Chapter Nine: An Olive Branch

"Well, are you happy now, Miss Hollie?"
Topaz carefully lifted her daughter down from the high chair, wiping the infant's mouth clean with a smile, and removing the bib. "You certainly seemed to enjoy your meal - don't tell me you're gonna grow again? I've just bought you all new clothes, and you don't want to be too big for the dress Gaynor is gonna make you now, do you?"
She set the small girl down on the floor, reaching for the infant's beloved rag doll, and Hollie gripped it eagerly, hugging it tightly to her chest. It had been a present from Sylva when the girl had been only weeks old, and it was Hollie's favourite toy, going everywhere she did.
"Where's your sock gone?" Topaz glanced at the tiny wriggling pink toes in some amusement. "You had two socks on when I brought you down here, Hollie - don't tell me you got so hungry you ate the other one?"
Hollie beamed at her mother, then, her expression one of angelic sweetness, she reached down and pulled off the other sock, tossing it across the room with a giggle. Topaz rolled her eyes.
"Okay, who taught Hollie the new party trick?" She demanded, raising her voice.
"Party trick?" Sylva poked her head around the door. "What kind of party trick?"
"Parting herself from her socks." Topaz rolled her eyes, retrieving the discarded sock and setting it down on the sofa. "Somewhere there is a white baby sock floating around this house, and she's lost it between me getting her up and breakfast. I didn't see her do it, but it's not here."
"Someone lose something?" Copper entered the lounge at that moment, the missing sock clutched in her hand, and Topaz took it with a smile.
"Thanks, Copper. Baby's learnt to take her socks off, and she finds it most amusing to throw them wherever she sees fit." She said dryly. "Now, Hollie, I'm gonna put your socks back on, and you're going to leave them there, all right? The kitchen floor is cold and I know how you like to run riot around the house. I don't want you catching a chill because you don't have anything on your feet."
She lifted the small girl into her lap, preparing to replace the socks, but Hollie, it seemed, had other ideas.
"No." She said firmly, grabbing the sock Topaz was trying to put back on her, and tossing it across the room once more. "No."
"Someone's exerting free will." Sylva looked amused, as Topaz tried again with the other foot, with much the same results. "Guess we can add 'no' to her ever growing vocabulary, huh?"
"Hollie knew 'no' as soon as she was old enough to say 'dog'." Topaz rolled her eyes. "It's been a firm favourite with her for some time now."
She cast her daughter a thoughtful look.
"I'm going to put these socks on you, if you like it or not." She murmured. "So unless you want to be tickled mercilessly, little Hollie, do as you're told, okay?"
"No." Hollie folded her arms, meeting her mother's gaze with a defiant one of her own.
"I don't think she's gonna have it." Copper laughed. "She's so cute, even when she's being naughty."
"How am I supposed to deal with this, though?" Topaz sighed, rolling her eyes. "I don't want to make the kid cry, but I can't just let her have her own way all of the time, either. Mom did that with me, and look at the mess I wound up becoming, huh?"
"Put the television on." Copper suggested, scooping up her hairbrush and beginning to to groom out her long curly hair into two tails. "Maybe if she's distracted by Big Bird then she'll not notice you put them back on her feet."
"Ooh, good idea." Topaz's eyes lit up. "She does seem to get very absorbed when Sesame St is on. Thanks, Copper."
"I'll do it." Sylva offered, leaning over to switch on the set, and flicking channels till she found the right one. "There you go, Hollie. Who's that?"
Hollie gurgled, holding her hands out to the screen. Her infant tongue had not yet mastered the names of the characters, but her attention was caught and Topaz was able to slip the disputed socks onto the tiny pink feet without any more squalls.
"I always liked Big Bird when I was small." Sylva observed. "He made me laugh."
"I preferred the Cookie Monster." Copper laughed. "He always had me in fits of giggles. Papa used to creep up behind me in the lounge and go "coooookies!" to make me laugh."
"Wow, we're on mature conversation this morning." Nancy pushed open the door of the lounge, stifling a yawn. "Sesame St? Goodie. Sure your brains can handle it this early in the morning?"
"Well, Hollie's seems to be managing." Copper grinned. "Come have a seat, Nance. Ros and Sadie not up yet?"
"Ros went out for a walk to explore Los Angeles, and as for Sadie? Still lost to the world." Nancy replied. "Could be something to do with the fact she was out till late with Alex last night. I don't think she got back till sometime this morning - I sure didn't hear her get in."
"Me either." Sylva owned. "And her room is next to mine."
"Alex is a sweetheart, though, and she deserves some happiness." Copper pointed out. "I think it's great she found someone out here."
"Me too." Topaz nodded. "After what Neal did to her in England, I was worried she'd never trust anyone again, but Alex seems to have done the trick, somehow. So long as she's happy." She shrugged. "That's what matters."
On the screen slices of toast began to sing a children's rhyme, and Hollie giggled, clapping her hands. Nancy rolled her eyes.
"I know she's a baby, Topaz, but what she sees in this show is beyond me." She muttered.
"You never watched Sesame St when you were a kid?" Copper demanded.
"Well, yeah..." Nancy nodded. "And that was only because Aaron did, but I got bored easily. The songs sucked and they were so obviously puppets. The only thing I ever learnt from it was how to do letters and stuff. The rest of the show was stupid."
"Shh!" Topaz laughed, covering her daughter's ears. "You'll disillusion the little one!"
"Sorry." A smile touched Nancy's lips. "It was just never my thing, I'm afraid. I admit to being fascinated by Big Bird teaching the alphabet - but other than that? Singing toast? Not for me."
"Well, as one who grew up a devotee of Elmo and his works, I think it's a fab kid's show." Sylva laughed. "Even if it is a little kiddish. What better way for a kid to learn their ABC, after all? Sure taught me more than I learnt at kindergarten!"
"Why am I not surprised." Nancy grinned.
The scene on the screen changed, as brightly coloured characters played out a family scene, and Hollie watched intently, her infant curiosity absorbing everything that went on. Topaz settled down beside her, and the small girl cuddled up against her mother, fingers in her mouth as she tried to make sense of what was going on on the screen before her.
"What's up, kid?" Topaz murmured, as Hollie turned big green eyes her way. "You don't understand?"
"She is only fifteen months, give the girl a chance." Sylva protested. "I couldn't say half as much as she does at that age."
"Well, you've made up for it ever since." Nancy laughed. Sylva tossed a cushion at her bandmate.
"You're so predictable." She retorted.
Hollie turned her gaze back to the screen, holding her hands out and gurgling in some language of her own. She wriggled out of her mother's embrace, crawling across the floor and putting her fingers on the television set.
"Hol, be careful." Topaz scolded. "You shouldn't be..."
"Dada." Hollie exclaimed, patting the screen. Topaz froze, her face draining of all colour as she stared at the small girl in utter shock. Hollie, oblivious to the distress she had caused her mother repeated her new word again, once more patting the 'father' figure on the screen. The other Jewels exchanged looks, and Topaz bit her lip. Then she scooped up her daughter, tears in her eyes.
"Turn it off." She whispered.
Sylva hesitated, then did as she was bidden, and as the bright images on the screen faded, Hollie began to pout.
"Hollie wants." She protested, holding her hand out to the screen, but Topaz shook her head, carrying the little girl across to the sofa and sitting down beside Copper, the infant still clutched protectively in her grip. Now seeming to realise something was wrong with her mother, Hollie's lip began to tremble, and she burst into tears.
"Oh Hol, don't cry at me." This made Topaz's fight with her own self control even more difficult. "I'm sorry, honey. I didn't mean to ruin your fun, it's just..."
She trailed off, swallowing hard, and Hollie wriggled free of her grasp, sliding off the sofa with a bump and crawling back towards the television set.
"Hollie wants." She announced, patting the screen and sending Sylva a beseeching look. This was too much for Topaz, and she buried her head in her hands, unable to stop the tears.
"What is wrong with me?" She murmured. "Why does one word affect me so much?"
Copper reached over to hug her friend tightly.
"You have to accept that he's not gonna be there." She replied gently. "Hollie's curious and she wants to know about everything, that's all. You can't let your personal feelings get in the way of what's best for her. If she wants to learn about families and Mommy and Daddy, well, you have to let her. You can't protect her forever."
"No, I know, but with him so close..." Topaz swallowed hard. "I'm so afraid to lose her, Copper. She's never kinda...crawled away from me before. It makes me afraid..."
"Hollie just wants to know." Sylva said sensibly, getting down on her hands and knees and scooping up the bemused infant, who was staring at Topaz with a mixture of fright and confusion. Never had she seen her mother so visibly upset, and she didn't like it. Pulling out of Sylva's grasp, she toddled across the room, putting her hand on Topaz's lap.
"All better." She instructed.
Topaz glanced up, meeting her daughter's bewildered expression, and offering a small smile.
"You don't like to see Mommy cry, huh?" She whispered. "I'm sorry, Hol. You're too young for me to explain."
"Up." Hollie held out her hands, and Topaz obediently lifted the small girl into her lap, hugging her tightly.
"Guess we still have a few issues to iron out." She acknowledged.
"It's not that strange, really." Copper mused. "Her expressing her own opinions and asking her own questions of the world, I mean. Kids that age do that - Ros and Luis both did it. I remember Ros was told several times by Mama not to go into the closet in their room because the door had a habit of sticking, but she did...she almost got herself locked in. Hollie wants to know about the world she's in. Its not that she's pulling away from you, Topaz. She just wants to learn."
"I know, I just wish she hadn't used that particular word." Topaz admitted. "She understood what was going on on the screen, better than I thought she did. If she's saying 'dada' now, how long is it going to be before she's old enough to ask for him? Before we get the temper tantrum because I can't give her 'dada'? I didn't think we'd have to deal with this till she went to school, at least...but maybe I was wrong."
"Or perhaps it was just a word." Sylva suggested. "Just a sound she was imitating off the T.V. Babies do that, too - it doesn't mean anything specific. She was just copying."
"Maybe." Topaz sighed. "We'll see."
"If you need some headspace, Topaz, we'll watch Hollie for an hour or two." Copper offered. "If you want to go for a walk and clear your head. I feel bad that we didn't warn you about Cameron - you've had a lot to come to terms with."
"Might be a good idea." Topaz admitted. "Okay, Copper. Thanks. Her puzzles are under the table and there should be some baby juice in the fridge if she's thirsty."
She set the small girl down.
"I'll see you in a while, kid." She said gently. "Mommy needs some air."
Hollie watched her mother leave, then, as the door closed, she held out her hand.
"Mama." She called.
"Mama's not feeling so great." Copper told her gently, retrieving one of the chunky puzzles from beneath the table and tipping it out from the box. "You wanna play puzzles for a while, huh?"
"Mama." Hollie pouted.
"She'll be back soon." Copper promised. She picked up Hollie's dropped doll. "Look, Hol, who's this?"
"Dolly." Hollie grabbed her doll, hugging it protectively to her. Copper nodded.
"Okay, so does Dolly want to play puzzles with us? Look, can you find the piece with the duck on it?"
Distracted for the time being from her mother's departure, Hollie obediently turned her mind to finding the duck picture, and Sylva came to join them. Nancy, who, if the truth were told was still fairly wary of her youngest housemate, watched the whole game at a distance. Her mind was more preoccupied with the hurt she had seen in Topaz's pale blue eyes.
"There must be something we can do." She muttered. "Think, Nancy. Your numbskull brother invited the guy out here and it's gotten her all upset again. Dammit, I wish I knew what the answer to all this was. Copper's wedding is going to be as traumatic as Vi's if this goes on - even if I don't have to scatter lilies over pillows this time around!"
For Topaz's part, she was wholeheartedly wishing for the umteenth time that Cameron had never been invited to the Los Angeles wedding. She felt guilty at leaving her daughter in the care of her friends, but she knew that her head was too full of him to be much use to the little girl, and she badly needed to get some perspective.
"But I've never heard her say Dada before." She murmured to herself as she headed up the arc shaped driveway and onto the lane that led towards the bustling city itself. "Kids are supposed to say that right at the start, but Hol's been talking since she was ten months and I never heard that word before. I figured because she didn't have a Daddy, she just hadn't picked it up. And why did it hurt so much to hear it? Did I ever say it and make my mother cry, too? But she couldn't do anything about my lack of a father. I've lost Cameron through my own stupidity, and I can't take it all back. Have I done wrong? Does the kid need a Dad more than I thought she did? Have I let my own warped ideas of what a family is like prevent me from giving my little girl what she really wants? Does that...make me a bad mother?"
She sighed, slipping her hands into her pockets. Her hand closed around one of Hollie's old teething rings, and she pulled it out, looking at it for a moment.
"I'm a working Mom and she spends more time at creches or the foundation than I can spend with her." She realised, slipping it back into her coat. "Am I just being selfish now? I wanted her - and dammit, I do want her - but is it what's best for Hollie, the way I'm bringing her up? She's happy at the Starlight, and the others love her...but is it what's best? Oh, I wish I had a mother to go to about this. Maybe then I'd know the answer to my questions."
She turned off down a small pathway, knowing that it was a shortcut into Los Angeles itself. She did not intend to be away long, but she hoped the bright atmosphere and busy streets of the city would distract her from her problems, and lighten her heavy mood. It was not the first time she had doubted her abilities as a mother, and, she mused ruefully, it probably would not be the last.
So intent on her thoughts was she that she did not see the young man heading in the opposite direction until they had collided, nearly sending her sprawling into the mud. A strong hand came out to catch her, hauling her to her feet, and as she raised her gaze to thank him and apologise, he let out a surprised exclamation.
"Cameron." Topaz bit her lip. Could things get any worse? "I'm sorry. I wasn't really looking where I was...was going."
"I suppose the same could be said for me." Cameron said quietly, eying her tear-sprinkled cheeks thoughtfully. "'Ad a fight with someone?"
"No." Topaz shook her head. "It's just been a difficult few...few days, that's all."
"Oh." Cameron pursed his lips, then, "Did 'e 'urt you?"
"Who, Cameron?"
"The father." Cameron's green eyes were expressionless. "Or does 'e treat you better than I ever did, huh? Guess it's difficult when someone you care about is so far away."
"You don't know how true that is." Topaz murmured, lowering her gaze. "And...and I don't see Hollie's father. It was all over a...a long time ago. I'm a single mother now."
"He ran out on you, huh?" Cameron raised an eyebrow. Topaz shook her head.
"No. It was best this way." She said quietly. "I'm sorry, I must be holding you up...I'm sure you've plenty on."
"Well, supposedly."
Cameron looked at her, then sighed.
"We can't keep doin' this." He said at length.
"Doing what?" Topaz stared at him with bemused blue eyes.
"What 'appened between you an' the other bloke...that I find 'ard to forgive an' forget." Cameron said honestly. "An' that's always gonna be the case, Rora. Nothin' will ever change that fact. But I've 'ad an 'ard time puttin' you behind me, an' it's affecting my judgement about other things, too. I don't doubt that you forgot about me a long time ago, but..."
"You'd be surprised." Topaz said softly. "There's nothing I regret more than losing your respect, Cameron. That's the truth."
"Really?" Cameron looked startled, then, "Well, all of that is well past now. There's nothin' to say we can't be civil to each other. Friendly, even. After all, mutual friends of ours are gettin' married. Last thing we want to do is wreck their big day."
"I'll agree with that." Topaz nodded her head. A slight smile touched Cameron's lips.
"Then I guess I'm offerin' a kind of truce." He hazarded. "Are you up for it?"
"I'm up for it." Topaz agreed gently. "I've missed talking to you. I know it was me who screwed up, Cam - more than you know. But I have missed you. I'd like for us to, well, not be hating each other any more."
"Good." Cameron looked relieved. "Because otherwise the decision I made this mornin' might prove awkward for both of us."
"Decision?" Topaz looked startled. Cameron nodded.
"I accepted a residency position in San Diego." He agreed. "So long as my exams go well next month, I'll be comin' out 'ere in August, an' startin' work in September. Aaron's promised to 'elp me find digs in San Diego, an' make sure I'm not to overwhelmed by the different culture an' all that." He shrugged. "Last thing I wanted was for us to be on awkward terms, if I was gonna be 'ere longterm."
"I see." A troubled look crossed Topaz's face, then, "Congratulations. I know you're going to make a fabulous doctor."
"Something up?" Cameron eyed her keenly. Topaz shook her head.
"No. Just be strange, getting used to you being around and not..." She sighed. "Forget it. I was heading into the city - do you want to grab a coffee? Nothing ulterior, just...I know it isn't much of an apology, but I'd like to do it anyway."
"To seal the peace?" Cameron asked. Topaz nodded.
"Yes." She agreed. "Well?"
Cameron smiled.
"All right." He said slowly. "Count me in."

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

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!