Chapter Eleven: A Reunion

For a moment, Topaz just stared at her visitor, disbelief and confusion clear on her face. Sylva took her chance to slip away into the safety of her own bedroom, leaving the two Canadians alone, and, as the silence threatened to become opressive, Melissa offered a small smile, pushing the door shut and coming to take a seat.
"Don't be angry with your friends." She said softly. "I put them in an awkward position by asking them to help me."
"Why are you here?" At length, Topaz found her tongue. "I don't understand - why aren't you in Canada? Why was Stephen at the Arena the other day? What's going on?"
"Stephen was where?" Surprise flitted across Melissa's face. "You spoke to him?"
"I told him to get the hell out of my face." Topaz said darkly. "And I'd tell him as much again if he was here right this second, too. I don't know what you want, Mom...but it's been a heck of a long time now. You suddenly turn up after what, practically six years, and expect me to...well, what do you expect? Why are you here?"
Melissa's blue eyes became sad.
"I wanted to see you." She said softly. "And I realised that if I did not come now...maybe I never would see you again."
"I don't understand." Topaz looked confused. "What do you mean?"
"Stephen and I are in Hartford because I was referred here by a specialist in Canada." Melissa said quietly. "My health has not been so good since you left home, and it was hoped that the doctors here could help me. Sadly they cannot...they have simply referred me on elsewhere. I don't know how long I might have to do the things that should have been done years ago."
"Doctors?" Despite herself, fear leapt into Topaz's gaze. "But...what's wrong with you? What kind of doctors?"
"I have cancer." Melissa said simply. Topaz paled, and she muttered a curse under her breath.
"Are you trying to tell me that...that you're not going to get better?" She asked softly. Melissa sighed.
"If I knew the answer to that question, it would help me prepare myself better for the future." She said sadly. "But the truth is that I do not know."
"I don't understand."
"When you left, I was just showing the first signs. I was due to undergo treatment, but I did not want you to know. I wanted to protect you as long as I could." Melissa glanced at her hands. "Then you left, and it upset me badly. We fought, yes, I know we did, and over the last few years I haven't done much else but think about how I must have been to blame for it, but try as we might we could not find you. We even hired a private investigator, but I was not well, and most of our energy had to go into fighting for my life. The treatment worked, initially - and I was in remission. But six months ago the cancer returned with a vengeance, and the injections that they gave me to control it before are no longer effective. The only option I have is a difficult operation, but finding someone willing to carry it out is proving very hard. The risks are very high and it is a relatively new procedure - removing the cancer by freezing the tumours and stopping their development. I have been told that if the operation were to be a success, it could add ten or maybe more years to my life. But if it fails..." She shrugged. "I may not survive the aftershock of the surgery. I am not strong, and few surgeons wish to take the chance."
Topaz bit her lip, cursing again. Tears began to form in her eyes as she surveyed her mother, noting for the first time that lady's fragile appearance, and tired eyes. She shook her head.
"You can't die." She whispered. "It's not fair. Why won't they operate? If it's your only chance, why won't they?"
"Few surgeons want to undertake such a difficult procedure with such a poor prognosis. I can understand that." Melissa said matter-of-factly. "It was hoped that the surgeon here in Hartford could do it, but he has reviewed my case and said that he cannot. He has referred me to my last hope - a pioneering surgeon in California who helped to develop the technology. If he refuses me...then that is the end of the road. It is a long journey from here to California, and I am already tired, but Stephen and I cannot afford to waste time."
She held out a frail hand to her daughter.
"So now you see why I put your friends in an awkward position. You must not be angry with them for doing it, cherie."
"They knew about this?" Topaz was incredulous.
"We spoke to two of them yesterday morning, in a coffee house in town." Melissa agreed. "Sylvina was one of them, though I forget the other's name. It comforted me to see you had such loyal and caring friends to take care of you. I have often worried what became of my little girl. I read the presses and I knew you had got your dream of becoming a singer, but I worried about the other things that go along with it."
"I'm not the same girl as I was when I left home." Topaz admitted. "I...I've learnt a few things of my own, and grown up, I guess. I've had to. You see, Mom...I...I'm not alone these days. There is...there's Hollie. daughter."
Melissa's eyes became big with surprise, and she muttered something in French.
"So it is true!" She murmured. "I heard the rumours, but I did not dare believe..."
"It's true." Topaz nodded. "She's sixteen months old and the most wonderful little kid I could ever have hoped for. But it's taught me things...from your side. It would kill me if I thought that Hollie would grow up to fight with me the same way you and I fought over Stephen." She looked ashamed. "And even if I didn't like him, I should have realised that you had the right to be happy and have someone to care about you. That's something else I've learnt. Hollie's father and I are good friends, and in all truth I love him with all my heart, but we've had so many problems with trying to make a relationship work that I honestly don't know where it will leave me. I realise that it's hard to just accept that I'm a single mother and that's that till Hollie goes to college, or wherever. I guess I can see how lonely you must have been, with only me for company."
"It was lonely, but you always made me smile." Melissa touched her daughter's cheek. "And you have become quite the beauty, too. But I always knew you would be beautiful."
Topaz glanced down.
"I feel like I should have come back sooner." She admitted. "I didn't know, Mom...if I'd known you were sick, I wouldn't have...there wouldn't have been a scene. I might have been a brat but I...I wouldn't have done anything to hurt you. Not knowingly."
"I know that." Melissa said softly. "And I was wrong to impose Stephen and Stephen's rules on you without consulting you first. After you disappeared, your stepbrother admitted to making your life miserable at every opportunity, and it only made me feel more wretched. I had spoiled you for sixteen years, then left someone else to tame you for two...and lost you as a result."
"I should have come back, though." Topaz shook her head. "I was too proud. I refused to come - I guess I wanted you to come after me, but the fight was both of us, not just you and not just me. If Syl and the others hadn't intervened, I might never have had the chance to say that."
She closed her eyes briefly, as the tears threatened to fall once more. "I guess....I guess I'm trying to say I'm sorry."
"I think we both have much to regret and things to forgive, but there is no point in dwelling on what can't be changed." Melissa said gently. "When I knew you were in Hartford at the same time as us I felt it was an omen -that at last I would be able to see you, face to face, and speak to you -tell you everything I wanted you to know. But now we're here, all I want to do is hug you. I have missed you so very much, cherie."
"I've missed you too." Impulsively Topaz hugged her companion. "More than you know. Having Hollie, and not having a Mom to go to for's been difficult. I guess I felt like I couldn't give her family in Canada the way that Cameron can give her family in England. I felt like I'd let her down that way."
She held her mother at arm's length. "But did you say you were going to California?"
"Yes. A hospital in San Diego." Melissa nodded. "We must leave this weekend, and will probably break the journey in a couple of places, since I cannot do long flights at present. They make me very tired and sick. I will see the surgeon a week on Friday, and he will tell me what can be done - if anything can."
"I see." Topaz swallowed hard. "Then in that case, I will make sure that I don't make the same mistake as I did six years ago, and walk out on you when you need me. San Diego is an easy drive from Los Angeles and one I'll be doing ever more often when Cameron sets up home there in the fall. I'll come see you as often as I can - and bring Hollie with me, too. More than anything I've wanted to show her off to you...I know you will love her."
"Nothing would make me more happy." Despite herself, Melissa's tired eyes sparkled. "I have often wondered if it was true that I was a grandmother, and whether I would ever know for sure. Now I know...and I would like so very much to meet my daughter's little girl."
She paused. "I know you are angry at Stephen, and I suppose that I cannot hold it against you." She said. "But it is important to me to have both of you at the moment, if I can. He might have upset you, Rora, but he loves me and has stuck by me through everything. He even quit his job to care for me full time. It hasn't been easy on him, and I know he worries about being left alone. We are neither of us old, and he understands as well as I do how desperate my situation is." She squeezed her daughter's hand. "Can you forgive him? I know he has forgiven you, for I have made sure of it. And if he came to the arena to speak to you, he did it for me."
"I realise that now." Topaz agreed soberly. "Things have changed, Mom. I'm not a teenager living under your roof or his rules any more. I'm an adult, a mother in my own right, with a job and a home - I'm self-sufficient and independant. There's nothing for me to stay angry about. I...I was angry the other day because he'd taken you away from me, but now...well, he's been as instrumental in trying to track me down to reunite us, so I guess I have to forgive him. After all, he could have left it till was too late."
Melissa smiled, shaking her head.
"I don't think he would." She replied. "Not knowing how much you mean to me. You are the only piece of your father I have left, cherie, and the only child that I have ever had. You are the most important person in my life - and you always were, whether Stephen was there or not. I only wanted you to listen to him because I was afraid of how wild I'd let you become - I did not want you to put yourself into danger."
"Well, you can rest assured that I'm safe and happy in LA." Topaz told her quietly. Melissa nodded.
"I am glad of it." She admitted. "To know for sure."
She paused, then,
"There is one other thing that we must settle - discuss properly, before we reach a time when maybe we will not be able to discuss it any longer." She said.
"What do you mean?" Topaz looked surprised.
"Your father's money. Your legacy." Melissa responded. "Tied up in trust for you. You should have had it when you were twenty one, but I did not know how to reach you."
"I'd forgotten about father's money." Topaz admitted. "I guess he was never anything more than a photo and a name to me."
"True, but he would have loved you as much as I do." Melissa responded. "He was very excited that he was to be a father. We settled on Aurora for your name because it was his family's hometown and because it meant such a beautiful thing - dawn, a new start, a new beginning. He would want you to have it, I know that. If not for you, then for little Hollie?"
"I've been meaning to set aside some money for her as it is." Topaz agreed. "For a college fund or wedding or something special in her future. It's always as well to be prepared - at least, that's what I figured. If you don't mind, then that's what I'll do with Dad's money. Hollie will benefit from it more than me in that sense, and it'll be like something her grandfather did for her, even though she never got to meet him."
"Yes, he would approve of that." Melissa nodded. "And I will speak to my lawyers, tell them how to proceed." She paused, then, "Or if I am unable, Stephen will be my executor and he will see to it that things are arranged that way. He has already given me his word that he will settle your money with you however you should see fit."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that." Topaz's voice shook. "I don't want to find you just to lose you again - and forever. You have to be positive, and believe you will get better."
"I try and believe it, and I pray to God to keep that belief inside of me every day." Melissa said softly. "But I must also be pragmatic and realise there is a chance I will not survive. That being so, I wish all my affairs to be in order. But yes, cherie. I do my best to keep faith." She eyed her daughter affectionately. "And finding you is something very special. Maybe it is time my luck changed. Perhaps California will prove to be a good omen too."
"I hope so." Topaz murmured. "But whatever happens, this time we're not going to lose contact with each other. I promise I'll be on tap when you need me...for as long as you do. However...however long that might prove to be."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

It was quiet.
A faint breeze whispered through the trees, teasing at the green leaves that cast a speckled shadow onto the ground below. For a moment, Stefana just paused in the entrance, absorbing the solitude and quiet. Then, a resolute expression on her face, she made her way slowly through the rows of marble and stone, pausing as she reached the end of the row, and then, rather self-consciously, dropping to her knees in front of it, laying her precious burden on the grassy mound.
"Hello, Dad." She whispered. "It's been a long time."
She ran her fingers over the marble slab, reading over the inscription with uncharacteristic tenderness.
"Here lies Giani Antonio Ranieri, loving husband and father, taken from this life June 15th, 2006, aged 44 years, to rest with the angels." She read the words aloud, glancing down at the flowers she had brought, and very carefully removing the dead stems from the memorial holder, replacing them with the fresh ones. "I bet you thought I'd forgotten you, running the high life in California, being a star and all of that. I know I don't come see you so often any more, but I haven't forgotten you, I promise. I haven't much time today, but I wanted to come by and see you. Just so you know that I still think about you, even though it's been such a long time."
She glanced briefly at the dead stems. "I suppose Mom brought those? I didn't realise she still came here. Maybe she does love you - I don't know. She's hard to figure out. But Dad, I'm done with her and with blaming her and worrying about what she thinks or does. You always said I was your princess, and that I would do great things. Well, I'm out to prove it. Tonight Diablo are playing live here in Hartford to a sell-out crowd and I'm going to give it everything I have, for you. I know you were always proud of me before. I'm gonna make you proud of me again...wherever you are."
An incredulous voice startled her and she swung around, surprise becoming anger and suspicion as she registered her companion.
"What are you doing here, Copper? Stalking me now?" She demanded, moving as if to shield the grave from view. "This isn't a public right of way, you know...and I don't need your company."
"I took a short cut to meet Aaron for lunch. It seemed so peaceful and I didn't want Phyllis to see me sneaking about." Copper admitted. "I didn't realise you - or anyone - was here." Her expression softened. "Someone you know lies here?"
"My father. Not that it's your business." Stefana said coldly. "If it's all the same to you, I want to be alone."
Copper frowned, making to leave, then,
"I've misjudged you." She said at length. "We all have. All of us except Aaron. We all thought you were this cold hearted bitch who didn't give a damn about anyone but yourself...but it isn't true, is it? We just don't understand you."
"I'm not one of your nice, soft, wimpy little friends. I have my secrets and I like my privacy." Stefana folded her arms. "I don't care what you think of me, either, so you do me no favours telling me you've changed your mind. You already won the battle...leave me alone and go gloat over it somewhere else?"
"I'm not gloating." Copper shook her head. She came to stand beside her foe, glancing at the carefully arranged flowers, then, "Do you come here a lot?"
"It's hard, living in LA." Stefana snapped. Copper nodded.
"I know how you feel. When I was in Detroit I used to visit the memorial gardens a lot - that's where we scattered my father's ashes." She said. "But living on the West Coast means I don't get to go there very often now. I only hope he understands."
Stefana shot her companion a startled look.
"Aaron mentioned once that your Dad was dead. I'd forgotten."
"Well, we have something in common." Copper said gently. "Yes. He died when I was fifteen of a brain tumour. I miss him a lot. We were very close." She paused, then, "Were you and your Dad close?"
"Yes." Stefana's voice trembled. "Very." She swallowed hard. "He had a heart condition - he died suddenly when I was fourteen. Then there was only Luca - Mom and I don't get on."
"It must have been hard."
"I survived." Stefana got to grips with herself. "I'm tougher than that."
She glanced back at the grave.
"When I lived here, I came every weekend to put fresh flowers here." She said absently. "I never told anyone what I was doing, or where I was going - only Luca, because sometimes he'd come with me. It was a way of keeping him with us, somehow. Someone to come and talk to when things were difficult at home."
She shook herself out of her reverie, glaring at her companion. "Not that it's anything to do with you. Why are you still here, anyway? I thought I told you that I wanted to be alone."
"Aaron said that you'd told him you wanted to leave Jewel alone now." Copper ignored the unwelcome tone in the guitarist's voice. "And we were worried this tour, but you've done exactly as he said you would. So I'm sorry for thinking the worst. I wondered if this meant that, well, we had a sort of truce between us now. That you weren't going to bother us any more, and we weren't going to need to worry about you."
"I have plenty of reasons to hate Jewel." Stefana narrowed her eyes. "Starting with the fact you married the one guy on the planet aside from my brother who treats me with any respect or affection. Don't expect me to suddenly be your best friend, because it won't happen. I might have done with you for now - but it's on my terms, and I decide what I'm going to do and when. Right now I'm focused on Diablo, and on tonight's performance. This is my hometown. I intend to blow the audience away."
Copper eyed her thoughtfully, then she nodded.
"That's the best way for our rivalry to be. Through our music." She said gravely. "None of us hate Diablo or want you to fail. If you guys perform out of your skin and so do we, it keeps the public happy and it means we're all making the most of what we can do." She hesitated, then, "I am sorry in a way about Aaron, Stefana. I know it sounds lame, but I am. I didn't really believe you had feelings for him, but when you didn't ruin our wedding, I knew that you did. I don't know whether, in your place, I could have been as brave as you, to stand back and let it happen because you knew it was what was right for him."
Stefana looked taken aback. Then a slight smile touched her lips.
"Aaron is different." She acknowledged. "But doesn't it bother you, him being my friend?"
"Why should it? I trust him." Copper shook her head. "Besides, I think maybe he knows you a lot better than the rest of us ever realised, and everyone needs friends." She shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe one day Jewel and Diablo will be friends."
She grinned, winking at her confused companion, then heading off across the cemetary.
Stefana stared after her, a bewildered frown on her face.
"So what was that about?" She wondered aloud. "Strange bitch. Oh well. Maybe she is right. Maybe it is time to let the music do the talking, instead of secret plots and that Gabor woman's money. Diablo are every cent as good as Jewel are, regardless of what funds are behind them. It's time we went out and proved it, and tonight is a great place to start."
She got to her feet, brushing the earth and grass from her knees, and casting a soft smile at the marble stone.
"Bye, Dad." She whispered. "I'll tell Luca I came here, and that I know you're behind us both tonight. Diablo are gonna have the concert of their careers!"


Chapter One: Jewel At Work
Chapter Two: Jetta's Visitor
Chapter Three: A Surprise For Topaz
Chapter Four: Farah
Chapter Five: Jewel's Rehearsal
Chapter Six: An Unwelcome Encounter
Chapter Seven: A Secret
Chapter Eight: A Call For Help
Chapter Nine: The Real Stefana
Chapter Ten: Machinations
Chapter Eleven: A Reunion

Chapter Twelve: After The Show

Copper, Nancy, Sylva, Anna, Blade, Raesha, 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. The future world of Pizzazz, Raya, Jetta, Roxy, Stormer, Clash, Synergy, the fate of Jem and her memorial are all copyrighted to me. The future world of Kimber and Shana is copyrighted jointly to myself and Gemma Dawn.
The concept of 'Jewel' is entirely my own, and any apparent link with any fictional or actual person or persons of this name is entirely coincidental. Equally the characters in this fiction are not based on any real life individual.
The concept behind the future world of Danse, Aja and Craig, the idea behind Jerrica's futureworld and the split of the Holograms is copyrighted to Gemma Dawn, whose Teenangel Outsiders fiction is directly twinned with Just a Dream. The character Sammi and any of the other Teenangel Outsider characters mentioned in this fiction are entirely copyright to Gemma Dawn and appear here only with her permission.
Pay her page a visit!