Prologue: Steffi's Vice
So it was going ahead.
In the dimly lit corner of the bar, the girl frowned, exhaling a cloud of smoke as she contemplated the situation. Well, that was just too bad. Somehow she would have to think of another way around it. One nauseating wedding in Los Angeles had been more than enough - she couldn't bear the thought of a second.
A crowd of young men entered the bar, laughing and joking, and the girl pulled herself further back into the shadows, not wanting to be noticed. One of them wore a teeshirt with a distinctive logo, and she had no mind to be recognised. She had needed this time away, time and space to think and to decide what to do. After all, time was running out, and all her previous tactics had failed her. It was time for a new perspective.
She tapped ash absently from the burning tar stick, glancing up at the clock. She had arranged to meet someone there half an hour ago, but she had known he would be late. He always was, she mused. Just in case the wrong sort of people were in the area, ready to pick him up. She understood his ways, and had got used to the wait. It was just another good reason why she did not want to be spotted in a run down, seedy establishment such as this one.
As a star, she felt she deserved better.
"Well there, little lady, it's been a while."
She had been so lost in her thoughts that she had not noticed him arrive and she started, casting him a baleful look through dark glasses, forgetting that the expression was lost behind their smoky tint. The man, amused at having startled her, seemed unconcerned by her anger. He had dealt with her many times before, and he knew her secrets as well as she knew his. They protected each other through suspicion rather than friendship, and he felt secure in her company. After all, she was big business, and it would do her no good if what he knew should hit the presses.
"You're late." She spoke in low, curt tones, getting her composure back under control.
"Sorry." The man did not appear at all sorry. "Customer relations ain't never been my strong point." He smirked. "After all, what I have is kinda in demand among people such as yourself. You got the money?"
"Don't I always?" She knitted her brows together in her frustration, reaching a gloved hand into her pocket and pulling out a handful of bills, carefully concealing it from anyone else's view as she did so. She set them down on the table and in an instant they were in his grip as he counted them out, one by one.
"Three hundred fifty?" He murmured. "I thought we'd said three seventy, darlin'. These things ain't cheap."
"Because jerks like you keep jacking the price up." The girl clenched her fists in her anger. "You don't wanna mess me about too much, smart guy. You know who I am and who I can talk to."
"Yes, but you forget, my dear, who I can talk to." The man smiled, his expression infuriatingly arrogant. "After all, what if the national tabloid presses knew that Stefana Ranieri was doped up on speed? Not a pretty picture for your fans. I keep quiet because you pay me good money for what I provide. You stop doing that, I'll find other customers and get good money selling your story to the gossip rags." He shrugged. "Your call."
Stefana stared at him, then she cursed, in the most colourful language she could find.
"Oh, dammit, have your twenty bucks." She said finally, knowing that his hold over her was greater than hers on him, and that he could more or less ask any price he wanted. She fished back into her pocket, extracting an extra twenty. "Here. And keep your voice down, huh? I don't want to be overheard and I sure as hell don't want to be seen in a pit like this one!"
"Girl like you should mind your manners." Her companion reproached her, his eyes amused. He pushed something across the table towards her. "Here. With the complements of the manager. I guess I'll see you around, won't I?" He winked. "Three seventy. Remember it next time, okay? Inflation happens, and with the bucks you rake in, you know you can afford it."
With a smile, he was gone, pocketing his money with a whistle as he did so. Stefana carefully examined what he had given her, then, satisfied she had at least gotten what she had paid for, she slid it into her pocket out of sight.
"Time I was out of this hell hole too." she muttered. "Dammit, I wish he wouldn't choose such degrading places to meet. I swear he just likes to mess me about...I hate him so much I could scream. I wish I damn well was earning as much as he seems to think I am! God knows where all my money goes - probably to jerks like him. One of these days I'll make him pay, and that's a fact!"
She got to her feet, putting out her cigarette and stalking across the bar towards the entrance. She was only too aware of the group of men in the corner, but she had taken precautions against being recognised, and they had paid off. Despite the 'Diablo' logo she had noticed earlier on one of the group's shirt, there was no cry of "Stefana!" as she left the bar, her thick black hair wrapped up tightly in a headscarf and her piercing green eyes hidden behind dark glasses. She had parked around the corner, and she was relieved to reach her car, slipping into the front seat and tossing the contraband into the glove compartment. Noone else ever dared to drive her car without her permission, so it had proven a good hiding place for the habit that was becoming more and more difficult to conceal. Slipping the key into the ignition, she put the car in gear, roaring away from the seedy neighbourhood as fast as the vehicle would allow her.
As she reached more familiar territory, she reached up to remove the scarf from her hair, taking off her glasses and tossing them down onto the seat next to her.
"How many more times can I do this without someone catching me?" She wondered, flicking on the left indicator and swerving across to the right hand turning, much to the indignation of several other late night drivers. "More to the point, if he jacks up the price any more, how'm I gonna afford it? Him and his goddamn inflation! Mind you, I can always pinch a few bucks from someone else if necessary. Noone suspects anything, so why should I worry? They seem to have way more money than me anyhow, so it's not like they'd notice if I borrowed some for a bit. I've other things to fuss over, anyhow."
As lead guitarist for popular rock act Diablo, Stefana's public image had always been of great importance to her, but her amphetamine habit had made an already difficult character reckless, vindictive and impulsive. Through the haze of the drug she had fallen in love with one Aaron Pelligrini, road manager for Diablo's fierce rivals Jewel, and the fiance of Jewel's drummer Elizabeth "Copper" Santiago. Sober, Stefana's hatred for Copper and love for Aaron might well have been dealt with in a more rational light, but Stefana's sobriety these days was often in question, and her moods were so distorted by the effects of what she was taking that her crush on Aaron had begun to border on obsessive. Still she denied it to herself and those around her, but the few people she allowed close had begun to realise that the young guitarist was setting herself up for a serious fall.
Aaron had told her only a few days before that he and Copper had set a date for their impending wedding. March 28th had become a red letter day in Stefana's calendar - the time was ticking away before Aaron became shackled to the drummer forever. Turning her mind away from her night's errand, she began to focus once more on how she could prevent the happy event from taking place, her tired brain concocting schemes as she struggled to navigate her way back to the home Diablo shared in the more affluent side of town.
"Damn drivers." She muttered, banging down on her horn as her car was overtaken. "I'll show them how to drive this road!"
She put her foot on the pedal, pulling past a lorry and a van and slipping into an almost impossible space, causing the vehicles behind her to have to slow down abruptly to prevent an accident. She pushed her foot down on the accelerator pedal, pulling away at twice the speed limit and almost missing the turning as she did so. Her head felt hazy and fuzzy, for she had had nothing left to take before she had come out, and in her anxiety to leave the bar she had not risked taking anything there, either. Her drug habit had turned her into something of an insomniac, and as the waves of dizzy tiredness began to wash over her, she found it harder and harder to control the car, particularly at her chosen speed. Finally she pulled off the main road, slowing down and parking the car with a bump in the layby, resting her head in her arms.
"I can't keep doing this." She muttered, flipping open the glovebox and extracting a small dose of the amphetamine. "I need to find a better way - this damn drive's gonna kill me one of these days."
She swallowed the dose, waiting impatiently for it to kick in. It had not occured to her tired brain that the effects of the stimulant would make her driving no more safe than in her current exhausted state, and it was more by luck than judgement that she found herself safely home.
"Hey, Steffi. Good night out?" Her brother's friendly voice called from the lounge, and she could hear the soundtrack of a video in the background. For a moment she contemplated joining him, for the hit of amphetamine had made her body too revved up for sleep, but she knew that she was in no mood for small talk. She had a wedding to sabotage, after all.
"Mind your own business, Luca." She snapped back. "You're not my minder."
"Night, Stef!" Luca did not seem concerned by her hostility in the slightest. "Sweet dreams."
Stefana ignored him, secluding herself in her bedroom and dropping down onto her bed, staring up at the ceiling as she turned the situation over in her head.
"Somehow, I have to make Aaron see how wrong this whole situation is." She muttered. "And I have to do it soon!"
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!