Chapter Thirteen: Her Father's Daughter
Jeff gazed across the bustling studio, only half listening to Alexa's merry chatter as he fixed his gaze on the slim blond figure by the far wall. He had had no chance to respond to her bombshell, for almost as soon as she had spoken it, Vivien had descended on them in a fluster about a damaged interview tape and Zoe had hurried off to help her. It had given him time to brood, and to wonder if the girl could possibly be right.
"But if that's so, why didn't Connie tell me?" He wondered for the thousandth time, examining Zoe's features as best he could from the distance. "If Zoe's birthday is September, she must have happened in January. And...and I didn't leave L.A till the end of February. Surely...surely she'd have known? Why didn't she tell me? Come after me? Ask me to do something? Hell, if I'm her father..."
He trailed off, shaking his head.
"No, I can't be. It must be a mistake." He decided. "Fate couldn't be that cruel. As if I didn't betray Andy enough by sleeping with the woman - but then, I couldn't help myself. She needed me...we needed each other. I even wondered, sometimes, if maybe it was more than just...well...accidents. But if she didn't even tell me..."
He glanced upwards, as if seeking the reassurance of his friend from beyond the grave.
"Did I let you down and her down?" He wondered. "Hell, Andy, did I betray you and then leave your fiancee to bring up a baby on her own?"
"Are you listening to me?" A playful voice came from his side and he turned, casting Alexa a sheepish smile.
"I'm sorry. I'm miles away." he admitted truthfully. "Thinking about...about things."
"Yeah, it does rather bring back the memories, doesn't it?" Alexa reflected. "I saw Connie last night, you know -we had dinner out. Time's been good to her - but then I guess I knew that." She grinned. "She's not as harum-scarum as she used to be, but she's still as much fun as ever. You should look her up, Jeff. I know she doesn't want to come to the set and for good reason, too. But I'm sure she'd like to see you..." She winked. "Or then again, maybe she wouldn't."
"I might look her up, for old time's sake." Jeff agreed absently.
"You spent the morning with Zoe, didn't you?" Alexa asked. Jeff nodded.
"She was doing my interview." He agreed.
"She's quite the charmer." Alexa decided. "Very like her mother in some ways, but without the temper."
"Yes." Jeff pursed his lips. "She's very professional - I can see why Vivien settled on her to help out. She seems to know exactly what needs to be done without being told to do it."
"Well, the kid's grown up around it, I suppose." Alexa reflected. "And with Vivien as a mentor, she couldn't really go wrong. That woman was born professional!"
"Yeah, I guess she was." A slight smile touched Jeff's lips. "It always amazed me how different she and Connie were. You know, maybe I will try and look Connie up, Alexa. Just to see what's changed after all these years."
At that moment, Zoe approached them. She paused, looking hesitant, then casting Alexa a smile.
"Alexa, do you mind if I steal Jeff away?" She asked. "I...have to finish asking him a...a few things."
"Be my guest, sugar." Alexa grinned. "Just let me know when you're ready for me and I'll be there."
"I will, I promise." Zoe nodded. "Thanks."
She eyed Jeff apprehensively, then, "Jeff, will you come with me?"
"I think it would be better if I did." Jeff agreed gravely. "We can talk in my dressing-room - it's quiet there."
"Okay." Zoe nodded, and the stuntman led the way in silence between the crowds of people to the little corridor which had been given over to the guests for the documentary during filming. Jeff pushed open the door of his, ushering the girl inside and letting it swing shut behind him. He took a seat, indicating for her to do the same, and Zoe did so, not without some misgivings. For a moment, the silence reigned, as neither one could find the words to begin what they wanted to say. Then, at length, Zoe spoke.
"Are you angry with me?" She asked hesitantly.
"Angry?" Jeff stared. "Hell, I'm too dazed to be angry! If you're telling me the truth, then you're saying that I've had a daughter all these years...that I didn't just betray my friend once, but..." He shook his head. "Zoe, I know this ain't your doing, kid, but...are you quite sure? Could you have got it straight - it's not a mistake?"
"I only know what Mom told me." Zoe admitted. "She said that she and Andy were engaged, and then, after he died, you and she were friendly support for each other. She said...she said that after a while it became more than that, only you both felt awkward about it because of Andy's memory, so you split up. She didn't know till after you'd gone that she was going to have me, but she just got on with it. The whole thing was too difficult otherwise, and she didn't know where you were."
"I see." Jeff bit his lip. "So you know more about your Mom and me than you pretended out there."
"I wanted to see what you'd say." Zoe glanced down. "I'm sorry for deceiving you. I know it must come as a shock, but...but I wanted to meet my father so badly, and when Viv told me you'd be here..."
"Is that why you agreed to do this project? Because of me?"
"Yes." Zoe nodded. "Though I would have helped Viv anyway. I owe her enough for her assistance over the years."
Jeff fell silent for a moment, digesting this, then,
"And that's why your Mom won't come anywhere near the set?" He asked. Zoe bit her lip.
"You're part of the reason." She admitted. "She knows I'm going to talk to you about this, and I don't know if she was quite sure how you'd react when I did. You...aren't angry, are you? Please...don't be angry. I would have left it - I know that it's wrapped up in bad memories. But I wanted to know so badly..."
Jeff eyed his companion keenly, and something about the earnest tears in Zoe's all-too familiar green eyes broke down his defences. He sighed, shaking his head.
"I can't be angry at you, now can I? None of this is your fault." He said gently. "But it is a shock, Zoe. I'll be straight with you. I've always been a lone wolf - a wanderer. I travel, I work, I don't tend to stop for breath much of the time. But I'm getting older, and as I do so, I realise I can't go on with this career for ever. It's too dangerous and I have to know when to stop. Just, when I do, I've begun to realise how little I have to go back to. My sister lives in Texas - she's married with kids of her own and I know I'm always welcome there, but it isn't my home - it's hers. I never married, never settled, never made a safe place for myself to come back to. Now I find I have a daughter after all these years...it was the last thing I expected to find when I came back to LA."
"I know." Zoe said softly. "But ever since Mom told me the story I wanted to meet you. I don't think you betrayed Andrew - I think he would have understood. Besides, Mom was alone and..." She trailed off. "I shouldn't tell you this, but...but the thing that meant the most to me about it all was that Mom admitted that she regretted letting you go. That when you'd gone she'd realised how important you'd been to her. It was what made me want to find you most of all. My Mom is real important to me...I knew my father couldn't be a bad guy if he'd made my Mom feel like that."
Jeff stared at her for a moment, then,
"She what?" He demanded. "Are you telling me that she fell in love with me?"
"Yes." Zoe nodded. She paused, looking at him, then she let out a little gasp.
"I think you were in love with her too, weren't you!" She exclaimed. "I can see it - all over your face! You loved her too!"
"I guess I did." Jeff looked uncomfortable. "Oh hell, Zoe, of course I did. Between you and me, well, on the least excuse I would have stayed. I wanted a reason - a justification for us. Something that would prove we weren't betraying Andy's memory by being together. But it didn't come and I couldn't be around her, feeling guilty all the time. We both agreed we had to split up. But if I'd known...God, Zoe, if I'd known..."
He trailed off, touching her thick fair hair.
"This is from me, as much as it's from Viv, isn't it?" He realised. Zoe nodded.
"And my eyes." She agreed. "Noone in Mom's family have green eyes. I always knew they came from you."
"They were my mother's eyes." Jeff agreed. "If this is all true..." He shook his head. "I almost don't want to believe it, in case it's wrong."
"It isn't wrong." Zoe told him firmly. "Mom would never have let me come and talk to you if it was a lie."
"I suppose not." Jeff admitted. "It's been such a long time since I saw her...I did half wonder about seeing her again when I was in LA. We were such a strange pair, Zoe. We weren't even friends before she took up with Andrew. But...well...things change. Grief changes you."
"Vivien said that." Zoe said gravely. "That grief and motherhood changed Mom. I've seen some of the old videos and I've seen how she was before, but she isn't much like that now. I think she's tried to be like LinZ, to be honest. She's still herself, but, well, she grew up."
"Maybe we'd have nothing in common now." Jeff mused.
"You have me in common." Zoe shook her head. A wry smile touched Jeff's lips.
"True." He acknowledged. "True."
"Are you really okay with all of this?" Zoe looked anxious. "I know I dropped it on you."
"It's going to take a while to sink in." Jeff admitted. "But I've had worse shocks, and got over them. To be honest, Zoe, I think part of me is relieved. I didn't think anything of it when I was younger, but it's nice to know that I'm not quite alone in this world."
He grinned. "And to know that I have such an accomplished daughter - that makes it all the better."
"There is one other thing you need to know about me." She said quietly. "Mom knows - most people know these days. But you've not been here, so you won't know. And I want you to. I mean, I want you to know the real me - I want to know all about you and I want us to be clear right from the start. Okay?"
"Okay. Shoot." Jeff nodded. "I doubt you can shock me any more today, but go for it."
"Well, I've been seeing someone for quite a while now, and it's fairly serious. We've talked about getting a place together." Zoe began slowly.
"So what's wrong with that?" Jeff looked puzzled. "Sounds sane enough to me, especially if you're pushing twenty-five."
"It's not...not quite as you think it is." Zoe replied. "It...my partner is...her name is Fiona. She...she's a dancer and I...I love her very much."
"Oooh." Jeff let out a low whistle. "I'm with you. I see."
"Does it bother you?"
"Bother me? Why should it?" Jeff shook his head. "I work in showbusiness, Zoe. Some of the most talented people I know are that way inclined." He smiled. "You've met Alexa, haven't you?"
"Alexa is?" Zoe's eyes widened. "I didn't know that."
"But it's true, nonetheless." Jeff assured her. "Bi, rather than gay, but still. Oh, trust me, kid, it's more of a shock to be told I have a daughter than trying to wrestle with the idea that the daughter in question is gay. That part of it I can deal with. The other bit has to sink in."
"Fiona is bi." Zoe remembered. "It caused a lot of problems to begin with, because she didn't quite know where she was going, and I knew quicker than she did what I was and what I wanted. But it worked out in the end." She blushed. "I asked her advice about approaching you, and she said I had to either go for it, or sit on it and let it go...not fuss and let myself be undecided. I decided that I needed to tell you...and hope you wouldn't yell at me, or hate me, or anything."
"I'm not angry with you." Jeff assured her. "As for your mother..." He paused, then, "I will want to talk to her about this." He added quietly. "I don't want to yell, but I do want the truth. I think I'm entitled to that, don't you?"
"I agree." Zoe responded. "I don't want her hurt, though. She means more to me than I can tell you, Jeff. She's...I suppose in some ways she's always been my best friend. She was only twenty one when I came along, and there was only us, really. And she's been supportive of me through bad times, too. I don't want to put her in a situation whereby she'll be hurt."
"Well, I won't do that." Jeff responded. "But there is plenty that needs to be settled, you must see that. I have to decide whether it's worth my while to stay in Los Angeles - and if I've a daughter here, it might well be. But I need to know everything before I think about that. And your mother is the only one who can tell me that."
"I understand." Zoe nodded. "I'd want the same."
She pursed her lips.
"I'm glad you're taking this as well as you are." She reflected. "A good friend of mine has a small daughter who, well, whose father isn't in the picture. I don't think he knows anything about it, to be honest. Seeing Hollie grow up without a Dad made me think about it all the more, but it was really everything at Misfit Music that sparked it for me. There was someone Mom knew a long time ago who was involved and for a while I was...was afraid that he was it."
"Thankfully, he wasn't. She has a whole folder of pictures and news clippings and she told me all about you. You've not changed all that much, really. Not considering how many years have passed."
"Twenty five." Jeff said dryly. "No, I suppose keeping active has helped."
"Did you say you have a sister? I have an Aunt?"
"Yes." Jeff nodded. "Or half, anyway. Carrie is eighteen years younger than I am. She and her family live in Houston - whether she believes all of this when I tell her remains to be seen, but if she does, I know she'll want to meet you."
"I'd like to meet her, too, but I don't want to rush anything." Zoe admitted. "Right now it's enough for me to know I have a Mom and a Dad." She paused, then, "And I think I know how to get you and Mom some talk time. The award ceremony that my friends Jewel are involved in isn't far off, and I know Mom is going. A friend of Dean's - Ben Raynor - is compering this year, so Mom's only going to be audience, but she's been invited. Since Ben and Dean are such good friends, I know I can arrange it for you to be there and be at Mom's table, if you'd like. Mom can hardly run a mile if the show's underway, and it might give you a chance to break the ice with her."
"You know, that's not a bad idea." Jeff admitted. He grinned. "Yes, you are your mother's daughter, I see it now."
"Sometimes." She admitted. "Just don't be hard on her, okay? She's had a lot of things to deal with over the years. Whatever happened between you - I'd like to think that it resulting in me wasn't a bad thing, and it's too long ago for you both to be laying blame. Remember she brought me up damn well, and she's had to cope with losing one of the dearest friends she ever had in the interim. Be gentle."
"I never thought about needing to treat Connie with kid gloves, but I'll keep it in mind." Jeff promised.
"Oh no, not kid gloves." Zoe shook her head. "Mom's pretty tough. All I mean is that she has a lot of emotional memories linked with that time, and losing LinZ hasn't helped. She and Viv are close, but not as close in some ways as Mom was to LinZ. I...can't really explain it, but I think it has something to do with decisions Viv made and her son - my cousin, Ryan. Mom and Viv have never really agreed over it...and I try not to get involved."
"Viv mentioned she had a son." Jeff looked thoughtful. "Is there something wrong with him?"
"No, not at all. He's pretty cool - a journalist, actually." Zoe responded. "It's more to do with...to do with who his father is, in a way." She looked uncomfortable. "I'd rather not say any more. It's Vivien's business, and like I said, I try not to get involved. Mom doesn't hate her for it and isn't angry or anything like that - it's just always been a point of disagreement between the two of them. That's all."
"All right. I shan't ask further." Jeff said wisely. "Though it seems to me that the Montgomery girls' lives are full of various intrigues."
"Possibly." Zoe looked sheepish. "So, shall I make arrangements for the award ceremony?"
"Yes. Yes, do." Jeff made up his mind at once. "When I've spoken to her, Zoe, I want to make sure that whatever comes of that, you and I don't lose touch. If you're my daughter I mean to get to know you thoroughly - be prepared for that."
"I wouldn't mind. I can introduce you to Fiona, and besides, I want to know all about you, too." Zoe admitted. "And if Mom ever speaks to either of us again, maybe we can all have dinner together sometime. That is, if you stay in L.A."
"Possibly." Jeff agreed. "I'm not decided yet."
He glanced up at the clock.
"Vivien will be wondering where you are, and so will Alexa." He observed. "Give me your phone number, and I'll track you down to find out the details for the awards. Or you can call the hotel I'm staying at - it's the White Horse."
"I'll do that." Zoe agreed, getting to her feet. "As for my cell number, you can have it and welcome, but you're right about the time. I'll call you at the hotel as soon as I know something for sure."
She opened the door, then paused, turning to face him.
"Thank you, by the way." She said softly.
"For what?" Jeff looked startled. Zoe smiled, a slightly embarrassed tint touching her cheeks.
"For being my Dad." She replied.
And with that, she was gone.
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.
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