Sitting in the dressing room in Nashville, Tori was restless. Richie was on the phone and Jon and the rest were in interviews. She picked up the guitar, but couldn’t concentrate. She got thinking about what Jon had in mind for her in regards to a job. She knew it would be in the merchandising department, but she didn’t know in what aspect. Deciding that checking out the booths in a different area of the country than she was used to would be good research, she threw her VIP pass around her neck – more for the venue staff than the BJM staff - and headed for the door. She stopped by the control centre and was pleased to find Mike there.
“Oh good. I want to go check out the crowd and the merchandise booths and I need security to go with me.”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” Mike replied with a frown.
Tori put on her most professional smile. “I appreciate your concern. Now are you coming with me or do I need to find someone else?”
Paul chuckled, having heard the conversation. Mike looked at him. “What?”
“Forgot for a moment didn’t you?” Paul was still grinning.
“That she’s a Bongiovi. That’s her polite way of saying that she isn’t asking for your permission and you can either go with her or send someone else, but she’s going regardless. ”
Tori smiled and looked at Mike expectantly. He sighed. “Okay, let’s go.”
When they entered the public areas, Mike called for another security guard to join them. Flanked by burly men wearing BJM shirts, she slanted the head of security a look. “I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job, but don’t you think that this is just going to draw more attention to me?”
“Maybe, but it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry. I like my head - and my balls - just where they are thank you very much!”
“Who are you worried about rearranging them, my brother or my boyfriend?”
He shrugged. “Either or both.”
She eyed the six foot three, two hundred and sixty pound wall of muscle beside her and had to chuckle at the thought of either Jon or Richie scaring him. “Yeah, sure, okay. It would take both of them together - and probably David and Tico too – to take you down.”
He just grunted.
When they reached the first booth, Tori glanced around and decided it would be prudent to watch from inside, rather than out in the crowd. She bit back a smile when she heard Mike sigh in relief when she asked one of the staff to let her in. She stood out of the way and watched not only what people were buying, but what they were wearing. In order to come up with new items that would sell well she needed to keep up with the trends and what the fans wanted. She made a mental note to get back on the boards and keep her eyes and ears open for suggestions.
After about half an hour she signaled that she was ready to leave. Mike started to lead her towards a back hallway, but she stopped him and motioned him towards the next booth. A few people in the crowd did a double take at her. She just smiled and nodded at them.
Fifteen minutes later, Mike looked at her a little nervously. “Ah, Tori, they want you backstage.”
Something about his demeanor told her that he was paraphrasing and probably doing it in a way that wouldn’t piss her off. That also told her it was Jon’s message. “What were his exact words?”
“Well, um..er…ah…he just said..” When she raised a brow at him, he sighed and handed her the radio. “Repeat that please.”
She got the earpiece in place just in time to hear Jon go off. “Tell my stubborn, pig-headed sister to get her ass back here now!”
“Hey! Pot and kettle asshole! I’m doing this for you and I’m taking precautions so stuff a sock in the rant Jon. I’ll be there in a little while.” Blowing out an angry breath she handed back the radio and glanced at two women standing near her waiting their turn in line. They had obviously heard her response. “You guys have brothers?”
One shook her head, the other nodded. “Two.”
“Older or younger?”
“One of each.”
“Do you get along?”
“Most of the time, but sometimes they’re real pains in the ass. They forget that I’m a grown woman and can make my own decisions and look after myself.”
Tori nodded. “Well, I have five. Four older, one younger. And I know exactly what you mean. I swear they’d wrap me up in bubble wrap and lock me in a closet if they could.” The one with brothers cringed sympathetically.
The women were feeling a little bold with this comfortable conversation. “And does your boyfriend feel the same way?” Even though they all knew who they were talking about, no one used names.
Tori snorted. “Oh he’d like to, but he knows better. He doesn’t like the temper directed at him.”
“So you have it too.”
“Little bit.” She admitted. She purposely waited another fifteen minutes, signed a few autographs and finally nodded at Mike. “Okay, let’s go.”
They guys were all gathered in Jon’s dressing room and they all frowned at her when she walked in.
“I’m here, safe and sound, no problems.” She gave Jon a baleful look. He returned it. She turned to Richie. “And before you start in on me, I had not one, but two security guards with me and I stood inside the booths, not out in the crowd. No one tried to push too close, no one tried to grab at me. I was perfectly safe, and until that changes I have no intention of foregoing my research based on some paranoia of what might happen.” Her look dared him to argue.
Richie studied her for a long moment. “As long as you have security with you, and they don’t sense a threat, I won’t try to stop you. But don’t ask me not to worry, because I will. I don’t care whether it’s rational or not, it’s how I feel.” She nodded her acceptance and understanding.
“What kind of research?” David asked, trying to head off the storm he could see brewing on Jon’s face.
“Well, while Jon and I haven’t discussed exactly what job it is that he envisions me doing for the organization, considering my background and skills, I’m assuming it will have something to do with product selection.” She looked at Jon, who nodded. “In order to do that I have to be out there, not tucked away back here. I need to see the crowd and what type of items interest them. Or did you picture me just giving my opinion on items that team members brought to show me?”
Jon actually blushed because that was exactly what he had planned. Obviously his sister wasn’t going to accept that scenario. “You’ll get a copy of the sales reports.” He argued.
“That only tells me what they’re buying based on what you’re selling. I need to see what they’re wearing, what the latest trends are, and that’s different in different areas of the country and the world. And don’t say that I can get that from magazines and T.V., because it’s not the same.” She cut off the argument she knew was coming. “I can’t explain it, but I need to see it live as it were, to get a feel for it as much as the visual.”
“So you plan on doing this in Europe too?” Tico figured they might as well deal with it all now and not have the same argument again in a month.
“Absolutely. Especially in Europe. Their styles are usually ahead of ours, so we can get the jump on the North American market.” She held up a hand to prevent the protests she saw coming. “I promise that if either security or I feel the slightest bit of a threat, I’ll try to find another way to do it, but for now, this is what works best for me.” She waited for the response.
“I don’t…” Jon began.
“Let her do it.” Richie interrupted.
“What?” Jon looked at him, stunned. “You were the one who was on my case about protecting her when she first started roaming the crowd. You’re actually okay with this?”
Richie shrugged. “Honestly? No. But it’s part of who she is, and I’m not about to try to change her.
Tori moved to sit on his lap and kissed him. “Thank you.”
“Just promise me you’ll be careful.”
Jon sighed. “For the record I still don’t like it…..but I won’t try to stop you.”
David looked at Tori with new admiration. “Wow, Bela, how’d you do that?”
“Win an argument with Mr. Control Freak there?”
Jon flipped him off.
Tori chuckled. “It’s because I’m female.”
“So, females, when faced with overbearing males, stick together to ensure fairness and equality. Jon is a smart man. He knows that coming to an agreement with me is much preferable to having to deal with me, his wife and his mother.”
Jon grimaced, but didn’t disagree. “Weaker sex my ass.” He mumbled.
Arriving in Florida, they headed straight for Tico’s house. It was an off day for them and they were looking forward to relaxing in a real home instead of a hotel.
“Querida?” Tico called as he led the parade through the door.
“Welcome home, mi Corazon.” The smoky voice belonged to a petite, gorgeous Hispanic woman who glided into the foyer to greet her husband with a kiss.
When Tico released her and stood back, the others crowded in to greet their hostess.
“The dress is nice, Alejandra, but I liked the towel better.” David bent to kiss her cheek.
She swatted his arm and pointed a warning finger at him. “I’ll be watching you.”
Jon was next, followed by Hugh and finally Richie.
“Yes, yes, it’s nice to see you all, now where is she?” She waved the men aside, until only Tori stood in front of her. “Ah, Tori. Welcome to my home. Tico has told me much about you.”
“Thank you.” Tori wasn’t surprised when her outstretched hand was ignored and she was drawn in for a hug.
“Papa! Papa!” A dark haired toddler came running up.
Tico swung him up into his arms for a hug and a kiss, murmuring to him in Spanish. He turned to Tori. “This is my son Hector.” Pride practically oozed from him.
“Hola nino. Encanado de conocerle (Pleased to meet you).” Everyone except Tico looked at her in surprise. Hector grinned at her shyly. She winked at him.
“Unlike you a-holes, Tori actually pays attention when I talk and has asked me to teach her.” Tico explained.
Tori shrugged. “I like to learn new languages.”
“Maybe we should have designated lesson time.” Jon suggested.
She knew what he was thinking. “It won’t stop me from doing my research.” She assured him.
He sighed. “It was worth a shot.” He muttered.
“Come Tori, I’ll give you a tour of the house and we can have a good chat. I’m sure after traveling with these guys you probably could use it. Richie can take your bags upstairs.” Alejandra suggested.
Watching the men head towards the stairs without comment, Tori followed her hostess. In a very short period of time she sensed a kindred spirit in many ways. The small stature and soft voice covered a spine of steel. Tori wondered what it was in the Jovi men that made them seek out strong women. She hadn’t met April, but she’d bet she was the same. Maybe it was that they were so assured in their masculinity and who they were, and that they got so much adulation from the audience that they didn’t need it – and in fact didn’t want it - at home. And maybe they realized that meek, weak-willed women wouldn’t survive their lifestyle.
An hour later the men found them sitting in the kitchen sipping on Mojitos and snacking on chips and salsa and guacamole. Richie just shook his head and laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Tori asked.
“Everytime I take you to a new house, within an hour I find you in the kitchen eating guacamole.” He glanced at the others. “She did the same thing the first time I took her to L.A.”
Tori shrugged. “It’s good. Want some?” She scooped up some salsa on a chip and offered it to him.
Opening his mouth he bent and let her feed him. “Mmm. That is good.”
Tico served beverages and the men settled in to snack.
“So what’s the plan for this afternoon?” David asked.
“I need to go do a bit of shopping.” Jon replied.
“Dorothea’s anniversary gift?” Tori guessed.
“Yeah. How did you….nevermind. Damn fans know everything.”
“What about you Bela?”
“I’m for just relaxing around the pool……although there is one thing I would like to do if Tico will allow it.”
“What’s that nina?”
“Well….I’d really like to see your studio.”
“Really? Sure. I’d be happy to show you around.”
“Honey? What do you want to do?” She asked Richie.
“I’m just going to hang out here too. Shirley?”
“I thought I’d hang out with Hector.” He held up a hand to shield his face from Alejandra’s glare.
“You’re taking a big risk there amigo. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Tico snickered.
Richie accompanied Tori on the tour of Tico’s studio. Entering the large sun filled room Tori looked around in awe and admiration. The two men stood back and watched her walk slowly, silently, from painting to painting. There was one in particular that she kept going back to. It was an abstract in all the colours of a sunset. Curved lines suggested water with the ball of the sun setting into it. It inspired a feeling of peace and tranquility and would be perfect over the fireplace in the condo. She slanted a look at Richie. He moved to stand beside her and studied the painting.
“Tico your work is amazing!”
“Thank you Bela. It’s only a hobby, but I find it relaxing.”
“This one’s new.” Richie commented, still looking at the painting.
“Yeah, I just finished it over Christmas.”
“It’s some of your best work yet.”
“How much do you want for this one?”
“Why, do you want it?”
Richie glanced at Tori. “Yeah.”
“I can’t take your money man. I’ll give it to you.”
“No! Let us pay you for it. You have to get something for all your hard work.” Tori protested.
“It’s not work, it’s fun, and I can’t take payment for it from you.” Tico insisted.
“Singing’s not work for me either – especially with you guys, but you all insisted that I get paid for it.” She reminded him.
Richie chuckled. “She’s got you there.”
She let the two men argue about price while she lost herself in the painting again.
“Angel?” Richie brought her back to awareness.
She glanced around. “Is it ours?”
He nodded. “Teek’s going to have it wrapped up and shipped to us.”
“Have him send it to Philly.”
“Over the fireplace?”
She stared at him and shivered. “You’re freaking me out here!”
He chuckled and hugged her, dropping a kiss on her lips. “See, we were meant to be together.”
She didn’t disagree.
After dinner, Tori was sitting out by the pool with Alejandra, reading a book with Hector who was sitting on her lap – he’d gotten over his shyness - enjoying the balmy evening waiting for the sun to set when Richie came looking for her. He smiled gently at the sight of them, a wistful look in his eyes. Alejandra noted his rolled up pantlegs and bare feet and guessed what he had in mind.
“Here miho, Mama will finish the story. Tio Richie wants to talk to Tia Tori.
When the toddler had switched chairs, Richie knelt in front of Tori, removed her shoes and socks and rolled up her pantlegs. Standing, he held his hand out to her. “Come with me?”
She had watched his ministrations in curious silence and now took his hand without hesitation, and allowed him to pull her to her feet. “Where are we going?”
“Just down to the beach. I thought you might like to watch the sun set from there.”
Tori let him lead her down to the beach where they walked in silence for a time just enjoying the atmosphere, and each other.
“Do you realize that today was the first time you referred to something as being ‘ours’ without having to catch and correct yourself?” He asked quietly. She raised a brow. “The painting. You asked me if it was ‘ours’.”
She smiled. “I told you it was just going to take me some time to adjust. I will admit that being with you so much over the last couple weeks has helped. I feel more like a couple now than I did with us separated so much. Notice how good I’m getting at spending your money too.”
He chuckled, stopped and pulled her into his arms. “At least I don’t have to worry about you buying something I won’t like.” Stroking his hands down her back he gazed into her eyes. “I love you so much it aches sometimes. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
She blinked back the tears that his words and the emotion behind them brought to her eyes. “You’re never going to have to find out. I love you too, and I’m not going anywhere.”
His kiss was full of feeling, but not lust. They tasted each other, gently, slowly for long minutes. With a sigh she rested her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist as his tightened around her, pulling her closer. He rested his cheek on her hair and they watched the water reflect back the reds, yellows and oranges of the setting sun. When moonlight had replaced the colours of the sun, they turned and hand in hand headed back to the Torres’ house.
The Florida shows went fairly smoothly, the only hiccup being a bomb threat that turned out – thankfully – to be a false alarm. No one was hurt, and the show went on, but the delay and inconvenience to everyone provided an opportunity for Tori to see a display of the Bongiovi temper in all its glory.
“Fucking little bastards! Scaring people and trying to wreck my show! If I ever get ahold of them, I’ll show them a bomb – and it won’t be just a threat!” Jon paced and ranted until the all clear was given.
When the dust settled and the crowd was let back in, the show went as planned with no noticeable affects on either band or audience..
The day of the last show they all packed up and bid Hector and Alejandra goodbye. They were heading north that night – all except Tico who was staying home and would just meet them in Atlanta.
“Thank you so much for everything.” Tori hugged Alejandra. “It’s been a wonderful break from hotel rooms and you have a lovely home.” She picked up Hector, hugged him and kissed his cheek. “Adios nino.”
“Adios Tia Tori. Come back soon.”
“You are welcome here anytime. Alejandra assured her. “I’ll see you in Europe.”
When it was Richie’s turn, she hugged him, searched his eyes and nodded. “Si! You look better amigo. She is good for you. Hang onto this one. Stay well.”
“Gracias chica. And I plan to hang on very tight.”
They arrived in Philly in the wee hours of the morning. Jon had offered for them to stay in Jersey, but Tori wanted to get ‘home’. She had suddenly realized that she and Richie had yet to spend a night in the condo together. They carried their own bags and were greeted by the night doorman.
“Good morning Mr. Sambora, Mrs. Sambora. Welcome home.”
Tor started to correct him, but decided she was too tired. “Thank you Joe.”
“Thanks Joe.” Richie followed her to the eleveators, a smirk twisting his lips. They rode in silence for a while until he couldn’t hold back any longer. “You didn’t correct him.”
She shrugged. “I didn’t want to take the time. I just want to crawl into my bed.” She glanced at his face. “You didn’t either. “
It was his turn to shrug. “What does it matter?” He actually liked it, but wasn’t sure either one of them were ready to go there tonight.
“It doesn’t.” She agreed.
With a soft ping, the doors opened and Tori turned towards them, so Richie didn’t see the slight frown puckering her brow.
Entering the apartment, they dropped their bags, kicked off their shoes and hung up their jackets. Turning from the closet Tori looked at the suitcases and decided that they could wait until later.
She found Richie standing in the living room, looking around while unbuttoning his shirt. Seeing her he nodded. “I really like what you’ve done in here. And that painting of Tico’s will be perfect.”
“Yeah I think so too.” She yawned.
When Richie just stood there scratching his now exposed chest, she chuckled. “I don’t know about you, but I’m for bed.” She headed down the hallway. She noticed he wasn’t following and stopped. “Richie? You coming?”
“Huh? Oh. Yeah.” Yawning widely he started after her, stripping off clothes as he went.
He reached the bedroom just as Tori was coming out of the bathroom. He dumped his armload of clothes on a chair, put his phone on the night stand and crawled under the covers she had just turned back.
Glancing around to make sure everything was turned off, she joined him. “Thank you.” She murmured as she curled up against him.
“Not leaving your clothes in a path on the floor.”
He chuckled “See, I’m not a complete caveman.”
She fell asleep before she could come up with a good retort.
As usual, Tori awoke before Richie. As she lay with Richie spooned behind her, trying to summon up enough energy to get up, she realized that there was no food in the apartment. They were either going to have to go out for breakfast, or she was going to have to go find a store. Easing out from under his arm she headed for the bathroom, grabbed a quick shower, dressed, left a note in case Richie woke up and left in search of sustenance. Henry was back on duty.
“Morn..er..afternoon Miss Adams.”
“Hi Henry. Is there a grocery store or a convience store or something close by?”
“There’s a market two blocks up. Would you like me to get you a cab?”
“No thanks Henry, I’ll walk.” She felt the need to stretch her legs.
Back in the apartment she was snacking on some fruit, having decided to wait until Richie woke up to make breakfast – or brunch, or whatever – when her phone rang. Humming the tune she wondered what was going on in Jersey.
“Hi Dorothea. What’s up?”
“I just wanted to make sure that you and Richie were coming here after the game tonight.”
Tori frowned. “Jon mentioned something about that, but I’m not real comfortable with that. It’s your anniversary. You should be spending it alone with Jon. You don’t need company.”
“You’re not company, you’re family. Jon and I are going out for dinner, but we have no plans during the day. Besides John and Carol would like to see you, not to mention the kids.”
Tori could hear a commotion on the other end.
“Aunt Tori? You coming to see me ‘morrow? Prease? I got new book!”
She chuckled. “We’ll see little man.”
“I not little man, I big! I four now!”
“Sorry, big man, then.” Tori chuckled.
Dorothea came back on the line.
“Dirty pool Dot.”
Tori sighed. “We probably should go see Joan too. I’ll talk to Richie and see what he says.”
“Ok. The guest house will be ready.”
Tori shook her head. “Do you always get your way?”
Dorothea laughed. “Sorry. I’m used to dealing with Jon where I have to be pushy. I really would like to see you though.”
“I’ll talk to Richie and let you know.”
“Ok. Oops, Romeo just found the cookies and dumped the whole bag on the floor. I’d better go.”
“Like father, like son. See you later Dot.”
“Talk to me about what?” Richie stood in the doorway, raking his hand through his hair, a disgruntled look on his face.
“Dorothea wants us to go to their place after the game.”
His frown deepened, but he sighed. “Whatever.”
“What’s the matter? We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”
He snorted. “Haven’t you learned yet? She doesn’t take no for an answer.”
“She will from me. If you want to stay here, we will.”
“What I want is for us to have some time by ourselves where we don’t have to be somewhere.”
“Just a few more days and we’ll be home in L.A.”
He nodded. “I guess we should go see Ma too.”
“That’s what I was thinking. You want some breakfast?”
“We have food?”
“Yeah. I went shopping when I got up.”
He frowned again. “Yeah, I could eat.”
“Honey, what’s wrong? Why are you so grumpy?”
“You were gone when I woke up. And you’re dressed already.”
“I usually am. What’s the problem?”
“Last night was our first night here together, and we were so tired, we went right to sleep. We didn’t……christen….the new bed. I was hoping to rectify that this morning, but you weren’t there.” He was definitely pouting.
She bit back a smile. “There’s still time. Let’s have some breakfast and then we’ll see about …..the christening.”
“Won’t be the same. It won’t be the first time we slept there.”
“Well it sort of will be if I don’t make the bed first.”
His eyes lit up. “I can make that work.”
With a flurry of phone calls it was decided that Tori and Richie would accompany Jon back to New Jersey after the game, and Jon and Obie – who was coming to the game with Jon – would join Tori and Richie for dinner at the condo beforehand. After all the restaurants over the last few weeks, they were all looking forward to a home cooked meal.
Leaning back in his chair, one hand on his stomach as if to keep it from bursting, Obie looked at Richie. “You’d better add a few pieces to your gym and get into a serious work out routine, or you’re going to be in biiiiig trouble man.”
“Thank you.” Tori chuckled.
Richie winked at her. “Bright, beautiful, talented, and a great cook. Do I know how to pick ‘em or what?”
“What did you expect? She’s a Bongiovi. If she’s going to do something, she’s going to do it well.” Jon explained.
Richie and Obie groaned. Tori just looked at Jon and smiled. They both knew he wasn’t joking.
At the arena, Obie was about to take a seat between Jon and Tori when Richie stopped him. “You don’t want to do that man.”
“It’s dangerous to get between them.”
It wasn’t long before he understood what Richie meant. They watched the siblings in awe.
“Scary.” Obie murmured.
Richie just nodded.
The next morning, Tori was up, showered, dressed and just pouring a cup of coffee, when a knock sounded softly on the guest house door. She opened it to find Dorothea on the other side.
“Morning Tori. I hope I’m not too early.”
“No, it’s fine. Richie’s still sleeping, and I was just about to have a cup of coffee. Want one?”
“That’d be great. Thanks.” She accepted the mug Tori proffered, and glanced around. “Why don’t we sit out on the porch? It’s unusually warm for April this morning.”
“Sure.” Tori frowned. Whatever Dorothea wanted to discuss, it must be serious.
When they were settled outside Tori turned to her sister-in-law. “What brings you down here this morning Dot?”
“I wanted to talk to you and if I tried to at the house, between Jon and the kids we’d be interrupted every five minutes. I figured Richie would still be asleep, and we wouldn’t be bothered here.”
Tori nodded. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“How is he?”
Tori knew what she meant. “Better. I think he was really worried about the possibility of going to jail – and losing Ava. I have to give Heather credit – she’s being very decent about the whole thing. I’m hoping – and praying - that this has been a wake up call for him and that it’s scared him straight.”
Dorothea nodded. “Me too. And how are you doing with all this?”
“Tori, come on. Be honest. I know it hasn’t been easy on you. Jon told me about your talks.”
Tori sighed and raked her hand through her hair in a classic Bongiovi motion. “I’m…..better.” She frowned down at her fingers, toying with the hem of her shirt. She needed to talk to someone who understood. “But honestly….Dorothea it scared me half to death! He wouldn’t listen to me. I begged him to stop the car and he just kept saying he was fine. If there had been an accident and someone had gotten hurt…..” She couldn’t finish as her throat closed on the thought.
Dorothea reached over to grab her hand. “I know. Thank God that didn’t happen.” She paused. “How are things between the two of you now?”
“They’re good. He apologized over and over and has promised me he’s going to do his very best to make sure it never happens again. He’s been very considerate and attentive ever since.”
“So, no thoughts of leaving?”
Tori shook her head. “No. I’m not willing to throw away what we have because of one night.”
“Good.” Dorothea smirked. “So is he pushing babies yet?”
Tori smiled. “I wouldn’t say he’s pushing exactly, but you know Richie, subltey isn’t his strong suit. It’s no secret that he’d like more children.”
“And how do you feel about it?”
“I’d love to have a child, but there are requirements that have to be met before that happens.” At Dorothea’s questioning look, she waggled the fingers on her left hand.
“Ah. Well you know, if Jon would stop booking shows, August or September would be a nice time for a wedding. I’m sure you probably want to get married in Canada, but if you wanted you’re welcome to have it here.”
Tori just smiled weakly.
Dorothea studied her face. “Have you guys even talked about it?”
Tori shook her head. “Not really. There have been little comments here and there, but no actual discussion.” Her fingers were fidgeting again.
“You’re not sure are you?”
Tori grimaced. “I thought I was until this last episode. Now I just don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I love him. With all that I am I love him….”
“But….I won’t live with a drunk and I don’t want to bring a child into that environment. Part of me says to have faith, that he’ll get it under control and he’ll be okay. Another part says to not rush into anything and just wait and see how he does over the next while. Then I feel horrible that I doubt him even a tiny bit…..but I’ve known alcoholics, and I know hard it was for them to quit….and not all of them did.”
“No one would blame you. It’s a nasty disease that isn’t easy to over come. It’s good that you recognize that. Having faith is one thing. Blind faith is something else. But you’re strong and I’m sure you can help him over any rough patches.”
Tori snorted. “Like I did a month ago? Dot, I did everything I could think of and it wasn’t enough. I left him alone for two hours and look what happened.”
“Have you ever dealt with that situation before?” Tori shook her head. “Then why would you expect to know what to do. Have you ever thought about talking to a counselor or someone yourself, to learn how to help him?”
Tori looked at her thoughtfully. “No, but that might not be a bad idea.”
“Have you told Richie any of this?”
“No and I’m not going to. I don’t want him doubting my faith in him. And for the most part, I do have faith….there’s just this niggling little warning voice in the back of my mind that won’t shut up.”
“What’s it going to take to shut it up?”
Tori sighed, and her eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know. Time I guess. But I’m going to be forty years old in June. When it comes to children, I don’t have a lot of time left.”
“What are you going to say if he proposes?”
“I don’t know. I’m hoping he holds off for awhile. Maybe after the tour’s over and things settle down, I’ll feel more secure.” She wiped at the tear that overflowed. “I hope so. I want the fairy tale, and I want it with him.”
Dorothea reached out to grip her hand again. “You’ll get it. You’ll see.” Movement at the corner of her eye caught her attention. “Smile.” She murmured.
“Angel? What are you….oh hi Dot.”
“Hi Richie. I just came down for a cup of coffee and a little girl talk. Jesse wanted me to ask you if you would have some time to help him with a song he’s trying to learn. He’s having a problem with it, and of course refuses to ask his father.” She kept him talking until she was sure Tori had herself under control. “Well, I’d better go check on lunch. Are you guys coming up to the house?”
Richie eyed Tori. “Yeah, we’ll be up in a bit.”
“Ok. Thanks for the coffee.”
That made Tori laugh. “It’s your coffee!”
Dorothea grinned. “I may have bought it, but I didn’t have to make it!” With a wave she headed up the driveway to the house.
Tori picked up her mug and Dorothea’s. “Do you want a cup of coffee?” She stood on tiptoe to kiss him good morning.
When she returned, she found him sitting in the chair that Dorothea had vacated. She handed him a mug.
“Thanks.” He watched her closely. “What did you and Dot talk about?”
She intended to blow him off with a blasé ‘oh just girl talk’, but one look at his eyes and she found herself telling him the truth – or at least part of it. “You mostly. She wanted to know how you were doing.” She looked down and rubbed her palm on her leg. “And how I was handling everything.” She admitted.
He frowned. “We’ve never really talked about that have we?”
She shrugged. “It’s not necessary.”
“Yes it is. I know that it hasn’t been easy for you either. I hate that I’ve put you through all this….mess. The least I can do is help you deal and be here for you.”
She shook her head. “You need to focus on you, not me. I have a great support network.” She waved towards the house. “I’ll be fine.”
The frown deepened. “I’m glad that you have people you can talk to….but I want to be one of them.”
“Richie look at me.” She reached for his hand and waited until he did. In the chocolate depths she could see his concern….and just a touch of jealousy. “I know that you love me, and that you are always there for me. The best thing that you can do for me is to stay sober and healthy.” She searched his eyes. “Okay?”
His frustration erupted. “No it’s not okay. Stop pretending that it isn’t affecting you! God! Do you know how it makes me feel when you hide how you’re feeling because you’re afraid of doing something that might upset me and make me drink! I’m not a child and I’m not stupid! No one is going to put that glass in my hand but me!”
Tori was taken aback by his response. “I’m sorry. I just figured you had enough on your plate. Besides, I really am fine.”
He snorted. “Sure, that’s why you were in tears talking to Dorothea.” He sighed. “Tori talk to me. Quit trying to protect my feelings by burying yours.”
“Seriously, Rich, I’m fine.” She doggedly replied, determined not to let him see her doubt.
“DAMMIT TORI! Are you actually going to sit there and tell me that you aren’t affected by all this? That you aren’t concerned about the future? That you don’t worry every day that I might slip? Do you actually think I’m going to buy that?”
“Really, I’m….” At his look all the stress of the last month and her buried fears – already near the surface after her discussion with Dorothea - caught up with her and her control snapped. “Fine. Do you really want to know how I feel? Yes I’m affected by all this. Yes I worry every day that you’ll slip. I worry that the next time someone will get hurt or you’ll end up in jail. Yes I’m concerned about the future! I’m scared to death about the future! I’m scared of what might happen if you hit another bad patch AND I CAN’T HELP YOU! I’m scared of having to stand by with our children and watch you self destruct! I couldn’t bear that! It would destroy me!” Her tears were flowing freely down her cheeks. “There! Now you know how I feel. You got me to share my fears with you and reveal my lack of complete faith in you. Are you happy now? Do you feel better now? I sure hope so, because I feel just fucking wonderful! Why couldn’t you just LEAVE IT ALONE?” Without waiting for his response she stood and walked off the porch, heading across the yard towards the river.