“Oh shit.” She raked a hand through her hair. “When?”
“Last night. We got the call just before we went on stage.”
“How’s Richie?” He and his father had been very close.
“Ok. You know Rich, keep laughing in front of others, grieve in private.”
“Mmmhmm. When’s the funeral?”
“Day after tomorrow.” He gave her the details and location. “Are you coming?”
“I don’t know yet. I have some things to sort out.”
“Please don’t stay away because of me. I promise I won’t bother you. Richie needs all the support he can get right now.”
She stared out of her office window. “I’ll think about it.”
“Ok. I’ve got more calls to make so I’ll let you go.”
“Ok. And Jon....thanks for letting me know.”
“I knew you would want to know. I’ll see you Ronnie.”
“Bye Jon.” She hung up, briefly pondered his subdued tone and conciliatory manner, but chalked it up to sadness at losing someone close.
She thought about it long and hard, but in the end decided her need to support Richie was greater than her aversion to seeing Jon. She knew what he was going through. She too was an only child and had lost both of her parents.
Pulling up in front of the church she took a deep breath, got out of the cab and climbed the steps. Inside, she joined the line to speak to the family. Glancing around she saw Tico and David, but couldn’t see Jon. She breathed a little easier. She knew he had to be around, but at least she didn’t have to face him right away.
When she reached Richie his eyes widened slightly just before he engulfed her in a bear hug. “Thanks for coming little girl.”
She leaned back, reached up and framed his face with her hands. She recognized the anguish in the dark depths. “He was very proud of you and everything you’ve accomplished Rich. Don’t ever forget that.”
He smiled crookedly and kissed her. She saw the woman beside him nodding. He turned to her. “Ma, do you remember...”
“Veronica.” Joan interrupted him. “Of course I do. Who could forget those eyes? Nice of you to come dear.”
Veronica hugged her. “I’m so sorry for your loss Joan. Adam was always so kind to me.”
Joan smiled. “He liked you, although he could never understand why a smart beautiful girl like you would want to hang out with a bunch of long haired, smart mouthed punks like the boys.”
“Ma! We weren’t punks!” Richie protested.
Joan patted his arm. “Yes you were, but you grew out of it.” She winked at Veronica. “Actually, I think he was hoping that you would be the one to get Richie to settle down, and was disappointed when you chose Jon instead.” She took Veronica’s hand. “He felt horrible about what happened. We both did.”
Veronica nodded and blinked back tears. She found distraction in the young girl who came to stand between her father and her grandmother. “Daddy? Can I go sit down now?”
“Sure sweetie, but I’d like to introduce you to someone first. This is Veronica. She’s an old friend of mine.” Richie glanced up. “Ronnie, this is my daughter Ava.”
Veronica held out her hand. “Hello Ava, it’s nice to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you too.” Ava shook her hand and looked closer. “Are your eyes really purple?”
Veronica smiled. “Yes.”
“Cool. No wonder Daddy likes you. Purple is his favourite colour.” The adults snickered. Richie stroked his daughter’s blonde hair and kissed her head.
Not wanting to hold up the line, Veronica moved on and saw Tico and David waiting. She hugged them both and Tico motioned his wife over. “Querida, this is the Ronnie that I was telling you about. Ronnie, my wife, Alejandra.”
“Hello Ronnie, Tico has told me so much about you. It’s very nice to meet you.” Alejandra hugged her. “Don’t worry, Tico won’t let him hurt you again.” She murmured in Veronica’s ear.
Veronica met the other woman’s eyes and smiled. “Nice to meet you too. And...thanks.” Tico had always been like a protective older brother and apparently still saw himself in that role where she was concerned.
She had intended to grab a seat in a pew at the back, but Desmond Child had seen her and waved her to join him. Sitting, she glanced around and saw Jon standing on the other side of the church watching her. He nodded. She nodded back. Turning back to answer a question Desmond asked her, she didn’t see Jon start towards her, or Tico and David block his path and shake their heads. Jon frowned, but turned and took his seat with his bandmates and friends.
She also didn’t notice another set of dark eyes watching her. Dorothea recognized her instantly as she joined Desmond, and looked for Jon to see if he’d seen her. He had, but apparently Tico and David weren’t going to let him get to her. Dorothea smiled wryly at their protective stances and eyed her ex-husband speculatively.
After the service Veronica managed to get out of the church and into a cab without having to speak to Jon. Breathing a sigh of relief as the car pulled away, she returned to Nashville and her life.
Several months later Jon was sitting in his office, staring out the window. Things were not going well and he was in a foul mood. The album was selling well and the summer shows had been good so far, but Richie seemed to be in a downward spiral. There was rarely – if ever – a day that he wasn’t drunk. Jon understood that he was trying to numb a deep pain, but it was starting to affect his playing, and Jon couldn’t have that. He’d have to have another talk with him.
On top of that, the kids were tearing him apart. Every time he went to see them, Jake and Romeo attached themselves to him and wouldn’t let go. Their tears when he left were like knives to his heart. But that was almost easier to take than Jesse’s reactions. He showed no interest in his father at all and had to be pushed to even acknowledge his presence. It was like Jon was just some man who came to visit every now and then and wasn’t worth Jesse’s time. Jon didn’t know how to reach his oldest son. He tried talking to him, he went to every one of his games and activities, but it didn’t seem to gain him any ground with Jesse. Stephanie tried to make up for her brother’s behaviour. She was always happy to see him and filled any uncomfortable silences in the conversation. She helped comfort the little ones when he had to leave and kept him up to date with their lives. He appreciated her help, but it wasn’t her job. He felt like a failure as a father, but didn’t know how to fix it.
And then there was Ronnie. He hadn’t gotten to talk to her at Adam’s funeral, and now she was once again avoiding his calls. He’d tried to respect her wishes and leave her be, but he couldn’t get her out of his head. Their time together – right up until the last few months – had been the happiest he’d ever known. He wanted to feel that way again. Now more than ever. He needed to know that he could make someone happy. Running out on her was the biggest mistake of his life. He could see that now. A mistake that he could – and would – rectify, if she’d only give him a chance! But in order to prove himself to her – and everyone else – he needed them to spend time together. He knew he could win her over again, he just needed time and proximity.
With a sigh he turned away from the window and reached for his phone. He was about to piss off several people – namely Ronnie and his bandmates – but it was the only way he could think of to get them the time together they needed. And he had too much coming at him from too many directions to play Mr. Nice Guy any longer. “Vince? Jon Bon Jovi. I need a favour.”
Twenty minutes later, Richie walked into Jon’s office and sprawled on the couch just in time to catch the end of Jon’s conversation.
“Thanks, Vince. I owe you one.” Jon eyed his wingman as he hung up, then called his assistant. “Cheryl, I need another hotel room for the tour and I want it on our floor.”
“Sure boss. What’s the name?”
“Veronica Watson. Codename, Ronnie.”
“Ok. Got it. Does that include the Prudential shows?” Cheryl smiled to herself as a mystery was solved. She suspected she’d just discovered why Jon wanted his codename to be ‘Archie’ this tour.
“Yes. Thanks. Oh, and she’ll travel on the jet with us.” Jon hung up and raised a brow at Richie who was shaking his head at him. “What?”
“What’re you doing bro?” His words were slightly slurred.
“Just making some arrangements for some extra help for the tour. Are you going to be sober enough to play?”
“Of course.” Richie glared at him. “When have I ever not been?”
“Last week was pretty damn close!” Jon sighed. “You need to get some help man.”
“No, you’re not. You’re drinking every day. Heavily. And it’s starting to affect your playing.” Richie just waved away the concern. Jon frowned. “I’m serious. I know you’ve been through hell and you’re hurting, but it’s out of control. Get some help. It’s not a request.”
Richie met Jon’s gaze for a long moment, then sighed and nodded.
Down in Nashville, Veronica had enjoyed a busy summer. She’d found some new artists with some real potential, she’d been to some great summer festivals, and she, Lori, Naomi and Tricia had spent their weekends at various barbecue’s, pool parties and the like. The only shadow on her happiness had been the thoughts of Jon that she couldn’t stop. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t relegate his image to some walled off part of her memory. She hoped that, with time, she would be able to. At least now that he’d stopped calling she’d have lots of time to work towards that goal.
Or so she thought. Until her boss called. As she listened to what he wanted her to do, her eyes widened and her breathing became agitated as, knowing who was behind the request, her temper rose. “You want me to do WHAT?!”