“Oh my God! JON!” Veronica ran across the stage. “Somebody call an ambulance! You guys,” she pointed at the closest crew members. “Move that off of him – and be careful!”
When the rigging was moved, Jon was revealed, face down, blood covering the back of his head and in streaks down his back.
Veronica sank to her knees beside him, afraid to touch him, but needing to know. She set one trembling hand on his back and collapsed over him at the feel of it rising and falling. “Johnny.” The whisper was almost soundless.
She didn’t know who spoke, and didn’t care. “He’s breathing.” Thank God! She lifted her head and looked around. “Where the fuck are the paramedics?”
A hand settled on her shoulder. “Easy Ronnie. They’re on their way.” Tony knelt beside her.
“I can’t lose him again Tony, I just can’t!”
“You won’t honey, you won’t. You know how hard headed he is.” Don’t you dare prove me wrong now big brother!
It seemed like an eternity before the ambulance arrived.
“Miss? We need you to move aside please.” The paramedic’s voice was gentle. “Ma’am, we need to check him out.”
“Come on Ronnie, let them work.” Tony pulled her out of the way.
“It’s all my fault. This is all my fault.”
“No it’s not. It was an accident.” Tony enfolded her in his arms.
Veronica shook her head. “If I hadn’t been arguing with him, he would have heard the warnings and gotten out of the way.” She watched the paramedics load Jon onto a stretcher and stepped forward. “I’m going with him.”
“Sorry, ma’am, we’re not allowed to take passengers.”
“You’re going to have to make an exception this time.” Ronnie insisted.
“Look...ma’am...his vital signs are strong, the cuts on his back are superficial...most of the blood is from a couple cuts on the back of his head. Head wounds bleed alot.”
“I’m going with him.”
The paramedic sent an imploring glance at Tony, who once again put his arm around her shoulders. “Honey, you don’t want to be in the way of them taking care of him. I’ll take you to the hospital. We’ll meet them there.”
They followed the stretcher out to the ambulance, then Tony flagged down a cab. He glanced at Veronica staring out the window, her foot tapping in impatience. “I’m sorry Ronnie, but I’ve got to call Mom and Dad.”
She nodded. “Call Dorothea and the guys too.” She didn’t offer to make any calls. She didn’t want to talk to anyone but Jon.
At the hospital, Tony showed his ID and they were escorted into a room to wait. “He’s being examined now. The doctor will let you know his condition as soon as he’s finished.” The nurse gave them a professional smile. “There’s a coffee machine in the nurse’s lounge or the cafeteria is on the basement level. Will there be others coming?”
Veronica didn’t answer, just sank into a chair and buried her head in her hands, but Tony smiled back. “Yes. I’m not sure who or when though.”
“Not a problem. I’ll show them where you are, or check with you if I’m not sure if they should be allowed back here.” She paused. “Security has been notified and guards will be posted nearby.”
Dorothea was the first to arrive with Stephanie and Jesse. “I didn’t want to bring the little ones until we knew what we were dealing with.” She hugged Veronica. “Have you heard anything?”
Veronica shook her head. “No. They’re still examining him.” She hugged the kids and fought back her tears.
Obie and the guys arrived next, one right after another.
“Be strong mija, he’ll be alright. You’ll see.” Tico hugged Veronica tight.
“He’s tough Ronnie, and a fighter. You know how stubborn he is.” David reminded her as he too hugged her.
“Hang in there little girl.” Richie murmured in her ear when it was his turn. “We’ve still got shows to do. You know he’ll never let the fans down.”
She had to smile at that. Her smile promptly faded when Jon’s parents entered the room.
Carol took one look at Veronica and exploded. “Get out! You have no right to be here!”
“Carol!” Jon warned.
“I don’t want her anywhere near my son. I want her out of here!”
Veronica had had enough. She couldn’t take anymore. And she didn’t care who heard her. Stepping up to Carol, her lips pulled back to bare her teeth. “No! I let you tear us apart once, but never again. I’m not leaving him! Whether you like it or not I love him and I’m not leaving him! Not ever again! We’re not young and scared kids that you can manipulate anymore Carol. You’re not going to win this time. I won’t let you.” Her eyes darkened and her voice dripped pain and venom. “You may lose your first born son. How does it feel?” She was gratified to see shock, pain and the dawning of understanding in Carol’s eyes. Turning away, she stumbled into a chair and let the tears flow.
The small room was filled with utter silence. No one knew what to say.
Jesse sat in the chair beside Veronica and took her hand. “Dad’s going to be alright, isn’t he?”
Veronica tried to smile reassuringly. “I hope so Jesse. God, I hope so.”
“Keep the faith?”
She chuckled and squeezed his hand. “Exactly.”
A few minutes later, a doctor appeared in the doorway and was quickly surrounded. “We did a CAT scan and a PET scan and everything looks good. There’s no sign of internal bleeding and his brain patterns are normal. He has a concussion and some cuts and bruises, but I see no reason that he won’t make a full and speedy recovery.”
Veronica sagged in relief and felt a strong arm slide around her waist to support her. Glancing up, she smiled into Matt’s blue eyes and leaned her head on his shoulder.
“Can we see him?” John Sr. asked.
“Yes. I’ll take you to his room. We’re going to keep him overnight just as a precaution.” The doctor led them to a room down the hall.
By unspoken agreement, they stood back to allow Veronica to enter first. She reached out for Stephanie and Jesse and stepped up to the side of the bed. The others circled around it. Jon looked a little pale, but other than that, undamaged.
“His face wasn’t hurt.” David noted trying for a little levity. “Can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”
“A good thing for our bank accounts.” Richie answered. “And for Ronnie, since she’s got to look at his mug even more than we do.”
Laughter echoed around the room, as much out of relief as amusement.
Veronica studied Jon’s face and reached out to brush his hair off his forehead before turning to the doctor. “When will he wake up?”
“That’s hard to judge. Head injuries are unpredictable. Could be a few minutes or a few hours.”
“But he will wake up?”
“I saw nothing in his tests that would suggest otherwise.” He assured her as much as he could. Nothing was a certainty when it came to head wounds.
They all sat around Jon’s bed, talking quietly – to him and amongst themselves – for hours, waiting for him to wake. Periodically someone would go foraging for food and coffee. Finally, as daylight faded, so did everyone’s energy.
As it neared midnight, Dorothea nudged her eldest two awake. “Come on you guys. Let’s go home and get some sleep. We’ll come back first thing in the morning.”
“But I want to be here when Dad wakes up!” Stephanie argued.
“If he wakes up before we get back, I’m sure Ronnie will call us and I promise we’ll come right away. We’re not that far, it’ll only take a few minutes.”
Veronica stood up. “I’ll call you immediately, I promise.” She hugged them. “Your dad’s going to be just fine. Get some sleep and we’ll see you in the morning – or sooner if he wakes up.” It wasn’t that she didn’t want them there, or that they didn’t deserve to be there, but if she was honest, she wanted to be alone with him for a few minutes when he woke up.
They grumbled, but they went. It was the signal for the rest as well. One by one they said goodnight, make Veronica promise to call as soon as Jon woke up. Very quickly, only John and Carol were left. Carol had been unusually quiet since Veronica’s outburst earlier, but Veronica doubted she would stay that way for long and braced herself.
“Honey, do you want us to stay with you?” John asked gently.
“It’s up to you. Whatever you want to do.” She was pretty sure she knew what Carol would want, but she didn’t have the energy – or the right – to argue. He was their son.
“Dorothea offered for us to stay at the loft. I think we should take her up on it.” Carol informed her husband. “We can get some sleep, and be there for the children. Veronica will call us when he wakes up.”
Stunned, Veronica nodded. “Of course.”
John hugged Veronica and kissed her cheek. “Call sooner if you need us.”
“Come back whenever you want.”
Carol met and held Veronica’s gaze for a long moment, then nodded. “Don’t worry, he’s going to be fine.”
Veronica sat staring at the doorway long after they were gone. Shaking her head, she turned back to the man lying so still in the bed. She had too much going on in her head right now to try to figure Carol out.
She pulled up a chair close to the bed, leaned over and kissed him gently. Sitting down, she took his hand in hers. She searched his face, looking for any signs of him waking, but didn’t find any. Tears welled, slid slowly down her cheeks and dropped onto his hand. “I love you Johnny. I’m so sorry I was so stubborn and didn’t admit that to you sooner. Maybe all of this could have been avoided.” She laid her head down on the bed and pressed her lips to his hand. “So sorry Johnny.”