Welcome to Love's Legacy: Frankie & Jonny

The start of the story can be found
here and it can be navigated by using the menu to the right or by selecting newer post or older post at the bottom of each chapter. It may not be updated with quite the frequency of Edge of a Broken Heart but I will do my best to post at least once a fortnight.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Chapter 8

Jon's cell phone was in his hand as he pressed the button for the elevator. It was waiting on her floor, so he stepped inside and keyed in Richie's number.

He held the phone to his ear and waited for it to connect but got the no service signal. "Fuck," he muttered in frustration as the doors slid open on the fifth floor. He quickly hid his eyes with his dark sunglasses.

An attractive woman in her thirties stepped in and eyed him curiously, recognition rapidly lighting her face.

"Hi," she said shyly.

He attempted a brief smile, but his temper was barely controlled and grief was strangling him.

The woman turned away to give him some privacy. Now was not the time to make herself known to him as a fan. She had seen footage of him in moods like this and it was never good. She hoped silently that she would get another opportunity and wondered what had brought him to her building in the first place.

Jon tapped his foot impatiently on the second floor when the elevator stopped again for another tenant to enter. This time he didn't even look up, instead pretending to busy himself with his phone. The second the doors slid open, Jon was out of the lift. He signaled the doorman to fetch his car and hit the call button on his phone.

It seemed to ring for an interminably long time before he heard Richie's cheery voice on the other end of the line. "Hey bro, how they hanging?"

A lump formed in Jon's throat, preventing him from speaking.

"Jon?" Richie asked.

"Jon, you there? What's happening?" A hint of concern tainted Richie's voice now; he could hear the noise of the city in the background but Jon still hadn't spoken.

"She's dead man." Jon managed to croak out.

Richie's gut clenched and he felt the bile rise in his throat as he considered the possibilities – Dorothea, Stephanie, Carol… each as sickeningly unbelievable as the next.

"Gina's dead."

It was a name Richie had barely heard over the last twenty years, and yet the news struck him with all the force of a Mack truck. He collapsed rather than sat, onto a kitchen stool – he had just been fixing himself lunch.

When Gina had dropped off the face of the earth, all those years before, he had found it too painful to think of her. It had felt like a piece of him had gone missing. She had been the closest thing to a sister he had and he couldn't believe that she would just disappear without a trace, without so much as a goodbye. He had silently blamed Jon for it at the time. Unbeknownst to anyone else, it was the main cause of friction between the two on the New Jersey Tour.

"Rich…did you hear me man? Gina is dead!"

Jon's urgent tone snapped Richie from his reverie.

"I'll be there as soon as I can get someone to fly me out." He said and snapped his phone shut, immediately flicking it back open and dialing the number for the charter company they frequently used. He made the necessary arrangements and ran upstairs to pack. All going well he would be on the east coast before midnight.

Jon was still trembling with anger ten minutes later as he stood on the sidewalk waiting for the doorman to fetch his car. He had considered walking the short distance home, but that would mean a return visit tomorrow to fetch the car and he had no intention of running into Frankie again anytime soon. The girl was impossible…totally unreasonable…and stubborn - she made a mule seem easy going.

When the doorman got out of Jon's BMW, Jon was already there at the door waiting to get in – another generous tip in his hand. He slid in behind the wheel and peeled off from the curb at alarming speed. He couldn't go home yet, at least not to the cold sterile apartment his family now called home. He drove for the sake of driving and found himself heading towards Red Bank…heading towards comfort, heading towards home, heading to High Point.

High Point was Jon's French Chateau-inspired mansion on the banks of the Navesink River. It was the place he and his wife had raised their children, the place where his recording studio was located. It held more happy memories for him than almost any other place in the world…unless the spotlight was included in that sentiment – the spotlight always won out…it was his favorite place to be.

Once in the driveway, Jon hit the remote and the large wrought iron gates swung open noiselessly. He drove down the long driveway and parked the car near the front door, but instead of going into the house he headed out to the Shoe Inn – the guest house that had been converted into an English style pub. He grabbed two bottles of red from the cellar, a bottle opener from the bar – didn't bother to get a glass – and strolled down to the river bank where he sat propped against one of the large trees that lined the shore.

From a hidden pocket in his wallet Jon pulled out a tattered old photo strip, smiling at him through the creases and stains was himself and Gina – so much younger and happier than now. It was taken just before Runaway hit big, down the shore. They were so happy then…so carefree. He wondered what had gone so tragically wrong with that picture. Looking at it now the adoration in her eyes was obvious, how had he been so blind back then?

Opening the first bottle of wine, Jon took a long swig and once again the tears came, silent now - no longer the harsh sobs that had consumed him at the cemetery – but persistent nonetheless. He stared out blindly over the river towards the city; at least some small part of Gina had survived. He wanted so badly to remain angry at Frankie for the stunt she had pulled but found that he couldn't – she was the only link to Gina he had now. He would have to find a way to make it work… somehow. He took another long draw on the bottle and considered just how much his daughter looked like her mother. His daughter…now that was going to take some getting used to.

Jon lost all track of time, his only indication the setting sun yet still he sat and drank. Sometime - he wasn't sure when – long after the sun had set, he stumbled up to the house and let himself in. Maggie, the housekeeper, it appeared had already retired for the night and the house was deadly still. Somewhere in his brain a coherent thought niggled at his conscious mind – he had to let Rich know where he was. He hit redial on the phone but it went straight to voicemail. He left a message to let him know to come to Jersey then took up residence on the couch, yet another bottle in his hand – Jack this time…the wine had barely taken the edge off.

When Richie arrived two hours later he found Jon passed out on the couch, the bottle of Jack more than half gone. He dropped his duffle behind the couch and knelt beside his brother – that's what they were in every sense but the biological.

Even in slumber Richie could see the deep lines of pain etched into Jon's face, and realized as bad as this was for him, it was far worse for Jon. He remembered what it had been like when Gina had failed to return from Europe. Jon had been devastated then, God only knew what this would do to him. He knew Jon had spent countless dollars searching Europe for her throughout the years, something must have finally showed up…perhaps her parents had finally contacted him.

Initially when Jon had managed to contact them, they wouldn't even discuss Gina. They had told him not to bother them anymore; that they had no interest in speaking to him about 'her' or anything else. Eventually he had to comply with their wishes, bothering them was doing no good for anyone.

Richie needed answers – he gave Jon a gentle shake…nothing. He shook a little harder and got some incoherent mumbling. He went to the kitchen, the coffee pot sat ready on the bench, God Bless Maggie he thought. He poured a large mug and headed back to Jon.

This time, Richie lifted Jon into a sitting position before shaking him awake.

"C'mon man, wake up!" He slapped Jon's cheek probably a little harder than required – it seemed a little of that old resentment was still hidden there somewhere.

Jon came around with a start. "Richie…man…good to see ya. What you doin' here?" he slurred.

Oh great! This is gonna be harder than I thought. "You called me Jon."

"I did?" Jon was weaving where he sat.

"Yes Jon, you did. Don't you remember?"

"Hmm… 'member." Richie's face blurred before Jon's eyes. He couldn't hold focus. "Ohh..."

"That's it… come on think." Richie coached.

"I have a daughter man."

"Yes you do bro, but Steph isn't why you called," Richie was getting frustrated now.

"NO!" Jon said shaking his head vehemently. "Not Steph…'s another one."

"What are you talking about? How much have you had to drink?" Richie picked up the bottle of jack to examine what was left. He must have had a good go at something before this, he thought.

"Name's Frankie" Jon slurred again.

"Drink this," Richie held the mug to Jon's lips and waited for him to drink. "I think this conversation will have to wait 'til the morning, you're not making any sense at all."

"I'm making plenty of sense." Jon said indignantly. At least his words were getting clearer. "I have a daughter man. Her name's Frankie. She's ours…mine and Gina's." That stopped him in his tracks. "Oh… Gina." And the tears were there again, weren't they wasted yet? He felt like he had cried a river. "She's… dead man…Gina's dead!"

"I know Jonny. That's why I'm here. What happened? Who told you?"

"Frankie told me. Frankie…happened."

"What? What are you saying?" Confusion clear on Richie's concerned face.

"Christ man… she died having our kid!"

Richie eyed Jon suspiciously, "When did you find out about Frankie?"

"She found me…at the benefit on Saturday."

"You mean yesterday?" It was five minutes before midnight.

"Umm...yeah… I guess…yesterday…"

"Gina found you yesterday…" Richie began.

Jon interrupted, "No man. For fucks sakes keep up. Frankie found me yesterday. She took me to see Gina today."

"She took you to see Gina today?"


"And she's dead?"

"Yep" Jon nodded morosely. "She's dead." This started the tears again in earnest.

"Jon…bro…you're confused man. Go to bed. This will all look better in the morning."

"I…I can't believe she's gone man. It's my fault…if only…if…" Tears streamed down Jon's face. Richie placed a strong arm around his shoulders to comfort him and Jon soon buried his face in his brother's shoulder, his body shaking with grief.

Richie knew he would get no more sense from Jon in his present state. He feared he was suffering from some kind of breakdown. Maybe he was even suffering from hallucinations – he had been under a lot of pressure on the last tour. He should be in the Hamptons right now with his family…not here in Jersey alone. If things weren't clearer in the light of day, Richie decided, he would ring Dot and get the details from her. Now that was a conversation he wasn't looking forward to. But for now he would put his own grief for Gina aside until the story was straight.

Jon awoke the next morning disoriented and wincing at the bright light that was streaming through the large windows in the living room. He was stiff and sore from having spent the night on the couch. He sat up gingerly noting the thudding pain behind his eyes and the coating on his tongue. It had been a long time since he had drank like that – now he remembered why.

Heeding the persistent call of his overtaxed bladder Jon headed to the bathroom, cringing as every step he took vibrated in his head. When natures call had been answered he stood before the mirror and examined his reflection. He ran a hand through his short brown tousled hair, then across the day old stubble on his chin. Bloodshot eyes and the dark shadows beneath them were evidence of a rough night. He felt as though he had aged ten years overnight, he knew it wouldn't last but that made it no easier to deal with. He shook his head in disgust at the old man in the mirror before turning his back on him and heading to the kitchen for some strong black coffee.

Walking into the room, Jon was surprised to find Richie sitting at the kitchen bench already nursing a steaming cup of coffee.

"Hey" Richie nodded. "Coffee's just brewed."

Jon held a finger to his lips to indicate quiet. When he spoke it was barely above a whisper, "Hey man. Thanks. When did you get in?" Jon went straight to the pot and poured himself a cup.

"I guess that means you don't remember last night then." Richie said trying unsuccessfully to hide a smirk.

"Should I?" Jon asked as he sat on the next stool along the bench, propping his head up on one hand.

"After what you managed to drink I guess not." He laughed once. "What do you remember?"

"Don't know really… I guess arriving here and heading out to the pub." Then something occurred to him "Hey how did you know I was here? I was supposed to be in the city."

"You left a message on my cell while I was in the air."

"I did, huh?" Jon was impressed that, even in his state of inebriation, he had still had enough sense to let Richie know where he'd be.

"Yep you did. I got here just before midnight…you were pretty out of it." Richie shook his head at the memory. "It's been a long time since I've seen you that fucked up man. I think the last time would be ten years ago when Dot walked out…" No one usually mentioned that…it was a very touchy subject.

"Yeah I know." Jon said sheepishly. "Sorry man... Ah…what did I say?"

"You weren't making much sense bro. I was almost gonna call Dot."

"Fuck man…don't do that. I'm already in the shit with her." He replied in alarm.

"What's going on dude? You were a total mess last night. The only sensible thing I got out of you was that Gina was dead. Nothing else made sense."

"It still doesn't make much sense to me… but, ok this is the story. You know the Darfur benefit on Saturday, the one Dot and I went to." Jon started.

Richie nodded in assent – he had signed a guitar to donate.

"Well, I'm there with Dot and she notices this young girl eying me from across the room. She made some flip comment – you know how she is. Any way I look in this girl's direction and she strikes a familiar chord, just something about her, ya know?"

Again Richie nodded.

"So anyway I ditched Dot – she was in one of her moods – and moved a bit closer and watched her for a while, but still couldn't place it. The curiosity was killing me, so I decided to go talk to her to find out where I knew her from. Well you can imagine how that went down – 'Excuse me but do I know you?' – she thought it was a line but while I'm standing there staring at her, I realize who she reminds me of…Gina." Jon focused his attention on his coffee cup.

"Frankie…" Richie uttered softly.

"I told you this?" He looked up in surprise.

"No not really…go on."

"So that's when it got weird. She's standing there dumbstruck but when she speaks she tells me…how did she put it again…oh yeah she says that" He signed exclamation marks in the air with his fingers "I've been the object of her dreams and she's wondering if I'll live up to the fantasy.."


"Exactly…so immediately I think…well you know what I think, so I tell her 'Sorry honey I don't do teens' and she says" Exclamation marks again, "that's ok I won't do my father.'"

"And is she?"

"Apparently so… mine and Gina's." It was still hard to say her name.

"And Gina…?" Or hear it.

"Died in childbirth." Jon's voice was very soft

Richie uttered one word "FUCK!"

Jon sat silent while his brother digested the information, he had loved Gina too.

"Are you sure man? What about the tests?"

"I don't need 'm Rich. I'm sure…she mine. Not a doubt in my mind."

"How!? I mean I thought it was only the once. Surely…"

"It was only once, but Frankie reminded me that all it takes. She's mine man. I can feel it. Besides it all fits…the dates, the story, all of it. She has my eyes man…and it would seem the Bongiovi temper." A small smile touched his lips at the thought but quickly disappeared. "She's all I have left of Gina, Rich and she hates me…I mean really hates me and I don't know how to fix this."

"What does Dot think about everything?" Richie always had to play the devil's advocate.

"She guessed about Frankie…but I denied it. She doesn't know about Gina though – being dead I mean."

"Where does she think you are now?"

"In the city. I told her I had some shit to take care of for the Soul. But I'm guessing she suspects I'm here for Gina."

"Something you said last night is still bothering me. You said Frankie took you to see Gina." Puzzlement was evident in Richie's voice.

"She did…we visited her grave. That's how she told…well, showed me really. I asked to see Gina, she told me she would take me to her, and that's where we ended up."

"That's harsh man."

"I thought so too at first, now I'm not so sure…after what I put her through, Gina I mean, I probably deserve that and a lot worse."

"Don't be so hard on yourself man."

"Why not? You were at the time, …and there wasn't even a kid involved then."

"You didn't know." Richie paused then, thoughtful. "Please Jon, tell me you didn't know."

"Of course I didn't." Jon said indignant. "What kind of asshole do you take me for?"

"A fuckin' big one but that's beside the point." Richie said smiling, and then sobered. "What are you gonna tell the kids?"

"To be honest man, I haven't given it a thought. I suppose they need to know. Especially if she's gonna be part of my life." He said contemplative. "I mean it's not like Frankie was the result of an affair – not that that would make a difference really – but we weren't married yet when…"He trailed off.

Richie was quiet for a long time while he mulled over everything he had been told.

"Jon?" he finally said.

"Yeah man?"

"She never went to Europe did she? That's why we never found her there."

Jon shook his head. "No." He said quietly, "No man, she didn't. It was just the story to get away from me. She never left you Rich – it was me she was running from. I'm… sorry."

A silent tear slipped down Richie's cheek, it was no different than if she had died the day before. "Take me to her?"

"Of course man…of course. But then I have to try to see Frankie…I need to fix what I've fucked up. I'll tell you about that on the way. Let me go clean up and we'll head out."

"K bro.. I'll be here."

Jon didn't need to be told that. He always was.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Chapter 7

Jon's shoulders shook with the violent but silent sobs that wracked his body, as he reconciled the extent of Gina's sacrifice. When he had mentioned it to Frankie he never dreamed that sacrifice would be her life. She had died giving birth to her child…his child.

When he spoke his voice was husky, cracking with emotion, "Oh God baby… Why?? Why didn't you come to me? You would have had the best of care…the best of everything…"

Frankie stood stoically at the edge of the grave, very carefully controlling the emotion that roiled within her. She had expected to feel…smug… pleasure even, at seeing this stranger's pain – for she had known what she was doing would cause him at least that. She had wanted to shock the arrogance out of him. But what she was feeling now was far from pleasureable. Guilt formed one part of the complicated cocktail of emotion, and there was pity and remorse and even a little surprise at the depth of his emotion – she hadn't expected that at all.

"…We could have been a family!" he finished.

Frankie raised an eyebrow at that, but the emotion was far too raw in her to risk speaking now. She fished a tissue out of her purse and handed it over his shoulder silently. He took it in a shaking hand without looking back. She turned away from him then, as her own emotions threatened to overcome her. Tears welled in her eyes and she'd be damned if she'd let him see her cry.

While making her way back now to her father's grave - allowing Jon some semblance of privacy in his grief - she tried to determine the cause of her tears. Surely they couldn't be for him…for the pain he was suffering - that terrible consuming pain, the intolerable empty pain of loss. That thought led her to thoughts of her father. That must be it!
This is dredging up the memories and emotion of that awful time. That's all it is! She tried to convince herself that was the whole truth of it.

When Jon approached quite some time later Frankie was sitting by her father's grave singing softly – it always calmed her - as she picked the spoilt flowers out of the arrangement she had placed there on her last visit just days before. She still 'visited' her daddy whenever she could…though it was getting less and less frequent now. It had been her intent to come here at least every other day but the pressures of the real world had gripped her when she re-opened the Gallery to the public. She still managed to come at least once a week, to talk to him and tell him her news and confide her problems, usually late on a Wednesday afternoon – once their usual date day. Feeling a presence behind her, Frankie stopped singing.

So she sings, not bad either. It was a fleeting thought in Jon's overtaxed mind in light of the emotional upheaval he had just suffered.

"How long have you been there?" She asked looking up startled. He noticed immediately her red rimmed eyes.

"Only a minute or so. You ready to leave?" Jon's voice was a flat monotone. His eyes too, were red rimmed and bloodshot, puffier than she imagined hers to be.

She eyed him warily. "I'm fine. I'll catch a cab back."

"Don't be an idiot. I bought you out here…I'll take you back. It's on the way."

"To the Hamptons?"

"No, I'm gave myself a couple of days in the city to…" See Gina. Spend time with both of you. "Sort a few things out."

"Oh. Well I'm not going back to Mom's, I'm going home." Frankie rose and followed as he led her to the car.

Once again he opened the door for her, "No problem." He gestured for her to climb in and made his way around to the driver's side.

Jon navigated the familiar streets mindlessly…his attention focused somewhere far away. Neither passenger uttered a word on the long journey home, except for the directions he required to get her there. Frankie sat pondering what exactly had pushed her to be so callous and cruel. Initially, Jon was lost in thoughts of Gina, the time they had spent together and what could have possibly led to the tragic events that were only now being revealed to him. But by the end of the journey he was wondering the same thing as Frankie. What exactly had he done to deserve that? He had just reconciled himself to asking that very question when she spoke.

"Just here on the left." She directed. He pulled smoothly into the curb.

"You're kidding?" His building was less than one hundred yards up the road.


"But I live…"

"I know." She interrupted, and then shrugged. "It's unfortunate, but I couldn't turn this place down based on who my neighbors were. It was too good a deal"

"Frankie, why?" He asked quietly.

"I just told you…" She wondered if he was really that dumb – he didn't seem that dumb. His stare was intense. She faltered "…it…it was too good a deal to pass up." It was almost a question.

"NO! Why do you hate me so much?"

"I don't!" And she realized then that it was true. She didn't hate him as she thought she would, but that didn't mean she wanted a relationship with him either. "I gotta go." She said as she got out of the car.

She leaned back down into the open door, "Thanks for the ride. See ya!" she said flippantly, then closed it and bounded off into the building behind her.

Jon sat in stunned silence. That was all the explanation he was going to get 'I don't!' "Oh no you don't little girl. No fucking way!" he muttered to himself - Frankie was long gone. He turned the car off and pulled the key from the ignition. He got out slamming the door behind him.

"Sir…you can't park there sir." A uniformed doorman was at his side.

"Take care if it!" Jon barked handing the doorman the keys and several folded hundred dollar bills as he hurried by.

"Yes sir!" The doorman smiled at his tip.

Frankie stepped into the elevator with Mrs. Parsons from the fourth floor. She often saw the elderly widow in the mornings coming home from her daily stroll as she was heading out to work.

"Afternoon dear," the old woman croaked.

"Afternoon Mrs. Parsons, lovely day out there!" Frankie said conversationally as the doors began to slide closed. She couldn't bring herself to be rude to the woman who always had a kind word for everyone, despite the pitiful mood she was in.

"It sure is dear." She responded a kindly smile lighting her time weathered face.

Just before the doors closed a hand shot into the gap causing them to open again.

Jon stepped into the small space, so angry that he wasn't even aware the two women inside both seemed to shrink back against the wall in the face of the wrath emanating from him. "Did you think that was just the end of it, Frankie? That you could pull that little stunt and then just run up here to safety? Well guess what...!"

The octogenarian standing next to Frankie grabbed her arm in alarm. "I'm sorry Mrs, Parsons...This is Jon. He is a ...a family friend." Frankie drew herself up to her full height in the face of his rage and reminded him of his manners. "Jon, this is Mrs. Parsons, my neighbor," she said through gritted teeth. "Don't you think it would be better if we discussed this privately?"

Jon finally noticed the look on the older woman's face and willed the tension in his shoulders to relax, easing the deep lines of anger and frustration in his expression. "I beg your pardon, Mrs. Parsons. It's a pleasure to meet you..."

The woman considered him warily. "Likewise son. It's always a pleasure to meet a friend of young Frankie's." She said looking at him sternly, her voice holding no warmth. It was clear in his case there was no pleasure at all.

The ding sounded that indicated they had reached the fourth floor but Mrs. Parsons was hesitant to leave the young woman alone with this man, she stayed in the lift holding her arm across the open door. "If you need anything dear…don't forget Steven is right out front." She shot Jon a look of warning that lingered a little longer than necessary as if she were trying to memorize his features.

"I'll be fine Mrs. Parsons… Really" Frankie assured her. "It's just a little disagreement, nothing at all to worry over."

"Well ok then." The woman said hesitantly, stepping out slowly and letting the doors glide shut.

Jon held his tongue. It wouldn't do to start shouting in the elevator and have his words echo down the shaft to Mrs. Parsons' curious ears.

The doors groaned open on Frankie's floor and she stepped out into the foyer searching the depths of her bag for her keys. Once retrieved, she slid the correct one into the lock, pushed the door open and stood back for him to enter. This was obviously unavoidable and she preferred the confrontation she knew was coming take place in the privacy of her apartment rather than in public.

He trudged past her into the bright expanse that was her apartment. The scene in the elevator had cooled his temper a little. "How long have you lived here?

"Oh, a few months." She replied a little guarded.

Jon let out a low whistle "Aren't kids your age supposed to live in dumpy little apartments or better still at home with your parents?"

"I'm not like most kids my age."

"That has yet to be determined. That little stunt you pulled was pretty childish, don't you think?"

"What stunt was that?" She asked feigning innocence.

His anger rose in the face of her cool response. "The fucking cemetery Frankie. What the fuck did I ever do to you to deserve that? You fucking set me up!"

"You asked to see Gina. I just obliged. I warned you couldn't go back but you just had to push. Stubborn sonofa…" She trailed of under her breath.

He ignored her insult. "C'mon now, you know you weren't exactly giving me all the information there. Put yourself in my shoes. If our roles were reversed, how would you feel if I did that to you?" He asked irritation evident in his voice.

"You'd never have to.....I could never have left like you did" Frankie replied defensively…she knew what she had done was wrong.

"Will you cut me some freaking slack??? I didn't even know she was pregnant! If I had known....Gina... awe fuck… Gina." The fact that she was really gone hit him full force and he sat heavily on the edge of one of Frankie's pristine white sofa's and rubbed his hands up and down his face as if trying to scrub away the memory "…if she had just…told me… it wouldn't have ended like this."

Frankie remained standing opposite him. She raised an eyebrow, "Oh, how would it have ended?...All happy families? I seriously doubt that!"

"Damn it, Frankie, would you at least give me a fucking little bit of credit for being a decent human being?"

"Sorry I haven't seen much yet to suggest you are!" She snapped bitterly.

He recoiled from the comment like she'd slapped him. "Do you really think that if I'd known Gina was pregnant I would have just turned my back on her?"

Frankie opened her mouth to speak but he silenced her with a raised finger and a frosty glare. "And NO! Before you even start - because I know where you're going with this - I can't tell you that we would have all ended up as one big happy family. Hell I was so fucked up in the head at that point in my life, she probably wouldn't have wanted to play happy families with me. But this I can assure you, she would never have wanted for anything and neither would you. Both of you would have had the best of everything. And even if we didn't end up married, I know…knew Gina and I know she would have wanted you and I to know each other, to have a relationship as father and daughter."

"Isn't that what you said at the cemetery? Even in death your lying to her....and you want me to give you credit for being a decent human being. Right!" she added sarcastically.

"What the fuck are you talking about now?"

"At the cemetery... 'We could have been a family!'" she mimicked him cruelly "Those words don't ring a bell? And just for your information, according to her, …no she didn't want us to know each other...not back then anyway. Not until I was ready to make the decision for myself."

Jon blinked, looked towards the floor and shook his head slowly, "I don't believe that Frankie. I won't believe that she never wanted us to know each other."

"Believe what you like!"

"Let me tell you something about your mother…" Frankie opened her mouth to protest the use of the word - in reference to someone other than Beth, it still shocked her – but again he silenced her before a sound could escape and continued "…and yes I know Beth is your mother but let me tell you something about Gina…she was one of the warmest, most giving people I have ever met in my life. We were friends for a very long time… I knew her better than almost anyone, and I don't believe that she would have been able to keep you from me for long."

"I don't need you to tell me anything about her. I don't want to learn about her like this. I don't want to see her through your eyes, especially since it seems you never saw her all that clearly yourself."

Jon was a little taken aback. "Well how else you gonna find out honey? It seems to me, I'm the only person that can give you any real information about her. About what she was really like…don't you want to know? Or do you just want to form your impressions based on some letter she supposedly left you."

"Oh there is more than a letter." She hinted mysteriously, peaking his interest.

He crooked an eyebrow and waited.

"I have her diaries as well...I'd say they would give me a pretty good insight...wouldn't you?"

Jon turned away, unwilling to let Frankie see the emotion on his face, thus giving her further ammunition to hurt him.

"Yeah, I thought so." She smirked.

"Are you trying to tell me she had nothing but bad things to say about me? That she hated my guts?"

"Worried about that are you?"

"No, actually I'm not." The tone was not quite as confident as the statement itself. "What I am afraid of, is what you may misinterpret from what is written. Hell, look at how good you are at twisting my own words… I can just imagine what you've come up with from the pages of a diary." He turned his back to her, his attention focused on the skyline and added so soft she wasn't sure that she'd heard it at all, "No wonder you hate me."

Everything was very quiet and still for a moment while Frankie tried to determine whether or not he had spoken when he spun back to her harshly causing her to startle and jump back.

His voice was menacing. "But let me tell you something honey, there is nothing you can say, nothing any freaking diaries can say, that will ever make me doubt how she and I felt about each other. So if that's your purpose here, you may as well stop now."

"Please Jon…enlighten me exactly how did you feel about her?"

"I loved her!" He said with no embellishments.

"HA! You sure have a strange way of showing love."

"What the fuck's that supposed to mean?" He snapped.

"Loving her but marrying someone else."

"I loved..." he paused to correct the sentiment "love my wife too. It was just…", his anger got the better of him then, "No… you know what… I don't have to explain this to you, you're nineteen fucking years old. You have no idea how complicated these things can be. But damn it Frankie, try to imagine what my life was like back then. I'm sure you must have read a bit, seen interviews or whatever. It was like…I had this life as Jon Bon Jovi, rock star, I could write mega-hits and we had more money than any twenty-something year old kid should ever have but…but my personal life was in shambles. I didn't even know who I was any more. I was finding it hard to distinguish between this persona that had been created for me, and who I really was. Back then there were three women in my life who could always bring me back, and two of them were Dot and Gina."

Frankie stared at him in disbelief. "You're fucking kidding me…another one."

Jon shook his head clearly exasperated "My mother was the third…shit, your grandmother. Oh hell that's gonna be one tough discussion"

"Oh" Frankie said chagrined. "Well that still doesn't excuse what you did."

"Please tell me again what crime I committed? What did I do that was so unforgivable?"

"You left her."

"Damn it Frankie. I didn't leave her! She ran off to Europe."

Frankie looked at him patronizingly.

When he spoke, his voice was quiet, contemplative. "Oh…I see...she never went to Europe. That was for my benefit."

"Regardless you left her first."

Jon shook his head. "Just when I think you are showing an amazing level of maturity you go and say something like that. This is not some school yard competition of who went first. We were on tour. She came and joined me when I needed her, we had an amazing time together, then I had to go back to work and she went home." He explained. "Back then it wasn't like it is now. We didn't have cell phones and email, it was harder to keep up with each other but it wasn't like I never intended to see her again when we said goodbye."

"I've done my research Jon. It was ten weeks…just ten short weeks from the time I was conceived until the time you got married...What the fuck was that? That's one quick turnabout for someone 'in love'."

He took a moment to gather his thoughts.

"It wasn't like Gina didn't know about Dot. Hell they knew each other." It sounded like a poor defense even to him.

"So I believe. But you knew she was in love with you Jon. And you took advantage of that…in so many ways. That's what's unforgivable. You knew she could never say no to you, how could you do that to her?" The anger and emotion were raw in her voice. "How could you lead her on, then walk away and go back to Dot like it never happened?"

"No," he said shaking his head in denial, "that's not what happened Frankie. I didn't know she was in love with me."

Frankie pounded her fist into the top of the sofa she stood behind, "LIAR… You did know. She told you herself."

She said it with such conviction he knew she knew the truth. His mind was a whirl.

He ran his hand through his hair, shaking his head. "Jesus Frankie… how much detail did she put in this diary?" He asked, concern evident in his voice. Gina had known more about him than even his wife. She had been one of the inner circle, so much more than Dot ever had. She had been his confidant. Hell, she had even seen what life on tour was like…she had never been protected from it as the wives and girlfriends were…for so long she had just been his best friend…until…

"Enough for me to know the truth, all of it!" In truth Frankie didn't know what the diaries contained, she had barely skimmed the surface. All of the information she had used against him so far had come from Gina's letter.

Jon became still and silent. When he spoke it was hardly a whisper. "I…I didn't believe her…when she told me…I never believed she could."

"How could you not? She was in love with you from the start…from the very first day." Frankie asked incredulous.

Jon jumped to his feet and Frankie reflexively took a step back. "Damn it! I didn't KNOW! When she told me I just…"

"You just what, thought it was a line to get in your pants? What exactly did she have to gain from lying to you Jon? Please enlighten me!"

"You know what… fuck it, there is no way that I can explain this to you that you won't twist around to suit yourself. You didn't fucking know her and you certainly don't know me…"

"No and I think I've made it clear I don't want to!" Frankie interrupted but he carried on as if she hadn't spoken.

"It…me leaving… it wasn't about her, t was never about her it was about me god damn it. I didn't believe I was good enough for her. I loved your mother. I don't care what you say, what you believe or what kind of letter or diary or fucking time capsule you pull out of your ass, there is nothing you can say that will taint the memories of what we had." He raged. "I'm outta here, but before I go I want you to know one thing. I think what you did today was just… well it was fucking cruel. I think your mother…take your pick which…would be ashamed to know that you could do that to another person let alone your father. You think about that for a while."

Jon stormed from the room and slamming the door behind him.

"Mr. Rock Star doesn't like being put on the spot me thinks." Frankie said quietly to the empty room but as her bravado crumbled she realized that – about one thing at least – he was absolutely correct.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chapter 6

Beth cursed softly at the sound of the door bell. She was in the process of cleaning her small home studio and was elbow deep in grime. She wiped the back of her hand across her brow and down the side of her face to shift a stray wisp of hair that had escaped the Versace scarf she was wearing to protect it from getting mussed. As she did a streak of paint unknowingly transferred to her cheek. She rubbed her palms down over the slightly too small, white machine shrunk T and tatty paint stained denim cutoffs as she made her way to the door.

Jon heard movement behind the door and his nerves kicked up a notch....how was that even possible? The metallic crunch of locks alerted him to the imminent opening of the door but nothing could prepare him for what he found on the other side.

A woman stood before him, he couldn't quite place her age, early thirties maybe, and though she was not Gina, he could not find it in himself to be disappointed, for despite her state of disarray, she was one of the loveliest creatures he had ever seen.

Beth stood in the doorway - uncomfortable given the state she was in - under the visitor's intent stare. She recognised him immediately and had known this day would come, but she hadn't expected it so soon. She watched as his gaze quickly took in the lines of her slender curves, pausing as most did on the usual assets – her long toned legs, her tiny waist and her firm perky breasts. She had no doubt that, had she turned around, he would have, very much, admired her ass as well.

Jon gave the woman the cursory head to toe…Very nice indeed. Her lips were full; her tongue darted out to moisten them as he continued to appraise her. A slight blush colored her high cheekbones. When his eyes finally came to rest on hers they were warm, chocolate brown and expressive. He felt he would get lost in their depths.

He wondered who she was. If he hadn't been so distracted by his purpose in being there he may have realized that this woman was exactly his type. He may have even asked for a phone number. But at that moment only one woman clouded his thoughts.

"Hello, my name is Jon Bon Jovi. I was hoping to see Gina please." He asked politely.

"I am aware of who you are Mr. Bon Jovi. But I'm sorry there is no Gina here." Beth wondered if playing dumb would deter him. She wasn't ready for her life to be disrupted like this, not so soon after…

Jon wondered if he'd been given the wrong address... Was he in the right place? He pulled the address from his pocket and showed it to the woman. "I am in the right place aren't I?"

Beth hesitated. She hated to lie. But she wasn't...not really. "You are at that address, yes. But there is no Gina here. I'm sorry!" She spoke softly as she began to close the door.

The whole thing confused Beth a little; she had expected him to ask for Frankie. In fact, come to think of it, the fact that he was asking after Gina at all, was strange. Didn't he know her fate? Beth had always assumed that Jon would have received a letter from Gina similar to the one her daughter had...asking him to contact her so that she could reveal a long hidden secret to him, vague and cryptic yet with enough clues to solve the mystery. She had always thought of this first contact as being about him discovering the child he had never known. But if he didn't receive the letter….what had led him here?

Beth doubted that Frankie had contacted him. She knew that her daughter had worked out the mystery of the letter. They had discussed it briefly but Frankie was very resistant to contacting "the man who got my mother pregnant" as she put it, she never referred to him in any affectionate way…she couldn't bring herself to use the word father. She had said - in her mind - he was just so far removed from what that word meant.

Jon put his hand against the door to stop her. "Well, is there a Frankie McKenzie here?"

Beth sighed audibly. So maybe she had contacted him.

"She doesn't live here, no." Disappointment was immediately evident on his face. "But I am her mother." She continued reluctantly.

Jon's reaction was one of mixed emotion... at first illogical, irrational relief - in view of what he knew, if only subconsciously, to be true - she wasn't his after all. This was rapidly followed by disappointment, then anger and...loss. He realised he'd already formed an attachment to the young woman.

"But .... She told me her mother was a very good friend from my past." He swept his hand through his short brown hair; confusion was evident on his face now.


"Last night, about the same time she dropped the bombshell that I was her father." He said, then added in a disgusted tone, "Hey…Is this some kind of sick joke? ...because I can tell you, I ain't finding it the least bit funny."

"I wasn't aware she was looking. I thought it was still too soon for her." Beth said absently, more to herself than this man on her doorstep. That bought her to her senses, "Oh...How rude of me. Please come in. Can I offer you a drink?"

Jon didn't move. "What's going on here? I think I'm missing something."

"I'm sorry. It seems my manners have completely eluded me in the face of your news. I am Elizabeth McKenzie, I am not Frankie's birth mother, but she is very much my daughter. My husband and I adopted her as an infant." Beth held out a hand and he shook it gently. A jolt of electricity passed through her hand at his touch.

"I am expecting a visit from her shortly." Beth gestured for him to enter again, this time he complied. "Can I get you that drink?"

Jon nodded, "Thank you. Coffee please if it's not too much trouble."

"Of course. How do you take it?" Jon had an irresistible urge to reach out and wipe the grime from her face. He shoved his hands deep in his pockets. It was way too familiar a gesture.

"Strong and black, thank you." He watched her as she began to move towards what he assumed was the kitchen.

"I won't be but a moment."

"I would really like to see Gina. Do you know where she is?"

Jon watched as Beth stiffened at the question, but continued to move. "I'm sorry; it is not my place to tell you that... perhaps Frankie will be able to help you." She shouted from the kitchen

While Jon waited for Elizabeth to return he studied the meticulous apartment. Several well known paintings adorned the walls and on almost every available surface a family photo... or ten... was displayed. He moved around the room following his daughter's - now that would take some getting used to, the thought echoed - his daughter's development though the many photographs. He observed that like most children her features had changed through the years and there were periods where she looked decidedly more like his daughter, more like him, than she did now.

In pride of place on the ornate granite mantle surrounding the fireplace were several photos of Frankie, at different ages, with a handsome distinguished looking gentleman he recognised as Branson from his previous business dealings. A stab of pain gripped him as he realised that it should have been him in those photos. It should have been him pushing her on the swing, her giggling in glee. It should have been him teaching her to ride her first bicycle and fixing her scrapes when she fell off. It should have been him engaging her in the first snowball fight of the season and it should have been him standing proudly beside her in her cap and gown as she graduated, with honours it would seem, from high school. It could have been him in those photos, would have been him if only he'd known.

Jon felt a small surge of anger towards Gina then. How could she have kept this from him? She had cheated him out of eighteen years of his daughter's life. Having four other children of his own, he knew just how precious that time was.

A key turning in the lock at the end of the hallway snapped him out of his reverie and he looked with interest in the direction of the noise.

"It's only me mom. You here?" It was a question rather than a statement. Frankie was occupied with arranging her belongings in her handbag as she entered the living room thus failing to notice the guest who stood quietly near the Fireplace, intently observing her.

Jon cleared his throat…he didn't want to startle her. His attempt at subtlety was in vain. Frankie did startle - almost violently. Her body becoming stone still the second her eyes met his. When she spoke her tone was harsh and cold "What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to see you. Did you really think I'd just forget our conversation last night?"

"How did you get in here? Where is my mom?"

Beth yelled from the kitchen. "I let him in honey. I'll be out in a moment." She wanted to observe her daughters initial reaction from the safety of the kitchen.

"Actually I'm glad you mentioned your mother. Don't you think you left out some important bits of information last night?

"Such as? I told you then it was need to know and you don't need to know anything."

"I came here expecting to find Gina"

"So you didn't come to see me after all...you're here for Gina."

Jon's jaw clenched. He could see this conversation would be an uphill battle. "I came here to see both of you."

"Well as you can see she isn't here, and I have no interest in seeing you...so if you don't mind." Frankie gestured towards the door. She saw her mother watching with interest framed by the kitchen door jamb.

"Right," The word was slow and drawn out "And you expect me to believe that? If you really had no interest in seeing me you never would have even spoken to me last night."

"I can see that is a mistake I will be paying for long into the future. I was taken of guard last night...it was never my intention to approach you. And believe me if I could take it back I would."

Jon glared at her in disbelief "Take it back? What exactly do you mean? Who your father is, is not something you can take back."

Frankie watched her mother's face crumble fleetingly and then smooth over, as she reacted to Jon's choice of words. She took a deep breath and clenched her jaw in an attempt to control her temper.

"You are not my father....just an unfortunate accident."

"Sorry but I just don't believe you honey" Jon replied, oblivious to the pain he had caused Beth. "You need a little more practice before you try to bullshit a bullshitter."

"At least your self-assessment is spot on." Frankie spat.

Jon smirked "Yeah, whatever, honey. Look, I came here to see Gina, yes, but I also wanted to talk to you. Last night I was in shock but the more I thought about it, the more I think you're right. I am your father. I only need to look at you to see that and the timing is certainly right." This next part had to be done just right. He couldn't have her thinking that she would be able to come in and disrupt his life. Their relationship had to be on his terms. "Now I'm sure you want to be part of my life now that you've found me, so I just wanted to let you know that I'm open to that. We'll have to figure out a way to make it work, of course, so it doesn't interfere with my kids, but I'm sure we can come up …"

Beth stood by, eyes wide in horror, as she braced herself for what she knew would come next.

Frankie's voice took on a steely edge "You really are something… you know that...did nothing I said to you last night sink in."

"I'm sorry. I don't know what you're talking about" This was hardly the reaction Jon was expecting. He wasn't expecting open arms by any means…he knew it would be difficult, but this…

"Let me spell it out for you. I don't want to look at you let alone spend time with you. I have no interest whatsoever in being a part of your life. In fact if I never see you again it will be much too soon. Did you understand me that time?"

Frankie watched as Jon's shoulder slumped slightly, his confidence wavering in the face of her vehement statement. "I don't think you mean that."

Frankie stared him down. "THINK AGAIN!! I have never meant anything more."

"You'll come around, I'm sure. But meanwhile, I need to talk to your mother." He shot a glance at Beth "I mean your real mother" The death stare on the faces of both women had him realizing his mistake very quickly.

"Shit… I keep fucking this up." He turned to Beth. "My apologies." Then back to Frankie. "Could you please take me to Gina?"

"I don't think that's possible."

"Why not? Isn't she still in the city?"

Frankie considered her answer carefully. "She's… close by."

"So what's the problem? She and I need to talk. I'm sure she probably wants to see me too."

"I doubt that."

Beth continued to watch the exchange with interest.

Jon shook his head in disbelief "You are unreal. Why on earth would she not want to see me? I fathered her child." He grinned wryly. "She might wanna kick my ass at first but I think we need to talk to each other."

"Don't you think the fact that she never contacted you speaks volumes?"

"I'm married. I'm sure she probably didn't want to disrupt my life."

"Yes that was it...she preferred to do all this alone to spare you the inconvenience." Frankie said, the sarcasm in her words not lost on him.

"That's why I'd like to see her again. To, you know, thank her…I guess."

"Thank her...that's laughable. Do you think she did this for you? HA!"

"You don't think she deserves to be thanked for what she gave up for you? Besides, what we had, well, we were…. good friends." He grinned at the memory, "I'm sure she'd like to catch up on old times."

"FOR ME???? What do you know about what she gave up?" Bitterness laced her words but a deep sadness was evident on her face.

"Well I can imagine."

Frankie mumbled, "I doubt that." But then she considered his request and a cruel little smile twisted her lips.

Immediately Beth interpreted Frankie's expression. "Can I see you in the kitchen honey?"

"Not now mama…I'm busy" She turned to Jon then. "Sooo," she stretched out the word, "you really want to see her that bad huh?"

Jon rolled his eyes "That's what I have been trying to tell you honey." He turned to Beth then, "She's a little hard headed, isn't she?" He recognized where that trait came from and grinned in amusement.

Beth just smiled quickly in response.

"You sure you want to do this?" Frankie asked a little impatiently. "Just remember, there's no going back…"

"Did I stutter? Look I am sure I deserve her worst...I'll just have to deal with that, but she had her fair share of blame here as well."

"Fine! Let's go then." Frankie was already heading to the door.

"Great!" Jon had his car keys out of his pocket and was following after Frankie.

"Frances Gina Carol, you get your butt back here immediately" Beth said sternly.

Jon stood by and watched as Frankie walked back to her mother, his brow quirking in amusement at the slight Southern accent he suddenly detected in Elizabeth's voice.

When Beth spoke it was barely audible to Jon despite his close proximity. It was something she didn't want him to hear…so of course, he listened closer.

"Honey, I really don't think this is a very good idea," Beth whispered.

Frankie's expression softened at her mother's worried tone. "Mom, it'll be fine", she said softly before turning back towards the door.

Beth grabbed her daughter's arm and spoke in urgent, hushed tones. "Have you really thought this through? I know you're upset right now, but I don't think he deserves..."

Frankie stopped her mother there. "He asked for it, Mama." There wasn't a trace of disrespectfulness in her voice, but nothing was going to deter her from the course she had set now.

"Ok, but it's on your head. Make sure you're not doing something you'll regret later."

"Stop worrying so much. I know what I'm doing," Frankie responded. Jon watched as she leaned forward to place a gentle kiss on Elizabeth's cheek, but her eyes were hard as she turned back to him. "You ready?"

Jon only nodded in response. He was still trying to determine the significance of what had just transpired. Had Beth just defended him? 'Defend' wasn't really the right word, he didn't think, but it seemed she was trying to protect him from something…but what?"

"Frankie…think about what you are doing." Beth sighed deeply, "Please honey."

Frankie waved at her mother and was out the door before Beth could say any more.

Jon turned towards her, extending his hand to shake. "Thank you, Elizabeth, for…ah…the coffee and everything It was lovely to meet you. I just wish it was under better circumstances."

Beth sighed again, "Me too!" There was a hint of sadness and apology in her voice.

Frankie yelled impatiently from the foyer, "Are you coming or not?"

Jon shrugged and followed his daughter out into the foyer and into the waiting elevator. "So where to?"

Frankie ignored his question. "Where is the car?"

Jon pressed the remote and indicated to the Green BMW parked at the curb. He'd been lucky with parking …at least something had gone right.

He opened the door for Frankie, waited for her to slide in, then closed it behind her.

When he was settled behind the wheel, he asked again. "Where to?"

"Just drive…I'll direct you," she said confidently.

The atmosphere on the drive was very tense. There was no small talk, no getting to know each other. Frankie directed…Jon drove, but he couldn't help wondering where her head was. She, on the other hand, had no interest in his thoughts at all.

He followed her directions out of New York and on to Jersey City. They followed the I-95 for about half an hour before turning on to the Garden State Parkway and following it for about the same length of time, passing the town of his birth, Perth Amboy.

Jon knew these streets like the back of his hand and found it impossible to believe that Gina had been so near all this time…but maybe she hadn't.

"How long has she been out here?" he asked softly.

"Since I was born." Frankie did not elaborate.

"Oh." His mouth silently formed the word.

It appeared they were heading to Asbury Park when Frankie directed him to make a left turn. Five minutes later, he was pulling up at the gates of Woodbine Cemetery.

"What are we doing here?" He asked as Frankie undid her belt and got out of the car. He followed.

Frankie rolled her eyes and shook her head. "I guess iIt's true what they say about the pretty ones," she said cuttingly.

Jon followed Frankie as she wove her way through the grounds of the cemetery. As cemeteries went, it was a nice one – lush green lawns, beautiful gardens, elegant shade trees. After walking for a few minutes, he spotted their destination, an ornately carved headstone in the name of McKenzie.

But Frankie barely paused there. Instead, she ran her fingers over the top of the grave stone as she passed, caressing the cold hard stone lovingly, "Hello Daddy."

She continued to walk...he continued to follow.

Jon was beginning to think she was a little unbalanced. "Where are we going? What is this, a lesson in genealogy?"

"Something like that," she answered and the stopped before a large stone angel.

"Gina..." she said formally, "I'm sure you remember Jon."

Frankie watched Jon's emotions change in the expressions on his face, first horror… then rapidly anger and disbelief.

"What is this?" He growled. "Is this some kind of sick fucking joke? Because this is not funny, DAMN IT."

"I wish it was." Frankie said sadly.

Jon moved closer to the headstone to better read it.

In loving memory

Gina Romeo

Born 10 july 1962

Died 14 november 1989

Now an angel watching over her daughter Frances.

He read the inscription, his eyes fixed on the date of death. He looked at Frankie, pleading.

"But that's…" he began, nearly stuttering in shock….

She nodded wondering why she wasn't feeling the vindictive pleasure she was expecting from his expression of tortured regret.

"Oh fuck!"

He felt, rather than saw, Frankie watching with interest as the blood drained from his face. He felt sick, bile rising in his throat as he collapsed to his knees on the soft blanket of green grass covering Gina's grave… his Gina. He fell forward, his hands rested on the cold ground, his head bowed.

Jon's eyes stung as he furiously tried to blink back the tears that threatened to fall. What right did he have to cry at her grave after what he had done to her? But he was fighting a losing battle. As the horror of the situation set in, the tears fell unchecked.

"Oh my god...Gina." His voice broke on her name.