She had known there was a possibility of it happening – running into him here - but it hadn't made it any easier. It had however given Alex the one up on Jon, she had not been nearly as affected as he had been. She watched him walk away in the same direction as his wife then split off and head for the yard. She took a deep breath and sat down to continue reading the story to the children, who were now impatiently tugging at her pants leg. She cast the occasional furtive glance towards the door but he was out of sight.
Jon had moved to the deep shadows at the far end of the house and was looking in through one of the many picture windows that opened on to the yard. She was sitting surrounded by small children, her face alive with expression as she read to them from a picture book, often flipping it around to show the children on the floor the illustrations. As he watched she would occasionally glance towards the door he had exited through. Was she looking for him?
To look at her was like going back in time; she had not changed at all. He had followed her career as much as he could but hadn't seen any photos of her; she was always behind the lens. Nothing about her had changed. It was almost as though Father Time had frozen it for her. She rose – having finished the book but leaving the children begging for more - then and headed towards the door. From his position in the shadows he watched her emerge from the house and shiver in the frigid air, she folded her arms against the cold and ran across the yard to the guest house and disappear inside. He glanced back into the house to see if anyone was watching, then followed.
Alex escaped the main house as soon as she could without looking suspicious. She felt bad about leaving the children wanting more, but her grip on control was tenuous. She ran to the sanctuary of the guest house, poured herself a shot from the first bottle she laid her hands on and downed it in one swallow, wincing at the taste. GOD damn him. How can he still affect me like this. One look, one touch and I turn to jelly. She stood at the bar and poured a second shot, resting her hands either side of the glass. Behind her Jon silently slipped through the door. At first he was only going to ask to talk to her, but having her there in the same room with him proved impossible to resist. He crossed the room in three steps and slipped his arms around her waist from behind.
Momentarily Alex melted into him – his warm hard body, that irresistible scent - before coming to her senses and untangling herself from his arms. It had been so natural to be there that she felt bereft when he backed away from her.
"God baby, please...I just need to hold you again. I've missed you so much...I think about you everyday" Jon pleaded, taking a baby step forward.
"Get out Jon. GO!" She stalked towards the door to see him out but he caught her by the hand on the way and swung her around. She hesitated for a fraction of a second and he jumped on the pause and began to pull her towards him.
"Fuck Jon, can't you please just let me be. I've moved on, so have you. In fact I believe congratulations are in order DADDY" she spat.
He flinched at the tone in her voice but didn't let her go.
"Why can't you just leave me to live my life?" She asked exasperated.
"Maybe because I haven't lived mine. I've existed sure, but I haven't lived, not since we were together. I want to live again Ali. But to live I need you, and you need me."
"I don't need you Jon, I may have wanted you but I certainly don't need you." She pulled her hand from his and moved away from him. She needed clarity and for that she needed distance from him.
"Please don't say that Ali" He closed the gap once again, taking a step forward.
"We've been through this Jon, more times than I care to remember. It won't work. We had a beautiful week together...please don't ruin it with this pointless pursuit. Nothing can come of it." Was it getting warmer? It must be getting warmer, she thought.
"I can't believe that Ali. I won't...you belong with me"
"You'll just have to believe it, it's your wife that belongs with you. I belong as far away as I can get." Alex looked him in the eyes "Now listen to me, I gave in last time only because I wanted something from you. I got it, and now it's over"
"And what was that?"
"I got to have my first time with the world's hottest Rock Star, my Idol. How many teenagers can say that? It was a fantasy come true, and believe me you lived up to it, but it's done and finished now. Let it go. Let me go." Her intention now was to hurt him. Her motive....if he was hurt enough by her words he just might stay away for good...but then, did she really want him too?
His expression was pained. "I can't believe you just said that. You know that's not true, that's not what it was about."
"Wasn't it? Are you sure Jon? You don't know me, not really. You never did. Now if you'll excuse me I have to get back to the party before I am missed by our hosts." Alex picked up her camera gear on the way to the door, she needed a plausible reason for her absence and she was sure 'I was arguing with my lover' wouldn't cut it.
She managed to get out of the guest house without further event, leaving a stunned Jon in her wake. She was half way across the yard when she heard the shatter of glass as it crashed against what she assumed was the stone fireplace. She opened the door to find Dot on the other side.
"Oh Alex I was just on my way out. You haven't seen Jon have you?" The party was remarkably smaller now, only a few people were lingering. "He went out for a smoke almost an hour ago and no one has seen him since."
"Umm ....the last time I saw him was in the yard a little earlier. I'm sure he can't be far. Sorry I can't help you more, I've been out in the guest house sorting through some of this gear" Alex indicated the bulky camera bag slung over her shoulder.
"That's fine. Thanks anyway, I'm sure he'll show up...eventually. He's seems to enjoy his own company more than mine these days...humph, listen to me whinge! The joys of marriage honey, don't go there if you can help it....sometimes it's just not worth the grief." Dot sighed.
At that moment two things happened. Alex watched Jon enter and move towards them from across the room, and a pair of strong arms wrapped around her accompanied by familiar voice "Too late, isn't it sweetie," and then to Dot, "she's already spoken for!"
Alex spun around so fast she almost knocked Rick over. "Oh my God, you're here!" She threw her arms around her his neck and kissed him deeply.
Jon who had made it as far as Dot's side looked on in horror as his lover surrendered to another. His body tensed as he watched the kiss deepen, Alex's hands tenderly cradling her lovers head, her fingers entwined in his hair as they had once been in his. He watched her pull away, then deliver another chaste kiss to his lips before stepping back, at which point Jon averted his eyes.
Dot looked on with an amused grin. "Ain't love grand. What I wouldn't give to feel that kind of passion again." It was the second time that Dot had hinted at trouble in her marriage. "I'm telling you sweetie, let him put a ring on that finger and it will be all over. Now who may I ask is this gorgeous hunk of a man."
"Oh my goodness, where are my manners. Dot, Jon this is my boyfriend Rick"
"Fiancé" Rick interjected.
Alex smiled at him apologetically. "This is my fiancé Rick," she. "Sorry sweetie, it's still so new... I just can't get used to it. Rick proposed the night before I left home for the here." Alex explaind as she snuggled into Rick's side.
"Show them the ring baby." Rick picked up Alex's left hand but it was unadorned. A scowl crossed his face. "You're not wearing my ring?"
"Of course I am silly." Alex reached into the neck of her sweater and pulled out the most magnificent two carat, platinum banded square cut solitaire Jon had ever seen. It was secured around Alex's neck by a platinum chain, he recognised it as one that used to hold a different adornment, his. "I haven't had it altered yet so I have been wearing it here... close to my heart." Alex said as she patted just above her left breast smiling, drawing Jon's attention to an area he really didn't want to be thinking about.
"We'll have to fix that quick smart. I want the whole world to know your all mine. Wouldn't you Jon?" Rick flashed a brilliant smile in Jon's direction and Jon wanted to knock his perfect white teeth out of his head.
"Sure would" He answered, his fake media smile plastered to his face, as his gaze bored directly into Alex's soul.
"I think congratulations are in order" Bruce said as he walked up to them. "Why didn't you tell me you were engaged?" he said taking Rick's hand and shaking it firmly.
"I can't thank you enough for your hospitality Mr Springsteen. I've spoken to Al almost daily and she's been entertaining me with stories of life in your wonderful home. Thank you so much for taking care of my girl." The handsome reporter said.
Rick was just as pleasant as Jon remembered. He understood how people would find it hard not to like him, but he was managing to resist the urge. His entire body felt like a highly tensioned spring ready to unravel. His fists were clenched so tightly at his sides that his nails were digging into the flesh of his palm. C'mon Jonny, get it under control. Your wife is standing beside you, you dumb fuck! But the action was harder to realise than the thought behind it.
"Our pleasure, though I'd be hard pressed to say who's been taking care of whom. She is quite the young woman, your Alex." Bruce laid an arm across Alex's shoulder and pulled her to him in a half hug "Well, why are we all standing here by the door? Come in let's sit...can I get anyone a brandy? Anything?" Bruce asked as he led the way to the lounge. "Oh and Rick... please call me Bruce. I consider Alex part of the family, so you are too. And please make yourself at home, we don't stand on formality here."
"Thanks Bruce...would you have a cold beer mate? I'm parched. It was a rough flight." Rick asked.
The Aussie accent that Jon so adored in Alex was suddenly grating on his nerves.
"Sure...." Bruce got the attention of one of the wait staff, who was busy tidying up. "Anyone else...Brandy's all round?" At the chorus of affirmations, Bruce turned to the waitress and ordered a round of Brandy's and one cold beer.
The party watched as Alex drew away from Rick and went and had a quiet word with the waiter then returned.
"What was that about?" Rick asked her.
"Oh, nothing really... I had a little accident in the guest house earlier. I just asked Barry to send a cleanup crew out. It will be all fixed before we head out to bed." Alex smiled at him gently.
Now seated on the couch nearby Jon flushed a bright shade of scarlet. She had obviously heard his temper get the better of him.
The small group settled themselves on the lounges around the fireplace; they were all that was left of the party now that Patti, who had just joined them, had said her goodbyes to the last of the guests. Alex took up residence on Ricks lap and snuggled in. She had missed him more than she anticipated this last month and was enjoying the closeness once more. Jon's disapproval was not however lost on her. She often caught the stolen glances in her direction and the scowling expressions when he thought no one was looking.
Alex stifled a yawn and it was the opening Rick needed. "I think my woman here needs her bed....and I need my woman so if you'll excuse us..."
"Rick...honestly!" Alex swatted Rick on the arm, blushing prettily.
She used to blush like that for me, Jon thought.
"Honey, we are all adults here. I am sure everyone understands...I mean look at our present company...Bruce and Jon spend most of the year away from their wives...believe me they are no strangers to home comings." Rick stood lifting Alex into his arms in one fluid movement.
"It's been a long time since we've had one like that" Dot said barely audibly.
Alex ignored the comment. "I am aware of that, thanks," she said smiling. "I just didn't see the need to spell it out for them. I'm sure everyone was quite aware of our intentions." She turned to the group as a whole, "I guess this is goodnight everyone. Jon, Dot lovely to see you again. Bruce, Patti, we'll see you in the morning. Please excuse my Fiancé's manners...I'm in the process of training him."
"G'night all. I hope your night will be as good as ours," Rick said winking over his shoulder on the way out the door.
Just before the door closed the group heard the sound of a slap and Rick's response, "Ouch..."He said on a chuckle, "what was that for?"
On the lounges, three people sat with an amused grin gracing their features. The other had a deep scowl.