Chapter Six: Ranieri vs Ranieri
Stefana turned away from the window of Rebel Record's main studio, where she had been gazing down at the cars below with unseeing eyes. Anxiety flickered in her expression as she recognised her brother in the doorway, watching her with a solemn look on his dark face. She muttered a curse.
"Maddy wasn't supposed to tell you I was here." She said darkly. "I don't need another lecture, Luca - I need to be by myself."
"I brought Luca here because I think it's time you came home." Madeleine herself emerged from behind the frontman, pursing her lips. "I believe Marissa's said something similar, too. We want you back where you're safe and we can keep a proper eye on you - Rory could find you here and unless you want to explain to him what's been going on..."
"Rory can go to hell." Stefana dropped down onto the unit with a sigh. "Way I feel right now, I don't have a home."
"I'm sorry you feel that way." Luca said softly. "Stef, I'm not here to yell at you. I promise. I know I laid into you before, and I'm sorry - you just frightened me, that's all. I had no idea what you were mixed up in, and it threw me."
"I'll let you talk." Madeleine said wisely, as the younger girl did not make any move to respond. "I'll be downstairs in the main studio if you need me, brushing up my vocal for Mari's song."
"I don't know why she bothers." Stefana observed, once the singer was gone. "There won't be any song if Clay has his way. He wants me out."
"He told me that, also." Luca admitted. "But tempers have cooled, Stef. What happened to Marissa was a nasty accident, but it's over now. She's getting better, and she's the first to say she wants to forgive and forget. You haven't spoken to me since it happened."
"You haven't spoken to me either." Stefana said flatly. "Far as I knew it, you didn't want me around after Mari's fall. After you found out...well, you know."
"It wasn't that." Luca sat down beside her, putting his arm around her shoulders, but she flinched away from his grip. "Listen, Steffi, you don't know how much all of this scares me. I've no idea what you're going through, or how you see all of this. All I know is that drugs are taking my kid sister apart, and I don't seem to be able to do anything to stop it."
"Well, at least you got something right." Stefana's eyes were emotionless. "There's nothing left in me to keep fighting it, Luca. It's only been twenty four hours or so and my brain's about to implode. Might as well accept it. It's a part of who I am now."
"I don't believe that." Luca shook his head. "I won't believe it, either. What happened to the spitfire sister I had, who fought her way through high school? If something was unfair, who marched down to the faculty lounge and took on the teachers about it? If someone picked on Marissa, who was happy to raise a fist or two to defend her?"
"I thought you hated it when I got violent."
"I don't hate it when you stick up for what you believe in." Luca shook his head. "Mom put you through a lot - I know that better than most. And I know it made you bitter, Stef. But bitter enough to drop into this world you're in now? To throw it all away for the sake of some drug or other? I thought you could fight."
"Marissa said that. Guess you're both wrong."
"I won't take that as a final answer." Luca chided her. "I meant what I said, Steffi. I don't want my sister messed up on whatever it was you said you were taking. That doesn't mean I'm going to sit back here and give orders, though. I want you to want it also. I want you to fight this because you want to get your life back, and I want to be able to help you do it. You're important to me - more important than you realise."
"Would you be telling me this now if Maddy hadn't told you I tried to kill myself?" Stefana asked bluntly, looking him in the eye.
"It would have come out sooner or later." Luca nodded. "I'm just glad I got the chance to talk to you, that's all."
He paused, then,
"Losing you is the worst thing I could imagine." He said gently. "You don't believe me, I know that - but it's true, Steffi. Dad thought the world of you, and I do too, even if you are troublesome sometimes."
"Why should I believe you? I can't see why anyone in their right mind would want me around, after everything that's happened."
"Because you're my sister." Luca said simply. "That's good enough for me."
"Hah. There you go. Duty."
"Nope, not at all." Luca put his hands on her shoulders, meeting her gaze with a gentle one of his own. "But there are too many memories. Too many good times. Too many games of pirates underneath your bed. Too many times I dared you to climb down the drainpipe and in through the kitchen window. Too many tricks on the neighbour's dog." He grinned. "Too many hurriedly bought pots of paint to cover scratches in the wainscoating and door paint after a party that got a little outta hand." Despite herself, a smile touched Stefana's lips.
"Those were good times." She admitted. "And it wasn't hard to climb down the pipe. You were just chicken to do it yourself."
"Yeah, but your face when you fell off it into the waterbutt was the most priceless thing ever." Luca reminded her. "I still have the photos, somewhere."
He hugged her tightly.
"See, that's why you're important to me." He murmured. "Because we shared such great times - and we were always such good friends. When Dad died, Stef, I was the only person you allowed to see you torn up over it. And I promised him I'd look out for you, true, but I would always have done anyway. That's just how things are between big brother and little sister."
"I suppose so." Stefana eyed him doubtfully. "But we've both changed, Luca. Grown up. Grown apart."
"You wanna play pirates still?" Luca demanded. "Because it could probably be arranged. I just don't think I'd fit under any bed now."
"You know that's not what I meant." Stefana rolled her eyes. "But you went to college. Things changed then. You had girlfriends away from home - you went to stay with them over breaks. You have a girlfriend now - and a practical stepson, too. You don't need me any more."
"Is that what you think?" Luca looked startled.
"That's how it feels."
"Well, that's garbage." Luca told her firmly. "I'll always have time for you, Stef, however many girlfriends I have, or stepsons, or both. Okay? Get that into your head - you're stuck with me and that's that."
"That's really cheering me up." Stefana grimaced, and Luca laughed.
"C'mon, Stef. Snap out of it." He begged. "You're worth more than all this. Will you let me - us - help you?"
"Maybe." Stefana pursed her lips. "I don't know, Luca. Everything's crashed on me at once. I don't know why it happens like that in life, but when it does, dammit, it does. Besides, you'll yell at me again, but..." She blushed. "I took a hundred bucks from your room. I will pay it back, it's just..."
"I know. Mari told me." Luca said with a shrug. Stefana looked startled.
"You're not mad?"
"I want you to get help, Stef. Getting mad at you isn't going to do that."
"I suppose not." Stefana pursed her lips. "Things are complicated, though. Did Mari also tell you about...about the Aaron thing?"
"She and I have had our suspicions for a while about your feelings for him." Luca nodded gravely. "And that they were getting more serious than either of us really liked."
"His wedding has kinda shaken me up." Stefana admitted. "Can't explain it. Just...has."
"And Mari's fall hasn't helped?"
"None of it has helped." Stefana rubbed her temples. "I stupidly let Mari talk me into trying to go it cold without the drugs, so nothing in my head is right at the moment. And now Rory will probably be on at me to do something to mess up Jewel, and I can't exactly say no, because I have this hella big credit card bill that should have been paid off last month, only I didn't have the money to do it. I'm sinking fast, Luca - what do you suggest I do about it?"
"Rory?" Luca held her at arm's length, confusion flashing into his eyes. "What has Rory to do with anything? Messing Jewel? What do you mean?"
"Oh hell." Stefana cursed. "I shouldn't have mentioned that."
"Well, you did - so I'd appreciate it if you'd enlighten me."
"Rory's been paying me extra to mess Jewel's stuff and cause them hassle." Stefana bit her lip. "I needed the money, Luca, else I would never have taken him up on it in the beginning, but I kinda enjoyed it too, in a way. I hate them so much for being, well, Jewel...they deserved it, too. Deserved to know how it felt to have to fight a little to get success, like we did."
"Oh, Stef." Luca's expression became troubled. "What are you messed up in? What kind of things? Like the break in at the studio? The one you almost got locked away for?"
"Yes, that sort of thing."
"Don't you realise how stupid it is?"
"Yeah, but Luca, when you need the cash...and I do. Badly." Stefana shrugged. "Mari's probably told you that financially I'm not good. I lost one credit card because I couldn't pay it off quick enough and I'm heading towards serious problems with a second. I didn't see what else I could do."
"So what else have you done?"
"I think it's best that you don't know." Stefana said quietly. "Noone ever got killed, Luca. That's all I'm saying."
"Well, that's something, I suppose." Luca frowned. "Things are pretty grim for you right now, huh?"
"What gave you that idea?"
"Well, will you let me help you fix them?"
"I don't know how you can."
"Me either." Luca admitted. "But you're my sister and I want to try." He pursed his lips. "Firstly, though, I will pay off your credit card for you.You can settle with me when you've the money, I just don't want you getting wound up in another FBI investigation."
"You'd do that?" Stefana looked startled. "It's a damn big bill, Luca - you sure?"
"I'm sure." Luca nodded. "And then we'll see what else we can do. But I want you to come home, Stef. Will you?"
"I suppose so." Stefana sighed. "It's cold up here at night, anyway."
"And I'll have words with Rory."
"He'll deny it." Stefana warned him. "He told me if anyone ever found out I'd be on my own."
"Well, I'll take him on anyway." Luca assured her. "Noone uses a Ranieri."
"You might lose your job."
"So I'll lose it." Luca shrugged. "You're worth the risk."
"I highly doubt it." Stefana eyed him doubtfully. "You really think so?"
"Wouldn't say it otherwise." Luca got to his feet, gently lifting his sister down from the unit. "Come on. Get your stuff. We're going home."
"It's all so exciting!"
Rosita Santiago greeted her sister with a bear hug, her brown eyes bright as she eyed the prospective bride. "You look so pretty, Copper - you're gonna be the cutest bride. Did you pick a dress yet? And rings? Oh it's so exciting!"
"Ros, do you ever calm down?" Copper laughed, disentangling herself from her sister's mad embrace. "I'm glad to see you too. As for the dress - yes, sort of, and the rings are waiting for Aaron to pick them up at the jewellers. Everything's a bit chaotic, but that's fairly normal where a wedding's concerned, right?"
"Totally." Rosita agreed. "I'm stoked to be your bridesmaid, too."
"Well, who else would I ask?" Copper demanded playfully. "You and Nancy are my chief maids, Ros, and Cynthia, Topaz, Syl and Sadie will be my other maids. Sadly Topaz's little girl isn't old enough to be flower girl, but otherwise I think I'm doing okay."
"My first time as a bridesmaid." Rosita's dark eyes sparkled. "I can't believe I'm in LA and my sister's getting married!"
"Well, believe it. She wants us wearing pink."
Nancy descended the stairs, casting Rosita a grimace. "Hi, Ros. You've good timing - we've just finished sorting out your room. You got a case?"
"Yeah...oh! I must've left it outside the door." Rosita blushed, disappearing outside the mansion and then reappearing a few moments later, case in hand. "Here it is. I'm sorry - just all the excitement kinda got to me, that's all."
"Well, let's get this upstairs and you can see what you think of the room I chose for you." Copper teased, taking her sister's case and ushering her up the stairs. "You're probably tired from the flight, anyway."
"No, not really." Rosita owned. "I will be, but not yet."
"Hey, Rosita! Welcome to the Starlight!" Sylva greeted them on the landing. "Good flight?"
"Good enough." Rosita nodded good naturedly. "I love your barrettes, Syl - remind me to find some nice ones before the wedding, okay?"
"Will do." Sylva nodded. "We ought to have matching barrettes anyway, to go with matching bridesmaid's dresses!"
"Spare us." Nancy rolled her eyes, disappearing back into her room and closing the door with a bang. Rosita laughed.
"Nancy's not thrilled, huh?" She asked.
"She doesn't like dresses." Copper admitted. "But she's agreed to do it, for Aaron and I."
She led the way to the end of the hall, pushing open the door of the spare room. "Here you go. Your room for the next few weeks. What do you think?"
"It's fab." Rosita hurried over to the window, pausing to admire the view. "Mama's got so many pictures of this place, I can't believe I'm gonna stop here for a while. Who's room was this when Mama was here, do you know?"
"Not sure, but I think it was Kimber's. Just from something she said." Copper responded. "I have Mama's room, down the hall - but then, you know that, right?"
"Yeah, I know." Rosita dimpled. "I'm gonna love staying here."
"Drama school." Rosita corrected her with a wink. "And fine, though I'm going home every fortnight so Mama isn't lonely."
"Mama's a busy actress. I'm sure she could manage." She chided. Rosita shook her head.
"I know Mama's busy, and she travels alot, but I'm the last one of us." She said matter of factly. "You're here, about to be married to some Californian hunk, and Luis has his own place in downtown Detroit these days - I suspect he won't stick around in Michigan when he's graduated. I think he has eyes on Chicago or somewhere - couldn't tell you. He's fairly hot on the idea of putting his skills into action and getting into the world of journalism somehow. Don't ask me the details, I don't - and never have - understood the academic side of things. But yeah, it means that there's noone at home very often, so I drive home to keep Mama company every so often. She likes it and so do I - it isn't like she has Papa there."
"I know." Copper looked pensive. "That's sweet of you, Ros. Guess I never thought about it that way. Aaron and I will have to make sure Mama gets to come visit us a lot."
"She'll love that." Rosita assured her. "She's excited about the wedding, too. I stopped at home the last two nights, to get everything I wanted packed and ready to go. She'll be out here in a week or so - she's just finishing up filming her latest movie."
"Ros, all this with my wedding made me think - do you reckon Mama ever would remarry?"
"Mama?" Rosita looked startled, then, "Honestly? No. She still loves Papa way too much for that."
"In a way I'm glad." Copper glanced at her hands. "Do you think that's selfish? I just couldn't imagine there being a replacement for Papa - but then, I don't like to think of Mama lonely, either."
"I think that, if she should find someone, we will have to accept it." Rosita's pretty face became unusually solemn. "After all, we are all grown up now. But though she has many, many male friends in the acting profession, Copper, she has never spoken to me once about any of them romantically. I don't think that it's something you need to worry about."
"If it happened, I'd make myself accept it, I guess." Copper sighed. "She shouldn't be on her own, though - it isn't fair. Papa should still be alive and with her."
"Yes, but it wasn't to be." Rosita said softly. "Copper, Luis is very touched that you asked him to give you away, you know. He knows how dear Papa was to you, and he considers it a big honour."
"I couldn't ask anyone else." Copper said simply. "If it couldn't be Papa, it had to be Luis - I'm glad he agreed."
"Me too." Rosita dimpled. "He's taller than you, so it won't look at all strange that he's giving away his big sister. Besides, he looks older now - he's growing a beard, you know."
"He told me in his email." Copper admitted. "In case I didn't recognise him! Does it suit him?"
"Oddly, yes." Rosita looked pensive. "Even though he hasn't the red hair, it does make him look more like Papa."
"Well, you look like Mama, except for the hair colour, so it balances out." Copper assured her. "One of us had to take after her, after all!"
"Yep. And I really do, too - acting and all." Rosita laughed. "You know, my friends at drama school were so jealous that I was coming to LA."
"Well, Hollywood is the home of showbiz in this country." Copper pointed out. "Did you tell them why?"
"Sure. I told them my sister was getting married." Rosita shrugged carelessly. "Of course, they about freaked when they found out who my sister was...I wasn't gonna name drop, but I take pictures of you, Luis, Mama and Papa everywhere I go, so they were bound to work it out sooner or later."
"Well, you'll no doubt be the second very talented Santiago actress in the family, when you're done with school." Copper told her with a grin. "And the second very successful Santiago girl, too, no doubt."
"Right. And Luis can run our fansites!" Rosita giggled. "Los Angeles Airport is something else. The aura is amazing, Copper - all those re-e-ally showbiz people flitting through there. How many celebs can you introduce me to before I go home, huh?"
"You mean aside from Jewel?" Copper teased. Rosita dismissed this with a wave of her hand.
"I've met them. They're different." She said. "I meant others."
"Well, not many." Copper admitted. "But we'll see. Okay?" She smiled. "Besides, you're wrong. You've met Nancy and Syl, but you've not met Topaz or Sadie properly yet - Sadie not at all. Or Cynthia, for that matter - she lives here too. Shall I take you down and make the introductions?"
"Sure, sounds like fun." Rosita nodded her head. "Let's go!"
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!