Chapter Ten: Sirena Strikes
"You know, this is the weirdest ever feeling." Copper glanced out of the
window of the music company's biggest recording studio, dreamily watching
the traffic buzzing by. "Even just being here. I spoke to Mama and my brother
and sister on the phone last night and told them the deal but I swear that
it hasn't sunk in for me yet. I'm really here, in a real recording studio,
mere yards away from where Mama and her band cut their albums!"
"We're miles away from any albums yet." Sylva observed, examining her freshly painted nails. "Although it is kinda cool to think Mom played here once."
Nancy rolled her eyes. The morning had already been spent shopping, for Sylva had been determined to find herself a wardrobe to match her new image, and now they had stopped at Misfit Music to turn over ideas about their next plan of action.
"Forget an album, we haven't even got a debut song." she pointed out dryly.
"That's hardly a problem." Sylva shrugged. "Just depends on what kinda debut we wanna do, that's all. Not like it's gonna be hard, we've all got talent, ain't we?"
"Oh brother." Nancy groaned. "Sylva, when did you miss the train to the real world?"
"Your mother said that they thought we ought to settle among ourselves the song and who's singing or playing what, then they'd discuss it with us and tell us whether they thought it'd work out or not." Copper observed. "I kinda wish we had a bit more guidance, though. What if we don't pick the right tune?"
"That part of it is easy." Nancy remarked. "Listen, Mom and Aunt Phyl have been in this business years. Longer even than I've been alive. They know what they're doing. Some managers like to dictate their bands' every move, but in this case, since I'm gonna be the one writing the songs, they just want us to settle things ourselves. It's not like they don't have other stuff to see to, too. I mean, we're not kids, we can handle it." She paused. "Well, some of us can."
Sylva poked her tongue out at her foe.
"So they're just gonna let us stew?" She demanded.
"They're neither of them gonna hold our hands." Nancy looked scornful. "That never got any band anywhere. Their job is to package and promote us to the public. The music is down to us - we have a totally free reign." She shrugged. "They don't often choose to manage a group's career directly these days, they often farm 'em out to one of their other executives. We just got lucky."
"So, what kinda sound are we going for? I mean, what kinda band are we going to be?" Copper demanded.
"We have to have a genre?" Nancy raised an eyebrow. "Gee, how exciting."
"Well, it might help." Sylva shot back, riled already by her foe. "Not all of us are equipped to churn out reams and reams of manuscript, you know!"
"I reckon that, whatever we do, we have to make an impression." Copper put in hastily before her two bandmates could start sparring once more. "There are a lot of good groups out there these days and we have to hold our own, be different. Mama said last night that it was a difficult business to hit it big in. We've had a lucky start, being picked up by pros like Phyllis and Jetta, but we still have a lot of work to do."
"I say that whatever we choose, we start with something catchy and up-tempo." Sylva decided. "Reflective is all very well, but it doesn't grab people's attention in the same way."
"Well, up-tempo appeals to floozies like you." Nanxy put in. "But hey, sure, why not? I guess catchy could work."
"Will you quit calling me shallow?" Sylva looked irritated. "I graduated, you know! I have got a brain!"
Copper glanced up sharply at this, biting her lip.
"Graduating's hardly proof of that." Nancy was scathing. "Any idiot can get a diploma!"
"What's that meant to mean?" Copper asked quietly.
"Huh?" Nancy stared at the other girl.
"Well, there's more to being smart than just a high school diploma, you know."
"Noone said that there wasn't. I was just making the point that I have one." Sylva looked startled. "I coulda gone to college if I'd wanted, but I just didn't choose to. I'm not dumb, you know."
"That's a matter of opinion." Nancy retorted. "Everyone knows that cheerleaders cheat on exams."
"That's not true!" Sylva flared up. "I passed because I studied, okay? My sister and I studied for them together and we both passed. And no, I didn't cheat, any more than you did!"
"I didn't need to cheat." Nancy replied. "I knew I could do the work. You wouldn't ever find me cramming notes. You either know things, or you don't."
"Stop calling me dumb!" Sylva exclaimed. "I'm not dumb, will you get this into your head? I took my finals, I passed them and I didn't even need extra credit to get my diploma! So there!"
"I think you're both dumb." Copper's voice shook, and there was an unmistakeable note of suppressed anger in it. "No, you're worse. You're immature, insensitive and dumb, the pair of you. One of these days you're going to wake up and realise just what the real world is really like."
"Chill out, Copper!" Nancy exclaimed. "No need to bite our heads off!"
"Yeah, that's Nancy's job." Sylva put in. "We weren't even talking to you. And where do you get off calling us immature? You're the one having a temper tantrum!"
"I am not having a tantrum!" Like a wounded animal, Copper struck back, her temper fully aroused. "I'm just pointing out to you children that High School is not the be all and end all of the universe!"
"Noone said it was!" Nancy snapped back. "Get a grip! What's the deal, anyway? Why does it matter so much to you if we talk about diplomas?"
"You weren't talking. You were bitching." Copper bristled. "And you made the insinuation that anyone who doesn't get a diploma is dumb and can't make anything of themselves, which is pure nonsense, if you want the truth! Look at...well, look at your own Aunt Roxy, Nancy. I know she never finished High School, because Mama told me a lot about the Misfits when I was growing up. You saying she's dumb?"
"No, of course not, but she's dyslexic and she didn't learn to read properly till she was in her twenties." Nancy snapped back. "I'm not saying she couldn't have gotten a diploma, either. I just reckon you have to be truly stupid not to!"
"Define stupid." Copper retorted. "Because to me you're the only one whose coming across as stupid! Who cares about a few silly grades? How you cope with life is more important anyway!"
"Copper, what's eating you? Why does this bug you so much? " Sylva demanded. "It's no big deal."
There was a pause, and then the percussionist sighed.
"I don't have a High School Diploma." she said quietly.
Both girls turned to stare at her.
"You...didn't graduate yet?" Sylva looked stunned. "How old are you anyway?"
"Nineteen." Copper twisted her hands together. "But it's not as simple as just not graduating, I swear. I didn't finish senior year...actually, I barely got to start it. I...I dropped out."
"I had cancer." Copper sighed once more. "Hodgkin's Disease. I was sick for quite a while and chemo put me through more...in the end I didn't have much choice. I...I couldn't cope with school and everything else. Something had to give."
"Oh!" Sylva's eyes widened, then, "God, Copper, we didn't mean..."
"It's okay." Copper frowned. "I shouldn't have gone off at you. It's a painful memory...you just revived it some, that's all. And I will get my diploma, I mean to do it anyway. I'm not far off now...really I'm not. I did a lot of work to try and catch up some, juggling night school and summer school with work and stuff...then this music thing happened. But I still mean to do it."
Nancy was silent for a moment. Then,
"I'm sorry." She murmured.
Copper smiled sadly.
"It's okay." She repeated. "Really. I...I was a straight A student before I got sick, so I'm not too worried about getting it eventually."
"My sister always made straight As." Sylva groaned. "I decided to have a social life instead. Only I had to keep my grades up so I could stay on the cheering squad - cheerleaders always got the best prom dates - so I averaged around a B-."
Nancy raised an eyebrow at this, but chose this time to say nothing. Instead she turned her attention back to the manuscript book, flicking through the pages.
"So what are we gonna do?" She asked.
"I dunno." Copper frowned. "I...I'm not really focused on all this now."
"Look, how about Nancy and I take you downtown and buy you lunch to apologise. It's getting late and we still haven't eaten." Sylva, generous as she was impetuous offered. "We could come back to this later or tomorrow, and there's a really great pizza place not far from here."
"Oh! Really, you don't have to do that!" Copper exclaimed.
"We're taking you. Don't argue." Nancy told her abruptly, slipping off her stool and grabbing her bandmate by the arm.
"You shouldn't fight it. For once we're agreed." Sylva dimpled. "C'mon, Copper. It's good pizza, really it is. And we really truly are sorry for being insensitive. Aren't we, Nance?"
"I already said I was." Nancy snapped back. "And don't call me Nance!"
"Aaron does it."
"Aaron's family. I don't even like you."
Copper rolled her eyes.
"Okay, I'm coming." She said. "But only if you two stop bickering. You're giving me a headache!"
"I had no idea you had such a temper." Sylva observed as they boarded the lift. Copper looked rueful.
"I don't lose it often these days." she replied. "But it's always there. Goes with my red hair, Mama reckons."
When they reached the ground floor, they found that an unfamiliar vehicle was parked outside the building, and a strange girl was perched on its bonnet, her arms folded. At the sight of them she stood, sauntering over and eying each one in turn.
"I suppose you girls must be Jewel. I've heard plenty about you." She observed, her tone laconic.
"Well, we don't know or care who you are, so move your car, will you? You're blocking us from getting out." Nancy snapped.
The girl's eyes narrowed.
"My name is Emily-Jayne Raymond...you may call me Sirena." She responded coldly. "And I'm here to warn you that your loser band doesn't stand a chance. Misfit Music is a name of the past, kiddies, and soon you're gonna wish that you never put pen to paper here."
"What do you know about anything?" Sylva demanded. "Misfit Music is one of the biggest music companies in the world!"
"Let's just say that if you listen to the top ten this week you'll soon find out what I know about things." Sirena purred. "My song is already on the market - hey, you gotta be fast in this business! - And selling well, too, thanks to the PR of Rebel Records.. I came to give you some...friendly advice. Don't even try and compete with me."
"You're a nutter." Nancy told her bluntly. "And you don't scare us. Aunt Phyllis knows what she's doing and so does Mom. I don't know what your second-rate music company gave someone like you a contract for, but you're not gonna bother us."
"Oh, so you're Nancy Pelligrini, are you?" Sirena's green eyes sparkled angrily. "Aunt Phyllis, is it? Well, why don't you just ask your Aunt Phyllis if she knew what she was doing twenty years ago!" She grabbed the other girl by the wrist, forcing her up against the steel wall of the building before either of her companions could react. "You listen to me, Nancy Pelligrini. I have more right than you'll ever have to be at Misfit Music, so don't you forget it. You're nothing more than a jumped up kid with an ego problem, and God only knows what your precious aunt sees in you, but don't think for one moment that it's gonna last." She smirked. "You're just a kid...I had thought you'd be older. I guess it'll be easier than I thought to put you and your dumb group in the dumpster where they belong."
"Get off me!" Nancy shook herself free. "And get off Misfit Music property, else I'll get Aunt Phyl down here to remove you herself!"
"Go on then." Sirena folded her arms. "See if I care. She doesn't scare me."
"What's all the noise 'ere?" At that moment Jetta pulled her car into the parking lot, getting out and casting the group a frown. "What's the deal?"
"This weirdo thinks she can scare us with empty threats." Nancy told her. "I can't get her to go."
"You better get off these premises before I call the police on you an' 'ave you arrested." Jetta frowned at Sirena, who shrugged.
"I'm going. I've said my piece." She said airily. She opened her car door, then paused.
"You will tell your business partner that Emily-Jayne Raymond called by, won't you?" She asked sweetly. "I'd hate to disturb her myself."
With that she slipped into her vehicle, pulling out of the parking lot with a screech of tires.
"Emily-Jayne...Raymond?" Jetta's eyes opened wide as she watched the car speed away. "Oh God no..."
"Mom? Something up?" Nancy asked.
"Is something wrong?" Copper sounded concerned.
"No. I think you just 'ad a run in with Rebel Records' latest signin', that's all." Jetta frowned. "Look, what did she say to you girls exactly?"
"That Misfit Music was old news, that she was gonna see that we never made it as big as her...she got all confrontational with Nancy, too." Sylva said. She rolled her eyes. "Creepy girl. Called herself Sirena, or something crazy."
"Well, if you see 'er 'ere again, call security." Jetta said quietly. "I'll see you girls later...I got work to do."
"Something's up with her." Nancy observed, once her mother was out of earshot.
"That weirdo girl is enough to wind anyone up." Sylva pulled a face. "What's her deal, anyway? Jewel haven't even recorded a song or made an appearance yet. What does she care? And what the hell was she talking about? What happened twenty years ago? Nancy?"
"Beats me." Nancy shrugged. "Aunt Phyl doesn't talk much about the past unless she's recounting Misfit days...anything I do know I got from Mom, and it ain't much. Oh, she had a road accident about that long ago...that's when she first met the guy she's living with now. But apart from that...the Misfits were still together till you," She paused, glaring at Sylva, "Caused complications and meant Stormer couldn't record, so it's nothing like that." A thoughtful look crossed her clever face. " Twenty years ago is also when Mom took a major share in the company. Maybe that's it. Aunt Phyl fired her old executive...and I'm sure his name was Raymond...and Mom got his job plus more. You reckon this Sirena girl is that guy's kid and she wants revenge for her old man?"
"Could be." Sylva nodded, ignoring the jibe for once. "Mom told me about Eric Raymond once...said he was a nasty piece of work. Wouldn't surprise me if she was his. Does he run Rebel Records?"
"No. Rory Llewelyn does. Former Stinger and would-be male hearthrob." Nancy rolled her eyes. "I saw some old photos of him once, back when he and the Misfits were doing some kinda show together and he looked like a girl, his hair was all long and blond - all hippyish and curly. God only knew what women saw in him. Far as I know, incidentally, Eric Raymond embezzled from Misfit Music and Aunt Phyl sued him for breach of contract or something - I don't know the details, but he left the USA."
"There was something familiar about that girl, though I can't think what it is." Copper frowned. "Nancy, did she hurt you?"
"No. I've dealt with worse." Nancy said flippantly. "Forget it."
"Well, I say we forget her and go get our pizza." Sylva suggested. "Perhaps it'll inspire us to a song."
"Yeah, one about pepperoni and cheese topping." Copper exclaimed, laughing. Sylva giggled.
"Hell, why not?" She returned. "So long as it sells!"
"Heaven help me." Nancy rolled her eyes. "Are we getting pizza or not?"
"Yeah, yeah." Sylva said dismissively. "Lighten up! In a few weeks time we'll have shown that Sirena witch exactly who has the talent in this business!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Pizzazz, we 'ave to talk."
Jetta swung open the door of her friend's office, a troubled frown marring her clever face.
"Can't it wait?" Phyllis glanced up, an impatient look in her eyes. "It's bad enough that they give you dumb tax returns without having to check each one over too!"
"It can't wait." Jetta shook her head grimly, coming to sit down. "Leave the blessed things, will ya? I'll get Alice or someone to check 'em over for you later. We 'ave a bigger problem to deal with."
"Oh?" Phyllis rested her chin in her hands, looking expectant. "What kind of problem?"
"I just spoke to Emily."
"What?" Phyllis' reaction was immediate. "Emily? My Emily?"
"Yes." Jetta nodded.
"Can't be. It can't have been! You must've made a mistake!" Phyllis shook her head. "You can't have...are you sure? Dammit, Jetta, you can't be serious! My Emily?"
"Pizzazz, it was. She told me, very pointedly, to pass on the message to you that Emily-Jayne Raymond 'ad been 'ere. I guess you were right to be wary of Riot an' what 'e said at the banquet."
"Oh hell no, this can't happen now!" Phyllis exclaimed, brushing her forms off the desk in one sweeping gesture of dismay. "It just can't! What does she want? What am I going to do?"
"Well, I wouldn't advise panickin' as the best course of action." Jetta said dryly.
"You sure that's what she said? Could it be a hoax?"
"I'm certain, Pizzazz. And as for bein' an 'oax, she 'as your eyes."
"Well, that doesn't prove anything. She had blue eyes when I gave her up." Phyllis folded her arms obstinately.
"Pizzazz, most all caucasian babies are born with blue eyes. Aaron an' Nancy both 'ad 'em, and now Aaron's are grey like mine an' Nancy's are brown like Justin's. She was barely a day old when you 'anded 'er over to the foundation - 'er eyes would've gone green later."
"They would?" Pizzazz looked blank. Then she cursed. "Dammit! I went to so much trouble to cover my tracks! How in hell could he have found out? How? And her...do you think she knows?"
"From what she said it sounds very much to me like she does." Jetta nodded darkly. "She was apparently makin' threats to Nancy an' the others, Nancy in particular. I'll tell you now, Pizzazz, if she goes near my daughter again without good reason there'll be trouble. Manhandlin' 'er, she was."
"It's not like I can do anything to stop her harassing Nancy." she snapped. "I don't like this any more than you do, you know. I wish I knew what she was after."
"She's out to cause trouble. For you an' for our girls, is my guess." Jetta responded.
"I always knew the brat hated me." Phyllis buried her head in her hands. "I told you she did when she was born. No wonder she wouldn't shut up crying! Dammit, what am I going to do?"
"I don't think there is anything you can do at the moment." Jetta said finally. "She's playin' cat an' mouse with ya, but so far she's not broadcasted it. Perhaps she'll get bored and drop it."
"Doubt it." Phyllis looked pessimistic. "She's a Gabor, Jetta, and cat and mouse is a Gabor game. We all do it. And I hate being the goddamn mouse! But a Gabor never gives up...not ever. No matter what, we don't give up till we get what we want. Question is, what does she want? Money?"
"If it were that I think she'd be blackmailin' you already." Jetta said sensibly. "As it is she's chosen not to meet you face to face yet. There's somethin' else on her agenda."
"I hate this!" Phyllis exclaimed, grabbing the nearby holepunch and tossing it at the closed door of the office in a fit of rage. "Damn Eric Raymond! Damn him! These days I'd never deny it and get through a court of law, DNA testing is too easy! And the media is everywhere...Jetta, what do I do?"
"Sit an' wait an' see what 'appens." Jetta advised. "At least you 'ave some prior warnin' that she's about, guess 'er ego couldn't resist takin' a dig at your company. But till you know what 'er motives are, there ain't nothin' you can do to stop 'em."
"I suppose you're right." Phyllis sighed. There was a long pause, then,
"What did she look like?"
"Look like?" Jetta looked taken aback. "What do you mean?"
"You said she had my eyes. Does she look like me?"
"No..." Jetta considered. "But more like you than Eric. Why?"
"I dunno." Phyllis shrugged. "Just wondered."
"You care, don't you?" Jetta said softly.
"Who said anything about caring?" Phyllis demanded sharply.
"Me." Jetta replied acidly, folding her arms across her chest. "I know you pretty damn well by now, Phyllis Gabor, an' I wondered the other week jus' exactly what the deal was with you regardin' 'er. I know from me own experience that bein' a mother is a strange thing...an' I remember when Nancy was small, 'ow much you used to fawn over 'er when you thought noone was watchin' you. You woulda spoiled 'er rotten given 'alf a chance...maybe you have done anyway. Do you regret giving Emily up?"
"God knows." Phyllis groaned. "Feelings are sucky things, Jetta, and most of the time I ain't feelin' them. Nancy was different - she ain't my responsibility, and the kid's got a lot of talent, she's a good prospect. But thinking about Emily always messes with my mind. I don't know what to think. She was a screeching brat who was gonna screw up my whole lifestyle, what did you expect me to do?"
"I think you made the right choice." Jetta said quietly. "An' you 'ave to stand by that. You can't take it back."
"I don't want to take it back." Phyllis replied. "Hell, I don't want to play Mom to any kid. I've seen you do it...I've seen you do the weirdest things that I never imagined you'd ever do. I don't want my mind warped into trotting along to some brat's graduation ceremony, or trying not to fall asleep watchin' my son playing quarterback for the high school football team. That just ain't Phyllis Gabor."
"So?" Jetta raised an eyebrow. "What's the deal?"
"Beats me." Phyllis spread her hands. "And I really don't wanna talk about it. I got tax forms..." She paused, registering the mess they were in on the floor. "Well, someone's got tax forms. Get Alice to come see to 'em, will ya? I'm gonna go down town and have a coffee, get a grip and then push Emily outta my head forever. If she's signed to Rebel Records she's the enemy, that's all that I need to know. Right?"
"If that's 'ow you feel." Jetta nodded.
"I don't plan on feeling anything." Phyllis retorted. "I'm still a Misfit, you know."
With that she left the room, the door swinging shut behind her.
Jetta watched her go, a thoughtful look on her face.
"I know you are." She murmured. "I know you are."
PART ONE: STARSTRUCK
Chapter One: Sylvina
Chapter Two: A Budding Genius
Chapter Three: A Well Kept Secret
Chapter Four: Making Waves
Chapter Five: Copper...and Sirena
Chapter Six: City of Angels
Chapter Seven: At Misfit Music
Chapter Eight: Jewel
Chapter Nine: I Want Everything
Chapter Ten: Sirena Strikes
Chapter Eleven: Stagefright
Chapter Twelve: Team Spirit
JEWELFIC MAIN PAGE:
Copper, Nancy, Sylvie, Anna, Blade, Sirena, Topaz, Aaron, Sophie, Justin, Elliot, Rosita, Luis and any other characters in this fiction which do not appear in the animated Jem series are copyrighted to me (E.A Woolley) as of January 2002 <unless otherwise specified> and are not to be reproduced without permission ANYWHERE. Jetta, Pizzazz, Stormer, Roxy, Raya and all other original Jem characters are the copyright of Hasbro Inc, Sunbow, Christy Marx and the other writers of the Jem series.