They were nearly there.
Stifling a yawn, the auburn haired lady glanced out of the window of the taxi, biting her lip as she contemplated how best to tackle the situation that she found herself in. It had been some years, she reflected, since she had seen her old friend, but even so she knew that secrets had been kept from her, and it hurt her to realise it.
"It ain't as though this is some little thing, either." She murmured, watching the Los Angeles scenery skim by, her green eyes taking in the landscape without recognising anything. "This is a bloody big thing, an' she kept it from me."
"Misfits Music, ma'am." The driver put in gruffly at that point, jerking her out of her reverie as he swung the car to a stop with a screech, pulling up outside a big black fronted building. "That'll be seven eighty."
"Oh! Here." The lady reached in her pocket for her purse, pulling it out and staring for a moment at the unfamiliar currency before producing a ten dollar bill. "Keep the change...it's fine, really. Can you 'elp me grab me case out of the back?"
"Sure can, lady, but you can't stop the night here." The driver eyed his charge gravely. She was so obviously not a local, and he half wondered what her errand was in this busy, bustling city. For the whole journey she had sat in silence, rigid with tension, staring out at the scenery. Now she was at one of Los Angeles' most prestigious businesses, wanting to lug her case around as if it was a hotel.
"I know that." The woman glanced up at the imposing building. "But I 'ave a friend who works 'ere."
"Well, whatever you say." The driver shrugged, heaving his bulk out of the front seat and hauling her case from the back of the car. "Have a nice visit, okay?"
"Thank you." A faint smile touched her face. "I hope I will."
She grabbed the handle of her case, lifting it resolutely and heading into the lobby. As she had imagined, it was bustling with people, most of whom seemed to be on an errand and few of whom took any notice of her. She pursed her lips, considering her options. Finally, she moved across to the nearby security desk, dumping her case on the floor and sending the guard on duty a wan smile.
"I'm lookin' for Sh...for Jetta Pelligrini." She said quietly. "Is it possible for me to see her?"
"Ms Pelligrini is very busy." The guard eyed her suspiciously for a moment, then, "Why do you want to see her? Do you have an appointment? If so I have to see your security clearance..."
"I don't 'ave any clearance. That's why I came to you." Tired from her trip, the frustration began to edge into her tone. "She doesn't know I'm 'ere, which is why I'd like to speak to 'er. It's important. Very important. More important than tax forms or any other administrative business."
The guard eyed her once more, then, "Can I see some ID?" He asked.
"Of course." The woman reached into her handbag, pulling out her passport and pushing it across the desk. "If it will 'elp."
"Laura Milligan." The guard's eyes narrowed. "I don't know the name."
"You wouldn't." Laura snapped back. "Look, will you 'elp me or won't you? I've come a long way an' I'm tired. I don't want to play games an' I ain't 'ere to cause trouble. All I want is to..."
A voice interrupted her tirade, and the Englishwoman turned at the sound of her name, meeting the incredulous gaze of Misfit Music's chief executive. Relief mingled with anger flooded through her.
"You know this woman, Ms Pelligrini?" The guard asked, returning Laura's passport. Jetta nodded.
"Yes." She said, her expression still one of disbelief. "Though this is the last place on the planet I ever thought to see 'er."
She bit her lip. "Laura, why are you here? Why didn't you tell me you were comin'? When did you fly out? What..."
"Not 'ere." Laura held up her hands, shaking her head. "First, I'm looking for a place to crash. It cost a fair bomb to get me flight out, an' I suppose I 'ave enough for a cheap motel if I look, but when you came to England for Flo's funeral you stopped at our place. I'd like to ask you to return the favour."
"Of course." Jetta nodded. "But I don't understand. You could 'ave told me you were coming!"
Laura's expression became grim.
"So you could avoid answerin'?" She asked quietly. "No."
Jetta looked confused, then,
"I'm 'eadin' home." She began. "Justin isn't in Los Angeles till tomorrow, 'e is workin' out of state. You got a cab waitin' or what?"
"I paid him. He's gone."
"Then we'll take my car." Jetta was beginning to recover her senses, and she grabbed her friend by the arm. "Come on. Get your case. It's a bloody long way from London an' whilst I've no idea why you're looking at me like you want to bloody murder me, the front lobby aint' the best place to catch up."
Laura did not respond, merely scooping up her case and following her old friend out to the parking lot. Once there, she allowed her companion to safely stow the case in the vehicle's boot, then she wheeled on her friend, fury sparking in her green eyes.
"An' now we're alone." She said darkly. "When exactly were you goin' to tell me that I were a grandmother?"
* * * * * * * * *
"It's sounding good."
Clayton Blake twirled his drumsticks contemplatively, casting his bandmates a grin. "We've cracked it, guys. This one is going to be ready for Connecticut and we've days to spare."
"I dunno, it's seemed a lot easier of late to get these tracks together quicker." Marissa Young, the group's keyboardist decided. "Don't you think?"
"We've worked hard, that's all." Luca Ranieri fingered a couple of experimental chords, then, "And Rory didn't give us a whole lot of choice. He told us we were playing it on the East Coast, so we are. That's that."
"Yeah, what gives with that, anyway?" Madeleine Dacourt, Diablo's singer put her hands on her hips. "I was under the impression that Rory had become more manageable of late. I know you had that spat with him over Stef's contract - or whatever it was. Has something changed?"
"Sort of." Luca's expression darkened. "Let's just say that Mr Llewelyn is as slippery as an eel and he knows how to cover his back. Even if it means using threats to get himself there."
"What did he do now?" Madeleine stared.
"It's because of me." Stefana, who had been silent up till then spoke up. She grimaced, then, "He found out that I was using speed. He threatened to leak it to the press if Diablo didn't toe the line."
"Ugh, that's typical." Clay rolled his eyes. "I swear the guy has spies everywhere as it is."
"For sure." Stefana said darkly. "I don't know how he sprung me, because he never knew while I was taking them. Only once I had stopped. He must have had my dealer bribed or something...I don't know." She rubbed her temples. "As if it isn't hard enough keeping him off my back and keeping things out of my system, without Rory adding pressure on the top of it all."
"Our trip is coming up, though." Marissa said softly, coming to slip a supportive arm around her friend's shoulders. "I know you're not sure about going back to Hartford, but it's not all bad stuff there, you know. Mom's there - and she'll be happy to see us, you know that. It might be nice to go home for a while, too. You don't have to see your Mom, and there are a lot of old shopping haunts we can visit."
"We could, if I had any money to spend there." Stefana agreed morosely. "Oh, I dunno. It'll probably be okay."
She adjusted her guitar strap. "And the less thinking about it I do, the better." She added. "So are we going to play again?"
"No, we're not." Luca shook his head. "We've peaked that track and if we keep on at it it'll be tired and old before we play it on the east coast. We're a Connecticut band, whatever our Californian ties, and we have to show the hometown folk what we can do." His gaze fell on his sister, and his expression softened. "Besides, Stef, you can't work yourself to death trying to avoid things. We're all grateful for the hours you've put in since...well, over the last couple of weeks, but you're not really well yet, and we don't want you to overdo it. You're pretty important for our tour, and..."
"And if I'm going to be ready for it, I have to play." Stefana said simply. "Besides, Rory might be a jerk but I'm not giving him an excuse to keep his threat and make it a reality. I'm not having the world know what I've got mixed up in - I'm just not!"
"Luca's right, you know." Madeleine set down her microphone. "You're pale, you've shadows under your eyes and you're still not eating right. If you keep working yourself at this rate your body will just give up the ghost on you. The last thing we need is to go away and have you collapse on stage."
Stefana did not reply, but a mutinous look touched her expression, and Marissa sighed.
"Fussing over her isn't going to help." She said practically. "But if it's any consolation, it's almost dinner time and even if you folk don't have set mealtimes, I can't skip mine. Otherwise it won't be Stef who passes out, it will be me."
She glanced at her watch. "I vote we call it a night and head off somewhere flashy for something to eat. I can do my insulin here, and I don't fancy going home to cook. We can go dutch."
"Red Rock gets my vote." Clay slipped his sticks into his stick bag. "And we can come back to the song tomorrow, when we're fresh."
"Okay, sounds like a plan to me." Luca grinned. "Well, Stef? Red Rock suit you for dinner?"
"I suppose so." Stefana shrugged, putting her hand in her pocket and pulling out a handful of change. "So long as my meal doesn't cost any more than four dollars sixty one cents, I'm cool."
"Well, if it does, we'll make up the difference. Call it rehabilitation." Madeleine sent her bandmate a grin. "Besides, they've got this gorgeous new dessert that I'm dying to try out. It's all chocolate and ice cream and probably about a thousand calories, but since I'll be working them off on stage next week, I'm game for it."
"Chocolate ice cream?" Stefana's expression lightened at this. "Hrm. Okay. I suppose I do have to eat and I suppose we have done the song to death."
She yawned, stretching. "Who's driving?"
"Not you, if you're gonna fall asleep." Clay said dryly. "I'll drive, if noone else wants to. Come on, let's shoot out of here before Rory comes down and demands we stay till midnight."
"If he wants to live to see tomorrow, he'd better stay in his office." Stefana said grimly. "I see enough of the jerk as it is. I am not working over hours as well!"
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
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
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!