Chapter Four: Esteban Speaks

"What's eating you?"
Sirena hoisted the small baby up onto her shoulder, casting her mother a confused look. "You've been pacing round this place like a wild animal since I got here - you ain't gonna eat Mike, are you? You're acting possessed."
"Shut up." Phyllis snapped, throwing herself down into a chair. "Listen, if I need smark alec remarks from you I'll ask for them. What did you bring that brat along for, anyhow? This is a music session, not a nursery!"
"I didn't have anywhere I could leave him." Sirena shot back. "He's sleepy, anyhow. He'll be okay."
"Not once we start making some music." Phyllis retorted. "He'll scream along beautifully! Oh, take him downstairs to the damn creche, will you? The last thing my nerves need are Michael's screeches!"
"It's closed. It closes at seven." Sirena replied. "You're stuck with him, Mom. If you want me here to play tonight, he has to come too."
"Great." Phyllis groaned. "This show is falling apart round my shoulders, isn't it?"
"How do you figure that?" Sirena frowned.
"You and your brat interfering in practices, Jewel forgetting what their contracts mean, the Stingers messing with Copper's's a mess and I've a damn headache." Phyllis replied with a sigh. "I wish I'd never agreed to do it."
"Jewel?" Sirena looked startled. Phyllis shrugged.
"Long story. Let it go." She replied, as Roxy, with Mary in tow entered the studio. "Where the hell is Jetta? Some practice this is gonna be!"
"I'm 'ere, chill." Jetta put in herself from the doorway. "I just 'ad to finish filin' that new sponsorship contract data, so keep your 'air on. We're all 'ere."
"And Michael." Phyllis muttered.
"Well, he's learning about music young." Mary said with a smile at Sirena, coming to see the baby. "Hi, Mike...coming to see what your mother does for a living, huh?"
"Oh, spare me." Phyllis pulled a face. "Are we going to play, or not?"
"We're going to play." Roxy said firmly, picking up her guitar. "Whatever else is going on, the Misfits are gonna rock this show!"

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

The percussionist swung around, relief touching her brown eyes as she registered the Stinger's presence.
"I'm so sorry I'm late, my car wouldn't start." Phoebe sent her a warm smile. "I tried to call you but I couldn't get a signal...I didn't want you to think I'd let you down."
"It's okay." Copper smiled. "I's fine, really." She glanced at her watch. "How long is this going to take, Phoebe? I...have work this morning."
"I can't tell you." Phoebe admitted. "It depends on how things go." She hesitated, then, "Do you want to leave it, then? If you have work to get to...I don't want to make you late. I mean, I'm sure this could wait..."
"It can't wait." Copper shook her head decidedly. "I've done nothing but dream about Papa and cry over him since the last time we met, Phoebe, I need closure. It's messing me about and making me row with my friends...and I know he wouldn't want that. I...I want to settle it. It doesn't matter if I'm a little late for work, I guess."
"Well, all right." Phoebe's blue eyes twinkled. "Then follow me. I know a quiet place in the grounds of this place, where we won't be disturbed. It's better that way, you know...spirits don't like a big audience, generally."
"They don't?" Copper asked. Phoebe shook her head.
"They prefer a private moment with their loved ones." She replied simply.
"Will...will I see him?" Copper wondered. Phoebe stifled a smile.
"Copper, my dear, what's there to see?" She asked, her tone deceptively gentle. "Your father's soul is what we're trying to reach. His spirit. His earthly form passed on when he did...I thought you understood that."
Copper blushed.
"I...guess I understand." She said, feeling a little silly. "I didn't think about it much, to be honest. But that's okay. So long long as it is Dad, I don't mind if I can't see him."
"That's the attitude." Phoebe looked approving. "And here we are. See? Nice and secluded and quiet. The best kind of place for these things."
"I thought we'd be inside." Copper admitted.
"Well, I prefer to work in a more natural environment." Phoebe said with a smile. "I feel closer to the spirit world then."
She sat down crosslegged on the grass, indicating for Copper to do the same. "Did you bring the ring?"
"Yes." Copper opened her purse, pulling out the precious ring and, after a moment's hesitation, handing it over to her companion. "It's very special to me though - nothing will happen to it, will it?"
"No, my dear. It's quite safe." Phoebe assured her. "It's just to help me get the feel of him, that's all. Once we're done, I'll give it right back to you."
"Okay. Good." Copper looked relieved.
Phoebe turned the ring over in her hand, feeling it's smooth surface. Then she clasped it tightly in her hand, closing her eyes. For a moment everything was still, and Copper watched her anxiously, not sure what to expect.
After what seemed like forever, Phoebe spoke, her voice somewhat distant and strange.
"Esteban?" She murmured. "Are you there? Someone wants to speak to you."
There was a further moment of silence, which seemed another eternity to the waiting Copper, then Phoebe's eyes snapped open.
"He's here." She murmured, still clutching the ring. "He's with us, Copper."
"He is?" Despite herself, Copper found herself glancing around her. "Where? How do you know?"
"I can hear him." Phoebe said softly. "He's here."
"What...what does he say?" Copper sounded anxious. "Papa?"
"He says he loves you." Phoebe said gently. "And...and that you're not to worry about him, he's safe."
"He's okay?" Relief flooded Copper's face. "And...and he loves me? he proud of me?"
"He says he's safe and waiting for your mother and you to join him in the future." Phoebe took a deep breath. "Esteban, Copper wants to know if you're proud of her choices."
There was a further moment of silence, then a strange expression crossed Phoebe's face. Looking troubled, she shook her head, letting go of the ring and letting it fall to the ground. She closed her eyes briefly, as if regaining her composure.
"What happened?" Copper scooped up the ring. "Phoebe, what's wrong?"
"I'm done with this." Phoebe injected just the right note of unrest into her tones, eying Copper carefully all the time to gauge her reaction. "Be glad your father loves you, child."
"What did he say?" Copper's expression became stricken. "Please, Phoebe, I need to know!"
"I don't want to make you cry." Phoebe's tone became gentle, and to her shaken companion she seemed utterly and entirely sincere. "He loves you, Copper, be happy with that."
"I need to know what he said." Copper shook her head. "That's why I came to you, Phoebe, I need to know!"
Phoebe let out a shuddery sigh.
"He thinks you should have finished school." She murmured, almost reluctantly. "He thinks you're too good to waste your life in a rock band."
Copper stared at her companion, stunned. Then,
"He doesn't want me to play in Jewel?" She whispered.
"I can only tell you what he told me." Phoebe told her quietly. "I don't know if he wants you to play in Jewel, my child...but he wishes you'd achieved your dreams of being a lawyer. He said you were too clever not to graduate. He said that illness took away his future, and he doesn't want it to take away yours."
"Oh!" Copper fell silent, her brown eyes troubled. Then she slipped the ring back into her purse, getting to her feet.
"I...I need time to think." She murmured. "And it's late...I'm already five minutes late for work as it is. Thank you, Phoebe...I needed to know."
"I feel guilty...I was so sure I'd be able to help you." Phoebe's lies came easily to her tongue, and Copper, sweet as ever hastened to reassure her.
"It's not your fault, and you have helped. At least now I know the truth." She said quietly. "Good bye, Phoebe...I have to go."
Before the Stinger could stop her, the redhead was gone across the grounds of the company, doing her best to stifle her tears as she did so. Reeling from Phoebe's words, she reached Misfit Music in a daze, heading upstairs almost on autopilot and pushing open the door of the studio, the truth echoing round in her head.
Her father didn't want her to waste her life.
Her father wanted her to finish school.
"Copper!" Sylva exclaimed. "We thought you were bailing on us again!"
"I had something I needed to do." Copper murmured.
"Well, you're here now." Topaz's eyes twinkled. "And we won't rat on you being late to Phyllis, don't worry. It's only ten minutes or so, after all. Tisn't a big deal."
Copper bit her lip, but the tears insisted on coming and she sank down in a chair, burying her head in her hands.
"I can't do this!" She whispered. "I just can't!"
"What do you mean, you can't do this?" Nancy demanded. "Copper, pull yourself together, please! This isn't you!"
"You don't understand, it's not what Papa wants..." Copper trailed off, and Topaz came to sit beside her.
"Did you go and see Rapture this morning?" She asked quietly. Copper nodded mutely.
Nancy rolled her eyes.
"Great." She muttered. "I knew this would happen. I knew it!"
"Copper, will you please play for us?" Topaz asked gently. "A lot of foundation kiddies are relying on us performing that show, you know...we don't want to let them down."
Copper gulped back her tears.
"I'll play today." She murmured. "Because...because I can't keep letting you down. But...but I can't keep doing this, Topaz. Papa...Papa doesn't want me to. I...I think you're going to need to find yourself a new drummer...I'm going back to school."

Chapter One: One Jewel Down
Chapter Two: Fireworks
Chapter Three: Phyllis Steps In
Chapter Four: Esteban Speaks
Chapter Five: Consulting the Teenangels
Chapter Six: Rose Helps
Chapter Seven: Mending Ties
Chapter Eight: Misfit Reborn
Chapter Nine: Dean's Show
Chapter Ten: Sylva and Jack
Chapter Eleven: Sabotaged!
Chapter Twelve: Settling the Past
Chapter Thirteen: Revenge
Chapter Fourteen: Show Must Go On