It was a quiet trip home.
Brianna hadn't given Jon an answer to his question and it was frustrating him. "What's it going to take?"
"Time." She answered. "I just need some time to think this through with a clear head. This is a huge decision, Jon. Too important to be made quickly in a post coital fog."
He couldn't argue her point and he knew her well enough to know pushing her would get him nowhere.
When they pulled up in front of her apartment building, Brianna turned to look at him. "Are you coming up?"
"No. Linda will have brought the kids back by now. Mom's there, but I need to get home."
Leaning over, she fought a smile at his disgruntled expression . He looked just like Jake when he didn't get his way. "Don't pout." She kissed him. "Thank you for a lovely trip. I really enjoyed it." She climbed out of the car and grabbed her bag out of the back. Pausing, she caught his eye. "I love you."
Jon sighed and nodded. "I love you too. I'll talk to you later."
"Give my love to the kids. Talk to you later."
Brianna stepped back and watched him drive away, wondering if she was doing the right thing.
"Of course you're doing the right thing." Rachel reassured her. "Moving in is a huge step and not one you want to rush into. Especially when there are kids involved. You want to make sure the relationship is good and solid with a high probability of long term success. "
"That's what I tried to explain to Jon! Sort of. You sound like an investment banker." After Jon had left, she had started to second guess herself and needed a more objective perspective. Since her mother didn't fit that description, she'd called her sister-in-law.
"I guess when you live with one long enough, a few things rub off." Rachel chuckled. "But the logic is sound."
Brianna sighed. "I know and I agree with you. But I'm torn. I'm just not sure what's the right thing to do."
"Do you love each other?"
"Do you miss him when you're not together?"
"You've spent a lot time to together under the same roof. Do you get along when it comes to the day to day stuff?"
"So what's holding you back? Your father's reaction?"
"Believe it or not, no. He's not going to approve of anything that happens with Jon, and I can't worry about his opinion. I have to think about my happiness, not his."
"Good girl!" Rachel cheered. "So your biggest concern is what exactly? The effect on the kids' if you move in?"
"Yes." Brianna responded. "Despite what the oldest two have said, I'm not sure they're really ready to see me sharing their father's room. I can't help but wonder if it's too soon. And what happens if we can't make it work? How would that affect the kids?"
Rachel considered for a moment. "Has the word 'marriage' ever come up?"
"God no. I think it may be a long time yet before Jon's ready to take that step again."
"And are you willing to wait?"
"For how long?"
"I don't know." Brianna paused. "And that's one of the reasons I'm not sure about moving in."
Jon pulled through the gates, parked and sighed. His romantic getaway had ended on a sour note. He should be happy and relaxed. Instead he was annoyed and agitated. As much as Brianna loved his kids and was comfortable in his house, he really hadn't anticipated her not immediately agreeing to move in. He hadn't been prepared for it, and didn't know how to react to it.
And the worst part was he couldn't argue with her. While he didn't agree her concerns were valid, she was looking out for the best interests of his children. He couldn't dispute her conjectures without looking like he was putting his needs before his kids'.
Copper barked at his window, jerking his mind back to his surroundings. "Okay, okay, I'm coming."
Grabbing his bag from the backseat, he trudged into the house.
"Daddy! Daddy! You home!" Romeo ran into the foyer and hugged his father's knees.
"Hey little man. Did you have a good time at Aunt Linda's?"
"Uh huh." Romeo nodded and looked around. "Where Bina?"
She's at home." He watched Romeo look up the stairs. "No, she's at her home in the city."
"Oh." Small shoulders slumped and he frowned. "When her tomin back dis home?"
Jon sighed. "I'm not sure. Probably in a few days."
Feeling as dejected as his son looked, Jon made his way to the kitchen. His mother looked up from the sink, took one look at his face and reached for a coffee mug.
"Hi." She filled the cup from the pot beside her and held it out to him. "How was your trip?"
"Fine." He sat down at the island.
Her brows rose. "Just fine? Did something happen? Was the lodge not very nice?"
"The lodge was nice. Big room, and the sleigh ride was pretty."
"Did Brianna come home with you?"
"No, she's in the city."
Hearing the disgruntled note in his voice, Carol eyed her oldest son knowingly. "Did you have a fight?"
"No." Jon scowled. "Not really."
"But you're not happy."
He grunted and sipped his coffee.
"So. You had a three day romantic getaway with your girlfriend, but instead of coming home relaxed and content, you're moody and unhappy. If you didn't have a fight, then........you didn't get your way about something."
His scowl darkened. "Don't you need to get home?"
Carol laughed and winked at her granddaughter as she entered the room.
"Hey Dad, how was your trip?" Opening the fridge, she pulled out a soda.
"It was.....good." He ignored his mother's snicker.
"So? Is Brianna moving in?"
Carol's head snapped in Jon's direction.
"I don't know yet. I'm still working on it."
"Let us know if we can help convince her." Grabbing a cookie out of the jar, Stephanie left the room.
"Moving in together? Are you sure you're ready for that?" Carol asked carefully.
He nodded towards the doorway. "You heard her. Jesse mentioned it to me as well, and the little ones love her."
"Mmhmmm. Are you ready for that?" Carol sat down across the island. "Have you asked her?"
He nodded. "Yeah, but she hasn't given me an answer yet. Said she needed some time to think about it."
"Smart girl. That's a big step. You need to be sure. Don't do it just because you're lonely."
"I'm not a child Mom."
"No, but you have four that you need to look out for. Don't bring a woman - even Brianna - into this house on a full time basis unless you're prepared to make it permanent. Don't risk their happiness like that - or hers for that matter." She reached across to touch his hand. "Are you really ready for something permanent? For someone to fill Dorothea's role in your house? In your life? It's only been a year and a half. Are you ready to relegate Dorothea to the past.....to be memories and nothing more?"
She let her words sink in for a few moments. "If you are, if you're truly ready to move on, in your heart and mind, then by all means, move her in. But as your wife, not just your girlfriend."
Carol's words echoed in his head over the next few days. He was ready to move on with his life, with Brianna at his side.....wasn't he? What did his mother see that made her doubt that? Subconsciously he knew what that would mean in regards to Dorothea's place in his mind and heart, but now his mother was forcing him to face it head on.
He opened a drawer in his dresser to get a pair of socks and his gaze was drawn to the small box in the corner. Lifting it out, he sat on the end of the bed and took off the lid. He stared at the contents for a moment before pouring it into his hand. Was whatever his mother saw the reason Brianna was hesitant about moving in? Was he giving off some sort of signal that despite his assurances, he really wasn't ready?
He sighed and rolled the ring in his hand around his palm. He'd taken off his wedding ring, but kept it close. Was that wrong? Was he still hanging on to Dot without realizing it?
Suddenly he wasn't sure about anything anymore. He needed to talk to someone.
Parking his car, Jon took a deep breath and climbed out. Turning up the collar of his coat against the cold wind, he shoved his hands in his pockets and made his way over to the stone. "Hey Dotty. I need some help."
He bent and brushed snow off the ledge at the bottom of the stone and the small figurines someone had put there, while he debated his words. "You were right Dotty.....about Bri. I don't know why that should surprise me. You always knew me so well. She's beautiful, smart, considerate and loving.....everything you said she said she was."
He paused. "I love her Dot. I want her to move in with us. To create a family with us. But.....it's only been a year and a half since we lost you, and I'm wondering if I'm moving too fast. I don't want to do anything that will diminish what you and I had, but.....we need to move on. I think we're ready. I'm lonely and the kids need a full time female influence."
He stared up at the grey sky. "Am I being selfish? I'll always love you Dotty, and I'll never forget you. I would give anything to have you here with me. But you're gone and the kids and I have to learn to live without you. I know you tried to pound that idea into my head, but I didn't want to hear it then. I get it now."
He reached out with one finger to stroke the angel sitting on the top of the stone. "Mom says that if I'm ready for something permanent, I should marry her instead of just moving her in. It would be more stable for the kids. Is that like a slap in your face so soon?"
Taking his other hand out of his pocket, he opened his fist to stare at his wedding ring. "I don't know the right thing to do. Help me Dotty."
A gust of wind blew the clouds apart enough to allow a small ray so sunshine to break through, bathing the ring in his hand. He could almost feel the metal warm and appear to shimmer. But maybe that was the tears in his eyes.
"Thanks Dotty. I love you."