“So you spent the weekend at his house? With his kids?” Lori was surprised and more than a little curious. “How did that go?”
“It was okay.”
None of the other three girls at the table believed her. They were sitting at their favourite restaurant catching up on each other’s lives.
“Come on Veronica, this is us you’re talking to.” Naomi chided her.
Veronica sighed, a wry smile twisting her lips. “Okay, yeah, it’s was....difficult. He didn’t tell me that the kids would be there – although I should have known. It was the weekend, he hadn’t seen them in awhile.....and it was his birthday.”
The girls winced. “Ooh, big family time with lots of traditions I bet.” Tricia said. Veronica nodded. “Did they ignore you then?”
Veronica snorted. “I wish. They kept trying to get me to join in everything.” Her lips twisted sadly at the memories of laughter and play. Slender fingers traced the stem of her wineglass. “We went to Philly to watch Jon’s football team play, and on the trip there it was ‘interrogate Ronnie’ time. Jake asked me about my family....and why I didn’t have any kids.”
The other three girls sat forward, their expressions varying from concern to sympathy. “What did you tell him?” Naomi couldn’t imagine what she would do in that situation.
“The truth – well, part of it. I told them that I had a son that died when he was a tiny baby.”
“You didn’t tell them that it was their brother?” Tricia asked.
Veronica shook her head. “No.” She paused. “But Jon wants to – at least the older two.”
“What do you think about that?” Lori frowned.
“I don’t know. I really don’t see the point. It was long before they were born. They never knew him and never will. I don’t think that it will mean anything to them.”
“You don’t think that if they find out down the road they might be angry that you didn’t tell them?”
Veronica shrugged. “I don’t know. Chances are, after this tour is over, I’ll probably never see them again, so, again, I don’t see the point in telling them.”
Lori studied her friend even closer. That was the first time that Veronica had shown that her barriers against Jon might be cracking just a little. Even a month ago it wouldn’t have been ‘chances are I’ll never see them again’, it would have been a definite ‘I’ll never see them again. “So how did you get along with the kids? Do they like you?”
“I guess. They like my cookies anyway.” Veronica smiled. “Jesse apparently has – or had – a bit of a crush on me.”
“What do you mean ‘had’?” This from Tricia.
“Well, Richie hinted strongly to him that Jon and I were....close to try to warn him off. Rich said that it was to nip it in the bud and avoid hurt and anger later when Jesse’s hopes were crushed.” She shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess he’s right.”
“I guess he would understand how a boy would react better than us.” Naomi agreed. “What about Jon’s daughter? How did she take you being there?”
It took Veronica several breaths to form her answer. “Surprisingly well, considering it’s the house she grew up in with her mother.” She paused. “She asked me if I would ever date her father again.”
Brows rose around the table. “Again? She knows that you dated before?” Lori asked.
“Yes, they know – well, the older two do anyway.”
“Did she mean that she thought it would be a good idea? Or was she just trying to get a feel for the situation?”
“She thinks it would be a good idea.” Veronica decided she should explain. “I went to the New York office on Friday and when I got to the house that night, Steph came running out begging me to come and save dinner. Jon had tried to cook.” She glanced around the table. “We’re talking about a man who doesn’t know the difference between fry and bake, let alone teaspoon and tablespoon.”
“How bad was it?” Naomi chuckled.
“You had to see it to believe it. There were mashed potatoes splattered all over the wall – except for the lumps in the pot, the corn was burned to the bottom of the pot and the gravy, well, that was a lumpy, gooey mess.” Veronica shook her head and laughed, visualizing it again.
“Were you able to save it?”
“It wasn’t the best meal, but I managed to get it at least edible. Of course then I got suckered into cooking for the rest of the weekend. Anyway, while we were working on Jon’s birthday dinner Steph asked me about us dating again. She said that he was lonely and needed someone. Since I’m in the business, I understand his lifestyle and could cope better than someone who didn’t.” She toyed with her glass again. “And she thinks that he still has feelings for me.”
“Do you think so?”
“If I can trust him, yes. At least he tells me he does.” She stared into the golden liquid swirling in her glass.
“What is it Veronica? What else happened that weekend?” Lori could sense her friend’s uncertainty.
Veronica frowned. “Jon set me up as......well....the wife and mother figure, for lack of a better description.”
“And it made you angry?” Lori’s voice was gentle. She had a feeling where this was going. Despite Veronica’s adamant denials, she knew there were still feelings there. Strong feelings.
A slow a shake of her dark head. “No.” They waited for her to continue. “It was like playing house...and...” She took a sip. “And it felt...natural....right. I found myself behaving like it was my house, my family. Without even thinking about it. And they all reacted like I had every right to behave that way.” She sipped again. “But it’s not my family, and I had no right to act like it was.” She closed her eyes. No matter how much you want a family of your own Veronica, that’s something you can never have. You need to remember that. No matter the fantasy Jon tries to spin. There’s too many reasons why it won’t work.
“Are you sure about that?” Lori voiced what they were all thinking. “If Jon wants you in that position, wants to share his family with you, maybe you should consider it. Set aside the hurt and anger from the past and look at how you feel about each other now. The problems and obstacles that tore you apart nineteen years ago don’t exist now. Maybe this time, you could make it.”
“But what if we can’t?”
“But what if you can?”
“But what if we can’t? I don’t know if my heart could take that kind of pain again.” She shook her head. “No, it’s too big of a risk.”
“So you’d rather be alone?” Lori shot back. Taking a deep breath she sighed. “You had something horrible happen you. Now you may have a second chance. Think about how happy you were together before the baby. Think about what you want out of your life, what will make you happy. Can Jon give you that? If you’re absolutely sure that he can’t, then fine, let him go and move on. But if there’s any chance that he can, then I say go for it. Don’t be a coward Veronica. Take the risk and go for it. Life’s too short. We have to grab at whatever happiness we can, for as long as we can. Don’t find yourself eighty years old and looking back over your life and seeing nothing but regrets.”
In New Jersey Jon sat in front of the fire, a glass of wine in his hand. The kids were upstairs asleep – or at least supposed to be asleep. Glancing around, he sighed. This was the time he hated most. It was too early to go to bed, and there was no one to talk to. The house was silent except for the crackling of the flames as they bit into wood. He was lonely. He missed Ronnie. So did the kids. Their disappointment when they found out that she wasn’t going to be with them this week was clear. He had the feeling Jesse somehow blamed him. Maybe he should have argued harder for her to come, but he couldn’t force her...and he understood that she maybe needed a break before facing the kids again.
For awhile after the divorce everywhere he looked around this house he saw Dorothea. Now he saw Ronnie.....baking cookies, laughing at his attempts to play his own song on that stupid game, taking over his office with her promotional materials, curled up on the couch with Steph talking about their favourite books. It had felt so right to have her here, in his home, a part of his family.
He thought about that last night when he’d held her while she cried. He knew that being around the kids was painful, but he was convinced that he was right. The more time she spent with them, the easier it would get. He wanted to give her what had been taken away from her all those years ago. She was right. It wasn’t fair that he got the family she’d been denied. He wanted to fix that, if she would only let him. He just had to find a way to convince her to admit that there was still something between them. Something very strong. They could make it this time if she would only give them a chance. He was sure of it.
As he sat staring into the dancing flames he thought about how stubborn she was and how he could reach her. Suddenly it hit him. Of course! He’d forgotten his plan from the beginning of the tour. Her mind may be still closed – mostly – against him, but she was still vulnerable to a physical assault. She’d always been a very passionate woman – more so than any other he’d ever been with. Even now she responded to his touch – until she remembered to pull away. Yes, he could use that to his advantage. Conquer her body and force her mind to admit her feelings. Then the two could convince her heart to take the risk and give him another chance.