We got dressed quickly and were off on the bike. The weather had cleared and the sun was shining, but it was still cool and damp from the heavy rain. I snuggled more tightly against Jon as we rode, breathing in deeply the scent of leather as I pressed my nose against his back.
We pulled in at a little drive-in that looked like something from the fifties. It wasn’t that crowded since we were past the usual lunch hour and the weather had been so foul earlier. Jon ordered two burgers and fries and I decided a chicken taco would hit the spot before indulging my craving for ice cream. And of course, I ordered hot coffee to take away the lingering chill.
Jon took our tray and we headed outside to a table in the sun. I sipped my coffee and looked out at the ocean, imagining how it must’ve looked a few hours earlier with the storm. The water was calm now and we were surrounded by seagulls cawing loudly overhead and scavenging the beach for scraps of food.
Jon ate ravenously and finished his first burger before I was half-way through the taco. “Save me a couple fries for the birds” I grinned, watching him devour the food so quickly. I told him about my friend’s cottage in Canada and how I was reminded of that as we used to feed the seagulls French fries. They were often bold enough to take them right from your hand if you held the fry up over your head.
Jon waved a fry at me and I grabbed it before it too disappeared in his mouth, and tossed it onto the beach where a hungry gull immediately snatched it away. The bird stood there, then, looking at me expectantly. “Now see what you started?” Jon teased, laughing at the expression on the bird‘s face.
I finished my taco and grabbed a handful of fries as he popped the last of his burger in his mouth. “C’mon!” I called, running off onto the beach and waving a fry in the air. No sooner had Jon caught up to me when a gull swooped and stole the French fry from my hand.
“I guess you’re right!” he laughed. “You remind me of Steph. She always has to share her lunch with the hungry little thieves” he remarked, tossing a fry in the air to be caught by another gull. I tossed another to a particularly talkative bird who caught it in his open mouth while Jon continued to munch on the remainder he had.
We walked back to the drive-in, having exhausted Jon’s supply of fries. “Ice cream?” he asked and I nodded as we approached the window.
He ordered a double scoop of mint chocolate chip and waited for me as I scanned the list of flavors. “Coffee” I ordered, tickled that they had my favorite flavor. Jon rolled his eyes. “I should have guessed” he said, shaking his head.
We strolled along the beach for a bit, eating our treats and chatting about the next couple days and I learned that Stephanie might be joining us at the Soul game tomorrow. I was a little anxious about that, as I felt she would be the hardest one to pass muster with, but it was encouraging to hear that she might be ready to meet me too.
“I figured we could drive down if Steph is going and then drive back to take her home and take the plane to Buffalo Saturday night or Sunday morning. If Steph decides not to join us, we can take the plane and just fly straight from Philly to Buffalo. How does that sound?” Jon asked.
“Sounds like a plan. Will we have time to pack tomorrow morning or should we try and do that this afternoon before the show?” I wondered, getting anxious to go home and see my cats.
“We should have time in the morning. Even if we drive, it’s not that far” he reflected. “I should call Steph and see if she’s coming” he said, reaching for the cell.
We sat down on a large rock, set back against a little cove, where the water had washed up against the bank. I looked out at the ocean, watching the water as it lapped at my feet and withdrew, carrying bits of sand away with it. It was easy to become lost in the rhythmic movement and the soothing sounds of the water and I found myself lulled into a semi hypnotic state, not really thinking of anything. Jon was watching me intently as I sat there, slowly licking my ice cream, my eyes transfixed on the gently rolling water, momentarily lost in the sights and sounds around me.
“Steph wants to come tomorrow” Jon said, clicking off the phone.
“Huh?” I replied, as his voice broke my trance.
“Steph. She’s going with us tomorrow. Where were you? You seemed so far away” Jon asked, his hand on my knee.
“Just caught in the moment, I guess. There’s something about the beach, especially after a storm. I just sort of got lost in it. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to zone out on you” I apologized.
“No, no. It’s okay. You looked so beautiful, but so far away. I understand, though. There’s something about this place at times that calls me away too” he said, reaching for me. His arm slipped about my waist and I rested my head on his shoulder. I was glad Jon felt it too, and I was glad we could share this quiet moment without words. We sat in silence, absorbing the feel of our surroundings and I felt a deep sense of connection to Jon because he understood.
It was nearly three and time to return to the real world. Reluctantly we stood, preparing to leave, as we brushed the remnants of sand off our clothes. Without a word, Jon drew me to him, kissing me deeply, sealing the moment in my mind. We walked hand in hand back to the bike and headed home.
The limo was waiting when we pulled up and Jon put the bike in the garage and we climbed in, heading off for the show. It was early and only David and Hugh were there when we arrived. Jon made himself busy barking orders while I waited in his dressing room. I called my cat sitter to let her know we would be arriving tomorrow night or Sunday morning and she sounded relieved.
“Your boys miss you. Eddie is moping and Zeke is sulking. They’ll be glad to have you home” she said. I thanked her and hung up, experiencing mixed feelings about going home. I was anxious to see my boys and to go home, but not anxious to see this exciting time come to an end, even if it was only temporary. The last week had been magical and I didn’t know what the next phase would bring. And I was worried that Jon would be bored while I was at work. I resolved to cross that bridge when we got there.
Jon appeared in the doorway carrying two glasses of champagne. He handed one to me with a smile. “Last show! I’ll bet you’re anxious to go home?” he asked, still smiling.
“Yes and no” I answered. “My boys are missing me. I just spoke to the sitter. But this last week has been so wonderful and I’m not anxious to see it end either” I said honestly.
“Awww, babe, c’mere” Jon said, holding his arms open. “It’ll be okay. And I’m anxious to have you all to myself when we get to Buffalo and just relax” he said soothingly as he folded me against his chest.
He had a way of comforting me that allowed me to relax and trust the future. Any doubts I had seemed to evaporate when I felt his arms around me.
“And I have a surprise for you” he said delightedly, whispering in my ear. I looked up expectantly. “Eva is here. It’s the last show and she wanted to see you before we leave tomorrow” he grinned.
“Eva’s here? Where is she?” I asked, excited.
Jon laughed. “She’s out by the stage. We were thinking maybe we’d all head out after the show for a bit since it’s an early one tonight?” Jon said as Eva poked her head in from the doorway.
“Is it safe to come in? Have you two got your clothes on for a change?” she grinned at us.
“Guess we’ll have to keep them on now that you’re here!” Jon teased as Eva approached and gave me a hug. “I’ve got the sound check to do, so I’ll leave you with Eva” he said, giving me a quick kiss as he turned to depart.
“I couldn’t let you leave New Jersey tomorrow without saying goodbye. It’s an early show, so I told Jon we should head out for a late dinner afterwards” she chirped, her enthusiasm as infectious as ever.
“That sounds great to me. I was feeling a little sad about leaving and all. My life seems so dull compared to this past week and I don’t know how I’m going to keep Jon occupied back in Buffalo!” I lamented.
“I’m sure you’ll find a way to entertain him” Eva said, winking at me.
“Oh, that piece isn’t the problem! It’s while I’m at work during the day that I’m worried” I laughed.
“Jon has a way of creating chaos wherever he goes. I have no fear that he’ll be able to amuse himself in Buffalo. You just wait and see. He’ll manage. I just wish I could be there to see how he’s going to handle five cats!” she smiled ruefully.
“Yeah, I’m anxious to see that myself. Not to mention my cats are jealous little beasts who’ve been neglected for over a week. It should be interesting to say the least!” I smirked.
“Well, I want a report! Make sure you stay in touch” she insisted and we proceeded to exchange phone numbers and emails.
Just then we heard a commotion and went out into the hall to see what had happened. Jon was headed towards us with a scowl and my stomach tightened at the look on his face.
“What happened? What’s wrong?” I asked anxiously.
“Richie’s fucking slut is here!” he said storming into the dressing room.
Denise Richards had arrived, accompanied by an entourage of people, and it was twenty minutes before show time. Jon slammed the door of the dressing room shut after Eva and I had followed him inside.
“Shit! What the fuck is wrong with him? He knows we all hate her” Eva said sourly.
Jon threw the glass in his hand across the room and it shattered as it hit the wall. He was fuming and pounded the dressing table with his fist.
“Fuck! Fuck!! Richie didn’t invite her. The bitch just showed up. As a fucking surprise for the last show! Now we’ve all got to try and be fucking nice for his sake!” he growled.
“Did you see the gaggle of reporters that were trailing after her? She creates a fucking spectacle everywhere she goes! Richie is such an idiot! She walks on water as far as he’s concerned. His eyes lit up the moment she walked in. It’s like she’s got some sort of spell over him, for Christ’s sake! I’d like to beat some fucking sense into him” Jon raged.
I hadn’t met her yet and was grateful she’d been absent thus far. I knew no one liked her, but it wasn’t discussed openly. Now I knew why. I hadn’t seen Jon’s rage first hand until this moment. He downed the remainder of the champagne left in my glass and poured another drink, running his hands through his hair in frustration.
“I’ve gotta calm down. I’m not gonna let her get to me like this” he said, struggling to get hold of himself. “C’mere, babe, I’m sorry” he said to me.
“It’s okay. Relax. It’ll be alright” I said as I walked into his outstretched arms. “Is she that bad?” I asked, looking over at Eva, who was scowling as well.
“She’s a fucking witch” Eva answered. “She gets off on all the attention and is using Richie. We all see it, but he’s so blind. Everyone’s tried to tell him, but he doesn’t see it. So we try to just ignore her and it makes her miserable when she’s not the center of attention” Eva explained.
“Richie was devastated over Heather and she just swooped right in, like a fuckin’ vulture. She makes me sick” Jon added, looking almost ill.
There was a knock on the door and Jon opened it. Richie stood there, looking apologetic and I actually felt bad for him. He looked uncomfortable and shifted his feet as he stood.
“I’m sorry, Jon. I didn’t know she was coming. Can we please just make the best of it?” he said, looking at each of us.
“Yeah, man. I know you didn’t do this on purpose. Just keep her away from me” Jon said, trying to conceal his loathing.
Denise appeared at Richie’s elbow then and I wondered at her audacity. She surely must have known how everyone felt about her.
“Richie, honey, it’s almost time” she said in a syrupy voice. “Hi, Jon! Eva! And who are you?” she said, as she pushed past Richie and extended her hand to me. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, I thought to myself.
Richie broke in then and introduced me. I felt Jon stiffen next to me and I could feel the tension in him as he struggled to be civil.
“Why Denise, I would have thought you’d have recognized Trish from all the headlines. You do read the paper, don’t you?” he said with such an edge in his voice that my stomach turned.
“Oh, yes, of course. You’re Jon’s latest diversion, aren’t you?” she said, smiling sweetly at me. The knot in my stomach tightened as I saw the vein in Jon’s temple throbbing. I thought for an instant that he was going to strike her. I knew I wanted to.
I stepped forward slightly to put myself between them and smiled back, equally sincere. “And I see you’re every bit as charming as I’ve been told” I said sarcastically. “You were so accurate in your description” I said turning to Jon and winking. “What a shame we don’t have more time to chat, but the fans are waiting for the guys” I added pointedly.
Jon grinned back at me and I felt the tension in him easing as he drew me close and kissed me hard. “My lady’s right. C’mon, we’ve a show to do” he said, his arm around my waist as we headed for the stage.
Jon was amazing as he poured all the anger into a magnificent performance and dazzled the audience with his antics. The show flew by as Eva and I danced like wild women off to the side, also finding an outlet for the energy that the encounter with Denise had sparked. Denise herself stood on the other side, trying desperately to get Richie to pull her onstage and I caught the look Jon gave him warning him not to acknowledge her. Fortunately Richie heeded the warning and the show ended without incident. We left in the limo with Tico and Eva after the show in order to minimize any unnecessary exposure to Denise. Once we were on our way to dinner, Eva exploded.
“That stupid bitch! What fucking nerve she has! Trying to draw attention to herself like that! Jesus, Jon, tell me they won’t be joining us for dinner?” she pleaded.
“I already told Richie about it before she showed up and I’m hoping he has the sense not to show up with her in tow” he said disgustedly.
“What does he see in her? I can’t stand the sound of her voice and that sugary way she talks to him. She really is a witch” I chimed in, having had first hand experience with her now myself.
Jon laughed then. “I didn’t thank you earlier for handling that so smoothly. I was so close to popping her in the mouth until you stepped between us. I’ve never hit a woman, but she could easily be the first. Thank you, babe” he said as he kissed my hand.
“Well I, for one, would not have stopped you! She really deserved a black eye” Eva offered, laughing.
“Can you imagine that? She’d have been riding that wave of publicity forever” I added, laughing too.
“What the hell did I miss?” Tico asked, looking at each of us.
Eva eagerly recounted the details as we pulled up to the restaurant. The place was mobbed with reporters outside and Jon was furious as he peered out the window. The flashbulbs were exploding everywhere and I could see that Richie and Denise were in the middle of the swarm.
“I don’t fucking believe it. They’re here! Richie must’ve told her and she told the press! Screw this! I’m not spending another minute with them” he said, turning the speaker to the front seat on. “Get us the fuck outta here!” he ordered to Rick and the driver.
“Where to, boss?” Rick’s voice came back.
“Fuck! Anywhere else that’s open” he yelled as the limo sped away from the curb.
We ended up a few blocks away at a small restaurant with a large patio outside that Eva and Tico had been to before. It was late and it wasn’t crowded and no one even recognized Jon, but the host recognized Tico immediately and shook his hand. Tico slipped him something and we ended up with the whole patio to ourselves and some of the best Cuban cuisine I’d ever had.
We ordered champagne and relaxed, reveling in our narrow escape from Richie and Denise, and enjoyed what seemed like the first really normal evening among friends since I’d met Jon. It was nearly one am before we made it home and crawled into bed, both of us too drunk and too tired to do more than sleep.