Chapter Ten: Stefana's Dilemma

"I can't believe we're this close."
Copper pushed open the door of the Starlight Mansion, stepping out into the bright Easter sunshine. "Close enough to be rehearsing for the big day! Topaz, I cant believe it, but in three days from now I'm going to be Mrs Aaron Pelligrini!"
"I know, and none of us could be happier for you." Topaz grinned. "You're gonna be a fab bride, Copper, and everything's coming together nicely."
"It would be, if I knew where the rest of my bridesmaids were." Copper said playfully. "You have a tiny kid to worry about and yet you're still here!"
"Cameron has Hollie." Topaz's cheeks pinkened slightly. "Speaking of things coming together, Copper, that's something else your wedding has kick-started. We may never be lovers again, but we can certainly be friendly, and it's a weight off my mind to know that it's not all secret any more. I felt so guilty keeping Hollie from her Dad, but now it's all all right."
"It is, and he seems to have taken to fatherhood." Copper reflected. "I understand Hollie might come to the wedding after all?"
"Well, I don't have to hide her any more." Topaz agreed. "And Cameron isn't anything important in the ceremony - I mean, like Best Man or giving you away or anything - so he's going to hold her and we're going to hope for the best. Gaynor gave me the dress she made this morning and it's so pretty - I think it'd be a shame if she couldn't come to the wedding and show it off."
"Gaynor is a sweetheart." Copper observed, as they reached the flower-besprinkled arches that made up the wedding venue. Copper, deeply romantic at heart, had insisted on it being white, flowery and traditionally bridal, and she had not been disappointed. At one end stood a simple altar, where the local minister was already waiting, amusement in his eyes, for he was well used to wedding Hollywood couples, and Aaron and Logan were also already present, along with her brother, Luis, and sister, Rosita.
"So we're just missing your other maids, then?" Aaron remarked, as he greeted his girlfriend with a kiss. "Are they awake?"
"Yes, they'll be down soon." Topaz nodded. "Syl got into a fuss over how she was wearing her hair for the rehearsal and Sadie stopped to help her. Nancy was writing in the attic room, but Cynthia's gone to pull her out of her melodies for the morning. After all, if we're going to do this properly, they all need to be here."
"Here they come!" Rosita pointed across the grass, to where Sadie and Sylva were hurrying towards them. "Well, two of them, anyway."
"And Nancy and I are also here." Cynthia's calm voice came from behind them. "So we are to rehearse now?"
"Yes, that's the plan. To make sure nothing can go wrong." A shiver of excitement ran down Copper's spine and she grabbed Aaron by the hand.
"Oh, I can't believe it's so close, Aaron!"
"Me either, till I got here this morning and saw how this place was decked up." Aaron responded with a grin. "It's a good thing that the weather's good for the next few days. If it rained the whole thing would come down."
"Well, if it does, we're suing the weather office." His sister said dryly. "Ros and I had a nightmare helping Copper get this all organised exactly as she wanted it!"
"It's perfect, though." Copper objected. "And so beautiful."
"Not as beautiful as the bride." Aaron winked at her. "Okay, since we're all here, shall we go?"

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"I want to know what this is all about, Rory."
Stefana banged into the office, marching across to her employer's desk and banging her hands down on the hard wood surface. "I was busy! You wanted us to run through that damn song, and that's what we were doing when you interrupted us - if we release late it'll be your fault!"
"Then you'll simply have to work twice as hard." Rory seemed unmoved by her display of temper. "I have a more pressing assignment for you."
"Didn't you hear me on the phone?" Stefana snapped. "I don't want to be your errand girl any longer, and Luca backs me up! I told you last time we spoke - I'm not going to be messed about by you any more."
"Well, yes, this is true." Rory rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "But that was before I received an interesting tidbit of information from one of my associates this morning. That, I assure you, puts things into a completely different light."
Stefana's gaze narrowed at this, and she eyed him warily.
"What do you mean?" She demanded. "What kind of information?"
"Information, my dear, regarding you." Rory rested his chin in his hands, meeting her apprehensive gaze with a cool one of his own. "And your after-hours activities."
Stefana paled.
"I don't know what you mean." She managed.
"Yes, you do." Rory told her unsympathetically. "I have a very strict policy regarding drugs, Stefana, and you must know that I can't endorse such activities."
"I don't take drugs!" Stefana coloured hotly. "I don't!"
"Oh really?" Rory raised an eyebrow. "Not according to my information."
"Well, it's true. I...I quit." Stefana retorted. "So there."
"I see." Rory turned this over in his mind. "Still, it would be most unfortunate if the press were to hear about this little...folly of yours, wouldn't it? Quite outside the kind of image that Diablo wish to paint of themselves, I should imagine. And whilst I respect your word, Stefana, I find it startlingly convenient that you should have quit this habit within the week since last we spoke face to face like this. Don't you?"
"I don't care what you say. You don't own me." Stefana folded her arms. "And you wouldn't risk the negative publicity."
"Stefana, what matters to me is that Diablo produce good music, and toe the line." Rory said coldly. "And I am not averse to anything to see that that is the case. You know me too well not to realise that."
Stefana bit her lip, then,
"What do you want from me?" She whispered.
"Jewel have been grabbing a lot of headlines of late, despite their musical drought." Rory said with a shrug. "In light of my recent discoveries, it would be a big thing indeed if Diablo were to have a few headlines of their own. In this business, Stefana, there is no such thing as bad publicity for a group - better that people are talking about you than forgetting you, after all. If Jewel continue to monopolise the presses with this wretched wedding, I shall have little choice but to treat the nation to your little scandal. Do you understand me?"
"That's blackmail."
"Yes. Beautifully ironic too, don't you think?"
Stefana cursed.
"You want me to wreck the wedding, is that it?" She demanded. Rory spread his hands.
"A little bird told me you had been invited." He said quietly. "It wouldn't be putting you out of your way."
Stefana bit her lip. It had crossed her mind so many times over the past few weeks, how to ruin the wedding, but somehow Rory's calm request cut her to the quick.
"And if I refuse? What then?"
"I've made that perfectly clear." Rory said sweetly. "Failing that, I'll have to further review your employment here. I cannot be seen to be associated with drug use."
Stefana muttered another curse, remembering her brother's account of how Rory had removed the problem of Sirena and her young son from his company. At length she nodded.
"I haven't much else I can do." She said bitterly. "But I hate you, Rory. More than I hated anyone before, and that's a fact. watch your back, okay? I mean it."
With that, she stalked out of the office, banging the door shut behind her and stomping down the corridor. Once in the solitude of her car, however, her eyes filled with unwelcome tears, and she stamped her foot down on the gas pedal, roaring away from the music company as fast as she could.
"I hate him! I hate him so much!" She exclaimed, banging her free hand down on the steering wheel. "How dare he? And how did he find out? Noone outside of Diablo know, and they'd never risk the band like this. How? Oh, dammit, that wretched snake of a dealer must have ratted. God knows he'll do anything where money is concerned, and Rory's persuasive as they come, particularly since I quit buying from him lately. How am I supposed to get out of this one? Luca will throw a fit!"
For a while she simply drove on, not caring where she was going. When at last she pulled her vehicle to a halt, she realised that she had reached the beach, and, her heart heavy, she made her way slowly out onto the seafront, gazing out at the idle blue waters.
Her eyes filled once more with tears, but she forced them back, not wanting to cry in public.
"Whatever I do I lose." She whispered. "Rory doesn't give a damn what happens to me - or Diablo, as far as I can tell. He wants to be in charge, and he'll go to any lengths to get it. He'll even put Diablo on the line, and he's pretty much made it clear that I'm dispensable. This stinks! I've been totally clean since...well, almost a week now, and yet it's now he finds out what's been going on! I've kept it from him since we were in California, and now he has to find out? Now it's over? And now I need Diablo more than ever before?"
She headed out onto the pier, gazing out to sea. As she did so, she found herself thinking of Aaron, and despite herself, she bit her lip.
"What am I going to do?" She muttered. "I've plotted to bring down this wedding ever since Aaron told me that he and Copper were tying the knot, and I've spent a lot of time thinking it over, too. I could do it - so easily, since I'm invited to the damn thing. I could definitely wreck it. But...hell, do I want to?"
She frowned at this.
"Aaron is my friend." She whispered. "And Mari is right. I can't keep hurting people I care about, else they won't be there any more to care about me. Right now I need friends...I need them more than anything I have, and I've hardly enough people I can call real friends, anyway. Aaron a true friend, even if he is in love with that damn Jewel. I...I can't begrudge him that, in a way. She...she's perfect in every goddamn way, and I'm just a screw up. It stands to reason he'd pick her - he's only human."
She sighed.
"Besides, he cares about what happens to me." She realised. "He always has - no matter what. I could do what Rory asked of me, and lose Aaron's respect, and still lose my job at the end of it. But...oh, I couldn't bear it if everyone knew! And Luca...Luca would get hurt, too. I can't win! Whatever I do...whatever I do, I lose."
A bitter expression crossed her face.
"I suppose it figures. Things never do go quite right where I'm concerned, do they?" She muttered. "Well, maybe Maddy was wrong. Maybe it would be a lot easier for the world if they didn't have to worry about me. If I was dead, well, noone would blitz me in the press - they never blitz dead stars, they're too busy kissing up to them. I'd do Diablo a lot more of a service if...if I was to end it all, here and now, than...than drag them into disgrace. And that's what's going to happen if I carry on like this. Whatever the others say, I'm not in control and I've made too much of a mess of myself to fix it all. Surely...surely this is the only way out?"
She walked slowly to the edge of the pier, gazing down at the rippling blue waves until they made her feel dizzy. As she stood there, fear took a grip on her heart, and she swallowed hard. Sitting down till her legs dangled over the edge, she knocked a stone into the blue expanse, watching it with a mix of horror and fascination as it disappeared beneath the surface.
It wouldn't take much, she reasoned. It would be quick - she'd read about these things before, in magazines. Surely...surely it was the only way out?
As she moved closer to the edge, her mobile phone fell out of her pocket, and, startled, she stared at it, scooping it up and going to return it to her pocket. Something made her pause, however, and, almost numbly she flicked through the list of numbers she had stored there, mentally saying a goodbye to each and every one of them. Finally, she reached Aaron's, and something in it made her pause.
Biting her lip, she pressed the "call" button, lifting the handset to her ear as she listened to the rings. He was probably busy, she mused absently. He wouldn't care if she went without saying goodbye, but she had to at least explain to him. He meant too much to her for that.
His voice jolted through her, calm, friendly and warm as ever, and for a moment she found it hard to speak.
"Hello? Stef, is that you?"
"Aaron?" Finally she managed to force her lips to form his name.
"'s me."
"Stef, is something wrong?" Aaron's voice became full of concern, and the tears threatened once more.
"I'm sorry, Aaron." She whispered. "I...I didn't mean to...I mean...I just called say goodbye."
"Goodbye?" Aaron echoed, nonplussed, then, "What do you mean?"
"I'm at the beach." Stefana spoke in numb, emotionless tones. "At the pier.'s no good, Aaron, I can't...can't keep it up. It's best this way...I'm sorry."
There was an exclamation, as Aaron registered what she meant, then,
"Stef, dammit, what are you talking about? What's happened?"
"I can't talk about it. It's better you don't know everything." Stefana sighed. "I just wanted talk to you, before. I...I didn't want you to think it was your...your fault."
"Stef, don't you dare move." Now Aaron's tone was frightened. "I mean it. I'm coming out there, and I...I want you to say this stuff to me in person. Okay? Don't do anything stupid. I'll be right there as soon as I can - will you promise me to stay where you are?"
"I'm here."
"Will you promise me? Please?"
Stefana sighed, then, "I...I guess it won't make a difference."
"Good girl. I'll be right there. Just...just sit tight, okay?"
He rang off his phone, meeting the quizzical gaze of his bride to be.
"What was that about?" She asked lightly, noticing his expression. "Bad news?"
"I hope not." Aaron muttered. "Copper, I'm sorry to bail on you, but this...this is a matter of life and death. I only hope I'm in time!"
Before Copper could question him further, he was gone across the grass, and the redhead shrugged her shoulders.
"Thanks for the explanation, honey." She said dryly. "Oh well, guys. Looks like the rehearsal is on ice - I need to go make sure Aaron is okay. I think he had some bad news."
"Bad news?" Nancy looked alarmed. "Not family news?"
"I don't know, Nance." Copper shrugged. "I didn't hear what the call was, only that it's freaked him out."
"Well, I'm going to call Mom at the office and make sure it's nothing there." Nancy decided. "You better head out and see if you can find out what's going on. When Aaron gets all impulsive, heaven knows what he might be up to!"

Chapter One: A Father Should Be

Chapter Two: Stefana and Aaron
Chapter Three: Sylva Intervenes
Chapter Four: Stefana's Battle
Chapter Five: Common Ground
Chapter Six: A Special Meeting
Chapter Seven: La Familia Santiago
Chapter Eight: Hen Party
Chapter Nine: Rory's Scheme
Chapter Ten: Stefana's Dilemma
Chapter Eleven: A Friend Indeed

Chapter Twelve: Sadie Gets Involved
Chapter Thirteen: The Night Before

Chapter Fourteen: Closure

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!