Chapter Thirteen: The Night Before

Stefana raised her gaze to meet that of the speaker, an unlit cigarette rolling idly between her fingers. Her expression was guarded and troubled, and Sadie bit her lip. She'd worked at the halfway house long enough to know when a difficult case presented itself, and this was one such time. She paused in the doorway, then she shook her head.
"It isn't any good, you know, if you don't want me here." She murmured. "I know Aaron asked you to talk to me, and that's fine and all, but if you don't want me I might as well go. I won't do you any good if that's how things are."
"You're a Jewel." Stefana said flatly. "Why should I trust you?"
"I could say the same." Sadie observed levelly. "But at the end of the day, Stefana, it's up to you. Do you want my help? Or don't you?"
Stefana swallowed hard, composing herself, then,
"I want help." She muttered. "But I'm not sure I want it from you."
The word 'you' was spoken with such vehement bitterness that Sadie's expression became grave. She shook her head again.
"All right. Then I'm going to go home." She said matter of factly. "If you change your mind, you know where to find me. I don't think you're ready to talk to me and I'm not going to make matters worse by pressuring you." She offered a slight smile. "Bye."
"Wait." Stefana's voice called her back and she paused, turning quizzically.
"You're just gonna walk out? Just like that?" Stefana demanded. "I've tried to kill myself twice in the last week, you know. There's noone else home. Are you really going to walk out on me and leave me here on my own?"
Sadie fixed Stefana with a thoughtful look, then she sighed.
"Aaron told me that." She admitted. "Which is why I came. I know what you're feeling and I thought..." She sighed again. "Maybe not. Maybe you hate Jewel too much for me to make much impact. I want to help you, Stefana, and of course I don't want to leave you here on your own, in light of recent events. But if you don't want my help I don't know what else to do but go. Pressuring you will only make you feel worse."
"How in hell can you possibly know how I feel?" Stefana got to her feet, tossing the cigarette aside and putting her hands on her hips. "You're a Jewel! Everything always goes Jewel's way. How in hell can you know what it's like?"
"I've been there." Sadie shrugged. "More than once. I thought you read the papers and kept abreast of Jewel scandals. I used heroin in my teens and I spent time in prison because of it, also. I know what it's like when you're all alone and no matter how many people try and understand, none of them do. I've been to the place you were yesterday when you told Aaron you were going to jump from the pier. I've felt that low and considered doing the same." She shrugged. "That's why Aaron wanted me to help you. If you don't want me to, I will leave you alone, but I want to help too, Steffi. It's not something you should be alone with. Especially feeling the way you have been."
There was a long silence, then Stefana sighed, sinking back down onto her chair.
"Beggars can't be choosers." She murmured. "I can't carry on like this."
Sadie eyed her keenly, inwardly hopeful, for Stefana's demeanour was no longer so defensive or so defiant.
"Does that mean I can stay?" She asked. Another pause, then Stefana nodded.
"I guess so." She acknowledged grudgingly. "You better sit."
"Okay." Sadie did as she was told, then, "I'm glad you changed your mind."
"Was it true, what you said just then?"
"About the heroin and prison and knowing how I'm feeling?"
"Yes, it was." Sadie nodded. Stefana sighed.
"And I saw the scandal in the paper and figured it was tabloid nonsense." She murmured. "Wonders will never cease."
"Aaron said you were using amphetamines."
"Yeah." Stefana glanced at her hands. "I wish I still was. When I was taking them, I didn't feel like this. I was strong and things didn't bother me. I wouldn't be suicidal if I had them."
"No?" Sadie asked gently. "They're not the reason we're here right now? Drugs alter your mood swings. Trust me, I know. If it wasn't for you taking speed as much as you have, your moods wouldn't be all out of sync and you wouldn't be full scale crashing like you are. The worst part about drug depression is that it makes the world a different kinda place. Just as distorted as the high...only instead of feeling invinceable..."
"You wanna blow out your brains." Stefana finished, rubbing her temples. "Gee. I guess you do know."
Sadie nodded her head.
"To some extent, yeah." She agreed. She smiled slightly. "And I'm not proud of where I've been or what I've done, you have to realise that. But if talking about it helps you even a tiny bit to realise you're not the only one who's ever felt like this, then I'm game to spill my guts."
Stefana raised her head.
"And what if I just turn around and sell everything you tell me to the tabloids?" She demanded. Sadie shrugged.
"I'll take the risk." She replied calmly. "Besides, it's old news to them now. They all know."
Stefana seemed to be thinking this over, then,
"I'd die if they knew about me." She admitted softly. "I couldn't bear it."
"I didn't think that I could, either. I didn't even tell Topaz or the rest, they didn't know when I joined Jewel that I had a criminal record." Sadie said softly. "But the way it came out was worse than I could have imagined, it made me wish I had told people. You've taken the bravest step so far and admitted to the people around you that you have a problem and that you need help. People say it's half the battle and it isn't, but it's a big step the right way. Someone who doesn't admit they need help poses a bigger problem. They'll often just wind up going back to how things were before."
"You didn't tell the others?" Stefana looked startled. "You signed your contract with this all in the closet waiting to come out?"
"Yes." Sadie nodded. "Thankfully they stuck by me. They didn't have to."
"The others have stuck by me." Stefana looked thoughtful. "I've always hated Maddy, but she was really great the night Marissa took sick, when I..." her cheeks coloured, "The first time, know. Tried. She stayed at Rebel Records with me all night and we had a talk. Well, she talked. But it...helped a little. Luca was angry at me, but I guess I know he's more angry at what I've done than he is at me. He told me he was scared for my safety and that I was all he had." She sighed. "It isn't true, though. He has that bitch Sirena and that damn kid of hers that he likes playing Daddy to."
"You're his flesh and blood, though." Sadie said softly. "There's noone in the world as important to me as my sister Alyssa."
"Even Aaron has been good to me, and I don't deserve for him to even speak to me again." Stefana toyed with her fingers. She cursed. "I'm not liking this, Sadie. This whole thing. Me, sitting, talking about things going on inside of me, but it's like I can't keep them in, either. They're just...coming."
"You do know, I hope, that that's a good thing. You can't just bottle everything away."
"Why not? It's always worked before." Stefana retorted. "I can't stand people feeling sorry for me, Sadie, and I know that they do right now. Luca, Maddy, Marissa..hell, maybe even Clay. You. Worse, even Aaron. I can't bear that."
"There is a difference, Steffi, between being pitied and being supported by your friends." Sadie smiled. "Trust me."
Stefana was silent for a moment, then,
"I wish I knew if I could." She murmured. She smiled back humourlessly. "Noone knows you're here except you and Aaron, unless you told someone you were coming."
"No, I haven't said a word to anyone." Sadie shook her head. "Why should I? Is it anyone else's business?"
"No, it ain't." Stefana shook her head. "But I figured that Jewels whisper in corners about stuff."
"Well, maybe you don't know Jewel as well as you think you do." Sadie said levelly. "Which is kinda sad really, but your choice."
"Don't get me started on your band. Bad enough I'm talking to you." Stefana grimaced. "If it wasn't that I feel like I'm losing my mind..." She trailed off with a sigh. "Guess you better know now that it takes something pretty bad for me to admit that I'm not in control of stuff."
"You said yourself you needed help." Sadie responded. "Are you going to let me try and help you? I'm not a trained psychiatrist and I don't have qualifications, but I do understand this and I have worked with helping others who are in the same situation you are. It's up to you. If you say no, then you needn't worry about me breathing a word to anyone. But if you decide against my help, please, Steffi, find someone else you can talk to."
Stefana fixed Sadie with a long, hard look. Then,
"Why do you even care?"
"Why shouldn't I care?"
"You're a Jewel."
"Get over that, will you?" Sadie raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, I'm a Jewel, but I'm sorry, I'm also a human being called Sadie Monahue who has her own thoughts and makes her own decisions in life, just as much as you are one called Stefana Ranieri, rather than just being 'one of Diablo'. You would go mad if I suggested you and the other members of Diablo always thought and did the same, and judged you indiscriminately because our music companies are rivals. Wouldn't you?"
"Guess I would." Stefana admitted grudgingly. "Okay then. Why do you care? Is this just a mercy mission Aaron sent you on?"
"It's partly that." Sadie nodded. "But I couldn't not get involved, Stef. You don't just say no when someone needs help and you might be able to make the difference. It's like refusing to jump into a swimming pool to save a drowning kid, when you took your lifesaver's certificate just that morning. I consider it the same thing. If you can make a difference, then you should, because otherwise why are you here?" She grinned at Stefana's bemused expression. "People went out of their way to help me, you know. People I'd never met, people I yelled abuse at and cursed, people I was difficult with and probably very ungrateful to, also. But eventually it dawned on me that without those people helping me I'd never have gotten anywhere. They made a difference to me - it's my turn."
Stefana stared at her for a moment. Then, slowly, she shook her head.
"I'm not a good person." She said quietly. "I can't see things the way you do, in terms of helping someone else and all of that. I'm only letting you stay because I want you to help me get out of this...I haven't any intention of turning it into a philanthropy project."
"Noone ever said that you had to." Sadie shrugged her shoulders. "But you shouldnt assume because you don't think like other people, that you're not a good person. Good people can do bad things...noone ever said they couldn't." She smiled. "There's a difference between naughty and evil. I don't think you're evil, so there's hope for you yet."
Stefana pulled a face.
"Enough of that, thanks." She said darkly. "I dont want to throw up."
Sadie laughed.
"Okay, I'm sorry." She said with a shrug. "I mean it though. I don't think you're beyond help. I've met addicts in a worse state than you and they've made it through. Hell, dare I say that I was one, even?" She reached across to take Stefana's hand, squeezing it, and, much to her surprise, the guitarist did not pull it away.
"We'll get you through this." She murmured. "If you'll let me and trust me. I won't betray you to anyone, Steffi, I swear. You and I...we're not that different, not really. Forget who's in what band for a moment, huh? I genuinely want to help you."
Stefana stared at her companion for a moment, tears glistening in her green eyes.
"You know, I believe you." She whispered. "I must be delusional, but I do." She smiled slightly. "Maybe Aaron was right after all."
"Aaron is a decent guy. He wants the best for you too." Sadie told her. Stefana shook her head.
"He wants to marry Copper." She said quietly. "And understandably doesn't want a dead chick on his conscience."
"That's cynical." Sadie chided. "Besides, it's not even true. Aaron told me that he's worried about you and he meant it. It has nothing to do with his marriage to Copper."
"I guess I know that." Stefana admitted. "I can't help hating her a lot right now, though." She looked rueful. "Let's face it, hating is one of the things I'm good at." She reached for the discarded cigarette, eying it idly. "Starting with myself."
She put the cigarette to her lips.
"I don't suppose you carry a light for this thing?" She asked. "Luca took my lighter and my matches off me, because he was afraid of what I might do with them. Not sure how he thinks stopping me smoking will improve my sanity, but still."
"Here." Sadie tossed her own lighter over. "If it helps. But I want it back...Luca probably has a point."
"I dunno." Stefana lit the cigarette, setting down the lighter and taking a deep drag. "But see, he's always been wholesale like that. Everything he does regarding me is. He promised Dad that he'd look out for me and he has. Religiously." She grimaced. "He acts the father figure and I so don't need that."
"Luca seems a nice guy, though I don't know him very well." Sadie admitted. Stefana grinned ironically.
"Yeah." She agreed. "He got the nice, friendly, outgoing genes. I inherited the bitch gene." She shrugged. "If you'd met my Mom, you'd understand. I don't say I'm like her, God forbid, but I sure as hell got the bitch gene from her."
"What about your Dad?"
"Oh, Dad was okay." Stefana shrugged. "Easy going, you know, gave in a lot to begging and pleading." Her expression softened, and a sad look entered her green eyes. "Mind you, he never wanted to say no to Luca or I because he never knew how long he would have with us. He wanted us to remember him for good times, not bad ones. He had a heart condition...basically he could go whenever." She seemed to shake herself out of her reverie. "Anyhow, enough about my family. I see what you're doing, and I'm not gonna sit and play 'lets explore the family problems' with you, okay?"
"I wasn't, actually. Well, not really." Sadie took out her own cigarette, reaching for the lighter and lighting it. "I was just interested. I kinda realised that I really don't know you at all."
"There's a good reason for that." Stefana pursed her lips. "Besides, I've no use for sleeping with the enemy, as such." She grimaced. "So what happens now? You're the counsellor. You've done this before. It's all new to me."
Sadie eyed her in amusement, then,
"What exactly do you expect from me?" She asked softly. "What do you perceive counselling is, Stefana?"
"What do you mean?" Stefana stared. Sadie shrugged.
"Talking about stuff is a major part of what counselling is." She responded. "Talking out problems and trying to resolve them. I'm not going to perform some miracle cure and walk out of here with you feeling a million dollars and ready to solve the world's problems. But I am going to listen to you, talk to you and see if I can help you put your life back how it should be."
Stefana pursed her lips, taking a slow drag on her cigarette, and exhaling thoughtfully.
"I see." She said quietly. "And how long will that take?"
"As long as it does. How long is a piece of string?" Sadie shrugged. "I can't answer that."
"Good start." Stefana sighed. "Okay, okay. I'm getting the idea of this now. I'm gonna haveta spill my guts - which I hate doing, even to Marissa who knows me better than anyone - if I want to get better and regain some control and sanity. That right?"
"Something along those lines." Sadie agreed.
"So, if I'm looking at this the time we're done here, what you don't know about me isn't gonna be worth knowing?"
"Quite likely." Sadie nodded. "And more than likely you'll know the same about me. That's how I work, anyway. With addicts I've helped in the past, it helped them a lot of the time to know my own situation and what I'd done and compare it with theirs, rather than feel like they were being preached to."
She took a drag on her own cigarette, flicking ash into the ashtray. "So, over to you." She grinned. "Maybe we should start with whatever bugs you the most?"
"Try everything?" Stefana rolled her eyes. "Okay, let's face this head on. I hate the world, I hate me, I hate Rory,  I hate this house, this room, this goddamn cigarette..."
She broke off, dropping the cigarette into the ash tray and burying her head in her hands, her thick black curls falling over her face as if to protect her. Sadie frowned, carefully putting out her own cigarette. Then, after a moment of hesitation, she got to her feet, moving around the table and sitting down beside the other girl. Stefana was clearly crying, and though her body language was defensive and unwelcoming, Sadie decided to take the gamble. Gently she put an arm around her companion's shoulders.
"Shh." She murmured. "It's going to get better, Stef. I promise."
"How can you promise that?" Stefana jerked her head up at that, making her companion jump. Her expression was angry, almost accusing, and Sadie began to realise how deep Stefana's emotions ran. "How can you sit there and tell me everything will be okay, like you know it for sure? You don't know it. I might not get through this. You might wake up one morning and find the big news is that I couldn't hack it, that I gave in and took the easy way out. You might have been there once, Sadie, and good for you, you got out. But that doesn't mean I will! You're here and you say you want to help me, but can you? Do you? You can go home and know that you have a nice job, a stable life, a boyfriend..." She spat out the last word. "Because no matter where you've been or what you've done, things always work out all right for a Jewel!"
"No, I'm not there now." Sadie agreed softly. "I wouldn't be much use to you if I was, either. I know that you're scared because you don't understand why you should feel like this. You probably never have before, am I right?"
"Felt like what?"
"Like the world has ended?"
"Did it ever even begin?" Stefana was bitter. "Life has always stunk, Sadie. It's just stinking worse at the moment, that's all, and I don't see why I should take it any more. I'm fed up of being second best in everything. Don't have a diploma, don't have a college degree like Maddy or Luca or Clay, dammit. Smoke too much, take too much, drink too much sometimes. Play for a group who, no matter what happens, will never get out of Jewel's slipstream because Rory doesn't have the endless funds Phyllis Gabor has to push Jewel along with. In love with a guy who's getting married this weekend! How in hell is that supposed to make me feel good? What on earth is there in that to feel good about?"
"You're looking at this wrong." Sadie shook her head. "You have plenty to be grateful for, and feel good about. You have a brother who loves you very much. A best friend - Marissa - who's stuck by you regardless. Bandmates who are on your side. You have talent, too. I've heard Nancy say that you can play guitar damn good, and I know it's true, you can. Diablo wouldn't be half the band they are without you playing lead, Steffi. And you have Aaron, who cares enough about you as his friend to want to help you, regardless of what's gone before. Isn't that something to tell you that you matter in this world? That people care and would miss you?"
"Rory would miss my profits, that's all." Stefana muttered.
"From all I've heard, Rory Llewelyn is a jerk." Sadie responded. Stefana nodded.
"Total jerk." She agreed darkly. "I'm still half afraid he's gonna strike me off his books for not wrecking Aaron's wedding. Or worse, out me. I know he would."
"I don't think he could afford to let you go." Sadie said quietly. "Diablo sure couldn't." She sighed. "I want to help you, Steffi, but I'm starting to wonder if I can. If you need someone with professional training and stuff, who can..."
"No." Stefana shook her head. "No shrink with a mouth full of jargon is gonna try and make me get in touch with my sensitive side or whatever that's about." She curled her lip in distaste. "I got sent to enough child psychs as a kid when I got booted out of school. All that did was make me loathe them and their stupid, stuck up methods."
"I;m sure they were trying to help."
"Maybe, but they didn't." Stefana snorted. "I just ignored them. I've always just done things my way, that's how I am. I don't like people poking into my business and I told them so, more than once. They told my Mom that I needed more discipline, so she tried it. End result? I walked outta school and she kicked me outta the house. So that's what I think of psychiatrists!"
Sadie pursed her lips.
"Your Mom kicked you out? How old were you?"
"Nineteen." Stefana shrugged. "It was okay. Suzanne helped - that's Marissa's Mom. I stopped with them for a bit, then Mari and I got our own place together, so it didn't matter. Besides, I was kinda glad. Mom was - and probably is, I don't know or care - a bitch."
"What about Luca?"
"He was at college." Stefana remembered ruefully. "He and Mom never had the best of bonds, but hey, he was something for her to boast about at god knows where she spent her free time. Her son doing his college diploma in music, going to be something, she'd always say." She grimaced. "She didn't even tell half of her friends at church that she had a daughter till I showed up on her doorstep to claim my belongings from the garage."
"I see." Sadie looked troubled. "Stef, just because you and your Mum didn't get along, it doesn't mean that other people will see you the same as she did."
"Hah." Stefana laughed, but it was a hollow, bitter laugh and her eyes were hard and angry. "They teach you that your Mom and Dad love you regardless of who you are or what you do. She hated me with a passion and a vengeance and she'd tell me sometimes that she wished I had never been born at all. My teachers all hated me - all my report cards were complaint after complaint unless Mari was helping me. I was flunking everything so I dropped out. Better that than fail in front of everyone when finals happened and the results came out. I was never gonna graduate anyhow." She shrugged. "I didn't care. Once I'd left, Mom wrote me out of her life completely, and I did the same with her. Luca...well, he took my side, in the end, probably because of what he'd promised Dad about looking after me. Neither one of us are in direct contact with Mom any more."
"So what would Luca do, if you weren't there?"
"Have a party, probably. His job would be over."
"Don't be silly." Sadie shook her head. "He'd be distraught, and you know it. You're his little sister and I know even from what you've just said that you mean the world to him, whatever trouble you get into. You know how? I have a big sister, her name is Alyssa, and I put her through hell and back when I was in my teens. But she never gave up on me, and always loved me, regardless. It was thanks to her support and help that I got out of this mess and tried to fight back. Luca can be the same for you, if you'll let him. I know you're used to handling these things on your own, but Stef, this time it won't hurt to bring him into things too. He wants to help you - let him try, huh?"
Stefana bit her lip, considering Sadie's words.
"I feel like I let him down." She admitted finally. "Like I let everyone down, but him most of all. It's not his fault that I'm screwed up on amphetamine or that I dropped out of school or that I feel like crap now. He's always been there and I don't deserve him anyway. But I've always been a failure at things -school, family, hell, can't even get a guy's attention." She rolled her eyes. "What's a girl to do?"
"Stop pretending you're all right in there and admit that you're not." Sadie said softly. "Listen to me, Steffi. Luca and the rest are still reeling from finding out how much you have to deal with, and how desperate it made you. But you told them you wouldn't do it again - gave them your word that you'd beat it and be okay. You know and I know that you're not okay and that you do need their help. That's why you wound up calling Aaron out like you did. You didn't want them to know you'd faltered and broken your word. But the truth is, Steffi, it's not a bad thing, if you want to cry and scream and yell and complain about things. It's not a bad thing to admit something scares you, or bothers you, or that you're feeling wretched and need a hug. Luca and Marissa and the others want to help you, that much is clear from what you and Aaron have both said to me. You have to let your guard down a bit and try and let them. It won't be easy at first, but it will help. You have to stop bottling up emotion, and get it out. Instead of driving out to the pier when you feel depressed and upset, talk to someone. Tell them." She smiled. "Call me, if you want to. I'll give you my number, and you can harass me whenever you feel like it, I don't mind. The more you work through this, the more you'll realise how many people really do care about you, and the better you will feel for having got it out."
"And Aaron?" Stefana's tone was slightly wistful, and Sadie sighed.
"You have to accept that Aaron will marry Copper, whatever you're feeling about it." She said gently. "I wish that it didn't mean another thing for you to worry about, Steffi, but you have to stand up and accept that. He's your friend and he needs to be happy too."
"I know that." Stefana grimaced. "And I didn't choose to feel like this." She sighed. "Maybe I'm not in love with him anyway. Maybe I'm just desperate. I dunno. Maybe I'm lonely and sick of everyone around me falling in love and having boyfriends and sleeping with god knows who - maybe I wanted that for me, just once." She shrugged. "What am I saying? That I want to fall in love? Bah. Scratch that. I'm talking deranged.."
Sadie smiled.
"No, I think you might have reached a good point." She responded. "Maybe that is true. Maybe because Luca is so genial with girls and because he's settling down with Sirena, perhaps that made you feel neglected? Aaron's a nice guy, he's friendly and sweet and easy to warm to. Maybe it was just a clash of things all at once. Perhaps you're right, perhaps the real issue is you feeling alone."
"Maybe." Stefana glanced at her hands. "I've not been in love before so I wouldn't know. But it feels..."
She faltered, and shook her head.
"It's not easy to talk about that right now." She said at length. "Just I don't think I'm imagining it. I seems real to me."
"Maybe it's just a passing infatuation?"
"Well, whatever it is, it stinks." Stefana replied flatly. "And I wish it had never happened."
She groaned. "And to add insult to injury, I bet I look a total mess now I've blubbed my heart out. Great, Just great."
"Well, how about you clean yourself up and we go grab ice cream or something." Sadie suggested. "You sound like you need a break and I'm hot as anything, to be honest."
"Ice cream?" Stefana looked startled. Then she shrugged. "No appetite."
"Well, it's time we found you one, okay?" Sadie grinned, getting up and pulling her companion up with her. "So come on. Clean up, and we'll go out. My treat."
Stefana looked doubtful.
"Double choc chip?" She asked at length. "With sprinkles and chocolate sauce?"
You drive a hard bargain." Sadie shrugged, but her eyes were twinkling. "Sure, if it will get you out of these four walls."
She paused, raising an eyebrow at her companion.
"Well? Are you in?"
Stefana eyed Sadie long and hard for a moment. Then a strange, tiny smile touched her lips, and for the first time since the two girls had met, Sadie saw genuine gratitude and warmth flicker in the depth of the guitarist's sad green eyes. She nodded.
"Okay." She said. "Let me go get my jacket and make myself presentable. If it's double choc chip, I guess I'm in."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

Sylva stretched out on the big couch in the main sitting room, casting a lazy glance up at the clock over the fireplace. "Just think, Copper. By this time tomorrow, you'll be Mrs Elizabeth Pelligrini. Doesn't it seem crazy?"
It was the night before the wedding and, conscious of the fact that it would be Copper's last night as a carefree single Jewel, the girls had gathered in the lounge to talk over things.
"Terrifying, to be honest." Copper admitted now. "I mean I love him like anything, and I know I'm doing the right thing, but I'm so worried something will go wrong. I can't help remembering how close Taylor cut it for his wedding, and what if it rains, too? That'd ruin it all!"
"It's not going to rain." Cynthia assured her quietly. "I have checked all forecasts for the Los Angeles area, Copper, and there is due to be brilliant sunshine all day tomorrow. It will be a perfect day for you to get married."
"And Aaron's had his bachelor do." Nancy reminded her. "So he's not likely to get driven off into the distance tonight, you know. Don't worry, huh? Everything is going to go smoothly."
"I can't wait." Rosita's dark eyes sparkled, and she cast her sister a grin. "First of us to be married - Copper, you seem all grown up!"
"Well, I'm five years older than you, and you're in Drama school." Copper retorted with a smile. "So I should. And Aaron and I have been together forever now, too. Noone can really be surprised."
"If you have any worries for tomorrow, I'd lay them at Stefana's door." Sylva commented. "You know what a jealous bitch she can be, Copper. I hope she's locked up tomorrow."
"I don't believe she's coming." Copper looked thoughtful. "Though Aaron did invite her."
"Who isn't coming?" Sadie's voice came from the doorway, and the girls turned, casting their final member a grin.
"Where have you been?" Topaz scolded. "It's Copper's last night, Sadie - we're having a girly huddle!"
"I had someone I had to see." Sadie said vaguely, dropping down onto the big faux fur rug. "But look! I brought pizza back with me!"
"Then you're forgiven." Sylva dimpled. "Pepperoni?"
"Yep." Sadie nodded. "Help yourselves. I figured it was a special night, so we could binge for once."
"Pizza always tastes a whole lot better with friends like this." Topaz remarked, leaning over to grab a slice. "Thanks, Sadie. Good thinking."
"None for me." Copper shook her head. "I already have goosebumps about tomorrow...I don't think I can pig out on pizza. I'd be too afraid of not fitting my dress!"
"We still haven't seen this dress." Nancy remembered. "You've been all top secret about it since Gaynor brought it by earlier. Aren't we to see it all before tomorrow?"
"Nope, I don't want to jinx it by showing it off too much." Copper shook her head. "It's perfect, that's all you need to know."
"We were talking about Stefana, by the way, Sadie." Sylva observed. "And the chances of her showing up tomorrow. Copper doesn't think she's gonna come."
"She won't cause any trouble tomorrow." Sadie shook her head. "Aaron's too good a friend to her for that. I don't think she'll come either, to be honest."
"Well, she has a strange way of treating friends." Nancy said darkly. Cynthia grimaced.
"I dislike the girl." She said, rather unecessarily. "She is not pleasant. I hope she does not come tomorrow. Even if Aaron likes her company, I do not."
"I'm with Cynnie." Sylva nodded decidedly. "The girl is nothing but trouble."
"Probably." Sadie sighed. "I don't know. I find it hard to believe anyone is know, cold inside to the world. Something must have happened to make her like she is, don't you think?"
"Hell, why are we wasting time, thought and breath on Stefana Ranieri?" Nancy demanded. "This is Copper's night, not hers. Pass the pizza, someone?"
"Here." Rosita pushed the box over towards the songwriter. "Mama's going to cry tomorrow, Copper, I'm sure of it. She was all emotional through your bridal shower, and we all know you're gonna make a fab bride."
"I might cry myself." Copper owned. "I feel like I've waited so long for this, you know? And Aaron has been so sweet about letting me have all the trimmings and fancy things that I wanted - I think he understands how important this all is to me."
"He'd damn well better." Nancy grimaced. "Ros and I have done our fair bit towards this wedding too, you know."
"I know, and I love you both for it." Copper grinned. "Nance, you realise that from tomorrow, you and I are effectively sisters?"
"I know. Scary thought." Nancy nodded. "We're stuck as in-laws for the rest of eternity - gee, we'd better not have any major family spats, huh?"
"You must really love Aaron, Copper, to take that on." Sylva teased. Nancy tossed a cushion in her bandmate's direction.
"Shut up." She ordered. "Copper has brilliant taste."
"The weirdest thing is going to be you not living here any more." Topaz reflected. "Since I joined the group, we've all lived here in this place, and it makes you closer, you know, when you live with folk. Aside from Sadie, we've been together as a group since we were teenagers, and it's going to be kinda strange with your room suddenly empty."
"Well, keep it open, in case Aaron is ever working away and I'm lonely at home." Copper said with a twinkle in her eye. "I love the new house, but it'll take some getting used to. It'll be quiet - that'll be the thing I notice most. No Hollie crying or gurgling or begging to be played with. No Nancy and Syl fighting over passages in songs or whatever. No Sadie trying to find a private place for a cigarette, and no Topaz hangovers. It's going to be very strange."
"I like that." Topaz poked out her tongue. "Since I became a mother, Copper, I've been fairly angelic in that line. Okay, there have been one or two lapses in concentration, but I'm not some all night party girl these days! I want my daughter to grow up with a good idea of me as a respectable performer, and if I'm all splashed over the press for doing dumb things, well, that won't happen."
"Okay, okay." Copper relented. "But it will be quiet, all the same. I'm gonna be mistress of my own home, and that'll be odd for a while."
She paused, then,
"And if I have one wish left, after tomorrow, it's that Aaron and I can have a family, too." She added. "I'm more resigned to the problems now than I was before, but it doesn't mean I don't want to pursue it. Seeing Hollie growing up makes me broody, sometimes."
"Please God, Copper, no more babies!" Nancy stared at her in horror. "Not yet, anyway! Fitting Jewel around one tiny kid is enough as it is - and we can't replace you, even temporarily. You're Jewel's drummer and a founder member - so don't even think of it!"
"I don't think it'll be for a while yet." Copper assured her with a laugh. "I'm not twenty four till July, anyhow, and I've plenty of time to think about playing Mama. Besides, Nance, wouldn't you like to be Auntie Nancy?"
"Not if I can help it." Nancy said bluntly. "Bad enough being pretend aunt to Hollie. No thanks!"
"One day you might have kids of your own, though." Sadie pointed out.
"You think?" Nancy shook her head. "I'm not a maternal type, Sadie. I'm a career girl - I don't want it particularly, and I wouldn't know how to handle them."
"What does Dean think about that?" Topaz looked interested. Nancy's cheeks touched pink.
"He doesn't know I'm so adamantly against it." She admitted. "But then again, there are things we talk about and things we don't. This is one of those we don't. I know he'd like to be a Dad one day, if that's what you mean. That's fine, too. It just won't be me he's with when it happens."
"Meaning what?" Copper was startled. "You and Dean aren't breaking up, are you?"
"Not as far as I know." Nancy shook her head. "It's comfortable for both of us this way, and neither of us have any complaints. But we're not truly madly deeply in quite the same way as you and Aaron, Copper. I've seen enough of your romance movies to know that much. It's a stable relationship and I like him a lot. But I don't think he's my soulmate. I doubt I have one of those. Like I said, I'm not into that stuff. I'm a career chick."
"It's funny how Copper's wedding's made us all talk like this." Sadie looked thoughtful. "When I came to LA I didn't think that I'd ever trust any guy again, let alone one like Alex, who works in law enforcement, but here we are. And call me a romantic, but I'd like to think that our relationship is a bit more than just safe and comfortable. I don't say we're getting married any time soon, but still."
"All these relationships are just sickening." Sylva rolled her eyes. "And Nancy, if you feel like that about Dean, you should probably break up with the poor guy and give one of his adoring fans a chance. Heck, how the guy copes is beyond me. His patience must be limitless!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Nancy raised an eyebrow.
"Well, let's face it, Nance, you're not exactly the seductive type." Sylva shrugged. "Poor Dean. Stuck in a 'safe' rut with Jewel's songwriter for the last - what is it now? Four years?"
"For your information, Ms know-it-all Martescu, Dean and I have done a lot more together than you think!" Nancy snapped hotly. "And it's not as if it's any of your business, but yes, we have slept together, since that seems to be all you care about."
"Nance, Syl is just teasing you." Copper put a hand on her friend's arm. "Your relationship with Dean is your business, not ours."
"You're kidding me. I don't believe you." Sylva shook her head. "Nancy the hermit? No way."
"Fine. Don't believe me then." Nancy shrugged, reaching for a second slice of pizza. "But you can ask Dean if you like. Just because I don't like to air my private thoughts in public places like you do, it doesn't mean you know what goes on in my life."
"What about you, Syl? Are you and Logan going to be the next hot item?" Topaz interjected hurriedly, for she could sense an argument brewing. "You seem pretty keen on the guy - what's the story?"
"No story. He's good company, and I like him." Sylva shrugged her shoulders. "I'm not in love with him, but hey, who knows? I'm not afraid of a challenge, so we'll see how it goes. I like hanging out with him, whatever things end up as."
"Aaron says he's planning on staying in LA, once he's settled up his business in Wisconsin." Copper remembered. "So you might see more of him than you thought."
"He mentioned to me that he was applying for a job here." Sylva nodded. "I hope he gets it, too. He's a lot of fun."
She cast Nancy a pointed glance.
"Though I don't expect that everyone here would understand what that meant."
"Oh, shut your face, Syl. This is Copper's night, not fight night." Sadie sounded impatient. "Now play nice, the pair of you, okay?"
Cynthia laughed.
"It isn't often that Sadie has to play referee." She observed dryly. "Perhaps you would do as well to take note."
"Trust me, I don't mind some distraction." Copper assured her. "Though not of the violent type, if possible. I won't sleep tonight, anyway...I know I won't. I'm too nervous and too excited."
"The first Jewel wedding." Cynthia remarked. "A big event indeed, Copper. Hearts will break tomorrow."
"Don't be silly." Copper blushed, and her sister giggled. "I hate how the press make a big deal out of things like that, anyway. As if anyone outside our group is really going to care that I'm getting married tomorrow!"
"I think you'll be surprised." Topaz told her. "You have a lot of fans, Copper. Besides, when you're in the public eye, you can't help but attract interest and attention. You know that all the gossip rags tomorrow are gonna be full of your wedding."
"I know, but hopefully the only media at the thing will be Zoe and Dean." Copper spread her hands. "And Justin, of course, if he counts."
"Dad counts in a good way." Nancy nodded. "And Zoe is filming it all, anyway, right?"
"Of course. Even if the public aren't interested, I'm gonna want a memento." Copper nodded. "I can't believe it's so close now!"
"Well, it is. Twenty five past midnight." Sylva glanced at the clock once more. "You should probably head to bed, Copper - can't be a beautiful bride with bags under your eyes, now can you?"
"It won't matter if I go or I don't. I already told you I won't sleep." Copper made herself more comfortable. "Besides, I want to enjoy my last evening as an unmarried woman. Tomorrow I grow up - tonight I'm kicking back!"

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
"If you carry on pacing, you'll wear a hole in the carpet, and if I'm moving in here, I don't want pile damage."
Logan cast his companion an amused look, pausing the video he had been watching and setting the handset down on the table. "You've been engaged to this chick forever, and now you choose to get goosebumps about it? What is your deal? You getting cold feet?"
"No, of course not." Aaron obediently stopped his pacing, sinking down into an empty seat. "Just the more I think about it, the more it hits me. Tomorrow Copper's gonna be my wife - what if she has second thoughts about it, Logan? The press and public adore her - she could have any guy for the asking. Why has she settled for me?"
"Well, I'm no brainiac on these things, but maybe because she loves you?" Logan rolled his eyes. "Please, man, don't say we're gonna have a mushy talk about why folk get hitched this evening? If you carry on like that I'm dragging you out to the nearest club to work off those jitters!"
"No thanks." Aaron grimaced. "I remember what happened to my cousin when he let his best man take him clubbing the night before the wedding. I'm gonna be there on time tomorrow, and I'm not going to be hungover! After all, Zoe's filming this."
"Is that it? You're worried about looking a bum when the pictures air?" Logan smirked. "Honestly, pal, you don't need to do that. Copper already knows you're a bum - she's been dating you for five years, near enough."
"Ha ha, very funny." Aaron rolled his eyes. "You wait till it's your turn, Logan. I'll get you back."
"I'm not planning on marrying anyone for a long while." Logan assured him. "Not if it turns me into the kind of gibbering wreck you are, that's for sure! Get it out of your head, and watch the damn movie, will you? At this rate I'll be delivering a neurotic - if sober - mess to the Starlight tomorrow morning."
"All right, already." Aaron sighed. "I give. What's the film again?"
"Gee, and we've only watched an hour of it. No surprises you're not with the plot." Logan snorted. "Get a grip, dude! No more wedding talk till tomorrow - that's final! The chick in this film is a babe and we are NOT talking about your future wife while she's on the screen. I don't know about you, but to me that's gotta be near enough infidelity."
Aaron shook his head slowly.
"I'm gonna let you ogle in peace." he said at length. "Guess I'll go freak out in my room, and make sure my passport is with my stuff for the honeymoon. Don't stop up too late, huh? We've an early start tomorrow. And make sure you have the ring someplace safe!"
"Yessir." Logan saluted his friend. "You can rely on me!"
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!