“What makes you think that?” Veronica tried to stay calm although her heart was pounding.
“I heard Grandma say something to Dad about the first child he gave you.” Stephanie turned to her father. “I was in the hallway outside your office. The door was open and Grandma wasn’t exactly talking quietly.” She looked at Veronica again. “Was she talking about your baby?”
Veronica sighed, sat down on the couch and exchanged a look with Jon, who sat beside her and took her hand. “Yes.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Accusation dripped from each word.
“Because it happened long before you were born. You were never going to meet him, so I didn’t see what good could come from telling you.” Veronica answered truthfully.
“You didn’t think we had the right to know that we had an older brother?” This she directed at her father.
“We’ve been talking about it, trying to find the right time.” Jon began.
“Don’t blame your father.” Veronica jumped in. “He wanted to tell you awhile ago. I asked him to wait.”
“You lied to me! You told me that you weren’t with Dad back then.”
“I didn’t lie to you. I had been taken off the Jovi file and moved to something else at the time the baby died. We weren’t together. Your Dad was back with your mother.”
“Does Mom know?”
“Yes.” Jon answered.
“Has she always known?”
“So it was just your ‘other’ kids you were keeping it from.”
“Steph, that’s not what we were doing.”
“Was your whole life with Mom....my whole life a lie? Were you in love with Ronnie the whole time?”
“No!” He squeezed Veronica’s hand. This could get very tricky for him.
“Was that why you didn’t fight harder to stay with Mom? Because you wanted to find Ronnie again? The one you wanted to have kids with first?” Her eyes filled and her voice started to quiver.
“No! Stephanie listen to me!” Jon admonished her. “I loved your mother! A part of me always will. We just want different things out of life. It has nothing to do with Ronnie.”
“But what would have happened if Ronnie’s baby hadn’t died? Would you have married her instead of Mom?”
“Steph I already explained to you why your Dad and I broke up. There were a lot of reasons. If the baby had lived I don’t think it would have made any difference.” Veronica answered. “I’m sorry you’re upset. I never meant to hurt you.”
“What else are you not telling us about? That you don’t think we need to know?” The tears over flowed and ran down her cheeks.
“Nothing! Sweetie, I swear there’s nothing else.” Jon stood and tried to hug her, but she pulled away.
“How can I believe anything you tell me ever again?!” She started to sob. “You probably don’t even love us!”
“Of course I love you! Stephanie!” He was talking to the air, Stephanie had run out of the room. “Fuck!”
Veronica blew out a breath and stood up. “You’d better call Dot and let her know what’s happened. And I guess we’d better tell Jesse.”
“Yeah. Are you okay?”
“Just fucking ducky. Just because your daughter hates me now, why shouldn’t I be? Once again your mother fucks up my life!”
“She’ll get over it when she calms down. She’s just in shock.” He wrapped his arms around her. “It’ll be okay. You’ll see.”
“Uh huh.” She didn’t sound convinced as she pulled away.
“Where are you going?”
“Kitchen. I need to check on dinner.”
He watched her go, her distress obvious. She was on the verge of tears. “Fuck!” Swiping up the phone he dialled his ex-wife.
Dinner was quieter than usual that night. Stephanie didn’t eat much...neither did Veronica. Jon tried to keep a conversation going with the boys, but he kept getting distracted watching the girls push the food around on their plates. Jesse didn’t seem to be bothered. They’d sat him down and explained everything to him, but all they got was “oh...okay”. And it didn’t appear to be affecting his appetite...he was on his third helping of mashed potatoes. Jake and Romeo could sense the tension in the air, and kept looking between the adults and their sister....but kept eating.
After dinner was finished and the kitchen cleaned up, Veronica took a deep breath and walked into the den, only to see Stephanie get up and leave. She looked at Jon. “I think maybe it would be best if I work out of the office in the city for the rest of the week. I’ll get a hotel room.”
“No! She’ll come around.”
“Maybe. But right now I’m not her favourite person. I don’t want to upset her any more than she already is.” She glanced around the room. “I’ve got some work to do. I’ll be in your office.”
Jon raked his hand through his hair in frustration, then stood and stalked upstairs to have a talk with his daughter. Pausing in front of her door, he knocked, and at her call, entered the room. “Steph we need to talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about. You had a baby with another woman and didn’t think we deserved to know about it.”
“What are you really angry about? The baby or that we didn’t tell you about it until now?” When she just shrugged he let some of his anger show. “Okay, then let’s talk about your attitude.”
“I have the right to my feelings!”
“Yes you do, but while you’re getting all huffy and giving Ronnie the ice treatment over something that happened long before you were born, why don’t you look at it from her point of view for a minute. Her baby died, Steph. That’s a pain I hope you never have to experience. It’s still very hard for her to talk about. Then she comes here and has to look at you four – all reminders of what she lost and can never have. Oh, did we mention that she can’t have kids now because of what happened? So, she comes here and sees you guys, and despite the pain it causes her, she tries to fit in and opens her heart to you. She understood that you might be uncomfortable with the idea of another woman in my life, and did everything she could to make it easier for you. And this is what she gets in return? What happened to my caring, considerate daughter?”
“But she lied!”
“She didn’t lie...she just didn’t tell you the whole story. She was trying to be considerate of your feelings as well as her own.” He sighed. “I understand that you’re angry and upset, but if you’re going to be mad because we didn’t tell you sooner, you should be mad at all of us, including your mother and I. We all agreed to wait until we felt the time was right and you were ready to hear it. I’m sorry you found out the way you did. That wasn’t the way we wanted to do it. I’m not asking you to ignore your feelings...but don’t ignore Ronnie’s either. Just think about it Steph. But don’t wait too long. She’s planning on leaving in the morning so that she doesn’t upset you any more than you already are.”
He left her to think about what he’d said and went to find the other distraught woman in his house. He found her in the office staring out the window. Walking up behind her, he wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her shoulder. “How are you doing?”
Veronica sighed and leaned back against him. “I don’t think this is going to work Jon.”
The defeat in her voice alarmed him. “What won’t work?”
“Us. You and I. There’s too much against us.”
He spun her around and gripped her shoulders. “No! I won’t let you give up on us! We’ve come too far!”
“But look around. Your mother hates me, your daughter used to like me, but now hates me, I still find it hard to be around Romeo.....there’s just too much pain.” Her voice cracked.
Jon pulled her into his arms again. “Oh honey. Don’t worry about Mom, she’ll either change her mind or we won’t see her. Stephanie will come around, she just needs some time to calm down and think things through. As for Romeo....you’re making a wonderful effort to work through your difficulty there.” He squeezed her. “Everything’s going to work out just fine. You’ll see.”
She blew out a heavy sigh. “I wish I had your faith.”
“That’s okay, I have enough for both of us.” It will work out. It has to!