Half an hour later, Jetta was beginning to lose her cool. "Look, it's dead easy. You swing the bat up like this," she raised her mallet high above her left shoulder, "keep your eye on the ball, and swing like this." The mallet hit the ball with a dull thud, and it shot about three feet up in the air, causing Ashley, to Jetta's vindictive pleasure, to squeal and skip out of the way. "The rest of you have to try and block it with your own bats. And if it goes in your opponent's hoop, it's a goal."
"What did you call me?" Jetta whirled on the small child with plaits, whose eyes widened innocently as Jetta and Pizzazz smirked.
"Um... Aunty Jetta?"
Jetta took a deep breath."Yes, Terri?"
"How do you score runs, again?"
Jetta was beginning to feel like she was losing the plot. "Um, when your ball goes through one hoop, you pick it up and run as hard as you can to the next hoop, while everyone else tries to stop you."
"Oh. That makes sense." Terri nodded wisely.
Jetta clapped her hands. "Right, then. Pizzazz goes first because she's old coolest. Tally ho!"
"Tally ho!" the girls echoed obediently, and Pizzazz took a swipe. There were shrieks as a group of little girls fled the missile, then converged in on it, mallets flying.
Jetta leaned into Roxy's ear, and whispered through the white hair and miasma of hairspray, "Secret rule: ten points every time you hit an orphan."
"Twenty points if you hit Pizzazz," Roxy whispered back. Jetta shot her a surprised glance, then started to giggle.
"You're on. " They exchanged grins and headed into the fray.
Twenty minutes later, Krissie was holding a sobbing and terrified Ann, Deirdre and Jo-Ellen had retired with a sprained ankle and wrenched elbow apiece, and Pizzazz had stalked off in a tantrum after breaking a nail, but the others were still going strong. Roxy's poison green tights were ripped to display one hell of a developing bruise, Jetta had lost a stiletto, and various Starlight Girls were missing various items of clothing and were sporting bruises and knocked limbs, but the battle had become fierce. Every time the ball descended to the lawn, six mallets crashed down on it, the grass, other girls' mallets or any calves or feet within reach, to the accompaniment of shrieks and giggles. Intermittently a Starlight Girl would yell triumphantly when her mallet hit the ball through a hoop and she would grab the ball and sprint off while the rest of the pack screamed defiance and chased her down, swinging their mallets ominously. Jetta's hair was completely disarrayed, sweat was pouring into her eyes, and she realised she'd never had so much fun off-stage. She was even beginning to think that children weren't so bad after all and she might even be cut out to be a foster mother after all
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE STARLIGHT GIRLS?"
"Hi, Raya! I scored a goal and three runs!" Ba Nee yelled gleefully, waving her mallet.
"Stop that and get inside this minute, girls!" Raya said. She was trembling with rage. "Krissie, please take Ann to Aja and ask her to run you all baths."
The Starlight Girls seemed to know when the gig was up. They trailed ruefully back into the house, Terri pausing to wave surreptitiously at the Misfits.
Raya watched them go in ominous silence, and then she rounded on the two other women. "How dare you?! You are supposed to look after the Starlight Girls, not turn them into screaming hooligans! And it's so dangerous!"
"We were only teaching them to play croquet," Jetta whined, and Roxy splurted with laughter.
"That's not how it's played!" Raya was breathless with anger. "I might have known it would be you, Jetta, you you violent thug! Get inside, both of you, or I swear I will call the police on you for child abuse!"
Jetta and Roxy trailed after the Starlight Girls, Jetta feeling absurdly like she had the first time she was caught pick pocketing at school and brought home in disgrace to her parents. She whispered as much to Roxy.
"Do you think Pizzazz will knock our blocks off like my Mum and Dad did?" She offered Roxy a secretive smile.
"I didn't go to school much, I don't know who my Dad is, and my Mom wouldn't have cared less," Roxy said shortly, and Jetta felt like she'd said something terrible without realising it. Her smile faded. "And neither will Pizzazz."
"Not that she cares about anything much but her super-super-band," Jetta said bitterly, and that was it; they were back where they were, grousing about Pizzazz. Jetta wished vehemently that they had the wild fun of a few moments ago back only just the two of them, with no orphans.
Roxy might have picked up the thought, because she said, "Let's go find somewhere with no kids and no Holograms or Stingers, okay?"
"I'm with you, ducks. Preferably somewhere that serves alcohol and not chocolate milk."
"Nowhere Stormer hangs out, then?" Roxy gave her a lopsided smile. "We could try my room. "
"Oh." Jetta peered at her under her heavily mascara'd lashes, trying to work out if she meant drinks or... something else. What the hell, she decided. "Sounds smashing, love."
She felt decidedly brighter as they shut the door on the whole world of second-tier bands and little girls. Roxy gestured that she should sit on the bed, turning to produce a bottle and some glasses. Drinks, then. Jetta felt a little disappointed. They might as well go out and get blotto, and maybe get a bit of media attention drinking alone in a bedroom wasn't really her style. Still, it was something to be on good enough terms with Roxy that they were voluntarily spending time together.
She sipped her drink, and Roxy bounced onto the bed next to her, making her giggle and nearly spill it. Slumber parties, again...
"Here's to the real Misfits," Jetta said, raising her glass and daring Roxy with her eyes to deny that Jetta was a real Misfit.
"The real Misfits!" agreed Roxy, clinking her glass against Jetta's. They drained the glasses, and set them on the bedside table. Jetta was a little surprised not to be asked if she wanted a refill, but Roxy was turning to her, expression serious but not sulky.
"Are you serious about Pizzazz, Jetta?"
"What?" Jetta thought about disclaiming ever having any intentions towards Pizzazz, looked into Roxy's oddly coloured plum eyes, and wavered. She thought about Pizzazz glittery, brittle, selfish Pizzazz, with her lime green hair and wicked green eyes and complete spoiled selfishness. "No... not really. It was just kind of fun getting her attention." She paused, wishing she had another drink. "You?"
"Yeah." Roxy was frowning, and Jetta vehemently wished the conversation had never taken this turn. She didn't want, somehow, to hear all about how much Roxy loved Pizzazz. Pizzazz was a real star, of course, not some random saxophonist Pizzazz had a brief crush on and had picked up. "I mean, she was always chasing guys, but we had so much fun together, I used to think and then you came along, and hogged all her attention." Jetta decided that any apology would be both insincere and inadequate, but she really felt quite bad, seeing Roxy's expression. "And then Riot."
"I know. She acts like a bloody idiot around him, sometimes. Hey, do you remember when she was chasing him at the celebrity beach bash, love, and she fell over that soppy girl group, and you and I and Clash ended up in a catfight with them and made the front pages?" she added, trying to change the subject for the better. But Roxy was still unsmiling.
"I hate the way she acts around him," she said. "Like she's nothing. And he's some lousy poser with too many girlfriends already, and she's - Pizzazz!"
Jetta bit her lip. "Roxy?"
Jetta thought about what she wanted to say, and everything she wanted to change, and how she wanted to explain that it was no good being in love with someone you couldn't have, especially when there was someone else who was really beautiful and fun and a worthy comrade in arms around just waiting for some attention.
It was all too complicated, so instead, she said, "That's too bad, chickadee," and wound her arms around Roxy's neck quite as if she was a clingy Stinger, and kissed her.
Roxy stiffened for a moment, then she relaxed and her lips parted so that it wasn't just Jetta kissing Roxy, but the two of them kissing. And it was quite, quite lovely... nothing like any slumber party kissing lesson, except for the taste of lip gloss. Roxy was kissing hard, with a kind of intenseness that bordered on desperation, but her hand was cupping the side of Jetta's face with unexpected gentleness, and Jetta could feel herself melting. She relaxed against Roxy, willing her to push her back on the bed, and she could feel the increasing pressure of Roxy's weight against her own when...
There was a knock on the door.
"Get lost! I'm busy!" yelled Roxy. She leaned in to kiss Jetta again.
"But, Aunty Roxy!" wailed a little girl's voice. "I need to talk to you!"
"Don't you dare," hissed Jetta, but Roxy was already up and opening the door.
"What's wrong, Ba Nee?" Jetta groaned into the pillow she'd flopped on to. She didn't know what it was with Roxy and this child, but the Misfit's hard-as-nails bass player was practically patting her on the head and giving her lollipops.
Ba Nee put her hands behind her back, looking up piteously. Two other Starlight Girls were looking curiously over her shoulder. Jetta sat up, and tried to pat back her dishevelled hair.
"Roxy, I I have a confession." Ba Nee's eyes filled with tears. "I felt ireally/i bad about it, so I came to tell you."
"What is it, honey?" Roxy's voice was sugared with affection, and then and there, Jetta decided it was going to be her life's mission to have Roxy call her 'honey' in the same tone of voice.
"We really do know how to play croquet. We just pretended we didn't so Jetta would show us what to do."
"What?!" shrieked Jetta. "You vile little rugrats! I'll have your knickers for breakfast! I'll hang, draw and quarter you! I'll get Eric to throw you in his special dungeon!"
Ba Nee wailed in terror, and Roxy turned to glare at Jetta. "She doesn't mean it, Ba Nee. It's all okay run along and play now."
"We can't play, it's bedtime," the Starlight Girl called Ann informed her. "Will you come read us a story?"
Jetta, furious as she was with Roxy, felt a stab of pity as Roxy flushed darkly, but Ba Nee had already interceded. "Kimber likes to read us our bedtime story when Jerrica's away. Roxy will come listen too, won't you?" She started to cry, and Jetta had the horrible feeling that she wasn't faking it this time. "I miss Jerrica so much. When will she be back?" Terri began to sob as well.
"Soon," said Jetta. "Very, very soon, I hope. And Jem, too."
Ba Nee smiled at her though her tears, and Jetta felt a moment's warmth. Maybe not too bad after all, these kiddies. At a safe distance.
"I gotta go," Roxy said, over her shoulder.
"Yeah, I guessed," Jetta said nastily, wishing death and destruction on all platinum haired rock stars, and getting ready to return to her room.
"There's more bourbon in the bottle. Don't go anywhere, honey." Roxy flashed a dazzling grin at Jetta, and Jetta, her head spinning, flopped back onto her bed. Honey.
As the door closed she could hear a piping voice asking, "Roxy, what was Jetta doing in your bedroom?"
"We're having a slumber party."
"Can we -"
Jetta, refilling her glass, started to giggle. Maybe Pizzazz didn't have enough attention to go around, but the next week or so was looking better.
And she really had always loved slumber parties.