“You bastard! How dare you! Do you expect me to feel sorry for you? To believe that you actually gave a damn?”
“Of course I gave a damn! How could you ever think that I didn’t?” He flexed his jaw, surprised at the strength behind her slap.
“Maybe because when I told you I was pregnant you couldn’t back away fast enough. And because when....when I lost him, you were nowhere to be found. ” The tears started again.
“Tell me about it! I want to know everything that happened. I have the right to know!” As the rest of her statement processed in his brain he froze and his gut clenched. “Him?” A glance at the guys standing near the door showed no signs of surprise. Somehow they knew, but he didn’t have time to get into that now.
She stood, pushed by him and began to pace the room. “You want to know all the gory details? Fine, I’ll tell you! Where would you like me to start? How about with the two days I spent – alone - worrying, hoping and praying that the stillness in my womb would be broken and I would once more feel the kick of a small foot? Or maybe with the lovely ultrasound that showed no signs of life? Then there was the really fun discussion with the doctor who explained that the baby....” Her throat closed up and she had to pause to swallow and regain control of her voice.
Jon stood and tried to take her in his arms. She pushed him away and continued pacing. “The placenta had pulled away and the baby was dead, and because I was so far along, they were going to induce labour and I would have to go through the birth process. Now there’s an experience that you might like to hear about. How I got to suffer through eighteen hours of labour, sweating and straining, while they urged me to push, and wouldn’t let me rest even though I was exhausted. The pain just kept coming, and they kept telling me I had to push. I cried and told them that I couldn’t, I was too tired, I wasn’t strong enough. They told me that I had to keep going, I had to concentrate, bear down and push the baby out. But my baby was dead! All that pain, with no prize at the end. After seven months of feeling my child grow and move inside me, my baby was dead! I cried and screamed and begged for you to come and help me, but you never did.”
Once again Jon wrapped his arms around her, his heart aching, his chest so tight he could barely breathe. Oh my God Nica! I’m so sorry! This time she turned towards him. “Where were you Jon? Our baby died and I needed you! WHERE WERE YOU?” She started to beat her fists against his chest, tears streaming down her face. “I gave birth to a dead baby. Alone. Our baby! But you. Weren’t. There! You were too busy running around the world playing Rockstar. You were too busy to even answer the phone!Your son died Jon, and you couldn’t even come to say goodbye. You couldn’t even bring yourself to come to see me after it was all over. YOU COULDN’T EVEN BE BOTHERED TO SEE IF I WAS DEAD OR ALIVE!”
Her fists beat harder. He didn’t try to stop her. If he could have beaten himself he would have. He felt like the lowest form of humanity. He wanted to crawl out of his skin and die. “Oh God Nica....” He couldn’t speak. The horror of what she went through took his voice. Not that he knew what to say anyway.
Her sobs were heartrending. “Our beautiful baby boy Jon.” Her legs gave out and he caught her sagging body against his. Scooping her into his arms, he sat in her vacated chair and settled her on his lap, stroking her hair while she cried. One trembling hand lifted to trace his nose and jaw line. “He looked just like you. He was so perfect. Tiny and perfect. And he’s gone. He never got the chance to live. He died and took my only chance at having a family with him.”
“Only chance?” He could barely force out the words. He was almost positive that he didn’t want to hear the answer.
She sucked in a ragged breath and fought to bring herself under control. “After....after it was over I developed an infection that scarred my tubes. I can’t have children.” Once again tears took her voice.
The sound of sharply indrawn breaths from the other side of the room told Jon that this part of her story was news to his bandmates, but he didn’t look in their direction. His eyes were closed as he fought against the bile rising in his throat. No wonder she doesn’t want anything to do with me. She must hate me! I hate myself! “Nica.....I’m so sorry. Oh God sugar, I can’t tell you how sorry I am! I know that it’s too little, too late, but I swear to God I never meant to hurt you or for you to go through something like that alone.” He held her close, stroking her hair while she cried, his own tears wetting his face.
After a few minutes of silence, broken only by the sounds of her distress, the guys approached. Richie squeezed Jon’s shoulder. “Yell if you need anything.” Jon nodded.
Tico leaned down to kiss her temple. “We’re here if you need us nina.”
With gentle touches and murmured words, they left the parents alone to grieve.
Veronica huddled against Jon, shuddering, her cheek pressed to the warm skin of his bare chest, and let his stroking hands soothe her. She felt drained, cold, empty, yet.....lighter, as though a weight had been lifted from her. Her therapist had suggested that she needed to talk to Jon, to share her ordeal with him, that she needed to in order to truly heal, but she had been determined to deal with it on her own. She finally had to admit that she wasn’t as strong as she thought she was. When she’d calmed and was able to speak again, she let her fingers play with the thick mat of hair that covered his chest and asked the question that had been plaguing her for almost nineteen years. “Why didn’t you come?”
He sighed, knowing that this was just going to dig his hole deeper. His excuse was no excuse, and he knew it, it had just taken him a few years to admit to himself. “When you left the tour to go work on that other project, I felt...relieved...and angry. Angry that you didn’t fight harder to stay, even though I knew that your boss wasn’t giving you a choice, and relief that I didn’t have to see you every day and be reminded of my new responsibilities. Even though you never said anything, I knew you wanted to get married, and I understand why. We loved each other and we were having a baby, it would have been the reasonable thing to do. But.....the band had really taken off, we were on top of the world. Everyone wanted to see us. We were travelling the world, having everything we ever wanted given to us, women throwing themselves at us everywhere we went....I just wasn’t ready to settle down. Plus Doc was always at me to be ‘friendly’ with the girls. I wanted to enjoy the crazy life for awhile. I know that sounds selfish, and immature and irresponsible, but that’s how I felt. Then when.....when they told me that the baby died, at first it didn’t seem real. If I didn’t see you or talk to you it wouldn’t be real. It hit me harder than I realized. I picked up the phone a dozen times to call you, but Mom told me to give you some time to come to terms with what had happened. I was going to go see you during our next break, but Doc told me not to. He said that you were healing and didn’t want to see me.” At her snort, he hugged her closer and kissed the top of her head. “I know, but it made sense to me at the time, especially since you never called, and it was the easy way out. The coward’s way out. And then, when I finally got up the courage, you were gone and I couldn’t find you. I know I shouldn’t have left it like that. It was a horrible, hurtful thing to do, and I’m sorry. I understand now why you hate me. I’m having a hard time living with myself right now.”
Veronica lifted her head until she could look him in the eye. Both of them were once again fighting tears. “I don’t hate you. I convinced myself that I did for a long time. But that kind of anger takes too much energy to maintain. Over time, and with a lot of therapy, it faded. I never quite forgave you, and the hurt is still there, but the hate is gone.” She stroked his cheek and smiled wryly. “But there’s a few things you probably need to know to make your story complete.”
“You mean there’s more?” He wasn’t sure he could take it right now.
“Just some points that I think need some clarification. My recall by Polygram to work on that other project was not instigated by my boss, as we thought. He told me months later that Doc had called him and asked for a favour. Seems my...closeness...to you was causing him some concern that you weren’t focussing on the job, and he wanted me removed from the tour – especially when I started to show.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I tried, but I couldn’t get through. Doc kept telling me how busy you were, but that he’d tell you that I called. Then, after the baby......he came to see me in the hospital and told me that you couldn’t get away right then, but he’d see that you got some time soon. I confronted him about getting me pulled from the tour, and he just shrugged and said that he was looking after his boy.”
Jon growled. “Asshole. He never gave me the messages.”
“Mmmhmm.” She hesitated, but decided he deserved to know the rest. “Several of the times I called, your mother answered and gave me the same song and dance that Doc did about how busy you were, but she’d have you call. Did she tell you that she came to see me after I got home from the hospital?” He shook his head and braced himself. “Well, she did. She said that she wanted to see if I was okay, and to let me know that I didn’t have to worry about you. Dorothea was looking after you and would I please stop calling.” The memory of that conversation and Carol’s obvious satisfaction at how everything turned out and her...pleasure... at being the one to tell Veronica that Jon had moved on, that she’d lost both her baby and her love, brought on the tears again.
He closed his eyes and groaned. “Fuck! Honey I’m sorry.” When he could look at her again she was shocked at the self disgust, regret, and sorrow shining in the sapphire depths. “My family has brought you nothing but pain. If I could take it all back I would. Please believe that I never meant for any of it to happen.” He cupped her face with both hands and used his thumbs to wipe at her tears, but they kept flowing. “I’m so sorry Nica.” He bent and brushed his lips over her lips, and her eyes, sipping the glittering drops from her lashes. “So sorry.” Returning to her mouth again, he kissed her gently, but more firmly.
Veronica hesitated, but the emotions of the day were too much to fight any longer. With a sigh she surrendered, lifted a hand, slid it into his hair and let him give her the comfort he’d denied her nineteen years ago.