They walked into the kitchen, Lexie unhooked the leash and let Snow run to find the boys.
“Here we go.” She whispered to Jon.
Stephanie was in the family room on her phone, she stopped short to see who she was talking too. If it was anyone but Mark it wouldn't work. They were in luck she had it on speaker phone.
“I don't like this Mark, I don't like being so secretive with my dad.” she was chewing on her nail a sure sign all this was getting to her.
“Pull on your big girl panties little girl, you were all go for last night, now you regret meeting and getting to be friends with Gail and Tiffany? I don't know Steph, you're not the girl I thought you were.” Mark admonished her.
“Look Mark, I am a big girl and my dad isn't the only one that goes commando at times.” She nearly yelled at the phone. “Yes I loved meeting Gail and Tiffany, it'll be nice to have friends, if we come up here again.”
Jon about swallowed his tongue where he heard his little girl, his baby girl, his princess telling a boy she goes commando It was all Lex could do to keep him from busting in there. She pulled him back into the mudroom.
“Count to ten.” She told him.
“Ten won't cut it Lex, I doubt a hundred will work this time.” He took a deep breath, eyes a stormy dark blue and the vain over his right eye was throbbing. He was running his fingers through his hair in a nervous fashion.
“Stop that,” she grabber his hands and stopped them.
“Sorry Lex, shes going to make me bald before she goes to college. How did Dorothea handle it all.” He looked up at the ceiling.
She didn't at the end, that's why you have the kids now she thought but would never tell him that.
“Just follow my lead. Jon quit the kids will see.” She said loudly and drug him toward the family room. Finally he got the idea and started to chase her laughing. “Keep it down, the neighbor told us if we're loud he'd call the cops.” She threw opened the door open to the family room and stopped short.
Jon was expecting her to stop so quickly and he had to grab her before they fell on the sofa. “Gotcha”
Lexie giggled as he tumbled her on the sofa. “Oh Steph, I so sorry, we didn't know you were in here.” She giggled more.
Jon was trying to get his breath from taking the blunt of the fall, She was straddling his hips. He cocked his head and saw the shocked look on Stephanie’s face.
“Did Lex tell you we just met the neighbors?” Jon said and was awarded with her version of the stink eye.
What part of follow my lead did he not get.
“Yeah he was complaining about the loud music and the beer cans tossed in his trash can.” She got off Jon so he could sit up. “We told him there must be some mistake.”
“Yeah. I told him you wouldn't have a party, not after promising me you wouldn't.” Jon said.
“Oh Shit” Marks voice could be heard from Stephanie phone.
“I trusted you Stephanie, you wouldn't do anything behind my back like say hold a party and breaking curfew.” He leveled his stare at her.
“You said you wouldn't tell” Stephanie said turning on Lexie.
“She didn't, you need to make sure no one can hear you when you talk on the phone.” Jon went over and took her phone out of her hand. “I don't think you'll be welcome here any more Mark.” Jon said to her phone before hanging up on Mark. He put her phone in his pocket. “You and I are going to sit down and talk, I was going to wait until you let Lex walk out of here on Saturday, but it has to stop now.”
“But daddy,” She started to talk.
“No lies Steph, I figured it all out in the last few days, a trashcan full of beer cans this morning” He noticed Lexie quietly leave them alone. “You thought I would be so wrapped up in Lexie that you could do what ever you wanted, I think Mark had a large part in all this. Am I right?” He could tell he was hitting the mark because she looked sick. “I can't believe you would sink this low. What's got into you lately. You got your brother arrested, then you turn on someone who could be a good friend to you and I have never seen you sink so low on treating people as pawns. I am totally disappointed in you.” he sat down on the sofa across from her. “Steph, I want Lexie in my life, I'm going to ask her to move in and now I don't think she will because of you. Why are you doing this?”
“I told you daddy I want you and momma back.” Steph told him.
“That ain't gonna happen Steph, after what happened when I was last in Philly, I wouldn't take your mom back, so you can just get that out of your head little girl.” He leaned forward as he spoke. “You are not going to be happy, but this isn't about you or your brothers. It's about me and Lexie, about what we want.” He watched her starting to get upset. “Getting mad won't make what you did any less appalling. I don't know why you thought you could do this.” He shook his head. Getting up he headed to the door. “Consider yourself grounded and I want you to apologize to Lexie by this evening.”
Stephanie stopped her foot and folded her arms over her body until he was out the door them she broke down in tears.
Jon leaned on the closed door and listened to her cry. It was the hardest thing to do, stand there and not give comfort.
Lexie came up and wrapped her arms around him an just held him.
“I don't know what to do with her.” he groaned. “She wasn't like this before the split.”
“Maybe you need to talk to a professional, you always said a child didn't come with a manual.” she said softly. “Listen, I'm going to take the boys to the mall, get them out of the line of fire. Jake seems to be more happy since the first time I met him, this might just set him back.”
“You said you weren't good with kids, but you're doing pretty good.” he allowed her to lead him away from the den, and the crying Stephanie.
“I good with characters and looking into them.” She told him. “She's hurting and she lashed out the only what she knew how to to do it. She's not horrible she's just a teenager.” She got him to sit down on the sofa. “ I did the same thing when I was her age, I wanted my parents to get back together and I did everything in my power to achieve my goal. I forgot all the quiet arguments when I went to bed. The bad thing was the slamming of the door when they forgot to argue quietly. I came home from school and my dad moved out, no note for me and I didn't see him again until I published my first book. It took me a long time to see how happy my mom was with her new husband. I was just like Stephanie, and before you ask, I did tell her how it was and what I felt. Don't think it was any help.”
“I just don't know what to do, I am so stumped.” He shook his head. “I was so worried about Jake that I never saw Stephanie had a problem. I should have seen it when Jesse went save her but, she has manipulated people, she manipulated us to her own gain.”
“She's a teenager who is hurting.” She defended Stephanie.
“Thank you, for saying that, what I did was wrong and I let Mark talk me into doing it.” Stephanie softly spoke as she came onto the room. “I was mad that Daddy had found someone who made him happy, the way momma did, but they weren't together.”
“But Steph, don't you want your mom and me to be happy, we weren't together for a long time honey. When we ended things it was what was best for the family.” He told her holding out his hand for her to come to him. When she came and sat with him in the chair he held her close.
“I'm gonna take the boys to the mall and give you two some time to talk.” She smiled at Jon and winked at Stephanie. She went upstairs to get the boys and they left.
Jon waiting until the car was out of the drive, he turned and looked at his daughter.
“Now Steph, I know you want things the way they were, but honey that isn't going to happen. I said earlier your mom and I did what was best for you kids, she wanted Graham and I wanted her to have Graham. They deserve to be happy, just like me. Do you understand this?” He reached out and touched her knee. “Can you understand we didn't we didn't do it to hurt you kids, would you really like how it was before we divorced?” He could tell she was actually listening to him. “The quiet dinners or rather you kids eating dinner with either your mom or just me? It wasn't that I didn't want to be with you kids, but I stayed out on tour and did extra shows, I would have you kids come out when I had breaks instead of coming home. We thought this was for the best.”
“How could you feel this was best for us, when you destroyed out family?” She asked him.
“Steph, your mother, your mom” He didn't want to tear into the woman that he had shared most of his life with. He pulled out his phone and called her number. “Graham, is Dot there? I'm having a little problem here. Yeah I'll hang on.”
He sat the phone down and put it on speaker.
“What Jon could be so important that you had to drag me into it?” Dorothea's voice sounded over the phone.
“Stephanie is having issues over out split.” Jon told her.
“Momma, I want you and daddy to be a family again.” Stephanie cried.
“Stephanie Rose, that is never going to happen, I love Graham and I am happy for the first time in years, you could have been a part of that, Graham loves you kids, but you destroyed that with what happened on my honeymoon. You and your brothers now live with your dad. It's time to grow up Stephie there is no way your father and I will ever get back together.”
“But Momma.” She started to try again.
“No buts Stephie, its over, Graham and I are a family now and your dad will find someone that he'll be a family with you and your brothers and his new friend.” She rang off with a promise to be available if she needed to talk.
They sat there quietly for a few minutes.
“I'm sorry daddy, I didn't mean to be a brat. I wish I could blame it on Mark, but he just vacation boy.” She played off the hurt she felt from her mothers talk.
“You know, if you needed someone to talk to, Lexie would be happy to help you.” Jon know she was putting on a front that once she was alone she would have a lot to think about.
“I know dad, and I will talk to her.” she got up and walked over and put her arms around her dads neck. “I love you daddy”
“Love you too baby girl.”