Becoming a Misfit hadn't been quite what Jetta would have daydreamed it to be. Struggling in a no-name band, she had imagined being at the top of the charts would involve fair quantities of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. Instead, it had turned out to be a kind of extended slumber party, with occasional brief flurries of rock'n'roll when Pizzazz got sick of Eric's whining about the need to cut and release tracks or when her ego needed a bit of boosting with a concert. It had actually been more chaste than most slumber parties Jetta had attended back in old Blighty (in which Jetta had got most of her kissing practice) which was a little disappointing.
Still, Jetta wasn't about to complain. The Misfits Mansion had turned out to be the best slumber party venue ever, and she lapped up the adoring crowds, the attention from the media and the chance to wreak havoc through the rivalry with Jem. It sure beat playing dingy pubs in Hull. And then there was Pizzazz, who oozed superstardom from every pore, and the stimulation of competing with Roxy over her attention. iThat/i was something Jetta definitely remembered from slumber parties back at school, competing over the most popular girl. Especially when there was the tantalising idea that, if you won a complete victory, the popular girl might pick you for kissing lessons or for a supporting role in an interview on the telly, as it happened. Jetta was always at her best when playing up for attention.
That was the problem, really. At first, Jetta had been delighted when Jem took off, and the Misfits had acquired Starlight Music. Seeing Pizzazz at her best, gloating and glowing with triumph, was worth it. Riot going missing had been an added bonus; competing with Roxy for best-Misfit-friend had been fun, but Riot drained far too much of Pizzazz's time and mind-space for Jetta's liking. She hadn't realised, however, just how little of Pizzazz's attention there was going to be to share around.
She had not, for example, realised that planning for the next concert would take place with the ex-Stingers having made it to the cherished places next to Pizzazz before any real Misfit could. Jetta sulkily took a seat at the other end of the table by Roxy, who seemed almost sympathetic company at the moment, despite the aggressively crossed arms and legs. At least Roxy was a real Misfit and at least, unlike Stormer, she wasn't taking positive delight in sitting with the ex-Holograms like the traitor she was.
They also didn't seem to understand how concert planning went. Pizzazz would tell them what they were going to do, Roxy and Jetta would squabble a little over who got the most prominent position and the most solos, and Stormer would flutter around them trying to make peace. Above all, no one was supposed to actually argue with Pizzazz. She was the boss, after all.
"So we're gonna lead off with 'Universal Appeal'," Pizzazz said. "And then "
"Bu there's no synthesiser track in that!" Kimber wailed. "What am I supposed to do?"
"I have a few suggestions," Roxy muttered under her breath, just low enough for Jetta to catch it, but Stormer was already leaping to her friend's defence.
"She's part of the Misfits now, and we need to include her."
Pizzazz, who was not used to so much discussion when she told her Misfits what to play, looked slightly disconcerted. "Whatever," she said. "Figure out your own part in the song. You can write music, can't you? Next, 'I am a Gi-'"
"If the Holograms are Misfits now, then I don't see why we shouldn't do some of our songs," broke in Aja, her expression defiant.
"We'll perform 'We can make a difference' over my dead body," snapped Pizzazz. "Third, 'Gimme Gimme Gimme'. Fourth "
"Well, what about something Kimber's written more recently?" Aja pursued doggedly. "She's written some really rocking things lately, and they have synthesiser tracks."
"Kimber's a really good writer," Stormer said softly, and Kimber simpered at her, earning a glowing smile in response. Roxy glared at them as if the only thing preventing her from violence was deciding which one to throw a chair at first.
"We did smashingly without a bloody useless synthesiser before," Jetta said.
"Yeah." Roxy sent her a sidelong glance. "We did just fine before the sax, too." But there was no real rancour in her voice; she seemed much more concerned with sending killing looks at the interlopers.
"Well, you have two synthesisers now," said Minx, in her purring tones. She pulled her chair a little closer to Pizzazz's and wound an arm around her neck, her sheet of golden hair falling against Pizzazz's shoulder. "And in me, you have the best in the business. Pizzazz, darling, if the Misfits are to break into the European charts, it is essential that we have a sophisticated synthesiser-led sound. You cannot expect these provincial Americans to understand."
"Who are you calling a Yank, ducky?" Jetta pushed to her feet, not liking the way Minx was snuggling up to Pizzazz. It seemed that, in Riot's absence, Minx would play up to any lead singer around.
"Shut up, Jetta. We can really break into the European charts?" Pizzazz seemed to like the idea.
"We can top them," Rapture assured her, moving in closer as well. "I have looked into my charts, and it is in the stars that the Misfits will be the greatest band in not only America but the world, if you will only let yourself be guided by us. The crystals have foretold it. Believe in my powers, Pizzazz."
"Huh," said Pizzazz, but she looked pleased the future Rapture was predicting. She also didn't seem to object to the fact that both the ex-Stingers were draped over her shoulders now, clinging to her as they formerly clung to Riot. It made Jetta want to spit; couldn't the two of them even sit down without being propped up by a third person?
She glanced sideways at Roxy, to see that however irritated she was, it was nothing to Roxy's barely controlled rage. Roxy's face being set in a scowl was not unusual, but her eyes were practically spitting plum fire and even her platinum-white mane seemed to be bristling. Her fists were clenched on her thighs and Jetta could have sworn she was shaking slightly with rage.
"Well, whatever," Pizzazz said. "I'm bored with songs we can figure them out lately. Now, on to more important things. What are we wearing? "
"I design most of the clothes for the Holograms," Shana said quietly, her face flushing as she anticipated the reponse.
Even Stormer shrieked with disdain. "We wear designer threads, none of your home made rubbish!" Pizzazz said.
"My clothes were good enough for you in Venice, if you remember!" Shana said hotly. "But if they're not good enough unless you've stolen them, Regine has been designing some exclusive clothes for us lately."
"Regine? That has-been?" Rapture shook her golden ponytail in disgust. "You've got to be kidding. I'm not wearing her stuff. It's bad luck."
"You were proud to model her clothes before!" said Raya.
"That is exactly it. The little Regine, she is so very last season," Minx said dismissively. "All those bright, ugly colours so gauche." Roxy, who was wearing a tasteful combination of neon orange and purple, and Jetta, who was wearing lime and dayglo yellow, glared at her. "We need to be monochromatic sublime. Let me introduce you to a friend of mine, Pizzazz, a most exclusive designer "
Jetta closed her eyes and tuned out. As she usually did when she felt threatened, she replayed the comforting memory of when the Misfits had first found her one moment losing her rag over that crap, ungrateful Yank audience, the next Pizzazz bursting onto the scene like a flash of neon green sunshine, transforming the dingy little club into a star venue, and sweeping Jetta up along in her wake, centre of attention, snatched from obscurity into stardom... And Roxy, glowering and gorgeous and shaping up for a fight, her purple eyes flashing, a worthy foil if ever there was one...
"I'm sick of this," Roxy said, cutting into the growing squabbles and Jetta's daydream alike. She climbed to her feet. "I'm going for a swim. Jetta?"
Jetta was surprised enough to be asked that she was on her feet before she thought about it. "I'm with you, ducky," she said. "Pizzazz let me know when you've finished dressing up your new dolls." She slipped her arm into Roxy's with an odd feeling of companionability.
"I can't take much more of this," Roxy spat as they made their way up the stairs. "It's bad enough babysitting the Starlight brats, but the way those girls crawl all over our Pizzazz makes me sick. Especially that little German tramp."
Jetta shrugged. "I suppose you wish you were the one cuddled up to Pizzazz?" It came out without really thinking, and she cursed the instinct to needle. It was kind of nice, feeling like she and Roxy were allies for once, and she had probably spoiled everything by being bitchy at the wrong moment.
"And you don't wish it was you?" Roxy shot back, and Jetta felt the colour rise through her pale skin. It had been the first time, she realised, that she had Roxy had come close to openly acknowledging the rivalry between them and its cause.
"Don't have the faintest what you mean, lovey," Jetta said lightly, trying to dodge around Roxy to her room. She was stopped by a hand gripping her upper her arm, and looked defiantly up at Roxy, trying to ignore that Roxy would quite definitely see her blush, even under three layers of foundation. She cursed the translucency of her skin.
"Yeah, right." Roxy glared down at her, the grip on Jetta's forearm tight, and Jetta felt a little light-headed. Roxy's grip was very hard well, it should be, out of all of them she was most serious about working out and under the thick tangerine lipstick her mouth was still set in a sullen pout, but it was a gorgeous pout for all that. And she had just all but admitted that she had a thing for Pizzazz, and that she suspected the same inclinations of Roxy. Jetta felt a flash of defiance. If Stormer could wander around hand-in-hand with Kimber, who was the enemy, then surely Jetta and Roxy...
"Guess we're both wasting our time, huh?" Roxy said, bitterly.
"Yeah." Jetta swallowed. "I suppose we'd be better off if..." Roxy's hand was digging in to her upper arm. Jetta let her lashes droop down a little, and parted her lips, raising her mouth just a little...
"Roxy, has Jetta made you mad?" Jetta blinked, disconcerted, and looked down at a small girl with smooth black hair, who was looking at them with a worried expression. "You'd better let her go. We're not allowed to fight here."
Jetta half expected Roxy to bite the little girl's head off, but to her astonishment Roxy smiled. It wasn't a fierce Misfits grin, but rather a flash of sweetness as she released Jetta.
"It's okay, Ba Nee, we're not fighting. We were just about to get changed in to our swimsuits."
"Can I come swimming too?" Ba Nee was practically bouncing on her tiptoes in anticipation.
"If you really have to. Go get changed, then."
The little girl bounced off, and Jetta swore under her breath, all the more violently for a sense of disappointed frustration. "Bloody rugrats! You can't go a step in this dump without tripping over a bleedin' orphan!"
"Ba Nee's okay," Roxy said, still more oddly. "Go get changed. I'll see you by the pool." Her door had banged behind her before Jetta had fully realised she'd gone. Jetta blinked, sighed, and went to change.
Roxy was already there by the time Jetta had made it down to the Starlight Mansion pool, although she showed no inclination to actually get into the water, probably for fear of messing up her heavy makeup. Or perhaps she had just, Jetta thought bitterly, been put off by the hordes of foster sisters Ba Nee had brought with her, who were splashing and squealing in the pool. Roxy had taken a seat on a sun lounger, hugging her knees to herself, staring broodingly out over the water and not acknowledging the arrival of a fellow Misfit.
Jetta settled next to her, carefully arranging her long silver-streaked hair around her shoulders to best advantage. Not that she cared what Minx thought, but somehow her new khaki and turquoise flowered bikini had seemed less attractive to her, and she had settled on a black one piece that toned with her hair.
She stared at Roxy, resplendent in a pink-spotted ruffled two piece, and tried to think of a topic of conversation. It was harder than she liked; she spent little time alone with Roxy, and the only topics that came to mind were impossible. Hey, Roxy, I really hate being at Starlight Mansion, did you notice the way Raya looks at me like a murderer and pulls the Starlight Girls away from me every time I come near? I mean, I know I had her father's place busted up a bit, but that was weeks ago, you'd think she'd have let it go by now. Somehow, Jetta didn't feel that she could confide in Roxy how embarrassed and guilty she felt around Raya Roxy was hard as nails, like most bass guitarists, and she'd just laugh.
Or what about: Hey, Roxy, think Pizzazz is going to fire us soon and replace us with the Stingers? But Jetta was sure that wouldn't mean as much to Roxy as it would to her. Roxy had a gorgeous voice, possibly better than Pizzazz's, and was star material all on her own. She'd chucked up the Misfits once before, anyway. Jetta didn't know what would be left for her without the Misfits. Creeping back to her parents in Hull, almost probably, without Pizzazz's lawyers to take care of her green card. It was impossible to make herself so vulnerable to Roxy, of all people.
Or then there was: Hey, Roxy. You know I do my best to make your life hell, but I've always kind of liked you. Were you really about to kiss me back then? If so, would you like to try again? Jetta looked at the way the sunlight was making Roxy's pale hair glow against the golden tan of her skin despite the hideous swimsuit, then looked at the pool full of Starlight girls, and sighed, going for Option D.
"Hey, Roxy. You've known Pizzazz longer than I have. How long until she gets bored with this and fires them all so we can move back to the Misfits Mansion?"
"Dunno. Until it's too much like work, I guess."
"Stormer's having the time of her life, anyway. Do you know she and Kimber took those Starlight brats to the zoo yesterday? " Roxy snorted in reply, which Jetta thought was a bit rich given the way she had been practically cooing over Ba Nee, or at least what was practically cooing given Roxy's general manner. "I know she wants to keep the Holograms forever."
"I'd rather all the Holograms, even Jem, than the Stingers. At least Riot beat it."
That reminded Jetta. She looked curiously at Roxy. "The way those two always hang onto Riot and when he's not there, too," she added, remembering the way that, when the ex-Stingers had been clinging to Pizzazz, Rapture had been covering Minx's hand protectively with her own. "Do you think that the three of them "
"Yeah." Roxy didn't seem to be in any doubt about it.
"But without Riot?"
"If you're asking if they're sleeping together, then probably, yeah. Like Jem doesn't care what Rio does with that Jerrica beanpole because she's probably doing the same. Who the hell cares? They're all losers anyway." It was a long speech for Roxy, who was not particularly articulate. "So long as they keep away from Pizzazz."
Jetta licked her lips, which suddenly all the lip gloss in the world were failing to keep from dryness. But she wanted to know. "Are you and Pizzazz...?" Jetta broke off, aware that a line had been crossed.
No explosion happened. "Nah," said Roxy, in tones that Jetta couldn't quite translate. "And don't you even try it."
Jetta looked out over the pool at the wet orphans, and tried to frame the words So, d'you think you could fancy me instead? Even in her head, it sounded hopelessly naive, and just a way to open herself up to Roxy scoring a particularly brutal point. But, if Pizzazz was all occupied by the Stingers -
"There you two are!" Pizzazz was shrill and breathless. "Jetta, Roxy, you gotta save me. These little brats keep saying I have to play with them!" She spread her arms in outrage, a little girl dangling off each one.
"Jerrica always took us for exercise in the afternoon!" said the girl on the right, a fragile looking thing with blonde plaits. "And you're supposed to be our foster mothers." Pizzazz visibly blanched.
"Yeah. I'm going to tell the judge on you," said the mullet-haired child Jetta already has identified as Ashley.
"There's a croquet set in the garden room," said the braided child, clinging to Pizazz's left arm and looking expectantly at Jetta.
Jetta looked blankly at her. "What's that got to do with me, ducks?"
"The fan magazines said you were close friends of the Royal Family, and they all know how to play croquet. You wouldn't want me to tell Lindsay Pierce you were lying, would you? I bet she'd like to run a feature article exposing you on Lin-Z. She's a friend of Jem's, I know her phone number," said Ashley, who Jetta was beginning to dislike intensely.
Jetta glanced across at Roxy, who was grinning with delight at her discomfiture, all alliance apparently dissolved. Jetta squared her shoulders. Right, if it was back to that, then, there was no way Jeta was going to lose face in front of both Pizzazz and Roxy, not to mention the Jem-loving Lindsay Pierce-types in the rock press. She stood up and cupped her hands over her mouth.
"Right, kiddies, out of the pool. Aunty Jetta's going to teach you all to play croquet!"
"Yaaaaaaay!" cheered what seemed like thousands of little girls.