They all just stood there, too shocked to answer.
Lexie backed out of the room, she couldn’t breathe. She had to get out of the house. Not seeing anyone but the door, she passed Jesse, who had gone to get his brothers, he watched her walk out the door.
In Jon’s office the spell was broken when Lexie shut the door.
“I didn’t know she was there, honestly daddy.” Stephanie eyes filled with tears. “I would’ve never have said what mommy said.”
“Ah hell, this has been one fucked up day.” Jon finally made a move to follow his wife. The look on her face would haunt his mind. He had seen her mad in the past, but never hurt. In the back of his mind he vaguely remember seeing her hurt face earlier today at the hospital. “Ah hell.” Jon came around the desk, thank God the pills were working and his pain was more of a nag then sharp pain.
Stephanie was already heading for the door. Opening it she was stopped by Jesse.
“What did you two do to Mom? She looked like she was trying not to cry.” Jesse asked as he blocked them into the room. “She’s been mumbling to herself since I got home from class with the mail. I thought it was something in the mail, but it isn’t, right?”
“Jess, move out of the way, I have to go find her.” Jon said as he pushed past. “Did she leave the house?” He knew the paps were out there, since they got home. If she went out there in tears, it would be all over the world in seconds.
“Where’s daddy going?” Romeo asked Jesse and Stephanie.
“To find momma Lexie, she heard me talking to daddy about something Mommy asked me.” Stephanie told her brother. “She said dinner was ready, Jesse can you make sure they eat, I better help daddy.”
“Come on Ro and Jakey.” Jesse got the kid down the hall.
By the time Jon and Stephanie got down to the front door to the sidewalk, stopping to listen, there were no shouted questions. Jon took a deep breath and stepped out the front door. No Paps, no Lexie, he looked up the street and down.
“She went to the park.” Stephanie said heading off down the block. What was she going to say to Lexie when she saw her? She had told her mom that Lexie, spent lots of time with Romeo and Jake, that she and Lexie had gone shopping for her prom dress and she had even taken Jesse out to be fitted for his tux for prom, since Daddy was on the road.
“This is why I didn’t want your mom to contact you, she got a hell of a lot of money to stay out our lives.” Jon told Stephanie. “Your Momma Lexie gives more than she gets out of you kids. She has canceled meet and greets, put off deadlines. Your prom dress and Jess Tux she was supposed to be in Denver.” Jon said as he walked slowly toward the park. “Romeo and Jake, sports games, were her writing days, and don’t forget getting you to shoots and being your guardian for shoots. When I got stuck in Scotland and couldn’t get back to take the Lacrosse team to that game in Indianapolis, Lexie covered for me when she was supposed to be at a writer’s weekend in LA.”
“I never said we didn’t feel loved. She had seven of us, sure the babies need her more, and Jess and I go in there to give her a break.” Stephanie said as they got to the gate and looked around the park. “I don’t see Snow, she wouldn’t leave the house without her.”
Jon walked into the park and the two of them split up to search the park. Meeting back at the gate, they agreed she wasn’t in the park.
“Where would she go if she’s not here?” Stephanie asked her dad.
“Jess said she went out the door. Maybe down to the coffee place, she went there and wrote while you all were in school and mom and Desiree were helping the nanny. Let’s try there.”
The walked in the opposite direction from the townhouse. There were no Paps outside or inside.
“Damn Lex where are you.” Jon said as they headed back to the townhouse.
Jesse was the first to ask about his momma when they came back in the house.
“Couldn’t find her? Did you check to see if her car was in the garage?” Jess asked.
Jon checked the mudroom where her handbag usually stayed. It was still on the hook, beside Snowballs leash and collar. He went back into the kitchen and watched the kids eat.
“She couldn’t be in the car, her purse and keys are still here.” Jon told his son. “It’s like she poofed into thin air. We weren’t that far behind her.”
“What did you say to her?” Jesse asked his sister.
“Why do you think it was me, it could’ve been daddy.” Stephanie scolded her brother.
“Because you’ve been going behind their backs to see mom, and you have this mean streak lately when you think someone’s not listening.” Jesse told his sister.
“You knew she was doing this and you didn’t tell me?” Jon was shocked at his older children.
“You haven’t been here to tell.” Jesse said as he cleared the plates off the table. “I don’t think Mom knows, if she did, I think she would’ve said something to Steph.”
Stephanie looked up from her plate at her father. What Jesse said was true, their dad had been away, that’s why she felt safe speaking and visiting with her mom. Lexie was busy and she seemed to not care, as long as she wasn’t doing drugs.
“Why would she say anything to me, I’ll be eighteen soon and I can see and talk to whoever I like.” Stephanie said as she snatched up her glass.
“So you think at almost eighteen, you can go against what we sat into plan at the old house? Let me help you remember, right before Christmas, that when you mother took this money, and I never told you the amount, that she was not to have any interaction with the four of you.” He looked around the room and the four of them, Jacob looked the most shocked, Romeo was sort of like a duck and water, and it just rolled off him. Jesse, he and his stepmother had gotten on a more even keel, the Lacrosse trip brought them closer. Now his daughter, she has tried and showed her sass since day one. He thought they had bonded over the babies being born. But he now might be wrong, and he didn’t like to be wrong.
No one noticed that Romeo had made a spaghetti sandwich and wrapped it in a napkin and left the table. Snowball followed her buddy as he walked out the door and went to the back stairs. Sitting down on the top stair he handed the sandwich to his momma Lexie.
“Daddy’s yelling at sissy.” Romeo ruffled Snowballs fur and looked up at Lexie. He could tell she had been crying.
“Daddy doesn’t yell Romie, he discusses loudly.” She unwrapped the sandwich. “Skettie! My favorite, and you remembered the salad and dressing” Lexie took a bite.
“Just the way you like it.” Romeo played on the steps with Snowball. “Well he was discussing really loud. My mommy wants to see Stephanie, and that’s all. Stephanie been seeing mommy, and daddy said he paid her lots of money so you could be our mom.”
“How does that make you feel Romie?” She took another bite and wished he had brought a bottle of soda or water.
“I want to be with you and daddy and Snowball. I love you momma.” Romeo looked up at Lexie.
“I love you too Romie, and so does Snowball.” Lexie sat the last bite of her sandwich on the step and wrapped her arms around Romeo. “Just like I love Jakey and Jesse and Stephanie. Just like I love Cullen and Maddy and Livie.”
“I know Momma.” Romeo said as she hugged him.
She let him go as he hugged her back. Picking up the half eaten sandwich she wrapped the last of it in the napkin. Getting up, Lexie held her hand out to Romeo.
“Guess we better get back in there, before your daddy calls the police.” She plastered a smile on her face and they headed back into the house.
“Yep, he was really mad, he and sissy went to look for you, I didn’t tell him about our hiding place.” He loudly whispered.
One of these days she would have to teach him how to whisper for real. Laughing they headed back to the front door.
Jon was reading the riot act to Jesse and Stephanie, he look around the table and noticed Romeo wasn’t at the table. That got to him, he had never had to play the heavy in front of the younger two. Then he heard the front door open and Snowball came running into the kitchen, followed by Romeo and Lexie.
“Where have you been?” Jon asked the duo.
“I took momma a skettie sandwich.” Romeo said as he walked past his father to feed Snowball her dinner.
“I had to go think.” Lexie told him.
He could tell from her tone of voice not to push it in front of the kids.
“Do you three have homework to do?” Lexie asked. “By the way, Jake, I am very proud of your school report we got today.” She walked over and held her palm out to him.
Jake looked up at her and smiled and gave her a low five.
“Thanks Mom.” Jake told her. “I got homework, can you check it for me? I have to write a book report.” He said as he got up with his empty plate and glass to take to load the dishwasher.
“Sure, anytime.” Lexie said as she turned toward Jesse and Stephanie, not saying anything, just waiting.
Jesse got up and collected his dad’s plate and glass and headed to the kitchen, and then came and cleared his sister’s plate and glass.
“My turn to load the dishwasher.” He said as he headed back to the kitchen.
That left Jon and Stephanie, both sat there watching Lexie walk into the kitchen and fixed a cup of coffee. She took a deep breath and went back into the dining room.
“Jonny, you want another cup, or are you ready for wine?” She came to the doorway and asked.
“Wine please.” He said as business as she sounded. He looked over at Stephanie, who still sat at the table.
Stephanie could tell her parents wanted to talk, but she was the reason her mom had walked out, she was the reason she cried.
“Stephanie, would you like a coffee?” Lexie asked her daughter.
“Yes please, Mom.” She noticed her mother was smiling but it wasn’t reaching her eyes.
Bringing in the coffee pot and cup, she poured her daughter a cup of coffee. Lexie went back to the kitchen for Jon his glass of wine. Sitting down at the table she waited for one of them to start.
“Are you okay?” Jon asked her. He could tell she wasn’t, but he knew yelling wasn’t a smart move.
“I’m fine, hurt, but fine.” Lexie said softly as she sipped her coffee. “Do you know why I’m hurt?” She looked at Stephanie.
Stephanie looked shocked, how had she hurt her?
“I told daddy what my mother ask me, you heard me tell him, but not my answer.” Stephanie said as she looked right at.
“Did you tell her that I wanted you to allow her mother to be a part of your graduation, I knew you were meeting your mom?” That got a shock look from both Stephanie and from Jon.
“You knew she was meeting her mother?” Jon asked her.
“Here I thought I was being so careful.” Stephanie said them looked up at her dad.
“Robby saw you at the coffee shop and he knew what Dorothea looked like, so he told me he had seen you. I figured it wasn’t the first time or the last time.” Lexie said sipping her coffee.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Jon asked. It was unlike Lexie to keep something about the kids to herself.
“You weren’t home, and what were you going to do from Europe?” She looked at him. “In fact I hinted as much several times, I asked what you thought about allowing Dorothea to be at the graduation.”
“That was today as we were coming back from Polly.” He told her.
“Yes today, but like I said, she’ll be leaving for college in August and we won’t be making decisions for her. It will be up to her, and since she’s been meeting up with Dorothea for a while, she’s made the decision for us.” Lexie looked at Jon.
He had never heard Lexie talk like this.
“In fact the last time you called home, I think you and the band were in Paris, I said when you set all the adoption stuff up, what if she changed her mind and wanted contact.” Lexie got up and went into the kitchen for more coffee.
Jon thought back to the call, he was looking out the window of the hotel at the Eifel Tower, wishing Lexie was there with him. But, now that she brought it up, he did remember her asking about the adoption legalities were. He told her the no contact between the kids and their mom, she had agreed to this. He had soul custody of the kids. He should have asked her why she wanted to know about the adoption.
“I remember, I guess I didn’t think she would go behind our backs and do this.” Jon said looking first at Lexie and then at Stephanie.
“If I had said I wanted to see mom, you would have gone ballistic just like you did right now.” Stephanie said. “That’s why I didn’t say anything.”
“But, why didn’t you say anything to me? I would never have yelled at you. I think that’s what hurt me the worse, you never trust me with important issues in your life.” Lexie sat back down and reached across the table. “I tried to talk to you, when we were in the park the other day. Remember, I didn’t get ballistic, I never told your dad half of what we talked about. I wanted to, but I didn’t and that undermines the trust between a husband and a wife.” Lexie told Stephanie. “Ever since your dad and I got together, you’ve shut me out more times than you let me in. Hearing you repeat what Dorothea asked you, was a direct hit, a slap in the face to me.”
“I told her that you love us equally, that I love when I go to the conferences with you. I am proud you’re my stepmom. But, she will always be my mom, I can’t turn that off because a piece a paper says that you’re my mom now.” Stephanie said, her voice breaking when she talked about Dorothea.
“I would never want you to cut off contact with your mom.” Lexie told her.
“But the contract she signed, the money she took.” Jon said.
“That was over five months ago. I doubt she’s been seeing Dorothea for five months?” She questioned looking at Stephanie.
“No, no it’s only been a few weeks, we met for coffee, and then we’ve had dinner. She was more like a friend than a mom, kinda like when we go to the conferences.” Stephanie told Lexie. “Daddy, don’t be mad?”
Jon sipped his wine and thought about what they were saying. True he wasn’t there most of their lives, now that he had full custody of the kids he has to be more hands on. He can’t expect Lexie to handle all seven kids by herself, but, they had an agreement and Dorothea went against this agreement. It wasn’t about the money, it’s about going against his contract.
“I got to think on this, I really don’t know what to say. We had a contract that she reneged on.” Jon sat his glass down.
“Contracts are for business, this is family, family with feelings.” Lexie said softly as she sipped her coffee. Setting the cup down and she smiled at Stephanie. “Go do your homework and let your dad and I talk.”
Stephanie started to say something, but nodded her head and got up from the table. Grabbing her empty cup she went over and gave Lexie a hug.
“Thanks Mom.” Stephanie rushed to the kitchen and then up to her room.
Once they were alone Jon took his wine and reached for her coffee.
“Let’s go into the family room.” Jon suggested.
“Let me go check on the trio, I’ll meet you in there.” Lexie told him as she walked upstairs.
Jon stood at the bottom of the steps and watched her walk up. Something was still bothering him. Where did she go and why was she still short with him, what did he do?
She was only up there long enough to help feed the babies and change into her workout clothes. Snowball met her on the steps, and danced around her feet.
“Jon, Snow needs a potty break, want to join us.” She walked to the mudroom and get Snowballs leash and harness.
“I guess,” Jon said meeting them in the foyer, “kinda wanted to talk.” He said as he took the leash and they headed out and toward the elevator.
“Let’s go out the back, no paps out there.” She said as she took Jon’s hand and led him to the back steps. “Remind me to pick up my leftovers.” They walked hand in hand down to the lower level and out the back entrance.
“Is that where you were that whole time?” Jon asked as they went along the alley way to the end of the block.
“Well, I started to go down the elevator but I remembered the paps out there and just went and sat on the steps.” She kept her eyes on Snowball, who was stopping at every tree and paper box along the walk.
“How many times have you sat there since Romeo knew where you were?” Jon asked as he looked down at her.
“A few, it keeps me from haunting the nursery twenty four seven.” She looked up and smiled. “It’s why we got a nanny to work with the trio, I go out there and write, so I don’t run in there at every whimper.” She stopped when Snowball found just the right spot. “It’s quiet and when Snow needs to go out, we can pop down the stairs to the alley way.”
“You don’t do that at night do you?” Jon wasn’t sure he liked thinking of her out in the dark alley way.
“No Jess goes with me, and we usually don’t get far for her to do her business. We sort of cleaned it up and added the potted plants and the herb garden.” Lexie bent down and using the baggie from the leash, took care of Snows deposit.
“Okay, but don’t go out there alone please?” Jon asked her.
“I don’t, and I won’t. When the boys are at activities I go out the front and brave the barrage of cameras.” She agreed with him. “Are you feeling better?” Lexie asked as they continued around the block.
“Yeah,” Jon said as he held her hand as they walked. “Did anything happen at the hospital, beside the email from the lawyers? You’ve been quiet since we came home, even Jesse noticed, he said you were mumbling to yourself.”
“They gave you some really good drugs in the hospital, sort of like a truth serum drug.” Lexie said as the noticed someone with a cell phone out taking their picture. “Smile Jon.” She said through her teeth, her lips not moving.
Jon looked up and noticed the fan, damn one night he thought they could go out for a walk and not be spotted. Plastering on his rock star smile, they walked on. Then what she said sunk in. What the hell did I say?