Jon stood in the doorway to his house and watched his parents climb out of their car, his expression stony.
“Jon why didn’t you get someone to put some salt on the walkway? Someone could slip and fall on the ice.” Carol chided her son.
Jon was silent for a moment. “I wasn’t expecting company. Hi Dad. Nice to see you.”
“What if the kids came?” Carol wasn’t ready to let it go, despite Jon’s obvious bad mood.
“Dorothea would call first.” He turned and entered the house. John Sr. and Carol followed him into the den where Jon went immediately to the bar and refilled his wine glass.
“Why should I call first? I’m your mother.”
Jon snorted. “Couldn’t prove it by me.”
“Jon! Why would you say such a thing?”
“A mother is supposed to help her children and support them in whatever – or whoever - makes them happy. She’s supposed to comfort them when they’re hurting – not cause them more pain. She’s supposed to teach them how to be good, caring people, not turn them into monsters who don’t care about anyone or anything but their own success.”
Carol sneered. “It’s that Ronnie, isn’t it? She’s trying to turn you against me again. I knew her showing up again was bad news!”
“Don’t Mom! I don’t want to hear another derogatory or negative comment about her from you. You’re not fit to even speak her name!”
“Jon!” Carol was shocked.
John Sr. studied his eldest son. “What’s happened son?”
“That bitch has been telling him lies about me, that’s what’s happened.” Carol interjected.
“ENOUGH Mom! She hasn’t been telling me lies, you have! For nineteen years!” He turned to his father. “Did you know that she conspired with Doc to keep Ronnie and I apart? That she blocked Ronnie’s calls to me – including the ones when the baby died? And told me not to call, to stay away, to give Ronnie time to come to terms with what happened? That she let Ronnie go through labour and deliver a dead baby – MY BABY – alone? Then told her that Dorothea and I were back together and to stop calling? She let me think that Ronnie had walked away from me, without looking back, that she didn’t want anything to do with me, and let Ronnie think that I had walked away from her because I didn’t want her and the baby interfering with my success.”
John Sr. frowned and crooked a brow at his wife. “Is that true Carol?”
Carol shifted uneasily. “She was no good for him! The last thing he needed was some harlot getting herself pregnant and using it to hold him back, or to get a piece of his success. I was protecting my son.”
Jon shook his head. “Jesus Mom! She’s not and never was a harlot! And she didn’t get herself pregnant. I had something to do with that. For the thousandth time, she wasn’t holding me back, she was helping me! And while you were trying to “protect your son”, my son died. The woman that I loved was alone, and scared and hurting, and I wasn’t there. My son died and I wasn’t there! My son died and I NEVER GOT TO SAY GOODBYE!” He raked a hand through his hair. “It was your grandson Mom and you denied him and tossed him to the side like trash. Whatever you thought about Ronnie, he didn’t deserve that.”
“Carol, how could you?” John Sr. stared at his wife as if he didn’t recognize her. “It was our grandchild!”
“Are you sure it was yours?” Carol asked her son.
Jon gave her a disgusted look. “Don’t.” He sighed. “You’re my kids’ grandmother and they love you, so I won’t ban you from the house during the holiday, but I don’t want you here if they’re not.” His jaw firmed. “I don’t want to see you or talk to you for awhile. I may forgive you in time, but you and I will never be the same again. Like it or not, Ronnie is back in my life, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that she stays there. Deal with it or stay away. I won’t have you making nasty comments about her or making her feel unwelcome.”
“You’re putting her feelings ahead of mine? You’re putting her ahead of your own mother?”
“Yes. It’s about time someone in this family considered her feelings. We owe it to her. I should have put her first nineteen years ago.”
“But...” Carol couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“Enough Carol. You’ve brought this on yourself.” John Sr. interrupted her. He sighed. “I’m sorry Jon. You’re right. She didn’t deserve any of what happened. I wish I’d paid more attention to what was going on. Maybe I could have stopped it.” He set a hand on Jon’s shoulder and squeezed. “You know where I am if there’s anything you need.” He paused. “Tell Ronnie that I’m sorry. For...everything.” Turning, he grasped his wife’s arm and walked her out of the room and out of the house.
Jon sighed and poured another glass of wine. Confronting his mother should have made him feel better, but it didn’t. It just made him think about how much he had let Ronnie – and their son – down.
Veronica stood in her kitchen checking her supplies and planning her annual Christmas baking. Her shopping was done and wrapped and her decorations were all in place, including her tree with its twinkling lights that took up one whole corner of her living room. All she had left to do was to create the holiday treats she was known for and that were in high demand. As she looked over her recipes she saw one that brought back a flood of memories. She’d made the cookies when they were in Vancouver working on Slippery and had brought them into the studio where the guys had inhaled them. Jon had begged - and bribed - until she’d made more the next day, then hid them so that he didn’t have to share with the others. On impulse she added a few item to her grocery list and headed for the store.
Christmas Eve morning Jon glanced up as his housekeeper set a package on the desk in front of him. “This just came for you.”
“Thanks Molly.” Tossing aside his pen, he picked up the package, and glanced at the return address. The Nashville address in Veronica’s handwriting had him ripping off the paper and lifting the lid of the tin. A slow smile lifted the corners of his mouth at the sight – and smell - that greeted him. He picked up a cookie, bit into it and groaned. Damn that’s good! The sound of running feet in the hallway had him scooping up a handful of cookies and hiding them in a desk drawer. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t get any once the kids found them.
“Daddy!” Romeo ran in and climbed into his lap. “Santa tomin tonight!”
Jon hugged his youngest. “Hi buddy! Yes he is.”
“What’s that?” Jake was eyeing the open tin of cookies.
“Ronnie sent us some cookies.”
“The dark haired lady that was in Dad’s dressing room that day. Remember?” Jesse explained as he entered the room. Reaching the desk he too leaned over to inspect the treats.
“I ‘member!” Romeo nodded. “She was sitting with Stephie for sound check. She has purple eyes!” He looked from the cookies to his father. “I have? Prease?”
Jon nodded. “Yes you can have one.”
Stephanie had followed her brothers and now stood across the desk from her father. Reaching into the tin she took two cookies and handed him one. “Why would she send us cookies?” She watched him closely.
He smiled. “For a Christmas treat. She used to make them for the guys and I a long time ago.”
“Is she coming here during the holidays?”
Jon’s gaze snapped to his daughter’s face, vaguely aware of the boys’ interest in their conversation. “Why would you think that?”
Stephanie shrugged. “You said she was a friend. You obviously still like her. I just thought you might have invited her to spend some of the holidays with you.”
He smiled wryly. “She already had plans in Nashville.”
“Too bad.” Stephanie and Jesse replied in unison. Jon nodded his agreement.
That night, after the kids were in bed, Jon sat staring at the phone for a long time before finally picking it up and dialling.
Ronnie was opening the door to her apartment when her phone started to ring. She’d been out making her usual Christmas Eve rounds of friends, delivering cookies and sharing a drink or two in celebration of the season. She wondered who could be calling at that hour. It was late and she was tired and had a full day ahead of her tomorrow. “Hello?”
“Hi. Sorry to call so late. Did I wake you?”
She shrugged out of her coat and sat down on the couch. “No, I just walked in the door actually.”
“Out with the girls?”
“Uh huh, among others. What’s up Jon?”
“I wanted to thank you for the cookies.”
“Oh you got them. Good. I came across the recipe when I was going through my books and remembered how much you guys used to like them. Did you share any or did you hide them?”
He chuckled. “Yes I shared. The kids came in just after the package arrived.”
“How many did you manage to hide before they found them?” She knew him and his love of cookies. The tour had shown her that it was still strong.
“A handful.” He admitted. She snickered. He was silent for a few seconds. “Why don’t you come up here for a few days? For New Year’s maybe?”
She sighed. As much as she might feel the urge to do just that, she knew she couldn’t give him – or herself - any encouragement to view them as a couple. It would only lead to more pain and disappointment. “I can’t. I’m sorry. I already have plans.”
“Can’t you get out of them?”
“Why do you want me to?”
“I just thought it would be nice to spend some time together away from the craziness of the tour.”
“We’re friends aren’t we?”
“Yes, I guess, but...”
“So do I have to have a reason to want to spend my time off with my friends?”
“No, but I would have thought you’d seen enough of me for a while.” She didn’t say why, she knew he would understand what she wasn’t saying.
“I think we’ve spent enough time apart – more than enough.” He too avoided saying what he really meant, knowing she would understand. “I’ve missed you Ronnie.”
She closed her eyes. “Jon, let the past go. If I’ve learned anything through all of this, it’s that you can’t live in the past and you can’t change it. That’s not living, it’s just surviving. It’s time to let it go. Focus on your family and the future. Let the rest go.”
“Yes you can. You have to if you’re going to move on.”
“Is that what you’re doing?”
“Yes. Finally.” She ignored the tears running down her cheeks. “Enjoy your time off with your family. I’ll see you in a couple weeks. Merry Christmas Jon.”
“Merry Christmas Ronnie.” Jon hung up the phone and sat staring into the fire that was crackling in the hearth, warming the room. Its heat didn’t reach him though, he felt cold right to his core.
A few days into the new year, Richie was sitting in his living room watching T.V. with Ava when his phone rang. “Hello?”
“Hey Steph, what’s up?”
“I need your help. Something’s the matter with Daddy.”