Chapter 138

She felt…foggy. The days had blended together until she didn’t know up from down and day from night. The misty grey had been soft and soothing, like water and a warm blanket at the same time. Too soothing. Too easy.

Tessa slid her fingers into his hair. He’d refused to leave. Even though she could see the exhaustion etched into every line of his face. He looked older. She’d done that to him. The worry for her and the—

She swallowed. His hair feathered around her fingers, soft as a child’s hair. Would their child have had his—

She glanced away from Jon, shutting that thought down as a nurse bustled in. The tuneless tune was as familiar as her cell phone ring. “Hello, Janet.”

She clucked her tongue. “Miss Tessa, you should be sleeping.”

Tessa felt her lips twist into a smile. “Don’t you think I did enough of that?”

“Ah, baby girl, your body needed to heal so it did what it does best. Shut down and force you to do the mending.” She checked the chart at the end of her bed and hung a new IV bag. “You seem like you don’t sit down much.”

The smile was less forced now. “You’re very intuitive.”

Janet nodded to Jon’s crooked lean on the bed, his head pillowed in his arms cradled around her hand. “He’s gonna be a hurtin’ boy in the morning.”

“I couldn’t get him to leave.” Tessa gently raked her fingers through his hair as she knew he liked. “He’s so worried about me.”

“He’s a good man. He’s been here the entire time.”

“I know,” she said softly, letting her head fall back on the uncomfortable pillow and stiff bed. He was a good man. He deserved a woman that was whole.

“Get some rest,” Janet said softly. “Don’t make me put something in that IV drip.”

Tessa smiled. “I will. I’m just going to think for awhile.”

“Turn off your brain. Us women think too much anyway.”

Tessa laughed. “True that.”

She turned to watch the dark window, closing her eyes when the nurse came back a few hours later. When the light of day crept in, she finally slept.


Jon woke with a start. Had the night before been a dream? He looked at her in the sterile bed, just like she’d been for so many days now. Had he just wanted her to be awake so very badly that he’d made it up?

He stood up, his body protesting at the thought of it let alone the actual action. “Fuck.”

“You have to sleep in your own bed, man.”

He turned around, Richie’s barrel chest filling the doorway. “Hey, Richie.” His best friend held out a large cup with the blessed green logo. “You’re a God among men.”

Richie smirked. “Don’t you forget it.” He nodded to the bed. “How’s she doing? Any change?”

“She woke up, she’s even walking around as of last night. At least I hope she is.” Jon tucked a lock of her hair around her ear.

“What do you mean you hope she is?”

Jon put down the cup and scraped his palm against his beard before picking it up again. “Let’s go outside, I need a smoke.”

They headed for the elevator as Jon sucked down half the coffee, hoping to God it would push aside some of the muzzy feeling. “I hope I wasn’t hallucinating last night.”

“Well that depends, was she dancing a jig?”

He snorted out a laugh. “No.”

“Was she in a cheerleader uniform?”

“That’s your fantasy, you sick fuck.”

Richie put a hand to his chest. “I think I’m offended.”

“I don’t think anything’s offended you since ’86,” Jon said and punched the down button for the elevator.

He waggled his eyebrows. “You’re probably right about that.”

Jon rolled his eyes and stepped in the car, thankful that it was empty. He leaned against the rail along the back, resting his cast along his waist. Every part of him throbbed, from neck to toes with the worst offender sitting behind his eyeballs. He tugged his shades out of his pocket and stuffed them on his face. “I talked to her last night. I’m pretty sure I did anyway. The days and nights are blending together.”

“Jonny, why don’t you let me sit with her tonight? You’re going to fall on your face and then you won’t be good to anybody.”

He tucked his cup into the crook of his arm and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’ll get some—“

“At least have the sense not to lie to me, bro.” Richie cut in. His voice held a rare edge of anger to it.

Fury flared hot and thick in his belly. “If I take my eyes off of her she’ll be gone!”

Richie slammed the stop button on the elevator and turned to him. “You can’t control everything!” His voice resonated through the car. “She’s going to come out of this, but you’d best be ready for some changes, man. She’s not going to be the same woman you knew ten days ago. This woman is going to be different from the soul on out.”


“Shut up, Jonny. You can’t force this one to into a schedule, no matter how many sleepless nights you have. This is going to be a clusterfuck of emotional baggage for both you and her.” He clamped his hand down on his shoulder. “Go home and get some rest today.” Richie held his hand up when he opened his mouth to argue. “Wait until Nic relieves you if it makes you feel better, but go home and take a fucking pill.” Richie jammed his finger into his chest. “Literally. Take one of those sleeping pills you keep a script for and never use. Sleep or you’re going to do something stupid or even worse…get sick and then you won’t be able to see her at all.”

Jon hung his head, anger sliding out of him as if it was the only thing keeping him upright. “You’re right. I know you’re right.”

Richie folded his arms over his chest. “Goddamn right, I am.”

He wiped his hand down his jeans. “Get this fucking thing moving before I freak out, man. You know I hate elevators.”

Richie just laughed and yanked on the stopper. “Sissy.”

“Fuck you.” But there wasn’t any heat in his words. Richie’d dragged him off the ledge…again. He stopped, one step beyond the doors. “Thanks, man.”


They returned to the room to find Tessa propped up on some pillows, even her IV bag was gone. Jon’s heart stopped. He’d been so afraid the night before had been a dream. He dropped his cup in the trash and rushed to her side. “Hey,” he said softly.

Her eyes were wary, but they were the same clear spring green he remembered. The pinch of pain had eased from her face leaving a fragility he’d never associated with Tessa. Her lithe form was now just a touch too skinny. Instead of bowing to the loss as she’d done the night before, her head was held high…her chin lifted. He could see the resolve glittering there as she faced him.

“I was afraid I’d imagined last night.”

She pressed her lips together, looking away from him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fall apart like that last night.”

He frowned. “That’s what I’m here for, Tessa.” He wanted her to know she could lean on him. He needed her to lean on him.

She smiled over his shoulder at Richie. “Hey there big guy.”

“Hey, darlin’.” Richie leaned down and kissed her forehead, curling around her in a gentle hug. “You gave us all a scare.”

“Believe me, I didn’t mean to.” She held her hand out to Jon. “Thank God he found me,” her hand was cool to the touch, “or my storefront would be on the market by now.”

His eyes widened. “Tessa—“

“Oh c’mon now Jon, if I can’t joke about it then I’m obviously not living. We just need to put it behind us.” She patted his hand and slipped away from his touch. “I’ve been bugging them to get out of here, but they want to run a few more tests. I should be able to go home tomorrow if all goes well.”

He curled his fingers into his palm. “Are you sure you should be rushing to get out of here you were just…” he trailed off. She’d almost been dead a little over a week ago for God’s sake.

She smiled, bright and almost manic. “You know what they say about the human body, it heals fast. Not to mention all that great sleep I got.”

Jon frowned up at Richie, who’s only response was a raised brow. “Honey, we’ve got plenty of time—“

“No, there’s no time. I have so much to do and to get ready for.” Her voice was steady, holding the steely tone she used for the Christmas season. “This is the slowest time of the year for the store, so I need to be there to gear up for the summer reading program. The new floor plans need to be set up and—“

Confusion rolled through him. She wanted to go back to work? “I’m sure Nichole’s been taking care of all of that, Tessa. You just need to worry about getting better.”

“I need work, Jon.” She finally looked at him, the resolve in her eyes was unmistakable. “Work is all I have.”

He shook his head. No, she had him. He pulled a chair over to her side. “I think we just need to take this day to day.”

“I have a business to run and people who depend on me. I’ve let them down long enough.”

Let them down? Jon snagged her hand. “Baby, you didn’t let anyone down. What happened was—“

“Unfortunate, but it’s not like I can do anything about that. The best medicine is to get back to work where I can be do the most good. Sitting around here isn’t helping anyone, least of all me. Not to mention I’m holding up a bed for someone who really needs it.” She patted his hand again and tucked her hand under the blanket. “Now, you and Richie need to go.”

“But you just woke up. I want to spend some time with you.” She was shoving him out the door?

“Yes, I’m awake. So you don’t have to worry about me anymore. I’m sure you put a great spin on this for the newspapers and you talked to the kids, right?” She smiled brightly. “Just make sure you get some rest. You can come and pick me up tomorrow.”

“I’ll come back tonight—“

“No, you get some rest tonight. That’s an order.” She shifted on the bed, wincing a little. “You need to sleep in your own bed tonight. I was reading the newspaper; I didn’t even realize the date. You have a home game coming up this weekend don’t you? I’m sure you want to go see Coach and catch up since I’ve kept you—“

“Tessa!” he said in a near shout.

She smoothed out the blanket over her thighs. “What?”

“Just stop it. I don’t fucking care about the game. All I care about is you.”

“Well of course you do,” she smiled at him as if she was talking to him over breakfast and not a hospital bed where she’d been fighting for her life just days before. “But it’s time to get back to our schedules. You’re a busy man and I’ve completely turned your life upside down for almost two weeks. I know you have things you need to take care of. I’m simply telling you to go ahead and take care of it.”

Take care of it? Just like that? Just go…go to the game? He stared up at Richie, then back down at her, shock paralyzing him. “Tessa, I want to be here for you. I want to stay with you tonight. We should talk.”

Her voice was completely reasonable, even though the things she was spewing out were so insane he couldn’t even begin to assimilate them. She tugged the rolling cart in front of her where a notebook lay. Crossing her ankles under the blanket, she linked her fingers on the make-shift desk. “We have tons of time to talk. Now go on. I can’t wait to get out of here tomorrow.” She looked down at the notebook and flipped the page, her smile still bright on her face. Perhaps a little too bright.

He stumbled back, not even able to look at Richie. He took a quick left collapsing against the wall outside her door, his heart tripping around his chest like a Mexican jumping bean on meth. She didn’t even want him in the room with her. Had he failed her that completely? Did she hate him so much that she couldn’t even look at him?

“There’s my sweet boy! Jon, how’s my neighbor doing?” Mrs. Haden walked steadily down the hallway her cane thumping dully on the gleaming floor.

“Evidently she’s doing just fine.” He brushed her shoulder gently. “I have to go, Mrs. Haden.” He headed down the stairs, just a breath away from a run.


The Goddess Hathor said...

Uh, oh: "He deserved a woman that was whole."

I don't like the way her thoughts are going there, Ms. Tara..... *inserting giant frowny face here*

I loved the banter between Jon and Richie. Leave it to Richie to try to keep things normal for Jon :) and I love how he stood up to his friend. I could see his hand slamming into the stop button on the elevator. Very powerful image there.

Loved this line: This is going to be a clusterfuck of emotional baggage for both you and her. Too true. Maybe Jon's too close to it, but he should really try to understand it. Richie's right, Jon can't control this, and IMO that's what's making him the most nuts.

Then you turned it back around to fun and playful with the You know I hate elevators....... Sissy exchange. Made me laugh out loud at my desk.

I liked Tessa's sense of humor -- dark, like mine, though Jon clearly didn't apprecite it lol but, she is still pulling away from him. He's gotta see that and make her cut it out. She's talking like she's just his *friend* instead of his lady. Poor Jon. He must be so confused.

Richie to the rescue again! Please! He has to see what Tessa is doing and make her stop it. Or he's gotta go to Nichole.

Sheesh, looks like I typed another missive. Sorry about that, m'dear!

~ Hath

PS: I can't believe I was one of the first to comment! lmao wooHOO for my RSS feed!!

Anonymous said...

Okay -- I would probably be acting the same as Tessa. Lots to do, feeling better, life has to get back to normal. She loves Jon so much that now she feels like she's holding him back from not only his personal life (ie. he deserves a "whole" woman), but also his professional life.

Ugggh, this is going to take time and talk. They're both so stubborn, I hope they can break through. She's gotta let go and be able to feel his true love for her. I think it's just going to be so hard for her.....Richie is going to have to talk to her and get in the middle!

Judith said...

I just knew it I would need my tissues again...dammit....

what should I add to Hath´s post , she said it all.
I also recognised this line "He deserves a woman that was whole." Don´t you dare and make her leave Jon....!!!!

And I so love Richie in this one...lol.....yes and the elevator comment :D I could so see him doing that...LOL
Now please Richie, talk to Tessa like you talked to your bro. I´m sure you see what she´s doing and pushing Jon away....they both need help, talk some sense into them! (Hint, hint Tara....lol)

awesome chapter! Hopefully more soon!!!

SoulGirl said...

I loved how you are using Richie here, to be Jon's so much needed reality in all of this. He's probably the only one so many of the times to see Jon internalizing his stuff as he does...so a swift kick from time to time is what he needs. Well done Richie. Jon does need to get some rest or he seriously will be no good to anybody and he's going to stress himself out.

Tessa, oh Tess. Playing the I'm fine, we're fine.... let's just carry on card? I knew she'd want to go back to work. I had a feeling she was going to say that so ridiculously early. I'm glad she's seen that Jon has been there for her all this time but somehow I'm not sure its going to change her mind in the long term...*biting nails* but I could be wrong.

I loved this as always, and the strong thing here I agree with Hath, Jon can't control this at all... and we've got to know that it drives him nuts and you can see it right here.


TaraLeigh said...

Holy Hanna! Look at the comments!
Thank you everyone. Ahh, the ups and downs of a woman on the hormone crazies as well as emotional rollercoasters.

My sweet, stupid Tessa. Like I was going to make it easy, right? Nahh, where's the fun in that?

I love that everyone is behind her, even if you want to shake her. She's just used to dealing with everything alone. How much loss can one woman take before she starts compartmentalizing things for her own sanity? Maybe a baby is just that last straw.

Especially when that baby also took most of the hope for it happening again someday. A lot to handle. You'll see how it comes together, just trust in these two. I love them both so much...even if I have to make them go through this.

Thank you Hath, Judith and Tresca for always giving me such thoughtful feedback. *muah* And the Anon that thinks like me. ;) As always it's appreciated.

jerseygirl said...

I think that Hath basically covered all the bases! Another chapter that I needed tissues for :-( but fantastic like always. I loved the banter between Richie and Jon, I absolutely love what you've done with him in this story. Maybe that's just because that's how I imagine him and you hit him perfectly. I was surprised he actually got in the elevator because we always see him on the stairs so I loved the line about him needing to get out and the sissy comment. And I toooootally agree with the anonymous post that said Richie needs to talk to Tessa. I've been waiting for many chapters for that lol. I think his honest views of everything will give her a new perspective. And the cute neighbor! Glad we got to see her again :-)

Thanks sooooo much Tara, and don't make us wait toooo long.

jerseygirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

What can I say that Hath, Tresca, Judith and the anon poster haven't already said?

Jon and Tessa need to talk and Tessa is still a whole woman! The opportunity for a baby wasn't totally taken away, it will just be slightly more difficult is all. I hope they can get thru this and come out a better, stronger couple for it.

I think the others are right, Richie needs to talk to Tessa either directly or thru Nichole. I love that you made him the voice of reason here Tara. Jon certainly needed to hear his little speech in the elevator. I'd bet they are like that in RL too.

Don't make us wait too long for the next installment. Need to know how they are going to survive all this.

Rike said...

I can understand how Tessa is feeling. But it is not good. Hard work can help a bit to forget, but when she want to work only to forget, than it won't help. The memories will come back at night and then she needs a shoulder for leaning on and arms for holding her. She can't going through this alone. It is right, Jon have to go back to the real life, too. But both have to find a way helping each other. Talking is important. Maybe Tessa can have a nice talk to the old neighbor lady? Sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger than to close friends. and the wisdom from old people can be very helpful.
And at last: I like it how Richie is acting in this story. ;)

and sorry for my english, it is not so easy for me to write down what is in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Ok so I started reading from the very begining again - Loving it all over again. BTW I have a feeling chapter 46 was the moment and I wish Tessa could go and read what Jon said in chapter 47.
BTW this doesnt mean I am any less anxious for chapter 139 LOL

Anonymous said...

Loved this chapter, but come on 139 Don't know how much longer I can hold on. You are so good at this. Please post soon. Thank you for what you do.

Anonymous said...

I'm lovin this story can't wait for another chapter i'm checkin daily thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tara I told you I started from the begining, well I am rapidly catching up - Just starting chptr 107 - hoping that 139 will be waiting for me by the time I get there, subtle hint huh LOL

Anonymous said...

Ok Tara all caught up again and now I'm really ready for the next chapter. PUHLEEZE!!!! ;)

Rike said...

Tara, PLEAAAASEEEEEEEEEEEE. Post a new chapter. Can't wait much longer.

TaraLeigh said...

Sorry girls.
My crazy NaNo started this month so it's going to be a bit zany for the posting.


will explain...I just have to get things moving on that and I'll be back, I promise!

Anonymous said...

Everyone has said it all above! Just love this story, keep on coming back and wanting more! And have read it twice now! Can't wait for the next few chapters, in bated breath!!!

Thanks so much for the great enjoyment!

Maxine (kiwigirljbj)

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