It was New Year's Eve and once again there was a party at the Springsteen house. The home had been lavishly decorated in black and silver. Thousands of balloons floated along the ceiling, their long ribbon tails dangling low into the crowd. The lighting was dim, and large banks of speakers occupied each corner thumping out a continuous stream of modern music and older hits, and a stage complete with instruments (in case any guests wanted to play) graced one wall making the space look more like a night club than a living room. The furniture had been cleared out of the main living areas on the lower floor, in its place clusters of comfortable seating were scattered around the walls of each room. Strategically placed bars were also a feature, each staffed by a bar tender that would put those in the movie "Cocktail" to shame.
This time Alex had been very careful to determine the guest list. She found that, as expected, Jon and his family had been invited but had, fortunately for her, declined the invitation. So here she stood, calm and relaxed, peering out the window toward the guest house, a glass of her favourite wine in her hand.
Rick was working, as was usual, but was expected home at any moment so when she felt a presence behind her and a warm arm wrap around her waist she did not move or startle at all, at least not until he spoke.
"What's a beautiful girl like you doing alone on New Year's Eve?" His breath was warm on her neck as he spoke and she could smell the feint aroma of alcohol on it. Startled, she turned rapidly to disengage herself and look at him, she saw he was holding a glass of a warm amber liquid and ice - she assumed Jack on the rocks. From the slight haze in his expression it appeared it was not his first.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, more than a little shocked, her tone icy.
He smiled at her wryly, "I'm an invited guest. Aren't you happy to see me baby?"
"Honestly, NO...I was told you had other commitments...or I wouldn't be here." She said suddenly uncomfortable.
Jon looked momentarily stunned but he made a conscious effort to smooth out his features before leaning in closer "What's wrong baby? Surely you're not afraid of how you react to me? There's nothing to be afraid of darlin'"
Alex's fist clenched at her side. How does he manage to be so irritating? "Oh I'm not afraid... I'd just rather not have to disappoint you again."
"As I recall, you weren't disappointing at all, Alex. In fact, you surpassed my wildest expectations." His eyes bored deep into hers, intense, searching, "Admit it baby, we're perfect for each other."
"No...we are not...but we could have been."
"We still can be."
Alex felt her pulse quicken involuntarily at his words...that wasn't what she wanted.... was it?
"No... we can't" She answered resolutely.
"Yes we could." He insisted "Why won't you let me show you?"
"Um...let me think. What was that reason again? Oh that's right... your married! And in a just couple of short months, I will be too!"
Jon staggered back a step at her words and shook his head trying to comprehend what it was she had just said.
His jaw tightened visibly before he spoke "So the rumours are true?" It was one of the reasons he was here...to hear it from her. He had expected the wedding to be years away...not months "You're really going through with it?" He said an edge of anger to his voice. "Even with what we have together!"
The nerve she thought "Why wouldn't I? We don't have anything together Jon. Anything we HAD is past tense. Long past."
"Damn it! Come with me!" Jon grabbed Alex's hand and started to make for the nearest hallway.
She wrenched her hand from his and stayed rooted firmly to the spot. His touch was far too much for her to bear. "What do you think you're doing?"
He moved in so close that once again she felt his breath disturb the fine hairs on her neck as he spoke through gritted teeth "I'm trying to get through to this stubborn brain of yours and I'd rather not do that with a hundred people watching and trying to hear what we're saying."
"I can't leave...Rick will be here any minute"
"Well he was stupid to leave you alone in the first place, his loss is my gain." He said and reached for her hand again.
It was at that precise moment that a waiter handed Alex an envelope. She removed the note from inside, read it and groaned. Jon snatched the small piece of paper from her hand and read it with interest.
So sorry honey! Been held up here!
Trying desperately to get to you before midnight
...but it's not looking good. I promise I will make
it up to you several times over when I get home.
His trademark smirk crossed his lips as he read and muttered under his breath "Stupid move, Rick, stupid move"
"What was that?"
"Problem solved" He said simply as he grabbed her hand more forcefully this time and dragged her along behind him.
She was sure that's not what he had said. She was being dragged down a hallway now, and was offering little resistance for fear of causing a scene.
"You know I have nothing left to say to you Jon." She said resignedly. "I don't know what you are hoping to accomplish here."
Jon found the door he was looking for, opened it and dragged her inside the library before closing the door again and backing her up against it. He leaned into her; the intensity of his gaze had her looking away uncomfortably.
"You know that's not true Alex." The tenor of his voice was as intense as his stare. "You know what we have together, you may not want to admit it, but it's been there since the first minute we were together. And you can fight it all you like but you know as well as I do, it is not just in the past." Passion burned bright in his eyes. "Or have you forgotten what happened the other morning?"
A bright blush rose to Alex's cheeks and her breathing became shallow, much to her chagrin, "I'm trying to!" She said quietly.
This is it, he thought...careful now and I will have her. "Baby, you know we can't fight this. We're meant to be together" he said in his most seductive voice.
"NO you're meant to be with your wife...remember her...where is she anyway?"
"Not sure. Upstairs I think. Can't we forget about her?"
"Doing?" Alex watched as Jon's fist clenched at his sides as he fought to control his frustration.
He spoke through gritted teeth "I have no fucking idea and to be honest, I don't really give a fuck at the moment."
Alex was taken aback by the raw aggression in his tone. "That's a lovely way to speak about the mother of your child."
Jon let out a deep sigh and paused, there was still a slight edge to his voice when he spoke again. "Look Alex do you think I like feeling like this?"
"So don't feel like it then."
"Don't you see? I like how I feel when I'm with you" He gently picked up her hand and waited for her to recoil from him again but she stood motionless. He continued. "My marriage, it's not what I thought it would be, and part of that - and you may not want to hear this - but it's how I feel about you. I've never been able to put you completely out of my mind. Fuck Alex, you have no idea how hard I've tried to make things work with her but at the end of the day it's you on my mind." He paused to gauge her expression. "But now you're here."
Alex's heart was already pounding in her chest, when he flashed the most dazzling smile, "Can't we please figure out a way to make this work?" He finished.
She was captivated. Damn him. If only I can look away, I can find the strength needed to do what I have too. She lowered her eyes to the floor and considered her words carefully.
When she looked back up her expression was blank, "Not as long as you have a wife. I have moved on Jon... As hard as it was to do... and I won't lie to you...you are not an easy thing to get over...but I did it." She glanced at the floor as she said this, unable to meet his gaze "And now I am ready to start the next phase of my life with a very kind loving available man, who treats me like a princess and has tolerated all the baggage you left me with."
"Hmph" Jon sneered "If he treats you like a princess why isn't he here right now? New Year's Eve and he hopes to be here by midnight? Don't fool yourself Alex. He'll never love you the way I do."
Her hackles rose, "Why haven't you been with your wife and child for the better part of the last year. He's working Jon, just as you have missed countless birthdays, Christmases and celebrations, just as I have. At least he isn't off shacked up with another woman. And you know what, you're right about one thing... he'll never love me the way you do, because he loves me better...he would never, never do to me what you are doing right now!
Her words stung him worse than a slap in the face, "Don't Alex!"
Was that a threat? "Don't what Jon? Speak the truth?"
Alex watched as Jon looked away clearly fighting to control his temper – his jaw was tightly clenched, his hand were balled fists once again at his sides - she had heard about it but had never experienced it yet. Did she dare push further? Yes... he deserved it after all. Didn't he?
"Rick would never try to compromise my integrity the way you are right now. He has never asked me to hang on by a thread while he lives another life with a wife and child." Alex could see the internal struggle.
"Alex I am not..." he gritted his teeth fiercely "I am not the type of man who begs damn it!"
"Don't you understand? I'm not asking you to Jon.....I am asking you to walk away"
"NO!" the vehemence with which he said this startled her "Maybe you can walk away from this but I can't. And I don't think you really can either."
"What choice do you have? What choice do I have?" She asked "You made that decision for me long ago...when you walked away that first night."
"God damn it Alex, you were 16. What the fuck was I supposed to do? Go to your parents and tell them that in the space of a few hours I had fallen passionately in love with you and would they please allow you to drop out of school and go on the road with me, the long haired rock star? Be reasonable, I may be selfish but I'm not that selfish."
She stared at him incredulous. "Are you saying what you are asking of me now isn't that selfish. Have you really thought about what you're asking of me?" She paused for a moment "Hang on maybe it's me, maybe I have misunderstood something. Clear it up for me. What are you asking of me Jon?"
He was contemplative for a moment "That we try to figure out a way to work this out. It can't be impossible."
"Do you intend to stay married to your wife?"
Jon exhaled heavily, she could still smell the traces of alcohol on his breath. "Why does this have to be about her? In my mind this is all about you and me."
"Well as long as you remain married to her, in my mind it's about the three of us. And very soon that number will become four. Now, I know from experience that you don't take your vows very seriously... but I do intend to keep mine" she retorted.
Jon walked away from her momentarily to gather his thoughts. This was not going at all well. Maybe...
When he turned back to her there was a contrived vulnerability in his eyes "Alex, look I'm sorry. I know I have hurt you but can we please just sit and talk for a minute?"
It was her turn to sigh deeply "I thought we already were.....talking that is"
"Please?" It was almost a whimper.
"I don't see how the position will change anything." He raised his eyebrows at her comment.
"Look I need to tell you some things that I'm not sure I've ever shared with you."
Another sigh "I don't know that I want to hear anymore Jon."
"Please Ali. I know in your eyes I'm not the best person but I need to know that you understand where I'm coming from, where I've been coming from. And if you still choose to walk away... well at least I didn't hold anything back."