"And so, with great pleasure I would like to declare the
new wing of the Starlight Foundation officially open!"
As the bulbs flashed among the press cameras, the elegant young woman
cast her companions a warm grin, stepping rather self-consciously down from
the podium. Several of the people who had come to watch thrust autograph
books in her direction and, with a slightly embarrassed smile she accepted
them, deftly putting her signature into each.
"We appreciate you doing this for us, you know." A voice came from behind
her as she finished the last autograph and she turned, handing the book back
to it's proud owner and casting the speaker a grin. "It was short notice,
I realise that, but you've been quite a draw and we've already raised a lot
of money through you being here."
"I was glad to help out, Kimber." The young woman assured her companion.
"After all, Mama was tied up with this place, and so in a way am I because
of it. I didn't see really how I could say no, but I honestly didn't expect
you to ask me."
"Well, you were an obvious choice." Kimber Harrison, patroness of the
Starlight Foundation admitted, linking arms with her Lady Opener and leading
her away from the crowds of fans and press. "My own daughter Rose and Aja's
Sammi are in England recording at the moment, and flying them out would have
been problematic. You were a Hologram baby on close tap - it was Shawn's
brainwave to call you up and when he said it I knew that he was right. You
did a great job, too."
"I'm glad you think so. I'm not used to public functions on my own." The
girl admitted. "But how come you didnt ask Sirena? She grew up here - I would
have thought that would make her more obvious a choice than me. Mama was
a Hologram all right, but Sirena was part of the Foundation itself."
"Yes, but Sirena flew out to Spain yesterday to begin her European tour."
Kimber replied. "No, it had to be you. And, as you can see by the reception,
noone is disappointed! You're quite the local celebrity, Copper, and hopefully
with all of this publicity, we'll make a good showing from collections and
other takings, too. The new wing was much needed, but expensive, and we have
to cover costs somehow."
"Which of course, makes it all the nicer that you were willing to come
today for free."
"Well, why would I not?" Copper asked, confused. "This is a charity organisation,
and besides, it's not like I've done anything very much. You and Mama are
old friends and I helped you out, that's all. I wouldn't expect paying for
"Well, I can offer you a glass of lemonade, if you like." Kimber's blue
eyes twinkled. "I don't know how good it is, but April and the girls made
a batch yesterday and nobody who's drunk it so far has died, so I expect
it's all right. What do you say?"
"How can I refuse an offer like that?" Copper giggled. "All right. Lemonade
sounds good. Opening house wings is thirsty work!"
"It was lucky Jewel didn't have any plans today. I was rather afraid when
I called Misfit Music that you'd be booked out someplace." Kimber observed,
pushing open the door of the kitchen and leading the way inside to where
a group of excited teenage girls were already clustered around the lemonade
jug, whispering and giggling. At the sight of Copper silence fell, then
one of them stepped forward.
"Did you come to try our lemonade?" She asked. Copper nodded.
"That was the plan, if there's any left." She agreed. "Is that all right
"Wow, a celebrity is gonna drink our lemonade." One of the other girls
giggled. "Sarah, get a glass from the drainer, huh?"
"Sirena drinks our lemonade." Sarah objected, nevertheless doing as she
was bidden. "She's a star too, and she's one of us."
"Yeah, duh, so she's not exciting. She comes here all the time." The first
speaker rolled her eyes. "Copper, how long are you gonna be here for?"
"Till it quietens down outside, I guess." Copper sat down at the kitchen
table, taking the glass of lemonade she was offered with a grateful smile.
"Thanks. I'm parched."
"Do you want ice?" The second girl asked. Copper shook her head.
"No thanks, this is great." She said, taking a sip. "Hey, and it tastes
pretty good too! You girls should make some of this stuff, bottle it up
and have a lemonade stand. Make some money for the foundation that way!"
"You think so?" Sarah eyed her doubtfully.
"Well, why not?" Copper asked, setting her glass down. "You know how to
make it and everyone loves lemonade."
"It could be our project for the Foundation." The first speaker said with
a grin. "We all have to have a project, see, to help pay for the new wing."
"Clover's been walking dogs. She comes home covered in dog hair." The
second girl wrinkled up her nose, and Copper laughed.
"Well, I know you're Sarah." She observed. "But I don't know either of
your names, do I?"
"I'm Heather." The first girl volunteered. "And this is Leanne."
"Well, pleased to meet you all." Copper grinned.
"What's your real name?" Leanne asked curiously, sitting down across the
table and resting her chin in her hands. "It's not Copper, is it?"
"No, it isn't." Copper shook her head. "My real name is Elizabeth, but
everyone always calls me Copper because of my red hair. My father started
it, and it just caught on. That's why I use it as a stage name, because it's
a nickname that means a lot to me."
"I never met my father." Sarah sounded wistful. "Is yours nice?"
"He was. He died when I was fifteen." Copper replied gravely. "I'm sorry
you never met yours, Sarah."
"Well, I never met my Mom either." Sarah shrugged. "They died when I was
a baby so my gran brought me here. She comes visit me, though. She's kinda
old and she has heart problems, so she can't look after me herself, but she
brings me presents and always gives stuff to the Foundation. I love her
a lot, even though I don't live with her. The Foundation is pretty cool,
"Yes, it is." Copper cast Kimber a grin. "I know that Jacqui Benton knew
what she was doing when she set this place up. It's given a lot of girls
a family to belong to."
"The papers say you're getting married." Heather remarked.
"Heather, that's personal stuff!" Leanne exclaimed. "You can't ask her
about her marriage and love and all of that!"
"Why not? Sarah asked about her father." Heather retorted hotly.
"Because that's different! That's not a boyfriend thing!"
"Just because you're too ugly to get a boyfriend, Leanne Barnaby!"
"Woah, girls, time out!" Kimber put up her hands. Copper laughed.
"Really, it's all right, I don't mind answering questions." She assured
them. "Yes, Aaron and I are getting married in March."
"Was it really romantic, you know, when he proposed?" Sarah wondered.
"I mean, was it like on the movies or was it really boring and just like,
"hey, shall we get married?" Did he go down on one knee?"
"Yes." Copper nodded. "Actually..." A smile touched her lips. "Actually,
he did it twice. I wasn't sure when he first asked me if I was ready, but...but
the second time he asked, well, then I knew I was."
"Are you gonna be all dressed up like a bride or what?" Leanne asked.
"I thought you weren't asking personal questions." Heather poked her tongue
out at Leanne, who grimaced back at her. Copper looked amused.
"You know, you three are worse than the press." She teased. "I want a
traditional wedding, gown, flowers, ring, the works. Always have. I don't
intend on having any second weddings or remarriages or anything - this is
it for me. When I marry Aaron I intend it to be forever, so I want it to
be a day to remember."
"That's so romantic." Heather sighed. "The paper said he's reallly good
looking - is he?"
"I think so." Now a faint blush touched Copper's cheeks.
"You've embarrassed her." Leanne scolded.
"No I haven't." Heather retorted. "She doesn't mind. Do you, Copper? Besides,
she's really pretty too, so it's not like it'd look odd."
"Okay, you terrible trio, that's enough from you!" Kimber laughed, getting
to her feet. "Copper's got plenty of other things to do than answer a bunch
of questions from three nosey teenagers who haven't done all their homework
yet. Shoo, else I'll find you all in detention tomorrow morning, and Sarah,
if you don't pass that math quiz you know what will happen."
"Ugh." Sarah rolled her eyes. "Okay, but I hate math."
"Who doesn't?" Heather grimaced. "Come on. Guess we'd better go study.
Thanks for talking to us, Copper."
"You're welcome." Copper drained her glass. "And thanks for the lemonade!"
"You were very patient with them." Kimber observed once the girls were
gone. Copper nodded.
"There was no harm in their questions and I thought they were sweet."
She replied. "I get a bit self-conscious when people want to know about
me, that's all - it seems so odd that so many people find me interesting.
When I'm with the rest of the band somehow it's different."
"What are Jewel up to, then?" Kimber asked, taking the glass to the sink
and rinsing it. "New single's just out, isn't it?"
"Yes, was out Monday." Copper agreed. "This week we've been promoting
it, but it's nice to have a day or two to ourselves, too."
"I feel guilty for monopolising your Sunday. I've experienced the music
world and I know free time isn't often your own." Kimber reflected. Copper
shook her head.
"You didn't monopolise anything, Kimber. I enjoyed coming." She replied.
"Besides, it might happen that I'll be coming to you for a favour in the
future, too. So..." She shrugged. "What goes around comes around in this world.
At least, I think so."
Kimber's expression softened.
"Aaron does know about that, I presume?" She asked softly. "When you mentioned
it to me this morning that was my first thought."
"Yes. He's really supportive." Copper replied. "And I hope it won't come
to it, Kimber, but word from someone like you might well carry some weight
and if we do come down to the adoption issue, well, good references are important
"If it comes to it, Copper, you have my full cooperation." Kimber assured
her. "I know you and I know Aaron, and you're the daughter of a very dear
friend. I'd do everything in my power to assist you."
"Cynthia said you would." Copper looked relieved. "But I hope it won't
come to that."
She got to her feet. "And now you have a ton of things to do, and I should
be getting back. Nancy will want to run through the new song for our play
on Connie's Corner tomorrow night and I'm still fudging the rhythm in the
middle on fifty percent of runthroughs. I need to knock that out of me."
"Well, good luck and thanks for coming along." Kimber grinned. "It meant
a lot to the girls, and I'll let you know how much we've raised."
"Please, do." Copper nodded. "And if I have a moment I'll call by again.
This place is restful chaos from time to time."
"Restful chaos?" Kimber chuckled. "I'll remember that."
"Well, when there's a very active fourteen month old, not to mention five
adult girls and a hologram sharing a house, it's bound to get crazy." Copper
dimpled. "Bye, Kimber. I'm sure I'll see you soon!"
As she headed out to her car, a smile touced her lips as she remembered
the excitement with which she had been greeted. One fifth of rock act Jewel,
it had never been Copper's intention to go into music as a full blown career.
But when the chance had come knocking, she had found it difficult to resist
the challenge of following in her mother's footsteps, and it had been the
beginning of something big. Now Jewel were one of Los Angeles' hottest rock
acts, with fans all over the world and merchandise in several languages.
Letters and emails poured in from around the globe, and it never failed to
amaze the self-effacing drummer how important they had become.
"But doing something like this morning makes me feel good inside." She
decided, as she pulled up onto the front drive of the Starlight Mansion,
Jewel's long-term home, but once the home of the Foundation itself. "After
all, I have so much to be grateful for. My health, first and foremost. The
cancer has never come back and I'm praying it never will. Then there's Aaron
- and I know he's my soulmate. I can't wait for us to be married -we've been
together long enough, and engaged long enough! But finally we've worked out
time to do it - March is going to be a crazy month! And then there's Jewel,
of course. Best friends and colleagues all in one. I have a job I love, a
good income, great friends, the perfect fiance...besides, Kimber is a sweetheart.
I wasn't sure about mentioning my fertility problems to her, but she's so
easy to talk to and one day I might well need her support on an application
form. It's better she knows now."
The door of the Starlight Mansion swung open to reveal Nancy Pelligrini,
Jewel's singer/guitarist and songwriter. Dark hair pulled back in a ponytail,
she looked more the writer than the rock star that morning, and Copper raised
her hand in a wave as she parked her car, getting out.
"Hi, Nance. What's up?" She asked.
"I hoped you'd be back soon. I'd have paged your phone, except that it
doesn't look good at a charity thing to have your phone going off." Nancy
replied. "I think I fixed that passage you were having trouble with, and
I wanted to run over it with you. The others are already down in the studio
- you game?"
"Sure. Sounds good to me." Copper nodded, locking her car and following
her friend inside.
"How was it this morning? Get mobbed by hysterical kids?"
"No, it was fun." Copper grinned. "I signed a lot of autographs and there
were a lot of pictures taken, but I also got to talk to some of the Starlight
girls themselves, and they're real sweeties. It's nice to know I've done
something to help them out, you know?"
"Well, makes sense, I suppose." Nancy pondered. "You are a Hologram baby."
"That's what Kimber said, and why she asked me." Copper nodded. "But I'm
glad she did. It's such an important place, and it cost a lot to build that
new wing. I'm thinking about asking Jetta and Phyllis if we can't donate
the gate receipts from our next concert to the Foundation - what do you think?
Would they go for it?"
"I don't see why not. Good publicity." Nancy nodded. "Besides, Aunt Phyl
owes Kimber a hell of a lot for raising her daughter. Since Sirena grew up
there, I don't see why she'd refuse. We'll put it to her."
"I was hoping you would, actually." Copper blushed. "You have a better
way with her than the rest of us, and Jetta is your Mom."
"Well, I'll try." Nancy promised. "Tomorrow morning, if you like. But
for now we've a song to run through - so let's get down to it!"
STOLEN: PART ONE