There were a lot of things a girl learned in the Misfits. One was how to produce a stunning disguise from underneath sparkling evening wear, at a moment's notice.
Stormer pulled the trench coat tightly around herself, wound the chiffon scarf around her face, and pulled her picture hat low over her eyes. She checked herself quickly in her mirror. Perfect. No one would notice her now.
Under cover of the Misfits' performance, Stormer wound her way slowly over to the Bentons' table, taking care to avoid Roxy's corner. She was fairly sure her outfit was dry clean only, and water frizzed her hair up. And, without dwelling on the fact too much, she wanted to look nice for Kimber, who was distractingly flowerlike in deep rose gauze and pigtails.
As she approached the table, Jerrica slid from her seat, slipping in the direction of the kitchens. Stormer was ashamed for being relieved. Jerrica had always been perfectly nice to her. It was just that since Stormer had returned to the Misfits, things had been… awkward. She suspected that Jerrica thought of her as a butterfly who seduced and abandoned her little sister, which was ludicrously like the spin Pizzazz would put on the situation, and had nothing to do with reality. Nothing at all.
Stormer became aware that she was furiously arguing with an imaginary opponent inside her head, and that her features under the veil were contorted in a scowl Roxy would be proud of. She blushed a little, and made sure she smiled as she took the seat opposite Kimber.
The other girl was moping… adorably, Stormer thought, comparing Kimber's wide-eyed petulance to the brooding sullenness her band mates always assumed when they were in a bad mood. The way her lower lip was pushed just a little outwards caught something beneath Stormer's breastbone. She wanted to hug the younger girl and reassure her that everything was going to be okay, that she was lovely and talented and appreciated. Kimber was so babyish sometimes, and so… sweet.
Stormer did not have the chance to enjoy too much sweetness in her life.
Then Kimber lifted big blue eyes to Stormer, and her sweetness drained away like honey running off a spoon. "Oh, hi, Jerrica," she said nastily. "Nice disguise. Did Synergy run out of batteries?"
"Huh?" Stormer took off her hat. "I'm not your sister, Kimber. And what's Synergy?"
"Um, no one." Kimber's cheeks turned as pink as her eye shadow. Stormer really wished she knew if it was from embarrassment or pleasure. "I mean, nothing." Her cheeks darkened further, as she reached out and covered Stormer's hand with her own. "It's really good to see you."
"It's really good to see you, too. I've missed you." Stormer turned her hand over, and interlaced their fingers.
"I think about you a lot, and how much fun we had." Kimber looked nervous a moment, then whispered, "I still keep our picture next to our bedside table, even though Jerrica doesn't approve."
Stormer suddenly felt like swinging on the chandelier next to Jetta, although that would require letting go of Kimber's hand. "Me, too, but I have to hide it before I let Pizzazz come into the room. I'd really hate anything to happen to it."
There was a pause of a few heartbeats, and then Kimber seemed to become aware that they were sitting silently, smiling goofily at each other. She dropped her lashes and cleared her throat, although she didn't release Stormer's hand. "So, how come you're not wrecking the place with your… friends?" Her voice hardened with dislike on the last word.
Stormer smiled too, although she let a resigned of air flutter the scarf wound around her face. "Pizzazz seemed to want me to say hello to you." She made no attempt to prevent her eyes from rolling. After all, Kimber of all people would know that the green-haired singer had some ulterior motive in mind, if she was encouraging a friendship she'd always opposed.
At this point, the woman in question leaned down from the chandelier and screamed, "Stop flirting, and ask the little bimbo who Jem is!"
"Yeah!" yelled Roxy. "We don't have all day! And we're running out of things to destroy!" Some spoilsport had turned her fire hose off at the wall, putting her in a particularly unpleasant mood. She hated being thwarted in her innocent pursuits. Someone, Stormer knew from tragic experiences, was going to get shoved now, probably into that serving cart… Ah, there he went. Ice sprayed across the room, and people began to slip and fall. Roxy screamed with laughter.
"I'm sorry about that," whispered Stormer, mortified.
"About what?" Kimber asked, distractedly. Her other hand had wound around Stormer's, so that they were both clasped in her hands. "Stormer, why didn't you come to my wedding?"
Stormer blinked back sudden tears. "Well, you know, the others would have wanted to come too, and I know you wouldn't want them there," she began awkwardly. "And… besides…" She tried to think of a way to say I didn't want you to get married that wouldn't make it sound like… well… something Pizzazz would imply. She dropped her lashes, then looked back into Kimber's open, vulnerable face.
"C'mon, Stormer! Ask her now, while she's all googly-eyed!" chimed in Jetta, taking a swing at a random waiter with her saxophone.
Pizzazz turned on her in a fury. "Jetta, shut up! Do you want Kimber to find out we're trying to discover Jem's true identity?"
Roxy, her bad mood now entirely vanished, was smirking triumphantly at Jetta. In whatever complicated game of one-upwomanship Roxy played in her own head against Jetta, with Pizzazz's attention as the prize, she had obviously just won major points.
Stormer felt a sneaking sympathy with her, despite being divided between horror and Misfit-ish delight at the mess her friends were making. Roxy, after all, had seniority, and she and Pizzazz had been… had been… very close friends, Stormer's mind filled in, long before Jetta turned up on the scene. But then Jetta was so much fun, and she and Pizzazz worked so well together… She became aware that her mind was skittering off into details to avoid coming up with a truthful answer to Kimber's question.
Kimber had apparently realised she was too uncertain to continue. She cradled Stormer's hand very gently between her own. She was wearing sleeveless rose lace gloves, and the lace prickled against Stormer's sweaty palm. "I wish you'd take that scarf off. Stormer, I – I don't know if anyone ever told you why I didn't go through with the wedding."
"I heard." Stormer seemed to have difficulty speaking. Something was hurting her, lodged in her throat. "You realised in time that you had feelings for something else."
"No! I mean, yes. I mean… I knew I wasn't ready to commit myself to any one man, because maybe… maybe that just isn't right for me anyway… and Jerrica is going to be back any second, and I really need to talk to you, Stormer," her voice rattled on, gaining speed and volume "and you have to promise not to be upset or angry with me or stop being my friend, okay, it's just that I really really missed you and – oh Stormer, when I thought you were married to Craig, even though I know that was stupid of me, I thought maybe one day you would get married, and…"
Stormer urged her on silently in her mind. Hurry, hurry, say what you're thinking… She felt tensely wound up inside, as if Kimber was about to tell her something wonderful, but every second she took would mean a higher chance that something dreadful was going to happen instead. She was waiting for - something – anything - to ruin the moment.
Ah, there it was…the herd of elephants which suddenly stampeded through the restaurant, against all logic. Somehow, things like that always seemed to happen in Stormer's life.
Kimber screamed piercingly, pushing her chair back and springing up. Stormer tried to fight her way around the table to her. "It's okay, Kimber, I'll protect you…"
Jerrica materialized behind the Hologram, putting her arms around her younger sister. "It's okay, Stormer, I have her," she shouted. So much for Stormer's disguise. "Go join your friends!"
"Wait!" Stormer dove for the sisters, but they were gone. A hand seized hers, and she turned, hoping desperately. Jetta, pale but laughing, dragged her out of the restaurant. Stormer could hear Pizzazz and Roxy whooping with laughter somewhere across the chaos of the room.
"You guys never let me have any friends of my own," she muttered under her breath.