Veronica had barely gotten her laptop set up, booted up and pulled up her list of the items that she needed to compare to what she had in front of her when the office door opened and Stephanie entered. The closing of the door behind her had the butterflies in Veronica’s stomach taking flight again. She took a deep breath. “What’s on your mind Steph?”
"I just wanted to talk to you about tomorrow. What were you thinking about for Daddy’s birthday dinner?”
Veronica almost laughed in relief. “I haven’t really thought about it. Do you have any suggestions of what he might like?”
“Veal Piccata....and cannoli for dessert. Do you know how to make that?”
“No, but if you know where Molly keeps her cook books I’ll be we can find a recipe, and if not there’s always the internet.”
Stephanie nodded. “And I know where the bakery is nearby that makes really good cannoli.”
“You don’t think I should try and make them?”
“You can if you want, but Mom always said that they were a real bi...er real difficult to make and Daddy likes the ones from Mancini’s.”
Veronica smiled. “Okay, let’s go check out recipes and supplies....and call the bakery.”
They passed Jon in the hallway. “Where are you two going?”
The girls exchanged a look. Veronica answered. “Nowhere. Got girl stuff to do.” Stephanie giggled.
Jon smirked. He knew they were up to something, but seeing Veronica so relaxed with his daughter, he really didn’t care what it was. “Uh huh. Should I be scared?”
“A little bit of fear isn’t a bad thing. Keeps you on your toes.” Stephanie assured him as she continued on towards the kitchen.
Jon turned a horrified look to Veronica. “She’s going to be the death of me...and she’s only fourteen!”
Veronica chuckled. “Karmic payback’s a bitch babe.” She patted his cheek. “Don’t worry, you’ll survive. Richie’s the one who needs to be concerned.” With that she followed Stephanie.
He laughed. “I’m telling him you said that.”
She shrugged and answered over her shoulder. “He knows he’s screwed.”
The girls were pleased to find not only that Molly did indeed have a recipe for the veal, but that the house was stocked with all the ingredients. The bakery assured them that they had a supply of cannoli and would deliver a couple dozen later that afternoon. They discussed the timing of presents and dinner and other activities that the kids had planned.
“We always play football.”
Veronica’s eyebrows rose. “Even in the snow?”
“Yep. Snow, mud, rain...whatever. But if Daddy’s on tour we don’t play in the rain – too much risk of him getting sick. But since we’re going to Philly for the Soul game tomorrow, we’re playing our game this afternoon.”
The vision a family having fun playing together hit Veronica hard and she knew the next couple of days were going to be even worse than she thought. But at least she had some warning and a few hours to prepare.
Back in the office, she was setting out the guitars when Jesse walked in. She glanced up. “Hey Jess.”
“Hi.” He watched her for several minutes. “What are you doing?”
“Setting out and organizing everything I brought from the office.”
“Want some help?”
“That would be great. Thanks.”
Jesse reached into a box and set the contents on a table. “Why do you have all this stuff?”
“I want your Dad and the guys to sign it and then I’m going to send it to Dubai.”
“Well, it’s a way to promote the band. Radio stations and newspapers can use them for prizes in contests. A lot of the people who live over there aren’t familiar with them or their music and it’s my job to expose as many people as I can to the catalogue so that they can see how great the guys are and want to buy the album and concert tickets.”
“Why both electric and acoustic guitars?”
“Electric guitars are still a rarity over there, especially outside the cities, so they’re considered special. Acoustic guitars are used in their folk music and will be appreciated by people of all ages whether they live in the city or out in the desert.” Seeing Jesse’s interest, she went on to explain what her thinking was on each of the items she’d chosen.
“So...basically you get paid to get as many people as you can in whatever way you can, to listen to you tell them how wonderful Dad is.” Jesse rolled his eyes.
Veronica laughed. “Yeah...pretty much.”
“No wonder he likes you.”
“And she’s very good at it.” Richie commented as he walked in the door and glanced around the room. “Holy shit little girl! I can feel writer’s cramp coming on just looking at all this stuff.”
Veronica picked up a Sharpie from the table beside her and tossed it in his direction. “Here. You might as well get started.”
Richie groaned, but dutifully started towards the guitars. When he passed Jesse, he stopped, backed up and leaned down to sniff. “Are you wearing cologne?” He sniffed again. “You are! What’s up? Trying to impress a woman? Got a hot date?”
Jesse turned bright red. Veronica winked at him. “Leave him alone Jughead. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to smell nice.” She leaned closer and sniffed. “I’m not sure how your Dad will react to you dipping into his Kenneth Cole stash though.”
“How did you know that’s what it was?” Jesse asked, surprised.
Richie smirked. “There isn’t much about your Dad that she doesn’t know Pal, they’re very...close.” He waggled his brows.
Jesse’s shoulders slumped, his expression one of dejection. Veronica glared at the tall guitarist. Before she could think of some way to lighten the blow Richie had just delivered, Jon appeared.
“Lunch is ready.”
Jesse jumped at the excuse to escape, quickly brushing past his father.
“Was that necessary?” Veronica questioned Richie.
He nodded. “Yes. Best to nip it in the bud and better that it come from me.”
“But it could have been done more gently.” She insisted.
He shook his head. “Better to rip the bandage off quickly.”
Jon frowned. “What’s going on?”
“Just causing a little pain now to prevent greater pain and anger later when hopes and dreams that never should have been allowed to grow get cut off at the knees.”
Veronica snorted. “Very poetic Rich.”
He grinned. “Thank you.”
Jon looked back and forth between them. “Someone want to explain it to me?”
“Jesse’s crush.” Richie looked at Veronica. “Trust me on this little girl. If it had been allowed to continue until one of you had to squash it, it would have caused bigger problems. This way he might be a bit disappointed, but he hasn’t had his pride trampled by, or in front of, you.”
“He’s right.” Jon agreed. “Jesse’s already got some issues with me because of the divorce. Waiting would only give it the potential to turn ugly.”
Veronica sighed, but bowed to their knowledge of the male psyche. “I just hate hurting him.”
“That’s the beauty of it Ronnie. You didn’t hurt him, I did. There’s nothing for him to be angry at either one of you for.” Richie assured her. “Now, let’s go eat.”
“You guys go ahead. I’ve got to get this done.” Veronica waved them towards the door.
“Oh, no. It’s time for lunch.” Jon crossed the room, took the CD out of her hand and pushed her towards the door.
“No Ronnie. You can stop long enough to eat.” When she would have protested more vigorously, he put his fingers over her lips. “If you’re going to work these crazy hours you need to keep your strength up. I may be the reason you have to work overtime, but I won’t stand by and watch you work yourself into a sickbed.” He nudged her once more towards the door. “Besides, I’ve been slaving over a hot stove to provide a nourishing meal.....and went a little overboard. I need everyone to eat as much as they possibly can.”
That made her laugh. “You’re a real crackerjack in the kitchen there Johnny boy.”
“I know. It’s not the room that best showcases my skills.” He waited in anticipation for her to ask which room did, but she disappointed him by merely snorting and rolling her eyes.