Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chapter 74

Face flaming Tori jerked away from Richie. He took her hand and turned to face his daughter.

“Sweetie, I’d like you to meet Tori. Tori, my daughter Ava.”

“Hello Ava, it’s nice to finally meet you.” Tori gripped Richie’s hand tightly and smiled at the young girl who looked a great deal like her mother – except for her chocolate eyes.

“It’s nice to meet you too.” Ava replied politely. She tilted her head slightly. “I guess you kinda look like Uncle Jon.” Then she noticed that Tori was sitting at the piano. “Are you a musician too?”

“Not like your daddy or Uncle Jon, put I can play a little.” Tori let out a relieved breath that Ava apparently wasn’t going to comment on them kissing.

Richie snorted. “Don’t let her fool you sweetie, she’s very good.”

“Will you play for me? Now? And sing? You promised me you’d sing for me.” Ava reminded her.

“Wait for me! I want to hear this too.” Joan puffed as she entered the room. “Hello Tori dear, nice to see you again.”

“You too Joan.” Tori walked over to the older woman to give her a hug and a kiss while Richie pulled up a chair for his mother. “Did you have a nice flight?”

“It was fine thanks. I just wish it wasn’t so far.”

“Have you thought about moving out here to be closer to Richie and Ava?” Tori saw Richie roll his eyes and shake his head behind his mother’s back and bit back a smile.

“Oh no. I couldn’t leave my house and my friends. No, as much as I miss my Richie and my granddaughter, my life is in New Jersey.”

“Nice try.” Richie murmured as he passed Tori to pick up a guitar.

Settling once again at the piano, Tori ran her fingers over the keys in a warm up scale while she thought about what to play. With lips twitching she paused, then began the intro, and saw Richie’s head snap up.

It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t have you
When I didn’t have nothing but a cold bed to come to at night
That was all I knew until there was you
And then you took my world and turned it all around
I couldn’t live wihout you now

Baby, if I can’t have your love
If I can’t feel your touch I got nothing
Baby, if I can’t taste your kiss then I don’t exist
I got nothing

I can’t imagine living life without you
No I can’t imagine living life without your love

I wake up with you by my side and I can’t let go
I can’t even bear the thought of you in another girl’s eyes
I would lose control and I would die

‘Cause now you’re in my heart
And I can’t let you out
I gotta keep you here somehow

Baby, if I can’t have your love
If I can’t feel your touch I got nothing
Baby, if I can’t taste your kiss then I don’t exist
I am nothing

If you can’t be my man
I wouldn’t know who I am
I got nothing, I got nothing

No I can’t imagine living life without you
No I can’t imagine living life without your love

‘Cause I can’t imagine living life without you
‘Cause I can’t imagine living life without your love

Believe me baby I don’t mean to doubt you
But if you ever leave that would be the end of me baby

If I can’t feel your touch I got nothing
If I can’t taste your kiss then I don’t exist
I got nothing, I got nothing

Baby, if you can’t be my man
I wouldn’t know who I am
I’d be nothing,
Baby if I can’t have your love
If I can’t feel your touch
I got nothing

No I can’t imagine living life without you
I can’t imagine living life without your love

As the final notes died away she realized that she had been staring at Richie – and he had been staring back. The emotion in his dark eyes made her heart hurt.

“That was pretty. Did you write that Tori?” Ava asked.

“No, your daddy did. I did change a few words though to make it suit a girl singing it.” Tori answered softly not looking away from Richie.

“Beautiful, just beautiful.” Joan dabbed at her eyes.

“I may have had a hand in writing it, but no one has sung it half as well as you did.” Richie’s voice was deep and gravelly and he too couldn’t look away.

“Daddy wrote a song for me.” Ava informed her. “But it doesn’t have words to it.”

Tori blinked and looked at the young girl. “That’s because there’s no words to adequately describe your eyes.”

“That’s what Daddy said!” Ava grinned. “You know that song?”

“Yes I do and I think it’s a beautiful song, just like its inspiration.” She saw Richie’s amazed look. “Why are you surprised?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. I know that by now I shouldn’t be. I guess I keep forgetting you were a fan first.”

They grinned at each other.

“Will you play another song? Or do you want to kiss again first?”

“Ava Elizabeth Sambora!” Her grandmother admonished.

“Well, that’s what they were doing when I found them!” Ava defended herself.

Tori closed her eyes and bowed her head hoping that her hair would hide her bright face. Even Richie blushed. Glancing up, Tori caught Joan’s gaze. The older woman raised a brow. Reading the message in her eyes, Tori stiffened her spine and taking a deep breath, looked Ava in the eye.

“Does it bother you that your Daddy and I kiss?”

Ava shrugged. “No. He kisses girls a lot. He says that we shouldn’t feel embarrassed to show affection to people we care about. Right Daddy?”

“Right sweetie.” Richie smiled and pulled his daughter close for a hug and a kiss.

Bemused at the young girl’s matter of fact attitude, Tori didn’t know how to respond.

“What are you going to play next?” Joan asked changing the subject.

“Ooh, will you play a Jovi song?” Ava pleaded.

“Sure. Any one in particular?”

“Ummmm. Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”

Tori nodded. “Maybe if we ask nicely, Daddy will sing Uncle Jon’s part.”

“Please Daddy?”

Richie chuckled. “Okay. Anything for my girls.”

And the tone was set for the rest of the afternoon. Tori was amazed at Ava’s knowledge of the band’s catalogue, especially since Steph and Jesse really weren’t all that interested – although with Jesse’s new found interest in the guitar that might change. They played song after song – even Joan put in a few requests – mostly Jovi songs, but a few of Richie’s solo efforts as well. Ava was curious about what other instruments Tori could play and told her father he should buy a sax and a flute so that Tori could have her choice of what to play.

“Do you play the guitar too?” Ava asked.

“No, I never learned that one.”

“Daddy’ll teach you.” The girl assured her. “Can you do the talk box thingy?”

“Nope, never tried that one either.”

“Daddy can teach you that too. He’s really good.”

“Yes he is.” Tori had to smile at Ava’s enthusiasm and pride in her father’s skill.

Richie looked at her speculatively for a moment. “Want to try it now?”

“Oooh, oooh, yes, please say yes Tori!” Ava was all but jumping up and down in her excitement.

Tori agreed and followed Richie to where he set up the box for her. She looked at him uncertainly. “You do realize that this is going to sound like the Chipmunks on steroids, right?”

“Yeah, probably, but it’ll be fun.” He chuckled.

They were still laughing at the results when Rosa called them to dinner.

Chapter 75

“When are we going to make the pumpkin pie?” Ava asked Tori over dinner.

“As soon as we’re finished here.”

“And cookies?” Richie pleaded looking about four years old.

“And cookies.” Tori agreed. She looked at Joan. “Did he give you those puppy dog looks as a child to get what he wanted?”

“He tried, but you give in easier than I did. I managed to convince him after he turned five that look didn’t work anymore. Then he became a teenager and discovered girls and found that the look suddenly worked again. I was hoping that you would break him of it.” She gave her son a baleful look. He just smiled and shrugged. Ava giggled.

The cookie dough was made with a tray full in the oven and Tori was showing Ava how to roll out pie dough with Joan watching when they heard Richie yelling from the living room.

“Baby?! Would you come in here for a minute please?”

Tori lifted the rolling pin and glanced at Ava. “Is that you or me?”

“You. I’m ‘sweetie’ or sometimes ‘baby girl’.” She rolled her eyes.

“What about ‘honey’?”

She shrugged. “That one could be either.”

Tori handed over the rolling pin and went to wash her hands. She watched Ava, smiling at the look of concentration on her face as she maneuvered the pin. “From the middle out. That’s it. Good job. Maybe Nana would check the cookies for you so that they don’t burn while I go see what your Daddy wants.” She dried her hands on a towel and started for the doorway. “And Ava.”


“You might as well get used to it. You will always be his ‘baby girl’.”

She sighed. “I know.”

Tori chuckled.


“Hold your horses, I’m coming!” She yelled back. Entering the living room she found him standing in the middle of the room, a frown on his face.

“What’s the matter? And why did you yell for me to come in here instead of you coming into the kitchen? If your cookies get burned it’s your own fault.” She warned him.

He waved that aside. “Ma will watch the cookies. I wanted to talk to you without young ears listening.”

“Okay. What’s up?”

“Where’s your stuff?”

“What stuff?”

His frown deepened. “You know, your clothes, toothbrush, hair brush….your stuff!”

“Oh. I moved it into the guest room down the hall.”

She was surprised to see a look close to panic in his eyes. “What did I do?” His confusion was evident.

Suddenly she understood. “I’m not punishing you!” She assured him. “Although maybe we should discuss what Ava meant about you kissing a lot of girls.”

“No she said I kiss girls a lot, not a lot of girls – big difference.”

“Really? What’s the difference?”

“Well what she means is that I like to kiss the girl I’m with a lot. If you haven’t noticed I must be slipping.” He grinned.

She snorted. “Be that as it may, while Ava may be okay with us kissing, I don’t think she’s ready to find me in your bed – especially when she just met me. So I think it’s best that while she’s here we’re discreet.”

He hugged her in relief, then leaned back. “Discreet huh.” He smirked.

She grinned and looped her arms around his neck. “Yeah. I’ll leave it up to your vast experience and imagination to figure out the logistics. I’m sure you can come up with something.”

“Oh count on it!” He bent to press his lips to hers, licking teasingly before sucking on her bottom lip lightly.

“Tori! The pie crust’s ready!” Ava called.

“Coming!” Tori replied, kissing Richie briefly before pulling away. “I bet there’s some cookies ready too.”

“I’m right behind you.”

Chuckling she took his hand and towed him into the kitchen where he sat with a glass a milk and a plate of still warm cookies and watched ‘his girls’ in action.

“So Ava, what do you want to do this weekend?” Tori asked while they were cleaning up and waiting for the pie to bake.

“Could we maybe go Christmas shopping on Friday?”

“Oh yeah, what do you call it? Black Friday? I’ve heard about the craziness at five o’clock in the morning, but I’ve never experienced it.” Tori replied.

Richie snorted. “This is L.A., it’s more like ten o’clock.”

Tori wrinkled her nose at him. “Whatever, I’m up for it. What about you Joan?”

“Goodness, no! I’m beyond all that nonsense. I’ve been picking up things all year, and I’m pretty much done.”

“Well, I thought I was doing well, but suddenly I have a whole lot more to buy for and since I’m going to be on the road for a couple weeks, I need all the shopping time I can squeeze in.” She glanced at Richie, then shook her head. “I’m not even going to ask. How about we make it a girls day?”

“Can we go out for lunch too?” Ava asked, an excited shine to her dark eyes.

“Absolutely!” She turned to Richie. “Have you got a car I can borrow that isn’t a tank, and a map?” She’d seen his garage.

“Are you criticizing my modes of transportation?” He tried to sound indignant.

“Yes. I don’t have enough testosterone to need or want to drive them!” She replied dryly. Ava giggled.

Richie grinned. “Thank God for that! I’ll do you one better. How about I arrange for a car and driver for the day? That way you don’t have to worry about finding your way around L.A. or parking and I don’t have to worry about you getting lost or smashing up my car.”

Tori didn’t know whether to thank him or flick him. His mother had no such dilemma.

“Ow! What was that for?” He asked her rubbing his ear.

“For being a smartass!”

Chapter 76

The next day started early - well, to Richie it was early. He sat on a stool grumbling into his coffee cup while ‘his girls’, including his mother moved around the kitchen deep in dinner preparations.

“Oh stop your grumbling!” Tori chided him. “It’s 8:00 not the break of dawn!”

“Same thing.” He mumbled.

“He’s just worried that he’s going to fall asleep during the football game.” Ava informed her.

Glancing at him she saw his lips twitch as he fought a smile. Looking up he caught her eye. The heat in his told her that he was grouchy, not because of how he was spending his morning – namely being awake – but because of how he’d spent his night – alone.

She smirked. “You’ll survive.” Leaning across him to reach the salt she winked at him and lowered her voice. “On both counts.”

“Maybe. But you may not survive the repercussions.” He murmured. She snorted softly.

A few minutes later, Tori was struggling to stuff the turkey – it kept sliding away from her. Frustrated, she glanced around. “Richie will you come hold this turkey for me please?”

“Ma can help you.” He was still being surly.

“She’s busy. Come on, I know you’re not completely helpless in a kitchen Rich.”

“If you’d just let Rosa cook for us…..”

“Excuse me Mr. Rockstar. Are you planning to eat any of this wonderful meal?” She interrupted him. “Then get your scrawny butt off the stool, come over here and hold this turkey for me!”

Ava giggled. Joan bit her lip.

Richie frowned but got up. “My butt’s not scrawny!”

“Yeah, Daddy, it kinda is. It was getting pretty big there for awhile, but now it’s pretty scrawny.”

Tori bowed her head and bit her lip, but he could see her shoulders shaking. Reaching around her he got a grip on the turkey.

“I’ve never you complain before. It must be because I’m starving.” He murmured in her ear.

“You just ate breakfast!”

“I’m not talking about food darlin’.”

“Wasn’t it you who told me once that anticipation was the best part?” She smirked.

“Nope, not me, I’m not that much of a masochist.”

“How are you going to handle all the…um…lean… months you’ve got coming up if you’re this bad after one night?”

“If my….meal…..of choice is not available I can live with the hunger. It’s when I can see it, and smell it, but can’t have it that drives me crazy.”

“Guess you’ll just have to brush up on your snacking techniques.” Joan commented passing behind them on her way to the fridge.

Tori flushed bright red and Richie choked. “Ma!”

“What? I may be old, but I remember what it was like to be…hungry. And your euphemism isn’t as clever as you think.” She glanced at Ava who was tearing up lettuce for the salad. “But it will serve the purpose for now.”

It was a nice, quiet family day. They spent the morning playing board games and the afternoon watching football – which Richie did manage to stay awake for. After a delicious – and large – dinner, in which Ava took great pride pointing out to her father which dishes she helped prepare, the girls went for a stroll around the grounds while Richie strolled to the couch. He was still there when they returned.

“Real nice Rich.” Tori commented dryly.

“Daddy you look like a beached whale.” Ava chortled. He had undone the waistband of his pants and his shirt had ridden up exposing his stomach. His daughters description wasn’t far off the mark.

“Well it’s your fault. You’re too good of a cook!”

She beamed at the praise, and graciously shared it. “Tori and Nana helped.”

Tori caught herself dozing off and glanced at her watch. They were spread around the livingroom in a post turkey stupor staring at the T.V. She glanced at Ava who was on the floor with her American Girl dolls. Yawning, she sat up. “Ava, sweetie, it’s getting pretty late. Why don’t you go get ready for bed?”

“Oh I’m not tired.” Was the response.

Tori looked at Richie who just smiled fondly at his daughter. Frowning, she stood and picked up glasses sitting around on tables which she took to the kitchen.
Joan did likewise and followed her. “Are you going to let him get away with that?”

Tori shrugged. “She’s his daughter. I’m not her mother and I’m not his wife. I have no right to say anything.”

“Do you love him?”


“Do you plan to continue to be a part of his life?”


“Then it’s your responsibility to help him be a better parent. He spoils her shamelessly. Heather’s tried, I’ve tried, but we can’t make him understand that he’s not doing her any favours. He won’t listen to us. But I’ve watched the two of you the last couple of days and the way you interact. I’m optimistic that you’ll have better luck.”

Tori sighed. “I’m not so sure, but I’ll try.” Returning to the living room she gazed thoughtfully at Ava for long minutes. “Sweetie, I thought you wanted to go shopping with me tomorrow.”

“I do.”

“Well, you need to be well rested to keep up with me. I don’t shop with tired people.”

Ava frowned. “But I’m not tired.”

“Honey, you were up late last night, and you’ve had a busy day today and tomorrow’s going to be even busier. You need to get some sleep. I’m going right shortly myself.” She kept her voice kind, but firm.

“Me too.” Joan added and yawned. “Come on Ava, we’ll go up together.”

Ava pouted and would have argued further, but after meeting Tori’s eyes for a long moment gave in. With a dramatic sigh she packed up her dolls and stood up and stomped over to Richie to give him a kiss. “’Nite Daddy.”

“Good night baby girl. Sleep tight.” He hugged her.

She started to leave the room, stopped and turned around. “’Nite Tori.”

“’Nite sweetie, thank you for all your help today.”

“You’re welcome.” She paused. “It was fun.”

Joan bid them good night and joined her granddaughter, catching Tori’s eye and pointing a finger at Richie. Tori grimaced and nodded.

Taking a deep breath, she sat near him on the couch, sitting sideways to face him. “We need to talk.”

He eyed her warily. “That sounds ominous.”

She ignored his description and debated how to start. “Do you ever discipline her?”

He shrugged. “She’s a good kid. She doesn’t need disciplining.”

“I’ll take that as a no. What rules do you have for her – that you regularly enforce?” Seeing his frown, she explained. “I’m trying to get an idea of your views on child rearing.”

“I’m away so much, I don’t want our time together to be spent fighting over some stupid rule like having to eat all your vegetables before you can have dessert.”

“Okay, I would agree that you have to pick your battles and decide which rules can be ignored and which are non-negotiable.” She nodded. “So what non-negotiable rules do you have for her?”

He shrugged again. “I’ve never found the need for any. She’s a good kid.”

“Yes she’s a good kid, but Rich, all kids need discipline at some level. They need rules and boundaries. That’s how they learn that there are consequences to their actions and repercussions if they break the rules. Otherwise they grow up thinking that the rules don’t apply to them. After all they never have.” She sighed when she saw his mutinous expression. “Honey, I’m not saying you’re a bad father, but you let her walk all over you. I know that you only want her to feel loved and to be happy. But it doesn’t mean you don’t love her if you make her mind. In fact, it shows that you do. If she can’t respect you and Heather and the rules that you set, how do you expect her to respect anyone else? I know that you feel guilty because you’re away so much, and I’m not saying you can’t bend them from time to time – like letting her stay up last night since it was the first time you’d been together in awhile. But those times need to be the exception, not the rule.”

He said nothing, just frowned.

She continued. “I believe that a parent’s job is to prepare their child for the world, to teach them to be able to deal with whatever life may throw at them. How is Ava going to handle being turned down for a job or having to work instead of going out with her friends or being passed over for a promotion, or any of the hundreds of scenarios that I could come up with that show that life isn’t fair, if all her life, she’s been given whatever she wants, and allowed to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants? How is she going to accept a male authority figure telling her ‘no’, when Daddy never has? I understand that you want her to have everything, and be happy all the time. But Rich, you and I know that no one can be happy all the time. Life doesn’t work that way. I wish it did. She needs you teach her how to cope when things don’t go her way. That she can survive when everything turns to shit, and that she will be happy again. Let her experience the satisfaction of acquiring something through hard work. I know it will be hard, but let her be hurt and disappointed once in awhile, and show her that she will heal and be stronger for it.” She searched his eyes. “Be her father, not her friend.”

“Are you trying to tell me how to raise my daughter?” He asked indignantly. He was feeling defensive, and more than a little guilty. He was afraid she might be right.

His refusal to see her point brought out her own anger. “I’m telling you my views on childrearing. If you disagree with them, and aren’t willing to discuss the points I’m trying to make, then maybe we need to rethink the future of this relationship. I thought you wanted more children. But I want the father of my children to be an active partner, who will share the parenting, not be a bystander who’s only there to have fun. I want a man who will stand beside me, support me, and help me raise strong, loving, respectful, independent children that can survive and thrive in a very unpredictable world.” She paused, blinking back tears. “So far, I haven’t seen any indication that you are willing to do that.”

Stunned, he just stared at her, speechless.

“I’m sorry if you think I’m out of line, but this is something I feel very strongly about. Maybe it’s because of what I’ve been through in my own life, and knowing that if my parents hadn’t taught me to be self-sufficient I would never have made it. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t think you’re a very caring and loving father, because I do. It’s just that I love you and I’m falling in love with your daughter, and I want you both to be the best that you can be.”

When several minutes passed without him saying anything, she bit back a sob, stood, and with a heavy heart headed upstairs.

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