The next day started the same way as the day before with Veronica on the phone when she joined the guys in the hallway to head over to the arena.
“Yeah, I need about a dozen or so of those too. There’s some guitars coming too. No, the ESP Sambora edition ones. Yeah, I’m going to get the band to sign them all before I send them. I can get the tour programs from Paul. Um....no, that won’t work, I need to get them out. How about this....send everything that isn’t already there to the New York office and I’ll pick it up there. We go to Philly next and there’s a couple of off days in between. Yeah. That’s great. Thanks Brent. Talk to you later. Bye.” She hung up and rubbed her temple.
“Headache?” Jon asked sympathetically.
“A little bit.”
“How’s it going?” Richie, who was standing closest to her, set his hands on her shoulders and gently massaged.
“Not too bad. Smoother than I anticipated. But I’ve got over twenty years to educate them on – most of them aren’t real familiar with the whole catalogue. I now know as much about you guys as your mothers do!” She glanced at Jon and Richie. “More, in some cases.”
The guys all chuckled. “Let us know if you need anything nina.” Tico offered.
Veronica gave him a thoughtful look. “Drum heads.”
Tico nodded. “I’ll get you some. I’ll sign some sticks for you too.”
“Thank God pianos are too big to mail. Not to mention that moving them wrecks havoc on the tuning.” David sighed.
After the interviews Tiffany once again reported back to Veronica. “He’s about the same as yesterday. He’s not snapping, but he’s not very talkative either. Richie and David took up the slack.”
“Good.” Veronica sighed. “We just need to be a little patient. He’ll get better. It’s just going to take some time.”
Tiffany’s brows rose sceptically. “I hope you’re right. It’s....disturbing...seeing him like this.”
Sound check and the show went smoothly and Veronica though that they were home free for the night. Wishful thinking. It was during the after party that the peace was broken. Veronica was just thankful that the meet and greet part was finished and most of the outsiders had left.
“Do I have to do fucking everything?!” Jon snarled at a table of crew members, then stalked over to the table where the rest of the band were sitting.
Across the room Paul frowned and spun in his chair to look at Veronica, who raised one hand and sighed. “I know, I know, I’m on it.” She pulled out her berry and typed out a message, grumbling under her breath. “And he thinks he has to do everything!”
Pings sounded all over the room as phones received messages. Richie, David and Tico pulled theirs out to read it. Jon ignored his.
“Looks like Ronnie’s changed the schedule for tomorrow.” Richie noted. “At least for you bro. The rest of us still have the day off.”
Jon grunted. “What’s she got me doing now?”
“Don’t know. She just says that tomorrow afternoon and evening you’re available for emergencies only.”
At that moment Veronica approached the table. Jon eyed her. “What’s going on?”
“You’re coming with me tomorrow afternoon.” It wasn’t a request.
His brows rose. “Where are you taking me? Someplace fun?”
“Fun? No. Necessary? Yes.” She glanced around to make sure no one else would hear. “Cemetary. It’s time to get you some closure.”
Jon’s face hardened, his lips thinned and the muscle in his jaw twitched, but he nodded his agreement. “What time do you want to go?”
“About one. I’ve already arranged for a car to pick us up.”
The next afternoon, a pale but determined Jon followed Veronica out to the waiting car. Neither one said a word the entire ride out to the cemetery, both lost in their own thoughts....and memories. When the car stopped at Veronica’s instruction, she climbed out first and waited for Jon. Stepping out beside her, he looked around at the well kept grounds.
She held out her hand. “Ready?”
He took a deep breath, blew it out, wrapped his fingers around hers and nodded. Veronica led him over to a nearby tree where a large stone was protected from the worst of Chicago’s weather by the hanging branches. Engraved on the stone were the names, birth and death dates of Veronica’s parents. Between them and towards the bottom were more words. Jon leaned closer to read them.
Andrew John Watson
March 10, 1989
Our little angel, recalled too soon, but never forgotten
And always loved
“Watson?” One brow crooked.
“I didn’t feel comfortable.....I didn’t want to give him your name when you obviously weren’t going to be in the picture.” She stopped when he flinched, then shrugged. She wouldn’t apologize. It was the truth. “Besides, I didn’t want this to be some sort of fan pilgrimage site.”
He nodded. “Makes sense.”
Veronica let go of Jon’s hand to bend down and brush snow away from the small bushes she’d planted years earlier on either side of the stone and from the base of the tombstone and set down the small blue teddybear clutching yellow rosebuds that she held in her hand. “Hi sweetie. Mommy brought you a visitor today.” She stepped back. “This is your daddy.”
Jon stood frozen to the spot for a long minute, then stepped forward, crouched down and, pulling the cherub out of his pocket, set it beside the bear. “Hi...” He had to stop and clear his throat. “Hi little man. I’m sorry I never got to see you or say goodbye. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there when you and Mommy needed me. I wish...” His voice broke and he had to stop again. Veronica stepped forward and squeezed his shoulder. She could feel him trembling. He raised a hand to cover hers. “I wish I had been there for you. I wish I had gotten to meet you....to touch you, even if it was only for a few minutes. I want you to know that I have thought about you often. I’ll never forget you. My firstborn.” He sank to his knees on the cold, hard ground. He didn’t feel it. The only sensations he was aware of were pain and grief. His hands clenched into fists on his thighs.
Veronica could see his shoulders shaking. Heart aching for him, she dropped to her knees beside him and took him in her arms. “Let go Jon. Let it out.”
He leaned against her, tears rolling slowly down his cheeks. “Why Nica? Was he punished for our sins? My sins?”
She sighed, her own eyes overflowing. “I don’t know why Jon. No one does. All my therapy couldn’t answer that question, no matter how many times I asked. I prefer to think that God had something bigger in mind for him. I have to believe that. It’s the only way I can let him go and live my life.”
They sat there together, grieving together, for a long time. Finally, the frigid air around them and the frozen ground under them reminded them that it was February. Blowing out a shaking breath, Jon wiped his face, eased away from Veronica and stood. A hand reached down to grip her arm and help her to her feet. That was as far as he moved. As cold as he was, he didn’t want to leave.
Veronica stepped close and slid her arms around his waist. “It’s okay Jon. He’s at peace.” She squeezed him. “Let’s go back to the hotel.” Reaching out, she trailed her fingers over their son’s name. “Bye for now sweetie. Be good for Grandma and Grandpa. I love you.”
She laced her fingers with Jon’s, turned away from the grave and tugged when Jon didn’t immediately follow. He sighed. “Goodbye little man. Daddy’ll be back to visit every chance I get. I love you.”
Silently, they walked hand in hand back to the car. It was another wordless trip back to the hotel, their hands still clasped. It was the only communication that was needed.