Almost two years later.
“Stevie! Don’t go so far Peanut. Come back this way.” Tori called to her almost two year old son who was wandering down the beach, stopping every now and then to look at a shell or a stone or whatever caught his eye. He gave no sign of hearing his mother. She struggled to get up, gave up and collapsed back on the blanket. “You’ll have to chase him down Rich. I’m too fat.”
Richie chuckled, leaned over to kiss his wife, and rested one hand on her swollen belly, awed as always by the feel of his unborn child’s movements. “I like you fat.”
“That’s because you don’t have to deal with the bloating, swollen ankles and a tiny person with Sambora feet stomping all over your bladder.” She snorted. “Go get him please.”
“Yes dear.” He jumped to his feet and ran after his son. Stevie saw him coming and took off running as fast as his little legs would carry him. Richie caught him and swung him high in the air.
Tori smiled as she watched father and son play, the sounds of Stevie’s giggles drifting back to her on the warm breeze. She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun. It seemed the sun was always shining on her these days. Work was going well. Sales were up and the fans seemed to be really pleased with the new merchandise. The album had been a huge success, garnering the guys another Grammy and an American Music Award. But more importantly, her marriage was once again rock solid. There had been a few rough spots during the first year after ‘The Near Fatal Spring’. The tour had been hard, particularly for Tori. She missed, not only Richie, but being a part of the group. The North American legs weren’t too bad since he was home every couple of weeks or so, and during the west coast swing they all descended on her, but the European leg seemed to last forever. Richie had called every day, which helped, but it wasn’t the same as being together. The guys had tried to help too by sending regular pictures and e-mails, but David was the one who managed ease her feelings of being left out the most. He’d taken the Dracula cut out that he’d found in Edmonton, put her face on it, and made sure that it travelled around with them – including the after parties – and sent her the pictures. It spent the nights in Richie’s room. Tori had shipped the Kermit, Scarecrow and Wicked Witch tree ornaments she’d picked up before the wedding to various hotels they would be staying at so that they would be waiting for David when they arrived....and serve as warnings if he didn’t behave. He kept them on the table in his dressing room. Still, she was glad when it was over and Richie was home again.
Richie set Stevie on his shoulders and headed back towards his wife. His beautiful, smart, funny, talented, loving, gloriously pregnant wife. Looking back, he couldn’t believe how stupid he’d been and how close he’d come to losing her. He thanked God every day that she loved him enough to give him a second chance. They were closer than ever now, despite the tour that had taken him away for large chunks of time. He hadn’t liked leaving his growing family, but she’d assured him they’d be there waiting for him when he came home and that he’d needed to go to his thing and answer the call of the music. The first night he’d come home he’d found her sound asleep, and decided not to wake her. He’d just slid in beside her, curled his body around hers and gone to sleep. That was the last time he did that. She’d made it very clear that it was unacceptable, and that if he ever came home again and didn’t wake her, the consequences would not be pretty. He wasn’t brave – or stupid – enough to take the chance. The night of their first anniversary, when she’d told him that she wanted a new start, wanted to forget about what had happened, and just focus on the future, he’d felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders – and his heart, but he knew that it was easier said than done. He knew he had to help her, that he couldn’t quit working at it. Carol and John’s advice kept echoing in his head. While he was away, he spent hours on the phone, recounting every little detail of his days. He bought her little, often silly gifts and either brought them home or had them shipped so that she would know he was thinking about her. It wasn’t until the tour was finished and he’d been home about a week that he’d known for sure that they were going to make it. That was when she’d told him she wanted another baby. He was still living on Cloud 9.
“Ma! Ma!” Stevie had spied his mother. “Da! Ma!”
“Yes Peanut, Daddy sees her. There’s mommy.”
Tori heard Stevie’s yell and raised up on her elbows – it was as much upright as she could get without help – and smiled. “There’s my two favourite men.”
Suddenly, Stevie looked beyond the blanket his mother was lying on, towards the street and wiggled to get down, clapping his hands against his father’s head in excitement. “Va! Va!”
“Hi Peanut.” Ava plopped down on the blanket beside her stepmother.
“Hi Bean.” Tori turned to look in the direction Ava had come from. “How did you get here?”
“Mom dropped me off. We saw the Hummer.” Ava didn’t protest the childish nickname, even though she would be fourteen that fall. She knew that in the Jovi family, nicknames followed you for life. And if she’d had to wait for her Uncle Shirley to come up with one it could have been a whole lot worse. She leaned over to pat her next sibling. “Hi Sweetpea. Can I stay at your place this weekend?”
“Of course. You know you’re always welcome.”
Richie set Stevie down and studied his daughter. “What’s wrong?”
Ava shrugged and hugged Stevie as he climbed into her lap. “Mom and I had a fight.”
“Need some cooling off space?” Tori guessed. It wouldn’t be the first time. And it wouldn’t be the last. She couldn’t put all the blame on Heather either. Teenagers could be tricky to deal with at the best of times.
Ava nodded. “She said to call her later.”
“Anything you want to talk about?”
“It’s just the usual. She doesn’t like what I wear, how I talk, what I like to do.”
Tori nodded. Normal teenage stuff. Nothing to be too concerned about. She’d get the details later – both sides. Heather was often at a loss when it came to dealing with Ava, and Tori had gotten used to playing mediator. While they would never be great friends, they had an unspoken agreement. Heather kept her hands off Richie, and Tori helped Heather maintain a decent relationship with her daughter. She exchanged a glance with Richie. “What’s everybody want for dinner? Rosa’s off today.”
“I’ll cook.” Richie offered. He’d learned to sit back – unless called upon - and let Tori handle Ava and her little dramas. She seemed to have a knack for it. His job was to protect, comfort and love as needed and to the best of his ability. He seemed to have a knack for that.
As they sat and discussed possible dinner menus, Richie glanced around at his family and smiled. The dark tunnel he’d lived in since his divorce and his father’s death had opened to reveal a very bright light. He had two beautiful children, a third on the way, his career was going strong, and he’d found the other half of his soul to share all of it with. Life was great....and he’d learned not to take the good times for granted. He was going to enjoy every minute of it.
Tori reached over to take his hand. He squeezed it. Their eyes met and she smiled. She’d had a feeling when she received the call from the Children’s Aid Society that fateful day close to four years ago, that it heralded a major change in her life. But she never could have predicted or guessed just how big a change it would be. She may have given up a kidney, but she’d gained far greater treasures than she could have ever dreamed of – a great career, a wonderful family, and above all....love. She couldn’t ask for anything more. She had it all. And she was going to hold on tight.
There you have it: 1year, 8months, 278 chapters later....my first Richie story. My little story turned into an epic and I thank you all for sticking with me throughout this long adventure. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Now I’m going to take a little break, get caught up on everyone else’s stories, and finally give in to Jon’s pestering – apparently he thinks it’s his turn again.
So Tori, Richie – and the family - and I say so long for now....but not for long. And who knows.....Tori and Richie may even return for short visits now and then.