do it justice. It's a good thing Luca doesn't have a vocal, too, if he's having trouble with the bassline!"
"I wanted you to sing it." Marissa said gravely. "It's a girl's song, Maddy, and you have this way of making things sound haunting when you want. It's not meant to be a happy song, and nor is it meant to be belted out like some of our others."
"Meaning I can only belt?" Luca grinned at her. Marissa shrugged.
"If you like." She responded. She glanced up at the clock on the wall of the specially furnished ground floor practice studio.
"Stef's late." She remarked.
"Isn't she always?" Clay rolled his eyes.
"No, only when she's feeling particularly aggrieved with the world and everything in it." Luca sighed. "I don't know what's up with her lately, guys. She seems angry at the whole world right now."
"She's tired." Marissa said quietly.
"We're all that." Madeleine sighed. "It's been a busy few months for us, and it's getting busier the more hyped up we become. I know we wanted stardom, guys, but life's becoming something of a blur."
"I like it." Clay mused. "No two days are the same - I like that. I'd get very bored if all I did all day was sit at a computer and type letters."
"That's why we're where we are." Luca reminded him. "Oh, dammit, Steffi, where are you? We need to run this through before Rory hears it - he was scathing about our lack of practice last time, and I don't want to make it two in a row."
"Maybe she's in her room." Madeleine suggested.
"No, her car isn't here." Marissa shook her head. "She went for a drive early this morning - to the beach, I think she said, to clear her head. She told me she'd be back by lunch - maybe she got held up."
"Well, unless I miss my guess, that sounds like our prima donna's car engine right now." Clay headed over to the window. "Yep, there she is, parking her wretched convertible right up against my car again, so that I'll have to do a three point turn just to get out. Charming brat."
"She probably does it on purpose." Madeleine rolled her eyes, as Clay pushed open the window.
"Are you coming to practice today, or is it all beneath you?" He called across the front drive. Stefana glanced up, startled, then her brow knitted in a scowl.
"Shut your face, I'm coming. I got caught in traffic." She snapped back, banging her car door shut and locking it firmly. "Sheesh, can't you folk do anything without me holding your hand?"
"Modest as ever." Clay rolled his eyes, shutting the window and returning to his drumkit. "But at least she's here - that has to be progress."
"How long till we're supposed to be at Rebel Records?" Madeleine glanced at her watch. "It's almost twelve now."
"Twoish if we possibly can." Luca responded. "So we're going to have to motor."
"Well, where's the fire?" Stefana breezed into the practice room at that moment, scooping up her guitar.
"We need to get this song down by two." Marissa said quietly, helping her friend to hook the instrument up to the correct amplifier. "You know, the one I gave you the script for last night. Rory wants to hear it and lay it down as soon as possible."
"What song?" Stefana looked blank.
"The one I gave you last night, after dinner." Marissa repeated, confusion marring her brow. "I'm sure I gave everyone a copy."
"You did, Mari, I watched you do it." Clay assured her. "Stef, are you telling me you ain't even looked at it?"
"Noone told me it was important, and I was out last night." Stefana retorted. "It's not my fault if noone bothers to tell me we're in studio this afternoon, is it?"
"Common sense should tell you that - this is your damn job." Clay grimaced. "So what are we supposed to do now? Wait whilst idiot girl here learns her copy?"
"I can sight read." Stefana bristled. "Mari, you have a spare copy on you? I can get it down in an hour or two, no problem."
"Sure...there's my master copy right here." Marissa fished into her folder of manuscript, pulling out a slightly dogeared piece of paper. "There you go. Are you sure you can read it straight off, Stef? It's kinda complicated."
"I can do it." Stefana said darkly. "I'm not an amateur. Let's get it over with, huh?"
"Well, now we're finally all here, I vote we go from the top." Clay tested his snare carefully. "I'm ready to go."
Half an hour later, as the group were forced to stop for the fifth or sixth time, patience was beginning to wear thin. Stefana's sight reading was good, so long as she was clearheaded and focused on what she was doing, but that afternoon her head was buzzing as she came down from the amphetamine high she had ingested before breakfast, and Marissa's hand-scrawled copy was none to clear. As a result, the young guitarist kept stalling on the same passage of notes, finally tossing her plectrum across the studio in her frustration.
"Why in hell can't you write clearly!" She exclaimed. "Mari, what the hell kind of a note is that? I can't see if it's an A or a C or what the hell it is. And are those ledger lines, or did you drop your lunch on the score?"
"If you'd bothered to learn it last night, Stef, you'd have your copy right in front of you and we'd be fine." Madeleine said quietly. "Why don't you head upstairs and get yours, if you can't read Mari's?"
"I don't remember even being given one, so God knows where it is." Stefana snapped back. "Besides, what is with this song? It's a dirge - what gives?"
"It's not a dirge, it's a sad song." Clay told her bluntly. "And Diablo have to be more than a one trick pony kind of band, you know that. Mari and I worked hard on it, so quit your whinging, will you? We're running out of time to get this down."
"I'll tell you what you can do with your song." Stefana's eyes sparked. "Rory won't like it any more than I do, because it stinks, and there's no way I'm gonna play it until someone gives me a decent copy to read, okay? I'm sick of you all arranging things behind my back!"
"Stefana, that's enough."
Luca set his guitar down, eying his sister gravely.
"We never arrange anything without telling you what's going on, and fairly often we ask for your opinion." He continued. "I saw Mari give you a copy of the manuscript last night, not just Clay, so I know you weren't left out of this one. If you've lost it, well, that was irresponsible of you, but don't take it out on the rest of us. We do have a song to play, and we do have to get it right."
"See? You're ganging up on me!" Stefana exclaimed. She shoved the music stand against the wall, sending manuscript flying in all directions. "Why is it that whenever there's a problem it's always my fault, huh?"
"Because it usually is?" Clay replied simply. "You're late to practices, you give us all lip, and you don't ever seem to appreciate how much work we all put in to make this band work. You ain't the only one worth listening to, Stefana, and though you can play the guitar damn well, that doesn't mean you can play the prima donna. We're a band, we share the work and we all put in our bit. You still ain't got to grips with that yet."
"So, why is it not all right for me to be late, but when someone else is, noone says a thing?" Stefana put her hands on her hips.
"Because only you make a chronic habit of it." Luca told her quietly. "Stef, Clay's right. You're a brilliant guitarist, but you don't seem to give a damn that the rest of us have to do all the more work if you don't turn up and do your bit when you're meant to. This song has to be laid down, and throwing a tantrum isn't going to solve anything. All it does is waste time, make everyone else tense, and increase the pressure on us to deliver. That's all."
"Well, fine. You like this song so much? You can work it out." Stefana shot back. "I'm going for a drive - you can all do your 'hard work' and work out a way to damn well play it without me, because I'm done with this and this practice."
"Stef..." Marissa put a hand out to stop her friend, but Stefana was angry, and she pushed the other girl's hand away.
"Don't bother. You're no different from the rest of them." She muttered. Then she was gone, the door banging shut behind her.
Madeleine winced.
"Exit prima donna, stage right." Clay observed. "You know, Luca, the longer Diablo go on, the more I wonder why I agreed to let you bring Stef into this in the first place. She's nothing but a damn nusiance."
"She's my sister, Clay, and I promised Dad I'd look after her." Luca moved to the window, watching Stefana's car roar away with a resigned sigh. "I wish I knew how to get through to her, though. She doesn't seem aware that there are other people in the world, and they have feelings or opinions too."
"What will we do about the song now?" Marissa asked quietly.
"I'll call Rory and say we've had a hitch." Madeleine rolled her eyes. "Since the brat didn't do her homework, there's no way we'll be laying it down today. She knows as well as any of us that we need her guitar riffs."
Marissa sat down on the windowsill, rubbing her temples.
"I hate it when we fight." She murmured. "Surely bands shouldn't have these kinds of arguments?"
"Mari, are you all right?" Luca shot the keyboardist an anxious glance. Marissa nodded.
"I'll be fine." She agreed. "I've not been sleeping so well recently, that's all. I think the pressure of these deadlines are getting to me after that mental tour we did, and Stefana's mood swings aren't helping any. My blood sugar was up a little last night, but I think it's fine. Just...well...everything."
"Stupid bloody brat." Clay muttered. "All she does is shriek for attention...if someone had given her a good belting when she was a kid, it would've made a hell of a difference."
"That's kinda strong." Luca chided his friend. Clay spread his hands.
"I'm sorry, Luca, but that's how I feel about the girl right at the moment." He admitted. "She needs someone to give her a good hiding."
"She seems more obnoxious than usual at the moment." Madeleine observed thoughtfully. "Do you think she's gotten herself wound up in another bout of trouble? I wouldn't put it past her - after all, she did only narrowly avoid getting locked up by the feds for that attack on Misfit Music."
"Trouble?" Marissa looked startled.
"Well, she has been erratic recently, Maddy's got that right." Clay nodded. "More unreliable. I can take Stef's temper when she's using it to drive her instrument, but lately she doesn't even seem to care about that, and she's always sneaking out. Do you reckon she's got some guy on the sly?"
"I think we'd know, if she'd got a boyfriend." Luca said sensibly. "Stef isn't the kind to keep those kinds of things a secret."
"Well, I vote that we go check her room, make sure she's not hiding something from us." Madeleine said frankly, setting down her microphone. "If nothing else, we need to find her copy of this song, because if you're not feeling so hot, Mari, the last thing you want is to have to make her another copy."
"That would be invading her privacy!" Marissa looked horrified.
"So?" Madeleine shrugged. "Diablo is a band, and we have a right to know if one of our number is running riot around Los Angeles. Besides, if something is up, she isn't going to tell any of us. All that's going to happen is that we'll fight and fight and it'll get worse. The only way to find out what's going on in the girl's head is to do a little private research."
"What do you reckon, Luca?" Clay glanced at his friend. Luca pursed his lips.
"I've been tempted to go rooting in her diary for a while, but my conscience has stopped me." He admitted. "I don't know if you guys have noticed it, but she seems so much more unhappy these days, beneath the anger. I want to help her, but as you said, Maddy, she doesn't like to share."
"Well, then let me do it." Marissa offered quietly. "She trusts me more than the rest of you, and if she came home and found Clay or Maddy in her room fur would fly. If we're going to do this, then let me do the searching. I know where she keeps a lot of her things, anyway, and I'll get further than the rest of you."
"All right, if you want." Luca nodded, his eyes a mixture of relief and guilt. "I don't like to spy on my sister, Mari, but something has to give here."
"Since our practice is obviously over for today, you should probably scoot up and do it now." Madeleine told the younger girl. "We'll keep Stef at bay if she comes back."
"All right." Marissa agreed. After making sure her keyboard was switched off, she headed out of the studio and up the main stairs towards her friend's bedroom.
"If they'd ransacked her room, they'd probably have found the drugs, and that's one fight I don't want to cause." She mused to herself as she carefully pushed open Stefana's bedroom door. "I don't know exactly where she keeps them, but I know that Luca would go crazy if he found out, and so does Stef. At least if I do this, I can protect her from that. I don't agree with a lot of things she does, but she is my friend, and I'm not going to get her into trouble."
She sat down on her friend's bed, reluctantly reaching across to open the bedside cabinet. A jumble of papers and trinkets fell out, among them a small vial of pills, and, glancing at them, Marissa recognised what they were.
"Speed." She muttered, tossing them back into the cupboard. "Stupid, Stef! I wish you wouldn't play with your health like that."
She scooped up a handful of papers, glancing over them. Amongst them was the missing manuscript, crumpled but still legible, and she set it down on the end of the other girl's bed, turning her attention to the rest of the jumble. There were several receipts for bank withdrawals, and Marissa found herself worrying once again about the amount of money her friend was spending on drugs. Unpaid credit card bills were shoved beneath the girl's pillows, and a handful of magazine clippings tumbled onto the floor as the keyboardist returned them to their hiding place, resolving to discuss them with Stefana later. The clippings were mostly of Diablo performances, dating back to the group's arrival in Los Angeles, and Marissa realised that her friend had been saving them for some time.
"Almost like a scrapbook." She realised, fingering through them one by one. "She really does care about Diablo...whatever people might think. But...hey, what's this one? This isn't us."
She pulled a larger sheet out from the bottom of the pile, unfolding it and smoothing it out. Horror flashed into her blue eyes as she registered what it was. It was a recent article, dated some weeks earlier, and it had been from a multi-page spread on celebrity relationships, including those of Diablo's big local rivals at Misfit Music. That in itself was innocuous enough, but what had caught Marissa's gaze was the image at the top of the article. The photograph was of Copper and her fiance, but, as Marissa stared at it, she realised that Stefana's fixation with Aaron was more dangerous than she had realised. Copper's face had been slashed through several times with something sharp, and it chilled the keyboardist to the bone.
Slowly she folded the article back up, slipping it numbly into her pocket.
"This has to stop." She told herself softly. "Stefana needs help...but can I help her?
Or has it gone too far?"



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

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!