Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chapter 25

As the plane touched down, Brianna sighed and began to gather her belongings. They had three days off and she was really looking forward to sleeping in her own bed for a change....and actually being able to sleep the whole night through without being called down the hallway.

"What have you got planned for your time off B?" David asked. Ever since the 'misunderstanding' - and the guys’ apologies - they had been slowly returning to their earlier easy friendship. "Got a hot date?"

Brianna nodded. "With a hot bath and my bed!"

"I hear ya!" Richie stretched. "Plus some of my mom's home cooking." He rubbed his stomach. "What about you Kidd?"

"Uninterrupted family time." He glanced at Brianna, who smiled sympathetically.

"Forward your phone and email to me. I'll look after it." She offered. 

He considered it, but declined. "You deserve your time off." He glanced at Paul and Obie. "But I'm only answering emergencies."

The men nodded their understanding, although they were all more than a little surprised. Jon never went incommunicado, save for the few days of family vacation when Dot laid down the law.  Definitely not in the middle of a tour.

When they left the plane, Brianna watched Jon walk to his car that Dorothea had arranged to have waiting for him. Pausing beside the door, he lifted his face to the night sky and his shoulders slumped. Knowing what he was facing at home, her heart went out to him. "Jon." She stepped closer so that she could keep her voice low enough the others wouldn't hear her. "If you and Dorothea need....anything, please don't hesitate to call."

He turned towards her and managed a slight smile, "Thanks. And I mean that Bri. Thanks for....everything."

"You're welcome."

Driving through the gate, Jon pulled up next to the house and leaned his head against the seat, his eyes closed. Come on man, don't be a pussy. You can deal with this. Wiping a tear from his cheek, he took a deep breath and climbed out of the car.

Inside, he set down his keys and glanced around the foyer, letting the silence of the house envelope him. At this hour the kids would all be in bed....and Dorothea probably too. Walking into the kitchen, he pulled the bottle of wine waiting for him - his wife knew him so well - out of the fridge and poured himself a glass.

In the den, he turned on the gas fireplace and sat in his favourite chair. As he sipped he contemplated what to say when he finally gathered the courage to face what awaited him upstairs. It was one thing to talk to her about it over the phone, another to have to look at her.  Stop being a pansy assed coward! She's supported you for the last 20 years, now it's your turn.

Sighing, he emptied his glass and stood. He started for the stairs, then detoured to the kitchen to but his glass in the sink. He was almost out the door, but turned around, rinsed out the glass and put it in the dishwasher. Quit stalling! Grimacing at himself, he slowly climbed the stairs, dread dragging at each step.

Entering their bedroom, a shaft of moonlight bathed the lone occupant of the bed in a soft glow, turning her skin to pearl velvet and her hair to shining ebony. She lay sleeping if....NO! Don't go there!  Pushing away his dark thoughts, he stripped off his clothes and slid in beside her. One hand reached out to skim over her cheek.

"I was beginning to wonder if you were going to sleep downstairs."

"Did I wake you? I'm sorry." He ignored her comment.

She caught his hand and held it against her cheek. "No. I heard the gate open. I was waiting for you."

"I was...." Avoiding facing you.

"Having a glass of wine." She could play the avoidance game too.

He had to smile. "You know me so well."

"Yes....I do." Her answering smile was bittersweet.

"Dotty..." Even after hours of planning, when the moment came, he still didn't know what to say. “I....”

"I know." She held out her arms. "Come here." When he moved closer, she closed her arms around him and pressed his head down onto her chest. "I know baby. Sleep. We'll talk about it in the morning."

With her fingers stroking his hair and her heart beating reassuringly under his ear, he did as he was told.

Dorothea leaned against the headboard and watched her husband pace their bedroom - which he'd been doing ever since she started the conversation. "Jon, I know it'll be hard, but we have to tell the kids. They need time to prepare too."

Jon sighed and bowed his head. As much as he dreaded it, she was right. "I know. But can you honestly tell me how?" How do you explain to four kids – well two really, Jake and Romeo were too young to least at this point – that they were going to lose their mother in a matter of months?

"We'll figure it out." She paused. "And you need to tell the guys."

"No! Not....yet." He couldn't lose the one cancer free area of his life....his last refuge....not until he absolutely had to.

"Jon you need the support system. You can't put all of that on Brianna. It's not fair to expect that of her all on her own."

He turned and stared at her, raking a hand through his hair. "How can you be so calm and practical about this?"

"What? You think I should be crying?"

He shrugged and moved to brace his hands on the window frame and stare out at the river.

"Don't you think I have been? I've spent the last two weeks crying. But what good does it do? Crying won't make the cancer go away and let me live to see my children grow up!" She sighed and rubbed her forehead. "I have to be practical. I have to make sure that all of you figure out how to cope....and move on."

Jon just shook his head, his emotions wouldn't let him speak.

"Don't live in denial Jon, it will only make the inevitable worse."

His head turned to look at her over his shoulder, blue eyes wet and shadowed. "I'm going to lose you Dotty. How can it get any worse?"

He had a point.

That afternoon, the family gathered in the den. Dorothea sat on the sofa with Romeo on her lap, Jake playing with his blocks at her feet. Jon stood staring out the window – it seemed to be his favourite pose these days. Jesse and Stephanie sat in matching chairs opposite the sofa.

Dorothea took a deep breath. "Guys, Dad and I need to talk to you. There's going to be some changes happening with our family and we wanted to explain them to you." She stopped and turned imploring eyes on her husband. "Jon? Please?"

Stephanie had been watching her parents closely all day. Her dad was obviously her mom had been for awhile now. "Are you guys splitting up? Is one of you leaving?" It was one of her greatest fears.

Jon's hands clenched, but he still wouldn't - couldn't - answer.

"We're not getting divorced." Dorothea's assured her daughter, her eyes shooting daggers at her husband's back. Thanks for the help Jon! "I'm sick."

"Again?" Jesse asked. "Seems like you're always sick anymore."

"How sick?" Stephanie started to get a sick feeling in her stomach herself.

"Really sick. I have cancer." Tears burned behind Dorothea's eyes at the dawning awareness.....and devastation...or the faces of her two oldest.

"Are you going to......die?" Jesse whispered the dreaded word.

"Yes. I'm afraid so."

"But....there's treatments the doctors can give you, right? Medicine and stuff? You can beat it......right?" Stephanie wasn't ready to accept what she was hearing. This was way worse than anything she could have imagined. At least with divorce she’d still have both parents.

She's so much like her father. "I'm sorry sweetie." Dorothea's voice was shaky. "We've tried everything, but it didn't work."

Stephanie shook her head and stood to face her father for confirmation. "Daddy?"

The look in his eyes as they met hers spoke louder than his words. "I'm sorry Princess." He caught his sobbing daughter as she flew into his arms and held her close, his own tears close to overflowing. "Shhhh sweetheart."

Jessie's attention was fixed on his mother. "Are you in a lot of pain?"

"It's not too bad. The doctor gave me pain killers. Mostly I'm just tired."

He nodded. "" He didn't know how to ask the question.

But his mother understood. "A few months....maybe a year. We'll have time."

"Time for what?"

"To make sure that all of you will be alright."

As Jon held his daughter, her sobs breaking his already shattered heart into tiny pieces, he looked from the stunned face of his oldest son, to Jake, oblivious and uncomprehending playing on the floor, to his baby, who, sensing the tension and sadness in the room was fussing on his mother's lap......and wondered if any of them would ever be alright again.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chapter 24

Hanging up the phone, Brianna sighed and congratulated herself on having the forethought to make sure her room was on the same floor as Jon's. She'd figured he'd have some rough moments as he tried to come to grips with the imminent devastation of his family, and in order to keep her promise to Dorothea to look after him, it made sense to stay close. She had no idea what she could do to help, but she wanted to be nearby if the call came.

The last few days had been eerily calm. Jon had been very subdued - to the point he rarely spoke unless spoken to. Surprisingly, he was still able to perform at an acceptable level. If his smiles were forced and the energy a little frenetic, well the fans didn't seem to be holding it against him. Brianna figured he was still in shock and at some point that would wear off and things would start to get ugly. She just wasn't expecting it at - a glance at the glowing digital read out of the clock on the bedside table made her groan - four thirty in the morning!

Dragging herself out of bed, she ran a hand over her face. She wasn't surprised that he wasn't sleeping well, but did he really have to call her to bring him the middle of the night? Pulling the required folders out of her briefcase, she glanced at her open suitcase, debating, but decided she could slip down the hall and back in pajamas and robe at that hour without anyone seeing her.

When Jon opened the door to her knock, she winced sympathetically at his sunken, haunted eyes. As she stepped into the room her gaze touched on the unused bed and three empty wine bottles on the table. Apparently even alcohol wasn't helping him sleep.

"Did you bring the proposal for Covenant House?" His voice was slightly raspy.

"Yes. Jon, are you sure you want to do this right now? You need...."

"Yes." He didn't want to hear what she thought he needed. He couldn't have what he really needed - his wife healthy and happy - so he might as well work.

Brianna studied him as he walked over and sat on the couch. "Do you want to talk about it?" She was pretty sure of his answer, but figured it was worth a shot.


Okaaay. "Looking for a distraction?" She guessed. At his curt nod, she picked up the pad of paper and pen off the desk and joined him. "Then let's work."

Three hours later Jon finally dozed off and Brianna was able to slip out and back to her room, thankful that the hallway was empty. She didn't notice the quickly closing door across the hall.

Richie stepped back into his room as soon as he saw her exit Jon's, a frown creasing his brow. What the fuck is going on?

By late afternoon lack of sleep was taking its toll on Brianna. Sitting at a table in the nearly empty catering room, she rested her head on her arms, closed her eyes and waited for her phone to go off with Jon's next request. She had managed to grab a couple hours of sleep after she'd gotten back to her room, but she still felt jealous of Princess Aurora.

A thunk on the table had her opening her eyes to see a mug of steaming coffee in front of her.

"Looks like you could use this." Richie commented as he sat down beside her. "Rough night?"

"Mmmmm." She answered noncomittally as she lifted the cup and sipped. "Thanks."

He studied her for a few moments. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah. Everything's fine."

"You sure? You still enjoying the job?"

"I could use a little more sleep, but yes."

Richie hesitated, choosing his words carefully. "There are boundaries to what he can demand of you, you know. You can say no if he....crosses the line or makes you feel uncomfortable."

She frowned. "I know, and he hasn't. Rich, what is this about?"

"He's a married man, and he'll never leave Dot."

No, she's going to leave him. "I am aware of that. What's it got to do with me?"

"I'd hate to see you get hurt."

"Richie, what the hell are you talking about?"

He sighed. "I saw you coming out of his room this a bathrobe."

Embarrassment and anger vied for control of her emotions....anger won. "And you naturally assumed that I was sleeping with him." She snorted in derision. "Wow. Is that what you think of me? Well, I've got news for you Rich. I'm not a groupie or a whore. I've never slept with my boss - except the one I married - and I definitely don't sleep with married men!" She stood, almost vibrating with rage. "I don't know which I find more offensive, your low opinion of me…or him!" Spinning on her heel, she almost ran David and Tico over in her rush to escape the room.

"Whoa! What was that all about?" David asked as he sat down.

Richie watched her stalk away. "I saw her coming out of Jon's room about seven thirty this a bathrobe."

"You don't....wait a minute, what were you doing up at that hour? I didn't feel an earthquake....did you fall out of bed or were still trying to find your way into it?"

"Fuck you asshole. Heather called. There was a big storm in L.A. last night and the basement flooded again. She couldn’t remember the name of the company to call to clean it up. I heard a door opening and wanted to see who else was up."

"You don't think he's fucking her?" Tico brought the conversation back to the matter at hand.

Richie just shrugged.

David considered, then shook his head. "Naaw. Half the time he acts like he doesn't even like her." At Richie's look, he nodded sheepishly. "Right, what does that have to do with anything? Especially with a woman as tempting as Brianna."

"Dot will castrate him." Tico shuddered.

"I just can't believe Brianna would go along with that." David shook his head. "She doesn't seem the type - and we've all seen enough to know."

"Women will do all kinds of things if they feel they have to." Richie pointed out.

"You don't think Jon forced her!" David was shocked. "No way man."

"No, but if he propositioned her she may have felt that she didn't have a choice if she wanted to keep her job." Richie argued.

"Did you tell her that she could just say no?"

"Yes." Richie grimaced. "That's when she got mad and told me she wasn't a whore."

His companions winced.

"Did you ask her what she was doing in Jon's room?" Tico asked.

"Kind of." Richie's gaze turned thoughtful,

"And what did she say?"

"She never said. Just got mad at my assumption."

The three exchanged a long look.

"This is not good." Tico voiced what they were all thinking.

Brianna slammed through the arena doors, oblivious to the cool Canadian air. Luckily, it was fairly mild for January in Toronto since she didn't stop for a jacket...or even slow down as she stormed across the parking lot looking for a quiet place to regroup. A bench on a grass and snow covered ridge caught her eye and she adjusted her direction.

Brushing a dusting of snow out of the way, she sat, rested her head on her hands, elbows braced on her knees, closed her eyes and sighed heavily. She'd known from the moment Dorothea told her about her illness and asked her to look after Jon that this job was going to require her to wade in uncharted waters. She'd been nervous enough about her ability to provide them with what they needed to cope, the request to keep the situation secret - particularly from the guys - was an added burden, but she'd thought she was handling it well.

Until today.

The thought that Richie believed that she was sleeping with Jon - that she was the type of woman who would do that - even if he implied that Jon was pushing her into it......hurt. She liked him. She respected him. She thought he respected her. If he felt that way, did the rest of the guys share his opinion? The idea - and her lack of sleep - had her eyes filling and overflowing.

Brianna jerked upright when a coat settled over her shoulders, the scent of leather and Richie's cologne telling her who had found her before he sat down beside her. "Did you forget we're in Canada? Or trying to catch pneumonia and get a few days off to sleep?" Catching sight of her face, he sobered, slid his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his side. "Aw darlin' I'm sorry. I never meant to upset you."

She sniffed, but looked him in the eye. "I didn't sleep with him Rich."

"I believe you." He paused, but had to ask. "So...what were you doing in his room at that hour?"

"He couldn't sleep, so he called me to bring him the files on a couple charity projects he's looking at. I had planned on just dropping them off and going back to bed, but he had some questions, and, well, it took longer than I thought." Damn she was getting good at telling half truths and making them sound believable!

"Of course. Work. I should have known." He frowned. "But something's going on with him." He'd thought it was hiding the affair.

Uh oh. "What makes you say that?"

"I've known him for over twenty years and I've seen him in every mood imaginable.....except this one. He's not angry, he's not bored, he's.......I don't know what he is. If you want to know the truth, it's freaking me out a little. I don't like not being able to predict his reactions. Kinda makes it hard to know when I need to step in." He turned to Brianna. "Do you know what's going on?"

Oh shit! I hope Dot convinces Jon to tell the guys....and soon. She shook her head. "Can't say that I do."

Richie shivered. “It’s fucking cold out here darlin’. Let’s go back inside.”

As they approached the back door they found Jon pacing around, smoking a cigarette. He eyed them both, nodded, but didn’t speak.

Inside, Brianna headed for Jon’s dressing room to check his supplies. David and Tico were wandering down the hallway. Her brows snapped together at the looks they gave her. “I’m not sleeping with him!” She hissed and slammed the door behind her.

Jon had followed them in and while he didn’t hear what Brianna said to his bandmates, there was no missing her agitation…or the slamming of his door. Joining his friends, his brows lifted. “What was that all about?”

David and Tico looked at Richie, who grimaced. “Nothing. Just a misunderstanding.”

“Mmmm.” Jon studied their faces for a moment. “Sort it out….after sound check. Let’s go.”

Having expected more of a reaction, the other three exchanged a look before following him to the stage.

Something was definitely off with their fearless leader.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Chapter 23

The call came in the middle of an interview - thankfully the last one of the day. As soon as she saw Dorothea's name on her phone Brianna headed out of the crowded room, a cobalt blue gaze burning into her back.


"Brianna, it's..." She had to stop when her voice broke.

"Dorothea? Are you alright?" She could hear ragged breathing and her stomach sank. "Hang on, I'll get Jon."

"NO! Just.....just give me a second."

Brianna waited silently until Dorothea was able to bring herself back under control. "Are you sure you don't want me to get Jon so that you can talk to him?"

"No. I'm not ready to talk to him yet. I.....I can't tell him. I'm not ready to deal with his reaction just yet." She sighed. "The treatments didn't work. The tumour's still too big to operate and it's spreading again. They...." Her voice broke again. "They say I have a year.....tops."

Brianna walked around the corner, closed her eyes and leaned against the wall. Oh God! "Dorothea I'm so sorry!" What the hell do I say? "Is there...what can I do to help you?"

"I need you to be there for Jon.” Dorothea sucked in a ragged breath. "He's going to need someone to lean on, someone he trusts. I'm going to try to get him to tell the guys, but in the meantime, I'm afraid you're it. Bri.....oh God Bri! How do I tell him? How to I find the words? How do I tell him that our nightmare is coming true?" The question ended on a sob.

Brianna struggled to bring her own tears under control and found herself facing a similar question. What could she say to comfort a woman who was just told she was dying? She followed her mother’s advice and let her instincts guide her words. “You’ll know. When you hear his voice, you’ll know. Your heart will tell you what to say.” She considered for a moment. “Although you probably won’t have to. He’ll know when he hears your voice.”

“And then what? What do we do now? I….I don’t know.”

“Yes you do. You cry together, when he gets home you hold each other…and then you make the most of the time you have left.” She paused. She could only imagine how difficult it would be to tell devastating news to the person you’d shared the last 20 years of your life with. “He 's going to want - need - to talk to you. Are you at home?"

"No, Carol and John are with the kids. I......I need some time by think about what needs to be done now.....and how to tell my children."

Tears ran down Brianna's face at the thought of those wonderful children losing their mother.

Dorothea cleared her throat. "Tell Jon to call me on my cell. And Bri.....take care of him for me."

"I'll do my best. Take care Dorothea."


Hanging up, Brianna leaned against the wall and let the tears flow. She had to get the worst of it out of her system before she faced Jon.


How will he handle learning that the love of his life is going to die....much sooner than anyone would have thought....or wanted? This was turning out to be the toughest job she'd ever had.

Footsteps on the tiled floor drew her gaze to the main hallway in time to see the reporter pass by on his way out, telling her the interview was over. Sucking in a deep breath she blew it out. Before she could move, she heard him.

"BRI! Where are you? BRI! Dammit, you promised! BRI!"

She stepped out and around the corner. "I'm here."

Jon took one look at her face and started shaking his head. It felt like his heart was being ripped from his chest and the air from his lungs. "No." It was a whisper....all he could manage.

"I'm sorry." Brianna stepped closer and reached out a hand. "Jon..."

"No, no, no, no, no NO! FUCK!" He slammed his fist against the wall, brushed by her and stormed off.

Mike, the head of security stuck his head out of a door down the hallway and raised a brow. "Everything okay?"

Brianna gestured in the direction Jon had disappeared. "Can you keep an eye on him? But not too close. Give him some space, just make sure he doesn't run into trouble."

Mike nodded. "Got it. Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I'm fine."

Inside the interview room, Jon's raised voice had been clearly heard - first calling for Brianna, then the cursing. His band mates exchanged glances.

"What now?" Richie wondered.

When the door opened to admit Brianna, her eyes red rimmed and puffy, David jumped to his feet. "That's it! What the fuck is his problem? He needs an attitude adjustment and I'm ready to give it to him!"

Brianna grabbed his arms when he headed for the door. "David no! Don't."

He looked down at her and patted the hand on his arm. "Your loyalty is commendable, but he's crossed the line from prima donna to abuser and I won't stand for it. I can't continue to just sit silently on the sidelines while he treats you like a doormat to wipe his feet on. I don't know what crawled up his ass and died, but it's time he buried it and stopped being an asshole!"

"David please!" She tightened her grip on his arm. "He wasn't yelling at me, just reacting to some news I had to pass on to him."

"You've been crying."

"Yes, but not because of him. I.....stubbed my toe and it hurt like a bitch."

David didn't look convinced. She squeezed his arm again. "I appreciate your concern, really, but I'm fine. I've dealt with tougher bosses than Jon." She stared into his eyes. "Please David, I assure you I'm fine. Let it go. For me."

A muscle twitched in his jaw, but he finally sighed and gave in. "Okay...for now. But if he doesn't knock it off and start treating you decently, he and I are going to have words!"

Brianna smile and stepped closer to hug him. "Thank you for caring."

Out in the parking garage, Jon lit up a cigarette he’d bummed off a roadie and tried to wrap his mind around the idea that his worst nightmare seemed to be coming true. How am I going to live without her? Blowing out a stream of smoke he covered his eyes with the heels of his hands and sank down to sit on the concrete.

Finally gathering his courage, he sat up and pulled out his phone. He wasn't sure where to contact her, but he didn't want to risk one of the kids answering the house phone so he chose her cell.

Her voice was quiet, but calm. "Hey,"

"Hey." For the first time since he'd first laid eyes on her all those years ago in high school, he was at a loss for what to say to her.

“The doctor said….”

“Shh…I know.”

Relieved she didn’t have to say the words, she sighed sadly. "I'm sorry Johnny."

So am I baby. "Shhh...don't Dotty. You've got nothing to be sorry for. If anyone does, it's me. I should have stayed home more, I should have been there with you....for you more. I.."

"Johnny stop. Don't beat yourself up. We've had a good life together. If you had done anything differently you wouldn't be the man I love."

He took another drag and struggled to hold himself together. "How long?" He dreaded the answer but needed to know.

"Maybe a year if we’re lucky."

"Oh God!" His throat closed and the tears started.

"Hey, hey, it'll be'll be okay."

Jon snorted. "How will anything ever be okay again? I need you Dotty."

Dorothea closed her eyes, his pain harder to take than her own. "We'll figure it out. We'll talk about it when you get home."

"I should have cancelled the tour."

There was no point arguing about that now. "We didn't know this was going to happen."

"I'll cancel everything after this leg."

"You know you can't do that. Too many people will be affected. And you'll need it to help you cope." She hesitated. "You need to tell the guys."

"Not yet. I need some time."

Dorothea didn't argue. She understood how he felt. "Okay, but don't leave it too long. It's not anyone."

They were silent for a few minutes.

"I wish I was there to hold you."

She choked back her tears. "So do I baby, so do I."

The sound of someone clearing their throat had Jon looking around. Mike stood several feet away and pointed to his watch. "I gotta go to work baby. I'll call you after the show...unless you'd rather rest,"

"No, call me. Whatever time, I don't care." She needed to hear his voice more than she needed sleep. She'd be getting nothing but sleep all too soon. "Have a good show. I love you."

"I love you too baby. More than I can ever tell you."

Taking a few seconds to pull himself back under control, he stood and headed back inside. Mike followed but wisely said nothing. Whatever was going on was obviously intensely personal.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Chapter 22

Brianna leaned her head back against the seat as she waited for the gates to open and let her driver pull through. She'd spent uncounted time trying to figure out why she'd been instructed to meet Jon at the house to head out on the next leg of the tour rather than the airport as she usually did, before realizing that she was only wasting mental energy and stressing herself out. Normal, logical thinking didn't necessarily apply under their current circumstances. She'd just have to wait and see what was happening and what was required of her.

When the car came to a stop in front of the door, Brianna stepped out and braced herself for what she was going to find on the other side of the wide wooden panel.

Stephanie opened the door. "Hi. Dad said he'll be right down. Mom's in the kitchen."

"Thanks. Did you have a good holiday?"

She shrugged. "Yeah, it was pretty good. Not long enough though."

"They never are."

In the kitchen, Dorothea looked up from pouring coffee as they entered. "Want a cup?" She held out the mug towards Brianna. "It's a fresh pot."

"Thanks." Brianna accepted the cup and sipped, studying the other woman's face. She looked a little pale, but more rested than the last time she'd seen her. There were spots where her hair was noticeably thinner, but she’d combed it so that any actual bare spots weren’t obvious.

"Steph, would you go check on the little ones for me please?"

With a sigh and a roll of her eyes, Stephanie complied.

As soon as she was out of earshot, the smile faded from Dorothea's face and she turned serious. Gesturing towards the table, she urged Brianna to sit before taking a seat herself. "I had Jon call you out here today to fill you in on where things are at with me."

"Are you feeling better? You look better."

Dorothea nodded. "A little. The effects of the chemo's worn off and I've been sleeping better."

"Good." Brianna hesitated, but she'd been thrust into this private situation by the woman sitting opposite her. "Have you got the results yet?"

"No. That's one of the reasons I wanted to see you. My doctor's appointment is the day after tomorrow. I know Jon has a full schedule with interviews and I don't want to distract him from that, so I'll call you and you can pass it on to him." She paused to sip her coffee and smiled wryly at the expression on Brianna's face. "That will also give you a few moments to prepare for his reaction."

Great! Brianna could feel a headache start brewing behind her eyes. Before she could do more than nod her understanding, they were interrupted.

"Bianna!" Jake rushed over and climbed onto her lap, flung his arms around her neck and squeezed. "I miss you!"

"Hey buddy!" She squeezed him back. "I missed you too! Did Santa bring you lots for Christmas?"

He nodded. "Uh huh. I gotted a twain an a car an some books an some cwose an moowies."

While she listened to her son regale Brianna with the minute details of each of his presents, Dorothea watched them, noting Jake's animated face and Brianna's total concentration on him, a big smile curving her lips. The affection between them was obvious and heartwarming.

"Jake, Copper just knocked over your Lego building." Jesse informed his brother as he entered the room and opened the fridge.

Jake slid off Brianna's lap and booked it towards the living room. "Bad Doggie!"

"So Jesse, is your football season done?" Brianna asked.

"Not yet. We made the playoffs."

"That's great! Congratulations!"


"What's the competition like? How do you feel about your chances?"

Jesse sipped from a glass of juice while he pondered her question. "If our defence brings their A game we have a pretty good shot."

"Good luck."


Once again, Dorothea watched the interaction between Brianna and her child. The older two had learned, courtesy of their father's life in the spotlight, to be careful and reserved around people they didn't know well, so she was surprised at how comfortable they seemed to be around Brianna.

Clomping footsteps heralded Jon's arrival. Dorothea stood to pour him a cup of coffee.

"Thanks honey, but I could have gotten it myself."

Dorothea just smiled, resumed her seat and picked up her own cup.

He turned to Brianna. "Hi. Did you bring the latest batch of mail?"

"Yes, and Jennifer sent over the list from Craig for the Drive Schedule for this season's home games." The Philadelphia Soul had a program of asking fans attending home games to bring certain items to be donated to local charities. They called the list of these items the 'Drive Schedule'.

"Great. We can go over it on the plane."

The beep of the gate signalled the arrival of their transportation to the airport.

"DAD! CAR'S HERE!" Jesse bellowed from the foyer.

"Thanks Jess, we're coming." Jon answered.

Brianna stood and turned to Dorothea. "I'll talk to you soon."

Dorothea nodded. "Have a safe trip."

Once she'd left the room, Jon stepped closer and gathered his wife into his arms. "Promise you'll call as soon as you get home from the doctor."

"I will."

"Take care of yourself honey. I'll call you tonight." He held her tighter. "I love you."

"I know you do. I love you too. Have a safe trip. And try to remember to be nice."

"Yes dear." He turned to leave, but she didn't miss the rolling of his eyes.

The car was silent as they pulled out of the gates and turned onto Navesink River Road. Brianna debated, but decided to let Jon talk when he was ready.

Finally he sighed and raked a hand through his hair. "She told you?"


"And you'll tell me as soon as she calls." It wasn't a question.

Brianna hesitated for a split second. "As soon as I can."

His brows snapped together. "That's not what I said. I don't care what I'm doing or who I'm talking to, you interrupt."


"Brianna......I mean it. I..." He swallowed heavily. "I need to know,"

"Okay. I understand."

"Whatever the results, I need to know." He spoke as though he didn't hear her, his eyes wet and shadowed.

"Jon...." She responded to his pain and reached out to grasp his hand. "I understand. I'll interrupt. I promise."

Dorothea watched until the car cleared the gate and disappeared, while a germ of an idea began to take root. Entering the house, she headed for her sitting room where she could sit and let the meandering Navesink outside the window soothe her and let her mind nurture the idea into a full fledged plan.  Having a plan if her worst nightmare was about to come true felt like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

Feeling more at peace than she had in months, she went to hang out with her children. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chapter 21

Christmas Day dawned cold but sunny for the residents of the mansion by the Navesink. Jon was the first one up – not an unusual occurrence these days as he wasn’t sleeping much. Mostly, he laid and watched his wife sleep. It was only there, in the darkest part of the night, alone in the silent house, that he could admit his deepest fear even to himself – that he needed to store up as many mental pictures and memories as he could before their time together ran out.

Calloused fingertips lightly traced the familiar cheek, careful not to wake her. For years he’d taken it for granted that she’d always be there....beside him....sharing his bed...his life until they were both old and grey. He never dreamed that it could be any other way. Now he was being forced to face that possibility.

He rubbed suddenly stinging eyes and blew out a long breath. She’d been a part of his life for so long, he couldn’t imagine her not being there. So he refused to accept that outcome.

Rolling onto his back, he stared at the ceiling and ignored the two tears that escaped his control and leaked out of the corners of his eyes. Despite his stubborn need to deny it, deep in his gut he had a horrible feeling their days together were numbered. He needed to store up memories while he could.

Even deeper in his gut, in a place he didn’t even want to acknowledge to himself, because he knew how horrible and selfish it was, he was secretly glad he was going on the road. He didn’t know if he could stand to watch the love of his life fade away before his eyes.

Pushing away the devastating thought, he turned once again to watch the strengthening light chase the shadows away, revealing her pale face, beautiful even with the new lines pain and stress had already carved. He didn’t see them. To him she was as beautiful as the day he met her. Please God don’t take her away from me! What would I – we – do without her?

As the sun rose higher, the sound of children stirring told him it was time to get up. Pulling himself together, he sighed and sat up.

“Kids are up already?”

He turned at the soft sound of her voice. “Yeah. I’ll go start breakfast. Take your time and come down when you’re ready.”

“Thanks.” Dorothea yawned and reached out to tug on his arm. “Hey you. Aren’t you forgetting something?”


A dark brow rose. “Uh.....Merry Christmas?”

“Oh.” Jon grimaced sheepishly. “Right. Sorry. Merry Christmas honey.” He bent to kiss her. Lifting his head just enough to see her eyes clearly, he stroked her cheek. “I love you.”

Dorothea blinked away tears. “I know. I love you too.”

The rest of the morning was taken up with the opening of presents – and cleaning up the mess afterwards. Dorothea, for the most part, sat and watched her children, soaking up every expression, every laugh, every squeal of surprise and delight.

“Mommy, you not opening you pesants.”

“I will Jakey,” she smiled down at her son. “I’m having too much fun watching you guys.”

“Watch me open dis one!”

She had to smile as he ripped paper with gusto.

“Woo woo! Look Mommy, it Thomas!” Without waiting for her response, Jake shoved paper out of the way so that he could run his new train over the floor – and anything else that got in his way, including Copper.

“Ow! Jake, watch it!” Jesse jerked his foot out of the way and rubbed his ankle where the engine had rammed it.

“Woo woo! Wook out, twain comin frew.”

Jesse just rolled his eyes at his mother. “Thanks for the game Mom. It’s great!” He raised the Madden NFL video game he’d gotten.

“You’re welcome.” Turning her head, Dorothea watched Romeo pulling paper off his new blocks....and tossing the blocks and playing with the paper. “Whatcha got there little man?”

Romeo held up a handful of paper and chortled. “Gah!”

The couch cushion beside her sank as Stephanie sat beside her. “Thanks for the earrings and the sweater Mom. I love them!” She leaned over to hug her.

“You’re welcome. I’m glad you like them.” Dorothea tucked a lock of hair behind her daughter’s ear.

“How are you feeling?”

“Not too bad. Still a little tired. But it’s getting better.” A lie to ease her daughter’s fears.

“Come on Mommy, open your presents!” Jon urged her.

“Okay, okay.” Obviously, he really wanted her to see what he’d got her. When she got to the brightly wrapped package with his name on it, she tore off the paper to reveal a digital camera.

“I thought we could start making our own family albums.” Jon explained.

Dorothea knew there was more to it than that and she was afraid the tears she’d been successfully keeping at bay all morning would finally break free. It took a few minutes before she could control her voice enough to answer. “I think that’s a great idea.”

“Let’s start now!” Stephanie suggested.

“Wait!” Dorothea started to hand the instruction manual to Jon, then thought better of it and gave it to Stephanie. “You read up on how to work it while I go have a shower. No one’s taking any pictures of me looking like this!”

Her escape successful, Dorothea slowly climbed the stairs. It wasn’t until she was standing under the hot spray of the shower that she let go of her control and let the tears flow.

She loved Jon’s thoughtfulness with the camera, but the reason – or at least part of the reason – behind it threatened to shatter her heart. It was to preserve memories not just for her for whatever time she might have left, but even more so for her children. If the worst happened they would have some way to remember her – or at least what she looked like.

The thought of not being there to watch her children grow up, graduate, get married, have children of their own took the strength from her legs and she had to lean against the tile to stay upright. Who would look after them if she wasn’t around? Who would teach them and guide them? Who would tend their hurts – physical and emotional? Who would share the joy of their accomplishments and the sorrows of their defeats? Sure, Jon would be there, but who would give them a mother’s touch and caring If not her, who?

If it turned out her time was limited she had to find a way to ensure that her children would be cared for properly....and that her memory would live on. But how? There had to be a way.....there was a way....and she would find it!

Resolved, determined, her goal set, she quickly washed, dressed and rejoined her family to enjoy the rest of the day. She had memories to make.