Chapter Two: Delving
"Everyone, please welcome Diablo to the set!"
Amidst the wild applause, the five musicians slipped down off the stage on which they had been performing their new song, smiles on their faces as they came to join the presenter on the couch. The woman beamed at them, shuffling up to make room as she did so.
"Well, it's been a while since we saw you last." She said conversationally. "Tell us more about this wild tour you're doing, guys. Luca, this is the most detailed tour of the UK that Diablo have done to date, is that right?"
"That's the plan." Luca nodded his head, returning the woman's smile. "To be honest, Perle, It's been a bit crazy since we stepped off the plane. The demand for tickets have been so great that we've had to add three new dates to the schedule and I know that there's a possibility of a couple more before our visit is out. We never expected it to be quite such a blowout - but it's great."
"Your last album kicked up a real storm here." Perle settled herself more comfortably in her seat. "And your last singles were top ten smashes. Do you think this is a sign that you've really broken down the UK market?"
"We'd like to think so." Marissa dimpled. "It's a buzz for Clay and I when we see people enjoying the stuff we put our hearts and souls into. We love writing for Diablo, and to have a reception like this is magic."
"You rather sneaked into the country yesterday." Perle cast a glance at Madeleine. "Maddy, did you know that press were all over the place looking for you for the last few days?"
"I have a suspicion that Sophie was behind that manoeuvre." Madeleine grinned. "She's very smart at getting us from A to B with the minimum of fuss. I have to admit, though, by the time we touched down in England none of us were fit to mumble, let alone give a statement. I'm quite glad we avoided a sensation."
"Sophie Devereux, of course, who's a part of your management team?"
"Yes." Madeleine nodded. "She tends to travel with us when we go out of the US and she's very experienced in that department."
"Clay, what kind of a reception are you expecting to have this tour?" Perle cocked her head at the drummer. "Since your last visit, the press have been buzzing with all kinds of rumours!"
"What kind of rumours?" Clay looked startled.
"Well, my personal favourite is the one that your writing team with Marissa is more than just business..." Perle trailed off suggestively, and Marissa's cheeks pinkened.
"I think that's old news to most people by now." She managed. "Yes, Clay and I are seeing each other. But really, it's not a huge deal or anything. We've known each other for years...in some ways it's just the logical conclusion to a long friendship."
"I'm a sucker for romance, though. I love happy endings." Perle laughed. "And if Diablo's recent music is anything to go by, it's obviously working out for you!"
"Marissa and I have a very special understanding." Clay said mildly. "But we try and keep our relationship as much between us as we possibly can. Living in the public eye means we don't get a lot of privacy - so we value that which we do have."
"Fair enough, I know when to butt my nose out." Perle teased playfully. "Stefana, I'll ask you a question instead! You sing vocals on a track on the album - one you released in the US. Are you planning to release it here?"
"If I do too much singing, Maddy will be out of a job." Stefana shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know, yet. I like singing. I like doing a whole lot more with my music than just sitting back and waiting for the scores to come round. Who knows? Maybe."
"You've been well documented the 'little piece of hell' in tabloid articles and magazines stateside." Perle said thoughtfully. "How do you feel about that label now it's stuck?"
"Honestly?" A devilish smile touched Stefana's lips. "I kinda like
I'm not your conventional good girl, and I'm not ashamed of it. If I
I wouldn't be able to give the guitar bite and that's why Diablo
me into the set-up in the first instance.
There's far too much sugary sweetness in music today. If people want to see something else in me, then let them. I don't care."
"But how wild is Stefana really?"
"Probably a lot less wild than tabloid imaginations would have you believe." Luca cast his sister a glance, then grinned at the presenter. "She's always been an original thinker, and not everyone knows how to deal with originality. Stef is Stef and noone else. That's why she stands out."
"Well, you've kicked off a whole fashion trend in pseudo-gothism." Perle dimpled. "If that's even a word. But a lot of the fashion magazines have been picking up on your look - does it bother you that you've become a style icon?"
"Hell no." Stefana grinned. "Just proves they have taste, that's all."
"Are you gothic?"
"No." Stefana shook her head. "I'm what Luca said. Stefana. That's all. I don't follow other people's trends...I make my own."
"And speaking of making your own, Clay, I must come back to you a minute." Perle waved the microphone at the unsuspecting drummer. "There's been a lot of press over the last few months about your connections to a certain Wissex estate and an earldom - can you set us straight once and for all what exactly the truth is behind all of that?"
Anger and shock flickered across Clay's face and for a moment he didn't respond. Then he got a grip on himself, offering the camera a bland smile.
"Tabloids will print what they want to print." He said evenly. "I've no comment to make on that subject, I'm afraid."
"Well, and that's all we've got time for." Perle glanced across at her production team. "So a round of applause for Diablo, everyone, and we're going to go to a break."
As the group left the set, Clay wandered away from the rest, his hands in his pockets as he made his way out of the studio.
After a moment of hesitation, Marissa headed after him, slipping between security officers as she trailed her boyfriend into the car park. He stood there, staring out across the landscape towards the green hills in the distance, and she felt a pang of sympathy inside of her.
"Clay?" She murmured. He did not respond, and she hurried up to him, slipping an arm through his. He started at this, glancing down at her, then offering her a slight smile.
"Hi." He said softly. "Sorry...I didn't want to stay in there. The last thing I want to be doing is making comments about my father or his stupid bloody estate."
"I know that." Marissa reached up on tiptoes to kiss him. "And it's okay. You don't have to if you don't want to. Just do what you did in there and say no comment. They'll print what they want and then they'll get bored and move on. Honestly they will."
"If this tour is full of that kind of stuff, I'd rather go back to Los Angeles." Clay kicked idly at a stray pebble on the ground. "Mari, talking about you and me is one thing. I almost expected it - they all love a good celebrity love story. But Dad? Wissex? I'd buried that so far into my past before that jerk McMillan started spilling it out over his precious paper. And now all anyone asks is 'are you really the son of an Earl'? I don't want to be known for that, dammit! I'm Clay Blake and I play drums for Diablo. That's what people should know my name for. Not for being some damn illegitimate lovechild that got hushed away!"
"Shhh." Marissa soothed. "I know. But it will get better. And people are only interested in you because of your ties with Diablo. They wouldn't care otherwise. But they want to know every part of all our lives. And we all have secrets, Clay. In some ways they're the only parts of ourselves we still have."
"Then what part of me do I still have?" Clay glanced at her helplessly. "Because my history is all over the presses. I should have known how it'd be here...in the same country and all."
"You have me." Marissa told him gently. "Don't let them get to you. You know it's what they want. So what if it's the truth? It isn't something you chose. You've taken your life and you've made something of it. You never had a stroke of help or support from Mason Hawthorne and there's no reason for people to think that you did. You should be proud of all you've done. Don't let the tabloids drag you down."
Clay eyed her keenly.
"You know why I love you?" He asked. Marissa grinned.
"Because I'm right?"
"Because you understand things that I don't even have to tell you." Gently the drummer kissed his girlfriend. "And so long as I have that they can all go to Hell."
"Sure." Marissa laughed, leaning her head on his shoulder. "So shall we go and find the others? If we stay out here they'll think they struck a nerve with you and it'll be all over the papers that you walked out of Perle's show. If we go in now, we can tell them you had to take a phonecall from home or something...and they'll get bored and drop it."
"I suppose you're right." Clay nodded. "All right, Mari. Lead the way. I'm okay now, anyhow. I just needed to get out before I punched someone. My Dad has the knack for making me feel that way, and that's one exclusive the show didn't need."
"No, I agree with you." Marissa looked amused. "Come on, you silly
I'll buy you a coffee from the vending machine!"
"Well, here we are."
Justin Pelligrini scooped the grey suitcase up from the wheeling black luggage conveyor, turning to cast his wife a concerned look. "Jetta, are you really all right? You've barely spoken a word since we left Los Angeles. I know this is a shock to the system - you don't have to pretend like it doesn't matter."
"I wish I knew if it did or didn't." His companion let out a heavy sigh, scanning the busy airport lounge absently as she did so. "I don't really know why we're 'ere, Justin, an' that's the bleedin' truth. I jus'...when Laura called me I..."
She trailed off, shaking her head.
"I felt I ought to." She finished.
Justin eyed his wife thoughtfully for a moment, then,
"Let's find a taxi." He murmured. "I'm glad Laura could take us at such short notice. Most of the hotels are booked out and I didn't want us to turn up and have to trawl from venue to venue. Besides..."
He paused, then,
"I think you need Laura around at the moment." He concluded gently. "She's the one person other than me who you've ever really opened up to, and she also knew Bertie. I'm glad she was willing to let us stop at hers."
"Me too." Jetta agreed, allowing her husband to lead the way through the arrivals lounge. Outside rows of black and burgundy taxis were waiting, several of whom were already surrounded by people with luggage, but Justin's sharp eyes soon spotted a car without custom and he made a beeline for it, his wife trailing after him.
"Ruislip?" He asked the driver, who nodded his head.
"Where abouts, mate?" He asked, as the Pelligrinis got into the back of the vehicle.
"Castle Street." Jetta said absently. "Top of the 'ill, near the Three Crowns."
"Right you are, love." The driver put his vehicle into gear, pulling out of the taxi rank with an inward feeling of glee at his good fortune. Ruislip was a good hour's drive and he could expect to be well tipped for his trouble.
Jetta sat back in her seat, glancing out at the passing city landscape. She frowned.
"Comin' back to London is always damn surreal." She murmured, more than half to herself. "As if it ain't changed in some ways, yet in others it's so different. Sometimes I don't know as I belong 'ere any more, and sometimes I'm so glad to set foot in me 'ometown. Is that odd to think?"
"No, I don't think so." Justin shook his head. "I mean, you grew up here. Hell, I grew up in New York and sometimes I still miss it, even though I wouldn't swap our life in LA. It's a different vibe, that's all. But then, our lives are in Los Angeles now. So in that sense, we both belong there, with Nancy and Aaron and everything else."
He glanced across her to the busy streets.
"I don't come to England enough. In fact, we don't." He added. "Maybe we should do it more."
"Bit bleedin' late for that, ain't it?" Jetta said, a note of bitter irony edging her tone. "Considerin' we're 'ere to bury the only bloke I ever called Father, an' all. They're all gone, Justin. And I never really belonged there - but it feels damn weird to think that I'm the only one left. That all of that growin' up...there ain't noone now who remembers but me."
"Laura remembers." Justin reminded her softly. Jetta shrugged.
"Yeah, but she didn't live with me." She responded. "You are right, though - I am glad to 'ave 'er in all of this. I don't know if I'm upset or if I ain't at the moment - or if bein' 'ere is a big mistake. But someone 'as to clear out the old 'ouse 'e was livin' in an' there aint noone else to do it. It's gotta be me."
"And me." Justin squeezed her hand. "I wouldn't make you do all of that alone."
"I guess that's another of those dividends of marrying you." Jetta observed dryly. "Do you think we did right, not bringin' the kids out 'ere?"
"I think so." Justin agreed. "This isn't their past, Jetta, and they're not children. Both are busy adults with lives and careers...they didn't know him and he didn't know them. We can't force them to grieve at the funeral of a man they barely met. It wouldn't be fair."
"So why are you goin'?"
"It's like you said." Justin grinned. "It's one of the things of being married."
"I'm glad." Jetta admitted. "I don't think I woulda come an' faced it without you."
She looked sheepish.
"Pathetic, ain't it?"
"You know that's a loaded question." Justin teased. "But no. I don't think so. I'd want you to come with me if anything happened to Mom."
"Your Mum is a human being. I like your Mum." Jetta objected. Justin shrugged.
"That's not the point." He said wisely. "For the last time, I'm here and I'm quite happy to be. Okay?"
"Okay." Jetta settled back in her car seat, glancing out at the passing scenery. "It's always interestin' to see how things change. We've not been to visit Laura in a long time, Justin. I've not been 'ere since my lamebrain brother ran off with our daughter."
"And before that, not since before Laura moved house." Justin agreed. "In fact, not since..."
He paused, eying her doubtfully, and Jetta let out a humourless chuckle.
"Since we buried Ma." She said matter-of-factly. "I think you're right. You must 'ave a bloody funny idea of England, if you only come 'ere when someone dies or gets kidnapped."
"No, we came here after we were married." Justin reminded her. "It was out belated honeymoon, if you remember."
"I remember." Jetta nodded. She offered him a wry smile. "I was pregnant with Aaron, mad at you over it an' 'ormonal as 'ell. Yes. I remember..that was a really great trip."
"Well, okay." He acknowledged. "It had its ups and downs. But I still had a good time. And I mean it, when I say we should come out here. Take a vacation. Maybe an anniversary trip - or some time in the summer. A visit when we're not burying one of your relatives...what do you think?"
"Maybe." Jetta pursed her lips. "Let's get this sorted out first, though. It's occured to me that tyin' up Dad's affairs mayn't be as simple as I first 'oped. After all, I don't exactly 'ave anyone to ditch the long term junk on...and I want to be gettin' back to LA at the first opportunity."
"I'm sure we'll be able to work something out." Justin mused. "Speak to whoever's handling Bertie's legal affairs and explain the situation."
"Guess so." Jetta agreed. "Unless he left it to someone else as executor. Which I'd welcome, in truth - I just can't think of a single person left who 'e could name. I'm the only kin 'e 'as left, save for Taylor an' our brood. And now they're all in the States...so."
"Well, for now, stop worrying about it." Justin advised, as the cab slowed and pulled onto Castle Street. "I think we're about here...there's that bar you mentioned. The Three Crowns?"
"Pub." Jetta corrected absently. "And yeah...this is it. Good. I could use a cup of tea."
At that moment the taxi drew up at the end of the street and Justin leaned across to open the door, casting a glance at his wife and then getting out of the vehicle. Jetta followed him slowly, grabbing her holdall as she did so and casting the driver a sheepish smile.
"How much do we owe ya?" She asked. The driver checked his meter, telling her the amount and Justin reached into his wallet, pulling out a couple of notes and handing them to him.
"Keep the change. It's a long trip and you'll probably need the gas." He said with a grin. "Come on, Jetta. Let's go see if your friend's at home."
"You better believe she is." The front door of the house had swung open and Laura stood watching them, a warm smile on her face. Her green eyes were soft with unspoken compassion as she glanced at her friend, then,
"Not too bad." Jetta agreed. "Long an' the food was mush - but that's nothing new."
She glanced up at the sky.
"An' the weather's held so far. So, it could be worse."
"You both must be tired...come on in." Laura pushed her door open further, gesturing for them to join her inside the home. "Justin, it's good to see you again. It's been a long time since you visited us here - I don't think you've been to this house, have you?"
"Last time I was at yours was when Jetta and I were just married." Justin shook his head, ushering his wife into the property and then following suit, casting the hostess a smile as he did so. "My last trip was a flying visit and I never got a chance. So no, though I knew you had a new place. It's very pretty."
"Nothing like your house in L.A, but it does us fine." Laura looked amused. "Come on through, sit down. Keith is working so it's only me here at the minute. It's damn quiet 'ere these days without me kids runnin' around at my heels - I welcome the company. What can I get you? Tea? Coffee?"
"Tea is good for both of us, Laura...thank you." Justin's eyes twinkled. "Milk and sugar both."
Laura nodded her head, disappearing into the kitchen. By the time the visitors were settled in the front room, she had re-emerged bearing a tray with three mugs of steaming hot tea and a plate of biscuits. She placed this down on the coffee table, taking a seat herself and gesturing for them to help themselves.
"So." She said, lifting her own mug and taking a sip. "Here we are again."
"And how." Jetta offered her a rueful smile. "Seems the only bleedin' time I visit your 'ouse is when somethin' 'appens in my family. Last time it were Taylor, and me mad brother wound up gettin' the wrong side of a bullet. The time before it was my Ma dyin'. This time..."
"I know. I'm sorry for that." Laura admitted. "I 'ate to be the bearer of bad news once, let alone twice. Though I'd like to think Taylor wasn't bad news so much as a surprise."
"No, Taylor's fine." Jetta agreed. "An' I suppose there's not much else you could do. You're the only one around 'ere who might even know what goes on with my folks. I'm sure as 'ell not local these days."
She bit her lip.
"I was in two minds about coming, but it seems the right thing to do. With the 'ouse and everythin' else to settle up."
"The property's council rented. I checked that out." Laura told her, putting the cup down on the table and folding her hands in her lap. "His social worker has spoken to them about that - I think that once his affairs are dealt with that should be fairly straight forward. It's just a case of the other stuff, really. Clothes, furniture...knick knacks. That kind of thing."
She looked doubtful.
"I wasn't sure what you'd want to do regarding all of that, so I'm glad you're here."
She paused, softening her tone.
"Are you all right?" She asked. "I know you hate fussing, but I didn't know how you'd feel about it when Bertie passed. With everything that he told you - I wasn't sure what it would mean."
"The end of a chapter in my life, in some ways." Jetta replied thoughtfully. "I'm a little stunned that it happened out of the blue like this...but I'm not sure I'm really grieving. That's the honest truth. It's been so long and we were strangers, pretty much. At least, these days. I'll see 'im buried because it's the right thing to do. But..."
She trailed off, and Laura nodded, looking relieved.
"I understand." She agreed. "And you know Keith an' I will do anything we can 'ere to help out, where it's possible. I know you've commitments in LA and you probably need to get back to them as soon as you can. I want you here for as long as I can have you, of course...but under these circumstances makes it a bit difficult."
"Yes, it does." Jetta agreed.
"Jetta and I were discussing the idea of coming to England some time when there aren't other connitations, actually." Justin put in at that point, and Laura smiled.
"Well, you know you're always welcome as 'ouseguests 'ere." She said
warmly. She paused, then, "You didn't bring the kids?"
"No." Justin shook his head. "They're both tied up in LA with work and we both wanted...well, a hassle-free visit."
"Nancy an' Aaron never really spoke to 'im more than once." Jetta added. "And Pizzazz is already 'avin' kittens with me outta state. It's not like they're still brats tuggin' at my apron strings, or whatever you want to call it. Aaron's married an' Nancy's a successful songwriter an' performer in 'er own right. They ain't kids no more...and honestly, this ain't there family. Not really. I mean, if it were Justin's Ma, I'd expect them both to turn out. They've known Gianina since they were small. But the only time they even met Dad was at Ma's funeral. And I can't remember them exchanging more than a few words with 'im at best."
She pursed her lips.
"I got in touch with him through Cameron." Laura nodded. "But like yours, I think he's far too busy to take a break and come to the funeral of a man he barely knew."
"Who can blame him." Jetta looked rueful. "All right. Then I guess since I'm 'ere we should discuss the whole funeral thing and who I need to be makin' contact with now I'm in the UK." She stifled a yawn, then, "The sooner we work that out the better, I'm guessin'."
"You sound tired." Laura looked concerned. "You both must be jetlagged to 'ell already - sure you don't want to take a nap first, before we get into all of that? I know I told you on the phone that I don't mind 'elpin' out an' taking on some of the arrangements and stuff, so it's not as bad a situation as you think. I've made some preliminary calls anyhow, an' the undertaker is a friend of Keith's - they do pub quizzes together on a Friday night. So that side of it is easily settled. You've more than enough time to sleep off your flight."
"No, it's fine." Jetta shook her head, draining the last of her drink and setting the mug back down on the tray. "The drink'll keep me going and I'd rather know what's what as soon as possible, if it's all right with you. Whilst I'm focused on the matter in 'and."
"Well, if that's what you want." Laura shrugged, getting to her feet and crossing the living room to where a cluster of papers lay on the side cabinet. "We can go over it now - I've got it all right here. But you don't have to rush this, Sheila."
"I know. It ain't like 'e's goin' anywhere in the meantime." Jetta's
voice was laced with irony. "But the truth is, now I'm 'ere I want it
with as soon as possible. To bury 'im and 'ave that closure, an' then
on with whatever else I need to do. So bring 'em over an' let me
I'm up to date the better!"
Prologue: London, England
Chapter One: England's Rose
Chapter Two: Delving
Chapter Three: Wissex
Chapter Four: Grace
Chapter Five: Revelations
Chapter Six: Facing Shadows
Chapter Seven: A Change In Plans
Chapter Eight: County Show
Chapter Nine: Trevor Hawthorne
Chapter Ten: A Sea Chest
Chapter Eleven: Binding
Chapter Twelve: Homecoming
Chapter Thirteen: Hawthorne Blood
Chapter Fourteen: Mayfair
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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 www.teenangeloutsiders.com!
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.