Chapter Five: Dilemmas
Well, so that was the situation.
Luca Ranieri frowned, drumming his fingers absently on the arm of the chair as he ran over the events of the last few weeks in his mind. He felt stupid - how could he not have realised sooner? But he hadn't. He'd been blind.
Madeleine's news had come as a shock to him. She had cornered him at Rebel Records, impressing on him in no uncertain terms his sister's mental state, and the events of the night before. He had thought that he could not possibly be any more shattered, but he had been wrong. Not only was Stefana mixed up in things beyond his control but she had all but given up on life - and though Madeleine had not said as much, he greatly suspected his row with his sister had been one of the reasons why.
"I have to fix this, but I don't know even how to begin." He murmured, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his wallet, flicking through it till he came to a photograph. It was an old one now, he mused, one of the last taken of him, his sister and his father. His mother had taken the picture, but it didn't really matter that she wasn't there. She had never really been there, if the truth were to be told, and that had been a large part of the problem.
"But Stef looks happy there - things were better then." He mused, snapping the wallet shut. "How could things have gone so crazy? And where do we go from here?"
"You seem preoccupied."
A voice from the doorway startled him and he glanced up, meeting the gaze of his girlfriend, Emily Gabor. She cast him a smile at his surprise, entering the room proper and pushing the door shut behind her.
"I gather from that look that it's not me that's on your mind." She said lightly, coming to sit down beside him. "The door was open - I figured I'd let myself in. Is there something you want to talk about, Luca? I was at the music company - Mom said she'd heard a rumour about a Diablo breakup and she wanted to know if I knew anything about it. Is something wrong?"
"Everything's wrong at the moment, Em." Luca raised troubled green eyes to hers. "Where's Michael?"
"At the Foundation." Emily replied. "I thought if I was coming over here there was always a chance I might run into your sister, and she's not exactly child friendly. Mike's not yet four - he wouldn't stand a chance."
She cast him a concerned look. "Why everything? You gonna let me in on the secret?"
"I don't know that I can." Luca frowned. "Em, I love you - you know that. But you also work for the enemy, and your mother...well, she is the enemy, in musical terms. Diablo have never been in such disarray and if Phyllis Gabor was to find out, she'd have a field day in the presses. Much as I care about you, my loyalty to my group - and my sister - has to be absolute. I don't know if I can tell you."
"You think I tell my Mom everything?" Emily raised a perfectly styled eyebrow. "I grew up the first twenty years of my life without her, Luca - I've never been the kind to go running to Mommy every time I hear something new and juicy. I told her I didn't know anything about it - which I don't - but that doesn't mean that if you told me I'd immediately go and tell her. You have very little faith in me, considering that we're supposed to be an item these days. I know I'm no expert on the serious relationship thing, but I'm kinda put out by that."
"Oh, I'm sorry." Luca sighed, rubbing his temples. "I do trust you, Em. It's just everything's every which way." He bit his lip. "You have to swear to me that you won't tell another living - or dead - soul what I'm about to say, though. I don't know much what to make of it myself, and I could use some advice."
"Sounds intriguing." Emily settled herself more comfortably against him, and he put his arm around her shoulders, a little comforted not to be alone with his dilemma any more. "What is it? Let me guess, Stefana's at the centre of it."
"Steffi always is." Luca sighed. "But it's serious this time. Em, she's been using some kind of drug - amphetamine, I think - and it's been going on for a while. If Maddy is to be believed, the kid's hooked as anything and doesn't even believe there's a way out. Well, aside from the way out she tried to take last night - with too many sleeping pills."
"Wow." Emily raised an eyebrow. "Stefana tried to blitz herself?"
"Maddy got there just in time, else it would be a whole lot messier than it already is." Luca nodded. "The thing is, Em, when I found out about the drugs...I didn't react all that great. It was a hard night - you probably know that Marissa's in hospital."
"I did hear something." Emily agreed. "She is my cousin, remember, even if Mom and Chimera barely speak. But Marissa's a diabetic, isn't she? I wouldn't have thought that was anything out of the ordinary."
"Not if it was a diabetic coma that put her there, but it wasn't that simple." Slowly Luca explained the events of that night, and Emily's expression became grave.
"I see. The brat had a temper tantrum and everything's spilled over because of it." She reflected. "Luca, if you want the brutal, honest truth, it's no surprise to me that your sister's wound up in the drug scene. It had occured to me once or twice before, you know, but it's hard to tell and I had no proof. She hid it from the world well - and people would just have said I'd made it up to spite her."
"I seem to be the only one for whom it is a total shock." Luca said quietly. "I feel bad that I didn't pick up on it sooner, though. I feel like I let her down."
"Nonsense." Emily snorted. "Stefana is a grown adult. You can't be responsible for everything she does. If she got wound up with bad people and bad chemicals then that's her own silly fault. Not yours."
"You know what I promised Dad..."
"Yeah, I know, but like I said, Stef's no kid." Emily responded firmly. "You've nothing to blame yourself for."
"But what can I do now? I've not spoken to the girl since she ran out the night of Mari's accident, and if Maddy's to be believed she was in no secure mental state then. Maddy's been looking after her, but Stef refuses to come home and is hiding out at Rebel Records, apparently. I'm wondering if it would make matters worse - you know, if I was to go and try to talk to her."
"I'm not sure how you could make it worse, if she feels that bad about the world." Emily said with a shrug. "Where is she now?"
"At the hospital with Marissa." Luca told her. "Who, thankfully, is on the road to recovery."
"Yes, that much I do know." Emily nodded. "Well, if my advice is worth anything, I'd say go to talk to her. I don't think you could make things much worse with the girl, and who knows?" A strange smile touched her lips. "Sometimes when you're at the point of no return, family helps."
"When have you ever been at that point, Em?" Luca cast his girlfriend a startled look.
"Oh, never to the point where I wanted to end things. Never so melodramatic as that." Emily dismissed it with a wave of her hand. "But when I found out I was expecting Mike - it was amazing what a difference Grandpa made to me. I was terrified, but he helped me put things into perspective. Maybe that's what you need to do for Steffi."
"I guess so." Luca nodded. "I guess I will head over there and see if I can't talk her home."
"She doesn't deserve you, you know." Emily told him. "You care about her far too much for your own good."
"Maybe, but she has noone else to care." Luca said gravely. "Mom cut her out of her life too long ago, and Dad's no longer with us. He spoiled her, you know...I think it was the biggest mistake he could have made."
"I coulda guessed she was a spoiled brat as a kid." Emily nodded. "But she's done okay, in having you as a brother." She looked rueful. "Hey, maybe if I'd have had a big brother, I wouldn't have made so many mess-ups along the way in my life, huh?"
"You're a different prospect to Stef though, Em." Luca told her gently. "You're self-sufficient, strong, determined and too astute to ever get wound up in things like drugs. You have a little boy who adores you, and you're secure within yourself. Steffi's none of those things...at least, this is what I'm coming to realise."
"Well, guess time is gonna tell." Emily said frankly. "I don't honestly understand why you bother with her, but I know you must. I just can't see any good coming out of her, even if she does kick this habit. I'm sorry, Luca, but your sister is one of the most odious little wretches I ever met. No amount of brotherly love can change that, surely?" She pursed her lips. "I honestly believe that, if the roles were reversed, she'd be going her own sweet way without sparing you - or anyone else - a thought for a moment."
"She is selfish." Luca agreed slowly. "But not as self-absorbed as you think, Em. I was never supposed to tell you this - Stef made me swear - but when Michael was kidnapped, she did her bit too."
"What?" Emily looked startled. "Stefana helped rescue my son? No way. I don't believe you, Luca. She doesn't have it in her."
"Nevertheless it was Stefana who gave me the information about where the woman lived." Luca told her with a nod. "I'm serious, Em. She saw her in town with Mike, and tracked her in her car. Then she told me the address and car license plate, and got out of the way before anyone else discovered she'd helped you. She has her limits, you know."
"Why on earth did she do a thing like that?" A look of consternation crossed Emily's features. "Dammit, and now you tell me I owe the girl a debt?"
"She didn't want you to know, so I doubt you owe her anything." Luca replied. "But I just wanted you to realise that she's not all bad. Without her help, well, we may never have found Michael at all."
Emily cursed, then fell silent for a moment, thinking things over.
"Well, okay. Maybe I misjudged the kid a little." She said finally. "And I'm grateful for what she did for my son, Luca. I won't pretend I'm not, because Mike is the most important thing I have." She sighed. "Look, whatever you say, I do owe her one now I know that. If there is anything I can do to help - I will. Okay?"
"At the moment I'm not sure that there is, but I appreciate the offer." Luca kissed her gently on the forehead. "Right now, though, I have to go think about what I'm going to say to my sister. I want her back home, where she belongs, so we can start to put her life - and the band - back together."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"You're kinda quiet tonight."
Logan cast Sylva a quizzical look, setting down his menu. "What's up, Syl? Having second thoughts about hanging with me?"
"No, nothing like that." Sylva blushed guiltily, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, Logan. I had a bust up with Topaz this afternoon and I feel kinda small over it. I didn't mean to bring you down."
"Nothing serious, I hope?" Logan looked concerned. Sylva shrugged.
"Well, I can't really talk about it." She admitted. "I'll try and be better company, okay? It's just that I didn't get a chance to make up with her before I went out, and I don't like being at odds with her. The fight was kinda my fault, in a way...I did something I shouldn't have." She looked pensive. "Ever been in a situation when someone puts you in a really really hard position and you have to lie to get out of it?"
"I'm not sure." Logan pursed his lips. "Sometimes, in high school - we had this friend, Aaron and I, who was a real player and we'd get asked a whole lot of questions from whichever six girls he happened to be into at the time...that count?"
"Not really." Sylva rolled her eyes. "That's so male - I was hoping for something a little more, erm, adult?"
"Well, I can't think of anything." Logan looked sheepish. "That's the best I could come up with. Not sure how I can help."
"I'm not sure if you can either." Sylva admitted. "I just screwed up, I guess." She shrugged. "Basically it involves an ex-boyfriend of hers, and something I told him to get him off her case. Was that really bad of me? She seemed to think so."
"I don't think I oughta get involved in all these girl traumas. Totally beyond me." Logan held up his hands. "I hope you work it out though."
"Me too." Sylva sighed, scooping up her menu. "I s'pose I better order, also. The enchiladas look kinda cool."
"Enchiladas? Okay." Logan smiled. "Say, Syl, there was something else I wanted to ask you about tonight, actually. This was kinda my test run, in a way."
"Test run?" Sylva looked surprised. "How do you mean?"
"I wondered if you might be my date for Aaron's wedding?" Logan rested his chin on his hands, meeting her blue eyes with his hazel ones. "It seems proper, as I'm his best man and you're one of her bridesmaids. What do you think?"
"Well, it would be nice if I actually had a date for this wedding." Sylva looked rueful. "Sure, Logan, why not? I'd like that. At least you're a gentleman and I know that you're not gonna screw me over. I'd love to be your date."
"Did someone screw you over before then?" Logan looked startled. Sylva shook her head.
"No, but the last wedding I attended was at the Starlight - Aaron's cousin Taylor and our friend Violet were getting hitched. They're English, but we thought it would be cool to have them marry here, since Nancy and Aaron and their parents are Taylor's only proper family really. So anyway, we hosted their wedding, and I didn't have a date that time, since I was still getting my head straight over Jack." She spread her hands. "I never went to anything like that on my own before, and Violet's sleazy brother decided he was gonna try it on with me. He was already my cousin's date, though - so that was a definite no go. I felt sorry for Vi to have such an embarrassing brother, because she's such a sweetheart. He turned out to be a real lowlife jerk in the end."
"I've met Violet and Taylor." Logan remembered. "This afternoon - Aaron invited them over for coffee and I liked them both. Violet was kinda quiet - shy, I think - but Taylor was a laugh. I'm looking forward to the bachelor party more than I thought I would, now I know some of the other guys going!"
"Isn't it up to you to arrange everything for that?" Sylva raised an eyebrow. Logan nodded his head.
"Yes, but Aaron is helping me out a little." He admitted. "Because I've been out of Cali for so long. I decided that it would be a blast to hold it at the Blue Moon club, though - it was the first over eighteens club we went to in senior year, and it just seemed fitting for Aaron's big night."
"Did Taylor tell you about his bachelor party?" Sylva asked. Logan shook his head.
"No - why would he?"
"Oh, it was the funniest thing." Sylva giggled. "Well, okay, it wasn't funny at the time, but it's a scream now, thinking back. Cameron - Taylor's best man - he kinda lost Taylor in a dumpster and the thing got taken all the way to San Diego city dump before we realised what had happened. Nancy had to go rescue him, and when she brought him back he was ripe, let's put it that way! He only just got changed and cleaned up in time for the wedding - I don't think Vi even knows to this day how close she came to being abandoned at the altar that day."
"Fun." Logan laughed appreciatively. "Oh, I have no plans like that for Aaron, don't worry. Copper is too nice a chick to mess her about too much with things like that. Besides, he hasn't even given me custody of the wedding rings yet. I don't know if he trusts me not to lose them."
"Copper said they hadn't been fitted properly yet." Sylva remembered. "They picked them out, but hers needed adjusting and Aaron wanted to collect them together. That's probably why." She pursed her lips. "There are so many things you have to do to get ready for a wedding - till Vi and Taylor's, I never really realised it."
"Yeah, there is." Logan nodded. "I'm not sure if it's worth it - all the weeks of work and stuff for just one day. What do you reckon?"
"Every girl dreams of her wedding day." Sylva reproached him softly. "It's worth it, Logan - if you'd seen how happy Vi looked that day, when everything was dying down and the reception was in full swing...yes, it's worth it. It's meant to be the happiest day in a girl's life - you mean to say you wouldn't make the effort for the right girl?"
"Oh, if I was nuts over a girl like Aaron is over this Copper chick, I dare say I would." Logan acknowledged. "Love has a habit of making you do dumb things over chicks, I've noticed this." He looked rueful. "Fallen into the trap myself occasionally. Jenna dragged me to all kinds of things when we were dating."
"You miss her?"
"No, not now." Logan shook his head. "I did, for a long time, but I've put that chapter of my life behind me now."
"Likewise me with Jack." Sylva nodded resolutely. She sighed. "I wish I could convince Topaz to do the same with Cameron. It can't be doing her any good to keep thinking about him."
"Cameron? Wasn't that the guy you said was Taylor's best man?" Logan looked startled. "How small is this world?"
"Oh, very." Sylva grimaced. "I probably shouldn't have let his name drop, but you will meet him, Logan. He's here for the wedding and he's Aaron's friend, so he'll be at the bachelor party. He's a medical student - very clever. He lives in London, not far from Taylor and Vi."
"Aaron has friends from far afield." Logan observed. "I'm curious now, though. So is it this guy who you messed up with, and that's why Topaz is mad at you? I'm trying to work all this out now."
"I'd really rather you forgot I mentioned anything about it." Sylva looked uncomfortable. "I don't want to make things worse. Don't mention her to him, will you? I don't need to be yelled at again."
"I promise." Logan assured her. "I was just curious. Guess we're back to that truth that it's not easy to find love in the public eye."
"Not at all." Sylva shook her head. "Copper is the clear exception, because she and Aaron have been together since they were nineteen and they'll both be twenty four this summer - seems forever already. Mind you, Nancy's kept her thing with Dean Stacey going longer than I expected her to - longer than she expected to, I suspect. And Sadie has a sweet as pie boyfriend, too. Maybe it's just Topaz and I - we're not quite so lucky." She shrugged pensively.
"Nancy's dating Dean Stacey? That guy who presents on morning television?" Logan stared. Sylva nodded her head.
"Yeah - you know who Dean is?"
"Sure, his show airs on cable in Wisconsin. Jenna used to watch it - she liked him." Logan nodded. "I didn't picture Nancy as the dating type."
"Nor me." Sylva admitted. "But she's proved me wrong. She seems to really like him, and for some reason he adores her, so there you have it." She shrugged. "They've been together since...oh, Christmas 2011, I think. Wow. That is a hell of a time."
"It's not bad." Logan looked impressed. "Maybe Aaron won't be the only Pelligrini tying the knot in the near future."
"Nancy's adamant that he will be." Sylva grinned. "She loves Dean, but I don't think she's ready for that step yet. He'll be her date for the wedding, though, so you'll get to meet him."
"He not invited to Aaron's bachelor do?"
"Well, I don't know." Sylva shrugged. "But he'll likely be working."
"Seems odd, how things have grown up." Logan reflected. "Aaron and Nancy both. When I left for Milwaukee, Aaron was tinkering here and there with screwdrivers as a hobby, now he's a full blown road manager and technician in his own right. And Nancy...Nancy was still in high school, hating the world. Now she's a chart topping rock sensation who has probably inspired the adoration of millions more than the girls who gave her a hard time back then. Weird how life works, don't you think?"
"Yeah, it is." Sylva nodded.
At that moment the waiter came to take their order, and serve their drinks. With a smile, he took the menus, leaving them once more in peace and quiet.
"I've not seen Nancy since I left Cali, though I've seen press release pictures." Logan continued. "I didn't recognise her until Aaron sent me a clipping in an email to show me what his kid sister was up to now. I almost fell off my computer stool."
"Did you like Nancy once, then?" Sylva looked enquiring. Logan shook his head.
"Not in that way." He assured her. "She was just a mite prickly for me, and I was a little too image conscious, I admit that. But who isn't in high school?"
"Oh, for sure." Sylva nodded. "I wouldn't even leave the house if my hair wasn't properly styled and I would rather die before I wore last month's fashions." She blushed. "I sound such an airhead - but I like clothes and looking good. Does that make me a flake?"
"No. A girl should take pride in how she looks." Logan told her with a grin. "You look good, by the way. Red suits you."
"Thank you." Sylva's blue eyes sparkled. "New dress. Mm. Maybe I am a flake after all."
"Nah, I don't think so." Logan laughed. "But I'm glad you're gonna be my date for the wedding. I have a feeling we're gonna have a blast."
Back at the Starlight Mansion, the mood was quite different. In her room,
Topaz had curled up on her bed, clutching her duvet to her chest as she thought
things over. It had come as a harsh wake up call when Sylva had admitted exactly
what she had done in England.
"And yet I don't even really blame her. What choice did I leave her?" She muttered. "I'm a screw up, whatever way you look at it. Any hope of one day broaching the truth with Cam is gone now. It's gone too far. All I can do is keep my baby away from him, and hope for the best. Hope he's not here for very long, too - I couldn't bear that. But what if he did know? He'd be angry - angry enough to take my little girl away from me? Or at least try - hell, I couldn't bear that either. I love Hollie."
She sighed guiltily.
"And now I'm up here on my own - I left the kid downstairs and just walked out. What the hell kind of maternal love is that? Dammit, it would serve me right if they did take her away from me. I don't damn well deserve to be her Mom sometimes."
There was a knock on the door, and Topaz sighed, calling the visitor in. The door swung open to reveal Cynthia, Hollie clutched in her arms.
"Someone wants to see you." She said quietly, setting the baby down on the floor, and Hollie immediately made a beeline for her mother's arms. Topaz scooped her up, hugging her tightly.
"I'm sorry I left her downstairs. I just had to get out." She said quietly. "It's hitting me how final this all is."
"Well, I apologise for my involvement." Cynthia looked troubled. "I should not have meddled. It is a bad habit of mine and I must learn not to interfere."
"I appreciate the thought, though." A glimmer of a smile touched Topaz's lips. "Syl around?"
"No - she went out with Logan." Cynthia shook her head. "They had a dinner date tonight, he picked her up half an hour ago."
"Oh." Topaz pursed her lips, then, "I guess I'll talk to her when she gets back, then. I don't want to stay mad at my best friend - I don't suppose I did give her much room for excuses. I guess I'm just wishing I could have the best of both worlds, you know? But life has a stinky habit of getting in the way."
"It would appear so." Cynthia nodded her head. "I did wonder if we should keep Hollie downstairs a while, and let you think things through, but she got quite insistant for her mother and I thought it best she should be with you. After all, you are all she has."
"And all she will ever have, bless her." Topaz glanced down at the small girl, who raised a pair of big green eyes in return. "What a tangled web we weave...I only hope I made the right decision, back when Cameron left LA. I want to be a good mother, Cyn - but I guess time will only tell if I can be that on my own, huh?"
"I don't think Hollie has any complaints." Cynthia smiled. "I will leave you two alone. When Syl gets in, I'll tell her you want to talk to her - and Topaz? Chin up. I have great faith in the human ability to bounce back. I believe you - you and Hollie both - will be just fine."
"Oh?" Topaz looked surprised. Cynthia nodded.
"Perhaps it is computer intuition." She replied. "But I think so. Now, I must go - so don't fret. Things will work out somehow. I'm sure of it."
SACRED VOWS: PART TWO
Chapter One: Madeleine
Chapter Two: Remeniscences
Chapter Three: A Shock For Topaz
Chapter Four: Marissa
Chapter Five: Dilemmas
Chapter Six: Ranieri vs Ranieri
Chapter Seven: Home Truths
Chapter Eight: The Bridesmaids
Chapter Nine: An Olive Branch
Chapter Ten: Stag Night
Chapter Eleven: Demons...and Angels
Chapter Twelve: A Broken Secret
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!