Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chapter 26

By late afternoon, everyone had arrived – John and Carol, Matt and Desiree, Tony, ….and Joan. That first meeting had Tori’s palms sweating. Dorothea had introduced them as the guys were still out in the studio.

“Hello Mrs. Sambora, it’s nice to meet you.” Tori held out her hand.

“Pssh, call me Joan dear.” Ignoring the outstretched hand she gathered Tori into her arms for a hug. “Now come, sit and tell me all about yourself.”

They were still sitting on the couch deep in conversation when the men came in from the studio.

“Hi Ma.” Richie came over to greet his mother with a hug and a kiss, winking at Tori over her shoulder.

“Happy Birthday Richie dear.” Joan replied. “You look better, but still too tired. You need to relax more, you seem tense.”

“Gee Rich, I think your Mom’s right. Now, can you think of something you could do that might help you relax and relieve your, um, tension?” David asked.

Richie glared at David, his face a dull red. Tori choked and blushed as well. Snickers echoed around the room.

Over dinner, Joan congratulated John and Carol on the ‘new addition’ to their family.

“You must have been so thrilled to find her at last – and that she was willing and able to help Stephanie.” She commented.

“Yes, we’re very happy to have found Tori.” John smiled at his daughter. Tori smiled back.

“She’s the answer to my prayers.” Stephanie added.

Tori, who was sitting beside her gave her a hug. “I’m just glad I could help.”

“And the boys have a sister!” Joan continued. “I had always hoped to have a sister for my Richie, but…it wasn’t to be. Tori is kind and caring and selfless. You three should cherish her.”

There was silence as everyone around the table looked at Jon – everyone that is except Tori who looked at her plate. Jon just smiled wryly.

Matt sighed. “Yeah, a new sister, and I’m still the baby!” Laughter filled the room.

They settled in the den after dinner to watch Richie open his presents. The guys had given him silly little prank gifts and toys, the women more practical gifts of clothing, the kids music related items including a biography of Jimmy Paige. “Hey this is great! Thanks.” Reluctantly setting the book aside he reached for the next gift.

Seeing Tori’s name on it he looked up at her. “You didn’t need to get me anything.” The else was there in his eyes.

Fighting not to blush, she smiled. “I know, but I wanted to.”

When he pulled the chain of little guitars out of its nest of tissue paper his face lit with delight. Reaching up he clipped it to his hair and moved his head back and forth slightly so the light reflected off the multi-coloured little instruments.

“Hey, that’s cool!” Stephanie commented. “Where’d you find that Aunt Tori?”

“Actually your mother found it. She took me to this really neat music store.” Tori replied.

“That place where Jon was looking at guitars?” David asked. Dorothea nodded. “I’ll have to check it out.”

“You’ll like it. They have all sizes and makes of keyboards – and even a baby grand in the showroom!” Tori informed him.

While they were talking, Richie unwrapped the bracelet and sat looking at the scene depicted on it, a gentle smile on his lips. Turning it, he saw something was written on the back. Tilting it towards the light he read: To my knight in shining armor. Happy Birthday. Tori. Looking up he caught her eye and held it.

Joan had been watching Richie all evening. Something was different about him, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Anyone else might not see it, but a mother knows. The shadows in his eyes had started to fade, and he seemed more…at peace, lighter. When he looked up at Tori, the emotion in his eyes had all her maternal instincts on high alert. Glancing at Tori she saw warmth and affection reflected there. Reaching out, she took the bracelet from Richie’s hand, and looked at the scene and the message engraved on the back. Her gazed moved once again between her son and Tori. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Carol watching her. Turning her head she caught Carol’s look. Carol lifted a brow and nodded faintly in the direction of their children. Joan nodded back and smiled in satisfaction.

When it was time for her to leave, Joan asked Tori to walk her to the door. Putting a hand on each cheek Joan framed Tori’s face and searched her eyes for a long moment, then nodded. “Yes, I think you will do very well for my son. You will bring back his laughter and help his heart to heal. You will care for him and help him to love again.”

Taken aback, not sure what to say, Tori blinked back tears. “I’ll try.”

Hugging her tightly, Joan released her and smiled. “I am very happy to meet you Tori Adams. I know we will become very good friends. Make sure Richie brings you over for dinner soon.”

Promising they would come visit very soon, Tori walked her out to her car. Richie joined them there, kissed his mother goodbye, reminded her to drive carefully and waved as she pulled away.

Noticing that Tori looked a little stunned, he kissed her briefly, put an arm around her shoulders and turned her back towards the house. “I told you she’d love you. Did she invite you for dinner?” Tori nodded. “Definite stamp of approval.”

Back in the house, Tori helped Dorothea put the kids to bed. Jake and Romeo were asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow, Stephanie still tired easily and was content to lay down with a book, and Jesse was busy on his computer.

Returning downstairs, Tori curled up on the couch beside Richie and turned to chat with Desiree.

“Oh, Jon, do you have that Elements contract with the fanclub that you wanted me to look over?” Matt asked.

“Yeah, it’s on my desk.” Jon answered and started to get up.

“I’ll get it.” Dorothea offered. “I want to get a recipe for your mother anyway.”

It was ten minutes before she returned and when she did she had a folder in her hand and a strange look on her face.

“Jon, what is this?” She asked lifting the folder.

Jon looked at her face, looked at the folder, closed his eyes and swore.

Chapter 27

“Jon, I asked you a question. What the hell is this?” Dorothea repeated a hard edge to her voice.

“Can we talk about this later?” He asked, not really expecting to get a positive reply.

“No, I think we should talk about this now – while everyone is here.” She answered. “I’ll ask you one more time. What the hell is this?”

“What does it look like?” He was starting to get defensive. He knew he was in for it.

“What it looks like is that you’ve lost your mind completely. What it looks like is that you’ve crossed waaay over the line. What it looks like is that you had a private investigator check Tori out.” She accused.

“WHAT?” Came from all points of the room.

“But that can’t be right, can it Jon?” Dorothea continued. “The man I married wouldn’t be that cold, that insensitive….that much of an asshole!”

Tori slowly stood up and approached Dorothea. Putting out her hand she took the folder and started to read the report that was inside. It felt like a fist had reached in and had a death grip on her heart. She was having a hard time breathing and her blood felt more like ice water. She had to blink frequently because the words kept swimming before her eyes. When she finished she handed it back to Dorothea who handed it to John who had held his hand out commandingly for it.

Closing her eyes for a moment she opened them and pinned Jon with a glance. He was surprised at the pain and fury he saw there. The only sound in the room was the ticking of the clock on the mantel.

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Her voice was quiet, but full of venom. “What right do you have to go digging into my personal business?”

“I was looking out for my family.” Even he knew it was a lame excuse.

“I get that. What you don’t seem to get is that I would have told you all of this. I haven’t been trying to hide anything. All you had to do was ask. But you couldn’t do that. That would have meant that you had to talk to me. Instead you had to be the high and mighty rockstar who’s too good to actually deal with some nobody like me. Why Jon? What have I ever done to deserve to be treated like I’m not fit to exist?” Her eyes were brimming.

“I haven’t treated you like that!” He protested. “I let you stay in my home and get to know my family.”

“While you act like I’m not here!” She shot back. “This is the first time you have uttered a word to me since that one day in the hospital when you told me that I had no choice but to come here when I was discharged, that you and I were outnumbered and Dorothea wouldn’t take no for an answer even though you didn’t want me here! I’m good enough to help Steph, but not good enough for you to acknowledge. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Do you really think that all I want is money or a piece of your celebrity? Is that the kind of world you live in? Where everyone wants something from you? If so, then I feel sorry for you.”

Taking a ragged breath she fought to bring her emotions under control. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe I just wanted to know my blood relatives? Remember Jon, you were raised by them. I wasn’t. Now, I love my parents, and I’ve had a great life, full of love and caring, but when it comes right down to it I was sent away from my parents.” She shot a look at John. “I’m not blaming anyone. It was beyond the control of anyone in this room.” She locked eyes with Jon again. “INCLUDING ME! I understand that you might have a hard time accepting that your dad had an affair, but it’s NOT MY FAULT! I’ve heard you say you haven’t been a saint, so don’t be a hypocrite either!”

She closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them there was a tired, defeated look about her. “If you don’t want me to be a part of your life, fine. It’s your decision…..and your loss. But I can’t and won’t stay here under these conditions.” She turned to John and Carol. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do this anymore.” Looking around the room she added. “It’s been a real pleasure meeting all of you.” When her eyes met Richie’s she broke and fled the room and the house.

No one spoke for several minutes. Carol was crying quietly and John clenched his fists and fought the urge to strike out at his oldest son. “I can’t believe what I just heard.” He began quietly, glaring at Jon. “She is as much a child of my blood as you are, and I expect you to treat her as such! It took me thirty-nine years to find her and I’m not going to lose her now because of some unsubstantiated paranoia of yours! Whatever your problem is with her....GET OVER IT!”

Richie rose slowly from the couch. “What did your PI find?”

Jon rose to meet him and eyed him appraisingly. “Did she tell you about her fiancée?”

“What?” Dorothea asked.

“Yes, she did.” Richie answered. Turning to Dorothea he explained. “It was five years ago and he was killed in a car accident the week before the wedding.” Turning back to Jon he sneered. “Do you want to know why she told me? Because I asked! She didn’t offer the information in some bid for sympathy, I asked. And I’m asking you again, Jon, what did your investigator find?”

“Nothing.” Jon admitted. “She was an honour student, she volunteers at a local soup kitchen, and is generally a well respected member of her community.”

Richie nodded. “So you put her through all of this, made her feel worthless and unwelcome for nothing.” He stated, his voice flat.

“I had to be sure.” Jon insisted, but he was feeling decidedly nauseous. Tori’s speech had hit him hard.

“Well here’s something else you can be sure of asshole!” Was the only warning he got before Richie let his fist fly. It connected with Jon’s face, sending him flying backwards and hitting the floor with a hard thump.

Turning on his heel, Richie went in search of Tori.

Chapter 28

Tori wandered the grounds for a while. She didn’t want be cooped up in the guest house. She stumbled several times because she couldn’t see where she was going through her tears. Finally, the stress of the last few weeks caught up with her and her knees buckled. Kneeling on the ground she let the tears flow. She cried for all she’d found and then lost – John and Carol, Tony, Matt, Dorothea and the kids. Her mother had been right. She had been holding part of herself back. She’d also felt like a piece of herself had been missing. For a brief moment she’d thought she’d found it, but obviously it wasn’t meant to be. She kept telling herself that at least now she knew who her biological family was, but that just made the ache all the worse when she was forced to acknowledge that she wouldn’t be allowed to be a part of their lives.

And Richie….the tears turned to sobs as she felt her heart, which had just started to heal, break again. The few men she’d dated after Brian had pretty much convinced her that she would never feel more than a lukewarm interest in a man again. But Richie had attracted her from the start – and not in any lukewarm manner. It was deep and hot. That he was interested in her too was still a shock to her. Now, just when she was starting to feel again and see a sliver of light at the end of what had been a very dark tunnel for five years, it was being taken away. Jon was not only taking away her family, he was taking away her hope for the future. Wrapping her arms around her waist protectively she rocked slowly back and forth as she absorbed the pain.

When she was finally cried out she looked around to get her bearings and realized she was near the studio. She had never been in there – it was Jon’s space and she didn’t have the nerve to invade it. But this was going to be her last night here, and despite everything she wanted to see it up close instead of just on BJTV. Plus, she didn’t think she had the strength just yet to make it back to the guest house.

Rising shakily to her feet she walked over and tried the door. Surprisingly, it was unlocked. Entering and turning on the light she roamed around the rooms of the main floor briefly before climbing the stairs to the second floor. This floor was familiar with the large room with Tico’s drum kit, David’s piano, guitars along one wall and the sound booth at the back.

Walking over she looked over the mixing board careful not to touch anything. Smiling despite herself she bopped Gomer on the head before returning to the larger room. Running her hand lightly along the top of the piano, she sat down and stared at the keys. Almost absently she ran her fingers along the C scale. Unable to help herself she started to play, allowing all the emotion she was feeling to infuse her voice.

I had a roof overhead
Had shoes on my feet
Yeah, sure I was fed
But no one was there when I was in need, yeah
So who am I now?
Who do you want me to be?
I can forgive you but I won’t re-live you
I ain’t the same scared kid I used to be

I’m gonna live, I’m gonna survive
I don’t want the world to pass me by
I’m gonna dream, I ain’t gonna die
Thinking my life was just a lie
I wanna be loved
I wanna be loved

Outside Richie had been looking all over for her. When she wasn’t in the guest house he started searching the grounds. He’d checked the Inn and the garage, but she was nowhere to be found. He was starting to feel panicky. Then, he noticed the light on in the studio and he decided to check it out. Opening the door he could hear the strains of the piano and a full, almost a little throaty voice. Climbing the stairs quietly he stood in the shadows and listened in amazement.

I found a picture
Our so-called family tree
I broke all the branches lookin’ for answers
Don’t you know that ain’t how it’s supposed to be

Her eyes were closed so she didn’t see him sneak in and grab an acoustic guitar. Sitting on a stool he started to play along with her. At the first sound of the guitar her eyes flew open and she stopped playing.

“No, don’t stop.” He urged her quietly. “Let it out.”

She stared at him for a long moment then closed her eyes and resumed playing.

I’m gonna live, I’m gonna survive
I don’t want the world to pass me by
I’m gonna dream , I ain’t gonna die
Thinking my life was just a lie
I wanna give, I’m ready to try
Willing to lay it on the line
I wanna be loved
I wanna be…

I ain’t gonna cry; I don’t wanna scream
But I got so much left unsaid inside of me
I’m gonna live, I’m gonna survive
Don’t want the world to pass me by
I wanna dream, I ain’t gonna die
Thinking my life was just a lie
I wanna give, I’m ready to try
Willing to lay it on the line
I wanna be loved
I wanna be loved
I just wanna be loved.

As the last notes died she looked at Richie. The pain and shadows that darkened the blue made his heart ache.

“Why does he hate me Richie?” She asked in a small voice.

“I don’t hate you.” Jon responded from the doorway.

No comments:

This is my nice little story turned epic with Richie in the starring role - although Jon plays a large part.