Jon pulled his gaze away from the view of the Navesink out his office window and brought his attention back to his immediate vicinity as his wife entered the room and sat down. She looked a little pale, but otherwise well. She'd even managed to hide the few spots where her hair had fallen out with a little clever combing.
"I've asked Brianna to come out."
He frowned. "We don't leave until tomorrow morning."
"I know. I've asked her to come and stay over."
"I need someone I can talk to about what I'm going through. And since you won’t agree to tell anyone outside the family, not even our closest friends, Brianna is in the best position to help me." In more ways than one.
"You have your sisters."
"Yes, but they'll just get overly emotional. I need someone who will listen and help me sort things out. Not cry every time."
"Things you don't want to talk about." He was trying, but she knew he was having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that she wasn't going to be around. She was hoping Brianna was going to be able to help with that too.
Jon wanted to be understanding, but he wasn't sure he was comfortable with this. "Brianna's my assistant."
"Yes, and I won't interfere with her job." When he didn't look relieved, it only took Dorothea a few seconds to figure out why. She sighed. "Whether you're comfortable with it or not, Brianna is already a part of the inner circle. If I have my way, she's going to be around here a lot. Better get used to it."
He knew better than to argue with her. And whether he chose to admit it or not, a part of him wasn't really upset at the prospect.
Brianna pulled through the gates and parked in her usual spot near the house. She had no idea why Dorothea had invited - insisted really - that she come out a day early and spend the night. Sure it was February, and anything could happen weather wise in New Jersey, but she didn't think a possible storm had anything to do with it.
Grabbing her bag from the back seat, she approached the door, only to have it open before she could knock. Jesse glanced up from the game in his hand. "Hey. Mom's in the den with the rug rats."
"Thanks." She was talking to empty air.....Jesse had already turned away and started climbing the stairs. "Okaaay. Guess I'll just go on in to the den." Not knowing what else to do, she set her bag down in the foyer and headed into the house.
"Bianna!" Jake saw her first when she appeared in the doorway. Running over, he hugged her before grabbing her hand and tugging her over to the couch where his mother was sitting.
"Hey." Brianna sat down and glanced at the photo album in Dorothea's lap. A fat cheeked, blue eyed baby grinned up from the page. "Who is that?"
"Jesse. I've been sorting through pictures, making albums for the kids." A sad smile curved her lips, her hand lovingly stroked the baby's face. "Something to help them remember."
Brianna didn't know quite what to say. Luckily, Jake climbing onto her lap saved her from having to. "Mommy sick." He informed her.
A questioning glance at Dorothea was answered with a brief nod. "I know buddy." She gave him a squeeze. "So you need to give her lots of hugs and kisses to make her feel better. Okay?"
"Okay!" With that he wiggled off her lap to climb on his mother's, his little arms wrapping around her neck. He planted a wet sloppy kiss on her cheek."I wuv you Mommy."
"I love you too buddy." Dorothea shot a grateful look at Brianna.
Brianna winked at her and, responding to the hands on her knee, lifted Romeo onto her lap. "Hey little man. How are you?"
Romeo just grinned, leaned against her and stuck his thumb in his mouth.
After a few minutes, Jake got bored and ran off to play. Dorothea turned to Brianna. "You're probably wondering why I asked you to come out here today. I have a favour to ask you. I want to tell the stories of each of the kids’ births and their lives up until now. Stories Jon won't remember but they might like to know. I was wondering.....hoping....that you might help me get them all down."
"Sure. Absolutely." She hesitated.
"I know it will mean giving up a lot of your time off..."
"I don't care about that." Brianna waved off her concern. "I have a suggestion, if I can."
"I think you should record them as well. I'm more than happy to transcribe and format them for you, but I think they'd like to hear them.....in your voice....as well. And maybe take some new pictures too?"
Dorothea's eyes filled. "I knew you'd understand what I wanted to do. I think that’s a great idea. As for the pictures…I’m working on that. Jon gave me a new camera for Christmas. Come on. Let's go upstairs and I'll show you the room I picked out for you."
After dinner Brianna followed Jon back to his office. "Are you okay with....this? My being here? I don't want to intrude into such a private family matter."
He shrugged. "It's fine. Whatever she wants." He pinned her with a glance. "I mean that Bri. Whatever Dorothea wants, she gets." He paused. "At least if it's in my power to give it to her."
"Have you thought about cancelling the tour?"
"She doesn't want me to. She wants things to be as normal as possible.....for as long as possible. And I'm going to do my best to give that to her."
Brianna nodded her understanding. "How do you feel about me taking some pictures – some family shots – for the albums she’s putting together for the kids?"
"That sounds like a great idea. Thanks. I’ll get her camera and meet you in the living room." They were going to watch a movie.
Before and during the movie, Brianna moved around the room periodically and snapped pictures of the family. Dorothea sat on the couch with Romeo in her lap, Jon close beside her. Jesse was in a chair beside his mother and Stephanie in the matching chair at the other end of the couch, Jake was up and down like a yo-yo in reaction to the action on the screen.
Finally, Jon got fed up. "Jake! Either sit on the couch or on the floor, but please stop jumping around!"
With a huffing pout, Jake climbed onto the cushion beside his father....and stayed there.
Brianna grinned and impulsively snapped a picture of his expression. Her gaze travelled back to Stephanie and she sobered. Obviously, the young girl was having a hard time processing the changes her family was facing. She remembered what it was like to be that age, all the confusing, uncontrollable and sometimes scary changes happening in your body. She couldn't imagine what it would be like to not have her mother there to talk to.
When Stephanie went into the kitchen to get drinks and snacks, Brianna followed to help.
"How are you doing Steph?"
"I'm fine! I wish everyone would stop asking me that!"
Brianna hesitated and heard her mother's voice follow your instincts. "Steph.....there's no deadline for you to be ready to accept this, you know. It's different for everybody. You can take as much time as you need. Don't let anyone rush you or make you feel guilty for taking your time. You can talk about as much as you want....or not if you're not comfortable. Although, when crap has happened in my life I've always found that talking about makes me feel better. But it's all about what works for you. Okay?"
Brianna nodded and picked up the tray of drinks.
"Brianna?" Stephanie stopped her before she left the room. "Can I….talk to you sometime…you know, if I need to?"
Brianna’s heart swelled. "Anytime."
Dorothea glanced up as Brianna handed her a cup of tea."Thanks." Her eyes darted over to her daughter and back again. One dark eyebrow rose.
Brianna understood the unspoken question and smiled reassuringly. "It's all good."
She was barely settled back in her chair before Jake climbed up and curled up with her. By the end of the movie both toddlers were sound asleep, but neither woman felt the need to rush to put them in their beds.
Dorothea looked around the room at her family, all looking so content. Even Stephanie looked less.....distraught. Her gaze lingered on Brianna and Jake and she realized she felt more at peace than she had in months.