Chapter Three: A Surprise for Topaz
"I swear Phyllis wasn't kidding when she meant she wanted us to get back
in shape for this trip."
Sadie dropped down onto the sofa with an exausted sigh, stretching out
across the soft fabric and closing her eyes. "We've been at it since seven
this morning and now it's half eight at night. She barely let us have half
an hour for lunch!"
"We do leave in a few days, though." Topaz pointed out. "True, today's
session was manic, but it could have been worse. She might have kept us all
"Don't give her the idea." Nancy begged. "I know Aunt Phyl. She'd act
"No thanks." She said fervently. "Though if we're gonna upstage Diablo
in Hartford, we need to be on our game."
"We don't do upstaging. We leave that to them." Nancy shook her head.
"We were here first, remember?"
"But Hartford is where Diablo came from." Sadie said softly. "Connecticut
is their home state, and I think Hartford is their hometown, too. At least
for Stefana and Luca."
"How do you know that?" Sylva looked startled. Sadie blushed.
"I must have read it in one of the magazines." She said vaguely. "But
nevertheless I think it's true."
Sadie is correct." The girls turned to see Cynthia in the doorway, Hollie
hoisted up in her arms. "Diablo are indeed from Hartford, Connecticut. There
was an interview with Luca Ranieri on KBST this morning that I happened to
tune into while I was working on the preparations for the new network."
"Think it will be a problem?" Topaz looked doubtful. Nancy shook her head.
"No." She replied. "It's nothing to do with home turf. We just have to
play our sets better. That's all."
"I suppose so." Topaz agreed. Carefully she took her daughter from Cynthia's
careful grasp. "Thanks for watching her this evening, by the way. Creche
closes at seven, so I don't know what I'd do without you around the house."
"I always finish work at or before seven, whatever is happening." Cynthia's
violet eyes twinkled. "I would not swap my second job as Baby Jewel's sitter
for the world, as you well know."
"One day she'll get to asking how you produce all those magic pictures
of yours, you know." Sadie said lazily. "She'll want to know what the big
"And when that day comes, I will explain to her why I am a very special
kind of babysitter." Cynthia said matter-of-factly. "I enjoy her company
- she teaches me much about a type of human being I had had little or no
contact with before she was born."
"It's still kind of weird not having Copper here in the evening like this."
Sadie reflected. "Don't you guys think? Even more since we saw her all day,
but she got into her car and drove off to her and Aaron's place, instead
of driving back here with us."
"It will take some getting used to, but I'm happy for her." Sylva shrugged.
"Aaron's a pretty cute catch and they're made for each other." She grinned.
"Whatever that Stefana bitch thinks about it. Even if she'd held the priest
hostage, she wouldn't have prevented this wedding."
"Obviously she realised it, because she didn't try." Nancy said wryly.
Sadie looked troubled.
"Please tell me this isn't going to carry on into Connecticut?" She said
"What?" Sylva sounded surprised. "What do you mean, Sadie?"
"This Stefana bitching."
"Well, she is a bitch!"
"Maybe, maybe not. But it's not good, either way. We're Jewel - like Nancy
said, it's about us performing better. We don't need to snipe about the competition.
Besides..." She sighed. "I don't know. I just think we can do without the
confrontation, that's all."
Cynthia eyed the British Jewel thoughtfully, then,
"Perhaps Sadie is right." She said at length. "I have no love of Stefana,
but it makes no sense to provoke her temper or her wild behaviour. Jewel
will have enough to do in Hartford without worrying about Diablo. Ms Gabor
will see to that. I advise you keep away from any potential arguments with
them. It can not do Jewel's image any good to be seen fighting."
Before anyone could answer her, there was a knock at the door, and Sadie
groaned, rolling her eyes.
"What now? If that's Phyllis..."
"She'd phone. She doesn't do house calls." Nancy shook her head, getting
to her feet. "I'll get it, since noone else seems inspired to get up. It
might be Copper, or Zoe, or Gaynor or someone, anyhow. Or some bozo selling
"If it's the latter, give him a flea in his ear and send him away." Sadie
instructed her. "It's too late for salesmen!"
Nancy grinned at her friend, then headed out into the hall, turning the
key in the lock and pulling the big front door open. She stopped dead, staring
at the woman who stood on the doorstep.
"Aunt Laura?" She asked, her eyes big with shock. "What in hell are you
"Nancy!" Laura eyed the dark-haired girl with some interest. "You know,
you look more and more like your mother every time I see you. May I come
"Uh...sure, I guess so." Nancy gathered her scattered wits, standing aside
to let the visitor pass. "But why are you here? What...?"
"Surely you don't need to ask me that?" Laura's expression became reproachful.
"I came to speak to Aurora. Is she home?"
"Aurora?" Now comprehension flooded Nancy's gaze. "Oh, of course...Cameron
"Yes, he told me everything." Laura nodded. "And that's why I'm in California."
"Topaz is in the front room. So is Hollie." Nancy paused, then, "If Cameron
told you everything, then it must be okay for you to be here. I mean...you
aren't here to yell, are you? It's just..."
"No, not to yell. Just to see my granddaughter." Laura assured her. "I
did most of my yelling already - at Cameron and your mother. But she said
she thought you'd all be home tonight."
"She was right." Nancy acknowledged, leading the way to the lounge and
pushing open the door. "Guys, we have a long distance guest - and Topaz,
she's here to see you specifically!"
"A long distance guest?" Topaz looked startled. Then, as Laura followed
Nancy into the lounge, she let out a gasp. "Laura!"
"Hello, Aurora." Laura offered Topaz a smile, then her gaze fell on the
singer's precious burden, and her green eyes softened.
"The spit of Cameron." she murmured. "Oh my..."
"Guys, I think maybe Topaz and Aunt Laura need some time together." Nancy
said quietly. "I vote we go up to my room and see if we can find a decent
DVD to watch. This isn't to do with us."
"If we're looking for a DVD, we're not looking in your room. You have
no sense of romance." Sylva said, but she was quickly on her feet, and,
before long, Topaz was left alone with her daughter and her visitor. She
eyed Laura cautiously, biting her lip. At length she spoke.
"Are you very angry with me?" She asked trepidantly. "I can understand
why you would be. After all, I lied as much to you as I did to Cameron. But..."
"Sheila explained to me a bit about why you chose not to tell us." Laura
settled herself on the sofa, her gaze never leaving Hollie's face. The infant
put her fingers in her mouth, chewing on them absently as she studied the
newcomer with every bit as much interest. "And I didn't come 'ere to yell
at you. You ain't my daughter. Your choices ain't my responsibility. But...but
I wanted to see my granddaughter. As soon as I knew about 'er, Aurora. I
'ad to find some way of coming out 'ere. It never in a million years occured
to me that my first grandkid would be born a whole continent away, where I
wouldn't see 'er grow up..." She paused, then, "But then, I suppose I always
knew that Cameron was drawn to you like 'e never 'as been to any other girl.
I suppose I knew somewhere inside of me that 'e would wind up comin' out 'ere
in the end. I just didn't expect this. Not...well, so soon."
"That was really down to me. Not Cameron." Topaz looked rueful. "I mean,
I made a mistake counting days. I thought I was safe when I wasn't...and
Hollie was the result." She hugged her daughter tightly. "Though she's a result
I could never regret. I love her very much, Laura. I promise. She's well
taken care of, and happy...and Cameron will see plenty of her when he comes
out here. We've already discussed it."
"I got that impression." Laura nodded. "But I didn't really come for that
reason. It struck me that if I didn't come, I might not see the girl until
she was grown up, and I'd like 'er to at least know she 'as family in England
who think of 'er an' who are more than just, well, names on a postcard."
"I'm glad you feel that way." She said softly, relief touching her blue
eyes. "Because there's nothing I'd like more than for Hollie to be a part
of the Milligan family. I have...well, no real family of my own to speak
of, and I don't want her to feel that she's alone in the world. I know Cameron
has a brother and sisters, and he has you and Keith behind him, also. I'd
love Hollie to be part of that - somewhere to visit when we're in England,
and somewhere to call a second home."
"That goes without saying." Laura agreed. "May I hold her? Or will she
"I've never yet seen her get upset by meeting someone new." Topaz stood,
setting the little girl down on her feet and Hollie made a bee-line for the
sofa in order to further explore this unfamiliar face. Deciding that Laura
was a friend, she offered a big grin, clambering up onto the cushions next
to her. Laura bit her lip.
"Hi there, kid." She said quietly. "You don't know me yet, but I'd like
us to be friends, because I'm your grandma, an' even if you don't know what
that is yet, I promise to make sure that you remember me."
"Hollie, say hello to your nana." Topaz instructed gently. Hollie raised
big aqua-green eyes to her grandmother, then,
"Hello nana." She said obediently, holding out a tiny fist. Grinning,
Laura shook the baby's hand.
"There." She said. "Now you do know me, right?"
"Sheila said she was sixteen months, and born at Christmas." With some
difficulty Laura turned her attention back to Topaz. "Is that right?"
"Yes...more or less." Topaz nodded. "She was born at four minutes past
midnight on Christmas Day, 2013. She's almost one and a half now."
"A real Christmas present, then." Laura's eyes twinkled. Topaz grinned.
"Yes, in every sense of the word." She agreed. "It's strange, you know.
Before I had her, I didn't know I wanted to be a mother, or that I was even
that lonely. Then when I did have her, well, it's never been easy and I've
made mistakes, but I can't imagine not having her now. It's like I always
"What mother doesn't make mistakes somewhere along the line?" Laura reflected.
"The trick is to learn from them." Carefully she scooped the small girl up
into her lap. "Sheila said you were a good mother, an' she's a bonny kid,
so I can see it's true. I 'ope me son proves to be as good a father."
"He's already done his bit." Topaz replied. "Jetta said I was a good mother?
"Pretty much." Laura nodded. Topaz smiled.
"High praise indeed." She murmured. "Though I feel guilty when we go away
touring. I can't be here all the time. But Cynthia always takes her time
off work whenever we're away and Hollie adores her, so I know she's in safe
"I don't think I've met Cynthia." Laura responded. "Does she also work
"Yes, she's Aaron's assistant and she works with our stage shows, but
she also does a lot of technical work at the music company with him, too."
Topaz agreed. "I'll introduce you before you leave." She paused, then, "Are
you staying with Jetta? She didn't mention you were coming."
"She didn't know until I descended on 'er yesterday evenin'." Laura said
ruefully. "But yes, she's talked me into stayin' a few weeks in Los Angeles,
so she can show me about. I know you will be out of town soon, which is why
I came 'ere as soon as I could manage it - jet lag is a pain."
"Well, you are more than welcome to visit Hollie while I'm gone." Topaz
said gently. "I feel bad in a way that we're so far away from you, when
I know Hollie would have a heck of a good time growing up with all your
family around her. But my work is here, and I can't leave Los Angeles. And
Cameron has his heart set on San Diego, so..."
"No, I am resigned to losin' my son to America come the Autumn." Laura
shook her head. "He ain't a baby now - he's a grown man an' a father. Hollie
needs 'im, I can see that." She smiled. "I will just 'ave to work out the
finances so that Keith an' I can come visit America more often. I know Sheila
would always put us up if need be, an' now there's another good reason to
come 'ere. Avril is dyin' to see the kid, too, an' it's created a whole family
buzz. I'd appreciate it, if I could spend some of my time over 'ere with the
kid. So long as Cynthia doesn't object."
"I would not object to a grandmother spending time with her granddaughter,
Mrs Milligan." Cynthia's voice came from the doorway, and Topaz turned, shooting
the hologram a grin as Hollie reached out a hand for her.
"Cynta." She called out. "Cynta!"
"Laura, this is Cynthia Benton. Hollie's resident babysitter." Topaz explained,
as Cynthia came to ruffle Hollie's wild reddish hair, casting her a playful
smile. "As you can see, they're pretty good pals all in all. Cyn, Laura is
staying in America for a while - with Jetta. I've said it's okay for her
to come visit Hol while we're in Connecticut - that's cool with you, right?"
"Of course." Cynthia nodded. "It is nice to meet you, Mrs Milligan."
"Laura, please." Laura grinned. "And thank you. I shall be sure to take
you - both of you - up on it."
She glanced at her watch. "But now I must be getting back to Sheila's.
She lent me 'er car and I don't want to be driving in Los Angeles in the
dark if I can 'elp it." She said, getting to her feet and gently setting
Hollie down on the sofa. "Bye, little 'Ollie. We'll meet again before I leave,
"You're always welcome here." Topaz assured her. "You're Hollie's family,
She walked the visitor to the door, and, after wishing her a safe drive
back, carefully locked the front door, wandering slowly back into the living
Cynthia cast her a quizzical look, noting her pensive expression.
"Is something wrong?" She asked gently. Topaz shook her head.
"Not really." She said. She sighed. "Cyn, Laura came all the way from
England to see Hollie. I mean, it's not cheap, and it's a damn long way.
Yet it meant that much to her to meet her granddaughter that she came anyway."
"You find that strange?"
"No...I find it sweet." Topaz shook her head, dropping down into an empty
seat. "And sad, in a way, because it makes me remember that my own mother
is only north of the border in Missisauga and yet she can't be bothered to
come see me or my little girl."
"Perhaps she does not know. You have not kept in contact with her."
"Well, you'd think that the press was rife enough with it." Topaz grimaced.
"It's not the same as with Laura - she only knew her son was involved this
Easter break, when he told her. And she came straight out, more or less.
But I'm Mom's kid. Any story about me having a baby is still, well, about
me. And it's blatantly clear that Mom doesn't care, because if she did, wouldn't
she have come by now?"
"I thought you did not want her to come." Cynthia said softly. Topaz shrugged.
"I don't know." She admitted. "I know I left on bad terms and I was a
brat the last night I was home, but..." She sighed, shaking her head. "This
isn't about me. It's about Hollie."
"Perhaps she fears confrontation as much as you."
"Perhaps." Topaz seemed to shake herself out of her reverie. "Well, at
least Hollie has one loving grandmother. Even if she does live across the
"I feel that Hollie will benefit greatly from that alliance, be it a sea
away or not." Cynthia said wisely. She glanced up at the clock. "I am sorry
I intruded, but I came to remind you that it was getting late and that Hollie
had not yet had her bath."
"I know, and I'm about to go bathe her and put her to bed." Topaz nodded.
"Laura just distracted me, that's all."
She sighed, getting to her feet. "But in a way I was glad to see her.
I know now that Cameron's family bear me no ill will, and that's important
to me. After all, just because I have no family worth mentioning, I don't
want my daughter growing up the same way!"