They got through Christmas and New Year's relatively whole. Subdued and sad, but whole.
The worst was on the day after Christmas when Brianna dropped by the house to deliver the presents she'd bought Jon and the kids. Jon's grim face when he opened the door warned her that everything was not 'Merry'.
He grimaced. "Steph's having a rough day."
"Where is she?"
"Up in her room."
"Do you mind if I..."
"Please!" He waved towards the stairs. "I'm no good at this stuff."
Handing Jon her coat, Brianna started for the stairs.
Stephanie looked up at the sound of a knock on her door and Brianna's voice. "Come in Bri." She reached for a tissue and blew her nose.
"Hi." Brianna sat on the end of the bed and studied the young girl. Red rimmed eyes and the tissues overflowing the garbage can told the tale of tears. The photo album lying open on the covers explained the reason behind them - not that Brianna needed to be told. "Having a rough day?"
Stephanie nodded and drew in a ragged breath.
Brianna reached out to squeeze her hand. "That's perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of. You're going to have days like this. It'll get easier in time."
"Will this pain go away?"
"You'll always miss her, but the pain will get better. It may never completely go away, but it won't hurt this bad forever."
Stephanie nodded. "I miss her so much!" The tears started again.
Brianna shifted to sit beside her and wrapped her arms around her. "I know sweetie, I know." She rubbed Steph's back, letting her emotions run their course. The picture visible in the album made her smile. She reached out and ran a finger over it. "Your mom told me about this one. You put on her clothes and makeup for a Halloween costume."
"I almost fell down the stairs. I broke the heel off one of her shoes....and went through half a tube of lipstick trying to get it right." A weak smile curved her lips. She sniffed. "She was so mad at me."
Brianna stroked her dark hair. "Actually, the whole time she was lecturing you, she was fighting not to laugh. She said you looked like some sort of clown doll."
"Yep. That's why she took the picture. She said the price of the shoes and the makeup was well worth the laugh and memories she got out of it."
They turned a few pages in the album discussing pictures and stories. Eventually, Stephanie began to smile and laugh more easily,
"Feeling better?" Brianna inquired.
"Yeah," Stephanie sighed. Turning, she hugged her friend. "Thanks Bri."
"STEPHIE! STEPHIE! COME QUICK! THEYS MORE PESENTS!" Jake burst into his sister's room. Seeing Brianna sitting there, his eyes widened and his face lit up. "Bianna! When you get here?"
"Just a few minutes ago." She exchanged a glance with Stephanie and winked. "Come on. Let's go check out these presents!"
Downstairs, Jake gave his father a baleful glare. "Daddy, how come you no tew me Bianna here?"
Jon glanced at Brianna who was trying not to laugh. "Sorry buddy."
Brianna was sitting on the couch, Romeo on her lap, watching the kids examine their presents, when Jon leaned over from behind her to hand her a glass of wine. "Thanks."
"No, thank you. You're great with them,"
She just shrugged and smiled.
Jon squeezed her shoulder and went back to his chair. Looking around at his smiling family, he felt the pain in his heart ease just a little.
The next couple months were uneventful, except that Jon was starting to go a little stir crazy. The kids were coping well and had gotten back to their normal routine for the most part.
That meant that Jon had more and more time to himself......and he was slowly going insane! He was itching to get back into the studio, but he knew he couldn't leave the kids for weeks at a time yet. The Soul's season was just getting underway, but that only took up a small portion of his time. His charity programs were well run and again only took up a small portion of his time - and that mainly to approve new programs.
He looked at his empty desk and sighed. Damn my efficient assistant!
When his phone rang, he jumped for it. "Hello?"
"Hey man. What are you up to?"
Jon had never been so glad to heat David's voice. "Absofuckinglutely nothing! I'm bored out of my mind."
"Feel up to going out for a little birthday celebration this weekend?"
"Yes! Wait! What did you have in mind?" He'd forgotten who he was talking to for a moment. Giving David carte blanche could be dangerous.
"Nothing too crazy. Just hit a few bars, catch a few bands."
"Who are you going to ask to babysit?"
"Ummmm....." He forgot about that. He'd never had to arrange child care before. "Mom, I guess."
"Why don't you ask Brianna if she'll do it?" David suggested.
"Hmmm. The kids would probably like that better. I know Jake would."
Hanging up, David grinned and finalized his plans for the evening.
"Daddy why you putting other cwoes on?" Jake wandered around his father's bedroom, watching him get ready.
"I'm going out with Uncle Lemma for awhile tonight."
"Oh." He wandered to the window, then turned and frowned. "Who going to wook after us?"
"Bri's going to come stay with you."
The small face so like his own lit up. "Otay! STEPHIE! JESSE! Bianna tomin!"
Smiling, Jon shook his head in amusement and followed his son out of the room.
David waited until they were settled in the second bar and Jon had a handful of drinks under his belt. "So how are you really doing?"
Jon sighed and raked a hand through his hair. "Okay...I guess. I'm bored, but I know the kids aren't ready for me to go on the road yet." He shifted in his chair.
David's lips twitched. "You're all uptight. You need to get laid."
Jon sighed and stared at the golden liquid in his glass. "I'm.....lonely." He acknowledged, then grimaced. "And then I feel guilty....like I shouldn't feel that way when I'm in mourning."
"Mourning. That's kind of an old fashioned word."
Jon shrugged. "Mourning, grieving whatever." He glanced at a group of attractive women walking by their table. He noted their appreciative glances, considered, then ignored them.
"Even grieving men have needs."
Jon shook his head.
Blonde brows rose. "Really? Long dark hair, dark eyes, good bodies.......just your type. So....is it mourning and guilt? Or has your type changed? Maybe you prefer auburn hair and golden eyes now. If that's the case, you're all set. You've got one in your house right now."
"I wouldn't do that to her....use her like that. She deserves more."
"So give her more."
In the process of taking a drink, the wine glass froze halfway to his mouth. He stared at his friend, then snorted. "Nice try. Did Dot put you on the payroll?"
"No, I'm just beginning to see what she saw. Think about it. Now that you're back on the market, you'll have your pick of the crop, but you'll have to worry about whether she wants you or your fame and fortune, and whether your kids will like her. With Brianna, you don't have to worry about any of that. And you know you’re good together physically. Hell after Florida I know you’re good together physically." He sipped his drink and shrugged. "Dot was right. She's perfect."
Jon didn't answer. He couldn't argue with anything that his friend had said except.....was he attracted to Brianna because of her or because Dot wanted it? And would Brianna accept him because she cared for him or because it was a dying woman’s wish?
David studied his friend’s face for a moment, then pulled an envelope out of his pocket and held it out. “Here.”
“What’s this?” Jon asked as he took it. The sight of his name in his wife’s handwriting had his stomach clenching. He raised a brow at his bandmate.
“She told me to give it to you when I thought you were ready to move on but your guilt and doubt were holding you back.”
Jon could only shake his head. She knew him so well. Opening the envelope, he braced himself for Dot’s lecture – he knew that’s what it was, because as well as she knew him, he knew her too.
Okay babe, enough grieving. I know you love me and that you miss me, but for your sake as well as the kids' it's time to move on.
You need someone to share your life and take care of you. You don't do a great job of that on your own. You need someone to be your sounding board , who will help you flesh out your ideas, listen to you vent and help you work out your problems.
And the kids need someone to nurture and care for them. Someone to help you guide them through life, celebrate their successes and heal their hurts.
So stop feeling guilty – and that’s what your doubt is - and find her.
You know I think Brianna would be perfect, but the decision is up to you. Just make sure you find someone who loves you and understands and supports the needs and demands of your career. You won't be happy otherwise.
You're a strong, driven, wonderful man. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to be happy. I wish I could be there to help make that happen, but God decided otherwise. That doesn't mean that you stop living too. That's not what I want for you. That's not honouring me, it's DIShonouring what we shared.
So please babe, for me......for all that we were together.......find love again and be happy.
I love you,
Jon grimaced. "Do see the waitress? Let's get another bottle."
The buzz of the security system signaling the gate opening woke Brianna. She'd been sleeping lightly, listening with one ear for the guys' return. It was the first time she'd been the only adult in the house and her senses were on alert for any unusual noises or sounds of distress from the kids.
Banging and muffled laughter brought her fully awake. A crash had her reaching for her robe and rushing to the stairs. Part way down, she saw Jon and David leaning against the wall, David bracing both Jon and the table he'd stumbled against. "What are you doing? You're going to wake the children!"
"Hi Beautiful!" He turned to Jon. "See? She even sounds like a wife."
Jon pushed him away. "Ass!" He grinned sheepishly up at Brianna. "Sorry Golden Eyes. We'll be quiet." He turned back to David. "Sssshhhhh."
Brianna snorted. "I might believe you if you weren't slurring your words and swaying on your feet. Can you make it up the stairs or do you need help?"
"I'm not drunk!" Jon insisted. "I can climb a fucking flight of stairs!"
"Goony goo goo." David added, then burst into laughter.
"Lord help me, you're both drunk!" She descended to the bottom of the stairs. "Come on. Up you go."
"Don't need help, Golden Eyes, but if that's your way of saying you want to be close to me, I won't say no." He slid an arm around her shoulders and waggled his eyebrows.
Brianna snorted. "Put a knot in it Casanova." She tugged him forward. "Come on." She glanced back over her shoulder. "You too Joker."
"But..." He started to argue, but her look warned him not to. "Yes ma'am."
She made sure David found his way into a spare room, then turned her attention to getting Jon to his. Inside, she led him to the bed and urged him onto it. He complied, but pulled her with him. A small shriek escaped her as she fell and was rolled beneath him.
His hands came up to frame her face. "So beautiful." His mouth crashed down on hers.
Stunned, Brianna froze, but before she could make a conscious decision, her body made its own. Her lips parted, inviting him in, closing around his tongue when he accepted.
After several minutes, she was able to tear her mouth away. "Jon...."
"Mmm?" He shifted his attention and buried his mouth in her neck.
"Jon..." She shivered at the sparks lighting up her nerves. "Jon, we shouldn't.....the kids...."
Jon sighed heavily, but didn't lift his head.
When he stilled, Brianna bit back a protest, her body cursing her moral standards. After several minutes, he still hadn't moved. She nudged him. "Jon?"
His response was a soft snore.
"Seriously?" Laughing softly, she managed to roll him onto his back and rose from the bed. She hesitated, considering, then finally undressed him and pulled the blankets over him before exiting the room and closing the door behind her.
Sighing heavily - she refused to acknowledge what she was feeling was regret and disappointment - she sought her own bed.