Veronica took a deep breath, hitched her purse and laptop bag up onto her shoulder and headed towards the waiting jet, pulling her suitcase behind her. A crew member met her and took her suitcase from her to load into the cargo area. “Thanks.”
She turned to see Stephanie waving at her. She waved back and started for the stairs. Steph met her at the bottom. “Hi Steph. Come to see your dad off?”
“Yeah. Are you excited about the trip?”
“Yes I am actually. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Japan and Australia.”
“Do you like sushi too?” Stephanie wrinkled her nose. “Dad loves the stuff.”
Veronica laughed. “I like the vegetable stuff, but I’m not real big on the raw fish.”
“Me either. Oh! Thanks for the cookies you sent. They were really good.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed them....and that you actually got to taste some before your dad ate them all.”
“We managed to get a few. But I’m sure Dad hid some too.” Jesse commented as he joined them. “Hi Ronnie.”
“Hi Jesse. Did you have a good Christmas?”
He shrugged. “It was okay.”
Before Veronica could respond, Jon’s youngest two came running up. Jake looked at her, frowned and tugged on his sister’s sleeve. “Who’s that?”
Romeo answered. “Her the cookie lady!”
Jake’s frown turned to a hopeful expression. “Did you bring more cookies?”
Veronica had to smile. “You don’t like cookies do you?”
He nodded vigorously. Steph snorted. “Almost as much as Dad does. This is Jake, by the way.”
“Hi Jake. Nice to meet you. I’m Ver...Ronnie.”
“Hi. Did you bring cookies?”
Persistent, just like his father. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a brown paper bag, opened it and offered it to him. He accepted with a grin, his hand digging deep. “Thanks.” Steph and Jesse took one too.
“I have one too? Prease?” Romeo watched his brother bite into his treat.
“Of course you can.” Ronnie leaned down so that he could reach the bag.
Drawing out a cookie, he bit into it and grinned. “Yum!” He impulsively gave her a hug. “Tank you. You make good cookies.”
“You’re welcome, and thank you.” She stroked his hair with a trembling hand, tears burning her eyes.
Jon had been standing back watching, and now stepped forward. “Okay guys we have to go now.” He stopped beside Veronica, slid his arm around her waist and squeezed. “Hi. You ready?” She nodded.
“Hey! You better not be eating all our cookies!” Richie called from the top of the stairs where he’d been watching the scene below him.
“Don’t worry Uncle Mookie, we saved you one.” Jake assured him.
“Yeah? Ronnie, you’d better come up here and let me check.” He could see the tightness in her face and body.
Ronnie glanced up at him and smiled in gratitude. “Don’t worry Jughead, I brought lots....as long as we keep an eye on Jon.” As she turned towards the stairs, movement caught her eye as Dorothea joined the group. The two women stared at each other for a moment, then nodded politely.
“Come on guys, say goodbye to Daddy. He’s got to get going.” Dorothea urged her children.
Veronica turned, climbed the stairs and entered the plane without a backward glance. Richie kissed her cheek and plucked the bag out of her hand. “Look guys, Ronnie brought us cookies!”
“Well, don’t hog them Swingman!” Tico growled, winking at Veronica. “Hola nina. Thanks for the Christmas treats.”
The others chorused their appreciation as well as they passed the bag around. She chuckled. “You’re welcome. Make sure you save one for Jon or we’ll have to listen to him bitch and whine all the way to Japan!”
“You got that right!” Jon reached past her for the bag. His eyes searched hers. “You okay?”
She nodded. “Yeah. I’m fine. It’s just....” She shrugged.
He nodded. “I know. I’m sorry.”
She squeezed his arm and settled into a seat. After takeoff she pulled out her laptop, answered e-mails, rechecked the schedule and sent it to Jon. Rising, she walked to where he was sitting and took the seat beside him. When Vicki passed by, she stopped her and asked for a drink. Turning back to Jon she gestured to his laptop. “May I?” He waved for her to go ahead. She brought up his schedule with a few clicks of the keys and explained what she’d arranged including checking out the opening act bands in Australia before the shows. Jon just nodded. Her brows rose. “No arguments?”
He gave her a sidelong look. “What would be the point?”
She chuckled. “Glad you understand.”
Later, after they’d all eaten they settled in to try and get some sleep. Richie walked down the aisle on his way back from the galley and noticed Veronica shifting restlessly in her sleep. He frowned and glanced around the cabin. “You awake?” He murmured to Jon a couple minutes later.
“Yeah.” Jon noticed his wingman’s frown. “What’s wrong?”
“Ronnie’s really restless.”
“So? Not everyone can sleep on a plane.”
“I don’t think it’s that. I think she’s having a nightmare.” He gave Jon a meaningful look.
Jon frowned, stood and walked back to where Veronica was tossing and turning. He sat beside her, and lifted a curl off of her forehead. “Nica?”
She sighed and instinctively turned towards him. “Johnny.”
“I’m here sugar.” He gathered her into his arms. “Sleep honey. I’m right here.” She calmed at his touch and drifted into a deeper sleep. He smiled his thanks at Vicki when she spread another blanket over both of them, gratified that he could at least do this much for her.