Veronica arrived at the airport for the trip to Montreal and wasn’t surprised to find that she was to travel with the band. She would have expected nothing else from Jon. With a deep breath, she joined the group waiting to board and hoped that she was better prepared to deal with him and the tour than she had been for the Newark run. She realized now where she’d gone wrong. The anger brought on by Jon’s manipulating to get her where he wanted her had blinded her to what she should have been focusing on – how she was going to deal with having to be around him so much and the memories that were bound to resurface with her being back in that environment.
She’d spent the last three days down at the shore, walking on the beach, assessing the last two weeks and planning for the next nine months. Alone, except for the birds looking for food in the crashing surf or near the surface of the water, she let down her barriers and took a brutally honest look at herself and her reactions to Jon. There were some things that she just couldn’t deny, no matter how much she wished she could. Despite her belief that her feelings for him – other than pain and anger – were firmly in the past, she had to face the fact that they weren’t. That somewhere deep inside she still cared about him. That a part of her still wondered “what if”. What if he still cared about her and she was given the chance to try again with him? Would she take it? That’s why she didn’t argue longer with Vince over her assignment, why she had let Jon get close enough to touch her, kiss her, why she’d been unable to keep him at arm’s length. Her anger at his manipulations had only sustained her so far. Her own subconscious yearnings had undermined all her attempts. It had to stop. That last day in Newark had reminded her why they would never work. No, she had to let go of her old dreams once and for all and concentrate on the future. A big part of that future was her career, so she would stay on and finish the job she’d started. In order to do that she needed to keep Jon at a professional distance and focus on the job she loved and that he’d entrusted her to do, without the interference of useless hopes and emotions.
“Hey Ronnie. Ready to jet around the world with us again?” David greeted her.
“Ready as I’ll ever be. From the looks of things, we’ll be travelling in a lot more comfort than we used to.” She gestured out the window beside them to the plane sitting at the end of the gangway.
“Yeah. No more crowded, uncomfortable, dirty buses. We don’t even have to share the plane unless we want to!”
Veronica laughed, memories of past flights and bus trips, cramped quarters and bad food flitting through her mind. Boarding the plane, she was introduced to Vicki, the flight attendant, and took a few minutes to explore. Wow. They definitely have come a long way! She saw Jon motioning her to sit beside him near the back of the plane, but, keeping her new awareness of the situation in mind, she ignored him and instead took a seat up near the front. She needed to start the tour as she intended to continue.
It was a good plan, except that she’d forgotten one very important aspect of it that she couldn’t control....Jon. Keeping him at a distance would only work if he let it, especially on a plane where she had no means of escape.....as she found out about ten minutes after the pilot had turned off the seatbelt sign.
Veronica stuck in the earbuds of her iPod, booted up her laptop and was double checking the upcoming schedule to make sure she hadn’t missed anything when Jon slid into the seat beside her.
“Is there a problem?” She didn’t look away from her screen.
“That’s what I was going to ask you.” He frowned.
“What are you talking about?”
“Why are you sitting up here?”
She looked around. “Why not? Is this someone’s seat? Can’t I sit here?”
“No, it’s fine, but why didn’t you come sit back with us?”
She shrugged. “I like a window seat.”
Jon’s frown deepened. He could sense her withdrawal, and it frustrated him. By the end of the Newark run he’d felt that he was making some progress, but now it seemed that he was back at square one. After his mother’s stunt, he’d thought that leaving Ronnie alone for their few days off was the right thing to do. Now he wasn’t so sure. He’d had a long conversation with Richie a couple days ago about how to approach Ronnie. He’d hated to admit it to anyone – even himself – but his experience with women wasn’t as extensive as people thought. Aside from a few one night stands with groupies, his adult relationships consisted of Diane, Ronnie and Dorothea. Period. But his usual moves weren’t working. He needed help from someone with more....practice... than him. So he’d called Richie. He’d felt like a teenager asking his best friend to help him get the girl, but he didn’t know what else to do. Richie had snorted when he’d explained the problem.
“Of course your normal moves aren’t working! She knows them all! You need to try something different. Hey! I know! How about being considerate of her feelings, show interest in her likes and dislikes, her hopes and dreams? That would be a refreshing change.”
“I don’t need your sarcasm, I need your help.”Jon paused. “I need to find a way to reach her....to get her to give me – give us – another chance. I have to. I still love her.”
“Do you? Or do you just feel guilty? You say that you still love her, but do you really know her anymore?” When Jon didn’t answer, Richie sighed. “Ok, I believe that you still...have feelings – strong feelings – for her. But, in my opinion, if you want to have a future with her, you have to first deal with the past. I know that you’re prepared to do that and that it’s her that blocking that, but you’re going to have to find a way around, over or through that wall.”
“I know that. I just don’t know how and it’s driving me crazy!” He raked a frustrated hand through his hair. “Any ideas?”
Richie thought for a minute. “She’s got to be comfortable with you before she’ll feel safe enough to open up her wounds. Have you even talked to her?”
“What do mean? Of course, I’ve talked to her.”
“I mean just normal, everyday, friendly conversation. About something other than the past or work.” Jon thought about it and was chagrined to have to admit that he hadn’t. Richie grunted. “That’s what I thought. If I were you, I’d start there.”
Richie’s words echoed in his mind as he watched Ronnie scroll through her online calendar, but there was something he needed to do first. “Ronnie?”
“I....I want to apologize for my mother’s behaviour. It was beyond cruel and uncalled for.”
Veronica’s hand clenched over her mouse, but she continued to stare at her screen. After a moment, she nodded curtly in acknowledgment of his words.
His hand reached to cover hers, his thumb rubbing her knuckles soothingly. He tried to think of a less painful subject. “Stephanie says hi. She was impressed with your job, although I think it’s because, as she puts it, you ‘get to tell me what to do’.” Veronica nodded again, but she smiled slightly, and her hand relaxed under his for a moment before she pulled it away.
Jon bit back a sigh and tried again. “So....have you seen any good movies lately?” She finally turned to look at him, her expression wary. “What?”
“What are you doing Jon?”
“Just making friendly conversation.”
“Come on Ronnie, why do you always have to break my balls? I’m just trying to get to know you again. Is that so bad?”
Despite herself, Veronica had to fight a smile. The problem was that it wasn’t so bad. The urge to give in was strong, but she knew that that road led to a dead end. Better to stop it now. “Bad? No, but it would be a pointless exercise. You know it as well as I do. I’m here to do a job. No more, no less. And when it’s done, I’ll be going back to Nashville and we’ll probably never see each other again. So, unless you have something work related that you need to talk to me about, if you’re looking for conversation, I suggest you try another seat.” She smirked. “It’ll save your balls.” With that she turned back to her computer and turned up her iPod. Growling in frustration he surged to his feet and returned to his seat at the rear of the plane.
As they were waiting to load into the vans to take them to the hotel, Richie approached Veronica, leaned down and murmured in her ear. “You know, little girl, waving a red flag in front of a bull is a good way to get trampled.”
“What are you talking about Jughead?”
“If you want him to leave you alone, putting up walls and basically daring him to break them down is not the way to do it.”
Her brow lifted. “What would you suggest?”
“Tell him what he wants to know.” Her expression blanked and her face hardened. He nodded. “I know you don’t want to talk about it, and I know that he shouldn’t have to be told, he should have been there, but....honey, he does deserve to know.”
“Then you tell him.”
Richie shook his head. “It’s not my place. It’s between the two of you. You know how persistent he is. He won’t leave you alone until he finds out....and you won’t be able to truly move on until you face it,.....with him.” Her mouth set in a mutinous line. He sighed. “Just think about it.” Grumbling about stubborn people, he climbed into the van.