"Good morning, Lela," Jerrica smiled as she exited the elevator at Starlight Music.
"Good morning, Jerrica, I mean, Miss Benton," Lela greeted her. At 17, Lela was the eldest Starlight girl and about to enter her senior year of high school in the fall. With the other girls going off to camp for eight weeks, she opted to stay home for the summer and intern at Starlight Music. It was perfect timing as Jerrica's secretary, Susan, was on maternity leave and a summer internship at a company like Starlight would look great on Lela's college application.
Jerrica giggled. It was Lela's first week on the job and knew she took her responsibilities as an intern seriously. "Please hold all my calls for the next hour or so," Jerrica directed her as she dashed from the elevators to her office. "I don't want to be disrupted."
"Will do, Miss Benton," Lela replied.
Like most days around Starlight Music, Jerrica was running in and out of the office, going from meeting to meeting, and of course, going back and forth between being herself and the Holograms' fearless leader, Jem. Today was no different as her morning began on the set of Los Angeles' hottest new talk show with the Holograms giving a performance to kick-off the long holiday weekend. The Holograms were scheduled to be in the recording studio after lunch until 4:00, and then it was off to get ready for the Countess' big party that evening. This meant Jerrica had only three hours to get through an entire day's work. "I could use a vacation now," she mumbled thinking about her busy day as she entered her office and quickly got settled at her desk.
Suddenly there was a knock at her door. "Excuse me, Miss Benton," it was Lela.
"You can call me Jerrica, Lela," she laughed.
Lela coyly smiled. "I know you said not to disrupt you, but I thought you'd like to see these sooner than later," she said bringing in a large bouquet of red roses.
"They're beautiful," Jerrica marveled. "Who are they from?" she inquired.
"The delivery man didn't say who, but I think you know," Lela smiled, turning to leave.
"Thank you, Lela," Jerrica replied, opening the card.
Thinking of you & looking forward to this evening. –Rory
Jerrica blushed as she felt a wave of butterflies in her stomach. It had been a month since the fateful night of the concert, which changed her relationship with the Stingers' lead singer forever. Since their return from Rome, Jerrica and Riot kept their relationship under the radar as much as possible. They didn't purposefully try to hide it, but they also didn't try to flaunt it either. Some gossip circles still had him pegged with Jem. Despite no longer having any feelings for Rio, she still thought of him as a friend and didn't want to hurt him with the sudden news of her "new" relationship so soon after rejecting his proposal. After all, he still didn't know the truth about Jem's real identity.
Even Riot's parents were kept in the dark, only being told by their son that Jem was just a friend and that he started seeing someone else a little more seriously. The only people who knew about Jerrica and Riot were the Holograms and Stingers, much to Aja's disapproval. While she knew that Riot had changed for the better and was no longer the arrogant lothario she first met, she still didn't trust him a hundred percent. In addition, her loyalties as a friend remained with Rio.
Nevertheless, the world would have its first view of the new couple that evening as Jerrica and Riot would arrive together on the red carpet of the Countess' party. They knew it was only a matter of time before the media got wind of their romance, "so why not reveal it under their terms?" Riot had said. He was right, but Jerrica still felt a bit apprehensive about letting the world in on her second biggest secret, the first being Jem's true identity. It wasn't that she wanted to keep them a secret. She just didn't want the media circus following them around as they had done with all great power couples of the past. She enjoyed her private life and wanted to keep her life private. For the past three years, Jem had taken the brunt of the media attention away from Jerrica. But after tonight, Jerrica knew her life wouldn't be the same. Being on Riot's arm wasn't the same as being on Rio's arm. Being Jerrica Benton was one thing, but being Riot's girlfriend was an entirely new world for her. A world she was ready for, but still nervous about taking on.
There was also one minor detail she hadn't figured out yet. While Riot knew the truth about her identity, she still kept him in the dark about Synergy. How was she going to pull off a red carpet appearance as herself and as Jem without putting Synergy to work? She had to use Synergy. But how was she going to explain to him about being able to see Jem and Jerrica within seconds of each other when he knew they were the same person? She couldn't change that fast.
Jerrica sat thoughtfully at her desk trying to figure out logistics for that evening. It was a lot easier when he didn't know the truth, she thought. She sighed.
"Have I mentioned how beautiful you look tonight?" Riot purred, planting a delicate kiss on her hand.
Jerrica blushed. "Just about a hundred times," she teased, dressed in a dazzling, figure-hugging black cocktail dress with a sequined strapless sweetheart neckline and faux feather skirt, accentuated with a crystal studded silver belt and matching silver Manolo Blahnik pumps. Her newly highlighted blonde tresses were curled and swept to side. It was 1980s flair with 1930s elegance. Jerrica rocked it flawlessly.
"Well, let me say it again, you look beautiful," he replied as they sat in his silver 1965 Aston Martin DB5, awaiting their turn on the red carpet at the Countess' estate. The motorcade of limousines, sports cars, and luxury sedans wrapped around the block from the massive Bel-Air mansion. Jerrica and Riot's was near the front of the line where a frenzy of flashbulbs would go off after each car drove away. Minx and Rapture each rode separately with their dates, and were in the two cars in front of them. "Are you ready?" he asked as he pulled up to the front of the line.
"Ready as I'll ever be!" she grinned. Her nerves were a bit more relaxed than earlier in the day. The Holograms decided at the last minute to skip the red carpet and make a dazzling first appearance on stage. Jerrica could breathe a sigh of relief as she no longer had to figure out how make two red carpet appearances – one as herself with Riot and the other as Jem with the Holograms.
Riot exited first to the screams of awaiting fans. He wore a black tuxedo jacket with tails and a buttoned down, silver shirt with ruffles, black leather pants and gray snakeskin shoes. He waived to the crowd as he handed his key to the valet and proceeded to open the passenger door. He held his hand out for her to take as she exited from the car. The crowd gasped.
"It's Jerrica Benton!" one fan yelled, much to the crowd's surprise. Many had expected his pink haired Holograms counterpart.
"What happened to Jem?" yelled a reporter.
Jerrica knew they would expect Jem, if not some gorgeous supermodel or Hollywood celebrity, but she didn't know just how she would feel upon hearing the whispers in the crowd. Whispers that wondered why he was there with her and not the other her. After all, Jem seemed more of his type.
He leaned in to tell her just how beautiful she looked once more, but the sea of flashbulbs and whispers quickly engulfed all her senses, halting Jerrica in her designer Manolos. Riot instantly sensed her apprehension. Ignoring the buzz about Jem's whereabouts, he took her hand as his fingers intertwined with hers, signifying a more intimate gesture, and guided her down the red carpet. "Are you alright, my love?" he whispered.
"I guess I'm just not as prepared to do this as I thought," she whispered back.
"You've walked the red carpet several times before," he pointed out.
"As Jem," she replied.
"You are Jem," he reminded her. "You may not have the pink hair right now, but that persona is you," he smiled.
He was right. She wasn't dressed as Jem at that moment, but she was still that person. Encouraged by his words, Jerrica channeled her inner rock star, ignoring any negativity she heard and felt, and replacing it with the confidence and jubilance that Jem would normally emit on the red carpet. She let go of Riot's hand and walked up to the sea of photographers eager to document her haute couture. Riot stepped away and marveled as he watched her play the crowd.
After a couple more solo poses, Jerrica turned to her date and gestured for him to join. He happily obliged, wrapping his arm around her waist as if to tell the world that she was his. Hollywood had met its new "it" couple and news of the new pair spread like wildfire.
"It's on, you guys!" Stormer shouted from the couch in the TV room at the Gabor mansion.
"Why do you want to watch this trash for?" Pizzazz, leader of the Misfits, asked.
"Because it's fun to make fun of the losers on this show," Roxie chimed in.
"You're just mad you weren't invited to this shindig, Pizzazz," Jetta, the Misfits' British saxophonist, added.
For the last three years, the Misfits were the Holograms' biggest music rivals. In the last few months, however, they were replaced by the Stingers. It didn't help that their manager, Eric Raymond, had suddenly disappeared, leaving Riot to take complete control of the reins at Stingers Sound. With Riot in charge, the Stingers became the hottest new band in town and rivaled the Holograms in popularity, much to Pizzazz's dismay. To make matters worse, Pizzazz had finally admitted defeat when it came to Riot's heart, not that she had a snowball's chance in July for that to happen anyway. She tried hard to win him over, but it was obvious he was madly in love with Jem.
"Mad?" Pizzazz laughed. "I'm not mad. Who would want to be at that lousy party anyways?" she asked, trying hard to hide her bitterness.
"You guys, look!" Stormer exclaimed, pointing to the TV. It was coverage of Riot and Jerrica's red carpet arrival. Pizzazz's jaw dropped. "They look gorgeous," Stormer marveled.
"I thought he was pining after Jem?" Jetta mused.
"She must have been terrible in the sack," Roxie snickered.
"Pizzazz, are you okay?" Stormer, the most compassionate of the Misfits, asked.
"I'ma, I'ma –" the Misfits' lead singer stuttered.
"You're a what?" Roxie asked, trying to snap her out of shock.
"Aaaaahhhhhhhhh!" Pizzazz screamed like a banshee.
"She meant she was going to scream," Jetta replied, mocking her bandmate.
"What is Riot doing with her?!" Pizzazz shrieked, still in complete shock over what just unfolded on TV. "Jem, I could kind of understand," she pondered as she slowly came to, "I still don't see what he saw in her, but at least she had something in common with him. But Jerrica Benton?" she yelled. "What on earth could be so special about someone as plain as her?" she continued.
"I wouldn't call her plain, Pizzazz," Stormer interjected. "She does run her own music company," she pointed out.
"What are you saying, Stormer? I'm not smart enough for him because I don't run my own music company? She wouldn't even have a music company if her daddy hadn't given it to her!" Pizzazz was seething.
"Didn't her dad die?" Roxie bluntly replied.
"Yeah, so? Why does that matter?" Pizzazz snidely remarked.
"Well, he didn't really give it to her then," the guitarist indicated.
"Uhh!" Pizzazz continued to shriek. "Who cares how she got the company?" she replied rhetorically. "How did she get him?" a puzzled Pizzazz yelled.
The three other Misfits looked at each other dumbfounded. They really didn't care why Riot was with Jerrica, nor did it affect them other than how it affected Pizzazz.
After a moment of silence, their fearless leader perked up. "Girls, put on your best outfits, we have a party to crash!" she mischievously grinned.