Chapter Five: Common Ground
Three days on.
Topaz cast a troubled glance at her sleeping daughter, biting her lip as she considered all that had happened. Cameron's presence at the Starlight Mansion had shaken her nerves to the point where she had lost her temper with the small girl, bringing tears to the aqua-green eyes, and breaking Topaz's heart in the process.
"You don't understand why Mommy's so wound up at the moment." She murmured, gently stroking the reddish gold waves. "I'm sorry I yelled at you, Hol. I didn't mean it - it wasn't your fault. I'm just frightened that your Daddy's going to come and take you from me, that's all. I don't think I've ever been so afraid as this to lose something. I don't like it."
"You know, it isn't good for you to be moping around up here."
A fresh voice came from the doorway, tones obediently muted so as not to disturb the sleeping infant. "It's not like he's going to come and abduct her, you know. Syl made that clear the other day, when she came back from his apartment. You don't have anything to be afraid of."
"It doesn't matter what he told Syl." Topaz raised helpless blue eyes to her visitor's. "Sadie, I've never felt fear like this before. I guess it's partly because I'm so confused - I know I love Cameron, but just because he doesn't plan to abduct her doesn't mean he won't try some other way to get her. I'm proving an awful mother - I yell at her for no reason, I let her get pneumonia, I walk off and leave her with you folk when things get too much for me..."
"You're not an awful mother at all, so don't be stupid." Sadie sat down beside her friend on the bed. "Listen, Topaz. I lived with Alyssa when Meg was small, and I know that she had times when she doubted her maternal ability. She had to get a time out now and then, and often she felt she'd made a mistake. Megan was her second kid, and Aly is a great mother. You only have to talk to her kids to know that much. And I'm sure if we asked Hollie, she wouldn't complain about the mother fate gave her, either. You're far too hard on yourself, and it needs to stop. It isn't good for you, and you can't change mistakes that were made in the past."
"I guess I know that." Topaz sighed. "She's just so important to me, Sadie. I can't explain in words what I mean - she just is. And yet sometimes...sometimes I want her to go away. Sometimes I'm angry and frustrated at her because all I see when I look at her is him. It reminds me of the choice I made, and having him in California is driving me mad! Now he's going to be moving to San Diego - I don't know what I'm going to do. He might challenge me for custody...and considering everything, the picture he can paint of me isn't good, is it?"
"Courts usually rule in the mother's favour, you know." Sadie soothed gently. "And besides, Topaz, Cameron does not have a stable job yet, or anywhere to live. And even when those two things are fixed up, he's going to be working crazy long hours. Sometimes resident doctors work twenty four hour shifts - Cynthia was telling me so earlier. How is he going to raise a small baby?"
"I work crazy hours too." Topaz grimaced. "Hell, maybe neither one of us are cut out to be parents."
"Now don't be like that." Sadie scolded. "I came up here to cheer you up, not let you wallow."
"I think you need to get out of these four walls and get some perspective on all of this." She continued. "Don't you think? Hollie is sleeping, and I have no plans for the afternoon. Alex and I were doing a late lunch, but this case he's working on has spilled over and he called me about ten minutes ago to cancel. I'm happy to volunteer my services to babysitting the kid, and you're ragged round the edges. You're no good to her like this."
"Maybe you're right." Topaz acknowledged. "My head is buzzing and I did snap at her for no reason. Are you sure you don't mind, though?"
"I wouldn't offer if I minded." Sadie assured her. "The gate to the pool is locked, so when she wakes I'll take her into the back garden and play with her and her doll, since it's a nice day. She needs some fresh air too, you know."
"You won't let Cameron near her?"
"Topaz, if Cameron comes calling, I am not going to get involved." Sadie said quietly. "I'll tell him you're not here, and that's that. He won't get in the door, let alone near Hollie."
"All right, then." Topaz said at length. "I suppose it'll be okay if I go out for a while. I'll go into the city, take my credit cards and clear my head a little. Thanks, Sadie. I owe you one."
"It's no problem." Sadie winked. "I'm still repaying you for gifting me my Jewel status." She paused, then, "Are you going to go alone? Syl's in the practice room, if you want her."
"This trip I have to do alone. I need the head space." Topaz replied. "Besides, I don't really want to talk to Syl much right now. I'm not mad at her, but I'm a little afraid that anything I say or do will send her off on another mission of mercy. I know she means well, Sadie, but I can't help thinking she can only make things worse. I don't know all of what she said to Cameron the other day, or vice versa - perhaps it's best I never do. I wish she'd just accept that some things are beyond helping. I'm accepting it."
"Are you?" Sadie asked softly. "It doesn't really look that way to me."
"Well, common sense doesn't stop you being in love with a guy." Topaz ran her fingers through her hair. "Do I look very awful? I feel blitzed."
"Tired and a bit washed out, but I don't think you'll scare kids into hiding." Sadie examined her friend's reflection critically. "You'll do."
"All right. Then I guess I'll see you guys later." Topaz scooped up her purse, slipping on her sandals. "If anyone needs me, I'll have my phone switched on. I'll be back for dinner."
"Okay." Sadie nodded. "And Topaz? Cheer up, huh? Hollie has a great mother, and that's the truth."
Topaz managed a small smile.
"Well, if nothing else her mother has good friends to fall back on." She murmured. "Thanks, Sadie. It means a lot."
She left the bedroom quietly, closing the door with a soft click behind her, and hurrying down the main stairs to the door. She could hear Sylva running through piano scales in the practice room, and carefully she slipped out of the front door, locking it and getting into her car before her friend realised she was going out. After all, what she had told Sadie was the truth. She did need to be alone - she needed time to think.
"Perhaps the answer is to talk to Phyllis and Jetta about my options. Phyllis always says that she'll get her lawyers on the case of anyone who messes with Jewel." She mused as she put the car in gear, roaring out of the driveway and onto the main road. "Oh, but Jetta is a friend of Cameron's family...that makes it sticky. I know she's never liked keeping this whole business hush-hush - I wonder if Cameron's been to see her about it. Who knows which side Jetta would take? I guess I wouldn't blame her for siding with her old friend's family."
She pulled her vehicle to a halt outside the mall, stepping out and crossing the parking lot towards the main plaza building. It was busy, and her presence was already causing something of a stir, but today she was immune to the attention of Jewel's fans. Without even noticing their gazes, she headed inside, her expression preoccupied. A family by the far doors caught her eye and her heart ached as a father hoisted his smallest son up onto his shoulders, whilst the mother shared out ice cream between her children.
"Hollie's never going to have that." She whispered. "Did I do right? It's all very well Sadie saying that I'm a good Mom, but even a good Mom can't replace a Dad. I know I had my reasons, but..."
She shook her head.
"It's academic now, anyway." She told herself firmly. "It's gone too far to be resolved. Hollie will have to make do - and if I have to make sacrifices for her, well, then that'll just have to be how it is. We'll work it out somehow, her and me. We'll muddle through. We have so far, after all."
She pushed open the door of the main coffee house, heading up to the counter to order.
"Well, if it isn't one of our favourite showbiz guests!" The man behind the counter cast her a warm smile, setting down the cups he had been organising and casting her a questioning look. "What's it to be, Topaz? Your usual?"
"No, I need the caffeine today." Topaz shook her head. "Long night and all that. Give me one of your coffees - no milk, no sugar - and something full of cream and calories, will you? I could use the energy kick."
"Coming right up." The man agreed. "You look tired. They working you hard at Misfit Music?"
"Trust me, Tony, nothing that company could throw at me would be as hard work as raising a one year old." Topaz groaned. Tony grinned.
"I believe you. I've three of my own." He told her, filling a mug with coffee and pushing it across towards her. "It's been all the more difficult to see them since my wife and I split up, mind you, but I have them most weekends. They like to help me out in this place - and I'm sure you realise that when a kid helps you, it usually takes twice as long."
"At least they mean well, though." Topaz pointed out. She hesitated, then, "Tony, I hope you don't mind my asking, but...was it very rough on your kids when you and your wife divorced?"
"Well, they didn't like having to make the choice where to live." Tony reflected. "I'd say it was hard on all of us, to be honest. And I wish I could tell you it was for the best, but I still don't understand all of it. But," he shrugged. "Life goes on. I do all right. I have my business and I see my kids regularly. Why do you ask?"
He eyed her keenly.
"I can't really talk about it." Topaz dismissed it with a wave of her hand. "I'm sorry, but it's too confusing."
She dropped a handful of bills onto the table, scooping up her drink and cake.
"Stick the change in the charity jar, huh? Might as well do some good with it."
"Sure thing." Tony nodded.
Topaz headed over to her usual corner table, sinking down beside the window and taking a sip of coffee, hardly noticing the bitter taste as she considered what the kind coffee-house owner had said.
"Though this is somewhat different. Cameron and I were broken up before Hollie was born. She never met him until we ran into him at the park." She realised. "I wish I knew what to do."
"Is anyone sitting 'ere?"
A voice jolted her out of her reverie and she started, surprise becoming apprehension as she took in the speaker's features.
"Cameron?" She whispered. "What..."
"May I sit down?" Cameron repeated, his expression unreadable. "Or are you goin' to make me stand?"
"Oh! No, noone's sitting there." Topaz blushed. "Sorry."
"Good. I 'oped that might be the case."
Cameron slid into the bay opposite her, casting her a thoughtful look.
"You look tired." He observed lightly. "Not sleeping right?"
"Don't play the doctor with me, Cam." Topaz said wearily. "I'm not in the mood. If you're just going to yell at me again, tell me now so I can leave. I don't need it."
"I'm not going to yell." Cameron shook his head. "I was actually about to 'ead over to your place to talk to you, when I saw you come in 'ere. I've been doin' a bit of thinking."
"Oh?" Topaz bit her lip. "About what, exactly?"
"About our daughter." Cameron said simply. Topaz glanced down.
"I thought that might be it." She admitted. "Cam, I know you're angry at me, but please don't take it out on her. I mean it. It isn't her fault I can't do anything right. She didn't ask to have a fool for a mother, and..."
Cameron reached over, putting a finger to her lips. "Listen to me before you jump to conclusions, will you? I 'ave no intention of doin' anythin' to the kid. Just 'ear me out, okay?"
Topaz made no reply, and Cameron took her silence as agreement.
"You do know, I suppose, that Syl came to see me earlier in the week." He asked.
Slowly Topaz nodded.
"Syl does a lot of things without me asking her to." She murmured. "If she said anything to make it worse, Cam...I didn't know she was going until she came back, and..."
"And you should 'ave thanked 'er for going." Cameron interrupted. "Because I was so damn livid at you over this, I won't pretend otherwise. But when Syl came over, she put a few things into perspective for me. Gave me things to think about. An' the most important thing she told me was that it was 'er who dreamt up the Luca story in London. Not you."
"I tried to tell you that." Topaz raised her gaze to his. "You wouldn't listen to me."
"I know. I was too angry." Cameron admitted. "And I still am, in some ways. You did keep this from me, an' you shouldn't 'ave done. Whatever you thought you were doin', Rora, I should 'ave been told. However you felt about me or about our future."
"I thought you didn't want to be a father." Topaz whispered. "And...and I couldn't tell you, Cam. I know you don't believe me, but I couldn't! You've always been so focused, and so smart! I always wondered what a smart guy like you saw in a dumb blonde like me. I never had any dreams as a kid, except to sing, and I only got my break in that by chance. I could have spent my whole life working in that crummy diner, because I was hotheaded and stupid and didn't listen to the advice people gave me. My track record with guys is awful - you know that. I would've been kidding myself if I'd really believed somehow I'd be able to keep you. That somewhere along the line I wouldn't screw up and ruin everything."
She swallowed hard.
"As you see, I'm true to form." She added brokenly.
"You were never a dumb blonde." Cameron told her quietly. "And I told you to hear me out...will you jus' listen? Please?"
"I'm listening. I'm sorry." Topaz bit her lip. "See? I'm even screwing up now."
"Sylva explained to me why you didn't tell me the truth." Cameron continued softly. "She told me that you wanted to protect me - that you did it because you didn't want to destroy my career ambitions before they'd even got off the ground. At the time I thought nothin' could 'ave been stupider, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that, even though it was stupid, it was also kinda...noble."
"I miscounted days." Topaz responded. "I think part of me was afraid you'd think I'd done it on purpose, to keep you in LA. And even if you'd believed the truth, that it was just an accident and I didn't mean things to happen, I didn't feel like I had the right to decide what you were going to do with your life, just because I'd set my heart on having this baby. Right up to the last moment you left me, I wanted to tell you. But you would only have hated me later for destroying your dreams. You'd worked so hard for it, and wanted it so much. I couldn't do it."
She faltered, then,
"For once, I wanted to do the right thing where a guy was concerned. In the end I just made things worse."
"You don't realise how damn important you were to me, do you?" Cameron looked startled. "I came damn close to dropping out of university as it was, after we broke up. That's the truth. I didn't want university, or to go to the footie with my mates, or to hang out at clubs or be a doctor. I just wanted...well...you. I thought I'd been suckered twice...it was hard to take, Rora."
"There never was anyone else, though." Topaz said. "I mean it, Cameron. When I met you, well, that was it. I wanted so much to make things work. And I know I made a mistake with Luca, but I was very drunk then and I already thought I'd lost you. Since then I've been so very careful. I swear that there never was another guy. Not ever. Not even now."
"I know that. Syl told me enough for me to know that." Cameron said simply.
"So where does that leave things?" Topaz asked, a note of trepidation in her voice. "You said you wanted to talk about Hollie."
"Yes, I do." Cameron nodded. "Because now I know about 'er, Rora, I want to be a part of 'er life. I've thought things through an' talked to Taylor, an' I'm decided on that. I told Syl as much, also. She told me that it'd be better for the kid if you an' I could come to some kind of arrangement about visitation, rather than drag it through the courts, and she's right. So, well, 'ere I am. Ready to make peace, an' work somethin' out with you. After all, we've made a mess of a lot of things, but it don't follow that our daughter's life 'as to be a mess also."
"Visitation?" Topaz's eyes lit up with hope. "Not...not custody?"
"Rora, I'd be mad to even ask for that." Cameron said matter-of-factly. "The kid doesn't know me, whereas she obviously thinks the world revolves around you. Besides, I barely know California. I've a lot to settle - I don't 'ave a flat yet - an' the hours I'm gonna be workin' are not gonna be single-parent friendly. I know you 'ave a busy schedule too, but you don't live alone like I will be, an' from all Syl said, 'Ollie doesn't seem to be sufferin' for it from livin' with you."
He paused, then,
"In a way I wonder if I'm really needed, to be quite honest, but I want to be involved anyway." He admitted. "I want you to trust me enough for me to spend time with my daughter, take 'er out sometimes, 'ave her stop with me sometimes...I've decided that it's important to me, now I know what the situation is. Do you think you could come round to that idea?"
"Hollie does need you." Topaz told him quietly. "I've come to realise that more and more recently. And there's nothing I'd like more for her than to have you in her life." She looked rueful.
"I really thought you might come and abduct her from me." She admitted. "You were so angry at me the other day, and I was so scared of what you'd do."
"I was just angry." Cameron shook his head. "I've enough sense not to do anything rash, Rora. But I'm glad you're all right with the idea. After all, well, this is a big decision I'm makin' 'ere, for my future an' for the kid's. Not only that, though, it means that you an' I are tied together in some way, at least until she's old enough to leave 'ome an' go off in the world."
"I know that." Topaz acknowledged. "Cam, are things always going to be awkward between us now? Or are we going to be able to be friends through this? For her sake?"
"I think that whatever 'appens is goin' to take some time." Cameron said gravely. "I won't lie to you, Rora. I still love you. But after everythin' that's gone on, I don't know if I can even begin to think about pursuin' that. We seem to be starcrossed - there seems little point in riskin' further upsets, especially when Hollie's security is at stake."
"I love you too." Pain touched Topaz's eyes. "And while we're being honest, Cam, I would willingly do anything it took to get you back - I mean that. But I know that you're probably right - speaking sense, as usual. It wouldn't be any good for us to rush into a stupid relationship without thinking, and wind up fighting worse than before. After all, Hollie is living with me, and you're going to be in San Diego. The last thing I want is for her to become a pawn between us. I want her to be happy going to Daddy's apartment for a night and happy coming back home to Mommy's place...and that sometimes we can even do things as a, well, sort of family."
She took a sip of coffee, pulling a face.
"Ugh, that's bitter."
"Well, we ain't got to rush anything." Cameron told her levelly. "I'll be in San Diego full time from August or September. It's a drive, rather than a flight away. I'll 'ave an income, so I'll be able to pay towards Hollie's keep. An' we'll be able to work out a proper time share for the kid. But..."
He paused, then,
"I'm in LA till Aaron and Copper's wedding, pretty much, before I 'ave to go back to England and take my exams." He said quietly. "Is it going to be possible to spend some time with my kid between now an' then? She doesn't even know who I am, Rora. I'd kinda like that to change."
"Sounds fair enough to me." Topaz nodded. "Cam, about contributing towards Hollie..."
"I want to." Cameron held up his hands. "She's my daughter, an' it's my duty to do it, so don't argue, all right? I want to do my bit."
"All right, if that's how you feel about it." Topaz shrugged. "I don't suppose it really matters."
She frowned, then,
"Did you speak to Jetta about this at all?"
"Aunt Sheila? No fear." Cameron shook his head. "It occured to me that she must've known about it, but she ain't a lady you tangle with, much less challenge. I wanted to sort things out with you if I could - however it had to be done."
"She didn't like keeping it a secret." Topaz admitted. "Said it put her in an awkward position, to be honest. But she also said that it wasn't her business, since I wasn't her kid and Laura wasn't her employee. She didn't want to mix business and leisure interests, so she kept quiet."
"I 'aven't spoken to Mum yet, either." He admitted. "I'm going to 'ave to, of course, an' Dad too. It's gonna be a shock, I think."
"You can tell them it's my fault they didn't hear about it earlier. I'll take the rap." Topaz told him.
"Mum will give me a lecture about being careful what I do an' where." Cameron looked rueful. "You might've kept it a secret, Rora, but she was fifty percent my fault, that kid. I 'ave to take responsibility for 'er as much as you do. But I'll tell them when I fly back for my exams. Better done face to face than by phone, after all."
"Yes, probably true." Topaz nodded. "If it's any consolation, I haven't exactly communicated the news to my home, either."
"But you and your folks don't speak." Cameron reminded her. "Mine are a close knit bunch."
"I know. I envy you that." Topaz sighed. "Maybe if I had a family like yours I wouldn't have worked out to be such a screwball."
"I think it was the screwball in you that always attracted me." Cameron grinned. "You were just...different."
"It isn't my best feature." Topaz looked rueful. She sighed, pushing aside her coffee and reaching for her cream cake.
"Hey, you wanna split this to settle the deal? I dread to think how many calories are in it, and if I don't fit my clothes next photoshoot there'll be hell to pay."
"With pleasure." Cameron nodded, looking amused. "To Hollie, then!"
PART THREE: TILL DEATH US DO PART
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
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!