"So what's got you down in the dumps this evening, hm?"
Justin Pelligrini shot his wife a curious look, eying her preoccupied expression and the dark look in her grey eyes. "You're not acting like yourself and you've barely said a word to Mom or me since we arrived. What's eating you?"
"Pizzazz." Jetta growled, tossing her magazine aside.
"What did she do this time?" Justin raised an eyebrow.
"Oh at the moment it's everything." Jetta groaned. "Yesterday she missed an admin meeting because she was shopping with precious little brat Emily...today she was rearrangin' the filin' cabinet without tellin' me what she was doin' and lost 'alf me files, then she went off to meet the blessed girl for lunch. I 'ate this! I'm not 'er unpaid slave an' I can't fix all the messes she's makin' in the business while she gallivants off after some long lost daughter who should've blinkin' well stayed lost!" She rubbed her temples. "Me 'ead is killin' me an' I feel like crap. I'm the one workin' too 'ard an' she's doin' nothing at all!"
"Come here." Justin slipped his arm around his wife's shoulders, feeling the tension there. "It's Christmas..don't let her get to you. Most of the time you two work great together and these kind of fights aren't like either of you. Just relax, okay? You're taking things far too much to heart."
"You don't know, you ain't there." Jetta muttered irritably.
"True." Justin admitted. "But listen, Jetta. Imagine if you'd not seen or spoken to Nancy for years and then suddenly you could. Wouldn't you want to do things with her too?"
"Pizzazz gave Emily up." Jetta responded darkly. "She forfeited her right to play mother with the kid then, when she signed 'er over to the Foundation. I 'oped then it would be the last of it. The Misfits woulda been down the tubes then and there if she'd kept the brat...and she knew it. Why in 'ell she wanted to drag it all up now is beyond me."
"Perhaps she felt she had no choice but to give Emily up." Justin suggested softly. "Jetta, you should know as well as anyone what maternal instinct is like."
"Oh, who's side are you on anyway?" Jetta demanded. Justin kissed her on the forehead.
"Yours, and you know I always will be." He murmured. "But maybe you need to sit and look at things from each other's point of view. Why do you hate Pizzazz spending time with Emily anyway? I mean, it's Christmas and Christmas is a family time. And of course, with Emily in the condition she's in, I can understand Pizzazz wanting to be there."
"Sure, if Pizzazz were that kinda flustery mother 'en person." Jetta replied. "But she ain't. And it'd be all right if she kept it out of damn office hours and 'adn't brought Emily into the stupid company in the first place!"
"What if it were Nancy that were pregnant? What would you do?"
"Nancy's got more bleedin' sense." Jetta said acidly. "An' I raised Nancy meself, so that's different. I've a right to be involved in 'er life. Justin, I swear that wretched girl's gonna wreck everythin'! I'm sure she's jus' after gettin' her paws on Pizzazz's money. Why else would she be actin' up so sweet to her? An' then if Misfit Music falls apart that'll be Nancy's career screwed up too, don't forget!"
"Pizzazz cares about Nancy's career and I don't think anything is going to be screwed up." Justin said gently. "Just give her some time. Things have changed and are still changing for her..let her deal with them."
"If she wanted a daughter so bad she should've damn well raised her from the start like I did Nancy." Jetta muttered.
"You just said you didn't want her to." Justin reminded her.
"Oh damn you, stop quoting me and using it against me!" Jetta exclaimed. Justin smiled.
"You're tying yourself up in knots and it's not good for you." He chided her. "I tell you what, I'll go see if Mom's unpacked and then we should all go out for dinner, see if we can't get some of that stress out of you. Okay?"
"Stress free, with me mother in law?" Jetta demanded.
"Jetta, you and I both know that sometimes you get on better with Mom than I do." Justin looked amused. "So don't come the wounded soldier with me, okay?"
"Justin, I 'ave an 'eadache."
"So take an aspirin." Justin shrugged. "You need to get out and unwind, and you'll feel better for a good meal in good company."
"If I take aspirin I can't drink." Jetta objected. "And I damn well need a drink after the day I've 'ad." She got to her feet. "Okay, lemme get me coat, I'm comin'. But this 'ad better be worth it. I'm in no mood for small talk."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The girl on the doorstep sent the youngest Jewel a grin. "Well, it's been a while. I hope you don't mind me stopping round here, but I wanted to see how you'd changed and Aaron said you moved out of home."
"Mack...hi." Nancy smiled, pushing open the door. "Guess you better come in...coffee?"
"Thanks." Mackenzie dimpled. "It's nice to see you again. Your brother hasn't changed a bit, except maybe to get better looking with age, but you have. What have you done with your hair?"
"Dyed it." Nancy looked self-conscious. "It's...purely for career purposes. Not choice."
She pushed open the door of the lounge. "Take a seat, huh? The others are by the pool, I'll go get them."
"Others?" Mackenzie looked interested. "Your housemates, then?" She took a seat. "I'm curious to know what this career choice is that involves the shyest girl I ever met dying bright yellow streaks into her hair, I must admit."
"Music." Nancy said simply. "I'll go put the coffee on."
She headed into the kitchen, pausing to catch her breath. She had not expected Mackenzie to drop by the Starlight Mansion, even though they had always gotten along fairly well it just didn't seem like the natural thing for someone who was friends with her elder brother to do. She shrugged. She'd never understood the popular crowd anyway.
She moved over to the patio doors, sliding them open.
"Hey, we have company. Come and be sociable, will you? I'm making coffee." She instructed.
"Company?" Sylva pulled herself onto the side of the pool. "Who?"
"A friend of Aaron's." Nancy replied.
"Mackenzie?" Copper looked startled. "What's she doing here?"
"Beats me. Maybe she thinks Aaron will be round later or something." Nancy shrugged. "Come and be nice, huh? I'm not feeling very sociable this morning towards my brother's ex-girlfriends and since we're going to her party on Christmas Eve I probably shouldn't offend her."
"His ex?" Topaz's eyebrows shot up. "Ooh. Scary."
"What is she, his stalker or something?" Sylva demanded. "When did they break up?"
"Two years ago." Nancy replied. "That is, if she knows they did. She moved outta state...it was kinda complex."
"Ooh." Sylva grimaced, shooting Copper a look. "Copper, did you know about this girl?"
"I knew she was coming to Cali to spend Christmas with relatives here." Copper nodded. "I'm not worried, you guys. It's been two years, like Nancy said, and even if this girl still likes Aaron, well, Aaron's moved on, hasn't he?"
"Well, that's a healthy way to look at it." Topaz grinned, clambering out of the pool and slipping her bathrobe on. "Okay, I'll go be sociable, so long as noone minds me getting the carpet wet. Anyone coming?"
"Me." Sylva responded. "I wanna see this ex!"
"She's in the lounge." Nancy replied. "Copper? What about you?"
"Won't it be kinda awkward?" Copper said hesitantly. "I mean, if Aaron's told her about me...or if he hasn't, even worse...I don't want to make her feel put out at all."
"Well, she didn't seem put out when she decided to just drop by." Nancy said dryly. "C'mon, Copper. I've no idea what to say to the girl...it's been ages since we last spoke, and sure, we got along okay then, but this is now."
"All right, I'm coming." Copper sighed, getting up off her sun lounger. "But if it's awkward don't blame me, all right?"
"Fine." Nancy dimpled. "I'll see you guys in there when coffee's done."
Twenty minutes later, all four members of Jewel were seated in the lounge, making up their minds about their unexpected visitor. Mackenzie was tall, and, as Nancy had said, extremely pretty, with long chestnut hair styled neatly and soft hazel eyes. She also had no ounce of shyness, as the girls soon discovered, for she was eager to meet them all.
"I hope you dont think I'm odd dropping in on you like this." She said rather self-consciously as she accepted the coffee Nancy offered her. "It's been such ages since I saw the old neighbourhood and I want to catch up with everybody I used to know. Aaron said he didn't think you'd mind...he said he thought it would be nice for us to catch up." She grinned. "Well, do you think me odd?"
"No, of course not." Nancy smiled slightly. "I wasn't expecting to see you so soon, mind you. Didn't you fly in last night?"
"Yes, but I don't need much sleep." Mackenzie responded with a grin. "What's all this about music, then? I remember your mother worked up at Misfit Music - does she still?"
"Yes." Nancy nodded.
"We're a band." Sylva added. "We're signed to the record label under the name Jewel and Aaron often helps out with our stage effects."
"A band?" Mackenzie looked startled, then delighted. "Oh! But that's too perfect! I'd love it if you guys would play some songs at the party, would you? Now I think of it Aaron mentioned that Jewel were a hot bet to be a party favourite. I have heard your music, I just never imagined it could be Nancy's group, that's all!" She cast the younger girl a smile. "You were so private and shy when I knew you."
Nancy blushed uncomfortably.
"I always liked to write music." She murmured.
"She's good, too." Copper came to her friend's defences. "And I'm sure we'd love to play at your party, Mackenzie, so long as it's not many songs. We...kind of want to enjoy our Christmas break a little too."
"Oh, of course." Mackenzie dimpled. "And it's Mack, please. Noone ever calls me Mackenzie, it's a heck of a name to live with."
"Okay." Copper smiled.
"Are you staying long in Cali?" Topaz asked, as a gap threatened to come in the conversation. Mackenzie shrugged.
"I don't know. Depends on things." She said vaguely. She glanced at her watch, letting out a yelp. "Oh! I have to scoot...my aunt and uncle will be home and I've barely even said two words to them on the phone, let alone in person! Nance, will you come with me to the door? I have something I want to ask you."
"Sure." Nancy looked startled. She got to her feet, following the older girl into the entrance hall.
Once there, Mackenzie paused, her expression serious.
"Listen, there's another reason I called by here today." She said quietly. "You're clever enough to have realised that, I'm sure. I wanted to ask a small favour of you."
"What kind of a favour?" Nancy was confused.
"Well, since I moved to Oregon and everything Aaron and I haven't really spoken much except in the odd letter, but, well, I've had boyfriends there and I'm sure he's had girls here, right?"
"Right." Nancy agreed, wondering where the conversation was going.
A slight blush rose in Mackenzie's cheeks.
"Well, I know it's dumb and all, but when I saw him at LAX last night I...I realised I still kinda have some feelings for him." She admitted awkwardly. "I haven't said anything to him, of course, and I know you won't say anything either...but, well, you're his sister and you know him pretty well, right?"
"Well, do you think there's any chance he still likes me?"
Nancy stared at her companion for a moment, as if working out how to respond.
"I know he still likes you." She began, "But..."
But Mackenzie wasn't waiting around to hear the rest.
"I really have to run, but I'm so glad he does." She interrupted, her hazel eyes sparkling. "I guess I'll see you all at the party, huh? Bye!"
With that she was gone, leaving a bewildered Nancy to slowly close the front door.
"Well, what did she want that was so private she couldn't say it in front of us?" Sylva demanded from the doorway of the lounge. Nancy bit her lip.
"I think I put my foot in it." She admitted.
"What else is new?"
"Shut up. We're on truce, remember?" Nancy retorted. She followed the keyboardist into the main lounge. "I think I gotta learn to handle people and delicate questions. I think I just caused Aaron a whole lot of hassle."
"What happened?" Topaz looked curious.
"She asked me if I thought Aaron still liked her." Nancy began. "And...well...she didn't stop to listen to my full reply."
"What did you say?" Sylva demanded.
"I said that sure, he still likes her." Nancy replied. "But I was going to explain about Copper and that to him it was just in a friends kinda way. She didn't let me finish, and before I knew what had happened she'd gone."
She sent Copper a guilty look. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay." Copper shrugged. "Sounds to me like she wanted to get the wrong end of the stick." She smiled. "I trust Aaron, okay? So don't worry. It'll all work out fine, and I know if she tries it on with him, well, he'll tell her the situation."
"I don't like her much." Sylva pulled a face. "She's too pretty."
"Syl, if you go round hating everyone pretty..." Topaz laughed.
"Oh, I don't. But some people are too pretty to be true, and she's one of them." Sylva grimaced. "In my experience people who have too much beauty tend to have reaaally ugly characters."
"Ooh so tempting. Damn the truce!" Nancy exclaimed. Sylva sent her companion a smug smile.
"Well, she seemed all right to me." Topaz admitted. "If a little overly friendly and happy. She didn't reek of evil."
"She was pretty much like that when we were in school." Nancy responded. "Sweet and happy and friendly. But I admit I liked her."
"Past tense?" Copper frowned. "Liked?"
"Well, now she's after your boyfriend, I'm less favourably disposed towards her." Nancy grinned. Copper laughed.
"I'm touched." She replied. "But like I said, it'll all work out fine. You'll see."
Christmas In California
Copper, Nancy, Sylva, Topaz, Anna, Blade, Sirena, Aaron, Cameron,
Taylor, Gaynor, Sadie, Cynthia, Alan, Stefana, Luca, Maddie, Marissa, Clay,
Sophie, Justin, Zoe, 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. Sammi, Rose and
any of the other Teenangel Outsiders characters are copyrighted to Gemma
Dawn and appear here only with her permission. 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 names of the bands, the characters and the concepts in the stories are entirely fictional and any similarity to any genuine musical act, situation, person or concept is entirely coincidental. Jewel, Diablo, Sirena and the other characters are NOT based on real individuals, either in the press or in everyday life.