Hidden Hearts

Chapter Nine:

"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."
She smiled.
"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. "What's sickening?"
"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. Topaz nodded.
"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 observed.
"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 fine."

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 arm.
"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 reminded her.
"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 should you."
"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 see it?"
"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 music, huh?"
"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 Fear
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2015
Chapter Two: Enter The Stray
Chapter Three: Flashback - Sadie's Song
Chapter Four: Nerves
Chapter Five: The Dean Stacey Show
Chapter Six: Flashback - School Concert
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