Chapter One: Memory

"Guess that's the last of it, dude!"

The removal man cast his companion a grin, dumping the final box of belongings down on the floor. "I'm done. Lemme just write you up a bill and I'll be outta here...'less you need help unpacking it all? Cos that'll be an extra fifty an hour."

"No, I'm fine with that." The other man returned the smile with a slight one of his own. "Just charge the bill to Misfits Music. My employer - Miss Gabor - she arranged everything with your supervisor."

"Sure thing." The man mock-saluted, then scribbled out the paperwork, ripping the top copy off and dropping it down on top of one of the wooden chests. "Then I'm outta here!"

Once he was alone, the tall, dark man moved across to the window, glancing absently down at the busy streets below. He was five floors up, in a plush Los Angeles apartment building six blocks from the centre of town. This was, he supposed, 'home' now...but it didn't feel like it. Chosen and arranged by the predatory Miss Gabor, he had spent most of the weekend moving boxes and clearing out his motel room.

"Well, I suppose now I've roots in Los Angeles." He murmured, touching the blinds as he did so. "Such as they are. Such as anyone has roots in this crazy city."
He turned, glancing at the mess.

"Guess I should get to work. I've a lot of crap to clear before I can call this any kind of place to live. I wonder which case the bedspread and sheets are in."

He reached for the first crate, pulling open the lid and rummaging through the contents. A mish-mash of papers and small ice cream containers greeted him and he grimaced, carefully pulling each one out one at a time.

"Mary Jane could pack junk for America." He muttered, dumping them down onto the floor. "Where she finds all these boxes is beyond me. Her kids must inhale choc chip ice cream like it's oxygen or something."

Reaching back into the packing case, he pulled out a dusty old photograph album and he glanced at it, then scowled, dropping it on top of the ice cream containers.
"And I didn't need that." He muttered. "What is she trying to do? Drive me back to Arkansas? I came here to get away from everything that reminded me. I needed to get away - and I'd have damn well done it sooner if it hadn't been for that damn probation officer and his stupid rules and regs. Whatever else I have in Los Angeles, I don't need more memories."

With a jerk of his hand he knocked the book out of his way, reaching for the top ice cream container and undoing the lid.

Inside was a hotch-potch of guitar strings, plectrums, and other musical bits and pieces and despite himself, he felt a little comforted at the sight of them.

"All my music from Carrowville in a tiny little tub." He murmured. "And Phyllis Gabor sees me hitting the big time any time soon. If only she knew what a hack her newest signing really is."

In amongst the strings was a folded scrap of manuscript paper and he frowned, pulling it out and smoothing it carefully on the floor of the apartment.
As soon as he had done so, he wished he had not bothered.

Scrawled across the top, in clumsy, high school writing was a messy dedication, some of which had become obscured and blurred by age and damp conditions.
For a moment he just sat there, fingering the scribbled words as if somehow they could re-open a doorway to a world long since left behind. Closing his eyes, he found that he could still hear the chords strumming through his head, teasing at him with their simple beauty.

It had been her song, and despite himself, he could not prevent the memories from flooding over his senses, drawing tears to his eyes.

"Sian." He whispered, gripping the sheet more tightly in his hands. "I didn't know that I had this. I thought...Lena and the rest...I didn't know."

Gingerly he set it down, getting to his feet and pacing across the cluttered apartment to the instrument case he knew held his guitar. With shaking hands he fumbled open the catch, lifting the instrument and running a tentative finger down the strings. Then, perching on the edge of the tea chest, he slowly began to play, as if in a trance.

"Why don't you ever write a song for me, Robin?"

She was there in front of him, as if they were high school teenagers again.

"Write a song for me, Rob. Please? I know you can do it."

Robin closed his eyes, strumming over the melody again, slowly and gently. The words, clumsy but full of adolescent affection slipped into his mind, and, without even realising what he was doing, he opened his mouth to sing.

She was even more vivid in his mind now, laughing and teasing and chewing on the end of her thick ponytail of hair as she listened to him play her song for the first time. Los Angeles and the apartment were left behind as his memories overwhelmed him, taunting at his senses. For a moment he was lost in this other world, but then, as he misplaced his fingers on a chord the images flew away and he was once more on his own, in a drafty, dimly lit apartment full of crates and dust and boxes.
He pushed his guitar aside with a rueful grimace, gathering up the manuscript and refolding it.

"Amateur stuff." He muttered, pushing it back into the box. "With connitations I don't need now. Bad enough time goes on. Time has to go on. And I have to go on too. Somehow. Without all this stupid memory stuff."

He tossed the container back into the packing crate and then, almost as an afterthought, he tossed the photo album on top of it, pushing the lid in place.
He stood.

"I've plenty to do without that stuff shaking me up." He said aloud. "Bed stuff first. Then clothes. Then whatever the hell else I can dig up. It won't be much of a home till I've more furniture than a chair, a bed and a portable fridge - but Phyllis did say they'd be delivered first thing tomorrow and I should clear some space for them. Keep busy."

As he forcibly dragged himself from his pensive state, there was a knock at the door. As he got slowly to his feet it was repeated, impatient and quick and he frowned, his brows knitting together in confusion as he reached for the latch, pulling it back.

"You take long enough."

His visitor cast him a look, then, "And this place is a total mess. Are you living here or holding a yard sale?"

"What are you doing here, Nancy?" Robin's surprise became annoyance at the irritation in her tone. "And you try having a nice clean apartment after you've just moved in. In case it had escaped your notice, I'm not living in a ready-built plush mansion pad and I'm on my own. The removal guy just left. I was unpacking when you showed up."

He pursed his lips, eying her carefully.

"And I can't imagine why the hell you're here, if you want to know the truth."

"Me either." Nancy rolled her eyes. "But I was coming this way to my studio and Aunt Phyl sent me with a memo. I don't usually play messenger, but she's in a total temper about something or other and I thought it better not to argue. She's been trying to call you but your phone isn't on - or is it that you don't know how to use a phone yet? I forget. One or the other...I'm not sure of her exact words."

"My phone has no juice." Robin said quietly. "Because people kept calling it at ungodly hours to tell me about specifics of the move."

He leant up against the doorframe.

"What did she want?"

"Something to do with your single release." Nancy said with a shrug. "I think it has something to do with a slot she's bagged you on television - probably Connie's, or Dean's. That'd be my guess. Either way, she wants you to stop rolling in the dust and head to Misfits Music...preferably an hour ago. Probably not wise to keep her waiting."

"I have a bunch of furniture coming tomorrow...if I don't unpack this now, where does she expect me to put it?" Robin demanded.

"Ask her." Nancy said blandly. "And if you survive the encounter, you can tell me later. If you hadn't realised it yet, Aunt Phyllis isn't someone you argue with. If she calls, you jump."

"So I'm beginning to understand." Robin cast a rueful look at the mess of his new abode. "Never thought I'd be working for a spoilt little rich girl in a city like this one, and that's for sure. But I guess I better see what it is she wants with me this time. If I'm going to pay off the rent on this dive, I guess I'm gonna have to meet and greet all these television types."

He fixed Nancy with a look of interest.

"Including Dean Stacey. Say, ain't he the guy you were so tight with up till lately?"

"You know he is, so what's your point?" Nancy bristled.

"Just curious." Robin shrugged carelessly. "I'm gettin' in touch with the publicity machine, or whatever fancy title Phyllis Gabor'd have for the gossip columns of the local rags. Apparently it's real important for me to know what's going on in this city. Why still escapes me. I don't care who's getting what from whom. I jus' wanna write my music."

"Well, on that we agree." Nancy said curtly. "So will you get a move on? I have other things to do than run errands for my boss."

She paused, eying him doubtfully.

"Do you even have a car?"

Robin frowned. He shook his head.

"No. I don't drive." He said quietly. "Why? Are you gonna be sweet and give me a ride to HQ, or are you going to leave me to hail a taxi?"

"I better give you a ride." Nancy sighed. "You know, whatever you do or don't do down in Arkansas, Robin, driving in Los Angeles is pretty essential."

"And pretty dangerous too, from where I'm sitting." Robin observed. "Which is why I'd rather not attempt it, if it's all the same to you. No mind to finish my career before it's even begun."

He grabbed his jacket, indicating for her to lead the way and she did so, heading down the hall towards the lift shaft. Before long they were crossing the car park to Nancy's waiting vehicle.

Robin paused at the curb as she rummaged in her pocket for her keys, finding them and unlocking the car.

"There." She said, gesturing towards the passenger side. "It's open. But mind you strap yourself in - and no disgusting habits like smoking or gum in my car, thank you. I'm not a taxi service."

"I don't smoke and I don't chew gum." Robin said simply, doing as he was bidden and strapping himself in as she climbed into the driver's seat. "And you do know it's a bad idea to leave your car in gear unless you're on a hill, don't you? It could jerk and cause an accident."

"I wanted to make this as quick a trip as possible." Nancy snapped, banging the gear lever into neutral and glaring at him as she fastened her own belt. "I thought you said you couldn't drive!"

"I said I don't drive. Not that I can't." Robin said with a shrug.

"What happened? You get caught speeding round your little town?"

Nancy turned her key in the ignition, glaring at him again before checking all was clear and pulling out onto the main road. "What is the speed limit in Nowheresville, anyway? Twenty miles per hour?"

"I didn't do anything. I have my license. It's back up in my new apartment." Robin said levelly. "I just don't use it. Besides, why would I need to? I have such generous colleagues waiting on a whim to help me out."

"You're funny." Nancy pulled another face. "You know, I really don't get you. Sometimes I think you're on my wavelength and that you understand why we're all here doing this. And then at other times you're trying to be the biggest loser on the planet. One minute you're beating up guys who want to mug me...the next you're preaching to me about driving and commenting on my private life. What gives with you, anyhow? Who are you?"

"If you don't know that, Miss Pelligrini, I'm surprised you let me step into your car." A humourless smile crossed Robin's face. He reached across to open the window, glancing out at the city scenery. "And if you don't want to talk about those things, let's talk about something else."

"We could not talk at all." Nancy suggested. Robin laughed.

"We could." He agreed. "But if anyone in this mad city is worth talking to, I'd like to think it's you."

Nancy looked startled.

"There you go again!" She exclaimed. "Now you're paying me compliments?"

"I don't do compliments." Robin replied easily. "It's just the truth. You're a musician and so am I. We now work for the same company, so we'll see something of each other. You're obviously very talented...I'd like to think I can play and write a little, too. So we have something in common. And right now it's the only thing binding me to this city - my music."

He pursed his lips.

"So you know, not everyone from a small southern town is an inbred hack." He added. "But I don't know Los Angeles well enough yet to want to risk my neck on it's roads. There's no mystery - just common sense. This isn't Arkansas and I'm not going to pretend I understand how to drive here. And I don't mean to pry into your private life. But I do want to get the measure of my competition. Right now you're a lukewarm ally but you're the only one I have anything in common with. So if you don't mind, I'm going to talk to you."

Nancy frowned.

"I don't think you're inbred." She said at length. "And okay, I guess you've got some sense, about the roads. I'm sorry - I'm on edge too here and I didn't really want to come play errand girl. I have a song of my own buzzing and I want to be in my studio putting it down. It's just been one of those crappy days where everything goes out of your control, that's all. I'm taking it out on you. Would you believe it's the third time I've been disturbed today...that kind of thing can really make me crabby."

"No writer likes a disrupted muse." Robin reflected. "So I'm disturbance number three, huh? What were one and two?"

"One, Daisy Buchan decided it'd be nice to crash my studio and spew garbage about how her company and her single are better than anything I write and that our company apparently stole you from under Aja's nose." Nancy grimaced. "Right in the middle of a complicated seventh harmony. I could've tattooed it on her face. Then I realised I'd run out of manuscript, so I had to go to work to get more...which is where Aunt Phyl nabbed me...and sent me here."

"Daisy Buchan?" Robin looked blank. "Isn't she that airhead who sings for Starlight Music? What would she want with me?"

"Yes, that's the one." Nancy rolled her eyes. "She probably wants to lay you. She's like that."

"Ouch." Faint amusement flickered in Robin's eyes. "You don't like her, then?"

"We went to school together." Nancy shook her head. "Her favourite sport was making my life hell. So no. We don't get on. And she can't get over the fact that I'm a big deal songwriter in this state now...with awards and credits to my name all over the shop. Not to blow my own trumpet, but it's more than she's managed and she's sore about it."

"You're not blowing your own trumpet. You're stating fact." Robin said with a shrug. "I did meet with Aja at Starlight Music once or twice. She seemed nice and professional - I liked her more than I liked Phyllis Gabor on first impressions. But there was more to my decision to join your company than just who was running it. I wanted to see what other acts were involved. The fact that Mary Martescu often wrote for the company was a big draw."

"Mary's one of the best." Nancy agreed. "Though I swear half the time you wouldn't know she and Syl were related. After what...six years of Syl's company, I can rub along with her just fine. But it's funny to think of."

"Another airhead." Robin said bluntly. Nancy grinned.

"Yeah, that's what she puts out." She agreed. "But so long as it's all she puts out, I can live with it."

"So tell me what I need to know about these television show hosts." Robin sat back in his seat. "Not Dean, if you don't want to go there...but what about this Constance Montgomery? I've heard a lot about her - but I've not had the pleasure of meeting her yet."

"Connie?" Nancy pursed her lips. "We've worked her show a's one of the best places to play. You want to make a good impression on Connie's Corner, because everyone in the business loves Connie and slots are in demand. So if you get invited to play - and I'm sure Aunt Phyl will find a way to make sure you are - make sure you play nice. No spouting off about how Los Angeles is fickle and superficial and that noone cares about music. Even if you hate playing false for the cameras, you do have an obligation to your employers. And since one of them is my Mom..."

"I get it." Robin snorted. "Play nice? Fine."

"She usually goes easy on first timers anyhow." Nancy assured him. "She just asks basic questions - who are you, where are you from...that kind of thing."

Her eyes twinkled.

"Maybe she'll ask you about this stupid curse story Cool Trash keep running with."

"Maybe she will." Robin rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "But she might not get an answer."

"She might not?" Nancy cast him a surprised look. "Don't tell me you believe you are?"

"No, I just get fed up with stupid stories." Robin shrugged. "I've nothing to prove to anyone and I'm not going to give time or attention to their little scandals."

"Well said." Nancy looked approving. "And speaking of which, here we are. Scandal HQ. Misfits Music."

"Scandal HQ, huh?" Robin glanced up at the big black building, unfastening his seatbelt. "Am I to presume that some of the rumour mill's best gossip leaks out of a certain office?"

"Not often...not about us, per se." Nancy grinned. "But in this business you haveta fight fire with fire. And there are none better at that than Mom and Aunt Phyl. So you know."

"Playing with fire in more ways than one." Robin chewed on his bottom lip. "But Phyllis Gabor carries a lot of clout, doesn't she? I mean, I wouldn't think she'd settle for anything that would harm her employees."

"Definitely not." Nancy shook her head emphatically. She cast him a glance, taking in his expression. Then,

 "Well, I don't mean to be snarky, but I have a song to write and, well, I wouldn't keep Aunt Phyl waiting if I were you."

"Of course." Robin shook himself from his reverie, opening the passenger door and stepping out onto the asphalt. He turned to cast his chauffeur a grin.

"Thank you for the ride, Nancy."

"Welcome. Just don't expect it to become a regular occurance." Nancy said with a shrug. "If you can drive, I suggest you learn the city and get a car as soon as you can."

"It's not high on my priorities." Robin said evenly. "Good luck with your song, anyhow."

With that, he turned on his heel, making his way towards the imposing building. Behind him he heard the revving of a car engine, as Nancy pulled out of the car park, but he did not turn around or wave. As yet he wasn't sure where he stood with anyone in Los Angeles, and, even though he had called Nancy an ally, sometimes he wondered.

"But at least she gave me some insight into Connie Montgomery." He mused as he crossed the lobby to the lift. "And knowledge is power. God knows that, being here, I need some of that!"


"So, what do you think?"

Sylvina Martescu held the dress up against herself, casting a glance at her companion as she did so. "Is it me? Or did I just waste seventy five bucks? It was rocking in the shop, but...I don't know."

She frowned.

"But then again it is a gorgeous colour. And I have been looking for something just like this for a while."

She bit her lip, squinting down at herself and then back at her friend.

"Is it me, or do I need to take it back?"

"Do you need me to take part in this conversation, or are you gonna argue it out with yourself?" The blond girl spoke with amusement, settling herself more comfortably on the end of Sylva's bed and taking a firm hold of the exploring infant that played beside her, pulling her onto her lap. "No, Hollie. You're not going to be the first toddler to discover Syl's pillows!"

"I need your opinion." Sylva pouted, dropping the dress down onto a chair. "That's why I dragged you in here, Topaz. Shall I just ask Hol's thoughts and be done with it?"

"I'm sorry." Aurora "Topaz" Stapleton adopted a contrite expression, hugging her daughter to her as she considered the question. "You were just babbling away, and I'm always distracted when I have to give an eye to Trouble here. I think the dress looks fine. It's a bit different from the usual style you wear - but change can be good. And it's definitely your colour. I don't know what you're fussed about - but if you don't like it, I'm sure they'll return it and refund you the money. You buy there so often, they wouldn't dare refuse you."

"Yeah. Nancy says I singlehandedly pay the staff's salaries." Despite herself, a rueful smile touched Sylva's lips. "So you really think it's all right?"

"Yes, I do." Topaz nodded her head. "Why all the panic, anyhow? It's not like you to have second thoughts on an outfit."

"I know." Sylva sighed, sitting down on the bed and absently reaching over to ruffle Hollie's tousled red-gold hair, causing the infant to giggle. "I just have a date with Logan Tuesday night...and it's been a while since we hung out."

"Are you guys fighting?" Topaz looked concerned. "You've only been together a while - I didn't realise."

"No, we're not fighting." Sylva shook her head. "But his Dad wasn't well a few weeks back - he got smashed up in some accident - so he had to hare out there. His Dad is fine now, of course, but then with everything happening over Cynthia..."

She pursed her lips.

"I feel I've neglected him." She concluded, spreading her hands. "I like him a lot, Topaz, but this is the first proper "relationship" I've had." She exaggerated the quote marks with her fingers. "I don't want to screw it up by being either clingy or inattentive."

"I see." Topaz looked thoughtful. "I'm not the best person to ask for advice on relationships, but I'd say Logan was a pretty solid kinda guy. Not the sort to jump to conclusions if he didn't see his girlfriend for a few days. Just tell him Cynthia hasn't been well and you've been helping me with Hollie, if he asks. I'll back you up."

"It's not entirely true." Sylva looked troubled. "I don't like the idea of lying to him."

"Well you can't tell him Cyn's secret, or explain why you've been so busy recently." Topaz said sensibly. "We've learnt in the last month exactly how far it can go if other people know about Synergy. I know that Logan is a trustworthy person," As Sylva began to protest. "But the more people who know, the more risk there is that people will find out she's still around. And he might freak out. You don't know. It's a pretty big secret to have hidden in your basement."

"I know." Sylva stretched out on the duvet, resting her chin in her hands. "He hasn't been funny with me on the phone, so it's probably my paranoia. I just don't want to mess up."

She pinkened.

"You won't tell the others about this chat, will you?" She asked. "It's kinda...well...embarassing, admitting I don't know what to do where a guy's concerned."

"We're best friends." Topaz crossed her chest solemnly with her free hand. "Nothing will ever leave my lips, as you well know."

"I know." Sylva dimpled. "It's just, I've had such crazy luck with guys."

"You have, but Logan's nice. And cute." Topaz winked. "And he's into you. That's pretty obvious. If you ask me, he was into you at Copper's wedding."

"He told me in New York that he considered asking me out properly then." Sylva agreed. "But then we got to be such good buddies and, well, he didn't want to wreck that. It was only when we were there..."

She pinkened, shaking her head. "Well, things kinda changed there." She amended.

Topaz raised an eyebrow.


"It's not important."

"This is a story I haven't heard." Topaz reached across for her baby's doll, giving it into tiny pink hands as she fixed her friend with a curious look. "What did happen in New York to make you suddenly all excited about making a relationship work with him?"

Sylva reddened, and Topaz's eyes opened wide.

"Oh! I see." She said, amusement twitching at the corner of her mouth.

"It wasn't exactly planned." Sylva got to grips with her composure. " know, it did make us sit down and face things head on. So I'm quite glad it did happen that way. Just, it's not the coolest way to begin a relationship. So I'd rather you kept that one quiet as well."

"Of course." Topaz nodded. "I'm certainly not one to preach about doing things the wrong way around."

She glanced down at Hollie, tickling the small girl.

"And this one is the proof."

"So you really think the dress is okay?"

"I think it's great." Topaz nodded. "And Logan isn't taking you out because he wants to spend the evening with your dress. He wants to spend it with you."

She grinned.

"Obviously, from what you just told me, he likes what's inside the dress a lot more - so I wouldn't stress about it any further. It'll be fine."

"If Hollie wasn't here, I'd get you for that!" Sylva looked indignant, and Topaz laughed.

"That's why I brought her." She said playfully. "But I think it's about time she had something to eat and then a nap, so I'll leave you to work out your best look for your date. And don't fret about it. You love this guy and he loves you. Don't let what happened with Jack distract you from that. Logan is great and you know enjoy it. All right?"

"All right." Sylva dimpled. "Thanks, Topaz. I guess you're right."

"That's what I'm here for." Topaz's eyes twinkled. "Okay. I'll see to the little one and then I'm going to go downstairs and run over some song lyrics in case we're in studio early tomorrow. If you wanna come and give me an accompaniment when you're done, I'd appreciate it. I'm a little rough in places and it helps to have live backing."

"Sure." Sylva nodded. "Give me a half hour and I'll be right down."

She laughed.

"After all, you've listened to me babble. It's the least I owe you in return!"

Prologue: Flashback: Carrowville, Arkansas
Chapter One: Memory
Chapter Two: Spies and Secrets
Chapter Three: Jack
Chapter Four: Flashback: The Hartlin Bar, Carrowville
Chapter Five: Margot's Plan
Chapter Six: Confidences
Chapter Seven:Flashback: The Wedding Reception
Chapter Eight: Fallout
Chapter Nine: Advice
Chapter Ten: A Friend In Need
Chapter Eleven: Logan
Chapter Twelve: Flashback: Sian's News
Chapter Thirteen: Ambush
Chapter Fourteen: Reconciliation
Chapter Fifteen: Flashback: Farewell
Chapter Sixteen: The Curse

The copyright for the original Jem characters featured in this and other stories by me belongs entirely to Hasbro and their interpretations to Christy Marx and the other writers of the Sunbow Jem series. Their future selves are based on concepts that are entirely my own and are not to be repeated elsewhere without due permission.
All other characters, including their likenesses, are copyrighted to myself as webmistress of Jewel's World from 2001 to the present day and are not to be reproduced elsewhere without permission.
The Teenangel Outsiders, Jesta, Flame, Ryan Montgomery and the future interpretations of Aja, Danse and certain of the other original characters are all or in part the concept of Gemma Dawn whose teenangel outsider fiction world is twinned with Jewel's World. You can visit her site at!
All events in the stories on this site are based on original ideas and are not rooted in any existing Jem fiction nor in any real life event or person.