"You did what?"
Sylva almost choked on her orange juice, setting it down hurriedly on
the kitchen unit as she fixed her bandmate with a wide eyed stare. "Nancy
Pelligrini, did you lose your mind or something?"
Nancy shrugged her shoulders, taking
a slice of toast and beginning to butter it in an unconcerned way.
"We broke up." She repeated calmly.
"And it was okay, Syl, really. It seemed like the right thing to do."
"Wow." Topaz looked pensive. "I never
saw that coming. I mean, I know you and Dean have been really busy lately,
but I never thought you'd grown that far apart."
"I suppose we both knew we had." Nancy
rummaged in the kitchen cabinet for the raspberry jam. "But it wasn't till
we really sat down and began talking about things that we actually had to
face it head on."
"Don't look at me like that, you guys.
I like Dean, and he likes me. We've broken up on good terms and it's totally
fine. We're staying friends and I'm cool with that. So I'm not breaking
my heart over it or anything. It was just the right thing to do."
"If that's how you feel, it sounds like it was." Sadie observed from where
she had been going carefully through the morning mail. "I'm glad you were
able to talk about it, though. You've been together longer than I've known
you. It'd have been horrible if you'd ended it in tears."
"I feel the same way." Nancy nodded. "But actually, once we'd done it,
it felt like a huge weight had been taken off me."
"Yeah...that's known as commitment."
Sylva remarked. Nancy rolled her eyes.
"No." She responded. "More like a relationship
that had run it's course. Closure, or whatever you wanna label it. Either
way, we're free to see other people now."
"Have you anyone in mind?" Topaz questioned, lifting her small daughter
out of the high chair and carefully positioning her on her hip as she wiped
the infant's mouth clean. Nancy shook her head.
"No. Right now it's about my music and
getting to grips with being single, I suppose." She responded. "Breaking
old habits and that kind of thing. But it's all right. I'm in no hurry. The
whole relationship deal has never been as big a thing for me as it is for
some folk, after all."
"Do you think Dean will ask Rose out, now you're split up?" Sadie wondered.
"I mean, he has spent a lot of time with her."
"Dean wouldn't cheat on Nancy." Sylva
protested. "He's not that kind of guy."
"That wasn't what I meant." Sadie shook her head, setting aside the last
of the envelopes and resting her chin in her hands. "I just wondered if anyone
thought it would happen, that's all."
"I think he likes her." Nancy agreed. "But he couldn't do anything about
it while we were going out. He did say, though, that he needed time to get
his head round the end of our relationship before he jumped into something
else. Besides, it's not my business any more. It hasn't bothered me that
he's been hanging out with Rose a lot and it still doesn't. If that's what
he wants, all power to him. I'm sure not going to get in his way."
"Sickening." Topaz sighed, setting Hollie down on the kitchen floor. "There
you go, trouble. Breakfast is done."
"What do you mean?" Nancy looked surprised.
"How you and Dean can so easily call it a day without anyone getting their
heart ripped to shreds." Topaz looked rueful. "While some of us are still
struggling to get over the last guy."
"You and Cameron are not like Dean and
I." Nancy said sensibly. "Whatever happened to mess up your relationship
with him, Topaz, you are way more in love with him than I ever have been with
Dean and that's a fact. Of course it's going to take longer to get over it.
Just common sense."
"Well, I think it sucks." Sylva admitted. "Dean is a really nice guy and
he noticed you. Not to be offensive or anything, Nance, but you don't exactly
attract millions of guys to your door and you're not big on the whole socialising
thing. Don't you worry about noone else wanting to date you?"
"That's kinda harsh, Syl." Sadie scolded. "Nancy's as capable as any of
us of getting a guy's attention, you know."
"I didn't mean to be nasty." Sylva sounded
impatient. "I'm just making the point that Dean is the only guy she's dated
since Jewel took off - and he's the only guy who wanted to date her, too."
"Syl, if anyone else said that I'd probably
brain them." Nancy looked amused. "But since it's you and you really can't
help seeing the world as one big guy fest, I'll let it go. It might be crazy
to you, you know, but I'm more concerned about my music and Jewel's next
album at the minute. That's always going to be my first priority and if that
puts the guys off, well, it does. I don't need to date to be happy, and I
don't want to pretend to be something I'm not just to have a boyfriend."
"I think that's fair enough." Topaz
reflected. "Okay, people. I'm going to take Hollie upstairs and get her
ready, then we ought to start out for Misfits Music. It's verging on nine
o' clock and we do have work to do."
"Has Cynthia already left?" Sadie asked.
"She left about an hour ago." She agreed.
"They really are working her too hard at the moment. She popped in to say
hi to Hollie but then she was off. It's not good for her."
"She's stronger than your average employee,
though. She'll handle it." Sylva said with a grin. "And you're right about
the time. I guess we'll meet by the front door in half an hour? I have to
do my hair yet, and I haven't begun to think about my make-up."
With that she was gone, with Topaz and Hollie not far behind.
Nancy rolled her eyes.
"Six years on, but same old Syl." She
"I think she was trying to be a concerned
friend, in her own way." Sadie grinned. "But so long as you're okay with
this break up, its not our business to pry."
She paused, then,
"You are okay with it, right? I mean,
this isn't just an act?"
"I'm fine." Nancy nodded. "Honestly, Sadie, I really am. I feel better,
in fact, than I have in a while where that part of my life is concerned. And
that article freaked the heck out of me. I was half afraid that Dean might
be planning to ask me to marry him and I wouldn't have known where I was.
Thankfully we got it all settled and we can stay friends. So yes. Perfectly
She glanced up at the clock.
"I have manuscript to gather and you're still in your dressing gown, so
we'd better motor." She added. "See you downstairs in a few!"
* * *
* * * *
"That'll be five twenty, dude."
Robin fumbled in his pocket for the change to pay the taxi driver, dropping
a handful of coins into the man's outstretched paw.
He turned to face the big black-glass building, pursing his lips as he
took in the front facade of Misfits' Music. In the cold light of day, with
his music folder tucked firmly under his arm, he began to wonder for the
thousandth time whether he had made the right decision. Los Angeles was
as different as could be from the little Arkansas town where he had grown
up, and the superficiality of some of it's residents was already beginning
to pall on him.
"But there are real musicians here too." He reminded himself. "Plus, I've
put my pen to paper now, so I'll see it out. I just hope I don't live to
regret this. God knows I've made enough silly choices already."
As he made his way towards the front entrance, a silver mercedes screeched
onto the forecourt, blaring it's horn as it narrowly missed running him
down. Robin let out a string of expletives, jumping out of the way and turning
to glare at the vehicle as it drew to a stop. The driver's door swung open,
and Robin's annoyance grew as he recognised Sylva.
"What in hell were you doing?" She exclaimed. "You have a death wish?
Walking out in front of me like this wasn't a parking lot?"
"If you know it's a parking lot, you know you shouldn't have been driving
so damn fast." Robin told her acidly, as the other Jewel girls got out of
the car, Topaz with young Hollie hoisted in her arms. She exchanged confused
looks with Sadie, then,
"Should we know you?" She asked the newcomer.
"This is Robin the redneck from Arkansas." Sylva rolled her eyes. "Phyllis
and Jetta's so called new signing."
"Syl, take a chill pill." Nancy grimaced. "Killing new signings in their
first week is not popular with Mom or Aunt Phyl, even if they do walk out
in front of you like they own the place."
She cast Topaz a glance.
"Topaz, you better get Hol settled in the creche. We'll see if Copper's
already here, and meet you in the studio."
"I'm coming to help." Sadie said hurriedly, scooping up Hollie's day bag
and hurrying after her Canadian friend into the building. Both had sensed
a storm brewing, and neither wanted to be a part of any showdown.
Robin cast a glance from Nancy to Sylva, then shook his head slowly.
"It's all right, Nancy." He said, a slight edge to his tones. "One thing
I've learnt since I've been here is that people in California cannot drive."
He turned, going to follow the other Jewels into the building, but Sylva
was too quick for him. She darted across the concrete, grabbing him by the
"What's that supposed to mean?" She demanded.
"If you're really too stupid not to work it out, then you're worse off
than I thought." Carefully Robin pried her fingers off his arm. "I have
work to do."
"Syl, let it go." Nancy came to join her friend, putting a hand on her
shoulder. "Seriously. We have a lot of work to do and I know you when you're
wound up. I want to get something done this morning."
"You think I'm just gonna let him mouth off at me like that?" Sylva bristled.
"Yes, I do." Nancy nodded. "Because you and me, we're going inside."
With that, she took Sylva forcibly by the arm, dragging her past the watching
Robin and into the company lobby.
Once inside, she cast her friend a grimace.
"Nice first impressions you like to make." She observed off-handedly.
"Well he's a greasy creep." Sylva said darkly. "And he should have looked
where he was going. I can't help it if he doesn't know how to look before
he crosses a parking lot."
"That creep did rescue me from a mugging the other night." Nancy
"Maybe he did. It doesn't mean he's a human being." Sylva grimaced. "And
if you come to that, that's probably the exact reason you and Dean are broken
up this morning, thinking about it."
"I beg your pardon?" Nancy stared. "Syl, I'm used to your leaps of faith,
but that one's going some even for you. What the heck has Robin to do with
Dean and me?"
"Well, you said yourself that the guy is cursed." Sylva shrugged her shoulders.
"Look at the facts. You met him and you got mugged. You wouldnt've if you
hadn't been with him. And then you break up with the guy you've been madly
in love with for years...three days after you meet this jerk. You have to
see that there's a weird kind of surrealism there."
"No, I don't." Nancy said firmly. "I don't believe in curses, and neither
"Well, normally I wouldn't." Sylva followed her friend across the tiled
floor to the lift, watching her press the button to call the car to the ground
floor. "But there's something really off about this guy. It's not just the
hair, the clothes or the attitude. It's a general air of...I don't know
what it is. Doom and gloom and eternal damnation. Don't tell me you don't
"I think you've watched one too many Spielberg movies." Nancy said bluntly.
"Sure, he's a bit strange, I'll give you that. But I don't think he's the
Grim Reaper or anything. Besides, Dean and I - that was waiting to happen
for a while."
"But it didn't happen till that article came up." Sylva put her hands on
her hips. "Wouldn't it just be the funniest thing if Robin was in Cali when
that hit the presses?"
"Oh, you're hopeless." Nancy rolled her eyes heavenwards. "Come on. Get
over yourself and your superstitious craziness and let's go focus on some
"The single is down." Sylva objected, as the silver lift doors parted to
admit them. "And ready for release. We don't need all this rehearsal time.
We play it great and we're busy hyping it. It's not like we've still got
all that to do."
"I always like to be prepared." Nancy said quietly. "If Mom and Aunt Phyl
are signing new people, I want us on our toes."
She flexed her fingers.
"Call it the Misfit in me, but I've no mind to be losing our usual slots
to newcomers, however good they are." She added. "So come on!"
As the lift doors closed, Robin stepped out into the lobby, his lips pursed
in a thoughtful frown as he digested the conversation he had just overheard.
"So she thinks I'm cursed, huh?" He muttered. "I wonder which of the sorry
rags this city boasts came up with that one. At least I know one thing -
that's about as far as they'll get if they dig into my background. One thing
about the Gabor woman - she has clout and she can sit on any unpleasant leaks.
I meant it when I said this was a clean slate. From that point of view I
chose the right company - after all the press Starlight Music generated over
Jerrica Pacheco's death, they obviously don't have the same power over the
media. So long as I don't upset Ms Gabor, I won't have to worry about awkward
questions in the press about Sian. And that's just how I want it, too. It's
none of their business and if I am going to make my living this way, I don't
want her to be brought into it."
He cast a lingering glance at the lift, then turned his back on it, pushing
open the door of the stairwell and making his way slowly up the flights
of stairs to one of the smaller studios on the middle floor.
"I just hope ol' Phyllis doesn't throw a freak out about Nancy and that
Dean guy breaking up. If he's such 'good publicity' for Jewel, I can see she'll
be pretty ticked. God, I'm sick already of all this positive hype negative
hype lark. I'm damn well going to do things my way and to hell with the rest
of them. If Nancy wants some musical competition, we'll see what we can give
her. Something that hasn't been cultured by Los Angeles glamour. It's about
time this city got a taste of some real music!"
Prologue: Flashback - Sadie's
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2015
Chapter Two: Enter The Stray
Chapter Three: Flashback - Sadie's
Chapter Four: Nerves
Chapter Five: The Dean Stacey
Chapter Six: Flashback - School
Chapter Seven: Sandra Bray
Chapter Eight: The Dean Problem
Chapter Nine: Cursed
Chapter Ten: Flashback - Stir
Chapter Eleven: Secrets
Chapter Twelve: Robin Vs Nancy
Chapter Thirteen: In The Line Of Duty
Chapter Fourteen: Flashback - Griefstruck
Chapter Fifteen: Aftermath
Chapter Sixteen: Jewel Consult
Chapter Seventeen: Forever Changed