Diana DeRiggs, ThePlazaQueen
This was inspired by a school spreadsheet assignment, and it grew large and fast! Thanks to Rosie and MaceVindaloo for beta-reading!
"You spent it all???"
Corran Horn didn't know the details, but he did know that his daughter the love of his life and the apple of his eye had just told him she'd spent 1500 credits of her grandfather's money and yet had not bought everything she needed for the Smuggler's Alliance Debutante Ball next week. She was turning "Sweet 16" this year, and instead of a conventional birthday party which Jysella had derided as "for little kids" Booster had offered to "present" her at a major social event. It was bittersweet for Corran and his wife Mirax. Neither was ready to let their daughter become an adult, but they knew they couldn't stop it. And Corran indiscreetly did point out that at her age, Mirax was living on her own, as her father had been imprisoned on Kessel ...
In fact, it was precisely because he wasn't able to do such a thing for his own daughter that Booster insisted on doing it for Jysella. He even insisted on paying for her "to be turned out properly," as he put it, meaning for the dress, shoes, makeup, hairdressing, jewelry, etc. He wanted his granddaughter to be as beautiful as a princess, and would spare no cost.
When Jysella was told of this generous offer from her grandfather, she squealed with delight! "This is perfect, just what I wanted! Oh, thank you Grampy!" She embraced his big form, and Mirax and Booster were touched by the emotional bond between grandfather and grandchild.
They had not really seen Jysella so openly and childishly happy in many years. Her teenagerhood had been fraught with the usual problems skin spots, moodiness, popularity issues, attention deficit and having gone through much of it with their older child, they didn't think any of it was all that bad. Jysella, however, did not want to be compared to Valin. She yearned to be special, and it galled her to think she or her situation might be construed as "common."
But this ball was something no one else she knew would have. It would truly make her different and very special! Her friends openly gasped and groaned at her good fortune! Jysella was in heaven!
She'd told her parents she would choose her clothes and accessories on her own; she did NOT want their help. The truth, which her parents understood, was that she wanted to parade her largesse before her friends. Corran was very concerned about this, believing it would lead to the Dark Side of the Force. Mirax told him that this was a gift from her father, and to not interfere with the process, wherever it may lead the teenager.
Thus, Corran was doubly dismayed when his beloved daughter came home with many boxes and bags of things from all the popular shops in the very upscale downtown Coruscant mall, but no ballgown or accessories. She had a very nice manicure, but otherwise there was no evidence that she'd spent the money for its intended purpose.
As she showed him her purchases, Corran felt his anger and disappointment rise. "What is all this junk? Did Booster intend for you to buy a music player as part of your costume to the ball??"
Mirax, if it was possible, was more upset than her husband, "And what is it with the green boots? Do they go with the red dress? Is this what you plan to wear to the ball?? Or were you going to wear the 'Princess Leia Bikini Jeans' to this big party?"
Jysella was angry, "I'm sorry, okay?" Her voice was rising in frustration, "I got carried away, okay? I ran out of money, yeah, I don't have the dress. So can I have some money to get it?"
Mother and father looked at each other in astonishment. "Surely, Valin never did this to us, did he?" asked Mirax. "No," responded Corran, "he did lots of dumb stuff, but never anything like this."
"Congratulations, Jysella," Mirax faced her daughter with a grim mien, "you're always saying that you're not like Valin. What you've done this time really does put you in a class all by yourself!"
"Mind you," interjected Corran, "Valin never had the chance ... if he'd been given 1500 credits, I wonder what idiot things he'd do with it?"
"These are not idiot things!" Jysella exploded in anger. She knew she was wrong, but she couldn't help her response, "I need this stuff, okay? And it's not like it's all for me, okay? I bought stuff for and presents for!"
"Jysella, that is not what this money was for. Yes, it was for you to use, but it was not meant to be wasted at your discretion." Mirax was good at controlling her temper; that's what made her anger so devastating you never knew when it would explode out and hit you.
"It's not wasted! I told you, it's not all for me!" Jysella was nearly in tears in her futile defense.
Corran had been looking through the pile of things, "What of this stuff is for others? Is this everything?"
Jysella suddenly got quiet and mumbled something. She looked down at the floor.
"What did you say? Speak clearly, Jysella." Mirax was hoping she'd misheard whatever it was her daughter had said.
"I said," Jysella spoke slowly, "I gave the gifts to my friends."
Corran sat down again and sighed, "Booster is going to be furious. How much did you spent on these gifts?"
Jysella mumbled again. "What did you say?" Mirax asked again.
"I said," Jysella's voice was choking back the angry tears, "I don't know!"
As their daughter fought to maintain her personal dignity, Mirax left the room and came back with a datapad. "You go through your receipts and you have better had kept those receipts and you tabulate everything you've bought today. Every deci-credit needs to be accounted for, do you understand? I want to know exactly where and on what you spent your grandfather's hard-earned money. Because I want him to know when you don't show up to the ball!"
Mirax left the apartment. Both Corran and Jysella knew this meant she was more furious than she trusted herself to be, and she would take a long walk to try and calm herself. The longer she was out, the worse her anger.
"I'd say we won't be seeing her again today," commented Corran. His daughter burst out into tears.
* * * * *
Once Jysella had stopped sniveling, Corran proposed they go through all her receipts together and see how it all tallied up. "Your mother will likely tell you to return as much as you can to the stores; as long as you haven't used the things or opened their packaging, the store will generally take it back for a full refund, if you're lucky."
"But ... but ... I need ..." Jysella was trying not to blubber again.
"That's not the issue, Jysella. Booster gave you 1500 credits in order for you to buy a dress and accessories so he could show you off at the debutante ball. He did not give the money to you to spend as you please. Do you understand the difference here?" Corran was trying to be the "good cop," here, to Mirax's "bad cop," as ironic as that sounded to the former Corellian security officer.
"I don't know," the girl mumbled. "He said he wanted me to be happy."
"Will you be happy showing up in this?" Corran held up a metal bikini with casual dungaree bottoms and flip-flop sandals with flowers hot-glued to them.
"No." Jysella didn't look up at her father.
"Tell me, what would you be happy to show up in?" Corran decided to try a different tack.
Jysella reached into her purse and pulled out a personal holoprojector and clicked onto a page copied from a Holomag.
Corran whistled at the pricetag. "Nice dress, and you know I know nothing about fashion, but the 1000-credit pricetag is steep! That's more than wedding dresses cost!"
"It's made by a wedding dress designer," explained Jysella, glad to be off the topic of her stupid spending spree, "she had made Mara Jade's wedding dress."
"Oh, I remember that dress," thought Corran. "Well, how much are the shoes and gloves, hairdo, purse ..."
Jysella swallowed, "1700 credits all together, Daddy."
Corran sighed. His teenaged daughter had taken to calling him "Father," like all the other girls her age. But when she wanted something, she reverted to calling him "Daddy."
"So Booster's 1500 wouldn't even cover this?"
"No ... but I have 300 credits saved in my bank account ..." Jysella hadn't wanted to touch the account, as she'd been saving for a particular personal music device.
"Oh, I see. Okay, well, right now, you have the 300, plus how much change did you bring home?" Corran was disembodying himself from the emotions he'd been feeling earlier; yelling and lecturing Jysella would not do any good.
The girl looked through her purse, turning it upsidedown to get all the sales slips, chits, and coins out. It didn't take her long to count up, "4 credits 27, Daddy."
Corran calmly pulled the datapad toward him to do the calculation, "1700 minus 300, minus 4.27, that means you need another 1395.73 credits for the outfit, right? Okay, let's make a table and you tell me what you bought and how much it cost include the taxes and I'll input the data for you. Then you sort it out and we'll figure out how much money we can get back if you return it all, okay?"
After a full evening of calculating, Jysella was able to present this table to her father. They went over it together:
"You should be able to return a lot of this," said Corran as he carefully looked over the list, trying to remember what his wife would expect Jysella to do.
She started to weep again, "But ... I ..."
Corran was tired and he was about to get really mad at his daughter. Is she really so stupid? "Jysella, you'd better not say what I think you're going to say. We've discussed this, I won't repeat it. And crying about it is not going to save your butt, do you understand? If you keep this stuff, you will pay back every deci-credit to your grandfather, and your mother and I will make sure that you do ... and you will NOT be going to the ball!"
He felt bad. He hated losing his temper, and he especially hated dealing with the tough reality that his beloved daughter was just a silly young girl, sometimes.
Jysella dried her eyes and sighed. "It's not like I bought stuff I didn't really want."
"You will have plenty of opportunities to buy that stuff again at some future date, with monies not allocated for a specific purpose. These credits are accounted for, and remember, they don't belong to you. That's very important for you to remember. Your grandfather could have simply sent you the things he wanted you to wear," Corran hoped his point was making it into his beautiful daughter's thick teenaged skull, "but he put faith in your maturity by letting you pick things out and in giving you the money."
The girl's head was hanging, "Daddy, I'm really a bad person, right?"
Despite trying to make this into a life lesson, Corran squirmed. From his many years as a security officer, he knew this ploy for sympathy. This is not a criminal, this is your daughter, he reminded himself, how you respond is much more important!
"Yes ... Jysella, I love you, and your mother loves you. But right now, we're terribly ashamed of you, and of ourselves for raising you so that you'd do a horrid thing like this." He held his breath, hoping to have struck the right balance between loving father and stern disciplinarian.
His beloved daughter sobbed, "I'm sorry, Daddy."
"I know you are," he replied, trying to be tender yet matter-of-fact, "but right now, we have to figure out how to salvage this situation. Let's go over what you can return, and what you can't, and decide what you can buy with that money. That's what your mother told us to do before she got back from her walk so let's get going."
Fortunately, the shops Jysella had patronized were open till midnight on that night of the week, and they were able to visit them one-by-one to return the merchandise which could be returned. Jysella has been mortified to have to go back to the store and explain to the managers that she could not afford the things she bought, and she was very sorry. Some of the stores initially refused to return the cash credits, but Corran was able to persuade them that risking the complaints of a father over purchases made by an underage minor were simply not worth the bad publicity. If the things could be returned at all, Jysella did manage to get the credits back.
In some cases, the stores absolutely refused to take the returns for either cash credits or store vouchers, citing public health codes. One such purchase was the Princess Leia Model Bikini Jeans the proprietor of the boutique pointed out that this garment was normally not worn with protective undergarments, and she had no way of knowing if Jysella had worn them or not. Blushing furiously, Jysella begged her father to leave the store when he started arguing how could a young girl have worn the things naked underneath in just a few hours since purchase! Other shoppers were stopping to listen to the argument and it was more than Jysella could bear.
The shoes in their boxes and packing were taken back without question, but the manicure and pedicure could not, of course, be returned since it was a service item. Likewise for the cosmetics she had purchased, as they showed signs of being open and used. Food consumed and gifts given away could not be returned either.
Jysella argued she should not return the jewelry, as she'd wear them to the ball. Corran consented on those items.
When Jysella and Corran got home again, considerably lighter than when they left, Mirax was already home. She had seen the spreadsheet Jysella had left for her to inspect. Mirax interrogated her daughter about the merchandise returns, and asked her show her what could not be returned.
Seeing the Princess Leia Model Bikini Jeans, Mirax inspected them carefully and concluded that the saleswoman was right. Jysella was forced to confess that she had indeed worn the low-riding hip-hugging clothing as fashion dictated immediately after she'd purchased them to walk around the mall. Corran started lecturing her about buying clothing that required undergarments not be worn, but Mirax interrupted him and reminded him that that was a scolding for another day.
Upon seeing the jewelry, Mirax asked why it had not been returned? Jysella proffered her explanation and Mirax calmly explained that they were patent fakes, which Booster would see through immediately. "Your grandfather would be insulted to see them on you. Why do you think I don't wear any? He'd want to inspect it and give his opinion on it, want to know where you got it, how much you paid ... it's not worth it. Back it goes!"
Exhausted, Jysella capitulated without further comment and promised to go back the next day to return the cheap baubles.
Before she'd allow any of them to go to bed, she had Jysella rework the spreadsheet to show how much money she now had:
Corran added the 300 credits Jysella had told him she had in her savings, and announced that Jysella had 1,320.45 credits, "Which means you need to find a way to make 379.55 credits back to pay for your dream outfit."
Jysella's face fell. She had hoped her savings might cover the unrecoverable portions of her spending spree, but it appeared that her "debt" was more than she had managed to save in her whole lifetime! She struggled not to cry again.
As she sniffled, Corran explained to Mirax where Jysella's figure of 1,700 credits had come from. He'd had the foresight to have Jysella prepare another spreadsheet of her projected budget:
"Wow, that's just about 1,700 credits, not even counting all the taxes. Daughter, you have very expensive tastes ... good taste, Booster will note, but very expensive! Okay, I have an idea to save a little money; time to call in some favors. I know that dress designer; if you say she's the one who made Mara's wedding dress, then I know Jari'Kyn. There is nothing shameful about asking for discount, as long as you remember the answer can be no." Mirax left the room to make the commcall to the young Twi'lek.
Jysella squirmed as she overhead her mother describing the situation to the famous designer; worse, it didn't sound like a discount was possible. Finally, Mirax came back, looking a bit grim.
"Bad news," she started, very curtly, "not only is a discount not possible for a new dress, but that particular dress requires a four month advance order ... so even if you had the money, you couldn't get that dress."
Jysella's head hung down this was just too disappointing after all the stuff she'd done wrong already! She fought back a sob, not wanting to look like a baby. "It's just a dress, what takes four months?"
Mirax glared at her, "I don't think that's a relevant question. You didn't bother finding out this information before it was too late, so you have no right to be re-making the dress-shop's sales and manufacturing policies."
Jysella didn't say anything, afraid that if she tried, she'd start sobbing in earnest.
"Is there good news?" asked Corran. He figured if there was bad news, there must be some good news beside it.
"In a sense," said Mirax. "She said she does have a try-on sample model of the dress in about Jysella's size. It would usually be used for women to try on and for Jari'Kyn to make resizing instructions based on that standard dress. She says it is in pretty good condition. She recommends it be cleaned, but if no alternations are required, she can give the dress to Jysella for 200 credits less than the sticker price."
The young girl could barely believe her ears. She could have the dress after all? At a 20% discount! "When ..."
"It's too late tonight, but if you can get your clean body down there at 7 tomorrow morning, you can try it on. But you cannot be fussy she said there is no time for alterations. So you have better been paying attention in shop classes when you did your hemming and button-attaching unit!" Mirax allowed herself a smile, "By the way, young lady. You're welcome."
"I was going to say 'Thank You,' I swear!" Jysella was happy that finally, something was going her way!
* * * * *
The dress did not fit perfectly nor was it the color she'd intended to wear, but Jysella was determined that it would be. She held in her stomach as the fasteners were closed. Fortunately, the dress came with it's own support and boning so an extra layer of underclothing would not be necessary this afforded Jysella a few millimeters more space in the tight bodice. Her mother joked that at least she would have no worries about slouching during the ball.
She had shown her father the pale pink version of the dress, but this one was a fiery red. It actually made her look very dramatic, and Jari'Kyn whistled, commenting that all eyes would be on her at the ball! She did advise wearing a large necklace to bring more attention to her face; the designer approved of Jysella's choice when the girl showed her the holophoto of the one she'd intended to buy.
As Jysella carefully took off the dress, she felt very giddy. Though it was not exactly what she might have chosen initially, fate seemed to provide her with the perfect dress, nonetheless. Strangely, the dress made her look ... beautiful! even without makeup or jewelry. She had to agree with her mother and Jari'Kyn that this dress would make everyone take notice of Jysella Horn!
As a gift, Jari'Kyn had the dress ionically cleaned in the store for no additional fee. It was packed into its own magnetic-field generated trunk, which would suspend the dress inside container, so there would be no wrinkles or pressure points developed on the fabric or seams.
As her parents watched the dress being packed, Jysella counted out the credits packed into her purse. She had never had so much money pass through her hands in one place, and it unnerved her a bit. When she'd spent it the day before on her frivolous spending spree, it didn't feel like anywhere near as much as she was counting out now. She was actually appalled at herself for letting so much money drain away from her in smaller increments, and she vowed to watch her budgeting rather than thinking she "had enough" to cover smaller expenses.
When the case was safely sequestered in her bedroom, Mirax called her back into the dining room, and back into "conference mode". "Now that you understand the scope of the project, we need to discuss how you're going to make up the extra credits you need to satisfy yourself and Booster. You don't have much time, you need to plan for how you are making up the difference in money."
"My friend Saree, her grandmother asked me to help at her restaurant this week because their waitresses are on their annual strike."
"What are they striking for?" Her father was concerned that his daughter might be working in a volatile situation.
"It's not a real work strike, Daddy." Jysella shrugged. "It just happens. They decide they want to go to a resort or something and stage a strike so they don't have to show up to work. It's like a tradition and the restaurant advertises it like that. More people come because she offers the same cooking for cheaper. Don't you eat out, Daddy?"
Mirax laughed, "I've heard that does happen, but I didn't think a swank place like Saree's grandmother's suffered from it. Gee, they must be desperate to ask an untrained young girl to come work there?"
"It's not that bad, they convert to a supper buffet type of place when it happens, and she hires Saree's friends. I did it last year, I made 100 creds, I'm sure I can do the same this year." Jysella knew this to be a sure thing, and was grateful that the strike occurred the week before the debutante ball. She made a mental note to always be available to Saree's grandmother; the restaurant job would help get her out of this hole, she should do the same for the old lady.
"Okay," Corran was noting the amount on the datapad Mirax had brought to this little meeting, "So that's 100 credits. You still need to make up about 80 credits." He and Mirax had agreed not to forward or loan any money to their daughter. This was a good life lesson, and they meant for her to get all the benefits of these hard decisions.
Jysella furrowed her brow. "You give me five credits a day for a school lunch. I could skip it"
"No!" Corran interjected immediately, "You will not skip a meal to save money!"
Mirax frowned, "You can do it, but you must pack a lunch for yourself from leftovers from dinner. The money for dinner is allocated to dinner, so that food for lunch would be 'free' ..." She elbowed her husband in the ribs when she thought he was moving to protest that those were HIS leftovers to nibble on during the day.
Jysella smiled at the interaction between her parents that they thought she hadn't seen. "Okay, Mom. I understand." Corran put in "25 credits" into the next line, then announced that 54.55 credits remained.
"I could have a room sale. Amilee had one when she needed money for her school trip, she got 65 credits in one afternoon. Ananda did better last school break when she spent all weekend at the fair." Jysella was relieved she'd thought of another way to finish the debt recovery effort.
"What did Amilee and Ananda sell?" asked Mirax, trying to keep her daughter's feet on the ground. "You can't sell things that we don't approve, I might remind you. I seem to recall Amilee tried to sell the furniture out of her room and her mother had to get it back from the buyer. It was nearly ugly because one of her dressers was a vintage piece from her grandmother, who got it during the Clone Wars."
"No! I wouldn't do that! It's just stuff in my closet and under the bed that I don't use, like some lamps, some jewelry I beaded but it's the wrong length or color, books from school last year, clothes that don't fit me ..." Jysella grew excited thinking how much she could make from the room sale!
"We'll leave that an open estimated item, since it's the least certain," commented her father, "So assuming the room sale is flexible, you should have enough to make up the difference and go to the party as planned. Good job, Jysella!"
They all looked together at the debt management spreadsheet:
Mirax nodded with approval at the spreadsheet, "Looks like you'll have enough left over to buy Booster a flower for his lapel."
"Oh!" Jysella was surprised at having forgotten this important detail.
"Tsk! Selfish girl! Well, you're learning," admonished Corran, but only very lightly.
* * * * *
On her way to bed, the girl suddenly remembered that though Jari'Kyn had kindly had the dressed cleaned for free, Jysella had had to pay 100 credits extra for the dress's magnetic-field storage box and for delivery. It was simply too large to get into the family speeder and the shop was too far away to walk the box home, even though it had been fitted with repulsorlifts. Her parents were under the impression that the cleaning, box, and delivery were included in the total price, and she wondered how to tell them she'd neglected to let them know about the extra expenses. I won't tell them, she decided, I'll just make it work!
* * * * *
Jysella was trying on the dress every day, and was dismayed that it still didn't quite fit, and thought that losing a kilogram or so would do the trick. Unbeknownst to her parents, Jysella was not eating the packed lunches she was told to carry from home, because she decided that by skipping lunch, she could lose a few grams before Saturday night. She would drop the food off at one of the homeless shelters en route to school there were many on the city planet.
To take her mind off her growling stomach, she took to doing her homework at lunchtime, so that she'd have less schoolwork to do after finishing at her restaurant job after school.
She was also volunteering for the heavier jobs at Saree's grandmother's restaurant, reasoning that the extra exertion would help her lose weight, too. Jysella was quite proud of the fact that she was getting a workout and money at the same time.
However, she was so tired at the end of the evening that she didn't have any time to set up the items for her room sale. She'd told her friends about her plan, and Voii said her father could take the girls and their things to an established flea market at a courtyard plaza to improve their sales effort. The girls would pool together to rent booth space for a few hours to sell their cast-offs. It seemed a good idea at the time, but Jysella found herself scrabbling for things in her closet and stuffing them into bags to price on site. The market opened at 5am, and the girls would report there to set up an hour before. This way, they would be finished by 8am, in time to get to school.
Jysella didn't do badly, selling her things for 35 credits, but it was far below the 65 credits estimated. In addition, Jysella knew she had to account for the extra 100 credits she had spent on the dress's storage container. The extra work she was doing at the restaurant resulted in a 20% increase in her wages good news for her bottom line.
In the privacy of her room, she looked over the spreadsheet again, adjusting the numbers:
She would still be 100 credits short, not even counting the flower she was going to buy for her grandfather's formal coat lapel. She was too tired to weep over her troubles, but her sleep wasn't easy.
The next and final day at the restaurant, Jysella tried hard to think how to make the extra 100 credits to afford everything she needed to go to the ball. She realized that she must have looked miserable when Saree's mother called her aside to ask if she was feeling well?
"Yes, I'm sorry. I've been distracted, I'll try harder!" Jysella hoped that the 120 credits she was sure she'd made this week would not be jeopardized by tonight's work performance. She was not as quick and attentive as she had been.
"Jysella, what's wrong? It's not like you! Saree told me that you won't be here tomorrow night, is that right? Are you unhappy? Is it boy trouble?" The short, round woman was affably nosy, and normally Jysella would have been irritated at this attempt at probing for information. But tonight, she was exhausted and on-edge and frankly desperate.
"No, ma'am. Not boy trouble. I'm not coming because my grandfather is taking me to a debutante ball"
"Oh! The Smuggler's Ball! Of course, it's a big event! You're so lucky to have garnered an invitation!" Saree's mother looked frankly envious.
"I'm just a little worried about getting all the things I need to attend, that's all ma'am. Nothing serious."
"Oh! I see!" The round face crinkled into a broad smile, "You're worried about accessories?"
This woman is freaking me out a little, thought Jysella. How does she know I need accessories?
Seeing the stunned look on the young girl's face, Saree's mother clucked reassuringly, "It's always the accessories! So easy to overlook, yet the right finishing touch will bring a whole outfit together. They're an absolute necessity but no one thinks about them till the end when they look in the mirror and think to themselves, something is missing. But I'm surprised that you have that trouble, my dear, being that I understand your mother is in the art and objets business?"
Jysella blushed, "Yes, ma'am ... It's not that, I have a budget and I didn't allocate enough for the jewelry. I'll figure something out, it's not really serious." She bit her lip though, belying how serious it was to her.
"What kind of jewelry?" Saree's mother was pushing, for a plan was forming in her head. "I have lots of beautiful jewelry, you can borrow some, my dear! Then it won't be part of your budget and you'll look like a princess at the ball!"
Jysella looked startled. Borrow? Then she realize that borrowing jewelry meant that she could save that money, buy Booster the flowers, and maybe have some leftover to put back into her savings account. Or maybe buy the better shoes she really had wanted, and a purse, too! She'd seen the jewelry Saree's grandmother had worn at the restaurant. It was all flashy and showy, but it was undeniably beautiful and Jysella started remembering the pieces the woman had worn that week. There were a few she knew would look better on her than they did on the older woman, simply because they were likely designed for a girl Jysella's age.
"Come! I have them in my vault here in the office I don't wear the jewels anywhere else, after all!" Saree's grandmother pulled the young girl by the hand to the back office. Jysella saw Saree glancing at them as she bussed dirty dishes away, and she looked frankly annoyed, probably because Jysella was not helping.
At the business office at the back of the restaurant, Jysella held her breath so she wouldn't gasp at the trays of precious stones and sparkling metals Saree's grandmother had pulled out of the wall-vault. It took only a few minutes to spot the one Jysella knew would be perfect with her expensive designer dress, and she loved how the light broke into so many colors as they passed through the stones. Saree's grandmother nodded, "Yes, borrow that one, isn't it gorgeous? My mother passed that on to me, she had it back in the days of the Old Republic, actually buried it in the garden to hide it from the Empire! It cleaned up beautifully, can't get quality stuff like this these days."
Jysella could only stare breathlessly at her reflection as the necklace was put around her neck. It suited her perfectly, even though at the moment she was wearing just a utilitarian waitress's uniform. It was more beautiful than anything she'd seen at the Coruscant mall jewelers, that was for sure! She was even happier when matching earrings were held up to her face, completing the picture. They were a little long, draping onto her shoulders, but they glittered and he did indeed look like a princess!
With tears in her eyes, Jysella thanked Saree's grandmother, hugging her tightly. "You're a lifesaver! What can I ever do to repay you?"
Saree's grandmother smiled, "It's my pleasure, my dear. But do bring your grandfather to meet me. I'd love to get to know him!"
The jewels were carefully wrapped in a wooden box secured with a ribbon, and Jysella was sent home early, along with the 120 credits owed to her for the week's labor. She'd promised to bring her grandfather to meet the generous restaurant owner, not realizing that the widowed woman was hoping to do business or perhaps something more with the former smuggler. But even if she had, Jysella was so happy at not having to spend 300 credits on jewelry for the ball that she would have promised anything to the woman.
* * * * *
Jysella spent the morning shopping for the last of the things she'd need and getting her hair and nails done for the ball that night. Her grandfather was coming just before dinner so they'd have enough time to get to the spaceport for cocktails. They'd take a transport to the orbiting skyhook which would be used for the ball; Corran told his daughter that a skyhook was not only easier to secure against unwanted guests, but the view through the transparasteel floor to the capitol city below would be breathtaking. Jysella was so excited she could hardly keep herself from putting on the dress right then! But if she did, she'd have to wait in it for over an hour and would be uncomfortable. She didn't want to sit down in it because that might mess up the gown before she could make her grand entrance!
"Why don't you go over your bookkeeping," suggested Mirax. "You've gotten quite good at manipulating that spreadsheet." So Jysella sat down to do her accounts one last time, proud of her skill and happy that her mother seemed to have forgiven her for the spending debacle the week before.
Jysella held up the tally, certain that her parents would be really impressed that she'd made her budget. Instead, Mirax frowned, "You forgot to list the jewels you're wearing." Jysella had put on the hanging earrings and ornate necklace already, so eager was she to get into her party clothing. Corran had teased her for looking like a Sagev'sal dancing girl in the jewels and the stylish hairdo, with only stockings and a bathrobe to cover herself!
The girl blanched and sat down abruptly. Deflated, she sighed, "I'm sorry, I forgot to tell you ... I borrowed the jewels."
"Borrowed ..." Mirax's frown turned to a grimace, "and I suppose you forgot to tell us about the delivery and packing charge for the dress, too? You borrowed the jewels to offset that cost, didn't you?"
Jysella nodded, knowing that if she teared up now, she'd have to re-do the makeup that she's spent nearly an hour putting on her face. Her mother handed her a kerchief and showed her how to dab at her eyes so as not to disturb the eyeliner.
"Well, at least she put some of her savings to the flower for Booster," reasoned Corran. "And you picked up an expensive purse, too, I see. That wasn't in your original budget. And more expensive shoes."
Jysella sniffed daintily, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to deceive you ... it's just I forgot about the cost of the dresscase and delivery, and completely forgot about the flowers ... and some of the taxes, too. So when Saree's grandmother offered me the jewelry, it seemed like such a great idea ... are you going to tell me it wasn't?" She dabbed her eyes again, hoping she didn't look like some kind of masked wetland rodent.
"No, it's not a bad idea," said Mirax, "it's not bad at all. But it's not free, you'll need to repay Saree's grandmother somehow. What did she ask for?"
"Nothing," mumbled Jysella. "But she did say she wanted to meet Grampy ..."
Corran laughed very loudly, even when Mirax shoved him. "I'm sorry, I can't help it! The thought of anyone after Booster is ... is ... oh, hahaha!"
Mirax sighed, "Well, I guess your grandfather can be a good sport about it. But be sure you tell him about it, do you understand? We don't want this woman stalking him without his knowledge!"
Thankfully, Corran was howling hard with laughter and choking on his lack of oxygen, so Jysella didn't have to answer her mother. Mirax shoved him out of the room, leaving Jysella on her own. It was time to finish getting dressed, anyway!
* * * * *
"Jysella! Wake up! Get up, right now!"
Jysella's head was in a fog, for she had been asleep for not many hours. She had spent the night before in an exclusive orbiting skyhook nightclub with her grandfather at the Smuggler's Alliance Debutante Ball one of the most sought-after invitations of the Coruscant social calendar. None of her friends were there, but they all knew she would be. In the dramatic deep red Jari-Kyn dress, Jysella was asked to pose for many holos taken throughout the night, several of which she was told would appear in the social magazines and programs in the next week! She could hardly wait!
But right now, it seemed that her ceiling had come crashing down on her head. She blinked at the bright lights and recalled that when she got home from the ball, the sun was already risen.
"Jysella, something terrible has happened; Wedge just comm'd and says Booster is in trouble! Get up and get dressed, we have to help!" Mirax sounded panicked and furious, and Jysella's heart was in her throat.
"What happened to Grandpa?" She was fully awake now, pulling on some sweatclothes.
As Mirax drove the speeder to an exclusive artist's district of downtown Coruscant, she told her daughter that Wedge had been walking past a jeweler's studio it was his and Iella's wedding anniversary and he heard Booster's voice yelling at someone inside the shop. He rushed in and found Booster trying to strangle the owner! "Wedge had to pull a blaster on your grandfather to get his attention; this is bad. Was he okay last night when you were with him? Do you have any idea why he's beating up Chibi Roodt??"
Jysella was silent in her shock. That's the name of the famous jeweler she'd given to Booster when he admired her jewelry and asked where she'd gotten it! He wanted to know where the necklace and earrings she'd been wearing had come from, and she felt ashamed to tell her benefactor that she'd resorted to borrowing them. Her grandfather had given her 1500 credits for her outfit and accessories for this one night, and she felt embarrassed to confess she had not bought the jewels within the budget. She wanted him to think she had shopped wisely and not wasted his money, so she told him she'd gotten it on sale at a very well-known jewelry designer's atelier.
Apparently, Booster didn't like something about the jewelry and took it upon himself to correct the error, whatever it was ... Jysella's panic was rising, thinking her grandfather would be arrested and sent to Kessel for beating up Roodt!
"Mom, I'm sorry!" Jysella was wailing and sobbing. "I told him I bought the necklace and earrings from Chibi Roodt!"
Mirax understood the situation immediately, and barely managed to park the speeder before she jumped out and ran toward the jeweler's studio. "Stop! Daddy, it's a misunderstanding! It's not his fault at all!"
Jysella stopped outside the door when she heard the deep, anger-filled voice of her mother's father, "This SOB sold Jysella a fake and told her it was real! He knows me, he knows you, how dare he rip off a member of my family!"
"Daddy, calm down! It's not what you think! Roodt is blameless!"
"How can you say that?? Your daughter has been ripped"
"Booster, I know you love Jysella and think she can do no wrong. She loves you and doesn't want you to think she was stupid with your money. The truth is she borrowed the jewelry and was probably too ashamed to tell you she spent so much on the dress that she couldn't afford the jewelry. A friend's grandmother lent them to her. Sit down, Daddy!"
The big man looked stunned at this information. Finally, Wedge felt the situation was diffused enough to put his blaster away and help get Booster into a chair.
"Is that what this is about?" Chibi Roodt finally spoke, nursing what looked like a swollen snout. The Rodian stopped cowering when he saw Booster had been subdued. "You thought I'd rip off anyone in your family? Booster, you son of a ... how dare you!"
Booster hadn't heard the other man at all. "Jysella lied??"
"I'm sorry, Daddy. Yes, she did."
" ... to me?" Booster said this last part in a sad whisper.
"Jysella, where are you?" Mirax was calling for her daughter, in a voice pitched higher than usual. "Get in here and explain and apologize. See what your lie did? Your grandfather could have been sent to Kessel and an innocent man could have died! Thank goodness Wedge had intervened!"
Everyone looked toward the door as the young girl slowly walked in. What could she do? She wanted to run away, and wished the ground would open and swallow her whole so she could avoid this awful situation. But such a thing only happened in fairy tales, and Jysella told herself it was better to face the music now and get it over with than to run away ...
Her face pale and her bed-hair still showing signs of the expensive coiffure from the night before, Jysella was a pathetic sight. She stopped just inside the door while everyone turned to stare at her.
Chibi Roodt was perplexed, "You're saying this young lady caused Booster to pummel me? I've never seen her before! I never sold her anything, I never ripped her off! It's not my fault!"
"Yes, that's right," mumbled Jysella, but mercifully, no one made her repeat herself. "Grandpa, I'm sorry ... I borrowed the necklace from my friend's grandmother."
Having found his composure again, Booster sat up and scowled, "Why didn't you tell me that when I asked where you had obtained it?"
Jysella looked down at her toes and wrung her hands. "I don't know, Grandpa. Please don't be mad ... I thought you'd be upset if I borrowed it after all the money you gave me to buy an outfit for the ball ..."
"Let me explain," Booster's voice went all gravelly, "the necklace you wore did not have real gemstones. I asked because I feared you didn't know any better and had gotten taken"
"Why blame me?" The Rhodian was quite agitated.
"No reason," mumbled Jysella. When her mother asked her to repeat herself, she said, "I had you on my wish-list ... I wanted to buy a necklace from you, but I couldn't afford it."
The Rhodian looked thoughtful, "You should have come in, I have many designs, some not at all expensive. And if I had known you are Booster's granddaughter, I definitely would have discounted the cost! Look what happens to people whom Booster thinks did a bad job taking care of his kin!"
Jysella looked more stricken as the swelling on the man's face got worse, "I'm so sorry! Let me get you some ice!" And with that, she ran out the door, grateful to be doing something anything other than having to confess her childish lie.
It took a few minutes for her to find a shop selling coldpaks, but she did come back with the ice promptly, demonstrating her genuine regret at how things had turned out. But the Rhodian waved it away and tried to smile, as much a that species could simulate a human-style smile. "I understand you own a Jari'Kyn gown?"
Surprised at this question, Jysella nodded. "It's why I didn't think I could afford the jewelry ... even though my mother got me a discount, it cost a lot"
"Ah, yes," nodded Chibi, "her gowns are indeed expensive, but exquisite! Classical, no frou-frou she did Mara Jade's wedding gown, did she not?"
"Y-yes ..." Jysella was still emotionally in turmoil and didn't understand why the jeweler suddenly was interested in her gown. "I bought one like it ..."
"Perfect! That's better than I could have hoped!" said the Rhodian. He looked over at Booster and Mirax, "Do we have a deal?"
Mirax looked thoughtful, "I'll say yes, though I think I'd better talk it over with Jysella. Don't worry, it'll work out, and thank you very much. We'll see you later." She nudged her father. "Dad?"
Booster got up slowly, "I'm sorry, too. I hope there are no hard feelings, Chibi. I saw red, I'm sure you understand? I'd expect no less of you if your kin had said I'd ripped her off." He offered his hand to the Rhodian, who had finally accepted the icepack from Jysella and was holding it to his swollen proboscis.
Chibi took the big man's hand and shook it vigorously, "Oh yes, I do understand, Booster. In my more foolish days, I might have done the same. Fortunately I have more wisdom and understanding now, and all's well that ends well, eh?" And with that, the Terrik-Horn clan and Wedge Antilles left the studio.
When they got outside, the adults thanked Wedge for being at the right place at the right time, and one could have sworn they were deliberately ignoring Jysella's anxiety in wondering what the heck was going on? One moment, she's having to apologize for a lie she told her grandfather the night before, and the next, everyone is acting like it had never happened!
"Can I come to breakfast with you, then? I'd like to see how you'll handle this," Wedge asked, "I have two girls of my own, after all!"
"Hmph, no way," muttered Booster. "I'm humiliated enough. But I do owe you one! Say hi to Iella, eh?"
"Aww ..." But Wedge took the rejection amiably, and said his good-byes, and added a "Good luck!" to a very perplexed Jysella.
Mirax and Booster walked ahead and avoided Jysella's eyes. They didn't slow their brisk pace till they stopped in front of Dex's, a diner dating back from the Old Republic days. It was indeed old, it was reliable, and it was said that Darth Vader himself had ordered the place be preserved when the Emperor had been in power.
After being seated and placing their orders, Mirax spoke directly to her daughter, "Jysella, I want you to know that what you did was unwise and despicable, and you will be punished for it. Quite aside from inconveniencing and injuring others, it's just wrong."
"I know," Jysella looked at the battered collection of silverware on the cheap flimsi placemat on the table. "I'm sorry. I can't think of what else to say, but I know it was wrong. I won't do it again, I promise."
"Unfortunately, one has to often do more than make a promise," grumbled Booster.
Jysella realized that the terms of her punishment were about to be stated, and she swallowed.
Mirax spoke quietly and clearly, "As your mother, I have already accepted this part of your punishment from Chibi Roodt." Jysella imagined she'd have to tidy up the artist's atelier and she cringed wondering how many hours she'd need to clean up and dust the jeweler's studio. The place was small and all a-jumble and she imagined it hadn't been cleaned since she was born.
"You will wear the Jari'Kyn dress and do your makeup and hair as it was last night. You will arrive tomorrow night at the Quilvic'ce Center and do as Chibi tells you. You have no option, you will do this. At the end of the evening, Chibi will consider your apology accepted."
Jysella was aghast, "But, Mom! I told Saree's grandmother I'd work for a catered event tomorrow! I owe her, too!"
"Well, tell her that your mother told you that you must do some work for Booster, and you are sorry. No need to go into details." The food had come and Mirax had started to season it with the contents of the many condiments left out on the table before eating. "You can make it up to her by working two nights, don't you think?" Her tone made it clear that Jysella had no choice, and Mirax would not accept any argument.
Jysella picked at her food and finally asked, "What do I have to do? And why in the Jari'Kyn dress and full makeup?"
"It's an industry show," explained Booster, chewing on some pan-fried tapatoes, "and though Chibi is a good jeweler, he's never had the money to present his art in a manner to attract the type of attention one needs to become really successful." He tapped some condiment on his food before continuing. "This year, he's managed to scrape together enough money to enter Quilvic'ce show, but he said he could not afford to find a human female to help him present his wares. So your mother and I offered your services as a means to obtain his forgiveness. You won't have to be embarrassed. I'm sure you won't mind, since they won't really be looking at you, but at the jewelry."
Jysella's mouth fell open, "You mean ... a ... a model? A real model?"
Mirax's eyes rolled, "Yes, a model. But this is in payment of a debt, and this will not be a regular part of your life. That is part of your punishment too, until you show adequate maturity in handling a job like that."
"Ohmigosh!" squealed the girl, "Wait'll I tell Saree and Amilee and Ananda!"
* * * * *
Though Corran protested that Jysella was too young to model, and what about all the crazy people who might stalk her? Mirax calmed him and promised this was a one-time deal and the girl would be heavily made-up. Jysella would not be doing any more modeling until she "grew up" as Mirax had put it.
Accompanied by her parents and her grandfather, Jysella went to the Quilvic'ce Center and tried to walk regally to the assigned booth. She did indeed look stunning and she posed before the crowd as the Rhodian had instructed, showing off the jewelry to best effect. Chibi happily received more inquiries and orders for his craftsmanship than in all his past years combined!
To everyone's surprise, Saree's grandmother's restaurant had been contracted to provide the catering for the event, and Jysella would have worked the event. When the old woman saw Jysella on the holobroadcast close-up monitors as a featured model, she could barely contain her pride at knowing the young girl!
And the young girl still had to pay her debt to Saree's grandmother for the loan of the fake necklace she'd worn to the ball. Fake or not, it was a loan given in good faith; besides, Saree's grandmother might not have realized the vintage heirloom was a fake. So, when she approached the Horn-Terrik family, Jysella grabbed the opportunity to graciously introduce the woman to her grandfather, as she'd promised she would. Saree's grandmother admonished Jysella for not telling her that she'd arranged the meeting in such a flamboyant manner! Jysella didn't have the nerve to explain that it was an accident of circumstance ...
As predicted, Jysella's friends were green with envy, and simply would not accept the explanation that Jysella was performing this task as a punishment. Any of them would have given anything to be in such a beautiful dress, in those jewels, in front of the galaxy's holocams!
Chibi Roodt was so delighted that he gave Jysella a gift of a necklace and modestly sized hanging earrings more beautiful that the ones she'd borrowed from Saree's grandmother. They suited Jysella and the dress better, too. What's more they were authentic Roodt originals, Jysella could hardly wait to show them off to her friends!
Roodt asked Jysella that when she became 18, that she consider modeling for him full-time, as long as she could still fit into the dress. It was an easy promise to make, but Jysella had learned these past few days not to jump too quickly to answer when asked for something, and only agreed that she'd come and see him. I might change my mind by then, she reasoned.
* * * * *
The next morning at breakfast in the Horn apartment, Booster told the family that he'd actually met Saree's grandmother many years before on Corellia.
"I didn't know she was Corellian," said Mirax, "wonder why she didn't mention it before?"
"Oh, she didn't mention it. I simply remembered her." And that was all he said about that. Corran had to work hard not to burst out in laughter at Booster's expense! (For one, his mouth wqs full and he'd had made an awful mess.)
"Jysella, about your debt to me, I've decided what I need from you." Jysella still owed an apology favor to Booster. "You are to accompany me to a conference in two weeks. It won't be fun like the Smuggler's Alliance dance, it'll be meetings and such, not all fun and games. You come as my secretary and if you look beautiful and behave properly, and I'll forgive you for nearly having me arrested and for nearly killing Roodt. Deal?"
"Grampy, I'd do it anyway! But what choice do I have when you ask me like that?" Jysella giggled despite the older man's gruff tone. "Don't worry, Grampy. I won't shame you. I have the jewels from Chibi Roodt now, no need to borrow fakes. I'm still really sorry about that, and thank you for being nice to Saree's grandmother."
Booster pat the girl's arm. "I know, and you're welcome ... though I think you owe me for that, too! Anyway, I warn you, it's a dull meeting you're coming to. You're not allowed to fall asleep, and you must make sure that the holorecorders that I will set up in secret work properly and have enough power! What's more, I'll be drinking heavily, and you are responsible to make sure we get back home safely."
Is this what growing up is about? It's not so bad ... She hugged her grandfather. "I promise, Grampy. Thank you for everything! And even though it was a lot of difficult lessons, it's been all worth it, the best week of my life!!"
This is a ton better than just being a kid! After all, she'd gone to the biggest ball of the Coruscant social calendar, modeled expensive baubles for a talented jewelry designer, was the envy of her friends, had become a sort of minor celebrity her holo had shown up on all the social and gossip magazines and, she had managed to pay off all her debts and apologies. And now she was scheduled for another outing in the beautiful dress that she was very lucky to ever own! What a great birthday it had turned out to be, after all!
All's well that ends well, like Chibi had said, thought Jysella to herself, very happily.
* * * * *
Corran had felt the rumblings of maturity flicker through his daughter's being and immediately felt sad. This week had been a series of tough lessons for his little girl, but she showed signs of absorbing them well.
"I'm proud of her," said Mirax, as she and her husband readied for bed.
"Me too," said Corran, getting between the sheets, "too bad I'm not ready for her to grow up, though."
"But I'm happy to see the spoiled kid go away for good; at least I hope she's gone," exclaimed Mirax. "Holding her accountable for her misdeeds was the right thing, Husband. And as for her growing up ... she will do so, no matter what we do or don't do. So accept it and stop being a baby!"
Corran cuddled up to his wife, "I didn't know I would have to grow up when she finally did! Ah well ... Congratulations, Madame Horn ... you have a lovely daughter!" He kissed his wife.
Corran giggled as Mirax and he fell off to sleep. At least Jysella's parents are good at pretending to be grown up!
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